Sunday, August 31, 2014
A recent study shows England is elitist. Really? What About the United States? The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study of 4,000 British leaders shows the “deepest elitist” background of England’s leaders. Cambridge and Oxford, jointly referred to as Oxbridge, dominate the leadership positions in politics, business, media, and the public sector. 75% of the senior judges have Oxbridge degrees, as do 59% of the Cabinet, 57% of the permanent secretaries, 50% of the diplomats, 47% of newspaper columnists, 38% of the House of Lords, and 24% of the MP’s. Not all British prime ministers graduated from college, but of those who did, only 5 failed to attend Oxbridge. Of the past 13 Prime Ministers, two )John Major and James Callaghan did not attend college, Gordon Brown, a Scot, went to the University of Edinburgh, and Winston Churchill graduated from Sandhurst, the Royal British Military Academy. The other nine, Conservative or Labor, including Margaret Thatcher, graduated from Oxford. We Americans like to think that America is not as elitist as England. That is generally true in business and state governments, but not at the highest levels of goverment. Beginning with President George H. W. Bush, our recent Presidents have undergraduate or law degrees from Harvard and Yale. President George W. Bush received his Bachelor’s degree from Yale and MBA from the Harvard Law School. President George H. W. Bush attended Yale undergrad. Presidents Ford and Clinton have law degrees from Yale while President Obama attended Harvard Law School. Losing Presidential nominees Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and Romney also have Harvard or Yale degrees. The United States Supreme Court is more elitist than the top British courts. Five of the justices attended Harvard Law School (Roberts, C.J., Breyer, Kagan, Kennedy, and Scalia) while three graduated from Yale (Alito, Sotomayor, and Thomas). Justice Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School, but only after transferring from Harvard. Nowhere does our Constitution list Harvard or Yale as requirements for high public office. Leadership is more diverse at the state and local levels with public universities and private, often religious institutions, providing the public officials. Admittedly, the United States still provides substantially more upper mobility than England. Several of our recent presidents have climbed from humble beginnings (Ford, Clinton, and Obama), Upper mobility in the United States comes through higher education, led by the public universities, masters colleges, and community colleges. Scholarships, Pell Grants, and fellowships open the doors for many economically or racially disadvantaged high school students. America is a more open economic society. Thus the opportunity for entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to achieve great success in America. The key to Oxbridge, Harvard and Yale is not a monopoly on great professors or students. The key is opening the door, especially the first door, after graduation. The alumni network will help fellow grads who impress them, as will the “elite.” The trite saying is true: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” The cost to society is that these leaders come a narrow segment, the “meritocracy” in America, and do not represent the people of America or Great Britain.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Remember the Chiquita Banana jingle? “Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today. President Obama’s strategy is: “Yes, we have no strategy, we have no strategy today.” Or yesterday. Or tomorrow. He has two fundraisers in Westchester County today. That is the saddest indictment to date of the President. A strategy is not developed playing golf. Nor is it created in fundraisings. Nor apparently does he engage in strategizing during vacations. President Obama is disingenuous. He has a strategy, a failing strategy, but one he cannot honestly reveal to the American public. His consistent strategy is to disarm, defang, and neuter the American military while retreating from the world. America’s role is not to lead. He believes America has used its military to force its rapacious will upon the world. American exceptionalism does not exist, but if it does, then his view is that it was acquired through American imperialism. He is a believer in the gospel of the New Left, the gospel of Liberation Theology. He believes that America is the root of evil in the world. Iran, and Russia, and the Moslem Brotherhood are simply misunderstood. Stalwart allies, such as England and Israel, are to be dissed. Hamas is, at the least, the equal of Israel. He cannot admit he’s been wrong because he cannot, will not, see it. Our President is ignorant of history, as well as economics, and human psychology. He believes Afghanistan and Iraq were mistakes of the Bush Administration. He was elected to get American boots off the ground. Thus the unilateral snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by unilaterally pulling all troops out – an act which he still intends to repeat in Afghanistan. His response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is to offer MRE’s to the Ukrainian troops. He lacks a strategy because he lacks a vision of the strategic interests of the United States. Our President does not learn from his mistakes because, in his eyes, he does not make mistakes. He sees the truth clearer than us mere mortals. The polls tell him the American people do not want boots on the ground. He fails to realize that Neville Chamberlain’s Appeasement was popular until Hitler invaded Poland. President Obama does not understand that President Roosevelt knew the American public was opposed to entry into World War II, but that FDR did what he could to prepare America for the inevitable war. FDR built up the American military prior to Pearl Harbor. President Obama continues to shrink it. FDR had leadership. The President said a year ago that we need a strategy for Syria. He called ISIS the jayvee’s six months ago. He was AWOL during Benghazi. He still seems out of the loop on ISIS. The military is always preparing contingency plans. They always have a range of options. All the President has to do is request them. Instead, he is relying upon his national security team, which includes Ben Rhodes, a political hack, and Susan Rice as his National Security Advisor.
Where were you on September 1, 2007, the day the music died? Where were you on September 1, 2007, the day The Victors sounded flat? Where were you on September 1, 2007, the day the Era of Bo ended? Where were you on September 1, 2007, the day Davis slew Goliath? Where were you on September 1, 2007 when the Mountaineers defeated the Mighty Wolverines? Will Team 135 restore the glory of Michigan Football, or will the Wolverines continue 7 years of frustration with six years of mediocrity and one year of glory? Will Devin Gardner achieve his potential? Has Michigan solved the offensive line problems? Will the quarterbacks and running backs thereby survive the season without crippling injuries or concussions? Will it be running back by committee? Is the new Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier the answer? Will the defensive line remember how to pressure the quarterback? Will Michigan blow out Appalachia State by the 35 point spread? Wasn’t that the point spread seven years ago when the Mountaineers in a monumental upset the Wolverines 34-32? Will the Michigan players wait until after the game to celebrate their victory rather than the night before? Will a victory over the Mountaineers reverse the monumental decline that began seven years ago with the Appalachian state loss? Will a Wolverine victory mean we won’t have to listen to the haunting chant “It’s great to be a Mountaineer” after the game? Can Michigan regain its swagger? Why did Appalachian State’s Athletic Director fire Jerry Moore, their great coach, at the end of the 2012 season? How did the 4-8 record under their new coach work out? Where are Jerry Moore, Armanti Edwards, Julian Rauch, and Dexter Jackson today? Michigan paid Appalachian State $400,000 seven years ago to be a sacrificial lamb. Is the Appalachian State rematch worth $850,000? Can Michigan sweep the home season? Will Michigan win at least one of the three tough road games: Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Ohio State? Will Big Brother defeat Little Brother on the road? Will the regular season record be 10-2, 9-3, 8-4, 7-5, or worse? When did Michigan last return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown? Has Brady Hoke rebuilt the football team? Will Brady Hoke return if the season record is no better than 7-5? Is Jabrill Peppers the second coming of Charles Woodson? Will 100,000 fans show up for the Appalachian State game? Will students continue to stay at home or fraternity parties during the games? Is Michigan becoming a basketball school? Are there any wild Wolverines in Michigan? I was at the Appalachian State seven years ago. Why am I staying in Orange County to watch the rematch on a big screen instead of being at the game?
