Thursday, February 28, 2013

IKEA and The Jungle Revisited

No – not Ikea too with tainted beef; Maybe not An epidemic of horsemeat contamination is plaguing Europe, beginning in Ireland two months ago. The meat from European slaughterhouses is adulterated with horse meat. One England study found an average adulterated level between 1.5-10% of the samples taken. The contaminated “beef” has been shipped to hospitals, restaurants, schools, and supermarkets. Horsemeat is not unhealthy. Most carnivores do not discriminate between buffalo, cats, deer, dogs, gazelles, goats, impalas, mice, pigs, rats, sheep, voles, water buffalo or horses. Red meat is red meat. Horsemeat was sold as dog food in pet stores when I was young. The human palate though does not relish horsemeat. It is not on the menu in American restaurants. We do not savor eating Champion, Comanche, Dan Patch, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Traveler, Trigger, or Man o’ War. Indeed, the United States currently lacks a slaughterhouse for horses. But not Europe. Apparently quite a few European slaughterhouses have routinely slipped horse meat into their ground beef. South Africa also discovered goat, donkey, and water buffalo in its meat supply. It’s time to reread Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Major European companies, processing or selling adulterated beef, include Tesco, England’s largest supermarket, Asda (Walmart’s division in England), and Nestles, which only makes the very best. Burger King England may or may not have had horsemeat in their flame broiled, have it your way, burgers. They claimed they found it in a warehouse supply, but kept it out of the restaurants. On the other hand Taco bell found horse DNA in its ground beef. The contamination epidemic spread. It reached even the iconic IKEA, which gets 5% of its sales from food products. Lost among all its inexpensive, not too difficult to assemble, particleboard furniture, are the 160 million Swedish Meatballs it annually sells. Czech inspectors then claimed to find horse DNA in IKEA’s wiener sausages, proving the American adage that we do not need to know what goes into the making of sausage. IKEA recalled the sausage from 21 European countries, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. The past two months have illustrated the risks of our extended supply chains for food and other products. The adulteration, this time, has not posed a major health risk, but it is extremely costly for the companies involved. The United States experienced several problems with merchandise and toys imported from China. Lead paint was often the culprit. Some dairies in China contaminated their milk. Perrier had a major problem with its mineral waters two decades ago when it failed to filter the benzene out of the natural waters. Food safety has been a national priority for over a century with an amazing record, despite the occasional salmonella and E coli contaminations. The Swedish producer of the suspect IKEA sausage claims it has tested the sausage 320 times since the Czechs reported the trace contamination. It claims to have found no horse DNA in the sausage. It did not disclose what it found in the sausage.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg, the Nanny Mayor of New York City

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in his 12th and final year as mayor. The once liberal Democrat, then conservative Republican and now independent declared his governing philosophy in an June 2012 interview with CBS: [I]f government’s purpose isn’t to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don’t know what its purpose is.” Government’s purpose is not to decide for us. God gave us Free Will and Determinism. Our Founding fathers rebelled from England and wrote the Constitution to protect us from government. The purpose of government is to defend us against external threats, protect us from criminal activity within the society, and provide us needed services. Government’s purpose is not to act as Big Brother. Part of the curse of elitists is that they know what it best for us, and demand that we act accordingly, even if, as with Vice President Al Gore, they hold themselves to a double standard. Forget the March 1 sequester. The true day of reckoning for New York City is March 12, the day when Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on 32oz sodas goes into effect. He also banned certain types of mixers. The pizza man can deliver a pizza with two 16oz Cokes or Pepsis, but not one 32oz sugared soda. As with such bans, arbitrary and capricious (that’s often the legal term for shockingly stupid) distinctions may be made. Thus, supermarkets can continue to sell 32oz sugared sodas, as can grocery stores and supermarkets. So could Walmart, except that it is still blocked from The City. The Mayor has yet to impose a limit on extra cheese or pepperoni on pizzas, or even pizzas, which can be loaded with fat and artery chocking cholesterol. He now wants to expand the soda ban statewide. It is also legal to drink beer with pizza. He is about to propose a ban on Styrofoam containers The Mayor led a national charge against trans fats in his first term. He followed up by requiring fast food restaurants to post the calorie contents of their food on large menu boards. City hospitals on September 3, 2012 had to hide baby formula into locked cabinets as the Mayor insisted that mothers breast feed their babies. His program was termed “Latch on NYC.” Mothers could still ask for formula, but are subject to browbeating from a nurse. Whether a mother breast or bottle feeds her baby is her personal decision. Government should not harass her for exercising such a fundamental decision. 27 of the New York City hospitals agreed to stop giving the new moms the formula manufacturer swag bags with goodies for the mom and new born. He earlier banned food donations to homeless shelters because there could be no guarantee of the sodium content of the donated food. You now have to ask for salt at a restaurant if you want it. The Mayor analogizes the ban on large sugared sodas to the ban on lead paint. Lead paint is a poison to our children, often in older tenements. Sugared soda is not an inherent poison. There are times when "Coke is the real Thing." The Mayor has a large, armed security detail protecting him. Such protection for the President, Governor, Mayor and other public officials is sadly necessary in today’s world. He is one of the leading national Crusaders for gun control. He would love to ban guns in New York City and hold the manufacturers liable for the violence inflicted by criminals using guns. The courts and the Second Amendment are blocking him. The Mayor in January announced that the ER’s in the 11 public hospitals in the City will be limited to prescribing no more than a three day supply of painkillers, such as Oxycotin and Vicotin. His first term started with a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, followed by high cigarette taxes such that a pack can cost up to $14.50 in the City. Some political attacks on personal choice fail. For example, Maine had to rescind its ban on juice paks after three years, and attempts by some states to ban disposable diapers have failed. A bootlegging cigarette industry has sprung up. That reminds us of the Mafia which made a fortune during Prohibition. Corruption and organized crime often accompany the denial of individual freedom. Have we forgotten the lessons of Prohibition or the more recent failure of the War on Drugs. Governments and politicians, like Mayor Bloomberg, never seem to learn the lessons from history. Attempts by Big Brother to regulate our personal lives are doomed to failure, a failure with tragic consequences for the individual and society. A bureaucracy must be created to enforce the new restrictions on liberty. We have left the era of the Puritans behind us, or have we?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reflections on the Oscars

