Sunday, September 28, 2014

Be Wary of Today's Polls and Prognosticators for the 2014 Midterm Elections

The polls and prognosticators give the Republicans a high probability of winning control of the Senate in November, as well as gaining House seats. The Republicans need a net gain of six. The consensus is that they have three of the six in hand: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. The consensus and polls currently favor the Republican candidates in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana, with Colorado and New Hampshire in reach. The optimal outcome for Republicans would be to sweep these states while salivating in Michigan and Minnesota, and holding on to Republican seats in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. Don’t trust the polls, or my predictions, which are notoriously unreliable. The most accurate polls are at the ballot box on election days, absent voter fraud. The polls can usually measure the sentiment of voters at the time they are taken. They do not accurately measure though the effect of early voting, such as absentee voting. Nor do they predict election day turnout or early voting. Polling is irrelevant for those who voted earlier, but would later wish to change heir votes. The Republicans thought they had a good ground game in 2012 to get out the vote. The Democrats knew they did. The Obama Campaign relied on data mining to predict individual votes and get them to the polls, such as with early voting. The President at the top of the ticket pulled in scores of Democratic candidates down the ticket. The Democrats got their supporters, such as students, to fill in their ballots in advance and then mail them in. The National GOP claims to have learnt the lessons of 2012. The Democrats claim to be applying the 2012 techniques to state elections. November will decide. The Republicans pioneered early voting in the form of absentee ballots. Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential Election. The initial ballot count showed JFK winning California, but the final tally of absentee ballots decided the state for the Vice President. The Democrats have jumped ahead of the Republicans in all form of of early voting. The next factor on the Democrats’ side is their large advantage in fundraising. We can decry the President’s extensive fundraising, but he is the Presidential fund raiser par excellence. He held 49 campaign fundraisers this year through mid-September. We can question his competence and judgment in many areas; we don’t know his golf scores, SAT, LSAT, or academic record, but he has excelled in trolling for dollars for Democrats. Thus, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (the House) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are flush with cash, substantially out raising their Republican counterparts, the House Committee by $32.6 million and the Senate Committee by almost $30 million. The effect of the funding differential is currently seen in the North Carolina Senatorial Campaign. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan should be in trouble, but her campaign and supporters have spent millions in recent ads, but the Republicans have held back. If you want my eternally optimistic predictions, Republicans will gain 10 Democratic Senate seats, and lose none of their own. They will regain many of the House seats they lost in 2012 and end up with a new gain of 12 in the House. They will gain the Colorado governorship, but lose in Pennsylvania. If you want to make money in the stock market, find out what I am planning to but (which is not often), and then sell short.

News Flash:"New York City Covers Up Mayor de Balsio's Groundhog Murder"

News Flash: “New York City Cover Up Mayor de Blasio’s Groundhog Murder” No, that’s neither an actual newsflash nor political ad, but it could be if the Mayor were running for reelection this year – displaying the banality of so much negative advertising. Here’s what happened. Groundhog Day, February 2, is celebrated nationally. Perhaps it’s not a national holiday, but it is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil is a weather forecaster. The urban legend is that if he emerges from his burrow, sees his shadow, and then crawls back into it, six more weeks of winter will follow. The Groundhog’s fame is spreading. New York Mayor de Blasio was celebrating Groundhog Day in New York City. He was holding up Chuck, a infamous groundhog, in his arms. Chuck, Charles G. Hogg, is revered in the Big Apple for taking a bite out of Mayor Bloomberg in 2009. It’s not totally clear from the video if Chuck squirted out, jumped out, or if the Da Mayor released him. but Chuck clearly sought his freedom. The Mayor’s Party hearted laughter is caught on video, perhaps giving rise to a PETA outrage moment. Groundhog Day would be Chuck’s Independence Day. Groundhogs are not cats with nine lives, always landing on their feet. Chuck landed head first to a round of raucous laughter. Chuck seemed fine, but died a week later of “sudden internal injuries,” the exact cause” of which was undetermined, according to the Staten Island Zoo The Zoo did not inform the Mayor’s Office of Chuck’s death. The New York Post engaged in an act of investigatory reporting. It disclosed that not only was the Zoo covering up Chuck’s death, but also that Chuck was not Chuck, but ten month old Charlotte. Woodchucks apparently all look alike. The New York Times in a followup Page One article on Friday, September 26 discussed the Mayor’s “poor hands,” my phrase, not the Times. The Zoo has four groundhogs, selecting them as “Chuck or a Day.” Hence, we create a semi-truthful lead: “Mayor de Blasio involved with a coverup of Chuck’s death.” My serious point is the descent into gutter politics, the politics of personal destruction, where truth is totally irrelevant. Don’t let the truth get in the way of an ad or soundbite. If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger. The example so far of the most desperate, deceitful, despicable ad is by Mark Begich, the independent, and increasingly desperate, Democratic Senator of Alaska against his Republican opponent, Dan Sullivan.. The facts are that Jerry Active was arrested on May 25, 2013 for the murder of a couple and the sexual assault of their two year old granddaughter. The case has not yet gone to trial. He pled guilty to a Class C Felony in 2007. He was arrested on January 29, 2009, and charged with several crimes, including the sexual assault of an 11 year old. The 2007 felony should have resulted in a minimum sentence of eight years under Alaska law, but a computer search failed to find it. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison in September 2010 less time served. He was released in October 2011. The ad accuses Sullivan of being soft on child sex offenders. The blatant misstatements in the ad are that Dan Sullivan only served as Alaska’s Attorney from June 2009 to December 2010. He was not in office when the staff failed to find the original confliction nor when Active received an early release in October 2013. Dan Sullivan was on active duty with the Marines from June 2009 to December 2010. He was not in Anchorage when the release agreement was reached. The ad was a fictional creation. The victims’ family requested the ad be pulled. He waited five days before pulling it off the air.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cadillac Loves New York