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The Presidency of the United States is a stressful job. Presidents need to relax. President Obama loves playing golf. Presidents need to decompress. President Obama likes to fund raise. Presidents need to clear their thoughts. President Obama likes to vacation. The President has his priorities. President Obama has mastered the art of combining all three at once – a trifecta with a three iron. What President Obama does not like to do is get involved with the nitty gritty of governing. He’s a big picture guy – leave the details to others. He has his priorities. The New York Times and other media outlets have publicly ignored to date his jaunts, rounds, and fundraisers. Thus, if he was at a dedication for Ground Zero, followed by two fundraisers on the Upper East Side, only the dedication ceremony received coverage. That changed last week with the beheading of James Foley, the kidnapped reporter. President Obama publicly delivered a statement of outrage, and then immediately skedaddled to the Farm Neck Golf Course for a 1:00pm round of golf with Alonzo Mourning. The President spent almost the whole afternoon on the course. The President knows his priorities. The media was incensed at the President’s seemingly callous behavior. James Foley was not a “no one.” He was a reporter. ISIS beheaded a fellow member of the Fourth Estate and the President treated it as business as usual. That is part of the problem. It is business as usual for the President because the media had never called him out on his schedule until this one time – almost six years into his presidency. Maureen Dowd, the New York Times great and sometimes acerbic columnist, savaged him Sunday on the Presidential golfing. She entitled her column “The Golf Address,” patterned after President Lincoln’s great Gettysburg Address. The column starts “Fore, score ….” She is a weather vane of the New York Times and of the eastern establishment. He spent two weeks on Martha’s Vineyard. Nine days were on the links. Indeed, he was golfing 30 minutes after landing on the Vineyard. The president knows his priorities. He took two days off from the Vineyard to return to D.C. for a bachelor’s party and fundraiser. The President’s golfing escapades are costly to taxpayers – not in the green fees, but in the transportation costs of the President entourage to the world’s golf courses. Air Force One has seen more golf courses than most Americans. Florida State Seminoles won the national football title last year. The winning teams in many sports traditionally get a meet and great visit to the White House to commemorate their success. Not Florida State! The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the President’s schedule did not have a window of opportunity to salute the Seminoles. The President has priorities: fundraisers, golfing, fund, vacation, foreign jaunts – hundreds and hundreds of days and nights. If he can’t squeeze in the time to govern, then how should we expect him to salute Florida State? The Seminoles should have proposed a date on or back from a golf course in Key West – a date which would allow the President to host a fundraiser at the clubhouse on a Tallahassee golf course.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Dog Chase on the 710: Live on NBC News! Southern California, the land of cars and freeways, is notorious for high speed chases. They became a ritual on the noon and evening news. The pit maneuver and spike strips are part of the SoCal lexicon. Alas, the high speed chase is trite and mundane. The thrill is gone. The news stopped broadcasting the chases, unless something different was involved, such as a dump truck. NBC4 in LA devoted much of the 6:00pm news Thursday to a dog chase on the 710 through Bell. A Channel 4 helicopter broadcast the drama from the air. The dog took all the local, state, national, and international developments off the news cycle. NBC national news replayed a clip during the Friday Evening News. It would not let a sleeping dog lie. A medium sized black dog was nonchalantly trotting along the side of the 710 during the height of the evening rush hour, seemingly oblivious to the motorists. The drivers acted erratically for experienced freeway drivers. They did not honk. Nor did they flip the bird at the dog which was stalling traffic. Instead, they slowed down, forming a two lane convoy led by a Bimer convertible. Traffic was backed up, but the sounds of silence came from the cars. The California Highway Patrol was conspicuous by its absence. No CHIP was to be seen. Finally, the dog slowed down and three motorists pulled onto the berm, jumped out of their cars, and tried to corral the errant mutt. They were so brave, and yet so foolish. The bitch was subsequently described as of pit bull ancestry. This pit bull, officially known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, did not put up a fight. Andie Valerio seized the occasion, and the dog, and took her home. Animal Control Friday morning retrieved the black mutt, who currently resides in a Downey shelter for homeless. She deserves better than a shelter; she has panache. The true owner has not come forward. The dog has a collar, but neither a tag nor microchip. We don’t know her name. She deserves better. She’s the only recent dog in LaLa Land with 15 primetime minutes of fame. The owner should claim ownership since this dog is the most famous pit bull since Spuds Mackenzie. She has commercial value. 20 million people in Southern California, and the only news is a stray dog out for a walk along the freeway. No Ferguson, no ISIS, no Obama golf match. Just a nameless stray! Live!
