Monday, May 31, 2010

The Obama Administration's Response to the BP Disaster

BP’s Gulf Blowout is now clearly an environmental disaster with effects to be felt long term in the Gulf and possibly along the eastern seaboard. No one really knows how much has been released, or will be released, where and how crude will wash or be blown ashore, how easy or hard to clean up (past spills, such as Valdez, Alaska are not promising), the existence and extent of an underwater plume, and how devastating the effects on the underwater, sea bed, and marine environ will be.

Louisiana’s shrinking and endangered wetlands are at even greater risk from the blowout.

Mild or apocalyptic, take your pick, but every day now increases the risk of apocalyptic. The earth is more resilient than we often give it credit for; the environment will recover in the long term, however long that may be.
Presidents often get credit they don’t deserve, and the blame when it’s not their fault. If the economy is booming, they are the beneficiaries, and if it’s in the tank, then they get the blame. That’s a political reality.

Thus, I would not normally comment on the Obama Administration’s response to the BP Gulf Blowout. It’s BP’s fault, or Transocean’s fault, or Halliburton’s fault, or Cameron’s fault, or probably jointly and severally all of them. History tells us that human and mechanical errors are rampant in a disaster of this nature. The federal government through its regulatory agencies may have partial responsibility, although immunity may exist for the government. The lawyers will have a field day. Criminal charges may also be brought.

The Gulf Blowout is no more President Obama’s fault than Katrina was President Bush’s responsibility.

However, by the third day of the media showing the Katrina tragedy, squalor, lawlessness, and pathos of New Orleans, the media and liberals were dumping on Bush for not doing anything. Federal laws limit what the federal government can do in initially responding to an emergency such as Katrina; the initial legal burden is placed on the state and local government.

The public didn’t care. The Bush administration failed to respond. The President accrued the onus for being “out of it.”

But now it’s Day 42 and the media is starting to question the response of the Obama Administration.

It’s becoming reminiscent of the advent of Ted Koppel, Nightline, and Day XXX of the Iran Hostage Crisis.

We need to split the spill into two areas: the blowout/continuous discharge and the cleanup effort.

As recently retired Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen has acknowledged, the government lacks the expertise, personnel and resources to cap the hole. That perforce is BP’s responsibility and duty. They have the personnel, resources, and expertise. Thus, the federal government has to defer to them.
Regardless of whatever else may be said about BP, they have the greatest self-interest of all the parties in plugging the well. No matter the ecological tragedy, every day is a corporate disaster for BP. The days of the execs, responsible parties, and probably of BP as we know it, are numbered. BP is ‘toast.”

That, in turn, creates a feeling of impotence on the part of the President and his Administration. His frustration was apparent in his statement: “Just plug the damn hole.”

The official response therefore has become one of official outrage, if not invective:

Statements of Secretary of the Interior include:

”We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done.”

One of Senator Obama’s campaign messages was that he would be a President of competence and not diffidence. The premise of the first 15 months in office of his Administration is that the government can get the job done. The government is the answer to our problems.

The government has to stand by and watch – hardly the message he wants to send, even if it’s not his fault.

The government cannot stop the leak. Only BP, nature, or time can stop the discharge.

The government, our government, the Obama government has no control over the Gulf gusher.

How ironic that an Administration whose basic tenet is that government is the answer to our problems has to stand by and defer to a private enterprise, a foreign oil company at that, to resolve a problem it created.

The Administration faces a conundrum.

It must appear in control, but to be in control when the response efforts are a series of failures will destroy the veneer of competence the President has to possess to succeed.

Indeed, the President emphasized that the federal government was in control every step of the way and that BP could only do what the government allowed or told it do. However, BP has shown that’s not the case because it is using a chemical dispersant, Corexit, that EPA has requested it not use.

That’s politics.

The government cannot stop the leak, but it might be able to contain it.

The failure is with the response effort.

The Obama Administration is as derelict in its response as was the Bush Administration with Katrina.

For whatever reason, and some day we will know why, the Obama Administration was at best slow in marshalling resources to contain the oil. It dithered on incinerating the oil on the surface, whether chemical dispersants should be used, allowing Louisiana to build sand berms to hold back the oil, and marshalling equipment onshore.

Louisiana Governor Jindal’s plaintive plea for Corps of Engineers permission to build the barriers hit a nerve with Americans. (Sidebar - what a contrast between Governor Jindal and his predecessor Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans during Katrina). The Corps was supposedly doing an EIS on the sand berms, which is like Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.

To President Obama’s credit, he ordered the Corps to approve the Governor’s requests. The military is flying in containment booms from Alaska and chemical dispersants, but as with Katrina, this response effort is not getting public attention.

However, as every little oil bar washes ashore, the failure of the government is apparent.

That too is political reality, and President Obama’s burden.

But that doesn’t end our story.

I find more appalling the Obama Administration response to the severe flooding of Nashville, Tennessee, the Cumberland River flooding which inundated downtown Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry, and the Opryland Hotel. 28 died in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee in Nashville alone.

President Obama almost completely ignored the flooding, except to declare a Disaster Order. It was as though nothing happened.

Disaster response is not a forte of this Administration.

The late LAPD Police Chief Daryl Gates and the LAPD were highly respected for their competence in policing LA. Then came the Rodney King riots, the looting, and the total loss of control over the City. Gates was through as Chief. He talked the talk, but could not walk the walk when called upon.

Either the Obama Administration changes its response efforts, or it will fail.

That too is political reality, and President Obama’s burden.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois Pulls a Blumenthal

Republican Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois was as favored to win President Obama’s former Senate seat as was Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut for Chris Dodd’s Senate seat.

The Illinois Democratic Party is shattering. The Democratic primary winner for Lieutenant Governor, Scott Lee Cohen, had to withdraw because of a 2005 arrest for domestic abuse as well as failure to pay back taxes and child support.

The Democratic Senatorial nominee, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, had his family bank, Broadway bank, recently closed by the FDIC at a cost of $394.3 million to the feds. That’s hardly a qualification for office this year when Illinois is actually in worse financial shape than California.

And yet Congressman Kirk has lied about his military record, claiming to have received the prestigious U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year Award. He did not receive the individual reward. Instead, a unit citation was presented to his unit for their achievements in Kosovo. He was a member of the unit.

The disclosure came right before Memorial Day. We should be honoring the memory of our fallen soldiers, not trading on their valor through stupid misrepresentations by politicians. He claims it was simply a case of misidentification.

Congressman Kirk may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

As with Blumenthal, no need existed for him to make this public claim. He has served honorably in the military. He received four Navy and Marine Corps commendations. He continues to serve as a Commander in the Navy reserves. All very honorable.

What are Blumenthal and Kirk thinking? Do they really believe that in today’s world these lies will not come out?

As I earlier asked with Blumenthal, is it arrogance? Is it a character flaw? Is it hubris? Or is it simple stupidity? Or perhaps it was an overzealous aide or political puffery?

After all, Al Gore took credit for the internet.

We expect puffery from politicians, but not when it comes to military service. That is too sacred!

George H. W. Bush, Robert Dole, John McCain, Robert Kerry, Daniel Inoye, John Kerry and others shed their blood for this country. We honor them.

Let’s just vacate the Illinois Senate seat. Leave it vacant. Neither candidate should serve if elected.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Congratulations Apple; You're Now Number One on the Justice Department Antitrust List

Congrats Apple; your market value now exceeds Microsoft.

You’ve earned it; you deserve it.

You pioneer technology. True innovation.

You have product.

Congratulations Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine in its November 23, 2009 issue saluted you as the Business Figure of the Decade, if you would "The Decade of Steve."

From the first mass produced desktop, to the Apple II+, to the Macintosh, IMac, ITune, IPod, ITouch, IPad, and IPhone, and the Apple Store. That doesn't even include the non-Apple Pixar.

Your software is clean, easy to use, and virus resistant.

You and Google’s Droid are fighting it out in the smart phone market as Microsoft tanks.

What about Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Microsoft?

IBM was stupid to give them control of the operating system of the IBM PC such that they could market it to any IBM compatible desktop. Firefox didn’t exist then.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen did not even have a operating system, so they paid a reported $100,000 to Seattle Computer Products for 86-DOS, the basic operating system for the IBM PC. DOS gave Microsoft the monopoly on the operating system, from which Microsoft crushed competitors such as Word Perfect, Netscape, and Lotus. Microsoft's predatory and exclusionary monopolistic practices earned antitrust prosecutions in the United States and Europe. Even IBM exited the market.

Yet Apple survived with a small, but profitable share of the market.

Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985, but was called back in 1998. Apple’s achievements since his return have been incredible. Any doubt as to the popularity of Apple’s products can be demonstrated by a simple walk at the two South Coast Plaza malls. If you look into the Sony Store you will be greeted with the sounds of silence as you can hear a pin drop. The Apple Store often has lines outside the store into the mall.

Apple’s success is from creating new products. Microsoft’s success is from tying software into its monopoly operating system. Microsoft is trying again with Bing to combat Google, but it's no substitute.