Will Someone tell Cadillac that Detroit is Back Detroit is back. Dan Snyder is boosting downtown Detroit. The Big Three is running on full, boosting production, employment and profits. Chrysler’s Made in Detroit ad is propping up Fiat. Ford survived and prospered without a bailout. GM is making money despite the $.59 ignition switch. Cadillac though is in a 17 year decline. Changing brand names hasn’t helped. Aside from Escalade, can you name a Cadillac brand? Free association: If I throw out a car name, what first comes to mind? BMW? Mercedes? Porsche? Volvo? Infiniti? Now, what about Cadillac? 1997 was the last year Cadillac led luxury car sales in the United States. The 112 year old brand is on a 17 year slide. Johan de Nysschen was appointed Cadillac’s President in August. He came from Infiniti, having previously worked for Audi. He was born in the other USA, the Union of South Africa. He announced a few days ago that Cadillac’s headquarters was moving from Detroit to SoHo. Johan loves New York. Cadillac’s problem is that rebadging a droll Chevy into an overpriced Caddy doesn’t compete with the Germans. Or Japanese. Or Koreans. Cadillac’s problem is that its perceived quality does not match that of the foreign cars, as illustrated by the Cimarron. United States sales for luxury cars through August this year show BMW with 211,005 Bimmers, 34,969 Minis and 600 Rolls, Mercedes slightly below with 221,471, followed by Lexus with 198,831 despite its the quality problems. Audi sold 116,066 cars, about 2,000 ahead of Cadillac’s 114,008, which barely led Acura’s 105,918. Infiniti, de Nysschen’s previous employer, sold 77,043 cars. Luxury car sales are up 15% this year. Cadillac is down 4.7%, a drag on GM. Cadillac’s only consolation is that it outsells Lincoln almost 2:1. The move has a fatal problem. Only sales and marketing is moving to New York. Product development (design and engineering) stays in Detroit. De Nysschen recognizes the need to resurrect Cadillac as an “aspirational brand.” Johan explained the move to SoHo: “There is no city in the world where the inhabitants are more immersed in a premium life style than in New York.” Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, added: “When you think about New York, it’s the perfect place to be. It’s where luxury is defined. It’s trend-setting – so I think it’s going to be very, very positive.” Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain, echoed them. He said it’s time for “some fresh thinking for Cadillac.” A GM press flack described the SoHo site as a “multipurpose brand and event space in conjunction with modern loft offices located in the heart of a city renowned for establishing trends and setting standards for the global luxury market.” Has he heard of Rodeo Drive? GM’s management dilemma is that, having just hired de Nysschen to rejuvenate Cadillac, it has to stick with him, at least for awhile. It’s too early to admit yet another mistake. Has anyone told de Nysschen that 15 competitors have design studios in Southern California? Mercedes is in Carlsbad, BMW in Newbury Park, and Audi in Santa Monica. If he’s interested in chic, hip, and vibrant, if he’s interested in appealing to the pre-62, affluent non-white males, Silicon Valley, Seattle or Hollywood are where to go. There’s also San Francisco where no Detroit auto company has a dealership. He recognizes the need to leave “behind our traditional customer base,” but he won’t find the new base in SoHo. If he’s interested in selling Cadillacs, he should walk around SoHo and count with the fingers on one hand, the Cadillacs in SoHo. Fletcher Jones, the largest Mercedes dealer, is here in Orange County. It’s already sold over 5,000 Mercedes this year, the equivalent of 5% of all U.S. Cadillac sales. Fletcher Jones recently opened an Audi dealership in Beverly Hills. If he’s entranced by New York City, he could ask Chrysler why they dropped the Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, and New Yorker. He should ask how many Cadillacs Potemkin sells in Manhattan, and then check out BMW of Manhattan’s satellite office at 57 Wall Street. GM once had an alternate headquarters in Manhattan. The lobby now hosts the F.A.O. Schwartz flagship store. The plaza has a famous Apple Store. Johan de Nysschen is no Steve Jobs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Spirit of Mike Harari Lives On

Mike Harari, one of Mossad’s greatest operatives, died Sunday at the age of 87. Harari led a full life, indeed more lives in one lifetime than many of us will ever experience. Some of his exploits are well known, but most still remain secret. Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha were killed by Israeli forces yesterday in the spirit of retaliation perfected by Mike Harari. Mike Harari was born in Tel Aviv on April 28, 1927 during the British Mandate. He joined the Palmach, lying about his age. He was sent to Europe after World War II to help the Jewish survivors immigrate to the pre-Israel Palestine. He joined Shin Bet and organized the security for Lod Airport, now Ben Gurion Airport. He founded the Kidon unit of Mossad. Kidon’s specialty is innovative assassinations of Israel’s enemies. He played an integral role in the planning of Operation Thunderbolt, the rescue of the hostages held at Entebbe Airport. The only Israeli soldier killed in the rescue operation was Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister called Mike Harari “one of the great warriors for Israel’s security.” Black September, an affiliate of Yassir Arafat’s PLO, killed 11 Jewish athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Israel through Michael Harari’s unit tracked down and killed those believed responsible for Munich. Mistakes happen. Lillehammer was the most unfortunate for Harari. Ali Hassan Salameh was the believed mastermind of Munich. The team thought they had traced him to Lillehammer, Norway, and misidentified Ahmed Bochiki as Ali. They proceeded to assassinate Ahmed in front of his seven months pregnant wife. The operation blew up, resulting in an international backlash. Mike Harari succeeded with killing Salamaeh 5½ years later with a bomb. Israel does not forget its enemies. Nor does it forgive. Prime minister Golda Meir rejected Harari’s resignation letter, saying much work remained to be done. He formally retired from Mossad in 1980. He continued and became involved with Israel’s attempts to scuttle Iran’s development of the Bomb. He may be the official who came up with the idea of killing Iran’s nuclear scientists, of whom at least 4 have died so far. Israel does not forget its attackers. Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aiyha, two Hamas terrorists, kidnapped and killed three Jewish teenagers on June 12, 2014 near Hebron. They essentially signed their own death warrants that night for the murders of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel, and Eyal Yofrach. Israeli forces killed them September 23 in a shootout. Kawasme’s mother called him a hero and Hamas, as usual, referred to them as martyrs. These Hamas ‘martyrs” ignited a 50 day war, resulting in thousands of mostly innocent deaths and the destruction of much of Gaza. Mike Harari’s spirit lives on. He would be proud of the IDF with the end of the two murderers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Obama Administration Issued Today Anti-Inversion Restrictions; Where is the Outrage Over Pabst, TRW Automotive, Dresser Rand, Sigma Aldrich, and Even GE Appliances?

My earlier blog on August 11, 2008 focused on the economic folly of the demagoguery against “inversion” corporate mergers to lower United States corporate taxes. (“The Insidious Inversion Perversion: An Exercise in Economic Ignorance”). The anti-inversion campaign is a continuation of the Obama Administration’s fairly successful 7 year class warfare campaign. They continue to wage it because it resonates with a significant segment of voters. I pointed out that U.S. corporations could simply sell out to foreign corporations, causing long term damage to the economy. The real corporate headquarters will now be overseas, with a substantial loss of high paying executive jobs. Corporate tax payments to the Treasury will fall substantially since the survivor corporation will only pay corporate income taxes on the United States earnings. The previous headquarters city will suffer a loss in taxes, employment, and civic involvement in the community. The new corporation will not have the same interest in contributing to the cultural and academic institutions of its former home. The Obama Administration issued today through the Department of the Treasury regulations designed to limit inversion mergers. The proposed inversion merger of Burger King with Canada’s Tim Hortons was too much for the Obama Administration to swallow. As with past attempts to limit inversion mergers, the corporate attorneys will find ways around these new regs, which might not even be legal. The solution to inversion is to lower the corporate tax rates to a competitive level with countries, such as Canada or Ireland. No outcry has been raised against the recently announced takeovers of large American companies by foreign concerns. Germany’s Merck (not the American Merck) announced today the acquisition of St. Louis based Sigma-Aldrich Corp. for $17 billion. The $97 billion Siemens Company of Germany announced yesterday the acquisition of Houston Based Dresser-Rand Corporation and its $3 billion in sales for $7.6 billion. It was announced last week that Pabst Brewing Company, along with it brands of Old Milwaukee, Colt 45, Schlitz, Lone Star, Rainier, and Old Style, was being sold to a Russian company, Oasis Beverages. Pabst now joins the three larger beer companies, Anheuser Busch (Belgium), Millers (South Africa) and Coors (Canada) in being foreign owned. Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen, AG agreed on September 15 to acquire TRW Automobile Holding Corporation of Livonia, Michigan. TRW is one of the largest American auto parts company. Michigan can hardly afford to lose another pillar of the auto industry. Finally, it’s not a merger, but GE agreed to sell its appliance business to Electrolux, a Swedish company. Electrolux already owns the previously American brands of Frigidaire, Gibson, Kelvinator, Philco, Tappan, and White Westinghouse. American jobs will be cut as Electrolux consolidates its United States appliance operations. Not an outcry; Not even a peep from the Obama Administration which professes to be concerned about saving American jobs and preventing the loss of tax revenues through tax maneuvers. Cheap politics; bad economics!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Last Hurrah: Edwin Edwards is Back

