Friday, May 30, 2014

Should We Give Kaiser Permanente a Chance with the VA?

Is Kaiser the Solution for the VA? General Eric Shinseki resigned today as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. His resignation was inevitable, but it is not a panacea for the VA. General Shinseki is not totally at fault. The VA problems have been festering for decades, but Senator Obama made a campaign issue of the VA in 2008. General Shinseki has been in office for 5½ years, but claimed today he was unaware of the problems. New leadership is a necessity, but more is needed. The culture must be changed The VA is a bureaucratic morass unresponsive to competitive pressures. Nor do the 200,000 public sector union employees fear discipline for poor performance. It is hard to change an institutionalized culture. It is a challenge to change a fossilized bureaucracy. It has to be done. Democrats are crying out for more funding, their solution to every problem - more funding for the 200,000 public sector union workers at the VA. Insufficient funding? Congress has been throwing money at the VA for a decade. The VA has the fifth largest budget of government agencies. Its funding raised 235% from 2001 to 2013. The budget was $45 billion in FY 2001 and $150.7 billion in FY2014. The medical budget rose 193% during this period. Insufficient funding? The VA has been returning hundreds of millions of dollars annually in recent years of unspent medical funding. Insufficient funding? The VA has scores of unfilled medical positions, 400 alone in primary care. Insufficient funding? The VA has 19,000 physicians. Insufficient funding? The VA’s per patient spending increased 27% between 2008 and 2012. The VA has 8.8 million patients, up 1.7 million in a decade. The government appropriations have more than kept even with the rising patient total. Insufficient funding? Redistribute the $190 million in bonuses the VA employees gave themselves last year for outstanding performance in the medical centers. The VA has received bipartisan support in recent years with an ever increasing budget. It was not subject to the sequester. Funding without accountability is a disaster. More funding without a change in culture, without accountability, will accomplish nothing. The closest counterpart to the VA in the private sector is Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care operator in America. Kaiser operates in 9 states and the District of Columbia. It has 8.9 million members, 167,000 employees, 14,600 physicians, 37 medical centers and 611 medical offices. It has $1.6 billion in profits on $47.9 billion in revenues. Kaiser serves 100,000 more patients than the VA, but with 4,500 fewer physicians and a much smaller bureaucracy. The Kaiser computer system allows physicians in any Kaiser office to pull up the records, including lab tests and X-rays of any patient. The VA cannot upgrade its antiquated computer system. Patients will often be unable to make an appointment with their personal care physician on short notice, but the Kaiser facilities have two daily alternatives available. A same day appointment can be made with the available physicians or the patient can walk into an urgent care facility. The patient may have to wait awhile in the waiting room before being seen in urgent care, depending on the severity of the problem, but the patient will be seen that day or evening. Lab tests and X-rays are performed the same day, but special tests have to be scheduled, but to the best of my experience usually within a week. In a county, such as Orange County where Kaiser has several facilities we have several options available. Kaiser has to compete with other healthcare providers. The VA has a monopoly. The unions are as opposed to letting veterans seek care outside the VA, such as with vouchers, as they are with vouchers in education. Their know their VA facilities and public schools cannot compete private facilities. If the government cannot provide adequate medical to our veterans, then how can a “single provider,” the goal of liberals, provide medical care to 340 million Americans? It cannot. Give the private sector a chance. Give the vets vouchers. Contract out some operations with Kaiser. Bring in Kaiser execs as consultants to meaningfully reform the VA delivery of healthcare services.

Jay Carney, the Carny, Resigned Today

“Carny,” also called a “carney,” is one who works in a carnival. Think of the barker at a carnival or the midway of a circus or carnival, the hawker of a carny game, think of a huckster offering snake oil, and you get the idea. President Press Secretary Jay Carney announced today his resignation after three years as the spokesman for the Obama Administration. He couldn’t shovel it fast enough as it kept piling up: ObamaCare, NSA, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, Veterans Administration. He mirrored Baghdad Bob in recent months. Even the Obama loving media in the pressroom had trouble keeping a straight face when Jay Carney tried to spin the unspinable. They alternatively tuned him out or asked confrontational questions. The usually unflappable, glib Carney face looked pained. His predecessor, Robert Gibbs, also had trouble with the spin. He often seemed dizzy. Jay Carney just kept spinning, except when he pled ignorance. The Yale graduate was counted saying “I don’t know” 1900 times, which averaged a little less than twice a day. One of the questions Jay Carney could not respond to was the most critical to the White House reporters: “Candidate Obama promised the most transparent Administration. Why is it that the Obama Administration has become the least transparent in the memory of the White House Press Corps?” He also couldn’t explain how the popularity of the reelected President with the spin spinning out of the Daily Press Briefing has plummeted to below 50%. You can only shovel so much. The carny's job is to draw you in. Carney was tuned out. The White House Press Secretary has a challenging task. Reporters expect spin, but even the best carny reaches a limit. President Obama kept digging Jay Carney deeper and deeper in an increasingly bottomless pit. You cannot defend the unindefensible. Jay Carney became a living caricature of Jay Carney.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Post-Memorial Day Assessment of the United States Military

