Thursday, January 30, 2014
Where to go? Where to go? Where will our children go to college? College was easier for my generation in the 60’s. Even the most prestigious colleges had admissions rates over 50%. The great public universities were as prestigious as the elite private universities, and a lot cheaper. It was assumed at my San Francisco high school that if you were any good, you would go to Berkeley. (I was good, but didn’t) A few might go to Stanford and the Ivies, but not many. Our generation though, the Boomers, want our children to go to the best: “Ivy or Bust,” unless it’s Stanford, MIT, Johns Hopkins, or CalTech. Duke, Carnegie Mellon, and Northwestern, along with Amherst and Williams are acceptable alternatives with NYU in the east, Washington University and Notre Dame in the Midwest, Emory, Tulane and Vanderbilt in the South, and USC in Southern California acceptable fallbacks. A few elite public universities are acceptable, if absolutely necessary. The elite prep schools tout the colleges where their preppies matriculate. Of course, this perspective is crazy, but the successful parents want only the best for their children. They move to the elite suburbs and enroll their children either in a prep school or one of the nation’s elite public high schools. Peer pressure kicks in at these high schools. The parents will pay small fortunes to private tutors and prep courses. Nothing is too much. Corona del Mar High School in the Newport Mesa School District is one of these high schools. Newport Beach, California is one of the most affluent communities in Orange County and the United States. Corona del Mar (CDM) is an exclusive neighborhood of Newport Beach. It even has its own high school. Cheating is epidemic throughout education today. Even principals and teachers (Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia et al) cheat to boost student scores. College professors, deans, and admissions officers have cheated to boost their U.S. News & World Reports rankings. I remember a law student, not at my current school, who cheated by seducing a young assistant in the Registrar’s Office to slip him copies of the exams in advance. He was not expelled, but simply suspended for two years. Decades later I saw him advertising on TV for clients. The electronic age has facilitated cheating. Plagiarism is common at all levels with even law students claiming they never knew plagiarism, “whatever that is,” is wrong. Turnitin.com catches a substantial amount of plagiarism, but not all. Not all the students at the nation’s top prep schools and public high schools are bright enough to win the admissions lottery. Even the top students feel the pressure to excel at a higher level. The temptation to cheat becomes irresistible to many high school students. Beckman High School, also in Orange County, witnessed two seniors, described as very bright, obtain a teacher’s pass code. They signed on, raised their grades, and lowered the grades of classmates. They were publicly arrested at the school in front of other students, and then expelled from all schools in the district. They forfeited the admissions lottery. Colleges do not like to admit known cheaters. Students at Great Neck North High School on Long Island and a few other schools paid five people to take the SAT’s or ACT’s for them. Fake ID’s were prepared for the test takers, who received up to $3,500/test. 15 students and 5 test takers were arrested and criminally prosecuted. The students also lost the admissions lottery. 70 students at prestigious Stuyvesant High School cheated on the Regents Exams in 2012 by using smart phones. The successful cheaters vastly outnumber the ones who get caught. CDM High School is the latest in the string of cheating scandals at the nation’s elite public high schools. It is also just the most recent at CDM. About 150 students hired Timothy Lance Lei, a private tutor, for assistance. Lai was a popular tutor because of his reputation of raising students’ grades. He provided an inconspicuous key logger to at least 12 students to attach to teachers’ computers to monitor keystrokes, which would include the signon info. The students then logged on, raising their grades. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District held a “closed” hearing Tuesday night, which lasted past midnight. The District announced the expulsion of 11 students, the assumption being that the 12th student was the one who reported the cheating. “Expulsion” has different meaning though. CDM’s principal recommended expulsion from the District. Unlike the Tustin Unified School District, which completely expelled the two Beckman High students, Newport-Mesa essentially transferred them to other schools in the District. The expulsions will not be entered on their transcripts; indeed, pursuant to the “stipulated expulsion” the disciplinary actions would be expunged from their records. If though an admissions officer asks why they changed schools, then they would have to respond with the truth. Parents in affluent school districts are quite litigious in protecting their children against disciplinary actions. The District attached a condition to the sanctions. If a student and parents accept the sanctions, then the parents must sign a waiver agreeing not to sue. The reputation of CDM has been tarnished. It’s possible innocent students at CDM will face a disadvantage in college admissions. Non-cheating applicants throughout the country are disadvantaged by cheaters who tamper with transcripts. The claim is also that the cheating was not limited to the 12 students. The District is auditing all of its 750,000 grades to detect any additional grade tampering. Many critics view the District’s action as extremely lenient. They want a strong message sent against cheating. A stipulated expulsion is not an expulsion. Expunged records mean the miscreants might still get into an elite college. The District sent a mixed message that breaking into rooms, hacking into computers, and changing grades is not totally unacceptable. An orange light, rather than a red light, is blinking on cheating in the Newport-Mesa School District, at least for affluent parents willing to litigate. . The District’s argument is that California law makes it difficult to expel students for a first offense, absent a threat of violence, without providing substantial due process rights. The parents might have litigated a full expulsion, but if they did, then their students’ names would become public. They would not be getting into an elite college.