Thursday, January 29, 2015

Preet! Preet! Preet!

“We simply want people in high office to stop violating the law...People elected to make laws should not be breaking them.”

Phew, Lots of goings on in state politics New York in the last week. Last Friday, the citizens of my fair state woke to photos splashed all over the papers of Sheldon Silver, venerable and all-powerful Speaker of the Assembly, being led away in handcuffs. Thanks to the investigation headed by the US Attorney of the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara who took up the gauntlet when it was abuptly dropped by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mr. Silver has been charged with five counts of crimes against of the citizens of New York including allegedly "us[ing] the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars masked as legitimate income a private lawyer" and "knowingly did combine, conspire, willfully and knowingly obstruct, delay, and affect in any way and degree extortion..."

In his press conference after the Silver arrest, Bharara ended with this:
"These charges in our view go to the very core of what ails Albany: lack of transparency, lack of accountability, and lack of principle — joined with overabundance of greed, cronyism, and self-dealing. But we will keep at it. As our unfinished fight against public corruption continues, you should stay tuned."
Silver was elected to the state assembly to represent lower Manhattan in 1977 and proceeded to gain more and more power and influence culminating in his appointment as Speaker of the Assembly in 1994 and a position he has held for 20 years until this week. Mr. Silver has spent his time in the Assembly gaining more and more power until he is now the most influencial Democrat in the state of New York. He has also spent his time making himself a very wealthy man. While serving as our esteemed Speaker, he has also been on the payroll of one the most influential and powerful plaintiff products liablility law firms in the state. Though he diligently reported some of the millions he was paid by this firm on his mandated yearly disclosure forms, he refused to answer questions as to what he did to earn his millions claiming that it would compromise his "client/attorney" privilege to divulge that information. This is important in that a simple docket search yielded only one case in which Mr. Silver was listed as the attorney of record. Oh, and this is kind of important too - he has spent much time blocking any kind of tort reform legislation in the state.

As I have written about before, we have a problem with "ethics" in our state legislature. So much of a problem that 22 elected officials have been indicted, tried, and jailed in the last 10 years and a Governor who was forced to resigned because of his taste for transporting prostitutes across state line for the purpose of...well, I don't really have to spell it out, do I? This is where Governor Cuomo's problems enter in. When Cuomo was elected as our governor, he promised to clean up Albany. It took him a while, but in early 2014, Cuomo invoked his governorly duties by appointing a commission of hand-picked members to investigate the ethics and corruption in our state government. The Moreland Commission, as it was called began diligently investigating any allegations of unethical behavior and asking questions, lots of questions. However, when their investigation began to close in on Speaker Silver with multiple subpoenaes, and little too close to the Governors office, Governor Cuomo abruptly quashed the Commission. His public excuse was that he had stuck some vague deal with Mr. Silver and the Legislature that they would pass new ethics laws real soon. Interestingly, Cuomo quashed his own commission right before the 2014 general elections.

Well, this came to the attention of our intrepid US Attorney Preet Bharara who smelled a rat. He asked the Commission to turn over all their files to his office which they did and his office started their own investigation. During their investigation, they discovered that not only was Mr. Silver on the payroll of one highly influencial law firm, he also had not disclose that he was kicking back a "finders fee" to a prominent Oncologist to direct his patients to the law firm. And this prominent Oncologist was awarded $500,000 in research grants from the taxpayers awarded by the very generous...Mr. Silver. What a coikidink! Then it was discovered during the investigation that Mr. Silver had failed to disclose more millions that he was paid by another law firm. This firm was an influencial real estate that brokered real estate transaction that came with huge tax rebates from the state. Transactions that were directed to the law firm by...Mr. Silver. Oops, but it was just a clerical, he just forgot about those millions.

Silver isn't going down without a fight. While in closed meetings with his fellow Assembly Democrats this week he tried his hardest to make a deal that he wouldn't have to actually resign, but maybe just appoint a 5-person "committee" of hand-picked cronies who could just take over temporarily until he could be fully exonerated of all of the scurrilous charges and resume his powerful post. That did not fly so well and he has been forced to resign his post effective Monday.

Preet Bharara did not file these charges lightly and he knows what he is doing. And if he is successful which I have every confidence he will be, Silver will most likely go to prison and hopefully lose his state funded pension and Governor Cuomo will have to answer questions as to what he knew about all of this, when he knew about it and why he disbanded his own Commission when it was obvious what Mr. Silver had been up to all these years. Bharara has indicated to a very nervous Albany that he has "a number of public corruption investigations going on", so stay tuned.
[+]

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Thoughts On Romney's "Run"

For a few weeks now, the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney is running for the 2016 nomination. Not surprisingly, that raises a huge number of thoughts in my mind. Here goes...

● He’s Not Actually Running: My first thought upon hearing the news was that he’s not actually running. His wife seemed surprised by the idea and made it clear she won’t agree to another run; and I don’t see her changing her mind, not after the very firm stance she took. Romney will not ruin his marriage over this fool’s errand.

Moreover, Romney hasn’t done any of the intense effort it takes to be a viable candidate, e.g. fundraising, speeches, creating an agenda, door to door greetings, assembling of local, statewide and national teams, etc. With his prior Boy-Scout-like preparation efforts, this screams out that he’s not running.

“Ah hah! But don’t you see, Andrew?!!” scream the ideologues. “That’s the clever part! This is his shot at vengeance... he doesn’t care if he wins so long as he stops the Bush family from running again.”

//shakes head.

Look, I know the conventional wisdom storyline (Fox presented it all weekend): obsessively hating the Bush family, Romney decides to jump into the race to throw the election to someone other than Bush! Huzza! And with everyone knowing that Romney is obsessed and only cares about stopping Bush, the theory continues that we can dismiss things like his lack of a legitimate organization. Indeed, to the twisted contrary, his lack of preparation becomes self-serving proof of his obsession and his plan to run.

But that’s garbage.

First, this doesn’t fit his personality. Romney is not a guy who acts emotionally, and he lacks the Machiavellian instincts that would let him try to harm another person. Nor has there ever been any indication of any sort of obsession in his personality.

Secondly, to make even a fake run will require something like $100 million. There is no evidence anywhere that Romney would be willing to spend that kind of money just to tweak the son of someone he dislikes.

Third, even a fake run requires basic campaigning, which means subjecting Romney and his family to a death-march level of travel, appearances, meetings, speeches, dinners, etc. This could destroy his family. Would he do that just to tweak some guy?