President Obama spoke earlier today at the West Point Commencement. He purportedly laid out his foreign policy. I have no idea what he said because what matters is what his Administration is doing. I have no idea what he said because after 5½ years in office a President who has to explain his foreign policy has no foreign policy. A strong foreign policy depends upon a strong military. A strong foreign policy depends upon a military, which can project force, and a President willing to project force. We have neither. Don't judge the President by his words, but by his acts. President Obama has been carrying out one of the most important goals of America’s left – the decline of America’s military. They believe that America’s military has been used to secure oil and other natural resources (“Bush invaded Iraq for oil”), to prop up petty dictators, and to enslave third world nations. Sadly, the Congressional Republicans played into President Obama’s hands through the sequestration, half of which would be Pentagon cuts. The United States projects power through the Navy’s aircraft carriers. The Navy is now down to 10 active carriers, several of which are always being refitted at base in the United States. The Navy now has fewer ships than any time since pre-World War I. China is now asserting control over the South China Sea, and pushing Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam around. The Russian Bear has emerged from hibernation. The Mideast is a tinderbox of Islamic militants fueled by Iran. Regardless of what happened in Benghazi on 9/11, 2012 the military claimed it had no assets available to come to the rescue of the besieged Americans. The Pentagon is asserting that neither the Army, the Navy, the Marines, nor the Air Force were able to come to the assistance of American diplomats under military attack. The once powerful Mediterranean Sixth Fleet had no vessel, which could have come to the assistance of the Americans. No ship, no plane, no helicopter was available! That is the true tragedy of Benghazi. Secretary of Defense Hagel said the Army will downsize to 440,00 – 450,000, it’s smallest size since 1940. The Pentagon, which never liked the A10 Warthog, wants to scrap the plane eventhough it is the best ground support plane in the world. No other plane comes close to its effectiveness and durability. The ugly plane can fly low and slow unlike the jet fighters. Remember the devastation the improvised explosive devices early brought to American and allied soldiers? The Pentagon came up with MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles to protect the troops at roughly $500,000 each. The Pentagon plans to scrap about 20% of its equipment ($7 billion) in Afghanistan, including thousands of MRAPs. It claims it would be too difficult and expensive to bring the equipment back to the States. The President announced in 2013 that he ensure the security of America and its allies by reducing the strategic nuclear weapon by a third below the level set in the START Treaty. 50 ICBM's were recently removed from their North Dakota silos and placed in storage. The Air Force will see its force of strategic bombers reduced to 60 from 93. The Navy’s nuclear subs will carry 54 fewer nuclear bombs. Many of the existing nuclear weapons are degrading, but the President is not spending funds to maintain or upgrade them. The United States can still claim the strongest military in the world, but the President lacks the will to project or sustain it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Commencement Disinvitation Season is Almost Over

I blogged on May 3 about the fervent opposition to some commencement speakers. The first was when President Frederick Lawrence and trustees of Brandeis revoked the honorary degree to be bestowed upon Ayaan Hirsi Ali and withdrew her invitation as the commencement speaker. The Brandeis Administration showed a lack of intestinal fortitude. Next came Secretary Condoleezza Rice voluntarily withdrawing as the commencement speaker at Rutgers University. She withdrew with grace, which is more than can be said about the protestors. Rutgers’ Administration, to its credit, stood by their invitation to Secretary Rice until she withdrew. I referred to these wannabe thought police as academic Neanderthals. We understand that young adults can be very doctrinaire because they know all the answers. We were there once. They are quick to take offense. That doesn’t explain though the professors aiding and abetting the students. Faculty are supposed to open the minds of students – not close them. Sadly, these militants were emboldened by their earlier successes. Robert Birgeneau withdrew as Commencement Speaker at Haverford College. 46 students and a few faculty members protested because he was Chancellor of the University of California Berkeley in 2011 when campus police allegedly used excessive force in breaking up an Occupy Protest. These campus militants, like the French revolution, are beginning to devour their own. Chancellor Birgeneau is liberal. As Berkeley’s Chancellor he publicly supported affirmative action, gay marriage, and the Dream Act. That’s not enough for these academic pygmies. The replacement speaker was William Bowen, former President of Princeton, President Emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and one of the most highly regarded academic leaders in America. His speech was a cry for academic freedom and a condemnation of the militants. He called them “immature” and “arrogant.” He said Chancellor’s Birganeau’s withdrawal was a “defeat” for Haverford and its ideals. The students, families, friends, and faculty in attendance at the commencement gave President Bowen a standing ovation for his remarks, which is a tribute to the Haverford community. It also reinforces the reality that these academic Neanderthals are but a small minority. They do not warrant the attention or response they have been receiving. A few of the militants were upset. It detracted from the ceremony in their eyes in such a way that they could not speak up. They don’t object when President Obama in the State of the Union Addresses does that to the Supreme Court Justices, who cannot speak back. These academic Neanderthals act like schoolyard bullies. The next to back out was Christine Lagarde, the first woman named to head the managing director of the International monetary Fund. That should her attractive to Smith College. It was to the administration and trustees, but not to the 500 who signed a petition against her. They had no direct fault with Ms. Lagarde, but to the policies of the IMF. The radical left views the IMF as one of the chief villains in globalization and a means by which the ruch nations impoverish the poor countries. They don’t understand that only nations with severe problems come to the IMF for assistance and that they are not forced to obtain IMF funds and the attached conditions. She withdrew with the grace similar to Condoleezza Rice. That may not be the end of the disinvitation crusade. The graduation for the Harvard School of education is scheduled for May 28. The invited speaker is Colorado State Senator Michael Johnson, who is a graduate of Yale and the Harvard School of education. Dean James Ryan called him “a nationally recognized advocate for school finance reform, fair teacher evaluations, and education equity.” Senator Johnson joined Teach for America in Mississippi. He served as a teacher and a principle in Colorado. He was a cofounder of New Leaders for New Schools. That’s not good enough for some academic Neanderthals at Harvard. An on-line petition is available, asking the University to disinvite Senator Johnson because he “embraces a vision of education reform that relies heavily on test-based accountability while weakening the due process protections of teachers.” His crime is that he wants accountability from teachers. Senator Johnson supported in 2010 a Colorado law that would base 50% of the assessment of a teacher’s performance on standardized test scores. Senator Johnson realizes the current assessment methodology is failing our students. My view on the teachers and prospective teachers signing the petition is that they are too closed minded to be teaching our children and grandchildren. Senator Johnson’s commencement address at Harvard on May 28 is still scheduled, as far as I can determine from the internet. Let the commencements proceed.

Yesterday Was a Special Day for the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University Commencement

Yesterday was a special day for the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University. It was graduation day for the law students. Every graduation is special for the graduates, and every student is special. 42 years of teaching law. 42 special classes of graduates. 42 years of incredible students and incredible persons. Every commencement is a joyous occasion. I watch the graduates walk across the stage in what is annually the happiest day of the year for me, but also the saddest. I see these wonderful young adults happily receiving their diplomas and looking forward to tomorrow with a beautiful smile. It is their day. Their families and friends are elated. It is also their day. I bask in their reflected glory. We have done our job. We have played our role in their maturation. We hope we have done something to make them better lawyers and better persons. And yet, as they walk across the stage, I am sad because I know I will never again see many of these wonderful young people as they proceed into the world. That is the lot of us teachers. We impart knowledge and values in each class of special students, and then they move on, as they must. I can tell stories about some of the special students, but that would be a disservice to the ones not mentioned. The cycle begins again each August Yesterday was special for the law school, which was founded in 1995. Yesterday was the 16th graduation for the Law School, but the first for the Dale E. Fowler School of Law. We unveiled a bust of Mr. Fowler in the Law School in front of him and his family prior to the commencement ceremony. Mr. Fowler, a graduate of Chapman College, made a fortune in commercial real estate in southern California, and is giving some of it back to Chapman University. He and his wife Sarah donated $55 million to the Law School last August with the dedication on September 10, 2013. The law building always had a name, Kennedy Hall, for Donald Kennedy who gave a major gift at the law school’s birth. The name of the school was reserved for a transformative gift. Yesterday’s graduates know Dale and Sarah have ensured the future of their law school and the value of their degrees. The students received their J.D.’s and LL.M.’s. Mr. Fowler an honorary degree. They all earned their degrees. Most commencements are not memorable in terms of who the speakers were or what they said. Most probably don’t appear on Youtube. A $55 naming gift is memorable. The graduates knew it. Dale and Sarah Fowler made the first graduation of the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University special for a special class of graduates.

