Monday, September 30, 2013
Armageddon Is Here? The Government Has Shut Down, or Not Armageddon is here; the government has shut down. Armageddon came on March 1 when sequestration sat in. Who’s noticed? Sequestration was not Armageddon. The President shut the White House to tours, but continued to golf at taxpayer expense. Armageddon is when President Obama cannot golf. The Harpies chirp this is Armageddon. The government shut down 17 times before. These were not Armageddon. The Republic survived. The government has shut down, or has it? The President and Congress are being paid. members of Congress and their staffers receive their ObamaCare subsidies. The National Security Agency will continue spying on Americans. The military will not stand down, unlike Benghazi. Grandma will still receive her social security check. Air traffic controllers remain on the job in airport control towers. Federal courthouses are open with judges dispensing justice. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will process mortgages. VA hospitals and clinics remain open. Medicare will continue. The Post Office will deliver the mail. Meat inspections continue. The District of Columbia remains open. Passports and visas will be issued. Prison guards remain on guard. Food lunches will be served and food stamps issued. The lights are on and the water is flowing. That is a shutdown? If politics is measured by electability, then the President is a great politician. If politics is the art of the possible, then President Obama is a near-failure. If politics is reaching a consensus, then President Barack Hussein Obama is a failure. Great politicians, such as Presidents Lyndon Baines Johnson and Ronald Reagan, and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil, recognized the need to let the other side prevail on some issues. Leave them some dignity. Respectfully disagree with them while beating them politically. That’s not the President’s modus operandi as President. He will negotiate with Iran, Russia, and the Taliban, but not with the Republicans. It’s his way or the highway. He wants to crush the Republicans and other domestic “opponents.” He trashed the Supreme Court as the Justices had to sit quietly as he read his State of the Union Address. He invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to a budget speech in April 2011, and then trashed him. He could have solved the budget problem a year and a half ago by reaching a grand bargain, including tax increases, with the Republicans. He actually reached an agreement, but then abruptly demanded additional tax increases. He knowingly made Speaker Boehner an offer he knew the Speaker could not accept. His second M.O. is to demand legislation in response to an “emergency.” He faced an emergency, an economic collapse, in his first months in office. Thus, he could demand passage of a pork laden “Stimulus” Bill. He could demand passage of a financial reform act, the Dodd Frank Bill. He also had a filibuster proof 60 Democratic Senate seats and Democratic control of the House. 2010 was a great victory nationally for the Republicans. President Clinton veered and tacked after he faced a similar result in the 1994 midterm elections. President Obama has attacked, but his apocalyptic claims of an emergency have lost credibility. We faced the fiscal cliff a year ago, followed by sequestration, and now the government shutdown. The President is like the little boy who cried fire or the wolf one too many times. The President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid desired a government shutdown because they believe it is a political gain for the Democrats and a political loser for the Republicans. They believe they will win on the budget and then defeat the Republicans in a few weeks on the debt limit increase. They know the Republicans mishandled the budget. The GOP House should have sent to the Senate separate appropriations bills for individual agencies and branches of the government, but didn’t. The Democrats are playing raw politics with America’s future for the sake of politics. By the way, the individual mandate and the health exchanges under ObamaCare go into effect today. The Democrats are elated that the Republican “shut” down of the government stole the news coverage from ObamaCare. ObamaCare may develop in future years into an economic Armageddon for America, but this shutdown is not.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
October 1 is Coming: ObamaCare Will Fail Most of ObamaCare is effective on October 1. The House Republicans are not going to be able to stop it this year. They might trim it a little. Maybe the medical devices tax will be rescinded and the individual mandate postponed a year, but the Republicans lack the political power to repeal the entire bill. ObamaCare will fail. Not today, or tomorrow; not on October 2 or within six months or a year, but it will fail. The current startup blips will not stop it, but basic economics will. Congress in 2100 pages can enact anything it wishes, and the Supreme Court can apply its imprimatur, but they cannot repeal the laws of the marketplace. The community organizer is spending billions of dollars organizing a campaign of “navigators” to sign up Americans, especially the youth, Hispanics and African Americans, but not a cent to increase the number of medical students, interns, or residents. The community organizer is even enlisting librarians in the campaign. To the contrary, the economics of ObamaCare are driving private physicians into early retirement. Many doctors are dropping Medicaid; yet the government is relying on Medicaid to provide medical care to additional millions of Americans. ObamaCare will fail because of a lack of doctors. ObamaCare will fail because the taxes cannot sustain the subsidies. The economics of ObamaCare were sold to Congress on false assumptions. Yet, as the subsidies become unsustainable, we need to remember that when countries reduce fuel or food subsidies, riots and civil disorder can break out. ObamaCare will fail once Americans discover the initial “low” premiums hide a substantial drop in coverage, substantially shrunken provider networks, and large deductibles. You may well be unable to keep the insurance and doctors you currently have. ObamaCare will fail because Congress, ignorant of economics and medical care, believes it can restructure 1/6 of the economy. The private health insurers understand the economics of ObamaCare. Aetna, Cigna, and United Healthcare are avoiding most of the health insurance exchanges for personal health insurance. The economics of ObamaCare are premised are transferring billions from the private sector through a multitude of taxes and signing up millions of young Americans who will be paying more into the funds than they will claim in benefits. The young