Forget it. The onlyTHE ONLY reason Romney would run would be that he honestly thinks he can win, and he knows that’s not happening. Why? Read on.

● America Hates Losers: With America’s obsession with winners, Romney has no chance. Basically, when you fight in some sort of head to head competition, America judges you on the outcome. Win and you can do no wrong so long as you keep winning. But lose and you are shunned and pushed aside for the next best thing. Indeed, ask the Super Bowl losers, each of whom are forgotten, having been dismissed as the biggest loser of the year, even if they dominated the league until a last second dramatic loss in the Super Bowl itself. This is no different.

When politicians lose the big one, they are finished. They aren’t given a second shot at the nomination. They may get a cushy job on Crossfire or they may become respected elder statesmen and are slowly ushered off to pasture, but no one on their side wants to fight the powerful American impulse to write them off as losers. Why pick a candidate who faces such an uphill struggle before even saying a word? That’s just not smart.

● Why Else Would Romney “Run”: So if Romney isn’t running, what is he doing? He could just be trying to raise his status again now that the election is upon us. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was all followed by a surprise book. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he’s just messing with the media.

● Finally, Would I Support Romney?: Absolutely, but there are caveats here. Despite my initial misgivings about Romney, it soon struck me that he could very possibly be the genuine Reagan II. His lose was a true lose to the country and the cause of conservatism. So I would wholeheartedly support getting him into the White House. That said, however, being a prior loser is just such a huge burden to overcome that I simply don’t think he can win. So, to me, it makes no sense to back him.

[+]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow-maggedon Day!

For days we have been preparing for the blizzard of the decade. Even as I write, I received an alert on my smartphone warning that the all non-emergency vehicles must be off the roads by 11pm tonight until further notice. All public transportation began shutting down at 8pm and as of one minute ago, the bridges and tunnels have been shut down until further notice. The snow is expected to continue throughout the night and accumulate to up to 33 inches in Manhattan.

As always happens with pending disasters in NYC, throughout the weekend, the lines at the grocery stores have been around the block and all of the shelves have been emptied of bread and milk [though I did score a 1/2 gallon of 2% at the last minute! Woo-hoo!]. Don't get me wrong, I take these things very seriously as we all should, but one would think that we are the Donner Party preparing to be stranded in the wilderness for months. I expect from the way people are reacting in NYC, that if we are not fully supplied with a pantry full of sugary (or savory) snacks at the ready, there will be city-wide acts of cannibalism by noon tomorrow!

And can someone explain to me why one needs to buy gallons of bottled water for a snow event when a) the water is still flowing right out of the tap (just fill up a few pots if you feel you need it); and b) isn't snow made of frozen water that melts into liquid water? Okay, okay, I am sounding like a Manhattan-ite and an urban snob who lives in an apartment building. I realize that outside of Manhattan, the chances of a power outages especially on Long Island where the power lines are above ground are almost certain, but come on.

So that we can all not panic too much, here are few tips to be prepared and things you should have done by now:

1. Power up all the electronics now. If you have an external battery supply make sure that is powered up too.
2. Make sure the flashlights and emergency radios have batteries
3. Make sure you have enough of any medications
4. Fill up your car and any generators with the appropriate fuel.
5. Bring your pets inside!
5. Check on elderly or disabled neighbors and make sure they have what they need.
6. If you have babies or other children...well, you know what to do.
7. Other stuff I can't think of right now

By the way, if you have a smartphone, you can get alerts through your local and state emergency preparedness office. It find it is very handy.

So, while I hunker down preparing to fight off cannibals, snow-zombies, and certain starvation, let me know how you prepare for emergencies.

As an aside: You will not hear me say this often, but Mayor de Blasio is handling this really well. He has taken control and made the decisions that are appropriate in shutting the ;ublic transportation, streets, bridges and tunnels down to all but emergency vehicles. It proves he can learn.

Another aside: On Thursday, I will fill you all in on Sheldon Silver, Speaker of our state Assembly who is the newest entry on the long list of arrested/indicted/convicted/incarcerated New York State elected officials and how Governor Cuomo may be next on the list...
[+]

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fox (Not-So)News

When you’re in a hospital, your choices typically become limited. Indeed, most of your options will tend to come from the mass market, generic side of things. That’s how I found myself watching Fox News again for the first time in a very long time, because that is what was being offered. I found the experience depressing. Apparently, the good people at Fox are trapped in a bubble that has them reliving 2010 all over again.

The show opened with the anchorettes pulling their skirts up another three inches and the boy anchors practicing their outraged faces... grrr... grrr! They immediately dove into the vital stories of the day:
● Why does Hollywood hate a genuine American film like American Sniper, whaled the anchor! (I guess being nominated for Best Picture is evidence of hate?). A panel was introduced and they all accused Hollywood of anti-American and anti-military bias, but provided no support for these assertions other than their supposed “hatred” for films like this... again, no support was offered. Then they finished by bizarrely telling us that “this the type of film Hollywood and its liberal base” won’t make... even though they did make the film and even nominated it for big awards.

● Like lightening, we suddenly switched to the “story” of a bright young GOP presidential candidate named Marco Rubio. The whole story entailed Charles Krauthammer stating on another Fox show that he guesses Rubio has a 30% of being the nominee. That was the whole story.

● Next, they told us the GOP has a new plan to stop ISIS, and since Obama hasn’t jumped on board this plan within the first few days, the talking heads became outraged that “Obama just won’t do anything to stop ISIS!” They then bolstered their opinions by noting that Obama promises to close Gitmo, a promise he first made a decade ago and has repeated every year since.... and never did anything about.

● Then they turn to the smugrage of the day. Apparently, some school lunch server sent a nasty note to the parent of a child over the contents of the child’s lunch. What prompted this was the massive amount of junk in the lunch. Fox, however, presented this differently. First, they noted that the parent is a doctor, as if that puts them beyond reproach rather than increasing the reproach for the horrible lunch. Then the anchor looked at the obviously obese child and he announced: “You look healthy.” Really? He then asked if she ate this every day, which she said she did, and he declared that it looked delicious. He finished by expressing his outrage that a school official would tell a parent that their fat-inducing lunch, which is unacceptable under school policies, would dare say such a thing!

● Finally, we came to Romney. A panel was called to discuss what his run could mean. They never really talked about him though. Instead, this group concluded that this represented a rare moment for conservative Republicans... yep. See, Romney, Christie and Bush will split the “powerful moderate vote” three ways, allowing a genuine conservative like Rubio to “finally” give “conservative a voice.”