Friday, August 22, 2014
The Federal Government Loots the Bank of America The government announced yesterday a $16.65 settlement with the Bank of America to settle mortgage securities claims. The Bank did the federal government a large favor in 2008 by acquiring Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch. It keeps paying and paying. Let us go back to the near collapse of the nation’s financial markets in 2008. The United states, indeed much of the world, was facing an economic collapse on the levels of the Great Depression. The real estate market collapsed, and with it over a trillion dollars in mortgage based securities, often referred to today as “toxic loans.” A run on the banks was threatening every major financial institution in the United States. The United States on January 1, 2008 had five large, independent investment banking companies: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. Only Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were left on January 1, 2009. Bear Sterns failed in March 2008. It was acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase at a fire sale orchestrated by the Feds. It had heavily pushed securitization of mortgage backed securities. It had an unsustainable debt to capital ratio of 35.6 – 1. Lehman Brothers collapsed 6 months later with a leverage rate only slightly lower than Bear Stearns. It was sold off in pieces in bankruptcy. Barclays Bank paid $1.35 billion for most of the bankruptcy “stripped clean” United States assets. A run on the banks, as in 1932, ensued. WaMu went under Wachovia, then the nation’s fourth largest bank, lost $5 billion in deposits in one day, September 26, 2008. IndyMac was soon to follow. Merrill Lynch was hemorrhaging. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs would follow. The situation was so perilous, so reminiscent of the Great Depression, that the Bush Administration pushed the $700 billion TARP (Troubled Assets Recovery Plan) stature through Congress. Kenneth Lewis, CEO of the Bank of America, arranged for BofA to acquire Countrywide Financial, the largest mortgage issuer in America and the largest mortgage supplier to Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae. Countrywide was sinking fast. Kenneth Lewis had visions of emulating A. P. Giannini, the founder of the Bank of America, who led the small, but highly solvent, Bank America in buying up failing banks throughout California during the Great Depression. Lewis then agreed on September 4, 2008 to acquire Merrill Lynch, which had lost $19.2 billion from July 2007 to July 2008. It soon became clear shortly that Merrill Lynch was in worse shape than thought. It lost $51.8 billion in the last quarter of 2008. Bank of America told the feds that it would not complete the merger, whereupon Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson told the Bank that he would fire BofA’s management and that the Bank would have regulatory problems. Kenneth Lewis also was barred from telling shareholders of Merrill Lynch’s declining financial s before they voted to approve the merger. Kenneth Lewis resigned on December 31, 2009. The Countrywide and Merrill Lynch mergers saved the feds at least tens of billions of dollars, if not hundreds of billions, that would be needed to clean up the bankruptcy mess and pay of depositors. Thus, the federal shotgun marriage between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch. The Bank of America has now paid out $74.58 billion to settle claims against mostly Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. BofA, Countrywide and Merrill Lynch issued $965 billion in mortgage securities between 2004 and 2008, of which ¾ were by Countrywide. $245 billion went into default or are seriously deficient. Only $9 billion of that originated with the Bank of America. WaMu was failing fast. It was placed in receivership by the FDIC and acquired from the FDIC by JP MorganChase on September 25, 2008. The shareholders, as in normal in a bank receivership, were wiped out. The Justice Department reached a $13 billion settlement with JP MorganChase on November 9, 2013 for the mortgage backed securities issued by WaMu. Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo at the end of 2008. Wachovia was choking on the mortgages held by Golden West Financial (World savings), which it acquired for $24 billion in 2006 at the peak of the real estate market. It failed within 2 years. President Obama cried out against the “Fat Cat bankers.” His Justice Department is now looking upon them as a piggy bank for the federal treasury. As of this morning, again according to the Wall Street Journal, BofA has paid out $75.48 billion so far, JP Morgan Chase $27.09 billion, CitiBank $12.4 billion, Wells Fargo $9.9 billion, Morgan Stanley $1.91 billion, and Goldman Sachs $.88 billion. I just saw that Goldman Sachs may have settled claims earlier today for $3.15 billion I understand the laws of successor liability. The mistakes of the banks were not to receive from the federal government a “hold harmless and indemnification clause” in the shotgun marriages. The large banks will not step up next time, and there will be a next time, unless they receive a guarantee against future liability. (By way of full disclosure, I have owned shares in the Bank of America, especially predecessors Nations Bank and Citizens & Southern Bank of Georgia for decades, and currently a few shares in Wells Fargo and CitiBank)
It would be easy to jump into the Ferguson fray over the past nine days, but we are taught that there are two sides to every story. No video exists, to the best of our knowledge, of the actual confrontation between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson. The facts still remain sketchy. This recent case of alleged excessive force is unusual. Apparently we do not have a real time video or audio of the incident. Thus, the initial image is one presented by eyewitnesses. The most important witness is Michael Brown’s companion, Dorian Johnson. We think we know one side of the shooting of Mike Brown on August 9. An unarmed Michael Brown was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson while Brown had his hands up seeking to surrender. Dorian said that Michael was turning around with his hands in the air, saying “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” That was the initial eyewitness account, and was accepted by the community and media. Mike Brown was shot in the back with his hands up while seeking to surrender. That awful image was portrayed as yet again a senseless shooting of an African-American teenager by a white, presumably, bigoted cop. That is the national image from August 9 in Ferguson Missouri. There are two sides to a story. Other eyewitnesses are telling a different story, and we have yet to hear the Officer’s account of the tragic incident. The Officer may have been severely injured in the confrontation, which brings up the issue of self-defense. Then we learn that Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson had strong-armed a merchant a short time earlier. We learn that Dorian has a rap sheet. Perhaps Dorian is not telling the truth. Media and civil rights leaders may have rushed to judgment. The Reverend Al Sharpton, an outside agitator, rushed to Ferguson. Regardless, the city of Ferguson erupted. One commonality about communities erupting after a police shooting of an African-American, such as in Ferguson, Cincinnati, or Lexington, Kentucky is that the shooting is the catalyst, the spark, that ignites a community ready to erupt, like the bubbling magma under a volcano. A history of unredressed police brutality, systemic discrimination, high unemployment, low paying jobs, lack of political power, a feeling the community is not being heard, leads to racial tension. Missouri is a border state with a long history of divisive racial relations. Michael Brown, the innocent, hands in the air, Michael Brown, became a cause celebre for the African-American community. He became a martyr for Civil Rights. The city erupted. The police may have overreacted at the beginning by using excessive force against demonstrators. Peaceful demonstrations became violent. The local police lost control of the situation. The Sheriff’s Office became the primary police force. Then came a showing of militarized police. Looting broke out at night. Governor Jay Nixon became hapless. First, he put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge under Captain Ron Johnson, an African American trooper from Ferguson. Captain Johnson did his conciliatory best to calm the situation. He got relative peace for one night. He mixed with the demonstrators during the day. These protests were peaceful. Then the looting resumed at night. One night Captain Johnson had the police stand by as the looting continued. “Standing down” is not an answer to looters. Instead, it emboldens them because they have a green light to steal for free and get away with it. The Governor announced a curfew. The rioting, looting and arson began again at night. The Governor called out the National Guard, but not to control the streets, but to protect the command center. Riots, looting, arson. Senator Claire McCaskill, not exactly a paragon of virtue, decried the presence of a militarized police force. Governor Jay Nixon Tuesday afternoon threw Officer Wilson under the bus. He demanded the prosecution of Officer Wilson as we “come together” to seek justice for Michael Brown and his