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis became a liberal icon last year when she undertook an 11 hour filibuster to run out the clock against an anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 5, in the Texas Legislature. She was successful in blocking the bill, but it was only a short term victory. Texas Governor Rick Perry then called a special session of the Texas Legislature. As expected, the abortion restrictions were enacted. Senator Davis took advantage of her instant fame, and promises of substantial contributions, to announce her candidacy for Texas Governor. Texas is a red state, but she offered a compelling personal statement – a life story that appeals to Americans. She grew up poor. She was a single mom as a teenager, lived with her daughter in a trailer park, and climbed up. First in her class at Texas Christian University and then cum laude at Harvard Law School through scholarships and loans.. “Up from her bootstraps!” That plays Deep in the Heart of Texas. “From trailer park to Harvard Law” You have to love it. She made it – the Great American Success Story. The truth came out in a Dallas Morning News article. Her story is still compelling, but embellished. She got divorced at 21. She was not a single, teenage mom. She only lived in the trailer for two months prior to moving to an apartment. Wendy remarried at 24 to Jeffrey Davis, 13 years her senior. They had a daughter together. Jeffrey paid her tuition and expenses at TCU and Harvard. He cashed in his 401K and executed a ten-year note to cover the Harvard costs. She left the two daughters behind with Jeffrey in Fort Worth while she attended Harvard. She left Jeffrey the day after the last payment on the ten-year note. That’s cold. He filed for divorce with the petition asserting adultery on her part. The final divorce decree though does not include adultery as grounds for the divorce. He received custody of the two daughters. Wendy worked her way up politically in Fort Worth as a moderate Republican. She acquired a reputation for hardball politics. She became a Democrat in 2008 when running for the Texas Senate. Senator Wendy Davis is smart and opportunistic. The filibuster was opportunistic grandstanding. Everyone in Texas knew Governor Perry would call the special session and that the abortion restrictions would be enacted. By way of contrast, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (also of Harvard Law School) was excoriated by the media in mounting his 21 hour filibuster against ObamaCare. The best defense is often a good offense. The response by the Davis campaign to the newspaper article was to lash out at Attorney General Greg Abbott her Republican opponent, for mounting “dirty tricks” against her. A campaign statement against the Attorney General had Wendy Davis saying Greg Abbott “never walked a day in my shoes.” That’s absolutely correct. Greg Abbott has been a paraplegic for 25 years. They now assert that maybe he doesn’t need to be in a wheelchair. Imagine dirty tricks and hardball politics in Texas, the home of Landslide Lyndon? Why should Senator Davis run for the United States Senate? Because she would fit right in. Background veracity is not a qualification for the Senate. Senator Elizabeth Warren misrepresented herself as Native American (remember the “high cheek bones”) to take advantage of affirmative action in climbing the academic ladder. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D. Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R. Ill.) embellished their military record in running for the Senate. There was no need for them to do so. Let us not forget that Senator Al Gore invented the internet. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was a professional comedian as well as a tax cheat before getting elected to the Senate. He is also a graduate of Harvard. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was poor when he moved to Washington, but has become rich through sweetheart real estate deals. Wendy Davis is no Anne Richards.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
The Lyubov Orlova is a ghost ship, sailing the North Atlantic for a year. It is the Flying Dutchman of the Twenty First Century, captained by King Rat. Contrary to maritime lore and Walt Disney’s fanciful Pirates of the Caribbean, today’s doomed vessels no longer sink to Davy Jones’ Locker. They sail instead to the beaches of India and Turkey, where hundreds of workers scamper aboard like rats to strip every last inch of the vessels. They no longer shelter barnacles. The Exxon Valdez disappeared in Aligia, Turkey on the Aegean Coast, and the once fabled Love Boat was beached in Alang, India on the Gujaret Coast. The cruise ship Lyubov Orlova was built in Yugoslavia in 1976 to serve Russia as an expedition cruise ship to Antarctica and the Arctic Circle. Only the Soviet Union could dream up a market model of frozen Muscovites seeking solace amongst icebergs. The owners of the ship ran out of money in 2010. It was seized in St. John’s, Newfoundland and remained tied to the dock. Canadian rats (genus Rattus Canadas) scampered aboard. They found their houseboat. Canadian