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 22, 1964; Five Decades Ago Yesterday, President Johnson Unveiled the Great Society

President Lyndon Johnson delivered the commencement address at the University of Michigan 5 decades ago on May 22, 1964. He unveiled the Great Society to graduates, who like almost all graduates at commencement probably failed to understand what the speaker was talking about, if they were even listening. “Your imagination, your initiative, and your indignation will determine whether we will build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only to the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning. The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.” He challenged the audience:” Will you join in the battle to build the Great Society, to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?” He appealed to the eternal optimism of the American people 50 years ago – the belief that the people working with the government could solve all problems, including poverty. A disillusioned American public now knows better with little faith in government. Why the University of Michigan? As President Johnson alluded in his speech, four years earlier during the primary campaign for President, then Senator John F. Kennedy stood on the steps of the Michigan Union at 1:00AM and unveiled the Peace Corps. America was soon to witness the transformation of American Society. The young LBJ emerged out of the Texas Hill Country as an ardent supporter of FDR and the New Deal. He never forgot his poverty roots. President Johnson was in a position to expand the New Deal. President Roosevelt’s goal was to save capitalism, create jobs, and expand the rights of workers. President Johnson’s goals were to expand the New Deal, eradicate poverty, and the civil rights of Americans, especially African Americans. His support for African Americans was a shocker to those who knew him as a segregationist in his years as a Congressman and Senator, but he never forgot his roots. (Didn’t I just say that?) He unleashed a flurry of legislation not seen since the early days of the New Deal, and not emulated since. President Johnson obtained passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbad discrimination in employment and places of public accommodations on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity and sex. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 brought the vote in the South to African Americans. Southern politics were changed forever. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination in housing on the basis of race. The Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 committed federal funds to our schools while other measures provided scholarships, grants and work study money for higher education. President Roosevelt gave us one major entitlement program, social security. President Johnson created two, Medicare and Medicaid. The Great Society brought us Head Start, Vista, Upward Bound, legal assistance for the poor and food stamps, as well as aid to public transit. He created funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some of his programs did not work. Others were eliminated or consolidated over time. The vast majority of the Great Society forms the foundation of modern American society. LBJ would go down as one of the greatest presidents in American history, except for the quagmire of Vietnam. That was his war and his continuing legacy. The Great Society and the accompanying War on Poverty did not end poverty in America, but it did raise the living standards of the lower classes. Think of how many poor have cars, cellphones, and HD TV’s today. And yet, we easily forget the first major act of President Johnson. He knew that while America was affluent in the early 1960’s he would be unable to finance the Great Society without growing the American economy. Therefore his first priority was the enactment of President Kennedy’s proposed tax cuts. The resulting Kennedy-Johnson Tax Cut of the highest marginal rate from 91% to 70%, coupled with reductions in the lower marginal rates and the corporate income tax rate set off an explosion in the American economy, just as the subsequent Reagan tax cuts and Bush Tax cuts. Tax cuts increase tax revenues by expanding the economy – a lesson that politicians such as President Obama never understand.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Marjorie Margolis, aka Marjorie Margolis-Mezvinsky, Paid a Political Price Yesterday for a Vote Two Decades Ago

The media is concentrating on the political triumph yesterday of the “Republican establishment” over the insurgent Tea Party. They are also pointing out that eventhough Senate Minority Leader Mitch O’Connell of Kentucky won handily yesterday he is so heavily disfavored by Kentucky voters that he may lose reelection in November. We’ll see. The big loser yesterday was not the Tea Party, but Marjorie Margolies who was seeking election to an open House seat, a seat she held two decades ago. President Clinton and Secretary Clinton campaigned for Marjorie. Their luster was expected to rub off onto Marjorie. The Clintons have great loyalty to Marjorie. Her son, Marc Mezvinsky, is married to Chelsea Clinton, who is about to make her parents grandparents. The loyalty though is twofold. President Clinton owes Marjorie Margolis big time. President Clinton’s massive tax increase bill was one vote short of passage in 1994 in the House of Representatives. The only Representative left that could vote for it was the first term Congresswoman Marjorie Margolis-Mezvinsky of Philadelphia. She opposed tax increases in her election campaign. And yet, the Big Dog needed her vote. She caved. Unfortunately I could not find the video on Youtube, but national TV two decades ago showed an ashen faced, wobbly Congresswoman Marjorie Margolis-Mezvinsky being led down the floor to pass the tax increase, as if she was being led to her execution. The voters outrage voted her out of office and turned the House and Senate over to the Republicans. Her political travails were just beginning. She was married to Congressman Edward Mezvinsky of Iowa. “Fast Eddie” was a fraud, a multi-million cheat, who pled guilty to fraud. He was headed to 80 months in jail. They were divorced in 2007 with Marjorie reclaiming her maiden name. They also ran out of money. She was chair and chief executive officer of the non-profit Women’s Campaign International (WCI) in December 2001 when she participated in, but may or may not have formally voted, on the doubling of her salary from $1,000/week to $114,000 annually. The board minutes are silent on if she abstained. Only two other board members were present at the vote. They also paid her car lease for several years. WCI is a charity top-heavy with administrative expenses. Most of its funds come from taxpayers. Its purpose is to provide advocacy training for women around the world. She lost the 1998 election to be Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, and dropped out of the 2000 election for the Senate, but just couldn’t give up on politics. Marjorie Margolis saw her opportunity this year, and was anointed the frontrunner. She could change her name, but not her vote. Marjorie Margolis is still paying for her vote to increase taxes 20 years ago. So too is the American public.