Steve Jobs and Apple; true technology pioneers! Many of the ideas were scoffed at by experts. The Apple store had no products to sell. Why buy an IPod when everyone had a Sony Walkman? Itunes – no way. The IPhone was too expensive, etc.

Steve Jobs and his dedicated team at Apple brought us technology we did not know we needed.

And now Apple has to pay a price for its success.

The Justice department has initiated an investigation into Apple for its pricing strategies and other marketing practices with ITunes and the music industry.

This Administration so believes that all good comes from the public sector that it cannot tolerate success in the private sector except as a political talking point.

The purpose of the private sector is to be taxed, regulated, and squeezed.

Apple should be rewarded for its success, but not in this Administration. Private success must be investigated, if not punished. Unlike Microsoft, it has not entered into blatantly monopolistic practices.

ITunes at an affordable 99 cents opened up a whole new business for the music industry at a time when its existing model is imploding.

Apple’s reward is 28% of the nation’s prerecorded music, hardly a monopolistic share.

CD sales are dropping, and Apple’s share of the rising MP3 market, the market it pioneered, is 76%. Competitors exist, but their products are not as competitive. Remember Microsoft? It’s Zune is a marketplace failure.

Apple passed Wal-Mart two years ago as the largest retailer of music in America. Both Wal-Mart and Amazon have about 12% of the market. Apple has succeeded against some of the best retailers in the world.

In addition, ITunes brings efficiency to the music distribution industry. Digital music avoids the costs of manufacturng and shipping CD's and LP's (they still exist), retailers, costly returns, and lets consumers purchase only the songs they want.

Pioneers with superior technology, lower costs, and efficiency should be rewarded, and they are by the marketplace.

But not this Administration.

Hang in there Apple, and here’s wishing decades of good health to Steve Jobs. Even this Administration will not be able to crush your creative, visionary genius.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food Inflation is Back

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently reported that the seasonally adjusted consumer price index (CPI) dropped .1% in April. In other words, inflation is under control, and perhaps deflation is in the future. Mortgage rates are at a 30 year low; gas prices are dropping before Memorial Day, when they usually rise.

Excluding the volatile fuel and food prices, the index remained constant, although it is up 2.2% over the past 12 months.

Do you believe the numbers or your own eyes?

You can read arcane BLS reports about CPI changes.

Or you can go shopping at the supermarket.

When I was young, all we had to do was checkout the Hershey chocolate bar at the grocery store. Hershey’s tried to maintain its famous nickel candle bar by adjusting its size as the cost of cocoa fluctuated. Forget any government adjusted or unadjusted inflation rates; Hershey was the test of inflation.

At the supermarket, where we feel inflation most immediately, prices are rising, offsetting falling fuel prices. Food was up .2% in April and .5% over the past 12 months.

Today’s food companies are subtle; they are raising prices indirectly by shrinking quantity, size, and volume while maintaining list prices. In short, we pay more for less.

The ice cream companies led the way a few years ago in a two-step process of shrinking carton sizes from 64oz to 48oz, a 25% cut.

Tuna cans shrank 23.2 % from 6½ oz to 5oz. At this point the tin almost outweighs the tuna. 8oz Yogurts are now 6oz (down 25%).

Halloween candy was once 16oz bags with an additional “10% free.” Now the bags are 11-12oz with nothing “free.” They even cheapen Halloween! At least Mike and Ike still offers "The Big Box," 9 1/2oz, but you have to look for it.

Pepsi, with its assorted beverage and Frito Lay products has been especially aggressive in cutting sizes. 24 can cases are now 20 can cases (16.7% reduction) while the company is experimenting with 4 packs. No tall boys for Pepsi. They’re also peddling smaller sized cans. Its 24 oz. Pepsi bottles are now 16.9oz containers (roughly a 33% cut in sugared water). Watch the magic as Tropicana orange juice shrinks before your very eyes to 59oz cartons instead of the traditional 64oz.
The Lay’s and Doritos went from 16oz to 10 1/2-11 oz., but it is now featuring a “Family Size” of 14oz.

The historical, traditional, classic baker’s dozen has been reduced to a true dozen.

Nabisco is also playing this game. Ritz and Honey Grams have gone from 16oz to 14.4oz, a 10% cut in size. Wheat Thins and Triscuits are down to 7, 8 ½, 9, 9 ½, 10oz packages depending on are they the original, low fat, less salt, etc. It’s all very complicated.

The cereal companies are playing the same game, but they offer the cereals in so many different sizes that it’s difficult to figure out what the cuts are. At least the actual hole in Cheerios has not yet grown.

The packaging often seems the same, but now it may contain 4-50% slack space.

The food processors can claim they are doing it to benefit us, the consumers: lower size, fewer calories, less fat, less trans fats, less sugar, less salt; they're helping us diet.

The food inflation started over two years ago when energy costs soared. One of the highest costs to the food industry is transportation. When gas and diesel reached $5 per gallon, the food industry, which distributes mostly by truck, felt the pain.

When petrochemicals are in the packaging, as with bottled waters, the industry was doubly hammered. The bottled water industry found an ingenious way to cut costs, reduce petrochemical consumption, and aid the environment. They figured out how to keep the basic water bottle at 1 liter, but substantially reduced the size of the plastic container by over 20%. They substantially reduced the packaging. That's efficiency, waste cutting, and green.

The chemical companies double cut in their detergents. Arm and Hammer’s standard size is now 32 servings, essentially cut in half. The plastic container has similarly shrunk.

Paying more for less is inflation.

It's certainly more than .5% over the last year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Baltasar Garzon Redux

Spain’s eclectic judge, Baltasar Garzon (see my April 10, 2009 blog), is back in the news. The once high-flying, internationally revered Spanish jurist is grounded. This time, he’s on the receiving end of Spanish justice as he risks being defrocked as a judge.

He advanced the cause of “universal jurisdiction” in issuing arrest warrants for General Augusto Pinochet and others. His view of universal jurisdiction is that crimes against humanity, such as torture and genocide, can be pursued and prosecuted in any court that will assert jurisdiction.

He opened an investigation in 2008 covering the up to 114,000 missing victims during the Spanish Civil War and Francisco Franco’s 36 year regime.

The Spanish Civil war was brutal, with both sides committing war crimes, as one might suspect when the war was fought by proxies on behalf of Hitler and Stalin.

Spain is still highly divided over the legacy of Franco.

The Spanish Parliament enacted a general amnesty in 1977 for crimes of the Franco Government, two years after the dictator died.

Garzon, who has been quick to indict international figures, has been indicted on three counts for abuse of power. He is accused of knowingly acting beyond his jurisdiction.

He argued the amnesty did not cover crimes against humanity.

Spain’s Supreme Court voted 5:0 to allow the prosecution to proceed.

The result is that he was suspended from office on May 10, 2010, pending the investigation. If found guilty, he can be suspended from the judgeship for 10-20 years.

If he were an American judge, he would be in deep trouble for taking $300,000 in compensation from a Spanish bank for a series of lectures at NYU in the United States while a case was pending in his court against the president of the bank. He had quickly issued a not guilty verdict against the president. He saw no conflict of interest.

He also made enemies by approving the wiretapping of conversations between lawyers and prisoners in a corruption case involving politicians of the opposition party.
This breach of attorney client confidentiality outraged attorneys of all political persuasion.

Eventhough he is from the Spanish left, elements of the left and right have united in wanting him out.

Right now, he's out of Spain. He has accepted a 7 month appointment at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Whether or not he can navigate the thicket of international politics, and glacial pace of justice, at The Hague will be an interesting spectator sport.

Are We Really Neanderthals?

Neanderthals lived for about 200,000 years in Eurasia, but passed from the scene 50,000 years ago in Asia, and 24,000 years ago in Europe, leaving the field to Homo sapiens, who entered Europe about 40,000 years ago. They co-existed for only about 15,000 years in Europe with humans winning out. Presumably the inferior Neanderthal gene pool died out with the Last Neanderthal.

Svante Paabo, a geneticist at the famous Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany has headed a team of scientists studying Neanderthal DNA for 2 years. They published 2 papers in Science Magazine on May 7, 2010, in which they deciphered the genomic code of the Neanderthal.

They then matched the Neanderthal’s genome with the human genome.

Why?

Because that’s what scientists do. They search for knowledge, even with Neanderthals, wherever it leads.

The illiterate Neanderthals would not understand the Science papers, "A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome" and my favorite "Targeted Investigation of the Neandertal Genome by Array-Based Sequence Capture."

What?

Then they peer review the research, something Neanderthals never worried about.

Here’s the revelation!

1-4% of our genomic code is that of the Neanderthal. Homo sapiens stupped with Neanderthals in the Fertile Crescent.

Did our ancestors really mate with these steroid size mammals?

I’ve known guys who would stupp anything. I always thought they were Neanderthals. I was right; they’re probably direct descendants of the Neanderthal.

Is it true that the brain cavity of Neanderthals was at least equal in size, if not larger, than that of Homo sapiens?