will become the seniors who draw on health care. The shrinking work force will not be able to subsidize them. ObamaCare has a built in oxymoron. It professes to lower insurance costs, but it imposes a tax on health insurance policies. Imposing a tax on a product will not lower its cost. ObamaCare will fail because it is transforming the workplace into one of part time workers for whom an employer does not have to provide health insurance. ObamaCare will fail because employers are cutting jobs. Even the great Cleveland Clinic Foundation is laying off employees because of ObamaCare. The private economy will be unable to sustain ObamaCare. ObamaCare will fail because companies Like IBM, Time Warner, and Walgreens are dumping retirees into the health exchanges. ObamaCare will fail because it failed to learn the lessons from RomneyCare in Massachusetts. ObamaCare will fail because fraud costs, engendered by the lack of documentation of proof of need, will drive up the costs of ObamaCare, The federal government recognizes the great risk of fraud, but its primary goal is boosting enrollment. ObamaCare will fail because it does not address one of the drivers behind escalating medical costs – trial lawyers. ObamaCare has already failed in one sense. It may cover only ½ to 2/3 of the 48 million Americans who lack medical coverage.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Adolph Hitler coveted the Sudetenland with its 3 million Germans. He was prepared to invade Czechoslovakia on October 1, 1938. The British people were weary of war after the carnage of the Western Front in World War I. The popular Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to meet with the Fuhrer. An agreement was reached without the Czech government. The Sudetenland was given to Germany upon Hitler’s promise that he would seek no further territory. Prime Minister Chamberlain uttered his infamous words “I believe it is peace in our time.” Then all of Czechoslovakia followed by Poland. World War II, more tragic than WWI, was unleashed on the planet. Chamberlain’s policy is known as appeasement, or sometimes referred to as Munich. President Obama has reached his Munich moment with Iran and Syria, for they are one. The Bomb in Iran and chemical weapons in Syria are one for Iran is calling the shots for its proxy Syria’s Assad regime. President Obama does not want war in the Mideast. Nor do the American people. The Mullahs want the bomb and control of the Islamic World. President Obama does not war anywhere. But for an inadvertent verbal slip, there would be no red line in the shifting sands of the Mideast. The Mullahs are blinded by their religion. The President will enter into an agreement with the new “moderate” Iranian regime, which will continue to pursue a nuclear weapon. He will sell out Israel just as Chamberlain sold out the Czechs. He will call it a peaceful resolution in our time. He will seize the Munich moment for that is who he is. It is the culmination of a diffident foreign policy. His first mistake was to diss our steadfast allies Great Britain and Israel while kowtowing to our foes. His largest mistake is current: negotiating from ideology with petty dictators who govern from reality. His second current mistake was to delegate our foreign policy to Vladimir Putin and Russia while he golfed. His third mistake was the shifting line in the sand, a line which was a bluff. His fourth mistake was bluffing when he had no intent to carry it out. The list goes on. His FBI got to Nairobi overnight, but couldn’t find its way to Benghazi. He is increasingly negotiating from a position of weakness since he is shrinking America’s military, the only instrument of peace throughout the world. He is silent on the atrocities committed on Christians in Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Zanzibar just in 2013. He is silent on the growing anti-Semitism in the world. President Obama will honor his Nobel Peace Prize with his Munich Moment. The Munich Moment has arrived.
The boo-birds are emerging from a short hibernation. Michigan decisively defeated Central Michigan 59-9 and Notre Dame, 41-30, to begin the season, and then eked out wins against Akron, 28-24, and UConn, 24-21. The boo-birds are fickle. 4-0 is not good enough for the boo-birds suffering from excessive exuberance. The boo-birds are demanding that the offensive line, QB Devin Gardner, and RB Touissant Fitzgerald be replaced, essentially by freshmen. That is not a winning combination. Expectations were high coming into the season. Michigan would play Ohio State back-to-back to determine the Big Ten Championship. Devin Gardner was a candidate for the Heisman. Brady Hoke had rebuilt the Wolverines in his image, the Power Pro Set. Not yet he hasn’t. The boo-birds forget that a W is a W. That’s what the record books show, whether or not the win is ugly, fails to meet the spread, or is due to bad officiating. A W is a W. They forget. Brady’s getting there, but Michigan’s still rebuilding. 48 freshmen and sophomores are on the team. They forget that Michigan is not yet the physical team of the 4 decades of Bo, Mo, and Lloyd. They forget that this year’s Wolverines did not lose to Central Michigan, Akron, UConn, Appalachian State or Toledo. They forget that the incredible 12-2 record two years ago was forged mostly with players originally recruited by Lloyd Carr. They forget that the Akron and UConn wins were achieved by the defense, which stopped both Akron and UConn final drives whereas the Rodriquez defenses could stop no one. They forget that Michigan’s run defense is 8th in the nation, yielding only 79 yards/game and that the defense is 27th in the nation in red zone defense. They forget that Michigan lacked a viable defensive secondary under Rodriquez. They forget that the three years of the Rodriquez defense made every opposing quarterback look like an All American. They forget that Jake Ryan is still injured. They forget that Michigan showed fortitude in coming from behind to win. They forget that the offensive line has three new starters: a redshirt walk on sophomore at left guard, a junior center will little playing time, and a redshirt freshman at right guard. They fail to understand it takes time for them to meld as a unit. They forget that the tight ends are still learning how to block. They forget that Michigan is still short in deep receivers. They forget that Devin Gardner was a running quarterback in high school and was coached by Rodriquez as a spread offense QB. They forget that he is still learning his position. He’ll be fine. They forget that Nick Saban went 7-6 in his first year rebuilding Alabama and lost the last two games his second year. They forget that Bo said the only poll that counts is the one at the end of the season. They fail to see that the Wolverines are allright.