Interestingly, they seemed to assume a world in which conservatives have never had a way to get moderates to listen to them... as if the Tea Party or Religious Right or Goldwater or Reagan or Newt never existed.
What really struck me watching this half hour of Fox News was how completely blind they have been to the last ten years. Their analysis basically assumes there was never a Tea Party and they recommend that conservatives band together to rise up and take over the party, as if the last election wasn’t the undoing of that very thing. And didn’t Rubio rise and then explode on the fickle shores of genuineness?

Even more, though, it struck me that Fox is trapped in the petty politics of the past. These same stories first appeared on Fox in similar forms almost ten years ago. What’s more, look at the utter lack of news value to any of these. Some lunch lady sent a nasty note. So what? How does that affect anyone other than those two people? Should we designate Rubio as the frontrunner based on the opinion of one of our anchors? Talk about fabricating stories. So the party is dominated by moderates who only lose when they split the vote three ways, yet Fox asserts that the public wants conservatism?

This is the most tired of tired scripts. I almost expected stories related to Clinton’s infidelities, White Water, and the response to the OJ verdict. This is what a worn out propagandists looks like... not a news service.
[+]

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Laughter is The Best Medicine Caption Contest!!!

Okay, our leader is in pain and needs our help. As medical science has proven over and over, laughter is the best medicine, so it's a good day for....drum roll, please...a Caption Contest! This is an emergency, CommentaramaPeeps, so get those funnybones in gear STAT!

No one can really say why someone did this, but they did and it is sorely in need of a caption:

Let me get us started with this one:

Pardon me boys, is that the carp who ate the choo-choo?

If this doesn't work I may have to break out the really hard core stuff - videos of puppies and kittens doing cute stuff. If that doesn't work, well, I may just have to resort resort to baby penguins! I mean it. You better make this work or I will break out Cookie the Penguin, people! Oh, heck, here is Cookie anyway...who can resist a giggling penguin.

Hopefully, it will be a slow news day and we can have some fun. But if anything comes up, please feel free to change the subject...
[+]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SOTU #7 - Open Thread

“My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”

- President Barack Obama

Tonight we will hear the 7th State of Union Address from our President. And for the alst few weeks, he has been traveling around some of those 57 states trying to sell his 7th year agenda which interestingly does not seem to involve the new Republican-led Congress much. Let's see, from the site "teasers", we can expect some of the following:

1. The overwhelming success of Obamacare;
2. The success of the economic recovery (the website touts the biggest recovery since the 1990's with a chart and all!);
3. Something about free Community College for all;
4. Raising taxes on the rich and giving tax breaks to the middle class;
5. Something about "Wall Street";
6. Introducing all the guests of First Lady Michelle, most of whom will be Obamacare success stories;
7. Something about "he hopes he has the opportunity to work with the new Congress...yada, yada, yada";
8. And all of the executive actions he will sign when he can't work with Congress;
9. Univeral high speed internet and Net Neutrality (which I still don't understand);
10. More free stuff he wants to give to the American people;
11. How the world is a much safer place since 2009;
12. Ending the War in Afghanistan (you know that happened, right?);
13. How hard he will work to work with Congress to pass comprehensive Immigration legislation (or if not, by more executive orders);
14. Easing relations with Cuba;

Stuff he probably won't mention -
1. Global terrorism, though I expect he will say something about the recent "workplace violence" in Paris;
2. Ebola;
3. The $18 trillion debt which has grown from $10.5 trillion in 7 years;
4. How much he is looking forward to working with the new leadership in Congress.

So until the fun starts at 9:00pm ET, please feel free to add to either list or to expound on anything that might interest cricket or the latest episode of "Downton Abbey" (really, what is Lady Mary up to?)...
[+]

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Martin Luther King Jr. On His Birthday

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929. On Monday, we observe a federal holiday dedicated to Dr. King, but on his real birthday, let's take a moment to observe his words. Let us celebrate how far we have come and remind ourselves how far we all still need to go to make a better world for all people.

At the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave this immortal speech before 250,000 people while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial...
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi -- from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring -- when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children -- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics -- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

[+]

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You Are Not Charlie

Three thoughts today that have come to bother me lately.

(1) Je suis Charlie. You may have noticed dozens of celebrities lately wearing buttons or designer t-shirts with the French phrase “Je suis Charlie” upon them. Translated, this phrase means: I am Charlie. And the idea in wearing this phrase is to show the world that the wearing celebrity supports the French newspaper and its staff who were brutally assassinated by Islamic extremists last week. This bothers me. Why?

Because there is an intense egotistical, self-centeredness to this phrase, which lets the wearer inject themselves into the event in a way that never happened. Indeed, rather than just stating their support for one side or the other, this phrase goes further and suggests that the attack was an attack on the celebrity themselves... as if this had been an issue dear to the heart of the celebrity and that they themselves were involved in it to such a degree that they too share the same or similar danger/risk as the victims because of their pursuit of this cause.

Yet, this is bunk. These celebrities never were involved in this issue. They weren’t there on that fateful date. They never supported this newspaper or its mission publicly before this. They never once showed an ounce of courage against these killers. They never even took their own opportunities to make bold statements of a similar nature – to the contrary, these cowardly celebrities typically condemned the paper and others like it for being “provocative” to Islam. But suddenly, through the wearing of the one button, they are not only claiming that they support Charlie’s mission, but that they are part of it. Bullsh*t.

Even worse, many of these cowards are calling each other “brave” for taking this very easy stand.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking that I’m splitting hairs, but this really does bother me. It is one thing to state support, it is quite another to claim a similar status. Indeed, consider this: if a mother loses a child, would it be appropriate for me to wear a button saying this was my child too or does that not seem that I am injecting myself too personally into something where I have no right to claim to speak for that level of intimacy with the event. And then to act that this is brave when the celebrity has done nothing more than wear a mass produced button shows a blindness to the difference between taking a stand and cynically wanting the world to think you took a stand.

Further, there has been a fascinating related story making the rounds. Lots of liberals are suddenly upset at a new McDonald’s commercial in which the company shows sign after sign where franchises put up signs of support for various tragedies and outrages, everything from the simple “We support our troops” to well wishes for Katrina victims to signs related to 9/11. These liberals are upset that McDonalds is “exploiting” these events to sell products. Yet, at the same time, they think it’s brave for their fellow actors to wear “Je suis Charlie” signs to up their publicity quotient, even as they have never once done anything to defend freedom of speech or freedom of worship against Islamic extremism.