family:” “Second, a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued. “The democratically elected St. Louis County prosecutor and the Attorney General of the United States, each has a job to do. Their obligation to achieve justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown must be carried out thoroughly, promptly and correctly; And I call upon them to meet these expectations….” So I ask that we continue to stand together as we work to achieve justice for Michael Brown….” He basically demanded that Officer Wilson be criminally prosecuted. Defense attorneys now have a wonderful argument. The Governor irrevocably contaminated the jury pool. Officer Wilson will be unable to get a fair trial in the State of Missouri. The former Attorney General of Missouri had to know better, but he also knows that if he runs for future office, then he must secure the large African American vote in St. Louis and Kansas City. The Governor’s press office walked back these remarks Wednesday, recognizing that the Governor experienced a quick backlash. Our first African-American President has not resolved the Black teenage unemployment policy. Young men, regardless of race, are volatile, especially when unemployed. England, for example, attempted to resolve the problem of unemployed Irish teens, by enlisting them in the British Army or Royal Navy, or getting them to migrate to the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. A rising black teen unemployment rate correlates to a rise in the minimum wage. The long term victims in Ferguson will be the 20,000 residents. The looted stores will probably not reopen, and small business operators will be leery of opening up shop in the community. Ferguson’s citizens are not the rioters and looters. The residents are peacefully demonstrating during the day, as is their constitutional right. They help clean up stores after lootings. They are decrying the violence. Ministers and community elders attempt to forestall the criminal acts. They understand the long term costs to Ferguson. The perpetrators are not the peaceful citizens of Ferguson, but intruders from outside. Of the 51 recent arrests, only one was from Ferguson. Rioters may reflect rage, but looters are simply opportunistic thieves. A century ago, as in the looting immediately following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the military was given orders to “shoot to kill” looters. We don’t issue those orders anymore, but they do stop looting. Some community leaders and media are demanding that Robert McCulloch, the white District Attorney, step aside to ensure justice is done. They define “justice” in terms of Officer Wilson being indicted, convicted, and jailed with the keys being thrown away. We have a strong presumption in America of innocent until proven guilty. Many of the loudmouths believe Officer Wilson is guilty, even if he is innocent. DA McCulloch is allegedly biased because 1) he is tough on African-American defendants, 2) he works closely with the police, and 3) his father, a police officer, was killed in 1964 by an African-American when DA McCulloch was 12. These statements sound like talking points prepared in a political campaign – not the pursuit of justice. Prosecutors have a bias. They dislike criminally prosecuting police officers for the use of excessive force. They also know that criminal juries will often acquit the police officers. The drive to recuse DA McCulloch heated up when facts started appearing that could justify the shooting as a justifiable shooting. Officer Wilson apparently needed hospital treatment after the altercation. He may have a valid claim of self-defense, and a grand jury consequently unwilling to indict. President Obama on Monday was remarkably subdued and low-key as he addressed the death of Mr. Brown, almost as if he were disinterested. President Obama had twice before injected himself into black-white relations, and then backed off. The first was a confrontation between Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard and Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department. Professor Gates had trouble unlocking his house when he arrived home at night. A neighbor called the police, saying she thought that perhaps two men were breaking in the house. Officer Crowley was one of the responding officers. Professor Gates finally identified himself as the homeowner, but was highly confrontational. The officer finally arrested the professor for “disorderly conduct.” The President on July 22 in a news conference said the “Cambridge Police acted stupidly.” He subsequently backtracked when the full set of facts emerged and the public sided with the police. Then came the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman. The President said “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” More facts came out, and the jury acquitted Zimmerman. The President again backed down, saying he meant he could have been Trayvon 35 years earlier. This time, with Michael Brown, President Obama was not going to get ahead of the facts. The President, true to form, will now lead from behind.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Motorists hate traffic court. It’s usually their only recourse after receiving a moving violation. They hate traffic court for several reasons. First, they have to take time off from work to go to traffic court at the court’s convenience, often paying for parking near the courthouse. It’s a costly inconvenience for the scofflaws. Second, they hate traffic court because they know they have little chance of winning. The jaded and jaundiced judges have heard it all before. You know you were speeding or went through the stop sign. The ticketing officer knows it. And the judge knows it. The radar guns were properly calibrated. Losing in traffic court entails fines, penalties, and points on the driving record. The officer has to account for every ticket, so tearing up the ticket is not an option. Your best chance is if the ticketing officer fails to appear at the hearing. Other than that possibility, traffic court is not a winning prospect. Except in Philadelphia and some outlying communities. One phone call and the ticket is dropped. The elected traffic court judges, who did not have to be lawyers, could drop the ticket on their own without a hearing. Philadelphia is a one-party city. Politics and cronyism permeated Traffic Court. The Democratic machine selected the candidates for Traffic Court Judge. Who do you know? Political connections could get a ticket dropped. Phone calls from a city council office or ward boss, or from a friend or relative result in dropped charges and dangerous drivers remaining on the road. The citizenry knew for decades the system was corrupt, but it too a five year FBI investigation and an FBI raid of Traffic Court in 2011 to break it open. Several judges and fixers were arrested. Some judges pled guilty to bribery. Chief Judge Fortunato Perri, Sr. admitted fixing tickets in exchange for a patio, discounted lawn services, seafood, car repairs, and porn. Everyone arguably has a price, which does not have to be money. Five judges pled not guilty and fought the charges. The prosecution could not show that any of the five accepted money, or game tickets, or received special favors, or any other form of bribery. It may have been part of “business as usual.” It may have been part of the job. But no consideration exchanged hands. A federal jury in July deliberated 1½ days before acquitting all five judges of conspiring to fix tickets. However, four of the five were convicted of perjury before the grand jury or of lying to investigators. Pennsylvania professionalized the traffic court system after the scandal erupted. Pennsylvania sadly has had corrupt judges in recent years. The most egregious case involved a “Kids for Cash” conspiracy. Two juvenile court judges in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre) received over $2.6 million in bribes to find arrested teens guilty and then send them to privately owned juvenile detention facilities. Many of the teens were first offenders whose “crimes” at worse were of a “Mickey Mouse” nature. At least one committed suicide and another, an honor students, had her college hopes shattered. The two judges initially pled guilty, but the federal district rejected their guilty pleas. Judge Michael T. Conahan subsequently pled guilty again while Judge Mark A. Ciavarella, Jr. was convicted on 12 of 39 counts. Judge Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison and Judge Conahan 17½ years. Over 2400 teens had their convictions expunged, but the damage had been done. Los Angeles had a different system for fixing parking tickets (not moving violations). The city’s Department of Transportation had a “Gold Card” desk staffed by two employees. A plastic “Gold Card” was distributed to the Mayor’s Office and Council embers. It contained a special phone number whereby the Mayor’s office or Council members could request a “fast track” review of a parking ticket. Tickets were thereby dropped, often without any explanation. The City also about $15 million in revenue from thousands of “fixed” tickets over 20 years until the scheme was revealed in 2008. At least these were only traffic tickets and not moving violations. Los Angeles and Philadelphia both exhibit one of the worse images of justice. It all depends on whom you know. Citizens are especially aggrieved when traffic tickets are involved because we all understand tickets.