The Last Hurrah was a best selling political novel published in 1956 and an outstanding movie in 1958. The 72 year old Mayor Frank Skeffington was running for a fifth term.Time had past the old New Deal, machine politician. The plot is playing out in Louisiana. Edwin Edwards, the former Congressman, the former Governor, the ex-con is back. Edwin Edwards, the incorrigible, irascible, irrepressible gambler, philanderer, and raconteur is seeking redemption. Edwin Edwards, the fertile octogenarian, wishes to prove he still has it. Edwin Edwards, the non-Creole Creole, is ineligible to vote as a convicted felon, but he can run for Congress. He is seeking election to the open Sixth Congressional District in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The District is heavily Republican, but he just might do it as a liberal, licentious Democrat under Louisiana’s election system where all candidates run on a single ballot. He simply explains: “I am the only hope the Democrats have.” If no candidate receives at least a majority of the votes cast, then the top two will run off in a special election. If it comes down to the reformer or a Republican, mano-a-mano, Edwin Edwards could find redemption. He is seeking election against a score of Republicans, who will probably split the Republican vote, allowing him a clear path to the runoff. One-on-one anything goes. His traditional coalition of Creoles, African Americans and labor could turn out for his last hurrah. He told the Life Baptist Church congregation in Baton Rouge that “My God is not finished with me yet.” Praise be to God. Edwin Edwards was often the most popular politician in Louisiana. He only lost one election in his career. He uttered these famous words during his 1983 campaign: ”The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with a dead girl or live boy.” Voters overlooked his reputation for ethical imperfection. He was one of the first established Democratic politicians in the South to embrace civil rights for African Americans. The politician was born in 1927. He served in Congress from 1965 – 1972. He was elected to four terms as Governor, from 1972-1980, 1984-1988, and 1992-1996. Edwin Edwards was sometimes lucky in his opponents. His 1991 Republican candidate was David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a neo-Nazi. A popular campaign bumper sticker was “Vote for the crook. It’s important.” Federal prosecutors unsuccessfully pursued him for years, but finally convicted him in 2001 of multiple counts of racketeering and corruption. The gist of the charges was that he sought kickbacks for licensing riverboat casinos in Louisiana. Among the accused bribers was Edward G. DeBartolo, Jr., then owner of the champion San Francisco 49ers. The former governor served time in the federal pen from October 2002 to January 2011. 2013 was a significant year for the 86 year old reprobate. He was released from parole in February 2013, and wasted no time in running for Congress. He had previously married his third wife, Trina, a few years earlier. Trina, a Republican, was only 51 years younger than him, being born in August 1978. She delivered their child, Eli Wallace Edwards, on August 1, 2013. The Edwards started a reality show on October 27, 2013, “The Governor’s Wife.” He responded, when asked about electing crooked politicians: “People say, well, they’re all crooks anyway. You might as well send an experienced one.” What a Final Hurrah it would be! Edwin Edwards cannot vote in Louisiana, but he may vote in Congress.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dear President Obama; Don't Look Back. Noone Follows When You Lead From the Rear

When did “Hope and Change” and “Yes, we can” become “Lead from Behind?” Leading from the rear is not a strategy for no one is following. The President is still looking for a strategy, much less a coalition. President George H. W. Bush marshaled an army of half a million from a host of countries to drive Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. His coalition included Arab and non-Arab countries with boots on the ground. President George H. W. Bush went through the United Nations, the Arab League, and Congress. President George W. Bush assembled a “Coalition of the Willing” of 39 countries with 25,000 boots on the ground. He twice received Congressional approval for the Second Gulf War. President Obama has assembled a “Coalition of the Unwilling” with no boots on the grounds, refusals to campaign in Syria, and little air support, but “40” countries with facile support. England, our special relationship with England, ended with the return of the Churchill Bust, the cheap gift to Queen Elizabeth, and repudiation of the special relationship. Great Britain, which has stood with us for a century, will not bomb Syria and will put no boots on the ground. Turkey, which has stood with NATO and the West for seven decades, will not let us use Turkish airbases for an air campaign against ISIS. President Erdogan of Turkey will not even talk to President Obama. Turkey has a 560 mile frontier with Syria. It is indefensible for much of its distance and smugglers travel easily through the mountains. 1,000 young Turks have joined ISIS. France, which has been supporting its allies in Africa, will not release bombs in Syria. Germany has said no. Poland remembers President Obama pulled the ABM defense out of Poland. Saudi Arabia and other Mideast countries are deathly afraid of ISIS, but they are also scared that their soldiers will not fight the Islamicists, but could well defect to them. The Saudis and others will not risk an armed confrontation unless they are convinced the United States will carry the war through to victory. President Obama and his Administration cannot even agree if it is a war. They will not follow someone who leads from the rear, assuming he is leading at all. Who will be in the lead? Sunnis? Shia? The world looks at President Obama’s proclaimed strategy of 1) no boots on the ground, 2) a unilateral pullout from Iraq and soon Afghanistan, 3) targeted air strikes, which Andrew J. Bacevich in a Los Angeles Times op-ed referred to as “Whack-a-Mole,” and 4) now his command that he must approve each air strike. Even the military brass foresees a failed strategy. The world sees a failed strategy. The American public sees a failed strategy. We remember that President Johnson’s White House had to approve the air strikes in Vietnam. We know how badly that worked out. The proclaimed “Most Brilliant man” in America, who has succeeded so well in economics, history, and religion, (“ISIL is not Islamic”) will now test his expertise in military science. This Administration is even reaching out to Iran for assistance, compounding one failed strategy on another failed strategy. The world knows President Obama provides MRE's and blankets to the Ukrainians fighting Russian aggression, but not the heavy arms they need. No "Shock and Awe," Just "Ah Shucks." The President orates and pontificates while IS, ISIS, ISIL seizes more towns and territory. Following from the rear with no confidence is not a strategy! President Barack Hussein Obama still lacks a plan, and the World knows it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Pulls a Quebec, but "What If"?