rats are cousins to the fabled New York City rat (Rattas BigApplecas), some of which are rumored to be as big as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. Rats are survivalists; they dwell in the bowels of ships, subways and sewers. Ship rats often served as food for hungry mariners. Rats can be as invisible as stealth bombers. The Orlova was sent on its last voyage – a crewless voyage to the Dominican Republic, to be scrapped. It was towed out of port on January 23, 2013 by the seaboard tug, Charlene Hunt. Tugboat Annie would never have lost the Ordova, but Tugboat Charlene did. The rope broke one day out of port on January 24. Never forget one of the ten rules of rat life: homesick rats can chew through a hawser. The rats were heard singing O Canada! The Orlova was cast adrift, unlike a Tom Hanks movie. It was now crewed by rats, real rats, cannibal rats, large, monster Canadian Cannibal Rats. No food is reported aboard, but rats are omnivores. They can eat anything, including fellow rats if necessary. Lacking food, the rats turned on each other. The Atlantic Hawk secured a line to the Orlova on February 1, 2013. Transport Canada announced when the vessel entered international waters that it no longer posed a threat to Canada’s oil and gas operations. The Hawk cut the Orlova loose. The Canadian rats now had total control of the ship. They were chosing the cruise. Another fundamental rule of rat life: rats are in control. The Orlova was reported 250 nautical miles east of St. John’s on February 4 headed due east. The Orlova was on a course with destiny. It was 1300 nautical miles off the Irish coast by February 23. A signal, an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), was heard from a lifeboat on March 1 within 700 miles of Ireland’s Kerry Coast. Two lifeboats had been jettisoned from the Orlova. Either the rats were following the time honored custom of rats abandoning a sinking ship or the time honored custom of mothers and children in the lifeboats. It could also be a diversionary tactic by the rats. King Rat, AKA Captain Rat, is elusive. He shifted the Orlova into stealth mode. No one can find the ghost ship. Satellites, radar, drones, and the NSA have lost touch with the stealth rat colony. The fear is that it is drifting to Scotland, where it could beach with the monster, cannibal rats spreading through the highlands of Scotland. The Canadian Cannibal Rats are on an expedition to colonize Scotland. The Scots are trying to kick out the Brits only to be invaded by the giant Canadian Cannibal Rats. The cry was once “The Brits are coming; The Brits are coming!” The cry went out: The Rats are coming! The rats are coming! What to do; what to do? William Wallace would slay a British army, but he never took on an army of rats. Salvage crews are willing to rescue the ship and exterminate the rats. They believe they can tent the entire boat – all the nooks and crannies, the rat holes, ideal for rat survival. If the Somali pirates couldn’t find Captain Phillips’ crew, they why should we expect exterminators to find rats? Perhaps another vessel could hook up to it and continue the voyage to the Dominican Republic with a cargo of rats to breed in Hispaniola’s jungles and spread to Haiti. Perhaps the British Navy, the once great British Navy, could use it for target practice or torpedo it. Will PETA march to save the Cannibal Rats? The Irish Coast Guard now says not to worry. The Orlova probably sank in the treacherous North Atlantic in one of the storms that plague the ocean. If so, that would be the first time rats became the victim of the Plague. Not to worry! Rats are like lawyers. They always have a Plan B. The Canadian Cannibal Rats of the Orlova will find their promised land.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Governor Christy Was inaugurated Tuesday during two storms, one natural and one political. Governor Chris Christy, a Republican, was reelected Governor of the heavily Democratic state of New Jersey by 22 percent. His honeymoon was the shortest in history, ending two weeks before the inauguration. His aides, playing hardball politics, closed two lanes for three days from Fort Lee, New Jersey to the George Washington Bridge, snarling traffic. That was an incredibly stupid act. The Governor responded after the basic facts emerged, by repeatedly apologizing to the people of New Jersey and firing the aides responsible for the fundamental error in judgment. His penance did not satisfy the Harpies. The Democrats finally found a voice. The cry went out: “Governor Christie is a bully.” He plays hardball. The Governor is a bully. Imagine that – a Republican governor, who controls neither house of the New Jersey Legislature, is a bully. The Republican Governor for four years of a heavily Blue State is a bully. The Republican worked his will for four years with a Democratic legislature. How can that be? Are the New Jersey legislators wimps? This is New Jersey, a state known, rightly or wrongly, as the home of corruption, hardball politics, Tony Soprano and the Mafia, the Toxic Avenger, and Snooki. Politics is a game of carrots and sticks, of rewarding one’s friends and punishing one’s foes. Hardball politics is a ritual in New Jersey. Governor Christy was a master of hardball politics. He out hardballed the public employee unions. He’s not the only one. Residents of the Frost Belt have one universal standard. Government must plow the roads when it snows. Mayor DiBlasio of New York City campaigned on A Tale of Two Cities: the 1% and the rest of us. He would equalize the two, starting with a 1% increase in the city’s income tax on the rich. He also used the Tuesday ‘s 10-12 inches of snow to penalize the affluent. Photo show streets cleanly plowed in Brooklyn, his home, while the streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side received a cursory plow. Could it be a coincidence, or incompetence, or a DPW worker listening to DeBlasio, or it could be intentional? New York Rules President Obama practices the politics of Chicago Rules. His Administration’s IRS was set loose on conservatives, especially the Tea party conservatives and supporters of California’s Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban. The Tea Party organizations were slow-walked and harassed on their tax exempt applications. The National Organization for Marriage, the pro-Prop 8 sponsor, saw its confidential, and legally protected donor list, illegally released by the IRS to their political opponents. No one in the Obama Administration knew anything about the actions, although they did. Chicago Rules. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) threatened to lower the bond rating of the United States if a valid budget accord was not reached in 2011. S&P carried through with a downrating. They claimed a few days later that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, a tax cheat, threatened them. Treasury Secretary Geithner said S&P made a mistake. He called them accountable. He claimed the downgrade was a grave disservice to the country, and then added: “Such behavior could not occur without a response from the government.” The Justice Department filed suit against S&P in February 2013 alleging S&P defrauded investors by giving risky mortgage bonds the highest rating. The Justice Department did not file charges against the other major bond rating firm, Moody’s, whose conduct was similar. Moody’s was then controlled by President Obama’s favorite capitalist and mouthpiece for tax increases, Warren Buffett. The Justice Department denies the conversation, but their denials have proven false in the past in many controversies, such as the Attorney General’s initial claim he knew nothing about Fast and Furious. More recently the FBI delayed for weeks before inspecting the Benghazi consulate where Ambassador Stephens and three others Americans were killed by terrorists. It essentially performed a cursory walk through when it inspected the site. The Obama Administration claimed that the attacks were caused by a video, when it knew from the beginning it was a terrorist attack. The video’s maker was jailed for a year. Chicago Rules. The FBI recently investigated the IRS Scandal. It talked to only a few of the conservative groups, which were victimized by the IRS, but found no criminal violations by the IRS. Chicago Rules. The Department of Justice appointed an Obama contributor to investigate the IRS. Chicago Rules. The FBI, contrary to its Benghazi and IRS investigations, has dispatched a multitude of FBI agents to investigate “Bridgegate.” The Mayor of Hoboken claimed The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey threatened a loss of Hurricane Sandy funds if she did not endorse the Governor’s reelection. That’s hardball politics. The Lieutenant Governor denies the threat. The United States Attorney for New Jersey announced today that several subpoenas were issued to the New Jersey GOP and Governor Christy’s reelection campaign. Chicago Rules. During the budget shut down last year the White House closed the National Mall and the World War II Memorial, but opened the mall to a pro-immigration reform rally. Chicago Rules. The New Jersey Legislature announced he appointment of House and Senate committees to investigate the Christy Administration not only on “Bridgegate,” but also on other problems that might arise. The Democrats are on a fishing expedition. A special, joint committee has been created, consisting of 8 Democrats and 4 Republicans, to investigate the Governor. A undercurrent of these investigations is impeachment. New Jersey doesn’t need Chicago Rules. It has New Jersey Rules. The Governor, if he survives the political storm, will emerge stronger than before.
Monday, January 20, 2014
Reflections on the Kelly Thomas Acquittals and the Difficulties of Criminally Prosecuting Police Offices for Excessive Violence
Police officers often have to make split second decisions on using deadly force. Their judgments are usually correct, but occasionally in hindsight they are wrong. Sometimes they made obviously bad decisions from the beginning. The intentional beating of a suspect is not a split second life or death situation. Kelly Thomas is a classic example of police brutality, apparent to all but police officers and jurors. An Orange County jury acquitted two Fullerton Police Officers in the brutal beating of a homeless, mentally deranged Kelly Thomas on July 5, 2011. District Attorneys are reluctant to prosecute police officers for the use of deadly force for two reasons. First, DA’s have to work with the police. Second, juries are reluctant to convict officers for excessive force. Indeed, four term Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas had never filed charges against an on-duty officer for the use of excessive force. For example, his office found justifiable use of force when Anaheim officers on separate occasions shot Hispanics. The officers claimed they saw the suspects reaching in their waistband for a gun. They were unarmed. The waistband defense is becoming common in officer shooting cases. The case of Kelly Thomas was different. Not only did DA Rackaukas file charges against three officers, but he also personally prosecuted the case. He was incensed and chagrined by what he saw on the 33 minutes surveillance tape. Kelly Thomas was beaten into a bloody pulp by six police officers. He died five days later in the hospital. An employee of the Slidebar phoned the police saying someone was vandalizing car windows. Bar owners think business is adversely affected if disheveled homeless persons hang out around the bars creating a disturbance. Officer Ramos and other members of the