Neanderthal used tools, symbols, and primitive jewelry not up to Danbury Mint standards, perhaps face paint, and definitely fire, and shelter, had hearts and souls, but did not practice metaphysics.

They seem smart enough to me, certainly wiser than many of our teenagers.

If their brains were larger than ours, then how did we outlive them? That’s an enigma.

Here’s a problem. The math doesn’t add up. The report is that the Neanderthal genome is 99.7% identical to the human, but 1-4% of our DNA is that of the Neanderthal.

Fortunately, the Neanderthal also did not do math.

Our DNA has a 97% overlap with the Bonobos, so does 97.7% mean the Neanderthal is us?

The Neanderthal has risen in us.

It explains a lot. Now we know it’s truly genetic determinism. Our Neanderthal genes make us do it, compel us to engage in those stupid, impulsive, idiotic acts.

It wasn’t Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden with the forbidden fruit. It was miscegenation in the Mideast 80,000-50,000 years ago.

Studies showed that non-Saharan Africans (caucasoids) had 1-4% more Neanderthal DNA than sub-Saharan Africans. Either the latter had the brains and self-control to not mate with Neanderthals, or they lacked the opportunity. Sub-Saharan Africa was too hot for them; Neanderthals thrived in bitterly cold Europe. The last trace of Neanderthals was in Gibraltar 24,000 years ago. They wanted out of Europe.

The Neanderthals thrived in the last Glacial Age, but failed as the globe warmed.

Global warming is critical therefore in suppressing our Neanderthal genes.

I’ve certainly seen a few human Neanderthals in my lifetime. I simply thought they were genetic mutants. Now we know them for what they are, our siblings, and that’s scary.

On the other hand, when a student gives a really poor response to a Socratic question, I can simply mark it up to a Neanderthal experience.

If I call a student a Neanderthal, will it be defamation if it’s true?

Roots?

Are we out of Africa? Or are we out of Neanderthal? Or are we out of the Mideast? Or are we out of a cave?

What about mitochondrial Eve who lived 200,000 years ago?

What about Y-chromosome Adam who lived 60,000 – 90,000 years ago?

Was Eve a cougar?

What about 3.2 million year old Lucy in Ethiopia?

What about Cro-magnon?

What about Rhodesian Man?

What about Piltdown Man?

What about Geico Man?

How much of this can we believe? It’s based upon three bone fragments from a cave in Croatia, with the tested particles being the equivalent of an aspirin in size. That reminds me of the classic medieval question: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

John and Ken Want Nancy Meza Deported

Poor Nancy Meza; she does not understand the forces that she unleashed.

John and Ken want her deported. John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou are devoting hours of their valuable KFI640 prime time to a crusade to have her deported.

John and Ken have the highest ratings of any regional talk show hosts in the nation. They are tenacious, no, pit bulls, when they latch onto a “victim.” They do not believe in a kinder and gentler talk radio. They eviscerate politicians on the air.

And they don’t let go!

Many a politician has felt their wrath.

Poor Nancy!

She’s now prime time in LA.

Nancy committed the most heinous crime possible in Los Angeles.

Much worse than homicide, sexual assault or narcissism.

More heinous than being an illegal immigrant, although that by itself would set off John and Ken.

More despicable than an environmental felon.

All Nancy Mesa and her fellow demonstrators did was block traffic and close Wilshire Avenue and the 405.

SoCal is a relaxed place to live. Almost all sins are forgivable.

But not when it comes to deliberately blocking traffic.

Nancy Meza organized a demonstration in support of the Dream Act Thursday in front of a federal building on Wilshire.

The Development, Relief and Education Act for Alien Minors Act (Dream Act) would provide a path to permanent residency for undocumented alien students who graduate from high school in the United States.

She and 8 others were arrested for marching in a circle on Wilshire Avenue, near UCLA, blocking not only that major thoroughfare, but also the nearby 405 as the ramps backed up for miles. None were turned over to immigration, unlike demonstrators at Senator McCain’s Tucson office earlier in the week.

Traffic was blocked for hours. Bus routes were rerouted. Ambulances potentially had trouble reaching the UCLA emergency room. Workers went home.

Among those inconvenienced by Nancy were Ken Chiampou and their KFI news announcer, Terri Rae Elmer.

That was a major error in judgment.

John and Ken are leading a crusade to have Nancy deported. She’s a self-proclaimed illegal immigrant, having come to the United States when she was 2. She’s scheduled to graduate from UCLA in 3 weeks.

She’s thrown red meat to John and Ken. They have posted her phone number, twitter number, and website on their site. They encourage listeners to contact ICE and turn her in. Scores have dropped the dime on ICE.

She and 200 demonstrators were exercising their First Amendment rights, even though they lacked a permit. Maybe Nancy wanted to be a martyr for immigrant rights.

But she set off John and Ken.

I feel sorry for her.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Arizona Calls the Boycott Bluff of Los Angeles

LA receives 20-25% of its electricity in a normal day from a nuclear plant, coal-powered plant, and two hydroelectric facilities in Arizona. It partially owns the non-hydro facilities.

The electricity supplied from Arizona is low cost, base load, which makes it highly attractive.

The Los Angeles City Council voted May 12, 2010 to boycott Arizona to protest Arizona’s SB 1070. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed the boycott. The Mayor explained: “While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the state of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars – or the withholding of our dollars – to send a message.”

LA thereby declared economic war against Arizona to achieve a political goal – the repeal of SB 1070.

Or did it?

The actual boycott is largely symbolic, and highly selective, although it will cost the Arizona hospitality industry. The City canceled some travel plans to Arizona, but recognizes it cannot terminate legal contracts.

LAX cannot therefore legally, or economically, cut off the flights of two Arizona based airlines, U.S. Air and Mesa. It earns $38 million annually in fees from these airlines.

The red light cameras which generate fines for the city and state are operated by American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Arizona. That contract is not presently in jeopardy. LA can’t afford the economic hit.

The Council does not want the LA Lakers to boycott the Phoenix Suns in the NBA playoffs, because the City is anticipating another NBA championship.

This selective boycott is not a really boycott, but a PR exercise in political hot air.

Gary Pierce, one of Arizona’s five members of the state Corporations Commission, which regulates Arizona’s utilities, wrote a letter on May 18 to Mayor Villaraigosa and the 15 LA City Council members.

He called LA’s boycott bluff, and pointed out the hypocrisy of the political leaders.

He proposed that if LA really meant to boycott Arizona, then he could facilitate Arizona’s utilities acquisition of the attractive power flowing to Los Angeles.

The local news channels, as well as cable networks, and LA politicians asserted Arizona threatened to cut off LA’s power.

A spokesperson for LA’s Mayor stated no response was warranted, and then, of course, responded: “We’re not going to respond to threats from a state which has isolated itself from the America that values freedom, liberty and basic human rights.”

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, candidate for lieutenant governor, referred to Commissioner Pierce as “the Forest Gump of Arizona politics.” Her campaign manager wrote “Never mind that he is a right-wing Republican who supports a racist law in Arizona that even the United Nations has condemned.”

Not exactly a reasoned discourse on the merits.

Apparently no one reads any more.

The United States Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and other federal, state, and local officials, who have criticized the Arizona bill, have admitted to not having read SB 1070.

Similarly, the actual words of Commissioner’s Pierce’s letter eluded the commentators. He wrote: “If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.”

No threats there.

Commissioner Pierce readily admits Arizona cannot unilaterally terminate the existing power agreements.

San Diego was joining the boycott Arizona bandwagon when it realized that Arizonans were cancelling their reservations in San Diego. They like to escape to cooler, coastal San Diego during the heat of the summer.

About 2 million Arizonans visit San Diego annually. It’s a short drive, but a large economic boost to the san diego economy.

Boycotts can go both ways.

The LA/Arizona/San Diego boycott scenario brings up the issue of economic balkanization of the United States.

America’s founding fathers, especially the drafters of the Constitution, have been proven to be political geniuses. They formed a country, which has succeeded as none in history.

America could have been different. Indeed, it was different.

The victorious 13 colonies founded a new country, the United States of America, but it failed.

The United States was founded under the Articles of Confederation, which had several shortcomings.

One of the greatest was that Congress was not given the power to regulate commerce. States retained the commerce powers. America was not yet an economic unit.

The Constitution changed that. Not only was Congress given power to regulate commerce, but no duty or tax shall be laid upon exports from any state. Nor, without the consent of Congress, can any state lay a duty on tonnage, or imposts or duties on any imports or exports.

America became an economic unit, indivisible.

And our local politicians for cheap political gains wish to engage in economic warfare, not understanding the forces they might unleash.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Will Blumenthal Pull a Coakley?

Admiral Jeremy M. Boodra, Chief of Naval Operations, committed suicide on May 16, 1996, 14 years ago. He was the first enlisted sailor to rise to CNO, and the first to rise from the lowest enlisted rank in the Navy to 4 star rank.

Why did he commit suicide? Newsweek was about to charge that he was wearing two Vietnam War combat decorations that he had not earned.

He wrote a letter of apology to “his sailors” for the disgrace. He understood the honor of military service.