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Trial lawyers are one of the pillars of the modern Democratic Party. Democrats are quick to itigate. If they can’t win at the ballot box or before the legislature, they appeal to hopefully favorable judges. They treat terrorists as criminals to be tried in civilian courts rather than prisoners to be interned for the duration. Thus it will be a wonderful irony to see the Democrats hoisted on their own petard if the Boehner House of Representatives files its lawsuit against President Obama. A few Democratic prosecutors go over the line and bring criminal prosecutions against their political opponents. They attempt to criminalize political differences. The most notorious was Ronnie Earle, the District Attorney of Travis County (Austin) Texas from 1976 60 2009. Among his unsuccessful political prosecutions were Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He claims to have prosecuted Democrats, but they were his political enemies. The Travis County District Attorney’s Office is the only DA office with statewide jurisdiction in Texas. It can prosecute crimes of official misconduct. DA Earle was succeeded in office by Rosemary Lehmberg, who we now know to be an alcoholic. A motorist called about an erratic driver on April 12, 2013. Travis County deputies pulled her car over. She tested at a .23 blood alcohol level, had an open bottle of vodka in her car, was slurring her words, and could not walk in a straight line. She had also been driving the wrong way down an Austin street. She was abusive to the officers, demanding they call the county sheriff, presumably to get the arrest dropped. The DA was arrested at 2:00am. She was further abusive in jail, kicking the door, and being placed in restraints. Both scenes are available on video. Store records showed she had bought 24.7 gallons of liquor, often expensive Vodka, over 15 months. She ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail. The DA was serving her term in office in jail. Governor Rick Perry demanded that she resign or he would line item veto the funding for the Public Integrity Office, which is in office. He would have appointed a replacement for her had she left office. She refused to resign, and he carried through on his threat by vetoing the $7.5 million budget allocation. Governor Perry stated: “Despite the otherwise good work [of] the Public Integrity unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continuing state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence.” Was the Governor playing hardball against a prosecutor’s office, which had gone after Republicans for political reasons? Probably. We call it Chicago Rules in the Obama Administration. A liberal group filed a complaint against him. The response came yesterday when the DA’s office obtained a grand jury indictment of the governor for two felony counts of official misconduct. The short, two page indictment is available on line. Chief Justice Sol Wachtler of the New York Court of Appeals is famously to have said that a prosecutor could get a grand jury “to indict a ham sandwich.” A liberal prosecutor in Austin, Texas could get any grand jury to indict any Republican. The indictment consists of a first degree felony count of abuse of official capacity and a third degree felony count of coercion of a public servant. The first degree felony includes a jury term of 5-99 years and the third degree felony is 2 to 10 years. Governor Perry had every constitutional right in Texas to exercise his veto right. Absent corruption, courts do not like to delve into the motives of legislators or governors. It’s called “Separation of Powers.” Ray Sullivan, former Chief of Staff to Governor Perry, said “I think it will be a big deal with the liberal media – Slate, Salon – and therefore national media. It is beyond ridiculous that Travis County is pursuing the Governor, after letting the seriously drunk, police disrespecting DA stay in office.” National Democrats have stayed out of the fray so far. They know better than to mess with Texas. They’ve also probably seen the Lehmberg videos. Even David Axelrod, President Obama’s campaign guru, called the indictment “sketchy.” Governor Perry will not be hurt within the Republican Party by the indictment. DA Lernberg’s days as a DA are numbered.
Friday, August 15, 2014
President Obama at an off the record talk with reporters last spring after returning from an Asian trip explained his foreign policy as “Don’t Do Stupid Shit.” The media generally did not discuss it because it was off the record. A few papers mentioned it, but it got little international traction until Secretary Hillary Clinton criticized it in an interview in the Atlantic. She said “Great nations need organizing principles.” “Don’t do stupid stuff” doesn’t cut it. Actually the President said: “Don’t do stupid shit.” “Don’t do stupid shit” stands out in the long history of American diplomacy and foreign policy. Here are some of the previous doctrines, principles, and guidelines of United States foreign policy: The Monroe Doctrine The Marshall Plan Isolation The Good Neighbor Policy NATO Containment Mutually Assured Destruction Alliance for Progress Manifest Destiny Four Freedoms Fourteen Points Arsenal of democracy NAFTA Special Relationship And now we have “Don’t do stupid shit.” Then why is Senator Charles Hagel Secretary of State? Why has the President placed political hacks on the National Security Council? Why is Susan Rice the National Security Advisor? Why did President Obama snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq by bugging out? Why did the President draw a line in the sand and then erase it? Why did the President only offer MRE’s to the Ukrainians when they needed munitions? Why was returning the Churchill Bust one of the President Obama’s first acts in office? Why has the President often expressed his disdain for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Why would the President ever show deference to Hamas? How has the President so totally turned off Recip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader? Why did the President stiff the Syrian rebels? Was the President AWOL during Benghazi? Do the American people understand the extent to which the President has shrunk the military? Why is the President renowned for leading from behind? The President believes that caution “avoids mistakes.” Thus he is cautious in making decisions. He is deliberative. When in doubt, wait. In short, he’s indecisive – at best. When he does decide, it’s usually based on his deep left-wing bias against a strong, decisive America. Acting requires decisions, often tough decisions with a chance of failure. Inaction does not resolve international problems. Inaction, the failure to act, is often the dumbest act.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The part of the world variously called, or including, the Mideast, Arabia, the Balkans, North Africa, Thrace, Rumelia, is aflame. Armies have fought over, pillaged and plundered this area for millennia. The Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, and Russians, the British and French, as well as lesser empires, have laid claims to the areas. Conquerors, like the Mongols, have roamed through, while others, such as the Huns, moved through the region from Central Asia. Conquerors were often ruthless. For example, Alexander the Great was known to exterminate entire populations. The Romans were not known to be merciful. Diaspora, exile, enslavement, genocide were common over the past two millennia. The last, great conquerors were the Ottoman Turks. The House of Osman reigned for six centuries. The Romans and Byzantines spread Christianity and the Ottomans Islam. The Jews persevered through all. The Ottoman Sultans ruled over an ethnically and religiously diverse empire. Sultan Mehmed II in conquering Constantinople in 1543 entered a city that was in steep decline. The population had shrunk and the buildings deteriorating. While many churches, such as the Hagia Sophia, were converted to mosques, many remained as churches. He moved the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church and the Chief Rabbi to Constantinople. He invited, often forced, the Greeks, Genoese, Jews and others to repopulate the city. Sultan Bayazid II invited the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition into the Ottoman Empire. (Anti-Semitism arose in later centuries). The Sultan’s major advisors, such as Grand Viziars and the architect Sinan, and concubines, such as Suleiman the Magnificent’s wife Roxelana were non-Turkish. The Sultans could be ruthless, but they embraced a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire throughout their reign. The tolerance of religious minorities was continued by despotic dictators, such as Assad and Hussein. The House of Osman fell in 1923 and the Caliphate in 1924, creating a void. Some branches of Islam in the Mideast have increasingly become militant, espousing a narrow, intolerant interpretation of Islam. The Sunnis, for example, view the Shia as infidels. Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s leader, was one such Muslim leader. Al Qaeda in Iraq sprang up in Iraq after the American invasion of the country. Militant Islam, the Islam of Osama bin Laden, is like a multi-headed hydra. Lop one head off, like Osama, and others spring up. ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) also known as ISIL (Islamic State in the Levant) is in turn an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became its leader four years ago after his three predecessors were killed. Al-Baghdadi was ordained by Allah and released by America. Isis’ tenets include a strict adherence to Sharia Law and death to infidels, which include all non-Sunni Muslims. It does not believe in idolatry. Its methods and practices essentially combine the worst of the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban. Beheading infidels and defeated opponents is normal for them. Destroying temples and monuments, the cultural history of the world, shows obedience to Allah. ISIS is perfecting the barbarity of 3,000 years of Mideast history. President Obama said Russia was on the wrong side of history in invading the Crimea. Secretary of State Kerry said of the Russians “You just don’t in the 21st Century bring in 19th Century practices ….” Not to mention 20th Century practices – or 18th, 17th,16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st Century practices. The sword and the scimitar have proven effective over the millennia. ISIS is using 21st Century weapons of war and communications to impose a narrow 7th Century vision of Islam onto the world – a vision which will suck the humanity out of the coerced adherents of their Islam. The President and Secretary of State possess a dangerously naïve view of the world. The fate of the religious minorities in this part of the Islamic world was shown by the initial attack on the inclusive Lebanon government in 1958. Lebanon had a Maronite Christian President, a Shia Speaker, and a Greek Orthodox Deputy Speaker/Deputy Prime Minister. President Eisenhower sent 5,000 Marines into Lebanon to restore peace to the country. A façade of peace lasted until the 16 year civil war unleashed in 1975. The majority population of Lebanon is now Muslim with the Hezbollah controlling much of the country. ISIS arose in Iraq, but grew in power as one of several rebel groups fighting the Assad Administration. It’s cachet as a Sunni Muslim group serving Allah while fighting Assad and the other infidels fueled its growth. Success is now fueling success as Islamicists globally flock to its black flag. ISIS is fighting for Allah. The ISIS fighters will die for Allah. The Obama Administration is fighting to stay out of Iraq. It's no contest.
Monday, August 11, 2014
The 2014 Democratic mid-term election strategy seems to be based on the two “I’s:” Impeachment and Inversion. “Don’t impeach the President” is the rallying cry of an otherwise idea-bankrupt campaign. “Don’t let the Tea Party impeach President Obama.” The only ones talking impeachment are Democrats to gin up their base. Their new word is “Inversion,” the details of which are obtuse to most Americans. The democrats and some media claim inversion is unpatriotic. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said “What we need is a new sense of American patriotism.” President Obama calls for ”economic patriotism’ and claims companies that move overseas through inversion are “corporate deserters.” Boswell wrote that Johnson said “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” Patriotism is too hallowed a phrase to throw around in a tax controversy, but that’s what the Democratic demagogues are doing in their latest example of class warfare. It’s an attack on corporations. Inversion is a corporate restructuring in which a United States corporation acquires a foreign corporation and then adopts that company’s legal domicile as its new legal headquarters. The favorite countries for inversion are Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Ireland and Great Britain. The reason is simple – to avoid the high corporate tax rates of the United States – the highest in the developed world. The federal corporate tax rate is 35%, while states can impose their own corporate taxes. For example, California’s corporate tax rate is 8.8%. Sometimes I wonder why any major non-Silicon Valley corporation remains headquartered in California. In addition, the United States, unlike other countries, tax American companies on foreign profits repatriated to the United States. Thus, corporations like Apple park billions of international profits offshore. Businesses normally try to increase profits by raising sales and lowering costs. That’s a basic rule of economics. Taxes are an expense. A decrease in taxes can boost earnings. High tax rates are a drag on economic activity and give rise to relocations. Thus, when England’s individual income tax rate went up to 90%, many athletes, actors, and singers move their domicile out of England. Great Britain is lowering its corporate rate to 20%. Ireland is down to 12.5% Capital moves to where it is welcome. Over 50 companies have engaged in inversion over the past decade – 15 since 2013. Inversion is becoming an economic stampede. One of the companies currently engaged in inversion is the generic drug manufacturer Mylan. It is acquiring the European operations of Abbott Drugs and will be based in the Netherlands. The CEO of Mylan is Heather Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia Senator Joe Machin. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the federal treasury will lose $19.5 billion over the next decade through inversion. The Joint Committee did not estimate how much would be lost if Congress enacted an effective means to shut down inversions. A closure of inversion will result in an increase in the number of foreign companies buying American businesses. These companies will not pay United States income taxes on off-shore income. Here is a partial list of the brands and companies owned by foreign entities: Alka Seltzer AMC Theaters Arrowhead Ben & Jerry’s Birds Eye Breyers Budweiser Carnival Cruise Lines Chrysler CITGO Dreyers Entenmanns Eskimo Pie Frigidaire Garmin Gerber Goodrich Firestone Frigidaire Gerber Giant Food Stores Good Humor Haagen Daas Helene Curtis Hellman’s Holiday Inn Hoovers Hot Pockets John Hancock Life Insurance Lucky Strikes Mack Trucks PIMCO Poland Springs Ponds Cream Popsicles Purina Ragu 7 Eleven Smithfield (pork) Stop & Shop Trader Joe’s Uniroyal Vaseline The once great American steel industry has seen most of the American companies disappear, enter bankruptcy, or be acquired by foreign companies. Among the disappearing companies are Armco, Bethlehem, Inland, Jones & Laughlin, Kaiser, Republic, and Youngstown. The solution to inversion is to lower corporate tax rates, but that is anathema to many Congressional Democrats. Thus, they sit by as corporations economically leave the United States, either by inversion or selling out.