How hypocritical is that? McDonalds actually puts its money where its mouth is by donating money, goods and time, by letting soldiers eat free, through the Ronald McDonald House, etc. These celebrities by comparison have done nothing... or have even been on the wrong side. How twisted is it to see the fake and false “Je suis Charlie” button as courageous, but then to condemn the McDonald’s commercial as exploitive. That’s bunk.

(2) Raising Breast Cancer Awareness. A similar issue involves the delusional, self-centered idea of “raising awareness” of breast cancer (or other causes). Millions of people get together each year to do things they enjoy, like holding dinners or participating in charity walks, and they do them in the name of “raising awareness” so that they feel they have done something special. But they haven’t.

Seriously, is there anyone who needs their awareness of breast cancer or AIDS or homelessness raised? Does anyone not know what these things are? And if there is, will some schlub walking through a park actually give them the knowledge they are missing? Hardly.

Sometimes these events are connected to fundraising, which is a valid (i.e. useful) form of charity, but many are not. Many simply traffic in the delusional idea that the participant has done something worthy of praise merely by seeking to “raise awareness.” This is pathetic. It is again this self-centered impulse to inject oneself into a tragedy and to demand praise for working to solve the problem, when the reality is that all the person did was wear a ribbon or button that changed nothing. It is pure arrogance to draw attention to yourself as somehow having worked to fix something when all you did was have a good time which resulted in zero positive effects toward solving the problem.

(3) Carving Trees Is Not Cool. Finally, in a related note, there is a commercial that just makes my hypocrisy radar explode. The entire premise of the commercial is about two people going into the woods to find a tree upon which they carved their initials when they first fell in love. The idea is to revel in how cute and romantic a gesture this is and how happy it makes them to revisit what they did years later... as they enjoy the product (some granola snack) of course.

What bugs me here is that at the bottom of the screen, these good liberals commercial makers write the following: “Carving trees is not cool.”

See why I’m annoyed? Here you have liberals lecturing us that we should not be carving anything into trees because that is morally wrong. Yet, at the same time, they are using the romanticism of carving your initials into a tree to sell their product. This is just like Hollywood telling us that guns are evil but then using gun violence to sell their films... or claiming to support freedom of expression against Islamic terrorism when the same people will turn around and lecture us on being “provocative” by using that freedom of speech... or condemning McDonalds for showing its signs of support while calling celebrities brave for wearing buttons that serve the exact same purpose as those McDonald’s signs.

[+]

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

More News About Healthcare...

So, remember when our entire healthcare system was overhauled so that everyone could finally benefit from "preventative care"? Legislation was passed to require that all of our health insurance policies would provide "free" annual exams because it would make us all healthier and would be less costly with all that early detection and stuff. Well, if you do, then this ought to interest you...

Perhaps you remember Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, He is the brother of current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who was also the former Chief of Staff to President Obama. And you may remember that Dr. Emanuel was one of the chief advisers who helped create the "Affordable Care Act" that would ovehaul our entire healthcare system. As part of the grand overhaul, it requires that said "free" annual exams would be provided by physicians and insurance companies at "no cost" to the patient.

Well, now Dr. Emanuel (brother of Rahm) has just offered his opinion that all those preventive exams are, in fact, a load of bunk. In his latest Op/Ed piece in the New York Times from Friday - Skip Your Annual Physical, he pretty much spells out how research shows that annual exams do nothing to help uncover or prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease or other chronic diseases. Instead of people dying in the streets for lack of available and adequate preventative care for which we just overhauled our entire healthcare system to correct, it turns out that two of the top "leading causes of death in Americans" are "uintentional injuries and suicides". So all of those routine tests that doctors put you through in those annual exams have no benefit except in the rare occasion that some underlying condition just happens to be discovered by accident. Yeah, you are more likely to die by accident that to have some disease diagnosed by accident.

Here is what he writes -

"Regardless of which screenings and tests were administered, studies of annual health exams dating from 1963 to 1999 show that the annual physicals did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease. And the checkups consume billions, although no one is sure exactly how many billions because of the challenge of measuring the additional screenings and follow-up tests."

Of course, like when they said doctors just did toncillectomies to increase revenue, according to Dr. Emanuel, they also have been pushing the whole bogus preventative care thing too. But as I recall (and correct me if I am wrong) we were told repeatedly by the pro-ACA'ers that if only everyone could get all those "preventative care" exams, then no one would ever need real healthcare again because doctors would catch all those expensive diseases and conditions before they became really expensive diseases and conditions and we would all be much healthier and happier and the Earth would begin to heal and Peace would break out and...oh, wait that was something else.

Anyway, so where before we had insurance that did not cover "preventative care" like "wellness" visits and gym memberships, it did cover much less likely catastrophic events like broken bones, cancer treatments and chronic illnesse. Now we are forced to pay for insurance mandated by the US Government that will fully cover worthless "preventative care", but barely cover the less likely really bad stuff. Help me to understand why anyone ever thought this was a good idea.
[+]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ha Ha Ha Harvard

Wow. Sometimes, it takes the eggheads a long time to catch up to what the rest of us already realize. This seems to be the case with the good liberals at Harvard, who are shocked that Obamacare is going to cost them more. Read these complaints and laugh that a supposedly super-intelligent person could only now be getting this...

The background is this. Harvard has decided that it will make its professors and staff pay more toward their own healthcare because of the changes Obamacare has caused. Not only did many of these same professors advocate for Obamacare, but some even helped draft it. Harvard economist David Cutler, for example, advised Obama on the law in 2008. He now notes that while Harvard remains a very generous employer, the school’s professorial ranks have so far avoided being asked to pick up the added costs Obamacare has imposed... until now.

Others are less sanguine about this.

Harvard Professor of classics, specifically Virgil, Richard Thomas slammed the higher fees he will be paying, calling them “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”

Wow. Ok, let’s start with that. For a highly paid Ivy League college professor to whine about higher costs being “regressive” is delusional. Costs are regressive when they are imposed on poor and middle class people, not people earning six figures and more. Did old Dick not realize when he and his rich friends pimped for this that the heaviest burden would fall on the middle class? Does this 1%er not realize that the rest of us have no sympathy for the tiny percentage increase he needs to bear when the rest of us have been ordered to pony up 20% of our incomes to satisfy his need to feel generous? A-hole.