2012 was a great year for Hollywood movies. All of the nominated movies, actors, directors, and producers are deserving this year. Seth MacFarlane is exceedingly talented – much more talented than his material. Even Captain Kirk could not save the introductory set. Seth surpassed the bar set two years ago by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, the latter of whom phoned it in. Anne lived the Princess Diaries and even received redemption from the Academy. Tasteless jokes are tasteless jokes, even at the Oscars. The great Johnny Carson and Bob Hope never had to resort to bathroom or sophomoric humor. The Ted skit was especially inane. The Oscars would have finished on time and not 35 minutes late had Seth skipped the lame jokes. If JC Penney is a major sponsor of the Academy Awards, then why didn’t any of the celebrities announce they’re wearing James Cash Penney? Helen Hunt, to her credit, wore H & M. James Bond actually won two Oscars, including the first time for a song. Shirley Bassett reminded us that the right song adds to the movie. Wouldn’t it have been great to celebrate the 50 years of James Bond by having all living Bonds, including George Lazenby, on stage? If only David Niven could have appeared! Rhythm & Hues won the special effects Oscar for Life of Pi after entering bankruptcy and laying off hundreds. Pi remains 3.1416 to infinity, but R & H sits in Chapter 11. Why were the envelopes so difficult to open? Is Quentin Tarantino’s vocabulary limited to “I,” “Me,” and “My”? He should film the new Arrested Development. The CIA is the big winner between ARGO and Zero Dark Thirty. What were the odds that Hollywood would say anything nice about the Agency? What happened to Lincoln? Imagine if Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein worked together on a project? William Goldenberg won an Oscar for Film Editing on Argo. He defeated William Goldenberg who film edited Zero Dark Thirty. Kristin Stewart proved she is incapable of showing emotion, even pain, during the Oscars. She could blame it on a leg injury, giving rise to the actor’s line “Break a leg.” Even the losers took home about $45,000 in swag. Hollywood crossed a political line at the Academy Awards. We actually saw many of the nominated movies this year, but what happened to Salmon Fishing in Yemen and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? The closing number was the highlight.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Andrew Luster's New Defense: The Lawyers Made Me Do It

Andrew Luster blames his sordid tale on the lawyers. He is the son of privilege. The great grandson, an heir to the Max Factor fortune, grew up in Malibu. He received a substantial cash income from a family trust. Andrew Luster is also a neer d’well, playboy, libertine, rake, wastrel, and most significantly a serial rapist and felon. Based on wealth, fancy cars, looks, and personality, he could easily “score” with many women. Hoever, he relied on gamma hydroxy butyrate, GHB, a date rape drug, also known as “Liquid Ecstacy” or “Liquid X.” He then taped the sexual assaults on the unconscious women. Jurors watched the tapes, which showed him as a sociopath. Two of the victims had no memory of the sexual assaults. One woman was snoring during the sexual assault. Another was only 17 at the time. He claimed his victims consented. The law is clear though. An underaged, intoxicated, drugged, or unconscious woman is legally incapable of giving consent. The illegal acts occurred between October 1996 and July 2000. Luster was arrested and released on $1 million bail. He jumped bail four days into the 2002 trial, which proceeded in absentia. He was convicted on 86 counts of assault, rape, drug induced rapes, rapes of unconscious women, and poisoning, sentenced to 124 years in prison, and fined $1 million. Luster was hiding in plain view in Mexico. Duane “Dog” Chapman, the famed bounty hunter, apprehended him eating a burrito at a taco stand in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on June 20, 2003. Luster was brought back to face justice in California. A 2003 made for TV movie, A Date With Darkness: The Trial and Capture of Andrew Luster, was produced during his unsuccessful refuge in Mexico. The victims of sexual assaults normally do not bring civil law suits seeking compensation. However, when a defendant, such as Luster, possesses assets then the suit is sometimes brought. Two of his victims won $40 million in judgments. How much they will collect remains to be seen as Luster entered personal bankruptcy. The judge in one civil suit called the facts “so perverse, so unconscionable and so despicable.” One of the classic criminal law defenses is the “SODDI” Defense- “Some Other Dud Done It.” For example, the Bell 6 defendants, the city officials who looted Bell, blamed their acts on Robert Rizzo, the indicted city manager who will be tried separately. Murder defendants often blame the victim, who is clearly unable to testify. We know from Hollywood movies and TV shows that lawyers are often the villain. Andrew Luster’s new defense is to blame the lawyers, in fact one dead lawyer. He is seeking a new trial and a reduced sentence on grounds of poor representation in the trial he fled. His new lawyers claim in a February 9 filing that he was the victim, yes he was the victim, of a half dozen incompetent, unethical, and crooked lawyers. Money usually procures the services of highly competent criminal defense attorneys, not 6 incompetent attorneys. He claims his lawyer advised him to leave the country, “to head for the border.” He claims to have acted on advice of counsel, Richard G. Sherman, who conveniently died in April 2011. Sherman had a history of ethical problems, but denied the Luster claims before his death. His new lawyers are now blaming his old lawyers, especially a deceased lawyer, for the client’s actions. Counsel did not drug the young women. Nor did counsel sexually assault the unconscious women. Counsel did not commit statutory rape. Counsel did not advise Luster to tape his depravities. Counsel did not flee to Mexico. Counsel had to defend an empty chair during the trial he fled. Luster was not there to speak for himself, but his tapes spoke for him in absentia. Luster was of free will and determinism. He also claimed at one point to be earning $60-70,000 annually from day trading. He’s smart enough to know what he’s doing. And stupid enough to have done it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sequestration is Not