His act was, at the worse, an innocent mistake.

He still committed suicide.

Attorney General Blumenthal of Connecticut has consistently misrepresented, if not out and out lied about, serving in Vietnam.

He will probably be the next United States Senator from Connecticut, aptly filling the shoes of Senator Chris Dodd.

Go figure!

Will Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal emulate his Massachusetts colleague, Martha Coakley and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

In other words, will he choke?

The New York Times yesterday ran a front page story accusing him of misstatements about his military service during Vietnam. It also reported that that he had received 5 deferments from 1965-1970. The story was accompanied by an exceedingly unflattering photo of him.

One link already appears to his public misstatement. Others will emerge.

An earlier New York Times article appeared on April 15, 2010 criticizing his limpid campaign style. He had underwhelmed in a televised debate and then declined to further debate the unknown primary opponent. He also apparently has difficulties answering simple questions during the campaign, and tries to dodge difficult questions.

Someone at the New York Times does not like the Connecticut Attorney General.

Normally all we would need to know is that Blumenthal served in the military. He served honorably in the Marines. He fulfilled his obligation to his country, just as President George W. Bush.

He’s also been publicly very supportive of veterans. That’s highly commendable.

Yet, he has on many occasions hyped his record by claiming to have served in Vietnam, when he had a cushy billet with a Marine reserve unit that was not going to be called up, unlike today’s reserves. He also let the Vietnam service enter the public lore in Connecticut.

Totally unnecessary!

And totally stupid in today’s age when cameras and cell phones capture public and private statements, and when the age of the internet and the Freedom of Information Act allows for the discovery of the truth.

Why? Why embellish his service military? Why lie when no apparent reason exists to?
It’s inexplicable, unless we are witnessing an underlying character flaw.

Perhaps we are. As I write this blog, reports are surfacing that he claimed to be the Captain of the Harvard Swim team, when he wasn’t even on the team.

A number of incidents in recent years warn politicians, coaches, academicians, and executives to clean their resumes. Blumenthal did not pad his resume. He simply hyperventilated his record in public.

He insulted our soldiers, sailors and airmen. By way of contrast, one of the Republicans seeking the GOP nomination is former Congressman Ron Simmons, who served 19 months in Vietnam, and earned 2 Bronze Stars.

Blumenthal’s press conference yesterday was interesting starting with the venue. He symbolically held it at a VFW Hall. The irony apparently escaped him.
Second, he admitted that “On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service and
I regret that, and I take full responsibility.”

No apology though.

But then he got confrontational, trying to throw it back upon his critics: “I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service.”

Not total honesty either.

He claims not to know how many deferments he may have received, and that notice wasn’t always given of deferments.

The meaning of life, the literal meaning of life, to young males during Vietnam was their draft status. It often transcended love, sex, beer, and sports.

Blumenthal is smart, very smart, Harvard undergrad, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, Editor in Chief of the Yale Law Journal. He would have known of his deferment status.

Remember, you had to apply for a deferment, or have a powerful person run interference for you. The Selective Service did not bestow deferments on its own initiative.

He knew.

I understand the deferment game he was playing. That was the norm for Vietnam. Some of our most creative students were brilliant in trying to beat the draft. I understand that.

The happiest day for a classmate of mine was when he secured one of the most prized billets during Vietnam, the Coast Guard Reserve.

(By way of full disclosure, my draft status was 4F because of asthma.)

State attorney generals are very ambitious politicians. They are members of NAAG, the National Association of Attorney Generals. NAAG is also referred to s the National Association of Aspiring Governors and Senators.

Blumenthal patiently waited for a senate seat to open up. This is his turn.

He is the anointed successor to Senator Chris Dodd. He’s been Connecticut’s Attorney general for 20 years. He has name recognition statewide, and is running as a Democrat in an almost solid blue state. Like Coakley, he’s ready for the swearing in ceremony.

Like Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, he misrepresented the extent of his service in Vietnam.

And now he comes across as just another self-embellishing, out of touch politico. He could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The public is fed up with ethically challenged politicians.

If many other clips emerge, Blumenthal will suffer the death of a 1,000 cuts.

He’s becoming the butt of jokes. For example, what’s the different between Jane Fonda and Richard Blumenthal?

Fonda went to Vietnam.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Carole King and James Taylor Troubadour Tour and Us

17,000 poured through the gates of the Hollywood Bowl to hear a King and a troubadour – on three successive sell out nights.

No sit-ins, demonstrations, confrontations, free speech riots, protests, snake lines, peace symbols. No police columns, National Guard with fixed bayonets, mounted officers charging protesters, tear gas nor S.I. Hayakawa ripping the wires out of the speakers on a protest van.

Just a generation listening to its music.

Don McCain was wrong; the music never died.

The Last Hurrah of the baby Boomers before they send us off to the home.

Have we mellowed!

But they still don’t trust us; they don’t trust the children of the 60’s.
Unlike the normal admissions policies for the Hollywood Bowl, signs said: “No cans, glass bottles, or alcohol.” It didn’t say anything about “No grass,” but the 17,000 were here to hear the music.

Age Requirement: No one was carded, but the Teeny Boppers were down Fairfax at a Jonas Brothers Concert. What are the odds that the Jonas Brothers will have a 40 year reunion concert 4 decades from now?

How many of our young even know what a troubadour is?

A few in Hollywood might recognize it as the name of a club.

Carole King and James Taylor, just a few of the great musical artists of our generation, ranging from Folk to Rock with Blues, Country and Jazz mixed in, with some leftover pop.

Listening to most of today’s artists makes you realize why music sales are diving. Don’t blame it on iTunes and file sharing. We could pay $2.50-$3.00 for a LP with 11-12 wonderful songs. What do you get today?

Dress Code: Blue jeans, preferably Levis. No gaudy dead or dying band shirts.

How did the men look?

Some gray hair, some no-hair, some combovers, some toupees, and some caps.

How about the women?

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t remember all those blonds 4
decades ago. Some Botox, implants, and plastic surgery, but mostly incredible, natural beauty which still shines.

Some of the audience limped, were in wheel chairs, or had oxygen masks. Many of the nascent seniors displayed some weight gain. Who knows what legal medications were flowing through their veins?

We have aged well, but then again, we are the survivors. We’re not ready yet for social security.

Carole and James have certainly aged well.

We dipped into our retirement funds to support their retirement, but what a small price to pay for 2 ½ hours of great music. Today’s performers can learn something from that.

2 ½ hours of pure music. No large production numbers, no large backup band, no extensive song and dance diversions, no fireworks, just music featuring vocals and lyrics. What a novel concept?

One major change in today’s arena seating. The seats have shrunk.

One major technological change - Instead of lifting candles or cigarette lighters to request an encore or two, today’s geezers host and light cell phones.

We have aged well, and so has our music

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Which Politician Will Fall next?

Voters are in a surly mood this year. Familiarity breeds contempt, and familiar faces become stale. Voters will be imposing term limits this year.

Incumbency and career politician may become, like TARP, a 4 letter word.

Pennsylvania and Virginia voters threw out incumbents, at the state and Congressional level, in the past decade – incumbents who seemed more interested in entrenching and enriching themselves than representing the people.

Some saw the writing on the wall, and fell on their own swords.

Leaders of this pack include Senators Chris Dodd (6 years in the House and 30 in the Senate) and Bryan Dorgan (12 House and 18 Senate), and Representatives Bart Stupak, David Obey (elected to Congress in 1969), Bart Gordon (26) years, and Eric Massa.

Congressman John Murtha (36 years in Congress) avoided this fate by dying from complications following surgery. It may have been medical malpractice that killed him, although ethical issues were catching up to him. He wasn’t as quick as he used to be.

Senator Robert Bennett (18 years in the Senate) and Congressman Alan Mullohan (36 years in Congress) fell in the primary season. They won’t be the last.
Others, such as Governor Jon Corzine, were shown the door. Attorney General Martha Coakley, the anointed one in Massachusetts, lost the Kennedy seat.

Some are dead men walking, but are in denial, such as Harry Reid, Arlen Specter, Michael Bennett, Charlie Crist.

Senator Blanche Lincoln is stuck between Scylla and Charybdis, the primary challenge Tuesday from the far left and the general election in November, from the right. She won’t survive.

Congressman Jim Matheson faces the same hurdles in Utah. It didn’t help that he was apparently trading a vote for the President’s Health reform plan in exchange for a federal judgeship for his brother, although he did vote against the final bill.

Senator Barbara Boxer (first elected to Congress in 1982) is on the endangered list.

Long term House barons, such as Ike Skelton (33 years in Congress), are out of touch with their districts. Congressman Skelton did not help his case last October by telling a Republican Congressman from Missouri to “stick it up your ass.”

The host of new, conservative Democrats elected over the past 4 years, who turned liberal this past year, can pack their bags. Landslide Tom Perriello (727 vote margin) is history. To quote Bob Dylan, “it’s all over now Baby Blue.”

Those who flipped on either health care or abortion are endangered. Congresswoman Suzanna Kosmas may be retiring home to Florida sooner than she expected.