President Obama's Veterans Administration Statement Earlier Today

President Obama is outraged, outraged, outraged, not to mention madder than hell, which is stronger than VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who is only mad as hell. The President wishes to get to the bottom of the Veterans Administration problem, which the President said should not be a political issue, eventhough he made a political issue of it during his 2008 campaign. He averred “When I hear allegations of misconduct … I will not stand for it.” Here’s the normal Obama Sequence of Scandal Resolution: 1) The sounds of silence for weeks 2) Hold a press conference and read his outrage from the teleprompter (TOTUS) 3) Postpone any decision until after a through investigation (and the election cycle) 4) Do nothing – not even a hashtag. Is it Déjà vu all over again? Fast and Furious? IRS? Benghazi? NSA? Justice Department harassment of AP and Fox News reporters? TOTUS has not provided answers to any of these. How do you know if President Obama is “outraged” in fact, and wants action to be taken: 1) He cancels a golf match; 2) He cancels a fundraiser; or 3) He postpones a vacation. President Obama delivered a moving address at the opening of the 9/11 Museum last week In New York City. He then went to the Upper East Side for two fundraisers when the ceremony ended. The real lesson of the VA Scandal is not the cooked books or the dead veterans, however shocking that may be. Nor is it the White House pattern of selective outrage followed by inaction. The American people have caught on. It’s that it proves the federal bureaucracy cannot run a national health system. Yet the Democrats want to go to a single payer, the federal government, for our healthcare. The VA has taken decades to prove, over and over again, that it cannot deliver health care to 5.6 million veterans with 152 hospitals, 400 outpatient clinics and 19,000 doctors. It’s approach to the patients is to ration care by delaying care. It paid out $91.7 million in malpractice claims in 2012 and $700 million since 2001. The VA also paid $150 million in 2011 as bonuses to VA healthcare providers, including, as we now know, administrators who were cooking the books. Even Congressional Democrats won’t fall on their swords for the President on the Veterans Administration.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Only Lawyer TV Ad I Want to See

Are you sick and tired of all the lawyer ads on TV? Do you prefer the political ads? How about used car salesmen? I find the TV ads disgraceful. If I need an attorney, I know who I would retain. He or she does not advertise on TV. We can thank the Supreme Court in 1977 in Bates v. Arizona State in holding that mouthpieces have a First Amendment Right to advertise. Here we are today. Pow! Pow! Pow! We are here for you. Justice; Justice; Justice. $ $ $ $ $ We will fight for you (and especially our fee) Knees ache, hips hurt, back pain, see us. We’ll find someone to sue. Denied benefits, see us. They don’t want to litigate a small claim (Neither do we) IRS problems, see us. We used to work for the IRS – They’re bragging about that? Social security problems, see us, Binder & Binder. I don’t think they’re relatives, I hate those hats, but they have the same last name. DWI, call Top Gun (Top Gun advertises DWI in LaLa Land) Dog bite, see us. We’ll put a bite on the bitch. Auto accident, see us. We’ll stick it to the insurance company. You’re in really good hands with us. Injured in an auto accident, see us. We’ll sue the car company in products liability. Drunk, and not wearing your seat belt, see us. We’ll still get you something. Pothole damage, see us. We’re the pothole attorneys. Need a divorce, see us. We’ll screw your spouse Bankrupt, see us. We still get paid ahead of the creditors Snake oil by lawyers The winner is mesothelioma If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call us for justice. Of course, it’s almost always mesothelioma. The trial lawyers love mesothelioma. Unlike most cancers and other chemically linked illnesses, mesothelioma normally only has one cause: exposure to asbestos. In addition, it is almost always fatal – often within 6 months of diagnosis. Mesothelioma is great for the lawyers, but you’ll be dead before you see a cent. Read the fine print on these ads. These firms are probably not licensed to practice law in your state, so they subcontract out the case to a local attorney. They collect a share of the fee. Local attorneys promise you justice and a free consultation for almost anything that ails you. A word on legal advice – You get what you pay for. I remember a student at one of my previous law schools. He had been suspended for two years for an especially egregious ethical problem. Most schools would have expelled him. Sadly, my did not, and Massachusetts thought him sufficiently ethical to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He seduced a young woman working in the Registrar’s Office to get copies in advance of his exams. She was married to a soldier away on active duty. I was back in town several years later and saw him advertising on TV, trolling for clients, promising justice. He hadn’t changed. Here’s the lawyers’ ad I want to see: “Did that TV lawyer fail to give you justice, leave you unsatisfied, stick you with excessive fees, ignore you, Then come see us. We specialize in suing lawyers for malpractice.” If lawyers are called sharks, then why not a shark attack by lawyers against lawyers? Shark on Shark Let the best shark win!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Soma, Turkey Reminds Us That Coal is the Cross We Bear

Soma, Turkey just suffered the tragic death of 301 coal miners, the greatest coal mining disaster in Turkish history, and one of the largest in the history of coal. Soma reminds us that coal mining can be as dangerous as it is dirty. The history of underground coal mining is one of tragedy, of explosions, fire, caveins, suffocation, and later in life silicosis, “Black lung disease.” Even abandoned mines pose a risk in land subsidence, acid mine waters, and underground fires. Miners work in excruciating conditions, always aware of the possibility of a disaster. The ceilings are often too low for the miners to fully stand up. They breathe coal dust, work in dimly lit mine shafts, cannot relieve the pressures by smoking for fear of setting off an explosion. Excessive carbon monoxide levels are a constant risk; hence the presence of a canary in the mine. If the canary dies, the miners evacuate. What caused the Soma disaster? We will learn. Both the government and the coal company claim no negligence was involved. Of course there was negligence. An accident of this magnitude one mile underground could not occur without at least one human cause, and often a chain of causes, including bad decisions. We will learn soon enough. There’s no need to speculate at this point. The survivors, widows, children, parents, brothers and sisters will never fully recover as they live out their lives. Dreams have brutally died. If the owner and government are smart, they will discover the causes so that this type of accident does not occur again. Smart people, companies, and government agencies learn from their mistakes. Mining disasters of this nature can wipe out the owner’s investment. Even if the human capital is viewed as cheap, the capital investment is not. Turkey is not reputed to highlight worker safety as the United States does. Underground mining can never be absolutely safe, but safe mining practices, education, training, practices, inspections, and regulations can substantially reduce the risks. Thus, as in the United States we take notice when a major incident occurs, because it is rare. Twelve died and one survived in the 2006 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia, It was covered on the nightly news. 29 died in the 2009 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, again in West Virginia. Criminal prosecutions often result in these American tragedies. China has a poor history of mine safety. 1,049 coal miners died in accidents in China in 2013. China needs the coal. We need the coal. Civilization needs the coal. Natural gas may be cheaper in the United States, and burn cleaner than coal, but Turkey, like many countries in Eurasia lacks oil and gas reserves, but has substantial coal reserves. Coal fueled the industrial revolution. It still fuels the industrial heartland of the United States, notwithstanding the Obama Administration War on Coal. Coal is the energy of choice in much of the world today, including China and India. China builds a new coal plant every week. Coal, cheap and plentiful coal, provides for industry, commerce, our standard of living, and culture. Coal is the cross we bear.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The VA Scandal is Different: This One Will Stick

