Sunday, April 29, 2012

Who Hasn't Heard of Alice's Restaurant?

Who hasn’t heard of Alice’s Restaurant, either the movie or the 18 ½ minute song/rant by Arlo Guthrie?

Apparently the Millennial Generation.

13 students came by Tuesday to ask questions that were confusing them in studying Torts – questions like slander per se, proximate cause, licensees and invitees – in short, the usual suspects.

One student asked a seemingly off the wall question. How did I choose the names of the police officers in the exam questions? The answer was simple: if one officer, it’s Officer Porke Ellwood; if it’s two officers, then they're Officers Obi and Kanobi.

I explained that Parke Ellwood was the police chief in Ada, Ohio during my three years at Ohio Northern University. In the spirit of the time, and because he appeared to have visited the donut shop too many times, I renamed him Porke Ellwood.

It’s bad taste.

The suspected answer for Obi and Kanobi was Star Wars, but that’s only half right. Officer Obie (William Obanheim who played himself in the movie) was the officer who busted Arlo Guthrie for illegal trash disposal in Alice’s Restaurant. I rhymed Kanobi with Obi when Star Wars appeared.

So I asked,” How many of you have heard of Alice’s Restaurant – the song or the movie?” A sea of blank faces responded, a mirror image of the proximate cause and intervening cause faces. The baker’s dozen of students was clueless.

You can’t blame them. Alice’s Restaurant doesn’t even show up on cable, and there’s no airplay for the song on today’s commercial AM and FM radio - so much for the legacy of the underground FM stations. Several versions are available on YouTube. Indeed, I’m listening to one as I type this blog.

If America’s youth is unfamiliar with Alice’s Restaurant, then even less can be expected with the genre of movies depicting student unrest of the 60’s-70’s, some with leading actors of the time and incredible music. Hollywood rushed to the theaters a series of campus rage movies. They were not The Graduate.

A classic was Getting Straight (1970), starring Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen with a then unknown Harrison Ford. Gould, a graduate student, was bedding Candice, an activist student in his class. One of the more inane comments directed at Candice in the movie is “We never should have given library cards to women.”

The Strawberry Statement (1970), based on the riots at Columbia, was set in San Francisco in a fictional version of San Francisco State, which had witnessed a series of riots (One of my classmates at USF Law School joined the demonstrations. He tuned in, turned on, and dropped out), resulting in the election of interim President S.I. Hayakawa to the United States Senate. The movie featured Bruce Davison and Kim Darby. Bob Balaban’s long career in Hollywood apparently was not ended by the bomb. The music included songs by Thunderclap Newman (the poignant “Something in the Air” as the tear gas was blowing in the wind) Buffy Sainte-Marie (“The Circle Game”), Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young.

Michelangelo Antonioni directed the quixotic Zabriskie Point, starring Daria Halprin and an unknown Mark Frechette in his first acting role. Frechette learnt the wrong lesson from the movie. He was subsequently arrested for bank robbery and died in prison. The music was more memorable than the movie, featuring Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, The Rolling Stones, The Youngbloods, Patti Page, and Roy Orbison.

Let us not forget R.P.M., directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Anthony Quinn, Ann-Margret, Gary Lockwood, and Paul Winfield.

None of these movies were as bad as Billy Jack, which is best viewed while stoned, but whether stoned, drunk, or sober, will probably be turned off unless you fall asleep first. The sequels bombed at the box office, while the star Tom Laughlin, unsuccessfully ran for President in 1992, 2004, and 2008.

Let us also not forget that the most successful student movie of the era was the truly forgettable Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. She was much better in the earlier Goodbye Columbus, which really had nothing to do with Columbus, Ohio.

Love Story was written by Eric Segal, who also gave us R.P.M.

The Millennials have probably heard of Vietnam and Watergate; some may have studied a little about them in a history class, and most know some of the music of the era, but the knowledge of the critical cultural clashes of the era is Greek to them. A few may understand that the riots at Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco State elected Ronald Reagan Governor of California, but I bet that even fewer know they also resulted in the firing of Clark Kerr as President of the University of California. One of the greatest university leaders of the 20th Century paid the price for the lack of leadership of the Chancellor and other administrators on the Berkeley campus.