Fullerton Police Department responded. The Officer recognized Kelly Thomas from seven prior incidents. He knew Kelly Thomas had psychological issues. The officers tackled Thomas, hit him with fists, batons, and a Taser, handcuffed him, and left him unconscious. About 15 minutes into the video Officer Ramos puts latex gloves on his hands. He then places his fists in Thomas’ face and says: “Now you see my fists. They’re getting ready to fuck you up.” The schizophrenic Kelly Thomas’ response was “Start punching, Dude.” The violence commenced. Kelly Thomas cried out: “I can’t breath. Dad, help me dad, Help me.” The smackdown continued. Officer Joe Wolfe hit Kelly Thomas’ legs with his baton. Officer Cicinelli Tasered Thomas four times, and then smashed his face 2-8 times with the Taser. The officer said: “We ran out of options, so I got the end of the Taser …. I just started smashing his face to Hell.” Kelly Thomas suffered a fractured face, broken rib and was left brain damaged. He was removed from life support five days later. The jury, after a nearly four week trial, took only seven hours to acquit the two officers. Cathy Thomas, Kelly’s mom, cried out “They got away with murdering my son.” The DA then dropped charges against Officer Wolfe. The Cicinelli and Ramos acquittals are not the first, nor will they be the last, time juries blind themselves to overwhelming video evidence of police brutality. The first was the Ronald King beating on March 3, 1991. Four LAPD officers were acquitted by a Simi Valley jury. A federal jury subsequently convicted two of them for violating Rodney King’s civil rights under federal law. San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Ivory John Webb, Jr. pulled over a speeding Corvette in 2006. He ordered the occupants out. Elio Carron, the passenger, was on leave as an Air Force MP in Iraq. He lay prone on the street until Webb ordered him to stand up. Webb shot Carron three times as he started to stand up. Officer Webb was prosecuted for attempted voluntary manslaughter. The jury took only three hours to acquit him. A blatant deadly force case was the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, in the early morning of February 4, 1999. Four New York City plainclothes officers saw him standing in the vestibule of an apartment house in the Bronx. They thought he matched the description of a serial rapist. The officers approached him. He reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet. An officer called out “Gun.” All four officers opened fire. 51 times! He was struck 19 times. Amadou Diallo was unarmed, standing in the vestibule of his apartment house. The four officers were indicted on second degree murder and reckless endangerment. An Albany, New York jury acquitted them. The subsequent settlement was $3 million. Police officers often stand by their colleagues in false arrest and excessive force cases. Thus, a training officer testified that the two followed the procedures they were taught in the Academy and used by the Fullerton Police Department. I do not believe the Academy’s lessons or the Fullerton Police Department Manual includes beating suspects to a pulp. A key issue in these cases is the admissibility of evidence. The jury and people do not get to hear or see evidence excluded by the judge. Judge Froeberg excluded the personnel files of Cicinelli and Ramos. We do not know what is in them, but the lawyers would probably not have objected unless something incriminating was in the files. Their defense had several prongs. First, as a normal defense tactic, they blamed the tragedy on the victim. He had a history of violence and drugs. Second, they emphasized the difficult job of the officers in patrolling the “dangerous streets” of Fullerton. Third, they claimed a pre-existing heart condition rather than the beating caused his death. Finally, they claimed the officers were simply following standard police procedures. The defendants did not take the stand. Had they done so, they would have been skewered on cross-examination. They will not be able to avoid testifying if a subsequent civil suit goes to trial. The photo of the beaten Thomas went viral, resulting in a large public outcry. The Fullerton Police Chief retired, and three Council members, including a former Chief of Police, were ousted by the voters. They had tried to “whitewash” the tragedy. The Rodney King and Kelly Thomas beatings have a commonality. It’s called “education” in police parlance. A suspect who does not comply with the police order but resists is “educated.” Education means he is beaten until resistance stops, which usually means lying prone. As long as Rodney King and Kelly Thomas continued to squirm, they were ”educated.” “Education” is not a formal lesson in the Police Academy. The defense claimed Kelly Thomas was “uncooperative” and “combative.” Most law enforcement officers are dedicated, responsible officers of the law. A few though, such as apparently Ramos, become emboldened with the power of the badge. They forget that the badge entails duties and responsibilities – to act reasonably as a public servant. The badge is not a license to kill or savagely beat suspects. Cathy Thomas settled her wrongful death suit for $1 million before the trial. Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, will pursue his wrongful suit against the officers and the City of Fullerton. He seeks justice. Jay Cicinelli feels vindicated by the jury. Thus he wants his job back with the Fullerton Police Department. His defense will cost Fullerton an additional large sum of money by attributing his conduct to Fullerton Police Department procedures. He now wants his job back. He doesn’t get it; the jury doesn’t get it. The District Attorney, citizens of Fullerton and Orange County get it. Fullerton's new police chief doesn't want any of the three back.
