Saturday, June 28, 2014

World War I Started 100 Years Ago

One person can change the world. Or two. Or six. Or one wrong turn. Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo 100 years ago on June 28, 1914. World War I was triggered that day. One teenager, Gavrilo, fired the shots that started The War to End All Wars. One Bosnian Serb nationalist ignited The Great War. Gavrilo acted with five co-conspirators, whose goal was a unified Serbia. He fired the shots, but another man made a mistake that gave Gavrilo the unexpected chance to carry out the conspiracy. The Archduke and his party came to Sarajevo to dedicate a new hospital in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The six conspirators unsuccessfully attacked the Archduke on the ride to the hospital. The royal entourage continued to the hospital. A failure of communications occurred on the way back. The driver took the wrong turn, driving past Gavrilo. The assassin took advantage of the surprise moment of opportunity. The tragedy of World War I followed. 9.4 million soldiers and sailors died, and 21 million were wounded. 17.5% of the uniformed French died, 15% of the Germans, and 10% of the British. The Australians and New Zealanders suffered heavily at Gallipoli. Flanders Field, The Somme, Verdun, the Lusitania, the Marne, The Zimmerman Telegram, mustard gas, the Stab in the Back, the sealed train, Lawrence of Arabia. World War I with all its tragedy was but a dress rehearsal to the greater tragedy of World War II. The weapons of World War II, with the exception of the atomic bomb and radar, were tested in the first war. The Germans unveiled the U Boat and submarine warfare. Great Britain flew warplanes off an aircraft carrier. Destroyers, sonar, depth charges, and convoys responded to the submarines. Tanks appeared near the end of the war. Airplanes, aerial surveillance, bombs flew over the battlefield. The word “genocide” arose out of the Armenian Genocide. Four empires collapsed and four dynasties died. The Ottoman Empire, the “Sick Man of Europe” for 2 centuries, finally gasped its last. The House of Osman paid the price for the decision of the Young Turks to join the war on the side of the Austrians and Germans. The Russians joined the winning Allies, but collapsed in 1917. The Romanovs paid with their lives. The world paid with the November Revolution of November 2017, when a few Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace and thrust Communism onto the world. Arabia, the Balkans, and the Black Sea never had fixed borders prior to World War I since boundaries changed with the rise and fall of conquerors. Egypt, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia had wrestled free from the Ottomans. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia had become part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Out of the detritus of the Ottomans came Iraq and Syria, which did not reflect their history, religion, and ethnicities, and the whole new countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Arbitrary boundary lines threw Christians, Orthodox, Kurds, Shia, and Sunni together in “nations” that could not survive the test of time. The Ottomans were defeated, but not the Turks under Ataturk. The Austrians succeeded in crushing Serbia, but the Hapsburgs fell. The end of the war resulted in a greater Serbia, called Yugoslavia. The inevitable collapse of Yugoslavia resulted in genocide eight decades later at Srebrenica by Serbs against Bosnians. Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted war, but the Holenzollens lost. The ensuing Weimar Republic collapsed. Hitler rose. The world, the Jews, the Gypsies, and humanity paid the price. 20 million Europeans dead in World War I, 60 million more in World War II, and tens of millions more displaced. More boundaries shifted. World War I started the collapse of the British Empire. Australia, New Zealand, and Canada saw their way to independence. Gandhi, Nehru and Ali Jinnah started India on the road to independence. The economic costs of the war, followed by the reparations imposed on Germany, led to the Great Depression and the collapse of he world’s economy. America rose to prominence in the war. Technically, a historian will say that World War I did not start on June 28, 1914. Sarajevo was not the formal start of the war. Austria did not declare war on Serbia until July 28. Russia mobilized on July 30. Germany declared war on Russia on August I and invaded neutral Belgium on August 4. England declared war on August 4. Technically, a historian will say that World War I was destined. The great powers desired a war. Germany had easily defeated France in the 1870 Franco-German War. The Kaiser wanted Germany to extend its power. Austria wanted to squash Serbia, but in light of the assassination, wanted vengeance. Russia wanted redemption after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Great Britain always believed in the balance of powers on the Continent. Thus, two possibilities: Sarajevo was the trigger, the catalyst, the spark of a preordained war. Garviro Princep had his 15 minutes of infamy and should be forgotten. The second approach: The tragedy of World War I need not have happened. If that’s true, then one man changed the world, causing the horrors of the Twentieth Century. May Garviro Princep rot in Hell!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Second IRS Scandal: The Leaking of NOM's Prop 8 Donors List