Commentators often called President Reagan the “Teflon President.” Nothing would stick to him. The mainstream media is an avid supporter of President Obama so they do not let scandals attach to him. They usually ignore, or downplay them. VAGate is different. Fast and Furious – ATF gun running to Mexican gangs with a Border agent killed. No big deal – it’s just a partisan Republican attack on the Attorney General. IRSGate – what’s wrong with the Administration and Democratic Senators colluding with the IRS to silence the Tea Party? The media abhors the Tea Party and indeed, all conservatives. One of the grounds for impeachment against President Nixon was that he attempted, but failed, to use the IRS against political enemies. The Obama Administration succeeded, but for a “good purpose.” Benghazi – that’s old news. Everyone in D.C. knows both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed the 3:00am phone call test, and then blamed it on a video, which no one had ever seen. The media response was to collectively dump on Governor Romney for attempting to make an issue out of it during the 2012 Presidential Election. NSA - It had some traction, but disappeared. ObamaCare - The Obama Administration has declared the enrollments as a success. Therefore it must be a success. And now comes VAGate with regional offices cooking the books and wait times for appointments, and then the Phoenix office receiving bonuses for their efficiency. Phoenix is, at least to date, ground zero of the VA scandal. Phoenix, Fort Collins, Cheyenne, Austin, San Antonio, St. Louis, Columbia, South Carolina, Gainesville, Florida. It’s contagious. Criminal behavior has occurred. VAGate is different. Every politician understands that you don’t mess with our veterans. It’s bipartisan, non-partisan, Democrats and Republicans. They understand you don’t kill the veterans. It doesn’t matter the politics of the patient, nor the race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. A vet is a vet. The Veterans Administration has a checkered record with providing services to our veterans. Medical care has sometimes been spotty. But now it’s the VA bureaucracy keeping our vets from obtaining medical care, and then covering it up. They are more efficient at covering up than providing services, but you can’t dig a hole deep enough to cover this one up. The stench is too great. Veterans Secretary, General Eric Shinseki, today tried to defuse the growing scandal by firing Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health. The “firing” fueled the flames once it came out that Dr. Petzel announced last year that he was retiring this year. The VA has spent almost $500 million on furniture in recent years, but deliberately, systematically concealed its inability to treat our veterans. Government healthcare in action!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mary Burke is an Unusual Democratic Candidate for Governor of Wisconsin, or Is She?

Mary Burke at first glance appears to be an strange kind of Wisconsin Democrat running for governor. Scott Walker is running for reelection as Governor of Wisconsin. His first term in office was tumultuous. Conservative Republicans swept into office in the 2010 midterm elections, turning the politics upside down of the birthplace and still heart of the Progressive Movement. Governor Walker signed legislation essentially stripping most public employee unions (he excluded the police and fire) of most of their power. The state capitol was occupied for several days as the unions bussed in supporters from throughout the state. Democratic legislators fled to Illinois in a futile attempt to stop the legislation. The unions spent a fortune attempting to defeat the reelection of a conservative justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The justice survived and led a 4-3 majority upholding the legislation. Recall campaigns were mounted against several Republican Senators. Governor Walker survived a recall election. Progressive forces savored defeating him in 2014. Mary Burke will be his Democratic opponent. She currently sits on the Madison School Board. Polls show narrow leades for Governor Walker. The Harvard MBA describes herself as a “fiscal conservative.” Her family business with 1000 employees is non-union. She thinks taxes should be raised only as a last resort. Wisconsin’s progressives are outraged she’s running. Fear not. She believes taxes are not holding back business in Wisconsin. She voted for tax increases on the school board, and believes everyone should pay their fair share in taxes. She’ll raise taxes – as an early last resort. Her family business, founded by her deceased father, is the $900 million Trek Bicycle Company. It has paid no standard Wisconsin income taxes in three decades. The argument is that it is a Subchapter S Corporation so that the taxes, at a lower rate, are passed down to the owners. As a true Democrat, she believes taxes are to be paid by others. She paid no Wisconsin for a period in the 199-‘s eventhough Trek listed her as an officer and director. She now claims Trek made a typo in the listing. Others have to pay their fair share, but apparently not her or her family business. Mary served as Wisconsin’s Secretary of Commerce in Governor Doyle’s administration. Trek received a $875,000 state loan, of which $392,200 was forgiven, during her term as Secretary of Commerce. Apparently the millionaire saw no conflict of interest. Everyone should pay their fair share. Except for Democratic office holders.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Is This How We Fund California's Courthouses?