Let us finish not with Alice’s Restaurant, but with the quote of President Kerr upon his termination. He said he ended the job as he entered it “Fired with enthusiasm!”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The President's Bully Pulpit and Student Loans

Never underestimate the power of the Presidency. The President can use the Bully Pulpit to control events.

The recent flareup over student loans is an example.

ObamaCare nationalized much of the student loan program and Congress cut the loan rates, but timed the interest rates to double six months before the November 2012

Suddenly, like the Calvary rounding the bend in the old westerns, the President comes charging out of nowhere to fight to keep the interest charges low. He knows the Republicans can’t fight too hard against this shameless political appeal to students, one of his critical voting blocks in 2008.

The President is campaigning as he often does in a state of hysteria, proclaiming the urgency of the problem and the need for immediate action to avert a disaster.

The Congressional Democrats are willing to act, accompanying the relief by a tax increase on the rich if possible, if not then to increase the deficit. This time the disaster is of the Democrats own making.

President Obama campaigned in North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, wherever, on the taxpayer’s dime, empathizing with the students’ plight, pointing out how deeply in debt he and Michelle were by student loans. He forgets to tell the students at public universities that the Obama debts were to receive degrees from Columbia, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, some of the priciest degrees in the country. He also forgets to mention that Michelle was making between $121,900 and $316,910 at the University of Chicago Medical School and that he had worked at a high price law firm after law school. Their loans were not an economic encumbrance to them.

Student loans are a burden to college students and graduates, but the interest rate is not the biggest problem the students face. That’s jobs. If the grads could fine employment, handling the debt load would be manageable in most cases, just as Americans in general have to manage car loans, credit cards, and even mortgages, without government relief.

It doesn’t matter that much what the interest rate is if the grad can’t find a job.

President Obama’s economic policies since January 2009 have been devastating to students, but not a word about that from the President. He’s engaging in one of his favorite political tricks of magic – change the focus away from the big picture, jobs and the economy, to small ball politics.

One study shows that 53% of recent grads are either unemployed or underemployed. Many recent graduates are moving back in with mom and dad.

The interest rate on student loans is not the second largest problem for students. That’s the skyrocketing cost of tuition, room and board, especially in the public universities. Barely a peep from the President about the pricing policies of college administrators, who are primarily liberal Democrats!

The loan burden would not be as great, whether the interest rate were 3.25% or 6.5%, if the necessary loans to cover tuition were substantially less.

The student loan interest rate isn’t even the third largest economic burden for students. That’s the gross inflation in text books. A student taking a full load is paying substantially more than $1,000 a year for books and other required readings - one figure is $1,300 annually, up $400 in three years.

The President is playing magic with the students. He is using the Bully Pulpit to hide the real issue: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Workers Comp: Aussie Rules

Industrialized and urbanized societies confront problems rare in agrarian societies; one of which is large scale workplace accidents. These countries craft compensation plans to compensate employees for workplace injuries incurred in the scope or course of employment.

We call it workers compensation.

Workers comp has several easy to remember rules: 1) When in doubt compensate the employee; 2) When in doubt, compensate the employee; and 3) When in doubt, compensate the employee.

Australia has taken these presumptions to a new level, or depth. An unnamed female employee, a public servant, was dispatched by the Human Resources Section of the Australia Commonwealth Government Agency to an assignment in a country town in New South Wales.

She had previously met a man two weeks earlier in the town, and joined him for dinner at a restaurant. They retired to her hotel room between 10 and 11PM to do the down and dirty down under.

The room was full of torrid passion. Their bodies tumbled and turned. At some point, one of their appendices knocked a glass light fixture off the wall. It fell on her face, injuring her nose, mouth, and a tooth, and causing “a consequent psychiatric injury” described as an adjustment disorder.

Her sex paramour was not exactly sure of how it happened. His words, worthy of a romance novel, are they were “going hard.” He said “I do not know if we bump the light or it just fell off.”

He further said “I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we are rolling around.”