Sequestration may be many things, but here's what sequestration is not; This list is of what the sequester will not do: 1) It will not affect the President’s travel and golf budget. President Obama can thereby continue to play golf with Tiger Woods at taxpayer expense while federal workers are laid off or furloughed. 2) It will not affect the President’s vacation plans. 3) It will not force the President to actually govern as opposed to vacationing, golfing, and campaigning. 4) It will not affect presdient Obama's 100 city campaign swing for tax increases. 6) It will not affect the salaries of the members of Congress or their staffs. 5) It will not cause the Senate Democrats to pass their first budget in 4 years, or act on the two House bills that would end the sequester. 7) It will not shut the government down. 8) It will not cut the deficit or reduce government spending; it simply reduces the growth in spending. 9) It will not result in an economic collapse, contrary to the apocalyptic, Chicken Little the Sky is Falling pronouncements of the President, and the Parade of Horrors, Doomsday pronunciations of a complaint media. 10) It will not reduce the projected $3.5 trillion budget by more than $85 billion – petty cash in the federal budget. 11) It will not result in a real crisis, but a politically manufactured crisis. 12) It will not result in internecine fighting within the Republican Party or in Democratic control of the House in 2014. 13) It will not result in Republicans agreeing to raise taxes again, which would result in the destruction of the GOP. The elected Republicans remember the fate of President George H. W. Bush and state Republican office holders who voted to raise taxes. 14) It is insufficient to ward off the coming rise in interest rates and inflation. 15) It will not prevent at a future date the inevitable reassessment of the major entitlement programs, including social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. 16) It is just one more excuse for the President to demagogue Republicans and continue his perpetual campaigning. 17) It will not be as devastating to the economy as President Obama’s 2% payroll tax increase and the rest of the January 1, 2013 income, capital gains and dividend tax increases. 18) It will not slow down the rise in gas prices, which will have a devastating effect on the economy. 19) It is not the end of the Republic. Sequestration is, of course, a stupid idea. It is President Obama’s idea.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Random Killings in Orange County Today

We haven't yet recovered from Christopher Dorner's February 2 murders in Irvine when the overhead police helicopters woke us up early this morning in Tustin - never a good wake up call. Tustin is a sleepy suburb in Orange County, a county of suburbs and exurbs, and that's how we like it. 20 year old Ali Syed killed a still unidentified young woman in his parent's Ladera Ranch condo at 4:45AM, and then drove off in their GMC Yukon Denali onto the I 5. They phoned 911. The car sprang a flat and he pulled off on Red Hill into a Denny's close to Tustin High School, walking distance from our house. He shot the driver of a car in an unsuccessful carjacking. He then went next door and took the car keys from a motorist filing up at the Mobil Station. He let this driver live, telling him "I killed somebody. Today is my last day." He drove off in his Dakota pickup. Today was that driver's lucky day. The stolen Dakota was short on gas. Back on and off the freeways. He exited the 55 in Santa Ana. He found 69 year old Melvin Lee Edwards sitting in his BMW on his way to work. He ordered Edwards out of his car, executed him, and drove off in the BMW. Back on and off the 55 at Edinger. He killed 26 year old Jeremy Lewis, a plumber working a construction site, and wounded a co-worker, He stole a pickup truck. Back on the 55 he shot at cars on the road. He pulled off the 5 at Katella and proceeded to blow his head off at Katella and North Wanda. 25 miles and 75 minutes of a random shooting spree with a shotgun, Vice President Biden's recommended weapon for self defense. 4 dead and 3 wounded for no known reason. We now know that crazed Dorner's Irvine killings were planned and not random. He was also stalking other LAPD officers and their families. No such explanation has surfaced for for Ali. We could speculate, but that's all it would be - random speculation. Ali was unemployed and taking three units at Saddleback Community College. He found no meaning in life, certainly not in his death and those of his randomly chosen victims. Four Dead in the OC. This is not The OC of the TV series, Arrested Development, Laguna Beach, or the Really Desperate Housewives of Orange County. This is The Oc that should not be. Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, is 4 miles west on Katella.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Unabomber, The DC Sniper, and Christopher Dorner