Attention is focused on Congressional hearings, the mysteriously disappearing emails of Lois Lerner and other key IRS players, and the statements of the new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, that no crime was committed: “I have the ability to say that I see no evidence of any crime.” Lost in the furor over the IRS targeting of conservatives is Tuesday's acknowledged criminal leakage by the IRS of the donors to the National Organization of Marriage NOM). NOM is the major organization behind California’s Prop 8, the referendum that amended California’s constitution to allow only heterosexual marriages in California. The highly controversial measure was passed by the voters, but invalidated by the lower courts, whose decisions were upheld by the Supreme Court on the technical grounds that NOM and other supporters of Prop 8 lacked legal standing to defend the measure in federal court once California’s Governor and Attorney General refused to defend it. That’s all legally technical. I’ve blogged before that I support same-sex marriage, so that’s not the issue in this blog. The issue is that under federal law the IRS cannot publicly disclose the names of the donors to these political organizations. The names of the donors were leaked in February 2012 to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an leading opponent of Prop 8. HRC posted the donors list online during the 2012 Presidential campaign. The Huffington Post posted on the same day that a political action committed associated with Governor Romney contributed $10,000 to NOM. HRC’s President Joe Solmonese left the next day to become a co-chairman of President Obama’s reelection campaign. This case, as with the broader IRS scandal, is replete with coincidences, Fifth Amendment, and lack of transparency. The disclosure of the donors list is a felony. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is a Yale Law School grad; he asserts the IRS committed no crime. The Chairman of NOM is Professor John Eastman, a conservative (more conservative than me) colleague of mine. John is a brilliant graduate of Chicago Law School, who clerked for Justice Scalia. He is a strict constructionist of the Constitution. He and Professor Tom Caso run the Constitutional Rights Clinic at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University. John wins some, and loses some, but he is a tenacious litigator. NOM brought suit against the IRS for the violation of its rights. Pre-trial discovery found emails from Matthew Meisel, who received the leaked donors list, that he had a “conduit” in the IRS. Matthew was the direct recipient of the leaked donors list. He then turned it over to the Human Rights Campaign. Matthew is taking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to testify. The IRS admitted Tuesday that it had violated NOM’s rights and entered in a $50,000 settlement with NOM to cover its expenses. NOM’s attorneys are now seeking their legal fees in the lawsuit.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Hollywood Bowl Takes a Large Step for Women's Restrooms: Good to Go

We have outlawed discrimination against women in the workplace. We’ve banned sexual harassment in the workplace. Title IX mandates equality for women in college sports, promoting a boom in women’s sports. The UConn women winning the NCAA this year is at least as impressive as the UConn men. That is true equality. Hurricanes are no longer solely named for women. Coeds often outnumber male students on our campuses. Female students fill our law, medical, and business schools. Women are now commercial pilots and men flight attendants. Women are employers and men secretaries. Women are finally entering the professoriate in biology and chemistry (The old boy’s network has broken down). Women have become doctors and men nurses and physician assistants. Women are increasingly bread winners and men “Mr. Mom.” Women serve as governors, Senators, Representatives, police and fire chiefs. As the old Virginia Slims ad proclaimed: “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” And yet, some vestiges of discrimination remain. The most common, affecting all women, is the restroom - the lines, seemingly interminable lines, outside the women’s restrooms, while the men quickly enter and leave the men’s restrooms at public venues. The line does not discriminate between women. All women (except perhaps the First Lady), regardless of profession, occupation, age, wealth, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual preference, must stand in that line. Men, husbands, lovers, fathers, children, brothers, and friends, instinctively know to stay far away from the lines. Do the math. The fabled Hollywood Bowl has a seating capacity of 17, 376, 15 minute intermissions, and six women restrooms. Many women are late for the second half. That, and perhaps parking, are the only negatives about the Hollywood Bowl. The restrooms were beautifully remodeled a few years ago and are now listed on almost every list of the top ten restrooms in America. The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that the Hollywood Bowl has devised a system to speed up restroom time by 100%. It will place green and red LED bulbs by each stall in the five smaller women restrooms. The red bulb will indicate the stall is occupied. The green bulb signals good to go to the loo. The cost is about #300/stall, which the Bowl should be able to quickly recoup by additional food, beverages, and trinkets the female patrons may purchase with their free time. The system is modeled after the parking facilities at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center, where the lights direct drivers to open spots. I never knew until now that parking lots and restroom stalls possessed commonality. Now if only they could something about airlines!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Lois Lerner Tapes and Harddrive: Take II

Lois Lerner: Take 2 Where is Deep Throat when we need him? Where are the investigative reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward when we need them? I almost forgot. The Watergate garage is being torn down. How symbolic? The missing Lois Lerner emails has taken twists characteristic of Hollywood plots. Any emails involving Lois and now six other critical IRS workers have “crashed,” or more likely been wiped clean. In Hollywood it would have been by some super-powerful, super-secret government security agency. Promising leads now reach dead ends. We know it cannot be a coincidence. Lois’ hard drive “crashed” when it became clear that the harassment of conservative organizations was “breaking.” And then we find out that the IRS “conveniently” had the hard drive recycled. Can you say “Coverup” from what the President promised to be the most transparent administration? The IRS knew in February, or so it claims, that Lois’ emails were unrecoverable. They only informed Congress last Friday, but they notified the Administration in April of the loss. President Obama on the February 2, 2014 O’Reilly Factor stated that there is “not even mass corruption. Not even a smidgeon of corruption?” What did he know? Of course, the Obama Administration is insulting our intelligence. They know it fails the sniff test. They know it, but don’t care. They know the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, and MSNBC will not pursue it. They know they will get the usual pass from the media. If this were the Bush Administration the media would be circling like vultures, feasting on the carrion. They would be lining up for their Pulitzers. Instead, their willful blindness is letting the Obama Administration turn the IRS into a partisan arm of the Democratic Party. That is a direct threat to our democracy. The Obama Administration is operating on the premise that the Republicans cannot prove that which they cannot prove because the evidence disappeared.