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Remember Sesame Street? Today’s letter of the day is the letter “T.” President Obama likes to use the word ‘targeted,” as in “Targeted Air Strikes.” As in “targeted tax cuts for small business.” As in “Significant and targeted sanctions against Russia.” As in the President targeted Fox News. As in targeted killings. As in “The IRS targeted conservative groups.” The President’s use of “targeted” is revealing of the President. In one sense the idea of targeted airstrikes is a nonsensical redundancy. Of course, we want rockets, missiles, bombs, and artillery shots targeted at specific targets. We don’t want them randomly flying through the air. Thus, this use of “targeted air strikes” is typical of the President’s trite orations. It seems to say a lot, but means nothing. The alternative interpretation is as with “targeted tax cuts for small business.” It represents the hubris of Washington elites who believe they can predict and control human and market behavior, militants, terrorist, battles and wars. They also believe they know what’s best for us. President Johnson believed in targeted air strikes in the Vietnam War. He didn’t call them targeted, but his air war was micromanaged out of the White House. We know how that worked out. President Obama’s short briefing yesterday reinforces the concept that left-wing liberals flinch at using America’s military to defend the national interests of the United States, but will readily use it in human rights crusades, such as protecting the trapped Yazidis from genocide. Humanitarian missions are good, but they don’t affect the security of the United States. The President is trapped by his ideology. He is a time warp of the 1960’s, as if he were a Child of the 60’s. He wanted totally out of Iraq with a fixed timetable for bugging out. He has no intention of returning. He’s adamant about no boots on the ground, but he doesn’t need them. The Kurdish Peshmerga will fight, but he refuses to arm them. He is clueless about the ISIS turmoil. ISIS captured a treasure trove of American military equipment, such as tanks, Humvees and artillery, with the fall of Mosul. The Peshmerga have nothing to fight the heavy weapons of ISIS. Tepid targeted air strikes will not resolve the conflict. President Carter lost Iran, Will President Obama lose the Levant or even all of Arabia? Time will tell. Another T word is “trip,” as in the President is about to take a trip (vacation) to Martha’s Vineyard to tee off, but that would appear tawdry. Yet another T word is Turkey. Turkey has been a member of BATO since 1952 and a stalwart ally of the United States for six decades. President Obama has so outraged Turkey's Prime Minister, and soon to be President, Recip Erdogan that the PM will no longer talk to the President. Erdogan does speak with Vice President Biden. Just wait until Iran gets The Bomb.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Ethan Couch is a spoiled rich kid, an incredibly spoiled, incredibly rich spoiled brat. He got away with killing four and injuring nine. I blogged his disgusting sentence on December 15, 2013. 16 year old Ethan got tanked up with alcohol and valium at a party in his mansion. His blood alcohol tested .24 three hours after the accident. He piled into his pickup with seven friends and plowed down at 70MPH a mother, daughter, youth minister, and a stranded motorist working on her car. All four were killed. Nine others were injured. The tragedy occurred an hour after a surveillance tape captured him stealing two cases of beer from Walmart. His rich parents exercised the Golden Rule of Law – Those with the gold make the rules. They hired the best defense attorneys and found a clinical psychologist, Dr. G. Dick Miller, who crafted the new defense of “Affluenza.” Dr. Miller is a hired gun for defense attorneys. The first listing in his areas of expertise is “Consulting services for criminal attorneys.” Other terms can be substituted for “hired gun.” He knows who pays his bills. Judge Jean Boyd of the Juvenile Court accepted both Ethan’s guilty plea and the defense of Affluenza. The prosecutor sought 20 years imprisonment. Judge Boyd sentenced Ethan to ten years of probation with treatment. His parents planned to send him to Newport Beach for a $450,000/year facility. (He’s now in a more traditional facility in Texas at taxpayers’ expense.) A volcanic eruption ensued in Texas, a land of no volcanoes. A petition circulated seeking the Governor’s removal of the judge. She has decided to retire at the end of the year. The victims and their families filed suit against Ethan, his parents, and the father’s business. The family settled all but one suit. Lucas McConnell’s suit is moving forward. His attorneys sought disclosure of Dr. Miller’s records. Judge R. H. Wallace, Jr. granted their request. The goal is probably not only to discover Ethan’s background, but also to determine if Dr. Miller is something of a quack. I’ll love to know the amount of his fee. Ethan’s attorney filed an emergency writ of mandamus with the Court of Appeals to stay the discovery. Their primary argument is the strong Texas law protecting the confidentiality of juvenile records. A secondary argument is that these records are not relevant in the civil suit since the psychologist is not an expert in this case. The problem for defense counsel is twofold. First, Dr. Miller was a witness for Ethan at the criminal proceedings. His records were discoverable. Second, Dr. Miller is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame. He is publicly talking about the case, the most recent is an almost half hour interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN a short time ago. Dr. Miller now claims to regret using the word “Affluenza.” He said “I do believe we used to call these people spoiled brats.” A “spoiled brat” defense does not work in court with celebrities, athletes, actors and musicians. “Affluenza” has a pseudo psychological cachet to it. He believes the treatment has a 80% chance of Ethan Couch becoming a “fully functional citizen” under the plan versus only 10-20% of jail time. Judge Boyd also had a preference for rehabilitation of minors - at least rich, white minors. The Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay. Justice is still to be served.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Long term Democratic Senator Max Baucus of Montana in April 2013 announced he was not running for reelection for a seventh term in the Senate. Montana is an independent state. It can easily elect Democrats or Republicans in statewide elections. The Democrats are fighting to hold onto the Senate. Control will switch to Republicans if they achieve a net gain of 6 Senate seats in the November mid-term elections. The Democrats have essentially written off open seats in South Dakota and West Virginia. Montana also looked wobbly for Democrats. The idea arose to increase Democratic chances in Montana. Senator Baucus resigned in February to accept the ambassadorship to China. Montana’s Governor appointed Lt. Governor John Walsh to the Senate seat, giving the newly appointed Senator some benefits of incumbency. Senator Walsh looked like an ideal candidate in Montana. He had served 33 years in the military, rising to Adjatent General of the Montana National Guard. He served a year in Iraq, winning the Bronze Star. He first ran for elective office two years ago when the voters elected him Lt. Governor. He looked like a winner. Polls showed him trailing Steve Daines, the Republican nominee, but he was running a close campaign. Until last Thursday. The New York Times ran a page one article blasting Senator’s Walsh campaign for plagiarism. It was entitled “Senator’s Thesis Turns Out to be Remix of Other’s Works, Uncited.” Page one continued on 5/6 of an inside page. The gist of the article is that the Senator copied ¼ of his 14 page 2007 Masters Thesis at the Army war College, including the six recommendations at the end. The recommendations came from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report. Plagiarism is a major problem in the academic community and in journalism. I have seen many students claim ignorance of plagiarism. We include it in the Student’s Handbook, and I warn against it in the instructions on writing assignments. The Army War College repeatedly warns its students, both orally and in writing, against plagiarism. Plagiarism is not necessarily politically fatal for politicians. Both Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Rand Paul have