As for the corporatization of the university, what did old Dick expect? His buddy Obama created a law that handed vast amounts of power to health insurance companies. In so doing, it slaughtered the freedoms of consumers, of doctors, and of hospitals. Should we really feel bad that Harvard has decided to act “more corporate” by passing along costs that Dick and his buds forced onto Harvard and the rest of the nation’s employers?

Mary “Dirty Froggy” Lewis, a professor of French history, has taken the lead against the cost increases, calling them “a salary reduction.” Le shock! Did she not understand that would be the effect when she and her buds imposed this law on the rest of working America?

She goes further too, noting that “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.” Uh, yeah. Was this unclear when you passed this? This law results in a massive monthly pay cut and then, to protect the vested corporate interests, forces you to pony up cold hard cash to meet your deductibles and out of pocket limits right at the point where you get sick. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, and it absolutely shouldn’t outrage the people who pimped for this.

Mary “Still, But Not Deep” Waters, a professor of sociology... whatever that really is, whined: “It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people,” and “I don’t understand why a university with Harvard’s incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?”

Wrong actually. The law sought to save money by shifting costs onto healthy people who wouldn’t otherwise buy insurance. It only whacks sick people because they are the ones trying to use this largely worthless coverage. As for the resources, Shallow Mary clearly doesn’t understand that when you impose a cost on something like a corporation, it tries to pass that on. Just as Mary would never accept a pay cut to let Harvard increase the salaries of the cleaning staff, Harvard will not take a pay cut just because Mary got a law passed to give her more health benefits.

As for the “what is the crisis” question, shouldn’t we all be asking that? Only 15% of Americans lacked health insurance, and every one of them still had a right to seek treatment. So where was the crisis? Moreover, with only 6.3 million people signing up out of 49 million, it’s pretty clear there never was a crisis. So Mary... STFU.

Ultimately, what’s really hilarious about this is the shock that these nasty changes they imposed on the rest of us 310 million saps are only intolerable now that they are applying to our elite brethren, who assumed they were immune from the consequences of their actions.

Kind of makes you smile, doesn’t it?
[+]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Drawing Has Never Killed Anyone

In light of the yesterday's terrorist attack in France, let's take a moment to reflect. Twelve people were killed including four well-known cartoonists at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, who were in a staff meeting. These people spent their talents daring to satirize political leaders, religious leaders, and most importantly showed no fear satirizing Mohammed and Islam. Ironically, Stephane Charbonnier, editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo once quipped that "a drawing has never killed anyone." At this writing, the terrorist are still at large.

This isn't the first time I have written about cartoonists being targeted by Islamic terrorists Remember Molly Norris from her "Draw Mohammed Day" incident in 2010? Her call to pen was in response to a "South Park" episode that was scrapped by weak-kneed television executives who, maybe rightly, feared this kind of scenario.

To keep this all in perspective, here is list of terrorist attacks around the world since 2000. If you make to the bottom of this list, you may notice that attacks are only getting more frequent and the UN responds by declaring that the world must work to curtail...hate speech.

[Note: This list is from Wikipedia and contains only attacks or attempted attacks. There's another long list that contains potential attacks that were stopped before they could carry out any violence.]


Yemen/United States
October 12, 2000 – Attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. 17 American sailors were killed, 39 injured.

December 24, 2000 – Christmas Eve 2000 Indonesia bombings of churches in eight cities, 18 killed.


United States
September 11, 2001 – 4 planes hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda hijackers: two planes crashed into World Trade Center and one into the The Pentagon. Nearly 3000 dead.

December 13, 2001 – Suicide attack on Indian parliament in New Delhi by Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist organizations Jaish-E-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, aimed at eliminating the top leadership of India and causing anarchy in the country. 7 dead, 12 injured.[12]

October 12, 2002 – 2002 Bali bombings in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 202 people and injuring 240.


August 5, 2003 – 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, Indonesia; suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside the JW Marriott Jakarta lobby, killing 12 and injuring 150

November 15–20, 2003 – 2003 Istanbul bombings, killed 57 people and wounded 700.


March 11, 2004 – Madrid train bombings, killed 191 people and wounded 1,800.

September 1, 2004 – Beslan school hostage crisis, approximately 344 civilians including 186 children killed.

September 9, 2004 – 2004 Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia; suicide bomber exploded a one-tonne car bomb, which was packed into a small Daihatsu delivery van, outside the Australian embassy at Kuningan District, South Jakarta killing 9 and injuring over 150

November 2, 2004 – The murder of Theo van Gogh by Amsterdam-born jihadist Mohammed Bouyeri.


July 5, 2005 – Attack on the Hindu Ram temple in Ayodhya, India. 6 dead.

United Kingdom
July 7, 2005 – Multiple bombings in London Underground. 53 killed by four suicide bombers. Nearly 700 injured.

July 23, 2005 – Bomb attacks at Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian resort city, at least 64 people killed.

October 1, 2005 – 2005 Bali bombings in Jimbaran & Kuta, Bali, Indonesia; a series of bombings kills at least 20 and injures over 100.

October 29, 2005 – 2005 Delhi bombings, India. Over 60 killed and over 180 injured in a series of three attacks in crowded markets and a bus.

November 9, 2005 – 2005 Amman bombings. a series of coordinated suicide attacks on hotels in Amman, Jordan. Over 60 killed and 115 injured. Four attackers including a husband and wife team were involved.


July 11, 2006 – 2006 Mumbai train bombings, Mumbai. Seven bomb blasts over a period of 11 minutes on the Suburban Railway in Mumbai. 209 killed and over 700 injured.


United Kingdom
February 1, 2007 – The 2007 plot to behead a British Muslim soldier – A group of British Pakistanis in Birmingham, England planned to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier in order to undermine the morale of the British Army and inhibit recruitment of Muslims.

August 14, 2007 – Qahtaniya bombings. Dour suicide vehicle bombings in two predominantly Yazidi towns in northern Iraq. 796 killed, 1,562 wounded.


July 26, 2008 – 2008 Ahmedabad bombings. 56 dead, over 200 injured.

September 13, 2008 – Bombing series in Delhi, India. Pakistani extremist groups plant bombs at several places including India Gate, out of which the ones at Karol Bagh, Connaught Place and Greater Kailash explode leaving around 30 people dead and 130 injured, followed by another attack two weeks later at the congested Mehrauli area, leaving 3 people dead.