Will The Washington Redskins Get Scalped?

The Washington Redskins exist in a non-politically correct environment. They are being excoriated because of the use of their name “Redskins.” Many Native Americans and others object to it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to not go to a Redskins game. Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, has refused to change the name and the National Football League has backed his decision. He has often been a “lone wolf.” The United States Patent and Trademark Office yesterday changed the calculus of the debate. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board voted 2:1 to cancel the trademark registrations of the Washington Redskins on the ground that the name is disparaging to Native Americans: “(W)e decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” The federal statute bars the issuance of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or ridicule.” The standard is not measured by today’s mores but by those in effect at the time of registration. Six “Redskins” trademarks are at issue. They date from 1967, 1974, 1978, and 1990. The newer dates are more suspect than the earlier ones. The first complaint against the use of the “Redskins” name came in 1992. The team won that case in 2003. A second complaint was filed in 2006 by 5 Native Americans who claimed the name disparages them. Two rights of Daniel Snyder and the Redskins are being violated. The first is Freedom of Speech. The First Amendment protects unpopular speech and speech which may be offensive to some. The disparagement clause is so broad and vague as to be open to abuse. Thus, campus speech codes fail. Second is the violation of the Fifth Amendment Property Rights. Snyder is being deprived of the value in the property rights of the Redskins based on a violation of the First Amendment. Trademarks are a form of intellectual property. Let is assume that the decision stands on appeal to the courts. It does not solve the issue of the dislike for the use of the word “redskins.” It could result in a multiplicity use of the “Redskins” name since in theory, any person, partnership, or corporate entity could use the Redskins name and logo seemingly unworried by a lawsuit by the Washington Redskins. Thus, it could result in more apparel items and souvenirs than currently marketed. On the other hand the Redskins would still retain their common law rights in the trademarks. Their litigation costs may be more expensive, but the Washington Redskins would prevail. Other similarly offensive teams would be the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Golden State Warriors. Both the Atlanta Braves and Florida State Seminoles feature the Tomahawk Chop. The Florida Seminole Tribe supports Florida State’s use of the name. We should be leery of using the word “scalper” at athletic events. We should stay off the scenic Massachusetts Mohawk Trail. Other suspect brand names are Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, the Land O’Lakes girl, Cracker Jacks, the Frito Bandito, Eskimo Pie, and Speedy Gonzalez. On a related note, the Coppertone Girl with her pants down smacks of kiddie porn. The Washington Redskins will appeal. The previous case dragged on for 11 years. The trademarks are protected until final resolution.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Who Does President Obama Most Remind You Have?

President Obama has been so many things to so many people. For example,Chris Matthews said President Obama "gave him a thrill up his leg." Nancy Pelosi thinks President Obama is "brilliant." Who does the President most remind you of? Neville Chamberlain? Appeasement Dwight Eisenhower? The Golfer Bill Clinton? Hollywood Idol Ronal Reagan? Teflon Reverend Jeremiad Wright? Liberation Theology Richard Nixon? Coverup Janus? Two-faced Jimmy Carter? Iran Frank Sinatra I did it my way Alfred E. Newman? What? Me worry?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Missing Lois Lerner Emails: Shades of Richard Nixon

Lois Lerner as Director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS was the official most responsible for the unconstitutional violations of the rights of the Tea Party and other conservative organizations. The IRS intentionally sabotaged the tax exemption requests of Tea Party and other conservative organizations and leaked confidential donor information to liberal organizations. She testified before the House Oversight Committee denying any wrongdoing, and then asserted the Fifth Amendment Privilege against self-incrimination in refusing to further testify before Congress. The House requested her emails from 2009 – 2013 and other documents 13 months ago. The IRS agreed to turn them over. Yesterday afternoon, Friday afternoon, the traditional time for the White House and federal agencies to release bad news, the IRS disclosed it could not retrieve two years of Lois Lerner’s emails from 2009-2011. Lois claimed her hard drive crashed in 2011, eating her emails. What a coincidence! The IRS claims 250 IRS employees spent over 120,000 hours at a cost of $10 million over a year in attempting to retrieve the requested documents, but could not retrieve most of her email. The IRS did not use Best Buy’s Geek Squad or visit the Apple’s Genius Bar. These computer geeks work miracles with crashed drives. The IRS did not even ask the NSA for help. Even if just metadata, the NSA could provide the non-IRS email contacts of Lois Lerner. The IRS turned to itself, a singular act of ineptitude. The federal government already proved its inability to revamp the computer systems of the FBI and FAA. The VA avoided its computer system. The ObamaCare rollout is still not completely fixed. And yet the IRS thought it could retrieve the missing emails. The IRS technicians failed. Apparently the IRS technology experts failed to search the IRS servers on which the emails would be backed up daily. The agency claimed it recovered 24,000 Lois Lerner emails from the computers of 82 IRS employees who had copies on their computers. The IRS did not seek emails from the White House, Justice Department, Treasury Department, Federal elections Commission, and Democratic Senators and Representatives who requested (or demanded) the IRS take action against the Tea Party. The emails to and from the White House, not only from Lois Lerner but also from Jonathan M. Davis, the political appointee Chief of Staff to the IRS Commissioner, who visited the White House 310 times from fall 2009 to February 2013, could be most revealing. How selectively convenient! The IRS is essentially claiming that either it or Lois Lerner do not back up emails. All emails go through servers. Is the IRS admitting that the IRS servers do not automatically backup emails? Try these defenses to an IRS audit or informational letter request: 1) I don’t do backups; 2) The hard drive crashed, eating my emails and documents; 3) The dog ate my records. We know Lois Lerner sent thousands of Tea Party files to the Justice Department, presumably for possible criminal prosecutions. The media damned President Nixon for unsuccessfully attempting to sic the IRS on his political enemies. The media excoriated President Nixon for the missing 18 minutes 20 seconds of the 10,500 hours of White House tapes, including 200 hours of Watergate Tapes. President Nixon’s loyal secretary Rose Mary Woods claimed to have accidentally deleted them. These missing minutes may or may not have directly linked the President to the Watergate coverup. Two years versus 18 minutes. Watergate versus Chicago Rules. The Obama Administration knows it will not have to answer as long as the media is quiescent. The IRS Scandal continually reaches new lows.