It appears as I blog at 9:00pm Pacific Time that Scotland has voted to remain in the United Kingdom by roughly 54-46%. Thus it is following the lead of Quebec over the past 50 years. Quebec is the successful outlier in Canada, a predominately French province in an Anglo country. An independence movement arose in the early 1960’s to the extent that the FLQ mounted a ten year campaign of terrorism beginning in 1963. Quebec felt isolated by the Ottawa government, but political accommodations were reached. Wiser heads prevailed and the people of Quebec in 1980 and again in 1995 (albeit by a narrow margin) rejected independence. Scotland has been formally part of the United Kingdom since 1707 following the 1706 Treaty of Union. The Scots often feel abused and isolated by London, but the reality is that they are fully assimilated in the UK while proudly holding on to their Scottish identity, heritage and culture. Two of the three most recent Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, are Scots. They have retained their separate legal system, religion, and education system under the Treaty of Union. Their Scottish Health System is also separate from the British Health System. The pro-independence Scots had the enthusiasm, the fervor, the boisterous rallies, but the NO voters represented the traditional conservatism of the Scots. They are the Silent Majority of Scotland. Let’s play though the “What If” Game. “What if” excites fervent imaginations. I remember a classic Saturday Night Live when the question was “What if Napoleon had the Bomb?” The skit showed the half-French Canadian Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi flying over Waterloo in a B 52. So what if Scotland voted to secede? The small country of 5.2 million would be initially isolated, but could quickly merge with their fellow Scots, the Ulstermen, of Northern Ireland to form the new country of Nor Scot or Ire Scot. Wales votes for independence, but has nowhere to go. The Parti Quebecois is reenergized with secession following. Quebec quickly joins France as an overseas territory. The French Foreign Legion replaces the Mounties in Quebec. Montreal is Frenchified. British Columbia and the Maritime Provinces join the United States to offset The Secession of the Republic of Texas with Louisiana also becoming a French Overseas Territory. The Shetland Islands, Orkneys, and Outer Hebrides secede from Scotland and remain in the United Kingdom, such that Great Britain will not change its official name and flag as it effectively becomes Lesser Britain. Sean Connery returns to his homeland while J. K. Rowling seeks asylum in England. The new country seizes the British nuclear fleet at Faslane and scuttles it. It reclaims its historic regiments to build a Scottish Army: The Black Watch, Gordon Highlanders, Camerorians, Scots Guards, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and Royal Scots, but Lesser Britain will boycott the world famous Edinburgh Tattoo. Oil is cut off to Lesser Britain. Mel Gibson receives Scottish Passport #1. Scotland’s new symbol is the Unicorn. Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, replaces the Pound Sterling. Gaelic is the national language. Alex Salmond proclaims himself the Laird of Scots. His picture is on all Nessies. Scotland continues to recognize the half-Scottish Queen Elizabeth II as its nominal head of state, but will have no part of Prince Charles, who is no Bonnie Prince Charles. Scotland Yard is renamed Scotless Yard. The Scottish Broadcasting Company (SBC) blocks the BBC. The SBC begins each night with readings from Sir Walter Scot, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J. M. Barrie, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Auld Lang Syne, played by Bagpipes, becomes the Scottish National Anthem and Burns’ Night a national holiday. (By way of full disclosure, my wife, Kathryne Anne Burns, is a descendant of Gilbert Burns, the brother of Robert Burns)

Monday, September 15, 2014

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Has a Major Problem: Professor Steven G. Salaita Will Not Go Away

Professor Steven G. Salaita was a tenured professor of English at Virginia Tech. He taught American literature. He signed a contract in October 2013 to become a tenured professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The contract's fine print provided the appointment was contingent upon approval by the Board of Trustees of The University of Illinois. Professor Salaita resigned his appointment at Virginia Tech, sold his home, moved his family to Urbana-Champaign, and prepared to teach his new classes beginning August 16 at a salary of $85,000. He was sufficiently agitated by the Israeli attack on Hamas and the Gaza population that he posted over 80 tweets in July and August. They were mostly anti-Israel, verging on anti-Semitic. Let’s start with his tweet on the three kidnapped, murdered Jewish teenagers: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not. … I wish all the fucking west bank settlers will go missing.” Here is a sample of the other tweets: “Israel justice: Kill Palestinians, become a hero. Investigate war crimes, get arrested. #Gaza#GazaUnderAttack.” “When will the attack on Gaza end? Who is left for Israelis to kill? This is the logic of genocide.” “Too much of the Israeli society is cheering the bloodletting in Gaza for me to make a firm distinction between the government and the people.” “Only Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim.” “Zionists take responsibility: If your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.” “Rednecks need a new slogan. Instead of ‘Kick their ass and take their gas,’ how about ‘#Gaza is a disaster, but Netanyahu is my master.”? “Zionist uplift in America; every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a murderous colonial regime. #Gaza” “Dear outraged Right Wingers You should know that in addition to opposing Zionism, I fully support the decolonization of North America.” “Let’s cut to the chase: if you’re defending #Israel right now, you’re an awful human being.” “Jeffrey Goldberg’s column should have ended at the point end of a shiv.” They continue ad naseum. UIUC Chancellor Phyliss Wise wrote Professor Salaita on August 1 informing him the contract had not been submitted to the Board of Regents. Therefore, he no longer had an appointment at UIUC. Professor Salaita thereby became a professor between two universities, with an appointment at neither. She wrote that she was concerned by the “abusive” nature of his tweets and the need for civility in the classroom. Professor Salaita committed a critical error in judgment. He resigned his existing professorship before getting a final contract on the new position. His second mistake was posting dozens of highly offensive tweets before securing his new appointment. Chancellor Wise made a critical error in judgment. She did not closely vet Professor Salaiti’s publications before tendering the contract letter. He published a commentary in Saloon Magazine in 2013, “No thanks: Stop Saying ‘”Support the Troops.’” Virginia Tech received great blowback from his article. The University defended his right to write those words, but disassociated the University from them. He has published six books, mostly dealing with Mideast problems. His 2011 book is entitled “Israel’s Dead Soul.” He publicly supports the boycott of Israel. He believes America is an imperial power. UIUC received dozens of letters and emails protesting his appointment. Some donors threatened to take their largesse elsewhere. The Chancellor has denied her decision was based on economic factors. Professor Salaita’s vitriolic words speak for themselves. He was spewing venom rather than engaged in a reasoned debate. Her fear is the effect he would have on students, especially Jewish students. Professor Salaita’s views are outside the mainstream of American public opinion. Americans support Israel. However, his views fall within today’s academic mainstream, especially in the humanities. Our professors are increasingly emulating the anti-Semitism of the European professors. Thus, he has received large support, both within UIUC and the greater Academy. Five UIUC academic departments have voted no confidence in the Chancellor. Thousands of professors have vowed to boycott UIUC. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has issued a statement in support of the Professor. Both Professor Salaita and Professor Ward Churchill stand condemned by their words. They probably would have been academically safe if they had kept their words within the academy, but they didn’t. Professor Salaita’s case is different from Ward Churchill, who was academically unqualified for his job and falsely passed himself off as Indian. Professor Salaita has a Ph.D. in Native American Studies from the University of Oklahoma. His published scholarship may be weak, but he has not engaged in academic misconduct. Both have the freedom to publish what they wish, but that does not guarantee a job. If I were to seek a position elsewhere, my blog would be fair game in the appointments process. Free speech does not guarantee a job you don’t have yet. Professor Salaita has apparently turned down a settlement offer from the University. He wants the professorship or a trial. Legal arguments can be made for the unemployed Professor Salaita. The first is one of estoppel. He relied to his detriment on the reasonable belief he had an appointment at UIUC because the practice of trustee approval after starting the position is normal in the profession. The second would be that Chancellor Wise had a good faith duty to forward the contract to the Board of Trustees for approval or denial, before deciding to cancel it without submission to the Board. She finally sent it forward to the Board, which then rejected his appointment on September 10. He might also claim academic freedom and First Amendment rights, but he hadn’t formally become an employee of the public university. He’s condemned by his words - not his thoughts.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Francis Scott Key and the Star Spangled Banner: The Rest of the Story