Friday, January 17, 2014
The Democrats, led by President Obama, are resorting to base class warfare, undertaking an attack on inequality. Governor Mitt Romney was destroyed in 2012 because he could not rebut the presumption that he was out of touch with the American people. He spoke like an MBA plutocrat (“binders of women,” etc.) The Democrats have us believe that Republicans represent the rich and the elite. They care nothing about the rest of us. They are for the oil companies, insurance companies, fat cat bankers, and gun manufacturers. The Democrats represent the people. They fight against inequality. That's what they tell us. According to President Obama and the Democratic acolytes, inequality is the biggest problem facing America. They orate against the growing economic gap in which the rich are getting richer. The proposed solutions are a higher minimum wage and extended unemployment. 12 of the richest 20 Americans support the Democratic Party in national and state races, often with tens of millions of dollars. More rich Democrats finance Democratic causes than their “reviled” Koch Brothers support conservative causes. The Democratic rich have gotten richer under President Obama. Here are the plutocrats that financially back the “populist” Democrats: Bill Gates Warren Buffett George Soros Larry Ellison Penny Pritzker Tom Steyer Jon Stryker Patricia Stryker Haim Saban Irwin Jacobs Ron Burkle Elon Musk Jaime Dimon Jeffrey Brotman These are our Democratic leaders, our professed “populists.” Judge them not by what they say, but who they are. President Obama, as part of his political attack on inequality, expresses great empathy for the less fortunate in our society. He does while vacation in Hawaii for 17days (including travel) over Christmas and playing golf 9 of the 15 days on Oahu.He has played 135 rounds of golf through August 2013 to show solidarity with the less fortunate. He loves going to Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard as well as spending 204 days traveling to 41 countries. Michelle Obama has great empathy for the less fortunate and is a strong supporter of healthy food for Americans. Michelle though is known to have a penchant for lobster, often at taxpayer's expense. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia – That says it all. He’s worth about $83.08 million. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia has a higher worth of $88.5 million. Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut trails at $79.11 million. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was poor when he came to Washington, but after a few sweetheart real estate transactions, became a multi-millionaire. Senator Diane Feinstein of California, worth over $40 million herself, is married to Richard C. Blum, an investment banker who may be worth up to $1 Billion. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is known to be ethically charged, is worth about $15.5 million. Politics has been good to her. Al Franken, the tax-dodging, ex-comedian, Minnesota Senator, is worth millions. Elizabeth Warren, perhaps the most liberal, populist Senator, or at least publicly, is worth $3.9 million. She did not accumulate her worth as a law professor. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rings in about $100 million. Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts comes in at $15.2 million. He’s a piker compared to Congressman John Delaney of Maryland at $68.4 million and Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado with $60.2 million. Susan DelBene was elected to Congress from Washington in 2012. Her personal wealth of $54 million played a large role in her winning the primary and general elections. Congresswoman Chellie Pangree of Maine saw her worth jump from $750,000 in 2010 to $85.8 million in 2011 when she married a hedge fund manager. She’s for the people. Secretary of State, and former Senator, John Kerry married money twice. He was the richest Senator until he joined President Obama’s Cabinet. The median worth for the Democrats in Congress is $1.04 million, slightly higher than the even $1 million for the Republicans. They have made it in America, often having entering politics. But they represent the people. Or do they?
Monday, January 13, 2014
I Love New York. I first sat foot in Manhattan in May 1971. We were most recently in New York from January 1-5 this year for a conference. It’s been a long three years since we were last in the Big Apple. I remember what it is about New York: the skyscrapers, the museums and historic sites, the crowded subways, the babel of tongues, but most of all the drive and energy of the New Yorkers as the teeming masses race the Sidewalks of New York. They say “if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. “ Every successive class of immigrants has made it in New York. The City, starting with the Dutch, brings out the entrepreneurial spirit in the newcomers. They make it in New York. New York is continuously recharged by new waves of immigrants. The Irish were the first wave after Independence. They made it in New York. They embedded themselves in the commercial, educational, and political systems in the city and state. They came to dominate the police and fire departments. Then they all came: the Italians, Greeks, the Jews, Chinese and then other Asians and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Puerto Ricans, East Europeans, and most recently the Dominicans. They come from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Waves of new immigrants replace the earlier immigrants who have moved up the East Side, to the suburbs, or the rest of America from the Lower East Side, the historic melting pot of America. They often come with the shirts on their backs and dreams for a better life in America, They achieve. They all come “Looking for America.” Lady Liberty greets them and says “Prove yourselves.” And they do. Some entrepreneurs, such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, the Rockefellers, and the Guggenheims made it elsewhere and moved to New York. Fortunes were made by real estate entrepreneurs, such as Donald Trump, Larry Silverstein, Steve Ross, Harry Helmsley, Harry Macklowe, and Mortimer Zuckerman. Family fortunes include the LeFraks, Dursts, Tisch’s, Tishman’s. and Vanderbilts. The real entrepreneurs though are the immigrants and their sons and daughters. The small entrepreneurs, often immigrants, are everywhere in New York City. Over 200,000 small businesses exist in New York City. Immigrants own 40,000 of them. The Jewish peddlers of a century ago have been replaced by the pretzel/food carts and newsstands of today. They open bars, restaurants, snack bars, pubs, taverns, bistros, and dives. They run storefront grocery stores and bodegas as well as neighborhood discounters. The cabbies and limo drivers hustle for fares. Messenger services dart through the city with their deliveries. The barkers and hawkers are reaching out to you. Street vendors sell souvenirs and trinkets, apparel, and books. New Yorkers also sell fake watches out of jackets. The psychic readers and fortunetellers foretell the future. The repair shops, auto mechanics, clothiers and tailors fix the present. The franchisees feed us. Thee street artists and musicians entertain us. The arts, music, and theatre, the sciences flow from the immigrants. City College shows the way. The doormen, bellhops, valets, janitors, maintenance workers, and maids are earning for themselves while pushing their children up the ladder. Their sons and daughters become educators, investors, politicians, broadcasters, accountants, lawyers, judges and doctors. The American Mafia sprang out of the Lower East Side. New Yorkers pull out cross county skies when it snows. That is New York.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