Iraq Is No More Because It Was Never Meant to Be

Iraq Will Be No More because It Never Was. Iraq is violently splitting into three as it was sadly meant to. Egypt and Iran (Persia) are historic countries, the outer boundaries of which may have fluctuated somewhat over the centuries, but they represent a historic, cultural core. The modern day Turkey is the compact successor to the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Much of the rest of the Mideast, as with parts of Europe, was carved out of the collapse of 4 empires during World War I: Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian. Churchill led the way in defining the new boundaries, which did not necessarily reflect history, ethnicity, culture, or religion. Many of these countries do not exist today. For some, such as Czechoslovakia the breakup was peaceful. For others, such as Yugoslavia, genocidal wars erupted. New countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, with little historic basis emerged from World War I. One large ethnicity, the Muslim Kurds, was excluded from the nation creation. The Kurds straddle four countries, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. They expected an independent Kurdistan, but got nothing. They have also been periodically engaged in guerilla warfare against the Turkish government since the 1920’s. The Kurds fight. The internal tensions in some countries were a tinderbox ready to explode in the future. That future is now. Lebanon still has its borders, but has been violently explosive since the Eisenhower Administration. Two countries, Yugoslavia and Iraq, were held together by strong, ruthless dictators. Tito and Hussein are no longer, and neither are their countries. The Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers is the Cradle of Civilization, but no boundaries existed for the successive peoples who populated the area. Three peoples, the Sunni Muslims, the Shite Muslims, and the Kurds were thrown together by the League of Nations in 1920 as Iraq. A rough demographic breakdown shows the Kurds concentrated in the north, the Sunnis in the west, and the Shi’a in the south with large numbers of each residing in the major cities. Great Britain received a League of Nations mandate over the country. England ruled through the Sunnis. It granted independence to Iraq in 1932 appointing a Sunni royal family to lead the country. The monarchy was overthrown in 1958 with Saddam Hussein assuming power in a subsequent takeover. Sunnis governed the country, often brutally, until his regime was toppled in 2003 eventhough they are a minority population with estimates of 20-35% of the population with the remainder being Shi’a. The Shi’a chafed under the Sunni dictatorships. They unsuccessfully rebelled at the end of the first Gulf War while the Kurds rebelled in the north. The Shi'a chance came through the ballot box when they obtained majority control of the government. The Shi’a Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has governed like many two-bit wannabe dictators (absent the secret police executions). He has blatantly discriminated against the Sunnis and Kurds while consolidating decision making and power in his hands. Iraq could not remain one under these circumstances. The fissures were evident with sectarian violence even when the United States military controlled Iraq. Inspired leadership might have smoothed the fractional waters, but the Mideast is not known for wise, inspired leadership. Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians have made peace over the centuries. Not so much so with Sunni and Shi’a. The Sunnis through a radical Islamist have taken control of much of the Sunni countryside and cities. They will stop show of Baghdad, at least for now. They still lack the power to capture the city from the Shi'a. This Sunni resurgence is tragic. First is the breakup of Iraq in the hands of Islamicists imposing radical Islam on the people in Syria and Iraq. The people of western Iraq will regret it shortly. Second, their eyes are into expanding through out the Mideast into a caliphate of radical Islam and into attacking the United States. America's tragedy is that President Obama is blind.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The "Dead Broke" One Percenters Clintons