November 26, 2008 – Muslim extremists kill at least 166 people and wound numerous others in a series of coordinated attacks on India's financial capital, Mumbai. The government of India blamed Pakistan based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and stated that the terrorists killed/caught were citizens of Pakistan, a claim which the Pakistani government first refused but then accepted when given proof. Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists, was caught alive.


June 18, 2009 – 2009 Beledweyne bombing by Al-Shabaab. 35 dead.

July 17, 2009 – 2009 Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels bombing in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, Indonesia; suicide bombers hit the Marriott and 5 minutes later the Ritz-Carlton. 9 killed and 53 injured

United States
November 5, 2009 – Fort Hood shooting, at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. 13 dead, 33 injured.

United States
December 23, 2009 - Abdul Farook Abdulmutallab was arrested after Northwest Airlines passengers jumped him to avoid his detonating an explosive device above the city of Detroit.


March 29, 2010 - Moscow Metro bombings. 40 dead, 102 injured. Caucasus Emirate claimed responsibility.

United States
May 1, 2010 – 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, New York, New York, USA. Faisal Shahzad, an Islamic Pakistani American who received an American citizenship in December 2009, attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square working with the Pakistani Taliban or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

May 28, 2010 – Attacks on Ahmadi Mosques Lahore, Pakistan. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed attacks on two mosques simultaneously belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, killing nearly 100 and injuring many others.

December 7, 2010 – 2010 Varanasi bombing, India. 2 dead, 37 injured.

December 10, 2010 – 2010 Stockholm bombing, Sweden. killing the bomber and injuring two people.


January 21, 2011 - Domodedovo International Airport bombing. 37 killed, 173 wounded.

March 2, 2011 – 2011 Frankfurt Airport shooting, Frankfurt, Germany. 2 dead, 2 injured.

July 18, 2011 – 2011 Hotan attack, Hotan, China. A group of 18 young Uyghur men who opposed the local government's campaign against the full-face Islamic veil perpetrated a series of coordinated bomb and knife attacks and occupied a police station on Nuerbage Street, killing two security guards and taking eight hostages. The attackers yelled religious slogans, including ones associated with Jihadism.

December 25, 2011 - Christmas Day bombings were bomb blasts and shootings at churches in Madalla, Jos, Gadaka, and Damaturu. Over 41 people are reported dead.[33]


January 5, 2012 Iraq bombings, Baghdad and Nasiriyah, Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq. 73 dead, 149 injured.

February 23, 2012 Iraq attacks, Baghdad, Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq. 83 dead, 250+ injured.

March 20, 2012 Iraq attacks, Baghdad and at least 9 other cities, Iraq. 52 dead, ~ 250 injured.

March 20, 2012 – Toulouse and Montauban shootings in France. 7 dead, 5 injured.

May 3, 2012 - Makhachkala attack. 14 dead, including 2 suicide bombers, 130 wounded.

Libya/United States
September 11, 2012 – 2012 Benghazi attack on the U.S. Consulate. 4 dead, 11 injured.


February 21, 2013. – 2013 Hyderabad blasts, two bomb blasts killed 16 people and injured 119.

United States
April 15, 2013. – Boston Marathon bombings. Two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnev, planted two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blast killed 3 and injured 183 others. [Trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnev began on Monday in Boston]

May 11, 2013 – Reyhanlı bombings, killed 52 people and wounded 140.

United Kingdom
May 22, 2013 – Two men with cleavers kill British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich.[36][37]

August, 2014. - Islamic State fighters massacred some 700 people, mostly men, of the Shu'aytat tribe in Deir ez-Zor Governorate.[38]

September 21, 2013 – Westgate shopping mall attack, 67 killed, 175 wounded.

September 22, 2013 – Peshawar church attack, 80-83 killed, 250 wounded.

September 29, 2013. - Gujba college massacre. 44 students killed by Boko Haram


February 14, 2014. - Borno Massacre at lest 200 killed by Boko Haram[43]

May 20, 2014. - Jos bombings at least 118 killed and over 56 injured[44]

May 24, 2014. - Jewish Museum of Belgium shooting. Gunman opened fire at the Jewish Museum in Brussels killing 4 people.

September 23, 2014. – 2014 Endeavour Hills stabbings. Numan Haider, an Afghan Australian stabbed two counter terrorism officers in Melbourne, Australia. He was then shot dead.

October 5, 2014 - 2014 Grozny bombing. 5 officers and the suicide bomber, were killed, while 12 others were wounded.

October 22, 2014 – 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Lone attacker shot a soldier at a war memorial and attacked Parliament.

United States
October 23, 2014. – Zale H. Thomson, also known as Zaim Farouq Abdul-Malik, attacked four New York policemen in the subway with a hatchet, severely injuring one in the back of the head and injuring another policeman in the arm before being shot to death by the remaining officers, who also shot a bystander.

November 28, 2014. - Kano bombing. Around 120 people were killed and another 260 injured.

December 4, 2014. - 2014 Grozny clashes. 26 total dead, including 14 policemen, 11 Jihadist from Caucasus Emirate, 1 civilian

December 15, 2014. – 2014 Sydney hostage crisis.[disputed – discuss] 2 dead, 4 injured.

December 16, 2014. – 2014 Peshawar school attack. Over 140 people dead, including at least 132 children.

December 16, 2014. - Two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicles into a Shiite rebels' checkpoint killing 26, including 16 students.

December 18, 2014. - 2014 Gumsuri kidnappings. Boko Haram insurgents killed 32 people and kidnapped at least 185 women and children.

December 18, 2014. - Mass grave of 230 Tribesmen killed by Islamic State found in Eastern Syria.

December 22, 2014. – Boko Haram insurgents bombed a bus station in the city of Gombe, killing at least twenty people.

December, 2014. - Islamic State militants execute 150 women Iraqi province of Al-Anbar, some of whom were pregnant at the time, who refuse to marry their fighters.

December 24, 2014. - A suicide bomber killed 33 people and wounded 55 others in Madaen, about 25 km (15 miles) south of Baghdad.

December 25, 2014. - Al-Shabaab (militant group) attack in Mogadishu leaves 9 dead.

December 28, 2014. - Boko Haram attacks village in Cameroon leaving 30 dead.

January 7, 2015. - At least 12 killed in shooting at office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Paris.

Any questions?