Senator Specter (30 years in the Senate) has, of course, conveniently flipped on almost everything, except himself.

Senator John McCain (first elected in Congress in 1982) is suddenly against immigration reform, at least in the Arizona Republican primary.

Congressman Alan Grayson is hopefully on the list.

If the African Americans in Harlem are as fed up with their corrupt Representative Charles Rangel (40 years in Congress) as were the African Americans in New Orleans with the indicted and convicted William Jefferson, then Congressman Rangel (40 years in Congress) will lose the primary to Adam Clayton Powell IV. However, Vietnamese American Congressman Joseph Cao will probably not be reelected in his heavily Democratic District. Little Saigon is in Orange County, not Louisiana.

Even rock hard, elected for life Democrats in Massachusetts, such as Representative Niki Tsongas, are running scared. Politicians for life, such as the once and perhaps future Governor Of California, may lose their last campaiogn this November.

To quote my favorite Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."

Don't Trivialize Arizona's SB 1070 with the Holocaust

Arizona’s enactment of SB 1070 ignited a national debate over the rights of immigrants. The debate has been spirited, robust, vigorous, vitriolic, informed, and uninformed – in short, a validation of America’s unique First Amendment Rights.

Schools have cancelled band trips and basketball championship games in Arizona. Boycotts have been announced.

Charges of racism, racist, racial profiling, bias, moral crisis, anti-Hispanic, bias are hurled, often at a fever pitch.

Much in a vacuum of what the act provides.

The Bill’s backers counter by calling the opponents supporters of human trafficking, drug traffickers, smugglers, kidnappers, and murderers. They want to regain “control of our borders.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, who had questioned the Bill and hinted the Justice Department may file suit against it, admitted yesterday before a House Committee, that he had not read the 10 page Bill.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to initiate a boycott of Arizona and Arizona products. The Council debate was illuminating.

Councilman Paul Koretz, whose father escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, compared Arizona to Nazi Germany: “This is very frightening stuff.” He added “If this was being proposed at the federal level, I would think we’re absolutely at the beginning of what went on in Nazi Germany.” He viewed SB 1070 as ‘just the tip of the iceberg.”

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who’s running for Lieutenant Governor, has stated that “When people are asked to show their papers, it brings back memories of Nazi Germany.”

Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles has championed immigrant rights since his parish priest days. He too echoed the Nazi thoughts: “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of
documentation.”

These comments trivialize the Holocaust, the 6 million Jewish victims, the 1 million Gypsy/Roma victims (My father was Romanian), and the 5-6 million other victims.

The actual executions began not with the Jews, but with the mentally ill as the Nazis emptied out the mental institutions upon achieving power. Gays were also singled out, but on a smaller scale.

The Holocaust was the greatest in a series of tragic 20th Century genocides,
although both Chairman Mao and Stalin had more blood on their hands.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said in a phone call on Thursday “This type of language is toxic, is not accurate and makes the whole issue more difficult, not less difficult, to resolve.”
He cautioned “We don’t need on top of everything invoking imagery that is inappropriate.”

The Center issued a statement opposed to the Arizona statute, but objected to the use of the Holocaust analogy, stating that we should not demonize opponents, even when they are mistaken, to those whose actions led to history’s most notorious crime.”

Hitler signaled in Mein Kampf his intent to act against the Jews.

The formal state sponsored discrimination began shortly after he assumed power in
1933. Jews were barred from professions, such as the law, medicine, and farming, excluded from colleges and universities, and from being publishers or editors of newspapers.

The infamous Nuremburg Laws followed in 1935, barring Aryans from marrying Jews, annulled existing marriages between Jews and Aryans, barred Jews from the Civil Service, stripped German Jews of their citizenship, and deprived them of all their civil rights.

Arizona’s law comes nowhere close to this.

Then came Crystal Night on November 9-10, 1938, followed by the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The mass killings and concentration camps became soon thereafter.

The Arizona statute should also be contrasted with California’s history of racial discrimination against Asians and Hispanics.

History tells us that the Central Pacific Railway brought Chinese laborers to America to build the railroad to its connection with the Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah.

Actual discrimination went back to the time of the 49ers.

The California Legislature enacted in 1852 a “Foreign Miner’s License tax” of $3 per month to discourage Chinese from mining for gold.

San Francisco, beginning in 1850, prohibited Chinese students from attending the
public schools, and then followed the infamous 1896 Supreme Court “separate but equal” decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. A California school law of 1860 excluded “Negroes, Mongolians, and Indians from the public schools."

The California Supreme Court held in 1854 that a Chinese witness could not testify against a Caucasian. California’s 1879 Constitution explicitly denied the vote to idiots, insane persons, and “natives of China.”

San Francisco’s ban on Chinese laundries was reversed by the Supreme Court in 1886 in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, an early civil rights case.

California continued to bar non-citizen Asians from several professions and occupations, including attorneys, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, veterinarians, hairdressers, cosmetologists, barbers, funeral directors, peddlers, and hunters.

Restrictive covenants were enforced against prospective Asian American house buyers, as were the laws against miscegenation.

California also led the way for several western states in 1913 and 1920 by enacting Asian land Exclusion Laws designed to preclude land ownership by “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” which under federal law meant Asian Americans. The penalty for violating these statutes would be land forfeiture to the state.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act initially suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years and held Chinese immigrants were ineligible to become naturalized citizens. The statute was renewed several times. Japanese immigrants faced the same discrimination when they started immigrating to the West Coast mainland a century ago.

The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act (Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924) restricted all Asians from entering the United States.

Conversely, Congress extended “naturalization” to African Americans in 1870 and American Indians in 1924.

The anti-Japanese racism culminated, of course, in the World War II concentration camps. The drive to imprison the Japanese Americans was led by California’s Attorney General Earl Warren.

Not until 1952 could Asian American immigrants become U.S. citizens.

The discrimination did not totally end then.

Although they denied it, Berkeley and UCLA discriminated against Asian American applicants in admissions decisions in the 1980’s, analogous to the quotas imposed on Jewish students by elite eastern colleges earlier in the century.

Much of the anger in the Rodney King riots of a decade ago was directed at Korean American merchants. Hundreds of Korean American merchants lost their burnt out, looted businesses in their pursuit of the American dream. They never received compensation.

The record of the LAPD in the 1930’s is also one of shame. They engaged in two major efforts to keep the City of Angels white and mostly Protestant. First, they sent officers to the Border, that is, the California-Arizona border, and turned back “undesirables.” Second, they would periodically sweep the streets of Los Angeles, round up and deport Mexicans, without even worrying if they were U.S. citizens.

Regardless of your views on SB 1070, it nowhere approaches the Holocaust, much less California’s history with Asian Americans or LA’s with Mexicans.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Al Gore Does it Again

Not content with his 10,000 square foot mansion in Belle Meade, Tennessee, former Vice President Al Gore just purchased a 6,500 square foot, ocean front mansion on 1 ½ acres in Montecito, California. His new villa includes a swimming pool, spa and fountains, a wine cellar, family room, terraces, six fireplaces, five bedrooms, and nine bathrooms.

His father, the populist Al Gore, Sr., rose from poverty to become an esteemed United States Senator.

The son, Al Gore, Jr. went to Harvard, entered the family business of politics, rose to the Vice Presidency, and is now a multi-millionaire.

America is great.

It’s still the land of opportunity.

Upper mobility works.

I do not begrudge him his success. Nor do I envy him.

This is America.

We all wish our children to out-succeed us.

But when he lectures, indeed hectors us, then he becomes an insufferable bore.

And when he regales us with bogus data, such as the infamous hockey stick, he plays the fool.

And when he becomes an energy hog, his hypocrisy takes us back to Animal Farm. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Al Gore won an Oscar and Nobel for “An Inconvenient Truth”.

As had been widely reported, his mansion in Belle Meade was an energy hog. The mansion consumed almost 221,000 kwh in 2006, over 20 times the national average.

The natural gas bill for his mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month.

His total gas and electricity bill for 2006 was about $30,000.

In partial justification, he and Tipper both work out of the mansion. In other words, they have home offices and, I presume, take appropriate income tax deductions. That means the taxpayers are footing some of those energy bills.

Al Gore subsequently installed 33 solar panels, a rainwater collection system, and 7 geothermal wells on the property. He also pays a premium for renewable electricity.

He purchased carbon offsets for his carbon footprint, but through a company he partially owns.

And now comes Round 2 in Montecito.

Life has been good to Al Gore, Jr.

Going green, touting green, and the green flows to Al.

Senator Barbara Boxer "Displays Less Intellectual Firepower or Leadership Than She Could"

Senator Barbara Boxer “displays less intellectual firepower and leadership than she could.”

Those aren’t my words. They are the words of the editorial writers of the Los Angeles Times on Friday, May 5, when it declined to endorse her for reelection in the Democratic primary.

The liberal Los Angeles Times declined to endorse an incumbent liberal, who has not been accused of corruption, bribery, or any other ethical flaws. She has no personal scandal.