President Clinton and his wife Secretary Hillary Clinton are well established in the nation’s 1 Percent, the Democrats' reviled 1 Percent. Most Democratic Senators are 1 Percenters, some of whom, like Majority Leader Harry Reid, reached that status after election to the Senate. Secretary Hillary Clinton claimed in an interview Monday with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that the Clinton were ‘dead broke’ when they left the White House. She can identify with the rest of us. Yes, we may shop at Walmart, but she was a director of Walmart from 1984 - 1992. She said they were “struggling to piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education you know. It was not pretty.” From “dead broke” in the White House to two luxury homes without pausing in the poor house. 'Dead broke" without ever qualifying for food stamps, much less worrying where the next meal is coming from. "Dead broke" without ever going to bed hungry. Bill and Hillary lived in government housing, the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and the United States White House, for about two decades. They left the White House with no mortgage, and immediately bought a $1.7 million house in highly affluent Chappaqua in Westchester County, New York, as well as a house in Washington, D.C. for a total cost of $4.5 million. Eight years of all expense paid housing and meals in the White House; and yet she claimed the Clintons were $12 million in debt when they left the White House. College tuition is high, but Chelsea’s 4 years of Stanford tuition do not add up to $12 million. That’s the price of President Clinton’s libido - The legal fees he wracked up for Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, “Bimbo eruptions,” perjury, loss of his license to practice law. If only he could have kept his zipper zippered his legal fees would have been non-existent. Hillary Clinton signed a book contract with a $7 million advance, Living History, at the end of the Clinton Administration. Bill Clinton signed a similar book advance contract for $15 million for his book “My Life.” Life is tough; the Clintons were "dead broke" when $22 million was being thrust into their hands. She feels our pain. The ex-President Clinton lost no time in cashing in on his fame. He earned $9.2 million in speaking fees in 2001 and $9.5 million in 2001. He had speaking fees of $109 million from 2001 – 2013. The Clintons had combined income of $109 million from 2001 to 2008. Hillary has reaped $5 million in speaking fees in the past 15 months since resigning as Secretary of State. She charges $200,000/speech. Hillary is trying to identify with working Americans. She wants to be one of us. We don’t take an initial $1,000 investment, raise it to $10,000 and quickly earn $100,000 in sweatheart commodities trades; to wit, cattle futures. The Clintons campaigned against a decade of greed. I don’t mind that the Clintons have cashed in. I object to being pandered. Hillary condescends. She insults our intelligence. Mitt Romney’s problem was that he could not connect with the people. Too much of the Harvard MBA came out. Hillary Clinton’s problem is that she does not connect with the people. Too much of the hypocrite comes out from the haughty Hillary Clinton. Senator Ted Kennedy was rich. He was also authentic. His wealth was irrelevant to the American voter. Hillary’s status as a One Percenter is an issue because she made it one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Lost Because He Forgot the Tip O'Neil Axiom: All Politics are Local

Congressman Tip O’Neil was a great Speaker of the House. He was also a wise sage. One of his best incisive advice was “All politics is local.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost reelection in yesterday’s Virginia primary. He formally lost reelection yesterday. He actually lost reelection months, if not years, earlier. The pundits quickly pronounced last night that the Tea Party candidate Ted Brat won in a low turnout election based on an anti-immigration campaign. Wrong on all three counts. Professor Ted Brat may be Tea Party, but the Tea Party, which is not a unitary organization, did not back him with rallies or funds. The Tea party may disagree with Congressman Cantor on a few issues, but he pushes their positions on most issues. Second, it was not a low turnout primary. Professor Brat won 55.5% to 44.5%, a margin of 11%, a landslide in electoral politics with a turnout 40% higher than the 2012 primary. Republicans turned out, but to turn Congressman Cantor out. He underperformed in his strongholds. Congressman cantor received 37,369 votes in the 2012 primary. He garnered 8,500 fewer votes this year, 28,898 in an year of increased turnout. Congressman Cantor had $5 million to spend on his reelection. Professor Brat had show leather. The Professor doorbelled for reelection. The Congressman televised, negative ads. Virginia has an open primary system whereby any voter can vote in either party’s primary. Perhaps Virginia Democrats voted in the Republican primary for the Professor, but no evidence has surfaced to that effect. Immigration played a role, but mostly to reinforce the view that Congressman Cantor was speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He was against broad reform in Virginia, but in favor of it in Washington after the elections. Voters would not let him have it both ways. Immigration is a major issue for some Republicans, but is not by itself a defining electoral issue at this point in the election cycle. We know because Senator Lindsay Graham won renomination yesterday with 57% of the vote against six opponents even though the Senator is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, often referred to as asylum. Neel Kashkagi won the California Republican primary for Governor two weeks ago over Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. The Assemblyman is highly hostile to illegal immigration and was a founder of the California Minutemen. Immigration was an issue for Professor Brat, but so were the themes of Main Street versus Wall Street, the support of the free enterprise system, opposition to runaway government spending, and the budget deal with the President. His campaign was directed at ”Send a message to Washington.” Congressman Cantor was a Washington insider, and thus part of the problem. Congressman Cantor had lost touch with the increasingly conservative district. He, and his staff, had become arrogant. He criss-crossed the country in support of Republicans and the Republican Agenda, but was perceived to spend little time in his district. So close to DC, but yet so far away when pursuing ambitions at the national level. He failed to campaign in his backyard. All politics is local, even at the national level.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mayor Dennis Kneier of San Marino is in Deep Doo Doo