Monday, September 23, 2013
We discovered LEGO and BRIO decades ago when our sons were young. They had replaced the Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and A. C. Gilbert Erectro Sets of my generation eventhough those are still on the market. The boys were losing interest in LEGOs and Brios so we gave them away when we moved to California in 1996. I rediscovered LEGOs two years ago with the Architecture Series of prominent buildings – some of the most famous in the world, such as London Bridge, Big Ben, Falling Waters, the White House, Space Needle, Rockefeller Center, the Guggenheim and the Brandenburg Gate. Alas, I was too late to acquire the Taj Mahal. LEGO was in a near death experience a decade ago, losing money in three of the five years through 2004. It survived under revamped management, and then thrived. It is now the second largest toy manufacturer in the world with $4.09 billion in 2012 sales, exceeded only by Mattel, but its valuation exceeds Mattel’s. The company was founded in 1932 to build wooden toys and introduced interlocking brick blocks in 1949. The modern brick came in 1958, Duplos in 1969, mini figures in 1978, and video games in 1997. It operates 48 retail stores and owns an interest in 6 amusement parks. The tie-ins with movie studios, such as Star Wars, are extremely profitable. LEGO constantly changes its product line. LEGO sold 45.7 billion bricks last year, reaping a gross profit margin of 71%. The plastic bricks are profitable than Apple’s IPhone. LEGO has brickbuilders, but also bean counters. LEGO can engage in excessively avaricious moves that reek of bean counters. LEGO just released a large version of the famous Sydney Opera House, 2989 pieces compared to the 270 brick smaller version. LEGO included a 10% off coupon in its latest mail order catalog. I went to one of the two LEGO stores in Orange County to buy the kit and save 10% on a LEGO unavailable at an independent retailer. The ebullient, warm, friendly LEGO clerk (even more chirpier than Disneyland workers) checked with a supervisor and said the coupon could not be used at the store. He explained that he manager decided a month ago that the store would not honor these coupons on “exclusives.” I unsuccessfully objected to the clerk, who started acting like a friendly, programmed robot. However, I figured nothing would be gained by making a scene, arguing false advertising in front of a crowd of young LEGO buyers. I could easily afford the extra $32 dollars. Instead, I emailed LEGO with a complaint. The essence of my complaint was “The store clerk refused to honor the 10% off coupon, explaining store policy (apparently decided a month earlier) is not to accept coupons on “store exclusives.” This is unsatisfactory. If that is the policy of the store, the store manager should be fired. If that is corporate policy, and is not disclosed in the fine print on the coupon, then LEGO may have a legal problem.” I should have added that goodwill is easily lost, and lost goodwill is not easily regained. It’s corporate policy. I received this email response 8 days later from Jessica in LEGO Service: “I can certainly understand your frustration with the new policy regarding the 10% coupon and our exclusive sets. Understandably, this was upsetting for you so please accept my sincerest apology. We would never want to do anything to upset anyone in any way, intentionally or unintentionally. This is one of our newer policies and was effective immediately. The LEGO® Group is dedicated to providing a consistent price and experience with our most exclusive items. Therefore, these items can no longer be discounted. The coupon does state that the LEGO store has the right to exclude other items.” Now comes the boilerplate, probably straight from the word processer: “Listening to what LEGO fans and their families have to say helps us get better and better so I am going to pass your comments to the team in charge of these policies. In closing, we appreciate your input as your feedback will help us improve our product experience for all customers.” Jessica then asked me to complete a four question survey. Why? The coupon’s fine print should have said the coupon is not good for “store exclusives” and then denote the “store exclusives” in the cataog. I don’t partake in other people’s boycotts. If we did, we would find little to eat, wear, drink, buy our gas, bank, fly. In short, so many sponsored boycotts exist, that we could not live if we observed them all. I simply personally stop doing business with companies I’ve had issues with, such as consistently poor service, misrepresentations, or a sense of being ripped off. Few businesses are on my list, but LEGO is now on the small, exclusive list. LEGO is free to charge whatever it wants for its products. It is free to put some on sale and to exclude others from sales, as well as deciding to whom it will wholesale its products. LEGO is not free to engage in seemingly deceptive marketing, intentionally or unintentionally. The store practice, as a matter of corporate policy, does not comport with the marketing. We live in a litigious society in the United States. Every company doing business in the United States needs to understand that reality. If LEGO wishes to exclude a product, or product line, from what seems to be a general discount, it should clearly spell out the restriction. Anything short of that disclosure is an invitation for a trial lawyer in one of our states to bring a class action suit for consumer fraud or misrepresentation. That lawyer will not be me. I will simply no longer purchase any LEGO products for myself or as presents to others. Could a trial lawyer win the lawsuit against LEGO? Perhaps, but the costs of litigation for LEGO will probably exceed the 10% savings LEGO has achieved.