The California Judicial system is in crisis mode. About $1.2 billion in budget cuts over the past decade have severely impacted the delivery of justice throughout California. Counties funded their courthouses until the late 1970‘s when the state consolidated them. The new system worked well until the state’s economy collapsed. County courthouses and education were cut the most from the general fund. Every county was affected. Los Angeles County closed 8 courthouses and 80 courtrooms, laid off 431 staffers in 2012 (1/10 of its employees), eliminated court reporters in civil cases, and converted many full time workers to part time employees, while cutting services. The sprawling San Bernardino County eliminated four courthouses, including Barstow, Big bear and Needles. Needles residents now seeking justice have to drive 3½ hours to the nearest courthouse. Kern County lost 27% of the base funding for its courthouses from 2008 to 2013. Long waits have ensued in civil cases, including family violence cases. Civil cases may take up to five years before going to trial. Justice delayed is justice denied. Court employees have gone seven years without a cost of living increases. Governor Brown has proposed a $105 million increase in next year’s budget for the county courthouses, but it is insufficient to stop the judicial hemorrhaging. Thus, alternative sources of funding are needed. The Los Angeles Times yesterday quoted California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye remembering a garage sale by the Kings County Superior Court. That raises several possibilities. The most effective fundraising effort, guaranteed to cover all judicial expenses, would be to sell justice to the highest bidder. One of the basic maxims of law is The Golden Rule of Law: “He who has the gold makes the law.” Selling justice though is illegal, so that’s not a viable option. Another possibility would be the forfeiture of defendant’s property pursuant to existing forfeiture statutes. A million here, a million there, a couple of Beverly Hills mansions, and the budget problems would be solved. Of course, that too is probably unconstitutional because of the conflict of interest. California could still try it. Indulgences could be sold, but the Church might object. A judicial lottery would recognize the hard truth that Tort Law is raidly becoming a lottery system in California. Other proven fundraising efforts include: Car Washes – double price for judges’ cars and triple prices for lawyers Bake Sales Girl Scout Cookie Sales Brick sales. Sell the bricks around each courthouse for the names of donors and messages, such as “John Smith Top Gun DWI Attorney, 1-800 – You Fool.” Bingo – Seniors love bingo and serving on juries. It’s a natural. A potential gold mine is a book sale. Selling off all the old West Reporters, Cal Jurs, and Cal Apps could raise substantial sums. All their contents are available online for substantially less that the retail price. As long as the courts can pay their utility and West Law bills, they don’t need hard copy. Some of the courthouse artwork, prints, and frescoes could raise substantial sums. A sales and leaseback of courthouses with Goldman Sachs could raise substantial upfront moneys. Look to the tollroads around Chicago for guidance. A phonation offering tours of the courthouse and county jail could raise money. Cold calls to raise funds for solar panels on the courthouse roofs are a possibility. Explain that the courthouses need green to go green. Get out of jail free passes would be a best seller. The selling of justice would become institutionalized. Judges could retain Publishers Clearing House for fundraising advice. Orange County could raze the old historic Santa Ana Courthouse (made famous in Legally Blond) and replace it with a Walmart. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tim Donnelly is a Walking, Talking Republican Disaster

June 3 is Primary Day in California. The Republicans will nominate their sacrificial lamb to be crushed by Governor Jerry Brown in the increasingly one party state. The outcome is not in doubt. Jerry Brown will be reelected even if he dies shortly before the election. The question is how big the Democratic margin of victory will be? A wipeout will result in the Democrats picking up more legislative and Congressional seats. A right wing, racist, venom-spouting Republican candidate will be catastrophic to the shrinking party’s chances of even preserving the status quo. Tim Donnelly, an Assemblyman from San Bernardino County, is such a Republican candidate. The firebrand is currently leading in the Republican polls, although none of the candidates are well known to the public. Donnelly founded the Minutemen Party of California in 2005 to fight illegal immigration at the border. His statements can be inflammatory. He spoke at a 2006 rally: “I am a descendant of Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo. It is rumored that he took a dozen Mexicans to their deaths before they killed him. How many of you will rise up and take his place on that wall?” He continued “We are in a war. You may not want to accept it, but the other side has declared war on us.” He called the illegal immigration a false D0d wilmer & a False . Another classic Donnelly statement is “I thought the wailings we heard at night were the coyotes wailing at the moon.” He continued: “I didn’t know until later that those sounds were of women being raped in the Sonoran Desert, some less than 100 yards away from the border. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it. It’s something you never forget.” He wasn’t there. For all we know, it’s pure fiction. The Democrats will not have to rally their base if Tim Donnelly is Governor Brown’s opponent. The Assemblyman will do it for them. He could be the Todd Akin of California. He claims though not to be prejudiced. His wife is Filipina and his daughter-in-law is Mexican. His actions speak otherwise. TSA arrested him on January 4, 2012 for carrying a loaded gun onto an airplane. His main opponent in the California Primary is Neel Kashkari, an immigrant from India who is a Hindu. Neel was an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury when the economy collapsed during President Bush’s Administration. He played a major role in preserving the banking system. Had the major banks collapsed, which they were in grave danger of doing, then the United States and the global economy would have been facing a second great depression. Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns and Wachovia failed. Merrill Lynch was teetering. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and CitiBank would have been next. Many conservatives were opposed to TARP and the bailouts. Donnelly is one of them. Neel Kashkari delivered the introductory remarks at a 2008 banking conference, focused on informing our leaders about Islamic banking. Assemblyman Donnelly posted this statement on Facebook: “Given the recent stories and outrage of the discriminatory nature of Sharia law, we’re horrified that Kashkari would support Sharia anyhow.” Connecting a conference on Islamic banking to supporting Sharia is the type of statements a deranged person might make.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Will the Congressional Republicans Impose Tolls On Our Freeways?