The really big news today is not Professor Dave Brat’s primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Nor is it the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruling unconstitutional under California’s Constitution the state statutes that protect teachers at the expense of educating students. Nope! San Marino Mayor Dennis Kneier has gone viral flicking (in his words) a bag of dog manure onto a constituent’s lawn. Congressman Cantor may have partially lost because his office stopped delivering constituent services. Mayor Kneier personally delivered a bag of crap to constituent Phillip Lao. Mayor Kneier is not a typical politician. They simply speak into a mike. Not Mayor Kneier! He wanted the message hand delivered. Politicians are known for shoveling out manure by the barrel full. Mayor Kneier has carried it to a new first, or new low, by personally delivering a doggie bag of dog excrement to a citizen. The Mayor and his wife, Liz, were walking home Saturday night from Lacy Park when he claimed to have found a bag on the street. He could have stepped in it, but instead he picked it up, discovered the excrement, and then claimed to have flicked it. He should have flicked his Bic. The tape tells a different story. Mayor Kneier is walking with the corpus delecti in his hand when Liz points to Lao’s lawn. Dennis, acting like a lapdog to his wife, dutifully tosses the evidence to that spot. Dennis, like many urban dog owners, either did not see, or ignored, the big sign “NO POOP ZONE.” Citizen Lao was exercising his First Amendment Freedom of Speech in a compelling social issue for San Marino - should Lacy Park be a dog free zone? The Mayor also did not see Mr. Lao’s video surveillance system. Mayor Kneier trespassed into the NO POOP ZONE. He was caught on tape. The Mayor's defense: Who do you believe? What you saw on the video with your own eyes, or what I say? The feces tossing mayor is big news in San Marino. San Marino is a city of slightly over 13,000 residents, rich residents. Forbes magazine reported in 2010 that the median sales price for a single family residence in San Marino was $1,987,5000. Only single family houses are allowed in San Marino – no apartments, condos or townhouses, not to mention the unmentionable low income housing. San Marino also lacks some of the basic amenities of life in Southern California – donut shops, fast food restaurants, and drive throughs. Residents who seek these amenities must slum into neighboring Pasadena. San Marino’s first mayor was George S. Patton, Sr., the father of the famous World War II general. General Patton was known for sometimes stepping in it. San Marino has the official residence of the President of the University of Southern California. USC is in South Central LA, but the President is where the rich donors are. Lacy Park is a 30 acre gem in the city. The hoi polloi, i.e. non-residents, are excluded by charging them a fee to enter the park. Mr. Lao opposes a dog park in Lacy Park He doesn’t have a dog. Mayor Kneier favors the dog park, but he too has no dog. President Clinton would say he has no dog in this fight. Mr. Lao is a law abiding citizen. He phoned the police. San Marino lacks crime. The proverbial crap hit the fan. The S.M.P.D. promptly responded with three patrol cars and five officers. We do not know how they presume to preserve or CSI the evidence. How would you like to sit on the jury when the bailiff dumps the load of dog manure in the jury deliberations room? The victim whose NO POOP ZONE was violated, turned the video over to San Marino’s Finest, who are investigating eventhough Mr. Lao did not file charges. The Mayor has not yet been booked, fingerprinted, or released on bail. The Mayor has come clean and apologized, but his heartfelt apology was short of promising to clean up the mess. The video has made the world news. Mayor Kneier made the 6 O'clock news in Los Angeles. His 15 minutes of fame has earned him the title of "The Dogs--t Mayor of Aan Marino." UPDATE: June 16, 2014 The San Marino Police Department issued the Mayor a ticket for littering. The possible fine is up to $1,000. Citizens of San Marino lambasted the Mayor at Wednesday's City Council meeting. The Mayor "smeared" the image of San Marino. They want his resignation for besmirching the city. Update: June 17, 2014 The Mayor resigned today because of "a lapse of judgment," but will remain on the City Council.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Views On Kaiser, the VA, and the Health Insurance Market

