Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan's Prodigal Son, Has Returned Home to Mama, to Michigan: Hail to the Victors

Paul “Bear” Bryant is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. He won 6 national titles at Alabama in 25 years. He played for Alabama and then began a coaching career. He returned to Alabama after a successful 4 year stint at Texas A & M, noted for the “Junction Boys.” When asked why he left A & M, he famously replied “Mama called, and when Mama Calls, then you just have to come runnin’” Mama Michigan called the true “Michigan Man” home. The timing was right and the need is great. The once great Wolverines, the winningest college football team of all time has slipped into mediocrity. The Victors, even with the rise of John Beilein’s basketball team, sounds flat. Jim Harbaugh, as a pup, grew up in Ann Arbor when his dad jack was an assistant to Bo. He once sat in Bo’s chair as a 10 year old. He quarterbacked the team for three years, leading to a national number 2 finish in 1985, the highest end of season ranking for Bo’s teams. Harbaugh was to Bo what Bo was to Woody. Bo is up above smiling down on Jim Harbaugh, who has learnt well from Bo. Bo was followed by his protégés Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, and then Rich Rob and Brady Hoke. Lloyd’s 1997 team went undefeated and won the national title. History tells us what we didn’t recognize at the time. Michigan football peaked in 2006 when Michigan and Ohio State were ranked 1 and 2 going undefeated 11-0 into the season finale at Columbus. The Buckeyes won 42-37. Both lost in their bowl games. Michigan was ranked #5 preseason in 2007, but lost at home to Appalachian State 34-32 and Oregon 39-7 to start the season. Bloggers were calling for the dismissal of Coach Carr. Michigan won 8 straight and then lost the final regular season games to Wisconsin (37-21) and Ohio State (14-3). Then came the three years of Rich Rodrigues 3-9, 5-7. 7-6. He was fired. Brady Hoke came on the scene, exciting the Wolverine Nation. The team went 11-2, defeating a depleted Ohio State and then Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in 2011. Michigan was back! No it wasn’t. The next three years were 8-5, 7-6, and 5-7. Instead of improving, the team sank. The Big House was no longer selling out. The fans were deflated. MDen sales were down. Merchants, bars, and restaurants were suffering. Here are the dismal stats. Michigan has been 46-42 in the past seven years, with three losing seasons. It is 1-7 against Mark Dandonio’s Michigan State and 1-8 against Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes and 0-3 against Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes in the past. These are unacceptable records. Michigan needs a Bo or Harbaugh to restore the glory to Michigan football. Jim Haubaugh is high maintenance. He doesn’t always know when to keep his mouth shut, but he’s a winner, 29-6 at San Diego, 29-21 at Stanford with a team that was 1-11 before he came, and 44-19-1 with the San Francisco 49ers, winning three division titles in 4 years. Let’s not suffer though from “excessive exuberance.” Jim Harbaugh is currently 0-0 as Michigan head coach. Let’s not yet call him a “Messiah.” A successful program relies on recruiting, player development, and on-field coaching. Lloyd Carr’s recruiting slid in his final two years and Rich Rod was recruiting a different style of player. The offensive line has been a problem for 7 years. Brady Hoke proved to be an outstanding recruiter, but fell down in player development. By way of contract, Mark Dandonio took lesser recruits and molded them into a tough team at Michigan State. Brady Hoke is regarded as a nice person, and that turned out to be part of the problem. He could not get into the heads of the players and “will” them, if you will, what Jim Harbaugh refers to as “steel in our spines.” Visitors to the locker room noted the players were “soft.” They lacked the necessary toughness and drive. They also could not count, often having only ten players on the field. A lot of little things showed a lack of the necessary toughness to win at a high level. Harbaugh should be able to turn it around, as he did with Stanford, but it will not be overnight. Nick Saban needed 3 years at Alabama to win it a, and could never quite succeed all the way in his earlier years at Michigan. Saban’s Crimson Tide was 6-6 in his inaugural season, even losing to Louisiana Monroe and Auburn. Vince Lombardi took a 1-11 Green Bay Packers team to a 7-5 record and won a divisional title his second year, followed by 5 NFL titles in 7 years and the first two Super Bowls. Jim Harbaugh might be that successful, but let’s be patient. We do know he will “steel” the team and develop quarterbacks. We do know that he will play a pro style and smash mouth football. We do know his Wolverines will not quit on the field. We do know he will wear headsets at the games. Yesterday was a love fest at halftime of the Michigan-Illinois basketball game. The Maize Rage wore khakis to salute him. An irony of the game is that both Jim Harbaugh and Aubrey Dawkins, the freshman guard who scored 18 points for the Wolverines, are graduates of Palo Alto High School. Harbaugh was choked with emotion as he spoke to the crowd: “I pledge to you that we will do our very best to carry on the great tradition of Michigan excellence all across the board.” He told the crowd they knew how to make a guy feel at home. The Victors sounded great as he finished talking. Jim Tressel on January 18, 2001 at halftime of the Ohio State – Michigan basketball game in Columbus was introduced to the Ohio State fans: “I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in he classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, on the football field.” Both Harbaugh and Tressel said what they needed to say to their respective audiences. Earlier at the press conference, Harbaugh said: “I dreamed about this since I was a young lad.” He added: “There are very special words in the English language we all embrace. There’s family, there’s friends, there’s teammates, there’s victory. I was reminded of another very special word when I was driving into Ann Arbor this morning, and that word is homecoming.” Jim Harbaugh has come home to Michigan, to Mama. His father and mother were there on Tuesday with tears in their eyes. They are proud. He has to succeed. He will succeed. Merry Christmas Michigan State and Ohio State. Thanks to Michigan President Mark Schlissel, Athletic director Jim Hackett, and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Goals and Priorities of the 114th Congress, the Republican Congress