Friday, September 20, 2013
The American people reacted to the excesses of the first two years of the Clinton Administration with a Republican sweep of the House and Senate in 1994. The four decades monopoly of power by the Democrats in the House of Representatives was shattered. The new Republican leaders of the House were Newt Gingrich as Speaker, Dick Armey as Majority Leader, and Tom Delay as Majority Whip. Congressman Delay served as Majority Leader from 2003-2005. Congressmen Armey and Delay were from Texas, where politics is hardball, as exemplified by “Landslide” Lyndon Johnson. Congressman Delay was one of the most effective whips in Congressional history. He enforced party discipline on major issues so effectively he was nicknamed “The Hammer.” Democrats started filing ethical grievances against The Hammer with the House Ethics Committee. Ronnie Earle served as District Attorney of Travis County, Texas for two decades, having been elected in 1997. The highly partisan Democrat acquired a reputation for prosecuting political corruption. His reputation was half deserved. The prosecutions against Democrats or Republicans were almost always against political opponents. DA Earle was politically corrupt. Among those he unsuccessfully prosecuted were popular Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and House Majority Leader Tom Delay. District Attorney Earle investigated Republican campaign practices in the 1992 elections through 8 grand juries. The Republicans gained control of the Texas House of Representatives in 1992, allowing them to redistrict Texas in 1994. An indictment was issued against Congressman Delay on September 28, 2005. This indictment was tossed by the courts. The DA tried again with a new grand jury, but it returned a “no Bill;” that is, no bill of indictment. The partisan Earle sought an indictment yet again, this time by the 11th grand jury, which returned an indictment for money laundering on September 29, 2007. Texas law prohibits corporate contributions to state elections. The Congressman collected $190,000 from donors and forwarded it to the National Republican Committee with instructions to the RNC to distribute the $190,000 to seven candidates for the Texas State House of Representatives in 2002. Congressman Delay had to step aside as Majority Leader in 2005 because of the indictment. He resigned from Congress in 2006. Congressman Delay clearly funneled corporate money to the state races, in violation of the spirit, but not the letter of Texas law. The DA claimed that the indirect funneling of corporate funds constituted money laundering. The Democrats in 2006 ran against the Republican Culture of Corruption, focusing on Congressmen Duke Cunningham of San Diego and Bill Ney of Ohio, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Tom Delay, as well as the misdeeds of Congressman Mark Foley of Florida. The jury in liberal Austin criminally convicted him in 2010. He was sentenced to three years in prison, which was stayed pending appeal. The Texas 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction on Thursday. The majority opinion held the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain a conviction and ordered an acquittal for the Congressman. No money laundering existed because the state could not show the funds raised were tainted. Money laundering is the cleansing of dirty money, not clean money. The Delay prosecutions raise a troubling issue for our democracy – the rise of prosecutorial misconduct to crush political opponents. The Justice Department more recently engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in the political prosecution of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens was convicted, but also had the sentence reversed on appeal because of the tainted evidence the government presented. He lost reelection by 3,000 votes, giving the Democrats the 60 votes they needed in the Senate to block filibusters. Few individuals can stand u to a full court prosecution by the federal government. Congressman Delay claims to have raised and spent almost $12 million in his legal defense since 1995. The extent to which the Obama Administration Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative political groups for persecution is becoming clear. We now know why Lois Lerner has taken the Fifth Amendment. The democracy is imperiled where politicians use the prosecutorial powers of the state against political opponents because of their political views rather than for actual crimes committed. 11 Grand Juries, $12 million legal fees, abusive prosecutors, where is the justice?
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Nina Davuluri: Miss India America – That’s America Nina Davuluri is a typical American. She was born in Syracuse, New York, raised in Oklahoma and Michigan, and then returned to the Syracuse area after college. The 24 year old has experienced the American Dream, The daughter of immigrants yesterday won the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, the dream of millions of young American women. She has also suffered from some of the ailments of many young women in America. She has talked about her personal bouts with bulimia and having lost 50 pounds. Her story would not be of international significance except her parents are from the city of Vijaywada in the Southern India state of Andhra Pradesh. She is the first Miss America of Indian ancestry. She is Indian American, which raised some instant racist, vitriol. She was called an Arab, not a real American, a Muslim, and perhaps Al Qaeda. Someone even called her Miss 7-11, perhaps remembering Senator Joe Biden’s comments while campaigning for President in a 7-11. The number of negative comments was small compared to the overwhelming support for her. Her selection as Miss America reflects the recognition of America’s diversity by the Pageant, and of American acceptance of diversity. The Republican governors of Louisiana and South Carolina are of Indian ancestry. The two governors (Piyush “Bobby Jindal and Nimrata “Nikki” Haley) and Nina are dark skinned. Several southern states voted for Barack Obama for President. Color is not always a defining issue in America.America is changing. Caucasians now comprise less than half of California's population, a precursor to future America. One of the most famous American doctors, Sanjay Gupta, is Indian American. Nina’s father and grandfather are doctors, as are other members of her family. She combines brains and beauty. She wishes to become a cardiologist. She was an honor student at the University of Michigan with a major in brain behavior and cognitive science. Indian is becoming a part of the American culture. Indian restaurants, reflecting the regional differences of India, are sprouting up throughout America. Mindy is a popular TV show. Other Indian Americans are pillars of American society. For example, Indra Nooyi, born in India, has been the Chair and CEO of PepsiCo (Pepsi and Frit-Lay) since 2006. Over 3.4 million Americans are from Southeast Asia. 80% are from India with the remainder from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. America has always been a land of immigrants. We are all the sons and daughters of immigrants, unless we personally came to America. Even the Native Americans are descended from immigrants. America has assimilated all immigrants into the unique American culture – the land of opportunity is a melting pot of races, ethnicities, and religions. We may be African Americans, Chinese Americans, German Americans, Greek Americans, Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans, Persian Americans, Polish Americans, Swedish Americans, or Vietnamese Americans, but we are Americans first. Nina, a thoroughly American name, said it best when informed of some of the racist tweets: “I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” America has gone through phases of xenophobia, but is America because of the huddled masses coming to America. We celebrate diversity in America. The Miss America Pageant has previously crowned African Americans and a Filipino American. Nina Davulari represents the best of Miss America: a role model for Americans.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