Americans over the past quarter century have been paralyzed in fear by four men: Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, The D.C. Sniper, and Charles Dorner. All were perpetrators of seemingly unconnected, random acts of violence. Kaczynski and Dorner issued rambling manifestos, which helped identify them. Muhammad and Malvo spoke with sniper bullets. Ted Kaczynski instilled fear nationally, whereas the D.C. Sniper and Dorner were limited to specific regions of America, but their crime waves were followed nationally. Americans were increasingly scared of flying before the Unabomber was arrested. Americans were scared of traveling to the D.C. Metropolitan area because the D.C. Sniper was loose. Dorner was running wild in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties amidst roughly 20 million residents. The odds of any one individual being killed by the 4 are negligible, but the fear was palpable. Ted Kaczynski is a genius, a crazed genius with a troubled past. He was very young when a disease caused him to be isolated for months. He was unresponsive upon his return. He skipped the sixth grade in school because of his intelligence, which was common decades ago. Only later was it recognized that the practice of early promotion often had a bad effect on social development. He entered Harvard at 16, and graduated at 19. He earned a Ph.D. in math at Michigan and then started teaching at Berkeley in 1967. He resigned two years later, moved back home for a few years, and then built his cabin and bombs in Montana. We now know that he was one of a couple dozen students in a Harvard class, which was billed as a multiple-year personality study, but which subjected the students to emotional brutalization and humiliation. (See Alston Chase, Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber). He was not a fit subject for that study. His growing radicalism would have been nurtured by his years at Michigan and Berkeley. Then he started sending bombs through the mail to professors, students, executives, computer store owners, and the cargo of an airline. Three died and 23 were injured in 13 known bomb attacks from 1978 to 1995. Fear grew as no one knew when or where the next bomb would arrive. The only link between the victims was in the Unabomber’s mind. The D.C. Snipers went on a shooting spree between October 2 and October 22, 2002 in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. They killed 10 and wounded three in October as well as prior killings in Alabama and Louisiana. No commonality seemed to exist between the victims. They were simply targets of opportunity at the wrong place at the wrong time. People were scared of traveling to D.C. The Washington area was terrorized. The two were apprehended in Maryland, but tried first in Virginia, mainly because Virginia believed in capital punishment. Muhammad was executed on November 10, 2009. Malvo is serving six life sentences since he was a minor at the time of the shootings. Dorner’s homicidal rampage ended in a burning cabin in Big Bear, California. It began on Super Bowl Sunday ten days earlier when a young couple was found murdered in an Irvine, California parking garage. The crime was inexplicable until the Irvine Police announced a few days later that Dorner was the suspect. His manifesto reflected decades of built up rage against anyone who might have offended him. Among those identified was the father of the slain woman. He was targeting not only the “wrongdoers” - mostly police, but also their families. That is hate, psychotic hate. Then he proceeded to shoot two LAPD officers in Corona on protection duty for one of the his named targets, followed by killing a Riverside police officer and seriously wounding a second. The police were frightened, which resulted in some understandable itchy trigger fingers on their part in the dark night. We know that Dorner on his final day killed a San Bernardino Deputy Sheriff and wounded a second one. He was not going to be taken alive. Nor should he have been. We are used to violence on TV, the movies, and video games. We probably all know someone who died in an auto accident. We see on the news the tales of gang shootings in cities like LA and Chicago. We realize that terrorists can strike the United States again. These mass killers are different. They come from us, but have struck out against civilization, our civilization, on multiple occasions. By randomly targeting ordinary Americans across all ethnic, social, economic, and demographic barriers in urban and suburban areas, they have struck fear in all of us. They will continue to strike fear with future attacks until stopped. They have called into question the Rule of Law until caught. They have broken our trust in an orderly, civilized society. They have scratched away the thin veneer of civilization. We are powerless against their madness. Fear and panic build. We can see our families and friends among the victims. Even the police seem powerless against their madness. We are not safe, not in our homes, not in our offices. Dorner was a police officer and Navy reservist. He took oaths to protect us. Not only did he break that trust, but he also singled out fellow officers and their families. We have all asked ourselves “Whom can we trust?” Yet, we have to trust! That is our dilemma.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lost in Translation: The President's State of the Union Speech

What President Obama said, and what he really meant in the State of the Union Speech: “After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.” We have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory “It is our generation’s, then to re-ignite the true engine of America’s economic growth; a rising, thriving middle class.” We just raised their taxes 2%. ”It is -- It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead ….” If you succeed too well, then you didn’t make it, and fairness dictates we must redistribute your income. “These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts (sequestration) would jeopardize our military readiness, they’d devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research.” I’m so brilliant; sequestration was my idea, but the media will blame it on the Republicans. “Most Americans, - Democrats, Republicans, Independents – understand that we just can’t cut our way to prosperity.” I believe government spending is the engine of growth because I am economically illiterate “We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.” Any excuse to raise taxes “To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.” The media never noticed that I stuck many of these tax brakes in the Tropical Storm Sandy Relief Bill. “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.” Tax increases are the economic plan “Let me repeat; Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime.” I don’t do math “We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.” No thanks to me, but I’ll take credit for it “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future,, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” If Congress doesn’t enact cap and trade, my EPA will ”So tonight, I propose a ‘Fix-it-First’ Program. I wish I could call it a “shovel ready” jobs program “So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.” Even DHS says Head Start doesn’t work, but we need more unionized school teachers “Real reform means strong border security ….” I believe in open borders “Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty – and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.” It sounds good, and the resulting unemployed, especially teenagers, will not blame me for the lack of jobs “Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.” I know nothing about Benghazi “Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.” If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for you. “At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals …. “ In the alternative, I will engage in unilateral disarmament “We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy – the right to vote.” My Administration will fight any state efforts to reduce voter fraud that benefits the Democratic Party.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do Today's College Students Prefer Jobs or a Free Lunch?