She filed a claim for workers compensation.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejected her claim, holding sex in a hotel room is not a “necessary activity” in the same way that showering, sleeping, or eating is.

She appealed.

Her barrister, Leo Gray, maintained that the case was not about sex, but rather an “ordinary incident of life.” It incurred in the course of employment as she had checked into the hotel, booked and paid by her employer, the day before a scheduled morning meeting. He argued “This is no different than slipping in the shower or being bashed by a gang of thugs after a dispute over a woman.”

An interesting perspective on sex, but proving that lawyers will make any argument to win a case.

Federal Court Judge John Nicholas accepted his arguments and reversed the tribunal.
He wrote “if the applicant had been injured while playing a game of cards in her motel room she would be entitled to compensation.” That she was engaged in sex rather than other form of recreational activity in the hotel room does not change the result.

An emeritus law professor at the University of Melbourne thought the result was perfectly natural. He remembered an earlier case in which a jealous shearer in a shearing shed shot the woman he was having an affair with, or shot her lover, perhaps the cook, during in flagente delicto. The victim recovered workers comp.

In Australia apparently, a worker’s romp can lead to workers comp.

Ironically, her agency inspects occupational health and safety. Addendum: The High Court in Australia by a 4:1 vote reversed her award in late October. The Court said the relevant question is "Did the employer induce or encourage the employee to engage in that activity?" The answer was a resounding NO

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today is Earth Day; Where Are the Master Builders?

Today is Earth Day: Where Are the Master Builders?

America has entered the fifth decade of the Environmental Era. Our air and water are cleaner, and land use less rapacious. Sunday is Earth Day, the statement that the quality of life is as significant as the quantity of life. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1090, symbolically marked the shift from infrastructure to the environment, the shift from a developmental ethic to an administrative, regulatory environment.

America was built by the master builders, the visionaries who built our roads, highways, tunnels, canals, airports, dams, reservoirs, power plants, transmission lines, refineries, and pipelines that make modern civilization possible. They bridged and dammed the rivers, tunneled the mountains, and spanned the deserts, plains, and mountains of America. They brought energy, water, and employment to the American people.

As we celebrate the environment, we need to understand that our standard of living is equally dependent upon the infrastructure which supports it. We take our needs for granted when we wake up in the morning: hot and cold running water, electricity, and gas in the car, but all are at risk today.

The master builder is no longer celebrated. Instead, we honor those who successfully oppose projects. We’re closing more power plants than building, shutting off our national oil preserves rather than developing them, and limiting oil exploration and development. The east coast, west coast, and all of Florida are closed to offshore exploration, as are ANWR and much of the federal lands.

Building infrastructure is not sexy. Civil, geotechnical, and structural engineering are not the most glamorous of the engineering professions. Nor do the economic rewards match those of computer and electrical, petroleum, or biomedical engineers. Infrastructure improvements get short shift in tight budget times until a tragedy results.

A few of the major master builders, who built the infrastructure that support our standard of living, are James J. Hill, William Mulholland, Robert Moses, Henry J. Kaiser, and Pat Brown.

James J. Hill had the vision of linking the Pacific Northwest with the Midwest with the privately financed Great Northern Railroad. His legacy is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, one of America’s four great railroads.

William Mulholland brought water to the tiny pueblo of Los Angeles, turning it into one of the world’s great cities. The city had a population of 9,000 when he arrived in 1877. Mulholland once said of the Owens Valley water, if the tiny Pueblo of Los Angeles didn’t get it, it wouldn’t need it. The 233 mile Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed in 1913. He said “There it is; Take it.” The Southern California megalopolis is still searching for water for 20 million residents.

Robert Moses, from 1924 to 1968, developed the infrastructure of New York and brought New York into the automobile age, giving to us Jones Beach, Orchard Beach, the Triborough, Throgs Neck, Bronx-Whitestone, Henry Hudson, and Verrazano Narrows Bridges, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Brooklyn-Queen, Staten Island, and Cross Bronx Expressways, the New York State and Long island Expressways, the West Side Highway, Co-Op City and other public housing, Shea Stadium, Flushing Meadows, Riverside Park, Lincoln Center, Shea Stadium, the United Nations Building, the Niagara and St. Lawrence Power Projects, and two world fairs, and rebuilt central Park. He built 658 playgrounds in The City.