President Johnson in his State of the Union Address on January 8, 1963 declared an “unconditional war on poverty.” The richest nation on earth should be able to lift its poor out of poverty. He intended for the government to create the opportunity for Americans in his Great Society to rise out of poverty. President Johnson, who rose from poverty, overwhelming Democratic majorities in Congress, and an optimistic American public signed up for the war. The War on Poverty is 50 years old. Where are the celebrations? The parades? The speeches? the deification of President Johnson? Where are the success stories? Where is President Obama touting the success of the War on Poverty? President Reagan claimed poverty won the war, but the spending continued. Individuals have risen from poverty, as they have throughout American history, but the War on Poverty, like its overlapping War on Drugs, has been a failure, but we fight on. We spend almost a trillion a year on the War on Poverty - more than the Defense Budget. The states are now partially abandoning the War on Drugs, at least with marijuana, refocusing on the deadly drugs. We continue to finance the War on Poverty though. We know that the War on Poverty failed because President Obama, New York Mayor de Blasio, Democrats everywhere, and the mainstream media are unleashing a War on Inequality. From their perspective the rich are getting richer and the poor and middle class poorer. The amazing thing about Democrats is that they cannot admit one of their spending programs failed. Therefore, they rename it and double down. How can it be that inequality is growing after the federal government has spent $20.7 trillion on the War on Poverty? The War on Poverty is financed by the government’s national debt of $17.3 trillion The War on Poverty may not have ended poverty, but it has created a safety net for the fairly steady 15% of the American population living below the poverty line. Many of America’s poor have cars, HD TV’s, cable or satellite TV, the internet, “Obama phones,” food stamps, and often government assisted living. The programs continue because it allows Congress to spend money. Only a political fool would seek to end popular programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. The War on Poverty was doomed from the start for several reasons. First is the naive belief that government can create jobs. The government can facilitate private investment, but can finance it only by taxing other private sector endeavors, activities and individuals, borrowing from private interests, or inflating money. The jobs created by the War on Poverty are in the federal, state, and local bureaucracies. The second reason for the failure is that most of the programs were not job creating, but simply redistributionist schemes, of which the latest is ObamaCare, which drain money from private consumers to benefit the government’s chosen ones. The War on Poverty is based on transfer payments. A related reason is that the government is inefficient in transferring wealth. The fourth reason is that the government is not good at picking winners and users. The fifth reason is the breakdown of traditional families, often caused by the federal programs. Too many children are raised by single, low income mothers. 41% of the current births in America are by unwed mothers. 4 our of ten African American children and 3 out of ten Hispanic babies live in poverty. The unemployment rate for African American teenagers is rising. The South Bronx, Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, South Central LA, ghettos and barrios throughout America remain economically distressed. The District of Columbia is an economic disgrace as the nation’s capitol. Detroit is an American tragedy. A government, which cannot defeat poverty in its capitol, is not going to succeed elsewhere in the country.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
American stupidity With Devyani Khobragade continues with the State Department expelling her from The United States The United States Justice Department through U.S. Attorney for New York, Preet Bharara, continues to act stupidly and exhibit prosecutorial abuse of power directed towards India diplomat Devyani Khobragade. As I discussed in my December 21 blog, she was arrested on December 12 outside her children’s school by State Department security officers and then turned her over to the United States Marshalls, who pursuant to standard procedures, stripped searched her. The Consular Official was accused of visa fraud and underpaying her maid. The normal procedure would have been to quietly request the Indian government to withdraw her from the United States. Instead, the diplomat was arrested like a common criminal. The logical explanation for this treatment is that the United States wished to make an example of her because of widespread abuses of foreign workers by their diplomats. The United States apparently did not provide advance warning to the India Embassy or Devlani, or her attorney of the pending arrest. The United States flew the maid’s husband and children out of India to the United States two days before Devyani’s arrest. The visas issued to the maid’s family were those used for victims of human trafficking, further arousing and insulting India. India exploded over the mistreatment of their diplomat, an advocate for women’s rights. As a sign of improved equality in India, the Indian people strongly supported Devyani of Dalit descent, previously known as “untouchables.” Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones. Syed Akbaruddin of India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated: “Reciprocity is the basis on which diplomats work all over the world.” India is reciprocating, indeed escalating on more than the normal tit for tat response. The India government quickly investigated the conduct, or misconduct, of American embassy and consular officials in India. India immediately imposed restrictions on the U.S. diplomats. U.S. diplomats are now subject to airport frisking. It issued new restrictions a few days ago. The United States Embassy had an exclusive club selectively open to expatriates, the American Community Support Club (The American Embassy Club). India ordered it closed to all non-Embassy personnel. The Club offers open-air swimming pools, a bowling ally, tennis courts, gym, video club, and a beauty parlor. Its menu offers steaks. It sells duty-free liquor and other goods to the members, but no more. India also suspended diplomatic immunity for traffic violations by United States diplomats. India is investigating the American Embassy School, also on the Embassy grounds, for visa and pay violations. The legal question arose whether as a consular official Devyani possessed full diplomatic immunity or more limited immunity. India claimed she had full immunity. India transferred her from the New York consulate to the India’s permanent mission to the United Nations, which would provide her full diplomatic immunity. The State Department would have to approve her appointment, normally a perfunctory decision. India has requested a formal apology by the United States and the dropping of all charges against Devyani. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to smooth the waters, but Preet Bharara, the U. S. Prosecutor, went public, instead of being quiet. He vowed to “uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law – no matter what their social status and no matter how powerful, rich, or connected they are.” The ambitious prosecutor has forgotten prosecutorial discretion in his zeal for fame. U.S. law has a deadline of January 13 for the government to indict Devyani or drop the charges. Her attorney requested a continuance, a normal legal procedure. Most sides in litigation, criminal or civil, grant continuances to the other party, particularly in the early stages, as a matter of professional courtesy. Not Bharara, an Indian expatriate. He opposed the continuance. The matter was resolved earlier today, but in a further affront to Devlani and India. Bharara obtained a grand jury indictment on two felony counts against Devlani. The State Department recognized her diplomatic immunity with Bharara teling the court no arraignment would be necessary. The State Department requested the Indian government to lift her immunity. It properly refused. The State Department in response ordered her to leave the United States, in essence declaring her persona non grata in the United States. She has left the United States, leaving her husband and children behind. Her husband is an American citizen and a philosophy professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Her children are also American citizens. Devlani is subject to arrest if she attempts to reenter the United States with the outstanding indictment pending against her. The normal diplomatic response to the expulsion of a diplomat is for the other country, India, to expel a diplomat, an American. Reciprocity, or what goes around, comes around. The critical relationship between India and the United States should not be jeopardized because the Justice Department, a United States Attorney, and the State Department are acting stupidly, but they are. Let me understand our foreign policy in Southeast Asia. We don't trust Pakistan, Afghanistan is thumbing its nose at us, and we've gone out of the way to inflame India.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Happy Days Are Here Again in New York City Happy Days Are Here Again – The theme of FDR and the Democrats in 1932 Happy Days Are Here Again in New York City. The Progressives are back in charge of the Big Apple, after a 20 year drought. They suffered through 8 years of Rudy Giuliani and 12 years of Michael Bloomberg. Bill de Blasio was inaugurated one week ago on January 1 as Mayor of New York City, twice. He was sworn in at home at 12:01AM and then 12 hours later at City Hall by President Clinton on the FDR Bible. Happy Days Are Here Again. Bill de Blasio is a True Progressive. He is of the people. Indeed, he took the subway to City Hall. He rode the subway from his $1.1 million house in Park Slope, Brooklyn, near the $1.2 million rental house he owns. Yes, Bill de Blasio is of the people. Bill Loves New York, but his daughter attends Santa Clara University in California. He campaigned on A Tale of Two Cities – the 1% versus the normal people or the Occupy Wall Street Movement. His inauguration speech stressed his campaign rhetoric was not mere rhetoric, but the governing tenets of his administration: “When I said we would take dead aim at The Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it.” His wife works for CitiBank. He reiterated his goal: “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” He’s opposed to charter schools. Sitting in the VIP Section of the grandstand was Michael Mulgrew, the head of the teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers. Happy Days Are Here Again for the union teachers, but not the parents, especially the inner city parents, who strive to win the “lottery” of getting their children into the charter schools. Other VIP dignitaries were the head of the local SEIU union, the Service Workers Union, the Central Labor Council, and the Communications Workers of America. Happy Days Are Here Again for the 200,000 public sector workers on New York City. Many of their contracts are up for renewal this year. Happy Days Are Here Again for the union workers, but not the taxpayers. He is asking the wealthy of New York City to “pay a little more,” that is to raise their taxes by an additional 1%. Why? To support universal pre-kindergarten and after school programs. In other words, to increase the public employee rolls for a program, which has not been shown to provide any long-term educational benefits. He supports a substantial increase in the minimum wage, that is, a living wage eventhough it may cost a large number of jobs for the low-income workers. He wants to expand paid sick leave, at least for the public employees, while saying nothing about the looming pension and healthcare costs that are destroying public budgets nationally. The retiree pension and healthcare costs already consume about a third of the City’s budget. Happy Days Are Here Again, but not for long. He’s opposed to the effective Stop and Frisk policy of the preceding administrations, seemingly forgetting that a breakdown in law and order in New York City convinced New Yorkers, Democratic New Yorkers, to elect Republican Rudy Giuliani Mayor 20 years ago. He’s opposed to the tourist attraction Central Park horse carriages. He say’s it’s inhumane. His real estate developer supporters covet the prime land under the horse stables for condos. Happy Days Are Here Again for back room deals in New York City. The new Tammany Hall calls itself “Progressive.” He wants to mandate big developers build affordable housing in New York City. Where? He wants to stop hospital closings in the City? Happy Days Are Here Again with ObamaCare. His policies are those of Mayors Lindsay, Beame, and Dinkins. He reminds me of President Hollande of France. There is nothing progressive in returning to the failed policies of the past. New York City will always be a Tale of Two Cities as long as it is constantly repopulated with immigrants seeking the American Dream with little in their pockets but drive in their hearts.