The New York Times ran a front-page article Monday on college students in Montana, noting how liberal Montana college students have become. College students under 30 voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2012, as well as for candidates down the ticket. Montana students joined them. The young tend to be liberal. Winston Churchill is quoted a saying “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative at 30, you have no brain.” He probably didn’t say it, but it sounds about right. The gist of the New York Times article is that the Montana students believe in the government’s ability to deliver. If so, then America may have passed the tipping point. The post-World War II model was to go to college, get a good career job, raise a family in the suburbs, and retire comfortably. College was the path to upper mobility. A rising economy offered hope to two generations. Last year’s grads only had a 50% placement rate. They face stagflation. Yet President Obama promised them he would cut the interest rate on student loans. Unemployed college students voted for him. Our economy is barely treading water, and the students voted for President Obama. They didn’t learn from economics or history. They never ask “Who’s paying for it? or “Where does it come from?” Too many are like the woman in Cleveland who said “I got my Obama phone!” Marxism failed, Communism failed, socialism fails everywhere, the USSR failed, Cuba’s failing, the social democracies in western Europe are failing. But college students are idealistic. The key to job growth is a growing economy. President Obama's policies cannot grow the private economy. Without a prospering private economy, the government's ability to deliver will drop. Even Ph.D.’s are having trouble in this market. With the recent exception of law schools, students in our professional schools, business, engineering, and medical, have high employment rates upon graduation. The students in the humanities programs are especially having trouble landing jobs. These majors are traditionally liberal, as in the “liberal” arts. No one talks about the conservative arts. The humanities do not equip today’s grad with the skills necessary to proposer in today’s increasingly technologically based economy. To some extent today’s students have come to depend on the government, starting with school lunches. Some schools have such a high percent of economically disadvantage students that they provide the free lunches to all the students. The state provides a free education from K-12, and subsidizes tuition at public universities. Yesterday’s students worked their way through college to cover the low tuition. Today’s tuition is high, even at public institutions. The federal government through loans and Pell Grants, and states though loans and grants, subsidize college expenses. 37% of all undergraduates in 2011-2012 received Pell Grants. 47.7 million Americans were on food stamps as of September 2012. Outstanding student loans now exceed $1 trillion dollars with $100 billion exceeded in one year. To the students receiving the loans it often doesn’t seem like a real debt, just as many Americans don’t appreciate the nation’s $16.5 trillion debt and the annual deficits of a trillion dollars. Only when they graduate deeply in debt without a job does the reality hit. I believe in public education. The problem is that it helps inculcate today’s students with the belief that the government is a source of good and delivers. In short, many of today’s students believe in the President’s Julia. Life comes through the government. I understand the traditional liberalism of students at Berkeley, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but this is Montana. Montana is still a state of farming, ranching, resource exploitation, and the individual. If students in Montana are this liberal, then America might be past the tipping point.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reflections on the Blizzard of '78