President Obama’s Administration is Not, I repeat “Not,” Unraveling President Obama has been receiving scathing commentary from all directions for his “mishandling” of Syria. The question has been repeatedly asked: “Is the President’s foreign policy unraveling?” The facetious answer is a clear “No,” because the President has no foreign policy; hence no foreign to unravel. That’s not quite true. The President has a clearly defined foreign and domestic policy. He clearly stated five days before his first inauguration that he would fundamentally transform America. His domestic policy goal is to transform America into a European style social democracy dependent on the federal government’s largesse financed through transfer payments and debt in the name of fairness. He has been eminently successful in transforming America. He is fundamentally opposed to a forceful, militaristic foreign policy. He is defanging America’s military. He started his Administration with an apology tour, emphasizing a new “touchy-feely” foreign policy. Part of his foreign policy is to go easy on America’s enemies, such as Iran, and treat our traditional friends, especially Great Britain and Israel, as if they were the plague. Allies, such as President Mubarak of Egypt, were to be deposed with no consideration being given to their replacements. He has cut the military budget by $1.2 trillion in five years, not including the sequester. The Navy says it’s on the way to an effective carrier force of 8 carriers, down from 12 and the nuclear submarine force is shrinking by 30%. The Navy is down to its pre-World War II size. He bugged out of Iraq, such that Iran is supplying the Assad Regime in Syria through cargo flights over Iraq. He is working on bugging out of Afghanistan. Congress won’t enact his Green Agenda. No Problem; the President will unilaterally implement it through a plaint EPA. The Obama Administration War on Coal is back on track after the 2012 election. Indeed, the war is on all fossil fuels, including natural gas and oil. The agenda is green energy. The Department of Energy continues to funnel billions in subsidies to “green energy” eventhough billions have been squandered. 50% of this year’s college grads couldn’t find meaningful employment. The President convinced college graduates to think in terms of social justice rather than jobs for themselves. The Stimulus Bill may have lacked “shovel ready” jobs, but it saved tens of thousands of unionized public sector jobs. If Congress won’t legislate immigration reform, he will do it unilaterally by not enforcing existing laws, and then blame Congress’ failure on Republicans. ObamaCare seems to be falling over a cliff even before its effective date. His slogan “You can keep the coverage you have” with lower rates is but a broken promise. Obamacare will not be repealed as long as he is President, after which it will be too late. The statute is transforming 1/6 of the nation’s economy. The role of the private physician is rapidly disappearing in America. The American workforce is being transformed before our eyes into a part time rather than full time workforce because of ObamaCare. The legally independent National Labor Relations Board is enforcing a radical union agenda even as the private sector labor movement is withering on the vine in America. The President saved the UAW pension and health insurance plans by wiping out Chrysler and GM bondholders. The Administration’s response to an average annual increase of 13% in food stamp recipients from 2008 to 2012 with 48 million Americans receiving food stamps in 2013 is to undertake an advertising campaign, even in Mexico, to sign up more food stamp recipients. President Obama’s agenda and administration are not unraveling. America is.
Friday, September 13, 2013
The Little Oyster Company Versus the Government: What’s Wrong With California The world is your oyster, but not for the Lunnys. Life is an oyster, but not for the Lunnys. The Johnson Oyster Company commenced operations in the 1932 in Drakes Estero on the Point Reyes Peninsula. Drakes Bay is believed to be where Sir Francis Drake came ashore 430 years ago. Congress created the 71,028 acres Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California in 1962. The national seashore encompasses the majestic seashore, centered on the Point Reyes Peninsula, in Marin County north of San Francisco. A couple of dozen farms and ranches continue to operate within the Park. The National Park Service (NPS) purchased the Johnson Oyster Company land for $79,200 in 1972, but offered the sellers a 40 year lease, scheduled to expire November 30, 2012. Congress in 1976 designated Drakes Estero as a “potential wilderness area.” The closure of the oyster farm would convert the area into one of the first marine wilderness areas on the West Coast. The Lunny family purchased the Johnson Oyster Company in late 2004, realizing that the lease would expire in 2012. They hoped for an extension. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar held he had no authority to extent the lease in light of the 1976 stature, whereupon Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. Cal.) attached a rider to a 2010 appropriations bill, giving the Secretary discretion to extend the lease for an additional ten years. The farm supplies 40% of the oysters consumed in California. It produces 8 million Pacific oysters annually. The National Park Service published a report in 2007 that claimed the oyster farm was harming a neighboring colony of harbor seals, but retracted it after major flaws were discovered in the analysis. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed the Park Service’s study and wrote the The NPS had “selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented the available scientific evidence on potential impacts of the oyster mariculture operations. “ The Lunnys operate a cattle ranch on neighboring land. Their ranch was the first in Point Reyes to raise organic beeef. Secretary Salazar announced on November 29, 2012 that he was not renewing the lease, now held by the Lunnys and the renamed Drakes Bay Oyster Company. A court order provided a temporary reprieve to the Lunny’s, but the Court of Appeals held against them last week in a 2:1 opinion. The majority saw no reason to second guess the exercise of the Secretary’s discretion. The operators had been reducing operations in light of the uncertainty, dropping to 21 employees from 30. Bills are pending in Congress to save the farm. Even if it passes, the Lunny’s face problems from a second front. The California Coastal Commission recently issued its second cease and desist order against the Drake Bay Oyster Company for failure to obtain the necessary state permits under the Coastal Act. Citizen suits are threatened against the company.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
A series of inexplicable, random shooting tragedies, especially Sandy Hook Elementary School, led to a reappraisal of the nation’s gun control laws after the 2012 elections. President Obama shelved his second term agenda to push for new gun control legislation at the federal level. Momentum seemed great; the media was strongly supportive. The President’s proposal never made it out of the Democratic controlled Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid did not dare bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. The Republican House of Representatives probably would have rejected it. The blame for the failure was cast on the National Rifle Association (NRA) and special interests. Greater success was obtained in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Colorado. Gun manufacturers have moved out of Connecticut and New York in response. The biggest backlash was in Colorado, where voters yesterday recalled two gun control Democratic state senators, replacing them with conservative Republicans. Many Democrats forgot the lesson of 2000. Vice President Al Gore lost the presidential election because he lost Tennessee and West Virginia. Had he carried either one of these two states, Florida would have been irrelevant. Al Gore would have been President. His attacks on coal cost him the coal state of West Virginia, a once reliably Democratic state. Tennessee was his home state; hence, he should have won Tennessee. He lost it because of his advocacy of gun control. Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry made it a point to be photographed as a hunter to symbolically indicate he was against gun control. Presidential candidate Barack Obama muttered nice statements in 2008 about the right to bear arms. President Obama, after winning reelection in 2012, dropped any pretense of supporting gun rights. Sandy Hook was the “emergency,” which he hoped to take advantage of. He failed. The lesson of 2000 is that gun control is not a winning issue at the national level or in most states for Democrats. Voting for gun control is a safe vote for Democrats in heavily blue states, such as Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. It is also a safe vote in blue or purple states if the Democrat represents a large city. Otherwise it can be political suicide in blue or purple states. Gun owners are often single-issue voters, even if they are liberal on other issues. Colorado reinforced that premise yesterday. The state had historically leaned conservative in national elections, but has elected Democratic governors and senators, and twice voted for President Obama in recent elections. Colorado is becoming a blue state. Colorado is sadly the state of two of the nation’s worse gun tragedies, Columbine High School and the Aurora theatre killings. The political response by a Democratic legislature and governor was foreseeable. Colorado is still marginally a purple state. A recall effort was mounted against state senators John Morse and Angela Giron. Senator Morse was President of the Colorado Senate, representing Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Senator Giron represented the blue collar, heavily Hispanic, union city of Pueblo. Senator Morse jammed a strict gun control measure through the Senate, holding 7 hearings in one day. He lost yesterday 51-49%. Senator Giron lost by a greater margin, 54-46%. The campaign to recall her was led by three plumbers. A referendum may now be mounted to repeal the legislation itself. Some blame for the senators’ defeat yesterday was cast upon the NRA, which contributed $360,000 to the recall campaigns. However Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, contributed $350,000 to the retention effort, which became a national issue. The money spent to retain the two senators was about ten times greater than the funds that opposed them. This election should be a warning sign to politicians who support gun control, but don’t represent solidly liberal urban areas. It's easy to support gun control in cities, such as Chicago, New york, or San Francisco. Gun control though is not a winning political issue for Democrats in much of America.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Disneyland, in Orange County, bills itself as “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Chapman University, two miles from Disneyland in Orange County, is the happiest place on earth today. We dedicated the Dale E. Fowler School of Law earlier today. Dale and his wife Sarah Ann donated $55 million to the law school, which warrants a dedication and celebration. Chapman University traces its roots as Hesperian College, founded on March 4, 1861 during inauguration of President Lincoln. The early founders were Lincoln admirers. The Disciples of Christ college moved to Orange County from Los Angeles in 1954, a year before Disneyland opened. Chapman remained a small, religious institution until 1991 when Professor James Doti was appointed President. The faculty leader had previously served as interim president. President Doti is an entrepreneur and visionary, as well as an incredible salesman and fundraiser. His vision is to build Chapman University into a major university, being the private university in the nation’s sixth most populous county, to rival the public University of California Irvine, similar to Berkeley-Stanford or UCLA-USC. The small college had three advantages: President Doti, its location in one of the nation’s fastest growing and wealthiest counties, and George Argyros, who served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Chapman University from 1976-2001. Ambassador Argyros is a 1959 graduate of Chapman College. He became a billionaire in real estate development and corporate financing. His contacts and president Doti's vision built the Chapman University Board of Trustees. Success leads to success. They built Chapman into a strong regional university. The ambitions are national. Chapman Law School opened its doors in Anaheim rented facilities in 1995 to an entering class of 218. Donald P. Kennedy, Chairman of First American Title Insurance Company, made a large grant to the fledging law school. His name is on the law school building, but the naming of the school itself was reserved for a larger naming gift. I had the opportunity to join the faculty of the law school in 1996, the second year of operations, after researching Chapman on the internet (much more primitive in the mid 1990’s than today’s searches). It was clear that Chapman University had the potential for greatness. Today’s dedication was a well-earned blessing, an affirmation, because critical mistakes were made in the law school’s early days. The law school applied a year early for provisional ABA accreditation, which was denied with a detailed list of changes to be made. An omen of the decision was the arrival of the ABA inspection team at the parking lot of the Law School in its temporary location at South State College Blvd. and Ball Road in Anaheim. As the inspectors were exiting their cars, DEA mounted a drug bust elsewhere in the parking lot. Enrollment dropped to an entering class of only 39 a few years later. Several law students, training to be litigious lawyers, filed suit against Chapman, similar to law suits filed against other law schools in recent years for employment issues. The founding Dean, Jeremy Miller, was replaced by an experienced dean, Parham Williams, formerly of Cumberland Sanford and the University of Mississippi. The ABA recommendations were followed, and provisional ABA accreditation was received the next year, followed by membership in the Association of American Law Schools. Step by step the Law School built its way up. We built the Donald P. Kennedy Hall on the Chapman campus. We always had some exceptional students but the overall quality of the student body and faculty rose substantially in subsequent years. Four faculty members have been Supreme Court clerks. Professor Vernon Smith, with a joint appointment in the law school and The Argyros School of Business and Economics, is a Nobel Prize winner in Economics. LL.M programs have blossomed and joint degree programs established with the Argyros School of Business and Economics and the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. The size of the overall student body remains small by law school standards, giving us one of the best student/faculty ratios (10.2) in legal education, recognizing one of the credos of Chapman University: “personalized education of distinction). Dale E. Fowler is a 1958 graduate of Chapman College. He ha smade his fortune in commercial real estate. He is giving back. The Dale E. Fowler School of Law has come a long way in 18 years. The significance of the gift should be considered in light of the issues facing the legal profession and legal education today. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times have published a number of articles over the past two years highlighting the poor employment opportunities in the legal profession and questioning the reasons for going to law school. The result has been a substantial drop in law school applications, both in the total number of applications and the quality of the applicant pool. Many law schools, including highly prestigious institutions, have reduced the size of their entering class. The $55 million gift ensures the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University is here to stay and will become a force in legal education.