Tonight’s the night! The British shelling of Fort McHenry began at 7:00am two hundred years ago. Tonight's the night Baltimore celebrates the bicentennial of the American victory. Fireworks will be exploding in the sky. Francis Scott Key, a Washington and Maryland lawyer, was on a British warship watching the shelling through the night. He saw the large American flag, 30’ by 42’, flying over the Fort the next morning. The British fleet retreated in defeat. Key proceeded to pen a poem, the “Defense of Fort McHenry,” which became known as the Star Spangled banner. The poem was set to the music of “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a popular song. The Star Spangled Banner soared in popularity, and became the National Anthem on March 3, 1931. There’s much more to the story, “The Rest of the Story,” as Paul Harvey would say. The War of 1812 is rarely taught in American history. It’s viewed as a tie or draw with the status quo prevailing when the war ended. It was viewed as an unnecessary, unwanted war, especially in New England. That view is a gross mischaracterization. In spite of the individual victories of America’s frigates over their British counterparts, the British Navy controlled Chesapeake Bay for two years, mounting periodic raids against American towns and cities. The defeat of Napoleon provided the British the opportunity to dispatch their seasoned veterans to the American conflict. They routed an American force on August 24, 1814 in the Battle of Bladensburg, allowing the British to seize Washington, D. C. The British razed the public buildings, including the White House, purportedly in retaliation for the American’s torching of York (Toronto). The Redcoats then set their sights on Baltimore, which they despised because it was the center of the privateers preying on British merchant ships. The goal was to torch the city, all the city – both public and private. The city was protected by Fort McHenry, a five star shaped fortress situated on a spit, or point, sticking into the harbor. The Fort’s cannons had an effective range of 1½ miles. The Americans also chained 22 sunken ships into the passageway, further blocking the British fleet’s approach into the harbor. The British drew up a two pronged attack plan. The army, that defeated the Americans at Bladensburg, would approach by land under Major General Robert Ross, while the fleet under Vice Admiral Alexander Cochran would attack by sea. Major General Samuel Smith of the Maryland Militia was in charge of the Americans. He devised a defense in depth, establishing two defensive lines. 3,000 soldiers were sent to the outer line at North Point with orders to hold back the British as long as possible, and then orderly withdraw to the inner line. There would be no panicked retreat, unlike Bladensburg. The plan worked. The 4,500 exhausted British troops finally attacked the inner line, where over 10,000 Americans mowed them down. General Ross was killed at North Point. His successor lacked leadership ability. The defense of Baltimore was a precursor to General Andrew Jackson’s rout of the British at New Orleans four months later in January 1815. The British Navy’s attack similarly failed. Major George Armistead commanded about 1,000 soldiers and sailors at the Fort. The British sent thousands of bombs and rockets at Fort McHenry from 2 miles out. They were highly inaccurate, although one landed on a munitions bunker, but failed to explode. The names of General Smith and Major Armistead have been lost to popular history, whereas Francis Scott Key, a non-combatant, is known to all. Betsy Ross of The Revolutionary War is known to all for her flag, but Mary Pickersgill, who sewed the Fort McHenry flag, is known only in Baltimore. Francis Scott Key is an enigma. He was a highly successful, esteemed lawyer, but a lousy poet. He wrote doggerel all his life. Indeed, as we learnt as students at Francis Scott Key Elementary School in San Francisco, the Star Spangled banner has 4 stanzas. Only the first stanza is sung, for good reason. The fifth and sixth lines of the third stanza read: “No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.” His uncle and mentor was an officer in the British Army. Francis Scott key was a slave owner who, as United States Attorney in Washington, D.C. from 1833-1841, prosecuted abolitionists. Yet he represented slaves and free blacks in his private practice, often for free. He frequently sought judgments to free the clients. He was also one of the strongest advocates of letting freed slaves immigrate to “Liberia” in Africa. His grandson was interred in Fort McHenry during the Civil War as a southern sympathizer. His brother-in-law and close friend was Roger Taney, appointed Chief Justice by President Jackson. Chief Justice Roger Taney is immortalized in history as the author of the Dred Scott decision. Francis Scott Key’s second cousin, three generations removed, was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, better known as F. Scott Fitzgerald. The War of 1812 should be viewed as a major victory for America. No land changed hands, but it was not a draw. The fragile American Republic proved itself to the world. No longer would the British, French, or Spanish covet the lands of the United States. The American people needed the help of the French to win the Revolutionary War. The American people beat the British Navy, and especially the British Army, on their own in the War of 1812. The Americans defeated the greatest military in the world. British intervention might have helped the South during the Civil War, but the British remained neutral despite their sympathy with the South. Great Britain focused its empire building on India. Canada and the United States have maintained a peaceful border for 200 years. The American people began their 3,000 mile, manifest destiny expansion to the Pacific. They began by opening up the Midwest. They soon acquired Florida. The American people won the War of 1812.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