Do you hear the drums beating? Tolls, tolls, tolls, and more tolls. We need tolls on our freeways. We need to convert our freeways to toll roads. It’s an emergency; the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money. We will no longer, at least as of September 2015, pay to maintain and rebuild our deteriorating roads, highways and bridges. We will all fall into potholes and sinkholes. It’s an emergency. Today’s cars are much more energy efficient than yesteryear’s; thus we consume less gas. We must act, and act now. That’s the modus operandi of President Obama. Create an emergency and demand Congress to act. The drumbeat speeds up – tolls, tolls and tolls. Here’s the facts. The Highway Trust Fund is not running out of money. It’s been broke since 2008 when expenditures started exceeding revenues. Congress has allocated $54 billion from the general budget into the Highway Trust Fund since 2008. Congressional Republicans are fed up. They want to restore fiscal sanity to the program. Democrats are now clamoring for tolls, i.e. taxes, to fix our crumbling roads and bridges. If you believe increased revenues will solve the problem, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn for you. Remember the state lottery? It was going to fund our schools. Did it? Legislators responded by reducing the allocations for the schools, such that the net budget for the schools did not appreciably increase. Al Gore talked about “lock boxes.” No lock boxes exist when legislatures need money. So too with our bridges and highways. Any substantial toll revenue will be offset by budget cuts to the accounts. The end result is that legislators will suck more money out of the private sector to fund the ever-expanding public sector. The Highway Trust Fund is a microcosm of many federal programs. The national flood insurance program operates at a large deficit, currently $25 billion. Congress enacted legislation two years to reform the National Flood Insurance Program. Congress is now wavering because of the backlash from those paying substantially higher premiums. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are fiscally unsustainable. The Post Office lost $1.4 billion last quarter. ObamaCare will fail quickly. It fails almost every basic rule of economics. Yet, we are told that raising the federal gasoline tax, imposing tolls, or enacting a mileage tax are the only options available. We can assume that Congress will not reduce, much less eliminate the program. The Highway Trust Fund was created by Congress in 1956 to fund our nation’s roads and bridges, especially the interstate highway system. The initial tax on gas was three cents per gallon. It was to be used exclusively for highway construction and maintenance. The tax has been raised several times since, topping off at 18.4cents/gallon 20 years ago. The tax has been fixed for 20 years. Thus, it is time to raise it. So goes the argument. The federal tax may not have been raised in 20 years, but state gas taxes certainly have. California is a shining example with the tax going from 3 cents/gallon to 9 cents/gallon in 1983, and then to14 cents/gallon in 1990, 36 cents/gallon in 2010 and 39.5 Cents per gallon in 2013. In addition, California imposes a sales tax on the retail price for gas, which includes the federal and state gas taxes. In other words, California is taxing a tax, with a substantial part of the gas tax revenues going into the general fund rather than highway construction and maintenance.. California now has the highest gas taxes in the nation. A significant change was signed into law by President Reagan in 1982. Part of the tax revenue now goes to urban mass transit systems under the Surface Transportation Act with one cent/gallon initially going into a Mass Transit Fund. The current tax is 18.4cents/ gallon, allocated as follows: 15.44 cents/gallon for highways and bridges, 2.86cents/gallon for mass transit, and .1cent/gallon for the leaking underground storage tank fund. Diverting the mass transit revenues back into the Highway Trust Fund might buy a little extra time for the highway fund, but it is politically unavailable. There’s no alternative to raising tolls. There is, but it is politically unpalatable. A way exists to cut costs and expand projects, but it too is politically untouchable to the Democratic Party while the Republican Party has not raised it. The biggest cost in these construction projects is the cost of labor. Congress in the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 has artificially driven up the labor costs by requiring the workers on any construction project receiving federal funds to pay “the prevailing wage;” that is, “no less than the locally prevailing wages and benefits.” All contractors, union or non-union, must pay the prevailing wages and benefits. The prevailing wage is determined a voluntary survey of construction projects. The responders tend to be high cost unionized contractors because they wish to drive up the labor costs of their competitors. Davis-Bacon thereby substantially drives up construction costs and minimizes the benefits of competitive bidding. Eliminating Davis-Bacon would save the Highway Trust Fund. It will be politically “dead on arrival” in Congress. The drums are beating louder. Only Congress can change the law which forbids tolls on federally funded freeways. Will the Republicans give in to a de facto tax increase?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Good News About Clivin Bundy and Donald Stern

Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling uttered remarks that destroyed their public image. The public response was immediate and significant. No one spoke up in support of them. We are not in a post-racial society, but we are in a post-racist society – a society in which the institutional racism of the past has faded into the sunset. We can never eliminate racism in terms of individual thoughts, but we have substantially reduced organized racism. Let me explain what I mean. Ethnic, religious, racial, gender, and sexual discrimination seems endemic in human nature. We question or resent those who are different than ourselves. We fault others for their success and our lack of success. We cut others down to build ourselves up. Politicians practice “class warfare,” and racial politics, such as crude anti-Hispanic remarks when arguing against undocumented immigrants. You may note this year that while the President’s immigration reform proposal may not make it through Congress, the rhetoric has toned down. The American public is offended by crass racism. Personal views may remain the same, but they remain personal. American society will not accept institutionalized racial discrimination today. Some people will always be racist or sexist, but neither the government nor the general public will support them. Jews have historically been the victims of hatred. Anti-Semitism reached its horrific height with the Holocaust, but Hitler was not alone. Stalin was also anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is sadly on the rise again internationally. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed behavior - five decades of a revolutionary change in the American psyche. Most Americans today accept these statutes as the norm for behavior. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” Cliven Bundy was involved in a near-shootout between a volunteer posse/militia of his supporters and 200 federal law enforcement officers. Bundy represents the Old West, the West of ranchers, farmers, loggers, and miners who exploited the resources of the West. The New West is the West of the urban centers, Seattle/Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco/Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Denver, Austin, the urban centers where the people wish to preserve the natural attractions of the West. They are into aesthetics, conservation, and recreation. For example, forests are to enjoy – not cut. The image of the lone cowboy standing up to enemies is part of the lore of the Old West. The farmers and ranchers are aggrieved over the Bureau of Land Management, the Endangered Species Act, the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, The National Environmental Policy Act, water allocation, logging restrictions, grazing rights, and a host of rules and regulations. Land management is often the primary issue since much of the land in the West is owned by the federal government with critical land use decisions thereby being made by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. 85% of Nevada’s land is owned by the federal government. The first manifestation of the discontent was 3½ decades ago with “The Sagebrush Revolt.” They had minor success with the repeal of the double nickel speed limit (55MPH). The Sagebrush Rebellion faded into the western sunset with the election of a boot wearing western “cowboy,” Ronald Reagan, as President. The County Supremacy Movement arose 1½ decades ago when rural counties in the West attempted to assert control over the lands in their counties, claiming the counties could control all the lands in the county. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution quickly settled that issue. The mindset though remains with old timers, such as Cliven Bundy. Clivin Bundy’s defiance of the federal government initially seemed to spark a new revolt in the Old West. It failed. I believe in the Rule of Law. Bundy lost every lawsuit, perhaps 20 in all, against the federal government. He has been grazing on federal lands without permission, and indeed without paying rent. He is $1 million in arrears over 20 years. He’s getting a free ride on feed, and thus a cost advantage over other ranchers. His fellow ranchers may be equally aggrieved, but they fulfill their legal obligations. The government overacted by sending 200 armed officers, federal “swat squads,” to seize 500 head of cattle. The show of force was unnecessary and alarming. Another Ruby Ridge or Waco appeared possible. Fortunately the Feds backed down. And then the statement came out. Cliven Bundy took advantage of his 15 minutes of fame to profound on social issues. The old geezer was not ready for prime time. He basically said African Americans were better off in slavery than in their current status. His words were toxic. His national supporters dropped him in a nanosecond. Donald Sterling’s racist remarks were no surprise to those who knew him: friends, workers, reporters, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and probably co-owners. The media simply didn’t report it and the Clippers were chronic losers to the joy of other teams. No tape existed. The real estate billionaire was not newsworthy. Now he is newsworthy, but not in the way he imagined. His taped remarks doom him. The NBA is dropping him almost as quickly as have Bundy’s supporters. Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling are generational troglodytes. Their time has passed. America knows it. That’s what so good about Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. They’re not even a teachable moment.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Condoleezza Rice, Rutgers, Brandeis and the Intolerance of the (Academic) Left