President Obama is scheduled to address the American people later today. The Nobel Peace Prize winner wants Congress to authorize an act of war. An attack, even one described by Secretary of State John Kerry as “incredibly small” is still an act of war, a casus belli. The President, who on 9/11 one year ago refused to lift even a finger to defend American diplomats in Benghazi, is asking the American people on 9/11 today to support an attack upon a country which has not attacked America, Americans, or otherwise posed a threat to the national security of the United States. The President, who decried President Bush for lacking a coalition to attack Iraq, is asking Congress to attack Syria with the coalition of two. President Bush had 48 countries, including Great Britain, in his coalition. President Obama can only enlist France in a coalition against Syria. The Arab League and United Nations are unsupportive. He can’t even get NATO on board. President Obama, after speaking against Syria on Saturday, then played golf. President Obama, who has demonized Republicans for his five years in office, is pleading with Republicans to support him. President Obama, an anti-war Democrat, wants anti-war Democrats to vote for military force against Syria. Republicans are normally hawks and Democrats doves. Republicans are hawks when it involves national security. Democrats, who otherwise oppose military action, like to use the American military to enforce international human rights. President Obama is asking the American people and Congress to support military action against Assad for using chemical and biological weapons, but is strangely quiet against war crimes committed by the rebels. He cannot explain any compelling reason for America to act, except to back up his red line threat. Even Vietnam had a better justification. Secretary of State Kerry tells us that if Assad falls, then the successful rebels will be moderates. The history of revolutions, the French revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Iranian Revolution, and the Egyptian Revolution, shows radicals pushing aside the moderates in consolidating power. The American people understand Al Qaeda is powerful in the rebel ranks. The President promised the shipment of arms to the rebels, but none have reached them months later. Why should members of Congress trust him? The President has proven himself feckless with Syria and foreign policy in general. He has backed himself and The United States in a lose-lose scenario. Why should he expect members of Congress to vote on military action in Syria when any vote contains a high risk and little political benefit? The risk is great, but the potential strikes are small. Why should Congress approve it? Does anyone understand the Obama foreign policy? The media is now reporting that the Obama Administration weakened the curbs on the domestic surveillance program of the NSA (National Security Agency). Why should Congress support him on Syria? Why should Congress and the American people, after Afghanistan and Iraq, support the onslaught of hostilities in Syria when no end game is in sight? Does President Obama still believe in the power of his rhetoric? Has president Obama lost the bully pulpit? Is he believeable?
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Judge G. Todd Baugh Puts Montana on the Map. His decision last week gave Montana more free publicity woldwide than any advertising campaign could generate. Montana is a magnificent state, one of the nation’s most beautiful. It’s fourth in size in the nation, but 44th in population. Its vastness encompasses the Big Sky Country. Flathead Lake is one of the most beautiful in the country. General Custer gave his all at the Little Big Horn. Glacier National Park lies in its boundaries and three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park are in Montana. The open pit copper mine in downtown Butte is a legacy of the extreme drive for resource exploitation in the West as with the asbestos tragedy of Libby, Montana. I once bought a t-shirt in Glendive that said “I’m in Glendive for a good time, not a long time.” Yet, Montana is off the beaten track for most American tourists. It’s as long to drive across as Texas. The result is that most Americans know of Montana, but the closest most have come is at 35,000 feet. Montana, like every state, witnesses sexual assaults. Most police forces and judges understand the sensitive nature of sexual assault cases, and temper their remarks and acts accordingly. Judge G. Todd Baugh issued an opinion last week that has put Billings, Montana on the world map. The BBC covered it on its worldwide website. Judge Baugh’s case involved a sentencing decision. Stacey Dean Rambold, the defendant, was a 49 year old teacher who had sex with a 14 year old student in 2008. That is statutory rape. The victim committed suicide two years later, whereupon the Prosecutor’s Office entered into a plea agreement. Rambold was charged with three felony counts of sexual intercourse without consent. He pled guilty to one count of rape in a “deferred prosecution” settlement. The case would be dismissed if he completed a sex-offender treatment program. The district attorney felt compelled to settle because the victim’s suicide deprived the state of their prime witness. Rambold failed to meet the conditions of the plea bargain. He continued to fool around. The State was back in court asking for a 20 year sentence. Rambold’s attorney argued the defendant had suffered enough. He had lost his career and marriage, and will forever be infamous on the internet. The Judge agreed with defense counsel. He sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, but then suspended all but 31 days of the sentence. Since the defendant had spent one day in jail, the sentence was effectively for 30 days The 71 year old jurist’s decision was offensive in itself, but he compounded the outrage by his explanation. He explained that defendant “made some violations of his treatment program. They were more technical and not the kind you would send someone to prison for.” He had viewed two video interviews of the victim. He said she “was older than her chronological age,” and was “as much in control of the situation” as defendant. Young women may reach sexual maturity at an earlier age today than in past generations, but the age of consent in Montana is 16. The 71 year old judge apologized a few das later for his opinion, and said “I don’t know what I was thinking or trying to say.” He’s up for reelection in 2014, but he should be off the court before them, perhaps by removal by the stat’s judicial review commission. The state will appeal the decision and Judge Baugh is having second thoughts. Judge Baugh is not the first judge to issue a highly offensive, sexist, or stupid opinion in a rape case. Nor sadly will he be the last. The Italian Supreme Court held in a 1999 opinion that a woman wearing jeans cannot be raped because the jeans are impossible for a rapist to remove unless she cooperates. It took he court 9 years until it recanted in 2008. A Minnesota judge a couple of decades ago said the victim was asking for it because of how she was dressed. He was quickly run off the bench. A Canadian judge said basically the same thing a few years ago. Newport Beach, California Judge Derek G. Johnson in December 2012 publicly apologized after the state Commission on Judicial Performance admonished him. He said in a 2008 sentencing hearing for a rapist “I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something ….. If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we have heard nothing about that in this case.” “That tells me that the victim in tis case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight.” He called it a “technical rape,” not “a real live criminal case.” Judge Johnson sounded a lot like Missouri Congressman Todd Akin last year in his failed Senatorial campaign. 70 year old Sanford, Florida Judge Gene Stephenson apologized in 2004 for saying “Why would he [the defendant] want to rape her? She doesn’t look like a day at the beach.” He removed himself from the case. What were these judges thinking?