From Lawrence Phillips to Ray Rice:The Times, They Are A'Changing

Lawrence Phillips was an outstanding running back for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He was arrested during his junior year for assaulting Kate McEwen, his ex-girlfriend. “Assault” is an understatement. She was at a teammate’s apartment around 4:00am, when he pushed her into the bathroom, knocked her down, dragged her by her hair our of the apartment, and down three flights of stairs into the foyer. Her screams for help resulted in others pulling Phillips off her. (Thanks to Sport Illustrated Vault). Coach Tom Osborne initially kicked him off the team, but quickly changed it to an indefinite suspension. He sat out 6 games before reinstatement. Lawrence Phillips was one of the stars on the team. He gained 1,722 rushing yards during his sophomore season as Nebraska won the national title. He gained 165 yards on 25 carries in the Fiesta Bowl where #1 Nebraska trounced #2 Florida 62-24 to win a consecutive national title. Lawrence Phillips came from a troubled background, growing up in foster homes in Los Angeles. He had anger management issues. Coach Osborne, in what was a decision and statement of shame for The Coach and the University of Nebraska, said: “It’s not as though Lawrence is an angry young man all the time and a threat to society. But there are occasions every four to five months where he becomes a little explosive.” (Again, thanks to the Sports Illustrated Vault). Tom Osborne won a total of four national championships at Nebraska, was elected to Congress, and then became Nebraska’s Athletic Director. Kate McEwen was a 5’8’ forward on the Nebraska team. She had suffered a series of beatings by Phillips. Her basketball coach initially cancelled her scholarship in April, but subsequently reinstated it after a public outcry. Ms. McEwen received death threats. She decided not to play the next year. Lawrence Phillips turned pro after the Fiesta Bowl. He normally would have been the top pick in the draft, but five teams passed on him until the St. Louis Rams selected him as the sixth pick in the draft. His NFL and CFL career was highlighted by criminal problems. Lawrence Phillips was sentenced to 31 years in prison in California in 2009 for two incidents. In one he drove his car into three teenagers and in the other he attacked a former girlfriend. I used the Lawrence Phillips violence against Kate McEwen for several years in my Torts class as an example of tortious conduct, that was not always fully addressed by society. Both college and major league sports tolerated a culture of violence off the field and out of the arena, but law enforcement agencies began to rigorously enforce the law. Sexual assaults were prosecuted, as were batteries, robberies, DWI’s, and drug incidents. The mores of society were changing. Athletes were not as “privileged” or “entitled” as they were into the 1970’s. Yet the leagues did not react to domestic violence. Major League Baseball was probably the most oblivious. Commissioner Bud Selig, who could not see a steroid when it was waved in front of his face, also could not see a wife beater. Brett Miller pitched at Fenway Park 36 hours after being arrested for domestic violence. After a night of boozing, he dragged his wife by the hair and hit her. Bobby Cox was a long-time MLB manager, mostly with the Atlanta Braves. His wife, Pamela Cox, phone the police on May 9, 1995. She said he called her a “bitch,” hit her in the face, and pulled her by the hair. He was arrested for battery. It was apparently far from the first time. They subsequently held a press conference wherein she said everything was a misunderstanding. Bobby Cox was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York on July 27, 2014. Julio Lugo shoved his wife into a car in 2008 and played another 8 years in MLB. MLB took no action against any player or coach accused of domestic violence over 25 years. Let me add though that whether we call it “domestic violence,” “spousal abuse,” “violence against women,” or wife beating,” the problem is pervasive throughout society. Even police chiefs have been involved. Nor is it exclusively a matter of male violence against women, although that constitutes a majority of the incidents. Lawyers started using decades ago what was then called “the battered wife syndrome” as a form of self-defense. Governors often commuted prison sentences for women who showed they were the victims of domestic violence. Public mores have been changing. Domestic violence cases, once a low priority for law enforcement are now a high priority. My law school, Chapman Law School, offers a Domestic Violence Clinic in cooperation with the Anaheim Police Department. Sports though have been slow to respond. Winning is the priority, although many colleges in recent years have been quick to toss miscreants off their teams. Professional team owners recognize the fan base will tolerate off-field problems as long as the players win on the field. Ray Rice played for the Baltimore Ravens, as did Ray Lewis, who dodged a murder rap. Owners, as we learn from Donald Sterling, may also have issues of their own. Ray Rice, or more accurately, the Ray Rice videos have changed the picture. Social media may have an instant impact on public perception. Football is a game of violence, which explains much of its popularity. Whatever drives players, such as Ray Rice, Lawrence Phillips, Aaron Hernandez, or O.J. Simpson to excel on the field, may also drive their off-field behavior. Their fame served as a shield. The NFL is currently paying the price for its past inaction. Let’s see what MLB will do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today's Obama Speech Sounded Good, But .....

President Obama delivered a 15 month speech today, laying out his “strategy” for fighting ISIL It was the President Obama of 7 years ago, reading a speech with cadence and emotion – not the all too often perfunctory speeches since his election. His heart may actually be into it. He proposed attacking the financing of ISIL, combating their ideology, and stopping the inflow and outflow of militants to ISIL All these steps are for the good. And yet, he can’t confront reality. He still intends to withdraw from Afghanistan, thereby repeating the mistake in puling out of Iraq. He hasn’t learnt from his mistake. The Taliban have already reoccupied much of Afghanistan, and seem poised to seize the rest. Second, there will be no American boots on the ground, although he is dispatching another 375 service members to Iraq. He’s firm, but it sounds like the beginning of a poorly panned mission creep. He is relying on “a systematic campaign of air strikes” Third, he will be relying on existing Arab and Iraqi boots on the ground. The Iraqis proved an inability to fight to date. The Syrian opposition forces were bad-mouthed by the President in early August. He now expects them to suddenly, overnight become a solid fighting force. Most of ISIL tanks, APC’s, and heavy mortars were captured or obtained from the retreating Iraqis and the opposition forces. Fourth, he still refuses to use the terms “War on Terror,” “Islamic Terrorism,” “Radical Islam” or even “Islamic extremists.” Instead he said “The Islamic State” is not Islamic because “No religion condones the killing of innocents.” He is still in denial. He also did not say he would do “whatever” it will take to defeat and destroy ISIL He is proposing a “broad Coalition,” which will be substantially less than the coalition President George W. Bush. England has already said it will not engage in a bombing campaign in Syria. He had already blown off our special relationship with Great Britain. The understory is that much is expected of Turkey, which hitherto has been sympathetic to ISIL. ISIL captured Mosul on June 11. They took prisoner the Turkish Consul General, 18 staffers and their family members, and 18 Turkish Special Forces acting as security for the Consulate. ISIS is holding them hostage against hostile acts by Turkey. President Obama’s speech did not rally Congressional bipartisan support for his actions. He claims the power to do so unilaterally. He looked to Yemen and Somalia as examples of American strategy at work. He must not, once again, not reading or heeding the morning Presidential Briefs. Yemen and Somalia are terrorist ridden, failed nation states. Finally, the President has been substantially downgrading the American military. He did not request Congress to stop the diminution, much less enlarge the military. The President may have acquired talking points, but he still lacks a strategy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

President Obama Meets Today With the Leaders on the Hill: What Da?