Moses also gave rise to Jane Jacobs, the Freeway Revolt, citizen activists, and community involvement, the antithesis of the Master Builder. Today, a city which takes 8 years to figure out what to do with Ground Zero has problems.
Moses’ view was “Those who can, build. Those who can’t, criticize.”

Henry J. Kaiser help build Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, Bonneville Dam, and Shasta Dam, as well as the Hawaiian Village Resort in Honolulu. He developed Panorama City in California and Hawaii Kai in Hawaii. He operated seven shipyards in World War II that built 1,490 ships for the war effort. He created aluminum, cement, chemical, gypsum, and steel companies, and for awhile owned Kaiser Jeep. His greatest legacy to America is the pioneering Kaiser-Permanente HMO.

Las Vegas would not exist without Hoover dam. Portland and Seattle would be shadows of their present self without the dams on the Columbia and its tributaries.

The last great master builder of the 20th Century was Governor Edmund G “Pat” Brown of California. From 1959 to 1967 he led California by building the state’s freeway system, obtaining voter approval of the California Water Project, which sent northern California water to the thirsty southern California, and with the advice of Clark Kerr, President of the University of California, securing legislative approval of the California Master Plan of Higher Education. Governor Brown and President Clark Kerr created 3 new campuses of the University of California in Irvine, San Diego, and Santa Cruz. They built the University of California into the world’s greatest university system with the Berkeley campus ranked the world’s greatest university in 1964.

That was then; this is now. The California Legislature now appropriates more for the prison system than higher education, and the campuses are suffering from deferred maintenance.

Governor Brown’s son, Jerry Brown during his first governorship 8 years later, adopted “Less is more” as his mantra. Less is not always more, as shown by the California electrical shortages a decade ago, magnified by a statutory scheme that defied common sense and basic economics, and gamed by Enron. California illustrates the risks of a large population growth unaccompanied by capacity increases.

Our infrastructure, the dams, bridges, tunnels, and roads suffer from deferred maintenance. Transportation for America reported last year that 69,223 bridges, over 11% of the nation’s total, were classified as “structurally deficient.” New York is currently wrestling with the safety of the Tappen Zee Dam.

We need an infrastructure which meets our needs, has a sufficient reserve capacity, and does not suffer from deferred maintenance. The San Onofre nuclear power plant in

Southern California is shut down for an indefinite period for safety reasons. The fear is that California will lack sufficient capacity during the hot days of summer, bringing back the blackouts of a decade ago. California lacks the normal 15% reserve capacity.

The Army Corps of Engineers last century built the infrastructure of America, especially with water resources. Now, the Corps devotes a substantial amount of its resources to regulation.

Our master builders built the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Bonneville Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, and Rockefeller Center during the Depression. None might be constructed today.

The master builders conquered the wilderness, mountains, plains, rivers, and deserts of America. They never encountered environmental impact statements, the Endangered Species Act, NIMBY’s, the EPA, or the California Coastal Commission.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Democrats War on Women

As we know, the Democrats are running against the Republican’s War on Women. Just as Republicans waved “The Bloody Shirt” for decades after the Civil War, the Democrats for 4 decades have waved a woman’s reproductive rights against the Republicans. The Administration’s mandate that providers, including the Catholic Church, offer free contraception to the insureds, is an example of a political gambit to fuel the gender gap.

This strategy is an insult to the intelligence of the American Woman.

The last Republican to win the female vote was George H. W. Bush in 1988 by 1%. The normal gap is 7% for the Democratic candidate; that is the difference between the female and male vote for the Democratic presidential candidate is 7%. Senator Obama won both the female and male vote three years ago, but is expected to lose the male vote this year. He must therefore maximize the gender gap.

Hilary Rosen’s statement about Ann Romney last Wednesday imperils this strategy.