***UPDATE***: Here is an Op/Ed by Ayaan Hirisi Ali Our Duty Is To Keep Charlie Hebdo Alive that was published on The Daily Beast. If you don't know about her, read up. She is truly an inspiring woman. Most recently, Brandeis University cancelled their plans to give her an honorary degree and revoked their invitation to speak at their commencement because they "...cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values." After reading this article by Ms Ali, I wonder just exactly what those "core values" might be? Incidentally, DB has also published all of the offending cartoons.
[+]

Thoughts On Cuba

Obama seems to be casting about almost randomly for anything that will create a legacy for him. Too bad for him that he doesn't understand what the American public actually cares about, nor is he apparently capable of working well enough with others to get help in finding a legacy. Oh well. His latest effort, loosening relationships with Cuba, is a good idea, but ultimately pretty meaningless toward his future. Here are my thoughts...

This Is Long Overdue

I get that some conservatives are stuck in the paranoid world of Cold War politics, but loosening relationships with Cuba is something that should have been done long ago. Why? Because history has shown that the only way to change a regime, short of military occupation, is economic liberalization. Yep. Sanctions don't work. For sixty years now, we have done our best to change Cuba's government by imposing strong economic sanctions on Cuba. The idea was to cripple their economy so the government would collapse and capitalists (and mobsters) could return to Cuba and exploit its economic qualities, e.g. cigars, sugar, tourism, gambling, etc. Despite our best efforts, those sanctions resulted in jack... nothing... squat... zip... nada. Why? Because sanctions don't work.

Indeed, look at the history of sanctions and you won't find a single instance where they worked... ever. And the reason they don't work is really quite simple. First, sanctions allow the sanctioned country to create an us versus them mentality which makes enduring the sanctions into a matter of pride and loyalty. That keeps people from attacking the regime over the sanctions. It also lets the sanctioned regime blame their economic and political failures on the sanctioning country. This becomes the perfect excuse for all failures. Third, sanctions just don't work because they will always be overcome by the power of human ingenuity. You will see this time and again. In fact, interestingly, despite a total embargo and continual bombing, Nazi Germany actually produced more war material at the end of the war than it did even at the height of its power.

Heck, conservatives get this when it comes to places like Iran and China etc. Yet, when it comes to Cuba, somehow nostalgia kicks in and seems to make conservatives stupid... "James Bond can't be black! And by God, we'll get those Cubans in another couple hundred years!"

At the same time, economic liberalization has crushed communist regime after communist regime. The communist regimes in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam all fell apart when their people got a taste of economic freedom and the joys wealth can bring. Sure, China and Vietnam are still technically run by the communists, but their control is little more than an illusion today, with their leaders understanding that maintaining their massive growth rates are the only thing keeping them from being tossed out by their own people. In the Soviet Union and East Europe, the inability of those regimes to deliver wealth led to their overnight collapses and replacement by regimes that shut down the secret police and opened the stock markets. Was it always perfect? Hardly, but it was fast and furious and fundamentally transforming. Sanctions, on the other hand, never even started the ball rolling.

Cuba will be the same thing. As American money and businesses pour in, a middle and upper class will form within weeks and they will demand an end to the regime's dominance. These are the people who keep the regime alive today. And when the regime is stripped of their support as they find a better deal getting rich, the regime must either retreat or collapse. I guess they could call out the Army, but that's almost never worked to maintain control once the public gets money-fever. In fact, outside of a temporary victory in China, which gave way to liberalization almost immediately, I can't think of an instance where this has worked.

So the moral is simple: if you want to change a nation, liberalize economic relations and let greed crush ideology. If you want to pretend to change a regime while actually strengthening it, then pimp for sanctions.

Obama v. The GOP

Obama thinks this will help him and his legacy, but it won't. This change will mean nothing to Obama's legacy because the public just doesn't care about foreign policy or cold war relic policies. In fact, all it will do is add to the vague sense the public has that Obama is weak.

On the other hand, there is nothing to be gained by fighting this or attacking Obama. The best the GOP can do in that regard is to be ignored. A more likely result is they will be seen as being a pain in the ass who are obsessed with ideology and ancient feuds that no longer matter to the public.

Where this change will actually matter is in Florida electoral politics. And in that, the GOP is best situated to be the winner. The Cuban community in Florida is largely Republican, though the younger ones are more Democratic. And while the older Cubans are generally opposed to liberalization, they will ultimately be the ones who benefit the most from this change because they will be the ones who fund all the businesses that will be opening in Cuba. That means the GOP's Florida base will soon be much, much richer. And if the GOP helps them in this, through the normal "client services" in which Congress engages, then the GOP will be directly responsible for helping that effort to go smoothly. You can make a lot of friends that way... newly rich, powerful friends. In theory, the Democrats could do this too, only they don't have the connections to the community that the GOP does and they are seen as sympathetic to the wrong people, i.e. communists. What the GOP needs to avoid is trying to throw up roadblocks to economic development which let the Democrats become the heroes of the Cuban community. They also need to avoid changing the immigration preferences for Cubans, which will not sit well with the community. Beyond that, they should seize this opportunity to transform Cuba and the electoral landscape of Florida... Carpe Florida!

[+]

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Can You Pass A Citizenship Test?

Well, now that the holiday season has ended and we get back to our "normal" lives, it is time to take a test. Now, I have every confidence that everyone here at CommentaramaPolitics can easily pass this test, but it never hurts to review. - Citizenship Test

And if you are really ambitious, you can try these from the History Channel Two Quizes [Caveat - These have not been updated since 2009]

I know you all did very well. And I am almost certain that you learned all the answers to these questions in elementary school. Am I right? Well, did you know that Civics classes are no longer a basic requirement in most public schools? As a matter of fact, 39 states require only one class in government or civics to graduate. If you think this is scary, watch this short video made by a couple of student journalists included in this 2012 HuffPo article - 'Lunch Scholars' Of course, it was edited to include the best "wrong answers". But when one student was asked "Who is the Vice President?" and her answer was "bin Laden", I died a little inside. There should be no student in any public school who cannot answer that question correctly.

I really have not point here except, if our students do not know the basics of when, where, what, why and how our government works, how can we reasonably expect them to be able to protect and defend our Constitution?
[+]

Monday, January 5, 2015

Predictions For 2015

Wow am I flying blind on this one, but here goes. I've thought about this long and hard and here are some predictions I have for the upcoming year. Please feel free to add your own and we'll revise at the end of the year! Huzzah! Accountability! ;-)

Obama Proves Impotent: Obama will push five or six “major” Executive Orders with the idea of circumventing the Congress to impose his “ideology” on the country. There will be a lot of noise, gnashing of teeth and the such surrounding these Orders, but they will ultimately prove to be impotent. He just doesn’t have the power or creativity to change enough.