Monday, September 2, 2013
We celebrate the rise of labor unions and the efforts of working men and women on Labor Day. Of course, Labor Day has become just another three day weekend for many. Sadly, the decline of America’s private sector labor unions has taken away Labor Day as a major celebratory event for the unions. Parades that once saw tens of thousands workers marching now see thousands, many of whom are public sector workers. Only 11.5% of American workers are in unions. Thus, all too often we hear the sounds of silence from Labor on Labor Day. The SEIU had a different idea this Labor Day. It sponsored a “strike” by fast food workers in 60 cities on Thursday in support of a living wage, whatever that is, and the right to organize without fear of retaliation. The workers are asking for $15, but that’s far short of a living wage. The Living Wage Calculator, available at the MIT Poverty in America database, suggests a minimum wage of $23.53/hour would be necessary to support one parent and child in Long Beach and $24.81 in neighboring Orange County. Fast food workers at most chains are paid the minimum wage to start. The minimum wage is insufficient to support a family, especially for a single mom in an expensive city. $15/hour would equal $600/week, which after deductions would probably come to less that $400/week. Have the workers join the union, and their take home pay will be even less. The fast food industry historically hired high school and college students at the entry level. Employee turnover was high as the students moved on in their lives. Today though the sinking economy has driven displaced adults into working for low wages after being laid off their previous employment. The worker ‘s stories can be compelling as their earnings cannot sustain any meaningful lifestyle. An additional complication for the workers and unions is that about 60% of workers being hired today are in part time positions. Employers, especially in the restaurant business, are scared of the application of ObamaCare to full time employees. President Obama is succeeding in transforming the American economy. The profit margin for fast food restaurants is low; most of the restaurants are not owned by the large chains, but by individual franchisees. For example, over 99% of Burger Kings are independently owned. Many fast food restaurant owners only make $50 – 60,000 annually. The profits of the McDonalds and Wendys are irrelevant to the franchisees. The chains do not control their hiring, wages, or fringe benefits. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/ hour. Many states have a higher wage. Minimum wage, or close to it, for those working full time will often be a starting point. An employee with good work habits should be able to move up in the organization, whether it be at a restaurant, hotel, or retailer. Let us never forget that a major part of America’s success, until recently, is the ability to move up on the job and elsewhere in the workplace. If they can’t move up in their current job, then they should move to a new position elsewhere, at least in a growing economy. The “living wage” will have the same economic effect as a rising minimum wage – increased unemployment. Unemployment among teenagers, especially black teenagers, has been rising. Less than 1/3 of students found summer employment this past summer. Industrial employers respond to rising labor costs by automating and outsourcing. Restaurants, hotels, and retailers can’t outsource, but they can automate and downsize employment. Substantial price increases can be counterproductive. The key to raising wages and benefits in the fast food restaurant is a growing economy with rising employment. It’s back to the Clinton maxim “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Pay TV, the cable, satellite, and telephone companies, has seemingly won out over the free, antenna TV reception. 90% of Americans receive their service from cable in its various manifestations. Cable was laughed at in its infancy, but pioneers such as Ted Turner saw its potential with his Atlanta superstation. CBS and Time Warner Cable are engaged in a dragged out, knocked down, full page newspaper ad battle. The Pac 12 is running TV, radio and print ads demanding that DirecTV carry the Pac 12 Network. CBS and TimeWarner Cable have been unable to reach agreement on the “carriage” fee the cable company will pay CBS to carry its programs. Thus, Time Warner subscribers have been denied access to CBS programming for a month. CBS is urging its viewers to drop TimeWarner for an alternative provider, which could be DirecTV. The Pac12 is urging its viewers to drop DirecTV for an alternative, which could be TimeWarner. Cable companies pay a per subscriber fee to the program providers for their shows Time Warner had been paying CBS roughly $.50/subscriber under the expired contract. CBS is asking $1 for this year with annual increases to raise the fee to $2 in 5 years. TimeWarner is willing to pay more, but substantially less than CBS is demanding. CBS’s goal is to double revenue from cable fees to $1 billion by 2017. The traditional broadcasting networks are watching their traditional advertising base flee to Google and other internet companies. CBS hopes to offset the losses through carriage fees. The traditional broadcasters, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC are barely breaking even on their prime channels. Their profits come from their cable subsidiaries. The broadcasters look to ESPN for inspiration. ESPN gets about $6/subscriber, becoming the largest source of income for its parent, Walt Disney Co. ESPN’s leverage is such that the cable companies have to pay to provide ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Classic, ESPNU, ABC Family, and others. Disney can be very avaricious. Over 90 cable blackouts occurred last year over rate disputes. The fight is vicious because it is over a shrinking market. “Cord cutting, dropping cable, hooking up an antenna, and connecting to the internet is accelerating as cable subscribers dropped last year. TimeWarner reported a loss of 191,000 subscribers in the second quarter this year. Traditional cable has been losing subscribers for years to satellite and the phone companies, but now the entire “Cable” industry is suffering. The future is clear. Larry the Cable Guy will not be making many house calls in the future. Cable, as we know it, is a dinosaur. Today’s cable technology is doomed; the new technology includes live streaming, Netflix, Hulu, desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, all bringing you the latest shows today. Amazon is entering the market. The problem for the cable providers is the escalating cost of the programs. Their recourse is to increase their rates, which has an adverse effect on subscribers. DirecTV increased rates 4.5% the beginning of the year and estimates its programing costs will rise over 8% this year. Since the carriage fee is per subscriber, it’s a direct cost that can only be covered by correspondingly raising rates or moving the channel to an additional pay channel, as with HBO. The cable providers are fighting to hold the line on rates. They are fighting for survival. So too are the content providers. The losers so far are the consumers. The expectation is that CBS and TimeWarner will resolve their dispute before the onset of the regular NFL Season. Maybe.