Hilary essentially declared war, at least political war, against stay at home mothers. The backlash was fast and furious.

Not all Democrats parrot the rhetoric that Republicans are waging a War on Women. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D. Mo.), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said “It’s wrong for Democrats to accuse Republicans of waging a “War on Women.” He also felt Republicans should similarly stop charging the President with waging a “War on Religion.”

A rhetorical cease fire during a presidential election year would be appreciated by the American people,but politicians know negative ads work.

A second issue arises with Hilary’s statement.

The American woman has options available to few women in the world. She is free to work, stay at home, or work part time. She may marry or not, have children or be childless. She may become a professional, politician, pilot, CEO, or university president. If she wants to work, she is no longer restricted to being a teacher, librarian, nurse, or secretary.

Society no longer consigns women to the traditional stay at home, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriett role. On the off chance she became a lawyer five decades ago, she was probably practicing estate planning, taxation, or family law.

America has changed in many ways in fifty years, but one limitation still exists.

God help the modern American Woman though if she becomes a conservative Republican public figure. The calumnies dumped on Governor Sarah Palin were outrageous, including vitriolic attacks on her family. Congresswoman Michelle Bachman was treated almost as shabbily. Democratic women, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also receive vicious attacks, but these are generally limited to political rather than personal matters.

Hilary Rosen’s comments were repudiated by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, Democratic Chairwoman Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, David Axlerod, and a host of others, but she was not thrown under the bus.

Hilary Rosen is not a low level political strategist. She is managing director of SKDKnickerbocker, a political consulting firm, co-founded By President Obama’s
former Communications Director Anita Dunn. Ms. Dunn lost her position in the White House after being quoted at a high school graduation ceremony saying two of her favorite political philosophers were Chairman Mao and Mother Teresa.

Hilary has been in the White House 35 times since President Obama’s inauguration. She is also a commentator for CNN. Unlike the attempts to muzzle Rush Limbaugh after his awful verbal attack on Sandra Fluke, CNN has made no effort to terminate Hilary Rosen. Perhaps not a coincidence, Hilary Rosen’s firm represents Sandra Fluke.

Third, the real war against women is the economic war. Governor Romney argues that 92% of the Americans losing their jobs in the economic collapse are women. The Obama Administration has unsuccessfully looked for ways to refute this claim.

The question for November is if women will vote social issues or economic issues.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Did Senator Grassley Say President Obama Was Stupid?

Did Senator Grassley Call President Obama “Stupid?”

Senator Grassley (R. Iowa), the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded to President Obama’s Supreme Court bullying by twitting “Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law,” which translate as “Because the American people are not as stupid as this ex-Professor of Constitutional Law.”

That’s not quite saying the President is stupid, but should be considered in light of a report released in early February by a group of Cornell professors led by psychologist David Dunning. The gist is that the American people are too stupid to elect the right leader. They wrote “incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas.” Professor Dunning said “Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is.”

I will not call President Obama stupid, because that would be an insult to the
American people.

However, let’s look at some of his statements and policies.

On June 14, 2011 he blamed unemployment on banks’ ATM machines and airport kiosk check-ins. That sounds like a Luddite.

He wants to tax the oil companies, the companies which bring us energy, to double down (his words) on the failed investments (my words) on green energy. That sounds like a slow learner. He said on March 31, 2012 “Let’s double down on green energy that has never been more promising – solar and wind and biofuels, and energy efficient batteries.” He doesn’t read the New York Times business section to learn about Solyndra, Abound Solar, Azure Dynamics, Beacon Power, Ecotality, Energy Conversion Devices, Evergreen Solar, LSP Energy, SpectraWatt, Eastern Energy, Ener1, Solar Trust of America, A123 Systems, Solar Millennium, Sun Power, and UniSolar. The White House has apparently working in the dark.

He believes the solution to high oil prices is tire inflation, tuneups, and algae. Fascinating! Isn't algae also carbon based?

He doesn’t understand geography. He said in November 2011 that Hawaii, his birth
state, was in Asia.