By way of example, consider the immigration Order. Despite all the bravado, this Order can’t prevent deportations... it can only delay them. As a result, illegals have more to lose by coming forward to take advantage of the Order than they do staying hidden and hoping never to get caught.

Supreme Court v. Obamacare: This one is easy: the Supreme Court will uphold the Obamacare subsidies despite the law clearly not allowing them. This strikes me as obvious because Justice Roberts has clearly decided to protect Obamacare, probably because he’s very, very pro-Big Business, which means he will want to protect the insurance carriers who cut the dirty deal that is Obamacare.

The Pope Scores: Somewhere during the year, I expect to see two data points related to the Catholic Church. First, I think the Pope’s efforts to move beyond controversial issues and instead focus on the Church’s mission of providing comfort and general moral guidance will result in a flood of new converts. I’m not sure how many, but it will be a statistically relevant increase. Secondly, there will be a series of polls which will show that the public at large now sees the Church as reformed from its sex abuse scandals, and ready to move forward.

Big Trouble In Big China: China seems to be headed for trouble. For decades, we were told that China needs to maintain 9%+ growth to maintain domestic peace. It sounds like their GDP has fallen to around 6% and may be even lower than that – it’s not clear because China lies to make its data seem more impressive.

Moreover, China seems to have problems: (1) their labor costs are now too high, with other Asian countries like Bangladesh taking away their low-end work, (2) China failed to develop a strong high-end economy, and (3) China has failed to develop the kinds of good relationships with its neighbors that will allow it to develop stronger markets. Further, China has been so aggressive with its neighbors that it seems to have caused an arms race it cannot afford and cannot win, and which risks Japan militarizing and drawing even closer to the US.

Economic Disconnect Continues: I think the economic disconnect will continue. Big Business will make record profits. The stock market will slump in January/Feb, but then soar for the year... maybe as much as 20%. Retail investors (you and I) will miss the rally. Middle class incomes will continue to fall. Middle class jobs will continue to vanish... the villain this time is robotics, not China.

Putting The Band Back Together: Putin will finish rebuilding the Soviet Union this year... at least as far as he will ever get it (he won’t get the Baltics back and he will have no influence over Eastern Europe). Sadly for him, the countries he is managing to pull back in are craphole countries that will drain his shrinking resources.

Sony II: The Sony hacker scandal has legs for a number of reasons, including the likely eventual resignation of a couple of their officers, and a possible (though unlikely) sale of the studio. The bigger issue related to Sony, however, is that hackers may see the Sony incident as a new way to damage companies. Hence, look for more hackers to stop trying to disrupt systems and instead trying to steal e-mails and embarrassing documents to post online.

Grievance Industries Continues to Fade: I think we’ve hit a tipping point where the public is done with the feminism, racism, etc. grievance industry. By and large, this means death by neglect. In 2015, more evidence of this will be seen by the inability of the grievance lobby to rally the public to whatever series of incidents arise in 2015 (rape allegations, police shootings).

Cosby: Wow. I just don’t know how this will play out... with one exception: anyone who tries to jump into this issue and use it politically will find themselves as the escape hatch for the media and will be destroyed. Avoid this like the plague folks.

The Gay Surprise: For some time now, I’ve been sure that the Supreme Court will let gay marriage move ahead at its own pace and will only step in to grant gay marriage nationwide after most states are onboard. The more I think about it, however, the more I suspect that the Supreme Court may be ready to bust out a surprise here. With polls showing an increasingly large majority of the public favoring gay rights, with the younger generations being overwhelmingly in favor, with even many GOP politicians now supporting the issue, and with the public increasingly treating the issue as non-controversial and resolved, I suspect that the Supreme Court may pull the trigger this year and “suggest” that gay marriage will be found to be a Constitutional right, with the intent being to get the appellate courts on the same page so the Supremes never need speak definitively on the issue.

No NFL In LA: The NFL has been using the bluff of moving a team to LA to extort stadiums out of cities that already have teams. People are catching onto this, so the NFL has made a huge push lately to convince people that 2015 really will be the year that an NFL team moves to LA... honest... swear to God... IT WILL HAPPEN PEOPLE!! The San Diego Chargers are considered most likely. However, I think the LA bluff is just too valuable to the existing 32 teams to give it up, and the NFL will not let anyone move to LA.

European Irrelevance Affirmed (again): Once again, I expect nothing consequential to come out of Europe this year.

Lurching Left: For about a decade, South America has been moving leftward. Not coincidentally, their economies have begun to fade and sputter as a result. Look for them to continue to drift left, however, because their poor have learned how to vote themselves goodies and their poor way outnumber their middle classes.

In terms of countries of interest, watch the following: (1) Cuba post-liberalization with the US – look for a massive economic surge and the Americanization of the island, (2) Venezuela is tottering on collapse, but refuses to change...should make for an interesting year, and (3) Argentina is in deep kaka and Madame Kirchner seems to think that provoking a war may be her best way out of her mess. Her preferred target has been Britain, but I suspect that anyone will do in a pinch, and 2015 could provide that pinch.

Wasted Opportunity: I suspect the GOP will waste the opportunity they’ve been given. I fear we will get (1) a series of meaningless bills that sound extreme as they are meant to please the fringe, but which the party knows Obama will veto. These won’t win over the unwinnable fringe, will anger the moderates, and will show the public that the GOP doesn’t understand the new political reality where the public sees meaningless show votes as sleazy. (2) We will get a couple of needless compromises that do nothing to advance genuine reforms conservatives will like – basically, the GOP will compromise on the wrong things.

Defining Failure As Victory: Obamacare will continue to fall. It was supposed to cover 43 million people. Then we were told nine million would sign up the first year. Eight million did, but only six million paid their bills, yet we were told this was a huge victory for Obamacare. In year two, we were told to expect around 15 million initially. This was brought down to nine million total. Despite automatic signups, it looks like only eight million will be signed up, yet we will be told again that this is a huge victory.

War?: I don’t see any new wars on the horizon this year. If anything, look for something in North-East Africa, in the neighborhood of Sudan.

Bad Movies: 2014 was a banner year for pathetic films. I suspect 2015 will be a mirror image.

So what did I miss?
[+]