Senator Boxer has been a stalwart of the liberals. Leadership has never been a problem because she is a reliable vote.

“Like a rock.”

Steadfast support of the environment, labor, minority rights, abortion rights, women's rights, gay rights, government spending, military cuts, immigration reform, tax increases – never any pretense of turning conservative in an election year.

Like a rock!

But now the LA Times tells us that is not enough.

Apparently, the Senator is intellectually challenged, even though she has published two novels.

She's certainly economically challenged, but that fits into the mainstream of today's democratic Party.

Intelligence has never been a qualification for elective office. A short time ago at a Congressional hearing in which additional deployments to Guam were discussed, Congressman Hank Thompson said: “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated and tip over and capsize.”

Nor is it a disqualification.

The brain dead can be elected to office. Indeed, sometimes actual dead are elected.

Is Senator Boxer stupid?

Or have too many years in office afflicted her with the arrogance that many politicians acquire?

Have a couple of decades of Potomac Fever turned her brain dead?

Who knows?

Senator Boxer has never appeared thoughtful unlike her colleague, Senator Dianne Feinstein.

She has never instilled much excitement or enthusiasm in her supporters, but she’s smart enough to win elections and reelections.

Is her problem that deep down, she is simply a transplanted New Yorker from Brooklyn, and her style doesn’t fit California?

We do know though on June 18, 2009 a general addressed her at a Senate hearing as “Ma’am,” and she objected, demanding to be called “Senator.” Military protocol advises officers to use “sir” or “ma’am” in addressing superiors.

Senator Boxer is a kneejerk, lockstep liberal. That should be enough to get her reelected in California, but perhaps not this year.

California has had its share of great leaders as well as intellectually challenged leaders. A leadership vacuum currently exists in Sacramento, but the Senator legislates in Washington, D.C., where President Obama is definitely exercising leadership.

No, the real story is the LA Times. The paper was once upon a time a stalwart of conservatives.

Otis Chandler became publisher in 1960. His vision was to transform the Times into one of the world’s and America’s great newspapers. The editorial page shifted from conservative to liberal, circulation soared with the growth of the greater LA Basin, and the reputation of the Times was nationally proclaimed.

Compared to eastern papers, such as the Boston Globe and New York Times, it was basically balanced in the news sections. The politics were saved for the editorial pages. It took on Democrats and Republicans on a non-partisan basis.

The Chandler family forced him out in 1980, but the paper built on his legacy for over a decade.

Then came the circulation drops, financial reverses, changes in ownership, bankruptcy, and in the past couple of years, a moderation of the editorial pages.

And now it’s dumping on one of its favorite liberals.

This is a crazy year!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Incredible Shrinkage of Newsweek

The media is always an industry in transition, as technology, interests, and advertisers change over time. Magazines are no exception.

Colliers and McCalls are essentially forgotten names of decades past. Such classics as Life, Look, and Saturday Evening Post are historic, as are Coronet and Pageant. T.V. Guide was sold for $1.00. Bloomberg’s acquired Business Week. Even the Wall Street Journal was sold to Rupert Murdock. Playboy and Readers Digest have been struggling for years, and Penthouse survived bankruptcy.

Most magazines and newspaper are suffering in this economic crisis and the rise of Google, Yahoo, and other electronic advertisers. Cable news and the internet are changing how we obtain out news.

And now it’s the turn of the weekly news magazines.

The hallowed, but entrepreneurial, also ran of U. S. News & World Report saw the writing on the wall last year. It dropped from weekly hard copy to weekly electronic copies with a monthly hard copy. The monthly issue would often be the classics, America’s Best Colleges, America’s Best Graduate Schools, America’s Best Hospitals, etc.

Newsweek tried a different approach.

It shrunk, both in size and intellectual quality.

It changed its focus from news gathering to commentary for an upscale, thoughtful audience willing to pay premium prices for the magazine.

It laid off about 150 employees.

It also became a shrill for Senator and then President Obama. Seemingly every other issue featured the President or Michelle on the cover. Others touted the rebirth of Keynes and the demise of the GOP. Typical issues were "We Are All Socialists Now," Feb. 16, 2009, and "The Decline and Fall of Christian America," April 13, 2009.

Why would an atheistic socialist want to read Newsweek?

The thought pieces are often puff pieces.

Most of the commentators are writing to the left in the milieu of the Washington Press Corps, the shrinking Washington Press Corps. Instead of listening to the people outside the Beltway, the Newsweek editors are listening to the sound of one hand clapping inside the D.C. cocoon. Instead of broadening the audience, it decided to shrink the focus to a small, and shrinking, segment of the population.

Conservatives are not going to read Newsweek simply because the great George Will writes for it.

As for the remaining commentators, I recognize some of them, but many are unknown to me. I know that Fareed Zakaria is usually wrong.

We are as thoughtful a nation as ever, but do not rely on weekly magazines for the information.

A younger generation, which often does not read newspapers, will not look to a
news magazine for its thoughts. They don't turn to hard copy for their sources.

The result- The washington Post, its parent company just announced that Newsweek is for sale. Newsweek apparently lost $28.1 million last year. Newsweek’s circulation was 3.14 million in 2000. It now guarantees circulation of 1.5 million. Playboy is also down to 1.5 million circulation. Neither brags about their informative articles anymore. Time is making money off its guaranteed circulation of 3.5 million.

Advertising revenues dropped 38% in 2009, and is down another 37% this year.

Newsweek is slipping into irrelevancy.

A fair summary of the new Newsweek would be to paraphrase Gertrude Stein’s famous reminiscence about Oakland; “There is no there, there” now.

We have a year and a half remaining on our subscription with no intent of renewing.

Jon Meacham has been the editor of Newsweek since 2006, and hence presided over its decline. His desire is to lead a buyout of the magazine.

Newsweek’s time has passed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

President Obama's Commencement Address at the University of Michigan

President Obama delivered the Commencement Address last Saturday at the University of Michigan, and received an honorary degree. Go Blue.

It was a good commencement address, a fairly standard speech with no new proposals, which means it is unmemorable. I say that as praise because most graduation speeches are pedantic, clich├ęs ridden, and boring.

A few Commencement speeches are memorable, such as Secretary of State George Marshall at Harvard unveiling the Marshall Plan on June 5, 1947.

Other college addresses are historic, especially Winston Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946, denouncing The Iron Curtain.

The University of Michigan has its share of historic speeches. In an early morning campaign stop on October 14 (15), 1960, Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy proposed the Peace Corps on the steps of the Michigan Union.

Not to be outdone, President Lyndon Baines Johnson unveiled The Great Society on May 22, 1964 at the University of Michigan.

Quick, can you even remember who delivered the commencements at your graduation, or much less, what they said?

I thought so. I certainly can’t remember the ones at mine, not that I went to all of them.

However, I’ve sat through 4 decades of commencement addresses, and I can only remember two of them. One was an exceedingly long winded federal appellate judge trying to espouse and justify his judicial philosophy. The other was one of America’s most successful trial lawyers. None of his histrionics or rhetorical ability; he seemed out of it. He was out of it. We found out why a few months later. He was indicted and is now enjoying the federal penal system from the inside.

The 80,000 enthusiastic attendees at the Big House may not remember soon what the President said, but they will remember for the rest of their lives who the speaker was.

President Obama’s speech began with the usual VIP acknowledgments and thanks, proceeded with some humor, and then got into the meat of his first presentation.

The first half was a defense of government, a defense of the need for government - nothing controversial about such an idea at a progressive institution such as The University of Michigan.

His presentation was also a history lesson because he often cited Republican presidents on the need for government action.

The second half of his speech called for civility in public debates, “a basic level
of civility in our public discourse.” He reached out as the post-partisan President, the campaign mantra he assumed two years ago.

He posited the once agreed upon standard that “You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism.” The President
recognized that we cannot solve our problems by tearing each other down.

Listen carefully to these words: “You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it.”

He asked us to listen to differing opinions. Thus, if we like to read the editorial page of the New York Times, we might want to look at the Wall Street Journal occasionally. Similarly, if we’re fans of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, we should look at the Huffington Post.

However, let us quote the former, disgraced Attorney General John Mitchell, who at the beginning of the Nixon Administration, said: “Judge us not by what we say, but by what we do.”

As President Theodore Roosevelt recognized, the President has the Bully Pulpit. The President is the Communicator in Chief. The President can also set the agenda and tone of debate on many issues. That he tried to do at Michigan.

Six justices of the Supreme Court sat in attendance at the January State of The Union Address. President Obama went out of his way to attack a recent decision of the Court in the presence of the Justices, who could not respond. He was also wrong on what the opinion stood for, but that didn’t stop the rhetoric.

In a health care speech before Congress last September, he accused opponents of his plan of spreading “lies,” “bogus claims,” and of being “cynical” and “irresponsible.” He labeled them with “demagoguery and distortion.”

That’s hardly reasoned discourse!

The Vice President has traditionally been assigned the role of attack dog, pit bull if you would, but not in the Obama Administration. The President all too often assumes the role himself.