President Obama is meeting today with Congressional Leaders: What will that tell us? How serious is he? President Obama’s priorities can be discerned by his schedule over the past 5½ years: 1) Campaign Fundraising 2) Golfing 3) Vacationing 4) Camp David 5) Sellfies 10) No Boots on the Ground 40) Meetings with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed 50) Meetings with House Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi 75) Smoozing members of Congress 85) Meeting individual members of Congress 95) Meeting with Republican leaders. His widely publicized golf match with Speaker Boehner a few years ago ended with the House Speaker prevailing on the links. 100) Meeting Congressional leaders And yet, there he is meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders. It must be important Or desperate! The question is he is serious, or is the President responding to falling poll numbers, which indicate he is out of touch with America’s security? Certainly his State Department is out of touch when Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesman for the State Department, gets into a spitting match with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who criticized her companion, Jen Psaki for lacking gravitas. She called O’Reilly’s conduct “sexist, personally offensive language.” The State Department has real problems. Starting a war with O’Reilly is a waste of time. The question for us is what will President Obama say. Will he really propose a broad action against ISIS, or will he stick to his language about targeted airstrikes, but with the Free Syrian Army providing boots on the ground. The Free Syrian Army is the ineffectual “army” that has turned over munitions to ISIS. Will he begin to stop Iran’s nuclear program? Will the President start using terms, such as “War on Terror” and “Islamic Terrorists,” or is he still in a state of denial?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Big Ten, Little 14, Looked Bad Saturday

Yesterday was not a good day for the Big Ten, also known as the Big. The Big Ten once had ten teams, then added Penn State to become 11. It was still the Big Ten. Nebraska joined for 12, but still the Big Ten. Maryland and Rutgers just entered the Big Ten, and under the new math 14=10, although the Big Ten sometimes calls itself The “Big.” Less is not more. You have to play big in football to be Big. Thank God for Maryland and Rutgers, The new members, thought to be patsies, at least know how to win in the creampuff pre-season. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State strayed from the script; they played established teams, and lost. Northwestern and Purdue also lost, to MAC teams, Northern Illinois and Central Michigan respectively. Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Penn State were unimpressive in barely winning. Nebraska, Penn State, and Wisconsin traditionally play creampuffs, so little can be discerned from their victories, unless they’re ugly. The Big was 8-5 yesterday, but none of its teams look like they want to compete in the Big Championship game, much less in Dallas for the national title. Michigan State held on for a half in Eugene against Oregon, but the Neon Day Glo Ducks then, as so often in the past, suddenly turned it up a notch, 46-27. The Spartans were as valiant as they were at Thermopylae 2,493 years ago. Michigan left its defensive line, injured defensive backs, kicking game, and offense at home. Notre Dame shut them out for the first time in 42 games, 31-0. The Wolverines were better than the score for a quarter. No chicken dance after this game. The Ohio State University Buckeyes lost at home to Virginia Tech 35-21. The Buckeye’s great QB, Braxton Miller, is out for the season, but Ohio State, as in 8 years ago against Florida for the national title, was unable to contain the Hokies’ quick defensive ends. Urban Meyer was the winning coach 8 years ago and the losing coach yesterday. What goes around comes around. How does it feel? Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State can still run the string. It won’t be Michigan, and probably not Ohio States. Mark D’Antonio’s job is secure at MSU, as it Urban Meyer’s at OSU. Not so Brady Hoke at Michigan. Fortunately, the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes are basketball powers. The Big is fast becoming a basketball conference. We can’t wait for December to come. The Nebraska Cornhuskers claim to fame this weekend is that they are treating an Ebola patient.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

We Already Have a Rapid Deployment Force

President Obama’s answer to the Russian threat to the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania is the creation of a 4,000 member rapid deployment force by NATO ready to deploy in 48 hours. The new proposal is a rapid deployment force of 10,000 with soldiers from Great Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Norway. Many of these would be fighting for their homeland, and thus not new deployments. Note carefully that President Obama has kept American troops out of the proposed force. He is adverse to putting American boots on the ground in any military action. 10,000 NATO soldiers would enter the threatened country within 48 hours. That is intended to deter Putin and the Red Army? Vladimir Putin, as he is swallowing up more of Ukraine, is hardy quaking in his boots. Obama’s proposal is but a PR stunt that has no meaning, a Potemkin Village, so to speak. The rapid deployment force would respond to a threat – in theory. By the time all the political leaders agreed to deploy the force, the Russian Army would have entered, and probably conquered, the country. NATO’s leaders lack the will to mount a fight with Russia. They also lack the military might, with the limited exception of the United States and France, to fight a land war in Europe. They have shrunk their militaries to sustain their welfare states. President Obama is congenitally opposed to boots on the ground, so we can assume that President Obama will be just as leery as European leaders to commit soldiers into a ground war in Europe. An American President whose only real response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is to send MRE’s to the Ukrainians is not about to dispatch American boots to Estonia. Yet, we already have a military unit ready to deploy a brigade within 18 hours and a battalion in 96 hours. 22 trucks are fully loaded and ready to go, with another 58 backing them up. It’s the fabled 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg. The 82nd’s equipment was depleted during the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, but it’s now up to full strength. The 82nd has been the rapid deployment force for decades. President Obama does not though propose using it for the Baltic republics. That’s all President Putin needs to know. President Obama is no more serious about defending the Baltic republics than he is about aiding Ukraine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Michigan-Notre Dame Football Rivalry Ends Tomorrow: Go Blue

A great rivalry between two comparable teams ends tomorrow. The University of Michigan and Notre Dame combine academic excellence, athletic success, and tradition as well as any American university. They have a nationwide following, illustrated by Notre Dame’s subway alumni. Michigan and Notre Dame have been playing football since 1887. Michigan leads the series 24-16-1, having won 3 of the past 4. The teams are 9-9-1 in South Bend. Ann Arbor is 130 miles from South Bend, but the two most successful college football teams often don’t know how to get from one to the other. Michigan-Ohio State is often considered the greatest college rivalry. It’s bitter, no-holds-bar ferocity, but the schools and teams have great respect for each other. Michigan-Michigan State is a great rivalry with Little Brother achieving preeminence in recent years. Michigan-Notre Dame is different. Too much hatred exists between the programs, going back a century when Michigan’s great coach Fielding Yost thought Notre Dame was cheating (7 year seniors). He vowed to never play Notre Dame again, and barred the Fighting Irish from membership in the predecessor to the Big Ten Conference. The two football programs went their own way, racking up victories and national titles, oblivious to each other – 130 miles apart. Each school claims 11 national titles, but Notre Dame has more in the post World War II era. Neither would have won as many titles or games if they had to play each other every year. Notre Dame has 7 Heisman winners and Michigan 3. Coaches with the names of Fiedling Yost, Fritz Crisler, Bo Schembecher, Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz graced the schools. The Victors and the Notre Dame Fight Song are two of the three greatest college fight songs. They met a few times during World War II, but then, but that was it for 3½ decades. Don Canham, Michigan’s Athletic Director, and Moose Krause, Notre Dame’s AD, were good friends and agreed in 1968 to resume the series. A contract was signed in 1969. Scheduling conflicts precluded playing every year and delayed resumption of the games until 1978. The Michigan-Notre Dame game became an instant rivalry. It was a natural. The game often served as a bellwether for the season. It was the most watched regular season college football game last year. The record since the resumption is 15-14-1, with Michigan in the lead. Regardless of the record, the games have usually been close, often decided in the last two minutes, and exciting. Both teams have struggled in the past decade, but even Rick Rodriguez’s Wolverines won 2 out of 3 over Notre Dame, as have Brady Hoke’s. The Michigan-Notre Dame contract had a three game cancellation clause in it. Notre Dame’s AD, Jack Swahbrick, delivered a letter to Michigan’s AD, David Brandon, before the September 25, 2012 kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium. AD Brandon opened it after the game, and saw that Notre dame was giving its three game notice to cancel the series. The last game therefore will be played tomorrow in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus. The notice was legal, but tacky. One assumes that neither Father Hesburgh nor Father Joyce would have sanctioned such a notice. Notre Dame further poisoned the well on Thursday. It announced a two game home and home with Ohio State in 2022 and 2023. One unknown is that five Notre Dame players, including starters, are currently on suspension. Academic improprieties are in issue. I am cynical enough to not be surprised to see reinstatements before Saturday’s kickoff. Notre Dame also reduced the 116 year rivalry with Michigan State, but retained the annual game with Purdue. The Spartans have won 10 of the past 17 games. One has the impression, as Michigan’s Coach Brady Hoke said, Notre Dame is chickening out. The Big House loudspeakers at the end of Michigan’s 41-30 win last year blared out The Chicken Dance. The regular season rivalry is over. Perhaps in a playoff game, but it won’t be the same. The Michigan Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will go back to much of the 20th Century. They will ignore each other. Go blue, and I usually would not out this phrase in writing: POTFI!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Drone Wars Over Disneyland?