The political science major is poor on America’s political makeup. He said in Beaverton, Oregon in May 2008 that over the past 15 months “We’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in fifty seven states. I think one left to go. One left to go. Alaska and Hawaii.”

His command of the English language is impeccable for a Columbia and Harvard grad. He boosted in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 22, 2011 that “We’re the country that built the intercontinental railroad.” I’m still waiting to catch the train from New York to London.

Governor Sarah Palin sounds smarter every day.

His understanding of basic economics is suspect. When told 4 years ago that tax revenues rise when capital gains taxes are lowered, and decrease when increased, he said he still wanted to raise the taxes because of fairness.

He made clear in a 2001 interview that he believes in income redistribution.

Alexander Pope wrote “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Stream.”

President Obama drank deeply of the liberation theology of Reverend Jeremiah Wright for 20 years, and imbibed the communist cant of William Ayres, proving that drinking deeply of a failed philosophy is also dangerous.

President Obama is campaigning on the Buffett Rule, based either on the premise that a millionaire like warren Buffett should not be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, as a means of raising revenues, or as another manifestation of income redistribution.

The president claimed that a 30% minimum tax rate on millionaires would “help “stabilize our debt and deficits over the next decade,” but an independent study shows it would only raise an average of $4.7 billion annually. That is but a drop in the bucket of a $1.3 billion deficit.

The President’s newly released tax returns for 2011 show the Obamas are paying a tax rate of 20.5%, which is lower than that of their secretary. The White House claims that shows the need for tax reform.

Federal law allows anyone to make voluntary, extra payments to the government.

Hypocritically, none of the millionaires the President surrounded himself with last week, warren Buffet, or the President himself feel so undertaxed that they have made these voluntary contributions to the federal government.

The Bidens came in with an effective tax rate of 23.5%, and proved once again they are skinflints by contributing only $5,540 to charity on an adjusted gross income of $379,035.

The President is definitely an ideologue.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pink Slime Got Slimed

Pink Slime got slimed

Of course it did; Americans don’t eat slime.

Humans are omnivores. Americans will certainly eat almost anything, almost anything.

We don’t eat snails, but consume escargot.

We don’t like duck/goose liver, but some go for foie gras

We dissect frogs, but leave the frog legs to the French.

Sushi yes; slime no.

Big Macs, Buffalo burgers, double bacon cheese burgers, chicken burgers, fat burgers, fish burgers, garden burgers, grease burgers, guacamole burgers, hamburgers, Kobe burgers, monster burgers, mushroom burgers, ostrich burgers, Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, Salisbury steaks, salmon burgers, Santa Fe burgers, sirloin burgers, six dollar burgers, sliders, sourdough Jack cheeseburgers, soy burgers, teriyaki burgers, tofu burgers, turkey burgers, whoppers

But not slime burgers.

We consume chop suey, crab cakes, hot dogs, meat loaf, sausage, TV dinners, and even Sloppy Joes, but not pink slime.

We go for grinders, Hoagies, Po Boys, and subs, but not pink slime.

Some like their meat pink, but not ground beef. The risks of E Coli or salmonella are too great. Pink, slime and beef don’t go together.

We may go for gummy worms, and enjoy the slime at Nick studios, but not pink slime.

SPAM has reacquired some cache, but pink slime won’t.

Popeye glorified spinach, and Rocky swallowed raw eggs, but not pink slime. You can man up with a manwich, but not with pink slime.

Pink slime shows the power of the media.

ABC ran a few articles on pink slime in March, and almost immediately school districts dropped it from their menus, restaurants ran away from it, and most supermarkets disclaimed it.

AFA Foods, a large pink slime producer, went in the red, and declared bankruptcy on April 2 and closed its California plant, but will produce lean finely textured beef elsewhere.

Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is the official name for pink slime, but LFTB also sounds a foul food additive. Thus the nickname pink slime.

Pink slime is a mixture of the leftovers of a cow, including beef scraps, sinews, and connective tissue ground together, sterilized by ammonia, which almost sounds like the production of sausage and hot dogs.