Winter Storm NEMO, the blizzard of the century, just devasted the Northeast. The Northeast was paralyzed 35 years and three days ago with the Blizzard of ’78, the epic blizzard of the 20th century. The Blizzard of ’78 was the worst since the Blizzard of 1888. Forecasting was not as accurate 35 years ago and viewers paid less attention than today to the dire forecasts. The forecast was for a major storm arriving Monday morning, February 6, 1978, but it arrived late giving residents a false sense of security. A Canadian low trapped the nor’easter over the Northeast for 33 hours instead of the normal 6-12 hours for a nor’easter. Snow was falling at rates up to 4”/hour. The major snowfall occurred between Monday morning and Tuesday evening. New England, New Jersey, and New York were hammered. Lincoln, Smithfield, North Smithfield, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island received over 40 inches of snow, Boston 27.1 inches, Providence 27.6 inches, and Atlantic City 20.1 inches. Roads were closed in Connecticut for three days while drifts reached up to 18 feet. It took 6 days to clear the roads in Boston. Plowing was difficult throughout the Northeast because of the high drifts and frozen cars on the roads. Boston’s Mayor Kevin White escaped the blizzard. He was in Palm Beach when it hit. The Cape and coastal areas were hit with hurricane force winds. Sustained winds of 86mph with gusts up to 111mph were recorded. New York City did the unthinkable. It closed schools. Emergency responders had to use Jeeps and snowmobiles. Communities could not implement their mutual aid pacts because they were all in similar straits. Over 100 died with some deaths occurring from carbon monoxide when residents sought to stay warm by turning in their cars. The blizzard had blocked tail pipes with snow. Over $520 million in damages was recorded. Roofs caved in throughout the region because of the heavy snow load on roofs. The one exception was the Hartford Civic Center, whose roof collapsed three weeks earlier in another storm. Here I am in the OC. The temperature is cool, but sunny. Why do I care about the Blizzard of ‘78? Why do I even know about it? I was there. My professorship at the University of Puget Sound was in trouble. President Phil Phibbs of UPS spelt my name “Benedict Arnold.” It was tome for Plan B. The plan was to quickly, and quietly, fly to Springfield, Massachusetts for an interview with Western New England College. That was the plan. On Monday morning I was told the interview schedule was changing since Dean Howard Kalodner needed to get out ahead of the nor’easter because he lived in the Berkshires 45 miles west of Springfield. I had lived in Ann Arbor for two years and Ohio for three, but had never heard of “nor’easters” before. I knew enough in the interview not to ask what a “nor’easter” or the Berkshires were. The faculty got me to the Hospitality Motor Inn in Enfield, Connecticut, across the state line from Springfield, as the snow started to fall. I had been through blizzards in the Midwest. On one occasion the Ohio snowplow operators refused to go out until after the snow stopped falling. The nor’easter was different. I spent the next three days and nights watching a Jeep with a snowplow digging out the motel. Fortunately the Hospitality Motor Inn did not lose power or run out of food. Unfortunately the only music I could find on the radio was a DJ calling himself “Red Beard.” I thought I had left him behind when I left Ohio three years earlier. I was on the first shuttle to Bradley Airport and one of the first flights out. I needed the job and quickly accepted WNEC’s offer. Several nor’easters, lesser storms, the Winter from Hell in 1994, and the winter of 1996, we moved to The OC. I feel for the Northeast tonight. Professor Don Dunn, WNEC’s great law librarian, said I owed him because he got me two teaching positions: Chapman where I am today, and WNEC because he was away during the Blizzard of ’78, and thus never met me. I miss Don, Dean Kalodner, my other colleagues at WNEC, but not the winters.

The John O. Brennan Senate Hearings Drone On

President Obama has nominated his counter-terrorism advisor, John O. Brennan, to be the new Director of the CIA. His Senate confirmation hearing has dragged on over issues of drones and waterboarding eventhough it is recognized that he will easily win confirmation. Brennan had previously been with the CIA for a quarter century. He was Executive Director of the CIA during Bush Administration. He admits to knowing of the waterboarding actions during the Bush Administration, but claims he was out of the loop on the decisions. The drone campaign started under President Bush and was escalated by President Obama as the technology and resources expanded. The drones are a triumph of American nano-technology. The Obama Administration prefers drone strikes to kill the terrorists rather than capturing them. They do not want to bring new prisoners to Gitmo. My view is simple – just kill the terrorists before they kill us. This is an asymmetrical war in which the terrorists neither respect international boundaries nor the recognized rules of war, the Geneva Convention. Predators, Reapers, Ravens, Switchblades, Hellfire Missiles – doesn’t matter. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen – their efforts are global. Our preemptive defenses need also be Global. Pakistan routinely objects to the over 300 drone attacks so far in Pakistan. The protests are usually pro forma because Pakistan is often behind many of the strikes. The only question is that if we kill them all by drones, then we will have no one to obtain human information from, including by waterboarding, if necessary. If the drone campaign were by the Bush Administration, then the media and liberal Democrats would be going ballistic today. But President Obama is a liberal, one of them. Thus, their protests are hypocritically muted. Senators are concerned, at least publicly, because they have been left out of the loop. Thus they want to see to see the legal documents supporting the legality of the drones. They want to know the basis for authorizing strikes against United States citizens who might be a terrorist. The Obama Administration produced an unsigned, undated legal memorandum from the Office of Counsel justifying the drone attacks. John Yoo, serving in President Bush’s Office of Counsel after 9/11, co-penned a memo for the Bush Administration in which he drew the line between legal interrogations and illegal ones. In doing so he followed the statutes enacted by Congress. Professor Yoo was crucified by the media and Democrats, such as Senator Obama, for authorizing torture. Water boarding became a 4 letter word. President Obama’s lawyers therefore wish to remain anonymous. Their memo was prompted by the proposed use of a done to kill Anwar Al-Alakwi, a terrorist who was born in the United States and later converted to Islam. The opponents of the drone attacks refer to them as “targeted killings.” Far better a targeted killing than a mass killing in efforts to rid the world of these terrorists.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Exotic Dancers in Kansas Obtain Unemployment Benefits