Presidents routinely deliver commencement addresses at our nation’s colleges and universities and receive honorary degrees. Campus politics generally limit Republican presidents to speak only at the military academics and a few conservative institutions. The political outrage, accompanied by protests, on our institutions of higher learning, which purport to invite a diversity of ideas, preclude conservatives from delivering commencement addresses, and indeed, often speaking on campuses. The militant left, often led by the college’s professors, fight conservative speakers. They boo, hiss, protest, demonstrate, harass, interrupt conservatives, often with the connivance of craven university administrators who will not stand up for freedom of speech. Democratic presidents, however, have their run of the nation’s campuses and are usually warmly received as heroes and icons on the campuses. An interesting contrast is playing out between Rutgers and Brandeis this commencement season. Rutgers invited Condoleezza Rice as its 2014 commencement speaker, offering an honorary Doctors of Law degree and a $35,000 honorarium. Secretary Rice is a distinguished African America. She was born in the segregationist South and lived in Birmingham during the reign of Bull Conner. Her parents were academics. They moved to Denver when she was 15. She graduated cum laude from the University of Denver, received a masters from Notre Dame, and then her Ph.D. from Denver. She is a chaired professor at Stanford and served as Stanford’s Provost from 1993-1999. Her life from birth to 1999 present an outstanding CV. She then became President George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor in his first administration and then Secretary of State during his second term. That’s even more luster to a black girl from Birmingham, Alabama during the dark days of segregation. One of her friends was killed in the bombing of the Seventeenth Street Baptist Church. Condoleezza Rice should be a shining light for African Americans. She is a symbol of the greatness of America, of the power of education and upward mobility, the ability to achieve. However, she has two disabilities in the eyes of the left. First, The African American woman is a conservative Republican. Second, she was an integral figure in the Bush Administration and is labeled by the left as a “war criminal.” An outcry from the left rose at Rutgers after the announcement of her selection. Over 350 faculty members signed a petition seeking the disinvitation of Secretary Rice. 50 students staged a sit-in, protesting the “war criminal.” They held up signs saying “No honors for war criminals,” “War criminals out,” and “RU 4 Humanity?” The faculty and students had no problem when Snooki spoke on campus. Secretary Rice's only “crime” is that of the Bush Administration, securing the American people against a vicious enemy after 9/11 so that these academic bigots can teach and learn their intellectual tripe. The opposition to her represents the tyranny of the minority. The vast majority of professors did not sign the petition. The Rutgers New Brunswick Faculty Council urged the Rutgers Board of Governors to rescind “its misguided invitation.” The Newark Faculty Council followed suit. However, the Camden Faculty Council voted in support of the Administration’s decision. In addition the student council voted 25-17 in support of Condoleezza Rice as their commencement speaker. Rutgers President Robert Barchi and the Board of Governors adhered to their invitation of Secretary Rice. President Barchi wrote an open letter to the Rutgers community: “We cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom we may disagree. Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group …. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity. These principles are, in fact, best illustrated and preserved when we defend perspectives that we oppose or when we protect what may appear to a minority view.” Do not be surprised if in the future President Barchi is subject to a vote of no confidence by the leftwing professoriate at Rutgers. Kudos to the leaders of Rutgers. Sadly, Secretary Rice rescinded her acceptance today, with the class and grace which have exemplified of her life. She said: “I understand and embrace the purpose of the ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.” Brandeis is a different story. Brandeis announced Ali Ayaan Hirsi would be its commencement speaker. She is internationally renowned as a speaker for women’s rights and as an opponent of the oppression of women under Islam. She was born in Somalia and subjected to female genital mutilation. Her family left Somalia when she was 8. She was later subjected to a forced marriage. She sought political asylum in 1992 in the Netherlands, and elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003. She left Islam after 9/11 and became an atheist. She has uttered many anti-Islamic remarks, earning the image in some as an “Islamophobe.” She has also said that she is not opposed to Muslims, but to the “submission of free will.” She lectures the world against female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and honor killings. The once devout Muslim is now one of the best known advocated for woman rights. Ali Ayaan Hirsi is a fellow at Harvard’s John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government, as well as the American Enterprise Institute. The opposition to her was initiated at Brandeis by a female Muslim student and then amplified by the Council on American-Islamic relations, some faculty and staff. 86 faculty members signed a petition to disinvite her. Brandeis’ President Frederick M. Lawrence responded quickly, and cravenly, by yanking her invitation. The press statement explained Ali did not represent the “core values” of Brandeis. The advocate of women rights did not represent the “core values” of Brandeis! Brandeis had no trouble inviting Bill Ayres, a domestic terrorist, from speaking on campus. At one time three Brandeis women students made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List, Angela Davis, Susan Saxe and Katherine Power. The Nobel Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu, a hero of the anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, was the commencement speaker. Bishop Tutu is justly celebrated internationally for promoting civil rights, but he has uttered remarks, viewed as anti-Semitic. The intolerance of the academic left is well known. They believe in academic freedom for themselves, but not conservatives. They often call themselves liberals or moderates, but they are to the far left of America. AS thought police, they become academic Neanderthals. Ward Churchill is probably the most infamous of the academic left. He is an academic anomaly only in the sense that he was an academic fraud. Two highly successful Black women, who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have been viciously trashed by faculty and students at two major universities. Secretary Rice is good enough for Stanford, but not for some of the faculty at Rutgers. Ali Hirsi is good enough for Harvard’s Kennedy School, but not neighboring Brandeis. What’s Wrong With This Picture? Where is the national media outcry? Where is the outrage of our civil rights leaders? Where is the NAACP? Where is President Obama? Where is Attorney General Eric Holder? Where is the Reverend Jesse Jackson? Where is the reverend Al Sharpton? The sounds of silence speak loudly for the selective moral outrage of the left.