Whoever coined the phrase “pink slime” performed a great disservice to the product, condemning it to food purgatory, along with trans fats, a similarly unappetizing food additive or filler.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Shooting

The initial coverage of the tragic Trayvon Martin killing fit a common narrative: the senseless killing of a young black man and the insensitivity or incompetence of law enforcement.

Reports that the Sanford, Florida police did nothing when an unarmed 17 year old African American was senselessly gunned down by George Zimmerman, seemingly for wearing a hoodie, went viral. Zimmerman, an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer with a permit to carry a gun, pursued Martin, who had a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Tea.

The young black was killed in a gated community, after being pursued by Zimmerman. The 9/11 dispatcher had asked Zimmerman not to follow Martin. Zimmerman was released by the police, and supposedly kept the gun. In addition, the Sanford Police apparently did not investigate the killing, taking Zimmerman’s statement as fact.
Finally, the victim’s family did not learn his fate for 3 days, eventhough they had his cell phone.

The nation was justifiably outraged by this story. The black community had seen it all too many times before.

The New York Post headlined Zimmerman as a “Cop Wannabe on Paranoid Patrol.” President Obama said “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. You know, if I had a son, he’ll look like Trayvon.”

The Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton led protests, which spanned the country.

The Sanford City Commission, which lacked jurisdiction, voted 3:2 no confidence in Bill Lee, Jr. He soon took a leave of absence to quiet the outcry.

Elvis’ great song, “In the Ghetto,” is playing in the background.

However, the more we learn, the less of the original story holds up.

The fury was fueled by erroneous news coverage of the tragedy. NBC reported that Zimmerman was a racist based on his statement, and CNN broadcast that he uttered a highly racist phrase. Some of the misreporting can be expected at the onset of a tragedy, such like the proverbial “fog of war.”

For example, CNN initially reported that Zimmerman said “f…ing c..n,” clearly a highly offensive racist rant. It supported the view that the shooting was racially motivated.

However, CNN subsequently had experts enhance and examine the recording. Their findings, as reported by CNN, was that Zimmerman actually said “f…ing cold,” which fits the fact that it was a cold, rainy night in Sanford.

NBC though doctored a recording to show Zimmerman was racist. An NBC producer edited the tape to say “This guy looks like he's up to no good…. He looks black.”

The actual conversation was Zimmerman telling the dispatcher “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

The dispatcher responded “OK, and this guy. Is he black, white or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman then replied “He looks black.”

In short, George Zimmerman volunteered no racist remarks on his own.

NBC fired the producer who doctored the tape.

The New York Times on March 22 termed Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic.” His father is Caucasian and his mom Peruvian, thus he’s half Hispanic. However, the use of “white Hispanic” is not commonly used. Indeed, by this approach, President Obama should be referred to as a “white African-American.”

What do we know?

We know that a rush to judgment existed, as with the four Duke Lacrosse players a few years ago.

A six minute gap exists between 7:11 and 7:17. Some inconclusive eyewitness testimony exists, and hearsay from a friend of Martin, who was on the phone with him. She claims Trayvon said he was being followed. Zimmerman’s dad said Trayvon assaulted Zimmerman. A struggle ensued between Martin and Zimmerman, who claims Martin was on top battering him. Cries for help occurred, but from whom is still in doubt.

The Police responded quickly to the scene, and according to the police report, unsuccessfully attempted to revive the prostate Martin. Zimmerman was handcuffed and taken into custody. The police cordoned off the site with police tape and investigated for 7 hours.

The police report, available on line, said Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head.

Zimmerman was treated at the scene by paramedics, with his injuries being cleaned.

That gave rise to reports by ABC that he had suffered no injury because none appeared on the video of him entering the police station. A subsequent, enhanced version of the tape shows an injury on the back of his head.

The police retained the gun as evidence.

We also know that the police released him because they felt powerless to arrest because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute. However, the lead investigator requested an arrest warrant from the State’s Attorney Office. It was not granted.

Zimmerman’s lawyer early stated that any defense would be based on self-defense and not the “Stand Your Ground” statute. Martin is listed at 6’1” and 150 pounds versus 5’9” and 170 lbs for Zimmerman. Neither have been saints in their lives.