survived plagiarism charges. I am not certain that plagiarism is totally unavoidable. I gave written over 1,000 pages in legal journals. I have tried to religiously cite and reference sources and direct quotes. I try not to pass off the words and ideas of others as my own. I will not guarantee perfection though. My blog has over 900 postings. I try to be careful, but no guarantees. Inadvertently lifting isolated passages is not good, but probably unavoidable. Lifting entire paragraphs or pages is a much different matter, and hard to explain. The Walsh campaign had two initial responses to the Times article. First, an aide said it was the result of opposition research. Op Res is a standard political practice today. Many “good” people will not run for office because of the invasions of privacy followed by a negative campaign, which may not even be factually based. The problem with the argument against opposition research is that the New York Times is not a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. It has a liberal bias, and hence would be presumed to favor Senator Walsh. The second problem was Senator’s Walsh’s initial response. He basically blamed the mistake on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): “My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment.” The blowback from his statement, especially among veterans, was devastating. PTSD is a critical problem for returning military. It should not be used as an excuse for large scale plagiarism, or other trivialized. The Senator then backtracked, but the damage was done. His statement is not as insulting as those of Republicans Todd Akins or Richard Murdock two years ago, but those were words. His are words and a degree that insult the military. Senator Walsh announced earlier today that he was cancelling his next upcoming campaign appearances. He is presumably reflecting on whether he will drop out of the race or persevere. Outside money is apparently drying up, as it is being directed to more winnable campaigns for the Democrats. Republican odds have increased in November.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
It’s nostalgia time A doctor advised me last week to soak my thumb in Epson Salt. Epson Salt? Wasn’t Epson Salt in mom’s medicine cabinet in the 1950’s? Actually, we didn’t have a medicine cabinet, or medicine chest, but my mother had them somewhere. The question is what else was in mother’s home remedies in the 1950’s? Here’s a list from memory and the internet. My mom did not obviously have all these at one time, but most appeared sooner or later: Alka-Seltzer Bactine Band-Aids Anacin Bayer Aspirin Ben Gay Bufferin Calamine Lotion Castor Oil Chap Stick Cod Liver oil Dr. Miles Nervine Epson Salt Hot water bottle Lanacane Listerine Mercurochrome Mercury Thermometer Pepto-Bismo Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia Smith Brothers Cough Drops Syrup of Ipaca Tincture of Iodine Unguentine Vaseline Vicks Formula 44 Vicks Vapor Rub TLC Smelling salts might make the list, but we never had them How many are still in use today? How far has medicine progressed?
A water main burst Tuesday, July 29 on Sunset Boulevard above the campus of UCLA. Sunset lies above UCLA. 20 million gallons of water followed gravity and flowed down through the campus. The water main break occurred at a “Y” connection where a 30’ pipe laid down in 1921 connected with a 36” pipe in 1956. The geyser erupted 30’ in the air. The resulting sinkhole was 24’ wide and 5’ deep. 36,000 gallons a minutes poured into UCLA. The pipe burst occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon, but it took until 9:00PM to shut off the water. The hallowed Pauley Pavilion was flooded with 8 inches covering the floor. Pauley had just completed a $136 million expansion and renovation. Also flooded were the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Welfare Center, the JD Morgan Center, and the John Wooden Center. Two garages were flooded with about 960 cars trapped. Many were submerged by 5-6 feet of water. About 400 cars are inoperable, and thus a total loss. UCLA announced the warped wood floor of Pauley Pavilion needs to be replaced. The total losses from the flooding are yet to be calculated. The UCLA flooding is but a spectacular and costly example of the past decade of burst water mains and geysers in Los Angeles. Two days later on July 31 a main burst on the 1600 block of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock. A March 28, 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times was entitled “The Looming Sinkhole Crisis.” No part of Los Angeles is seemingly immune from broken water mains. Bursting water mains and pipes are a daily occurrence in Los Angeles. Only the major ones make the news. Earlier water main breaks included a 62” pipe in Studio City in 2009 and a September 8, 2009 sinkhole in Valley Village in the San Fernando Valley. This sinkhole swallowed a fire engine. A few days earlier a 62” water main break flooded residences in Studio City. Large chunks of Coldwater Canyon Avenue collapsed in the break. Six breaks occurred in the Fairfax and Hollywood areas in a short period in early 2012. Three pipes failed in three days in Highland Park earlier in July 2014. A broken water main on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) created a 30’ deep sinkhole, closing ½ of the PCH into Malibu. A May 12, 2012 break in La Puente created a 25’ by 15’ sinkhole. Blame for the cascading water breaks rests directly on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, he famous DWP. The DWP is engaged in responding to incidents rather than preventative maintenance. The expected life of these cast iron pipes is 50-75 years. About 20% of the pipes are over 100 years old. The DWP’s replacement cycle is 300 years. Thus, it is possible that a main could fail 4-6 times before a scheduled replacement. The DPW has acquired great expertise in responding to breaks, shutting off the water, excavating the site, connecting new pipes, and restoring the surface as if nothing ever happened. That is an expensive proposition. DWP’s problem is money; i.e. a lack of capital funds because it has squandered its revenues. The average total pay of DWP employees in 2012 was $101,237, about 25% higher than comparable workers in both public and private utilities. DWP pay increased 12% from 2008 to 2012 when the country was in a deep economic slump. Custodians, for example, climbed to $69,999 annually from $56,060 in five years. The IBEW local, which represents the DWP workers, is refusing to turn over the records of the $4 million annually allocated by DWP to two “trust funds” for worker safety and training. The department sought several rate increases over the past decade “to go green,” but public opposition stalled them in recent years. The public reacted to the apparent waste and inefficiency of the DWP. The widely held belief is that rate increases would be poured into salaries and LA’s budgetary hole. California is in the midst of a monumental drought. We are not only being urged to save, but will be facing mandatory restrictions. DWP’s policy of deferred maintenance is wasting more water than we can conserve, Los Angeles is living off the deteriorating infrastructure of the past. (I wanted to say “The Rest of the Story,” but that was a tag line of Paul Harvey. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________ August 4, 2014. Anonymous posted a comment, raising the problem of the DWP and Owens Valley. (All comments have inadvertently been deleted). The saga of William Mulholland, the DWP, and the Owens Valley is well known. It is the backdrop to the movie "Chinatown." LA's need for water was not quenched by Owens Valley. The DWP then moved north to Mono Lake, diverting several of the streams feeding the Lake into the Owens Valley System. The shrinkage on Mono Lake gave rise to perhaps the most significant natural resources case of the past century. The California Supreme Court in the 1983 National Audubon Society case imposed the public trust doctrine on the diversion. Those interested in the Owns Valley and Mono Lake should join the Mono Lake Committee, a nonprofit based in Lee Vining, California (mono lake.org)