My Views on Kaiser, the VA, and Group Practices My posting on Kaiser and the VA generated some negative feedback. I think it only fair to express my full opinions. Sadly, the traditional private practice of medicine is rapidly declining. Economics, insurers, and regulatory realities are driving medicine into managed care. Hospital groups are swallowing up groups of doctors. The private practitioner is an endangered species. I like the idea of being to pick and choose between an area’s best physicians and hospitals. Even before Obamacare, few insurance plans offered that flexibility unless you wanted to go “out of plan,” often an expensive proposition. The plans offered under ObamaCare are so restrictive of providers that often no practical choice exists. I don’t think Kaiser is the greatest innovation since sliced bread, but it is the best of the large managed care organizations, and insurance companies which purport to offer PPO’s and HOM’s, but are not true HMO’s. Group Health of Seattle may be excellent (we were members once for 6 months). I was also in Sound Health in Tacoma for three years and we were members of Medical West in western Massachusetts; neither of which do I think still exist. H.I.P. and some other true HMO’s may be wonderful, but only Kaiser operates in several states. The VA Healthcare System is a living testament to how bad the delivery of government healthcare will be. A common joke in Canada about the privately owned Canadian Pacific Railroad and the privately owned Canadian National Railroad is that the CP kept the CN efficient and the CN kept the CP honest. Kaiser faces competition in the healthcare market. The VA faces no competition. We were very concerned about the quality of healthcare as our children were growing up. The dynamics of the health insurance market in Springfield, Massachusetts and the alternative plans offered by both my previous employer in Springfield and my current employer in Orange County made HMO’s the obvious choice. In addition to the high quality of healthcare offered by Medical West and Kaiser, we were impressed by the dedication of the physicians and nurses. The HMO pediatricians were fantastic. So too were the family physicians at Kaiser who treated my mother in law during her final years. We also never had any billing disputes with the HMOs, but our limited experience with the major health insurance companies was often a billing nightmare. Unlike the United Healthcares, Aetnas, GIGNAs, and Blues, Kaiser has a cost advantage in that it is vertically integrated, including not only the physicians and nurses, but also the hospitals, pharmacies, rehab centers, and labs in the corporate structure. I regularly hear stories from my colleagues and friends who have to deal with these insurers. They range from great praise to horror stories. And that was when the really good hospitals were in the health insurance networks. If you like your current health insurance plan offered by your employer, pray your employer will not cancel the plan in the next few years as the new ObamaCare restrictions strike the group plans. I do not believe that any private insurer or managed care facility would have as good a chance of handling the VA patients as Kaiser. It has the capacity and expertise. You can trash Kaiser; it has made its mistakes, and will continue to do so. No doctor, no hospital, no insurer is infallible. All face cost pressures. Disputes with unions will become commonplace. Pharmacists came close twice in the past month to striking Kaiser in Southern California. The 200,000 unionized workers of the VA have to be scared of Kaiser or someone else stepping in. They have to be terrified at the prospect of privatization. They also know the status quo is unsustainable. For what it’s worth, Kaiser is unionized. For those of you who damn Kaiser, what is your alternative?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What Are Teachers Really Thinking?

Have you ever wondered what teachers from kindergarten through graduate and professional school are really thinking? Have you ever wondered how they manage to control themselves when frustrated? The frustrations are compounded today by helicopter parents, who start in day care and never let up. The outstanding students are wonderful. The overachievers are great. The students who work as hard as they can and achieve up to their abilities are an inspiration. No, let’s think of the slackers – the students who often miss class, are unprepared when they deign to show up, surf the web or play videogames when present, and then want to know why they performed poorly in the course. Let’s think of the students who do not understand that you only get out of it that which you put into it. This hysterical youtube video, supposedly on the answering machine of an Australian high school, or perhaps attributed by some internet reports to the Pacific Palisades High School in Los Angeles, or perhaps is simply an interesting internet hoax. Perhaps it was recorded, but never actually played, and someone leaked it. Whatever, it captures the mood of many former and present teachers. Sometimes it’s just so tempting. But no, we exercise restraint. A couple of students this semester asked why I tolerated their classmate who was obviously not with the program and seemed off the wall. I treat all students with respect.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reflections Two Weeks After the Isla Vista Rampage

I feel for the Isla Vista victims and their families. To lose your children to a crazed lunatic is incomprehensible. The renewed cries for gun control ring out. It’s not guns! States and countries (England and Norway) have strong gun control measures, but still experience mass shootings. States with loose gun laws experience the tragedies. It’s mental illness! The problem is that even psychotherapists cannot usually determine which patients in fact pose a deadly risk to others. Once again we witnessed a nut job seeking his 15 minutes of infamy. It could be Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine, Jarad Loughner trying to kill a Congresswoman, or James Eagan Holmes shooting up a theatre in Aurora, Colorado. We have, as a society, long since past the days when we would lock up someone who might pose a risk, and then throw the key away. We started in the 1960’s to deinstitutionalize our mental institutions. We lack both the capacity and will to reopen them. It is not guns per se. 16 year old Alex Hribal on April 9 this year in but a few minutes wounded twenty students and one security guard by wielding two knifes at the Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. China has a recent history of mass murders by knife, often with school children as the victims. Elliott Rodger pulled the trifecta of guns, knifes, and cars, possibly also drugs and toxins at Isla Vista. While at first glance his rant, and initial approach on the Alpha Phi Sorority House indicated an anti-woman animus, his first three victims were men, all of whom he knifed to death. He then shot to death two women and a man and wounded 13, and then proceeded to use his car to mow down four others, hurling one 100 feet Rodger’s car paralleled a tragic incident in Isla Vista 12 years earlier when a UCSB freshman, David Attias, went off his meds and driving his car, plowed down pedestrians on a popular Isla Vista street, killing four and injuring one. A jury held he was criminally insane. California released Attias from his psychiatric confinement two years ago. The concern of schools until recently was students committing suicide. Now it is murder-suicides or mass murders. Schools cannot prevent these senseless acts by disenrolling students on psychotropics or who are otherwise seeking counseling. Statistics tell us these characteristics affect a large percent of our college students, especially at the nation’s most elite, pressure-filled colleges. Indeed, Elliott Rodger was not even a student at UCSB. Nor did his rampage occur on a campus. The victims were UCSB students, but he was enrolled at, but did not attend, Santa Barbara Community College. Steve Kazmierczak graduated from Northern Illinois University and then enrolled in graduate school at the University of Illinois. He returned 1½ years after graduating, entered a large lecture hall at NIU, and opened fire, killing 5 and wounding 17. No one foresaw this tragic shooting. One means by which several of these attacks were prevented was though authorities, often based on a warning by other students, checking social media. Many, but nor all, of these psychopaths tell a few classmates and post their plans on social media. Santa Barbara Deputy Sheriffs though visited Rodgers, and found nothing amiss. They did not though view the videos in making the assessment although they knew of them. Nor did they check to say if he was in possession of firearms. They missed their chance. Many of these lunatics seek attention, their 15 minutes of infamy by slaughtering others. Some, such as Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School, focus on killing children. Some have a hit list. Jarad Loughner hated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and tried to kill her at an outdoor rally. He failed, but fatally shot a United States federal judge, a nine year old girl, and 4 others. Others act out of religious fervor, such as Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood. A few, such as Rodger and the Unabomber prepare rambling manifestos. Some are loners, perhaps staying in their room playing video games. Some claim to be bullied. Others can’t handle rejection. Some of the perpetrators are on drugs, others may be on the wrong prescribed medications (psychotherapy is not a science), some should be on meds, others have dropped off their meds, many we just don’t know. The common denominator in most mass school killings is that the attacker is a young male.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is President Obama Deliberately Trying to Torpedo Democratic Candidates in the November Mid-Term Elections