An exotic dancer was terminated in 2005 by the Club Orleans, a strip club in Topeka, Kansas. She responded by filing an unemployment compensation claim. The Club contested her claim, contending legal that, like most exotic dancers, see signed a contract saying she was an independent contractor, and hence not an employee. The law and justice do not look good in this case. She was laid off in 2005, but only now receives a resolution of her claim. It’s Bleak House revisited in the guise of a strip club. She won last week when the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Kansas Department of Labor Contributions Unit that she was an employee rather than an independent contractor. The agency and court looked to the extent of control management possessed over her. She had so little control, even if an “independent contractor,” and management had such pervasive control that she was effectively an employee. The distinction may not matter to the customers, but it has legal significance. She was paid no salary; her income consisted solely from tips, from which she had to pay “non-negotiable rents” for use of the stage and dressing room as well as extra fees for the disc jockeys and bouncers. The rents were higher at peak periods as well as for the more private VIP and “Champagne” rooms to entertain guests. The Club posted billboards with pictures of the performers, who were not identified as independent contractors. She had to sign in with the bouncer at the beginning of her shift, and could not leave until the end of her shift. The Club, House Rules, told her what she could do and what she could charge for it. She could not refuse if a customer wanted to buy a drink, the usually diluted over-priced drink, for her. Management reserved the right to fine or terminate her if she disobeyed any of its rules. Was this the image portrayed in G-String Divas? Thus strippers, aka exotic dancers, are entitled to legal rights against the strip clubs, aka gentlemen’s clubs. Since unemployment benefits were to be paid, the Club now has to pay into the state’s unemployment compensation fund. By similar reasoning these strip clubs, at least in Kansas, will have to workers compensation benefits if she breaks a leg pole dancing or lap dancing or is assaulted by a client. Presumably strippers might now be able to pursue claims for sexual harassment in the workplace under the right circumstances. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Kansas is not Nevada, but the reasoning could apply by analogy to the working girls of Dennis Hof’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch. That would make for a great season of Cathouse – the world’s two oldest professions in a cat fight.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Portends of the Second Obama Administration

A word to the President: “It’s still the economy, stupid,” but the President doesn’t care. His inauguration address made it evidently clear, as if there was any doubt, that his goal is not economic growth, but economic redistribution, in the name of fairness: tax increases, spending, tax increases, green energy, tax increases, gun control, and tax increases. His is a social agenda, not an economic agenda. He warned us five days before his first inauguration that he was going to transform America. His vision for America is not based on economics, history, reality, wisdom, of the lessons from Europe’s economic collapse. He’s intent on following Europe’s course out of “fairness.” His philosophy is based on envy, hatred, and victimization. He possesses an unbridled faith in the power of government to solve all problems, unchecked by facts. The media crucified Governor Sarah Palin for her poor performance in the Katie Couric interview. The best that can be said about former Senator Chuck Hagel after his Senate confirmation hearing is that he looks like a senator. Governor Palin came across as a genius compared to the Secretary of Defense nominee. He confirms the premise that President Obama wishes to decimate America’s military. By putting the Defense Department in the hands of a dolt when America is being attacked throughout the world by terrorists is the equivalent of unilateral surrender. The former Senator promises to be the worse Secretary of Defense since President Clinton’s Les Aspin, the person responsible for Blackhawk Down. At least it can be said of Secretary Aspin that he was smart with an undergrad degree from Yale and a Ph. D. in economics from MIT. He just wasn’t a good Defense Secretary. Pity the poor Democratic Senators. They have to stand by their man, the President, this early in his second term, hold their nose, and vote for an empty suit, Chuck Hagel. It will cost the President goodwill and cut short his second presidential honeymoon. The Senate confirmed Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State to succeed Secretary Hillary Clinton. Senator Kerry is like Vice President Biden. Find out his views on an foreign policy issue, and then do the opposite. The report issued last week showed the economy shrank .01% in the fourth quarter. The decline can be viewed as an anomaly or as a warning. President Obama responded by disbanding the President’s Jobs Council, which he created two years ago. Such dips are usually a warning. Gas is over $4/gallon today, but not a peep from the President about the potential threat to the economy. His Administration abhors fossil fuels such that his Administration brings questionable charges against fracking companies for perhaps killing up to 5 migratory birds, but is licensing wind companies to “incidentally” take about 40,000. His Administration will ignore the law. The EPA blissfully continues on its way, losing case after case in the courts. The NLRB is proceeding as if the courts have not found the recess appointments unconstitutional. This President is intent on treating his new term as a repeat of his first two years. Ignore the economy and push his social agenda. Then it was ObamaCare. Now it is everything left over except the economy: gun control, immigration reform, “investing” in teachers and the public sector, and redistribution. He told us on Super Bowl Sunday that we need more tax increases coupled with “smart” spending reductions. He’s already taken Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security reform off the table. That leaves the Defense Budget. He will be willing to cut Defense through sequestration and then blame the Republicans for the mandated cuts in social programs. He’s not worried. He will demagogue and vilify the Republicans if anything goes wrong. He knows the suppliant media will let him blame anything and everything that goes wrong on the Republicans and President George W. Bush. Some Obamaisms will remain the same – a diffident president. He spent the first two tears of his Presidency by golfing, vacationing, and speechifying. He spent the second two years by full time campaigning. He is now in campaign mode and speechifying. He will continue to subordinate the people to the state. Our Founding Fathers and the Constitution posited power comes from the people. He believes the State takes power. The ultimate result will be the failure of the individual and the state.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Reflections on Super Bowl XLVII: Quote the Raven Evermore