It’s in his DNA. He cannot repress his populist, and often opportune, anger. 20 years of worshiping with Reverend Wright and associating with radicals like Bill Ayres did not mellow his views.

In the week after his speech, he criticized a proposed amendment to the Financial
Reform Bill by Republican Senator Richard Shelby: “I will not allow amendments like this one written by Wall Street’s lobbyists to pass for reform.”

President Obama addressed a month earlier a fund raiser for the embattled Senator Barbara Boxer. He said Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, “paid a visit to Wall Street a week or two ago.” He “met with some of the movers and shakers up there. I don’t know exactly what was discussed. All I can tell you is when he came back, he promptly announced he would oppose the financial regulatory reform.”

Note the attack on motives rather than the merits.

Note also that Wall Street is giving a lot more to Democrats than Republicans this election cycle, and that Goldman Sachs alone had contributed $994,795 to Obama’s presidential election. He attacks “Wall Street greed,” but does not give the money back.

Another large donor, incidentally, was BP Petroleum. According to Kimberly Strassel in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Wall Street has donated $5.3 million to Senate Democrats this election year – three times more than they’ve donated to Republicans. Such is the power of incumbency in the majority party.

Goldman Sachs and the other large banks have spent a small fortune this election cycle lobbying the Democratic leaders in Congress.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs echoed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on the
Gulf Oil Spill: “We will keep out boots on BP’s throat.”

That’s hardly a reasoned discourse.

A few months earlier, Mr. Gibbs mocked Governor Sarah Palin by pretending to read some notes off his palm.

Both before the election, and his inaugural, President Obama attacked “fat cat bankers.”

Chrysler and GM’s traditionally creditors took a bath on their debts, but the UAW escaped whole. When Chrysler’s creditors protested, the President’s response in April 2009 was to denounce them as “speculators” who “were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none.”

They were simply attempting to vindicate their legal rights.

During the Presidential campaign, and after assuming office, The President singled
out Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News for attack. That doesn’t sound like his Michigan speech.

He loves to attack insurance companies, especially health insurers. In one speech, he singled out insurance CEO’s 22 times. His list also includes the Chamber of Commerce, but the Chamber fights back.

When Sarah Palin criticized his nuclear disarmament proposals, his response was “I really have no response to that.” But then he contemptuously added: “The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”

By way of comparison with President Obama’s address, you might want to go on YouTube and check out last year’s commencement address by another young success, Larry Page, co-founder of Google and Michigan engineering alum.

Larry’s not a great speaker, either from a teleprompter or typed notes, but his speech was passion, from the heart, because it was personal. Most speakers, of course, are simply names or large donors, for which this is but an honor.

Some though, such as Page, are personally involved with the institution. Larry spoke about his grandfather who worked the line at the Chevy Plant in Flint, and how his parents met as students at the University of Michigan. He spoke about his dad, and the fight against polio.

All from the heart.

And he spoke about following your dreams. That might be a platitude, but in his case it meant Google, and the need to max out your credit cards in pursuing that dream.

All from the heart.

After the regular graduation ceremony, President Obama as Commander in Chief of the military, swore in the ROTC graduates. That was a beautiful touch to the ceremony. It also could not have occurred at his alma maters, Columbia and Harvard, because they ban ROTC from their campuses. Our great public universities have a better understanding of their role in America.

To me, the only down note on the ceremony was the performance of Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm. She joined herself at the hip with the President. The two words which best describe her talk are “fawning sycophant,” although obsequious, pandering, and kiss ass comes to mind. She desperately wants out of Michigan, having governed over its collapse. She wanted a cabinet position, and will settle for a Supreme Court appointment. Anything to get out of the state!

Nothing about the graduates, and everything about her personal job application.

Michigan deserves better.

Governor Granholm inherited a miserable economy when she became governor. Detroit was collapsing, and while the Michigan economy is not a one trick pony, the fortunes and misfortunes of the auto industry drive the state. The Governor worsened the decline by enacting tax increases that drove entrepreneurs and small business out of the state. She wants even more tax increases, but the Republican Senate won’t give her any more.

But I digress.

President Obama has had a meteoric rise to success. Hubris can attach with such success.

His mentor, Saul Alinsky never taught him one of the fundamental rules of life, one which President Obama will painfully learn if the November elections turn out to be an electoral tragedy for Democrats:

Be nice to those you pass on the way up; you may see them again on the way down.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Siete de Mayo

Two days after Cinco de Mayo, we know that not only did the principal and assistant principal at Live Oak High School mishandle the situation, but that the Morgan Hill Unified School District continues to do so.

Instead of minimizing the risk of violent confrontation, the tension has been rising, but is still well short of an explosion.

200 Mexican American students skipped class on Thursday and exercised their First Amendment rights by marching to the School District headquarters, demanding respect and chanting “Si, se puede,””Yes, we can.” At least six police vehicles escorted the marchers, many of whom carried Mexican flags.

A peaceful protest is part of the American Way. Vaya con Dios.

And yet, by Friday two police officers were stationed at the school and the five American students may, or may not, have received threats by Mexican gangs.

Live Oak High School and the Morgan Hill School District have received national attention, much of which is highly negative. The Principal and Assistant Principal have been deluged with emails. They are receiving a vitriolic, American education on the American Flag. They are not publicly commenting, but the Principal issued a public apology.

Lawyers have been volunteering to represent the American students if they choose to sue to vindicate their constitutional rights. The Morgan Hill School District does not need lawyers parachuting in.

Superintendent of Schools Wesley Smith sent a message in English and Spanish to parents late Thursday. It reads like educationese, starting with a negative rather than positive message, which can only reinforce the negative impressions of the District: “The Morgan Hill School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage patriotic clothing.

Only later in the statement does the Superintendent state: “Students should not, and will not be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing,” followed by a review of the situation and the handling of it.

Why not a simple statement that students are free to wear the patriotic colors of their choice?

Superintendent Smith at a Friday press conference finally acknowledged freedom of expression as “a sacred American value” with the lesson learnt is that it be celebrated “thoughtfully and fairly.”

He must have been getting an earful of First Amendment Freedom of Expression.

Maybe these two weekend days will bring peace.

Certainly, The Morgan Hill Unified School District and Live Oak High School did not need this Andy Warhol, 15 minutes of fame.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't Wear the American Flag to Live Oak High School on Cinco de Mayo

President Obama spoke yesterday on Cinco de Mayo and warned against treating any people different than the rest of us. In criticizing Arizona’s immigration bill, he stated: “You can’t start singling out people because of who they look like or how they talk or how they dress.”

Live Oak High School yesterday gave preference to Mexican American students.

Over 100 Mexican American students wore the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag on Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the victory of the Mexican forces over the French Army on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. The holiday, which is technically not Mexican Independence Day, is widely celebrated in the United States, but not so much in Mexico.

Five non-Mexican American students exercised poor judgment, but the bravado one expects from high school students. They wanted to speak up for America. They wore American Flag t-shirts, and two also wore American Flag bandannas.

The school has a ban on bandannas, but not t-shirts.

The Assistant Principal, Miguel Rodriquez, asked them to remove the bandannas and turn the shirts inside out. If not, they would be sent home. Nick Boden, the Principal, backed up his Assistant principal. The bandannas were removed but not the shirts.

The boys went home, thus sparking an outrage over the disrespect shown to the American Flag, and political correctness run amuck.

In fairness to Miguel Rodriquez, he explained to the five students that any other day would be OK for them to wear their American Flag t-shirts, but on this special day for the Mexican students, he was afraid of their t-shirts being not only insensitive, but incendiary. He wanted to avoid confrontations.

That’s a fair perspective on its face, but it’s unconstitutional, poor judgment, and bad policy and politics.

The Morgan Hill School Board said the actions of the Principal and Vice Principal did not comply with board or district policy. But are they going to discipline them? Will they be removed? Will they be reprimanded? Probably not!

The school district would be within its rights to impose a dress code, especially one that requires uniforms. In that way, all would be treated equally. It might also ban team shirts that become gang symbols.

But it cannot prefer the speech rights of one ethnicity over another.

If Mexican American, or Iranian American, or Armenian Americans, or Irish Americans, or Italian Americans, or Polish Americans, or Romanian Americans, or Korean Americans wish to wear their colors to school, they can do so.

By all means, celebrate your heritage, your culture, your values. That is part of the American greatness for America will build your heritage into the American culture.

Bad taste? Poor judgment of our 5 non-Hispanic students (although reports are that two of the five are of Hispanic descent)?

Sure, but that’s protected by the First Amendment. It’s call freedom of speech- the freedom to take contrarian positions, the freedom to engage in robust, caustic, indeed vitriolic, debates, the freedom to take unwise positions, and even appear as a fool.

The judgment of the five on Cinco de Mayo was poor, just as if the other students wore their Mexican Flag t-shirts to a public 4th of July Fireworks show in America.

They have that right, the same right a Vietnamese vendor has in Little Saigon in Orange County to fly the North Vietnamese Flag - A stupid exercise of that right, but one protected by the First Amendment.