Drip, drip, drip; soon the steady drip turns into a torrent. The past month has not been good for the Obama Administration. Drip, drip, drip; it just piles up. Some debacles are not directly the President’s fault, but the War Against Coal and the Bergdahl-Taliban trade are. President Obama cannot really be trying to help the Republicans in the November elections, but these acts make no sense. Drip, drip, drip; ObamaCare was finally dropping out of the headlines, but the Presidential image of competency was shattered. Drip, drip, drip; the Obama Administration released the name of the CIA Station Chief in Pakistan. The Bush Administration was crucified by the media with a special prosecutor appointed to prosecute the leak. Valerie Plame was working a desk job in DC at the time of the leak. The CIA leak was of the major CIA operative in Pakistan. Drip, drip, drip. The President appointed the White House Counsel to investigate. Drip, drip, drip; The Veterans Administration maltreatment of our veterans blew up. The scandal has been simmering for decades, so not all fault lies at the President’s feet. Drip, drip, drip; The videos are available of Senator Obama excoriating the Bush Administration’s failure to resolve the VA problems. Drip, drip, drip; General Eric Shinseki did his best imitation of a dazed Kathleen Sibelius not knowing anything of the problems. Drip, drip, drip; part of leadership is convincing the public you are in charge of the situation. President Obama has been AWOL on the VA. Drip, drip, drip; The President is losing Democrats on the VA. The Senate is more likely to switch to Republicans. Drip, drip, drip; The Obama Administration is as befuddled as the Carter Administration. Drip, drip, drip; The EPA releases its draft carbon dioxide control regulations. Energy state Democrats are apoplectic over the Keystone Pipeline. They can’t even duck for cover on this one. Drip, drip, drip; Why now? Why 5 months before the November elections? Everyone knew the anti-carbon dioxide regulations were coming. The Obama Administration delayed several proposals prior to the 2012 Presidential Election for political reasons. Drip, drip, drip; the only logical explanation is that Tom Steyer and his acolytes has made EPA action a condition of the $50-100 million they have pledged to green Democratic candidates. Drip, drip, drip; Senator McConnell is now guaranteed reelection in Kentucky. Drip, drip, drip; President Obama is trying to shut down the low cost coal industry while China and India are expanding theirs. Drip, drip, drip; President Obama used the Rose Garden to announce the trade of five high level, hard core Taliban leaders for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who at the minimum went AWOL and is probably, albeit not technically, a deserter. Drip, drip, drip; President Obama has Bergdahl’s justly jubilant parents by his side at the announcement. Mr. Bergdahl’s beard and speech mimicked the Taliban. What was the President thinking? Drip, drip, drip; President Obama is standing alone on this one. Drip, drip, drip; The President’s incompetence and indifference are taking a toll on his credibility. Drip, drip, drip: Sergeant Bergdahl's hometown in Idaho has cancelled his homecoming parade. You can untie the yellow ribbons around old oak trees. Drip, drip, drip; The Obama Administration sent Susan Rice out on a Sunday talk show with talking points to say Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” Sending out Susan Rice is both throwing red meat to Republicans and reminding the American people of Benghazi. It makes no logical sense. What were they thinking? Drip, drip, drip; An Administration official today accused Bergdahl’s fellow platoon members of Swift Boating him. Politically trashing soldiers who have served honorably and with distinction makes no logical sense. Drip, drip, drip; it’s amateur hour at the White House. Drip, drip, drip. The Obama Administration has now outraged the intelligence community and the military. Drip, drip, drip; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is still carrying water for the President. He accused the Republicans of seeking political gain. The Republicans don’t have to say a thing. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the mainstream media are questioning the President on this decision. Drip, drip, drip. The Obama Administration ignored the military and failed to consult Congress, as required by law. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is outraged. What was the White House thinking? Is it calculated, or is it incompetence? Drip, drip, drip. Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip; it’s becoming a torrent.