Well done to the Baltimore Ravens not only for winning Super Bowl XLVII, but for naming O.J. Brigance honorary captain and recognizing him in the awards ceremony – a true tough of class. O.J. was a star of Super Bowl XXXV for the Ravens, but has been fighting ALS for 5 years. Where is the late Jim Garrison now that we need him? The former New Orleans DA was an exponent of the New Orleans connection to the Kennedy Assassination Conspiracy. His prosecution of Clay Shaw resulted in an acquittal, but he nevertheless published three books on the “conspiracy.” Was the blackout a conspiracy to A. End the game; B. Take the 49ers off life support; C. Beyonce was too hot at halftime; D. Increase sales at the concession stands, and thus boost the N’awlins economy; E. The Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, who was left behind because she gained 1.4 pounds, got her revenge; or F. New Orleans residents expressing their displeasure for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Are Jim Harbaugh’s fingerprints on the power box? Does Jim Harbaugh ever smile? Are you surprised that Jim Harbaugh did not give a post-game interview to CBS? Will we be subject to another Harbaugh Bowl? Why couldn't it have been the 49ers against the Patriots - two cold blooded former Michigan quarterbacks at war with each other? Am I the only one who thinks the officiating was ragged and inconsistent? Did the non-call on the 49ers last possession remind you of the call by the replacement refs at the end of the Seattle – Green Bay game? Ray Lewis leaves as a winner, and not that it matters, how does he grade on the game films? Why were players slipping on the indoor field of the Super Dome? Why were the ads by the foreign car companies so weird? Was there a memorable ad during this Super Bowl? Does anyone really want to see the 44 outtakes on the Go Daddy kissing scene?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cardinal Mahoney's Sins Are Unveiled for All to See

Cardinal Roger Mahoney passed the crosier, the crooked staff, to Archbishop Jose Gomez on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles. Cardinal Mahoney thereby transferred leadership of the largest Catholic diocese in America, 4.3 million Catholics, on his 75th birthday.

Archbishop Gomez on Thursday, January 31, 2013 notified Cardinal Mahoney that he will no longer have administrative or public duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Church had released a few hours earlier about 12,000 pages of documents concerning the handling of clergy abuse cases by 122 accused priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. These documents laid out a sordid tale of clergy abuse, a coverup by Cardinal Mahoney and his Vicar for Clergy, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, and unconcern for the victims.

The documents were required to be disclosed pursuant to the terms of a 2007 settlement in which the diocese settled 508 cases for $660 million. Even then the Cardinal and his attorneys stalled, hoping at least to redact the names of the Church officials involved in the coverup. Judge Emilie Elias ordered the release by February 22 and Archbishop Gomez complied before the judicial deadline.

Archbishop Gomez came from Texas so he is in a position to put the scandal behind him; the Church can move forward.

It is assumed that Archbishop Gomez would not have publicly stripped the Cardinal of his duties without the concurrence of the Vatican. This act is believed to be unprecedented in the history of the Church in America.

I will now say what I’ve wanted to say for years in following the scandal. The Cardinal should be defrocked for his conduct.

Archbishop Gomez called these files “brutal and painful reading.” He called the behavior “terribly sad and evil,” adding “There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children.”

The Boston and Los Angeles dioceses seem to be the most egregious with these cases, shuffling priests from parish to parish, sending them to other dioceses without warning the receiving diocese, assigning them to elementary schools, and covering up.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston, was forced to resign in 2002, but the Vatican gave him a cushy position in Rome.

Cardinal Mahoney survived, perhaps because of his 25 year record as Archbishop of Los Angeles. He worked with Cesar Chavez, fought for immigrant rights, union rights, women’s tights, the living wage and economic justice He was against capital punishment. He built the beautiful, new cathedral. He even compared Arizona’s passage of S.B. 1070 to Nazi Germany.

History though will remember him for sullying his record by protecting clergy abuse. The documents clearly show he was engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. A June 2010 release from the LA DA’s Office found information suggesting “criminal culpability” in the Church hierarchy, but insufficient evidence to bring charges against the Church officials involved.

The newly released documents provide clear evidence for such charges, unless the statute of limitations has run. It may not because of the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, but even then a prosecutor will be leery of bringing charges against a Cardinal, a Prince of the Church.

One of the major crimes involved is the failure to notify the authorities of child abuse. John Manly, a plaintiff’s attorney, asked the Cardinal in a deposition “[Y]ou would agree with me that the first thing any priest should do … when you learn that a priest has molested a child is call the police, right?”

The Cardinal’s response was “Not necessarily.” He didn’t contact the authorities in reports of clergy abuse. Nor did he even try to contact the victims in many cases. In one case a warning was given to a priest, who immediately fled, presumably to Mexico.

The doping conspiracy by Lance Armstrong may have duped the world, but it did not physically harm an innocent victim. The conduct of Cardinal Mahoney perpetuated the rape of young boys by the priests under his liege in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Many of the victims were immigrants, for whom he expressed his support.

Cardinal Mahoney has publicly apologized for his mistakes, but still doesn’t understand. He has said before, and repeated today in his blog, that there was nothing in the course materials covering this situation in the two years he worked on a Masters in Social Work at Catholic University.

One must assume that he would have understood that rape was illegal. Hence, why should he believe that pedophiles could be cured through prayer and renewed faith at a retreat house in New Mexico.

The Church acted as if it was blindsided by the wave of clergy abuse revealed in the past 20 years. This wave was but the third in a series going back to the 1950’s. The reality is that the Church had not learned from the earlier cases. Only the widespread publicity, but especially the billions of dollars in earthy settlements, has converted, we believe, today’s Church into a zero tolerance policy.