Drone Wars, Dueling Drones Over Disneyland? Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Disney have announced forays into drones. Where is Apple? Apple already has Cloud problems. Amazon unveiled Prime Air, a proposed drone delivery system that could deliver a package within 30 minutes. The last company to guarantee 30 minute delivery was Dominos. That resulted in speeding drivers, accidents, and liability. Amazon is seeking a permit to test its system. BP has received a permit to fly drones over Alaska.It will air out its underwater technology. Google showed the world Project Wing and Project Loon. A drone delivering articles to a Queensland, Australia down a 200’ fishing line appears on a Project Wing video. The drones would also be able to provide a real time, continuous report on a disaster as well as providing relief. Facebook wants to use drones, satellites, and infrared lasers to beam internet connections to earth. Its scientists are studying the possibility though the “Facebook Interconnectivity Lab.” You will have friends in high places. Google wants to accomplish the same goal through Project Loon - an interconnected network of balloons flying 20 kilometers over the earth surface. The purpose is to deliver internet services to rural areas. In a battle over airspace a laser can beat a balloon any time. Disney has applied for three patents for drones. One is for an aerial display system with floating pixels (flixels). Walt Disney gave us animatronics. Bob Iger will bestow dronatronics on the world. The other patents would be for aerial projectors for nighttime displays and aerial marionettes and puppets. Let’s bring the patent wars, and the patent trollers, to the clouds. “Look Up in the sky It’s a bird It’s a plane It’s a flying flixel.” Disneyland’s Dueling Drones will feature flixel battles between good and evil, perhaps dodging Amazon, Facebook, and Google drones in the crowded skies, unless Disneyland becomes a no drone zone for non-Disney drones. Wouldn’t it be great to watch a High Noon shootout between the drones? No more “Cars” and its sequels. Larry the Cable Guy will be out of a stitch because cable will be grounded. Now we will watch “Drones” with drone sequels, which will drone on and on and on and on. The skies would be crowded with drones. Accidents, headons, rear ends, near misses, crashes, DWI’s (droning while intoxicated), drone jams, and droning without a license, are inevitable. Drone codes and drone police will patrol the sky with drone patrols. Then comes drone hackers and terrorists skyjacking drones. Also drug loads flying drone drugs into the country. We will have mini drones and maxi drones, all competing for parking spaces at the aerodrone. The skies will be flooded with drones, perhaps blocking the sun’s solar energy. Then come the toymakers with toy drones, baby drones, Barbie and Ken drones. Yet, none of this may come to pass. The federal bureaucracy is studying the issue. The FAA controls the airspace while NASA at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley is devising a drone traffic control system, complete with “no drone” zones. Imagine a century ago if federal bureaucrats controlled the emerging automobile and airline industries. We would still be riding bicycles and horses. Where is Apple?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day 2014: Solidarity Ain't What It Used To Be

Happy Labor Day: Democratic Solidarity Forever (?) Labor Day 6 of the Obama Administration: How is the solidarity? Labor Day, September 1, 2014 appears normal. Democratic politicians have breakfast, lunch, dinner, BBQ’s and rallies at union events, reaffirming Big Labor as one of the foundations of the modern Democratic Party coalition, going back to FDR and the New Deal. The unions traditionally provided large sums of money, phone banks, and the foot soldiers in the get out the vote efforts. President Obama was in Milwaukee today and Vice President Biden in Detroit. The UAW owes the President big time. The President’s speech today was like so many of his other speeches; it was for show. The marriage is fraying. The unionized percent of the private sector is down to 6.5%. The percent will continue to shrink with Indiana and Michigan becoming right to work states. A few other Frost Belt states may join the ranks, depending on h November elections Not only is the traditional industrial base of the union movement shrinking due to globalization and right to work statutes, but also because of actions by the Obama Administration. The President has sacrificed construction jobs to the environmentalists on the Keystone Pipeline. He is also trying to totally eliminate the American coal industry, unionized and non-unionized. The once-powerful United Mine Workers is toast to the Obama Administration. The union power now rests with the public sector employees, who have a 35% penetration rate in the public sector. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) straddles the public sector and the private sector, often in low paying service jobs. SEIU has about 1.9 million members. Mary Kay Harris, its president, flew on Air Force One today with the President. President Obama showboats for the union movement by seeking a raise in the minimum wage, calling it a living wage. Many heavily unionized cities and blue states have raised the minimum wage. Unions support an increase in the minimum wage because it allows them to seek wage increases above the minimum. The rhetoric ignores the reality that raising he minimum wage decreases employment, especially African American teenage employment in the cities. The unions seem oblivious to the fact that the Administration’s tolerance of open borders and the granting of amnesty substantially increases the unskilled work force, resulting in a downward pressure on wages. One ray of light exists for the unions in the Obama Administration. The National Labor Relations Board, stacked with Obama appointees, is attempting to fundamentally change labor law for fast food employees at the urging of the SEIU. The NLRB General Counsel announced on July 29 that he would allow the filing of grievances against McDonald’s for alleged unfair labor practices by the company’s franchises. He held McDonald’s was a joint employer with its franchises, and hence could be jointly liable for their employment misdeeds. The ruling defies decades of labor law and the fundamental principles of corporation law. A franchise is an independent corporation not owned or controlled by the franchisor. This NLRB will probably approve the holding on a 3-2 vote, at which point it goes into the judicial system. This too is for show.