Here’s what else we know. A special prosecutor, appointed by the state, will present the case to a grand jury. My best guess is that George Zimmerman will be indicted for manslaughter. He shot an unarmed teenager.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The President Uses the Bully Pulpit to Attack the Supreme Court

President Theodore Roosevelt popularized the concept of the President’s Bully Pulpit. President Roosevelt also though lived by the maxim “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

President Obama’s approach is radically different. He speaks loudly, often demonizing his opponents.

The President retains the Bully Pulpit throughout the campaign. He will aggressively use it.

As we all know by now, the President in a press conference Monday with Mexican President Felix Calderon and Canada’s Prime Minister Steven Harper took a swing at the Supreme Court. The President said “For years what we’ve heard was the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or the lack of judicial restraint - that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

He added that he was confident the Court would uphold the law.

It is as if the former constitutional law professor had forgotten the classic 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, which gave the Supreme Court the right to decide the constitutionality of Congressional acts.

It is as if the President, who taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, ignored two centuries of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The conservative complaints about judicial activism and the lack of judicial restraint are when courts judicially legislate, such as the Supreme Court in the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion, and the 2004 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which mandated same sex marriages in Massachusetts. The justices of both courts are not elected to their positions.

My problem with the decisions is that while I am pro-choice and support gay marriage, I believe these social decisions should be made by the body politic, either the people or the legislature, and not through judicial legislation.

This is not the first time President Obama attacked the Supreme Court. Most of the Justices attend the State of the Union Speech. The President in his January 27, 2010 State of the Union Address singled out the Supreme Court for reversing 100 years of law in the Citizens United campaign financing case by letting foreign corporations contribute to U. S. Campaigns. The Justices had to sit quietly while he laced into them. Well almost silently. Justice Alito was observed muttering “That’s not true.”

Not only was the attack out of order, a breach of decorum, the act of a bully, but it was also wrong. The opinion in no way permits foreign corporations to contribute to American campaigns.

The explanations for the President’s statements are 1) he never read the opinion and was speaking out of ignorance (Remember, Attorney General Eric holder condemned the Arizona statute against illegal immigrants without reading the statute), 2) He misread the opinion, or 3) He read the decision, but deliberately misspoke.
All of these possibilities reflect poorly on the President.

Even the media had trouble with his statement. Columnists in such papers as the Washington Post criticized the President’s statements, although Maureen Dowd of the New York Times earlier today chimed in with the President, saying the Supreme Court “is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”

Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, Obama's Con Law professor in law school, said the President "obviously misspoke."

The alternative explanation is that President Obama was saying what he really believes. He was speaking on his own, rather than reading programed remarks on a teleprompter.

He has acted that way at least twice before.

He said to the Editorial Board of the San Francisco Chronicle on January 17, 2008 that he would bankrupt any new coal plant.

The real remark from the heart came at an April 6, 2008 fundraiser in San FRancisco. He said the working class voters in old industrial towns "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion."

This attack is not new for the President. He earlier attacked Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News. He attempted to demonize the United States Chamber of Commerce because it opposed many of his plans. He routinely demonizes Big Oil, Wall Street, fat-cat bankers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

Congressman Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee, was invited to a Presidential address on the budget April 13, 2011. President Obama proceeded to excoriate Congressman Ryan at the presentation.

The President’s Supreme Court comments received substantial blowback. He backed off somewhat on Tuesday by saying he would respect the Court’s decision “The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution, and all of us have to respect it.” He added “But it’s precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly-elected legislature, our Congress.”

He’s wrong again. The Court’s constitutional deference is to the Constitution and not to either the Congress or the executive.

The blowback continued on Tuesday when a panel of the 5th Circuit demanded the Justice Department respond by Thursday on whether the Administration believe judges have the power to strike down a federal statute.

We have witnessed over the past three years narcissism, petulance, and bullying on the part of the President. It does not bode well for the future, even if the President is reelected.

Of course, the President does not like the Constitution. As he said in a 2001 interview, the Constitution does not provide for a redistribution of income. ObamaCare is a redistribution of income.