Had the five really meant to show disrespect, they could have worn border patrol t-shirts, like 15 students did at Pioneer High School, down the road in neighboring San Jose.

Bad taste includes the action of campus Young Republicans a few years ago. They engaged in bake sales to protest the discriminatory nature of affirmative action. The baked goods would be priced by color – a highly symbolic, and perhaps inflammatory, act.

Some colleges, such as the University of California Irvine, banned the sales. That too was a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of the Young Republicans.

Many universities, including some of our large, prestigious public universities, tried to impose speech codes a few years back. These codes would penalize broadly defined “hate speech,” words, speeches, and writings that could be viewed as offensive to vulnerable groups. The landmark decision striking down these codes was in 1999 against the University of Michigan.

If the act of the Assistant Principal were prompted by complaints from the Mexican American students, then the conduct of these students was legal and correct, but politically naive.

At the same time you are seeking protection of the American flag, especially in the name of immigration reform, you should not be disparaging the same flag. It attracts more opposition to immigrants.

A few years ago a large immigration rights rally in Los Angeles attracted tens of thousands. Thousands were waving Mexican national flags. That was a political mistake.

A few years before that, a soccer match was held at the LA Coliseum, featuring the national teams of Mexico and the United States. 90% of the fans were Hispanic, and the Mexican flag was ubiquitous. I have no problem with that.

Americans are not a race, ethnicity, or religion. We are the melting pot of the world. The unifying symbol of America is the Flag. The Flag proclaims us as Americans.

We pledge allegiance to the Flag, not to a person, king, queen, tsar, sultan, emir, god, government, state, party, or ism.

Thus, respect our Flag as you celebrate yours.

A unifying theme is the Constitution, especially the Bill of rights and Freedom of Speech.

The Supreme Court held in 1989 and 1990 that the First Amendment protects the right to burn the American Flag as protected speech.

As I understand it then, it’s OK to burn the flag, but not to wear it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Initial Reflections on the BP Deep Water Gulf Blowout

It’s an environmental disaster.

Whether it will be greater than the Santa Barbara Channel Blowout, the Torrey Canyon, or Exxon Valdez oil spills remains to be seen, but the potential magnitude of the natural resources disaster exceeds any previous oil disaster.

Both the Exxon Valdez and Torrey Canyon involved supertankers with a finite cargo capacity. Santa Barbara and Exxon Valdez also had enclosed bodies of water, albeit large (The Exxon Valdez spill covered 1,300 square miles), with little chance of contaminating thousands of miles of coast line. While Santa Barbara was an offshore platform, it was close to land and at a shallow depth. Containment and capping could be achieved.

BP is 50 miles off shore with one mile of ocean before the drill hits a solid mass.

The BP potential for ecological carnage is seemingly infinite in comparison to the earlier disasters.

BP and its partners, Transocean, Ltd. and Anadarko, are at the cutting edge of technology, both for deep water drilling and then containment and capping. Red Adair and Boots and Coots were never hired to cap blowouts a mile under water. That is a challenge. The engineers will be studying this one for years, perhaps decades.
So will the lawyers. Over two dozen class actions have already been filed as the trial lawyers fall over each other to be first in line even if the basic facts aren’t known yet:

Why did the platform explode?
Why didn’t the emergency cutoff work?
Did a worker, now deceased, get to the cut off valve?
If so, why didn’t it work?
Why did the blowout preventer on the sea floor fail?
What checks and tests had been performed?
How close to completion was the well?
Would a $500,000 acoustic trigger, required by Brazil and Norway, but not the UK or US have made a difference?

The engineers will figure out these answers. They are very good with fault analysis, and other approaches to solving the causes of most major disasters, the one major exception being TWA 800.

Even if they don’t, the lawyers’ experts will advance theories.

This blowout is a true gusher for the lawyers, as black gold turns to green gold.

Forget Toyota and Goldman Sachs, this is the big one, the true Act of God.

Regardless of the technical cause(s), the underlying cause will be human error.

Exxon’s payouts on the Exxon Valdez will be petty cash compared to the BP settlements. Even if BP had substantial insurance, shorting the stock would be worth considering. BP claims to be self-insured.

BP is currently the largest corporation headquartered in the United Kingdom. That may change within a few years.

The other companies involved hopefully have large insurance policies, Transocean, owner of the rig, Cameron Industries, manufacturer of the blowout preventer, and Halliburton (Yes, that Halliburton!) who cemented the valve, and BP’s minority partners on the well, Anadarko and Mitsui.

Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, is reported to have just asked: “What the hell did we do to deserve this?”

The answer is because it is BP.

BP has a recent history of safety violations.

BP’s Texas City, Texas refinery exploded in 2005 with 15 dead and 170 injured. The company incurred a $87 million fine.

BP’s employees warned the company in 2002 that repairs were needed on the pipeline in Alaska. A March 2006 leak of 267,000 gallons was followed by a larger spill on August 8, 2006. The government shut down the pipeline, and hence he oil field, and assessed a $20 million fine.

Hayward’s predecessor, Sir John Brown, poured money into ads, “Beyond Petroleum,” touting BP as the Green Oil Company. Its symbol was even in green. His goal was minting green. He replaced engineers with sub-contractors to cut costs.

He cut spending on safety and infrastructure though.

BP entered the American market through the discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field, and the acquisition of three large American oil companies, Sohio, ARCO, and Amoco. Amoco brought with it the Texas City refinery.

Captain Joseph Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez may have been drunk in his cabin, or he may have been doing paperwork, when the third mate drove the supertanker on autopilot onto Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound at 11:00PM on March 24, 1989.

Why the third mate, and not the captain was at the helm, is partially a matter of bean counting, also known as safety cuts by Exxon. The oil company had progressively reduced the size of its tanker crews

Exxon, after the Exxon Valdez, changed its ethos. Safety is now an utmost priority on its drilling platforms.

An issue is unfolding about whether BP minimized the risk of off shore drilling.

This question is significant, but the real question is whether, regardless of what it said, did the company have a viable emergency action plan in place? Failing to plan, is planning to fail when it comes to emergencies.

Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Company were unprepared when the Exxon Valdez ran ashore.

Apparently, BP was somewhat prepared. Response efforts, with the assistance of the Coast Guard, were mounted rapidly. The company has tried to use submersible (robotics) to operate a shut off mechanism on the well.

Initial reports were no discharges occurred – not necessarily unusual with off shore accidents. BP immediately dispatched the robotics to the site to shut the blowout preventer.

Almost a week passed. Then came the “Houston we have a problem” call.

Then the reports were that 1,000 barrels a day were leaking out. Each barrel equals
42 gallons.

Then suddenly within a week, it was up to 5,000 barrels, and now it may be 10,000.

The implications for America’s energy future are ominous. Opponents of offshore drilling, which include many in the Obama Administration, will be emboldened.

Our Governor of California believes in wind power. He checks which way the wind is blowing and changes positions accordingly. Having supported drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel last year, he just came out against it for safety reasons in light of the Gulf blowout.

Santa Barbara halted much off shore drilling. The Exxon Valdez reinforced the opposition. Three Mile Island pulled the plug on any additional nuclear power in the United States.

Coal is a 4 letter word to many, and substantial opposition exists to solar and wind power.

So much for going green!

Green is a long term goal for America, but the future will not propel today’s cars
or generate electricity. Only petroleum can accomplish that.
Let us remember California at the turn on the New Millennium, when it ran short of electricity and America two summers ago when gas reached $5/gallon.

Commercial jets run on aviation fuel, not wind or solar.

Cars run on gas.

Trucks drive on diesel, not solar.

Without oil, civilization will revert to the Stone Age.

Without energy, 6 billion people on Planet Earth will starve.

Oil prices are already inching up.

A campaign is beginning to bring back “worse case analysis,” which really doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know. When asked why he didn’t believe in long range analysis, John Maynard Keynes was reported to say “Because in the long run we will all be dead anyway.” In environmental terms, the worse case analysis is a disaster of apocalyptic proportions.

The decision is not worse case, but a political call involving potential risks and benefits.

Risk exists in energy exploration; no activity is risk free.

Risk exists in energy development; no activity is risk free.

Risk exists in energy production; no activity is risk free.

Risk exists in oil refining; no activity is risk free.

Risk exists in energy distribution and transportation; no activity is risk free.

Risk exists in energy consumption; no activity is risk free.

Accidents happen, with the best of technology.

Planes collide.

Cars crash.

Ships sink.

Computers crash.

Shuttles explode.

Pipelines leak, explode, catch on fire.

Technology fails, even with the best of technology.

Forget energy independence in the near future. The United States will remain hostage to the Mideast and Hugo Chavez.

The issue is how much risk is society willing to bear to sustain our standard of living.

One final point reflecting the magnitude of America.

The Los Angeles Times today has a color photo of the Governor of Louisiana, a Republican, talking with the President of the United States, a Democrat.

The Governor of Louisiana, a descendant of Indian immigrants, talking with the African American President of the United States in Louisiana.

Isn’t America great!