The 114th Congress, the new Republican Congress, will be sworn in on January 6, 2015. 54 Republicans and 44 Democrats and 2 independents caucusing with the Democrats comprise the new Senate. The new House of Representatives will have 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats. The leadership has a full agenda, and is geared to hit the decks running. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled six straight weeks of the Senate in session, including Fridays. Yet, what is the agenda, what are the goals? Here’s what they will not do – shut down the government, except to the extent that the President may veto individual appropriation bills. They will also need to ignore the highly predictable demonization of the Republicans by President Obama, and incessant veto threats.. Much of the Republican program will be reactive – a reaction to the preceding six years and perhaps the next two- reacting to statutes, such as ObamaCare, executive decisions, and agency acts they disapprove of. Some steps will be undertaken through traditional actions such as legislation and some indirectly through riders attached to “must pass” legislation. The Republican leaders recognize the President still retains great power and the Bully Pulpit. They will not underestimate him, but they will test and push him. The Republican agenda will be affected by external circumstances, such as Supreme Court decisions and foreign policy developments. There may be a quick, symbolic vote to repeal ObamaCare, but it will be successful vetoed by the President. Then what are the priorities? They will not be a generic plan to defeat and roll back President Obama’s actions, but what are the specific priorities? They will test the President’s will by seeing how many riders they can attach to the appropriations bills, as with the Cromibus Bill, without a veto. They could actually start out cooperating with President Obama in approving several trade bills the President and Republicans support, but which Senator Harry Reid blocked on behalf of the unions. Having established a spirit of bipartisanship, the partisan politics will begin. The first three are fairly clear. Number one, actually prior to any other act, the Senate must adopt its rules for the upcoming year. Does that mean reinstating the filibuster rules that then Majority Leader Harry Reid abrogated for judicial appointments and bills, or playing political hardball in the image of Senator Reid? Many Republicans would like to reinstate the 60 vote filibuster rule, but the reality is that they realize that the Democrats could rescind it anytime they regain power, which might even be in two years. Senator McConnell says he wants to make the Senate work the way it used to. The practical application would be to bring back the 12 individual appropriations bills, rather than an omnibus spending bull, and allow amendments to proposed bills on the Floor of the Senate. The Senate will accomplish nothing until the Rules are adopted. The second step will be passage of the Keystone Pipeline. The Republicans might be able to corral several Democrats from energy states and the coal-dependent Midwest to achieve a 2/3 veto proof majority in both Houses of Congress. They will be fighting not so much the President, but San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who is pouring millions into candidates opposed to carbon based fuels. If not as a direct act of Congress, then as as a rider, Keystone will be passed by Congress. The third action, which is critical, is to pass an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The Agency’s current funding expires February 27. The Republicans will have to decide what to include in it. The spotlight is on immigration. The Republicans, the general public and the Republican base oppose the President’s granting of permanent status to those here illegally. They are also appalled at the flood of children into the country last spring. The big battle will be within the Party with the base, especially in the House, opposed to the Chamber of Commerce, which wants amnesty and open borders as a source of cheap labor. The Chamber will have more leverage in the Senate. The Republicans have to learn how to oppose illegal immigration without appearing anti-Hispanic. Here’s what we can predict. The bill will prioritize border security. It may include a rider prohibiting the spending of funds to grant permanent to the undocumented immigrants by securing individual votes through concessions on visas, perhaps 300,000, to high tech workers, also to hundreds of thousands of low tech workers who can fill the needs in specific industries, such as construction, and a program, dear to Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein, for guest workers in the agricultural industry. It will not include a path to citizenship, often labeled “Amnesty.” They will at a minimum prioritize border security and probably visa tracking in the funding bill. The Republicans will, with substantial Democratic support, rescind the medical devices tax in ObamaCare, and probably attach a few other repeals to it. They could also enact meaningful tax reform with the assistance of several Democrats. The major problem is that the President wants “tax reform” to be a guise for raising taxes. The Republicans want it at best to be revenue neutral. Two tax issues face the new Congress: continuation of the ban on states taxing internet sales and raising the gas tax to fund the Highway Trust Fund. The partisan split does not clearly exist on these issues. Republicans do not favor “Green tax” credits. Benefits to solar and wind are hard to justify and sustain when gas prices are plunging. The House Republicans are currently adopting a rule whereby the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Taxation Committee will switch to dynamic scoring rather than the existing static scoring for tax reductions. Dynamic scoring recognizes the proven economic growth and resulting revenue gains by lowering taxes. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, refers to dynamic scoring as “cooking the books,” that which he did a lot of with the CBO in scoring ObamaCare. A critical issue is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). The existing authorization expires June 30, 2015. Several critical House Republicans are opposed to Ex-Im, which is sometimes referred to as “The Bank of Boeing.” The question is whether Speaker Boehner will bring it to the House floor if a majority of the Republican Caucus opposes it? Foreign policy divides include Cuba and Iran. President Obama has just moved to reestablish relations with Cuba, which does not play well with the Cuban refugee community in Florida and even some influential Democratic Senators. Options available to the republicans include denying funding for an embassy building in Havana, retain the existing trade barriers with Cuba, and denying Senate confirmation of an United States ambassador to Cuba. Iran is an ongoing boiling point with the President intent on establishing relations with Iran, lifting the trade barriers, and letting Iran obtain the Bomb. He has no Republican Congressional support on Iran. Senate McConnell’s major priority is to curb the “War on Coal.” We can expect legislation and riders curbing the EPA. The odds are that Congress will continue to cut the EPA and IRS’ budgets. This Congress will exercise the power of the purse. “Independent” federal agencies are in the Republican sights. Congress will act, often through riders, against the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules and the increasing precedent breaking pro-union rulings of the NLRB. Congressional investigations will escalate. The last words on IRS, VA and Benghazi have yet to be heard. Some administrators will be spending more time testifying before Congress than in their offices. Mass tort reform will not be undertaken, but Congress may be pressured to enact asbestos reform, in respond to the vast abuses in asbestos litigation and asbestos trusts. Both the President and the Republicans will have to pick their battles.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Predicting the Course of the 2015-16 Obama Administration

The late, great columnist William Safire, would start the new year with a series of political predictions phrased as multiple choice questions. He was remarkably good in his predictions. I am not William Safire, but the next two blogs will be predicting the course of President Obama and then the Republican Congress over the next two years. Three statements define President Obama. These statements predict the next two years of the President’s Administration. He is not a lame duck, much less a dead duck. The first statement is from a radio panel discussion on September 6, 2001 on WBEZ-FM in Chicago with the young Constitutional Law Professor and Illinois State Senator BarackObama. He believes from the days of the Founding Fathers that the Constitution has a deep flaw and blindspot – the treatment of African Americans. He added: “But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of basic issues such as political and economic justice in this society. To that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted , and the Warren Court interpreted it the same way that generally, the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the state can’t do to you. But doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.” He also stated: One of the, I think, the tragedies of the Civil Rights Movement was that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you can bring about redistributive change.” We believe that we are a nation of law, governed by the Rule of Law. We believe that the United States Constitution defines the role of the government versus the people. President Obama believes that the purpose of government is to deliver justice by redistributing the wealth of the nation. He believes that you did not “make it” when you made it, but succeeded because of the government and the less fortunate. His Government can promote justice by redistributing income to the less fortunate. ObamaCare is but a vast redistribution scheme. President Obama is a President of Justice, free in his mind to do what he thinks is right, unfettered by the Constitution. The second quote comes is from October 30, 2008 five days before his first inauguration: “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” He has stayed true to that underlying political philosophy for the past six years. He wants to be a transformative President. He has achieved great success in the past six years through Congress, the Supreme Court, his executive agencies, the independent agencies, and the vast federal bureaucracy. The last quote is from March 16, 2012 with Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Federation President:” This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” The Democratic Party took a major beating in November. They were losers, but he remains a winner. They lost; the President did not. He is now liberated. He no longer has to subordinate some of his initiatives to save Senate Democrats. He is unchained from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Congressional Democrats. The 1967 Bob Dylan song “I Shall be Released” is his new mantra as he reverts to Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” He never had a good working relationship with Congress, even the Democratic Congress. He had trouble breaking bread with both Democrat and Republican members of Congress, even when Democrats controlled both Houses during his first two years. He will work against the Republican Congress for the next two years. Not that he is overly worried about the Republican Congress. He believes in his mind that he is smarter than them, and proved it again in the recent Cromnibus Budget Bill. His three major policy imperatives were unscathed in the final bill: ObamaCare, immigration relaxation, and EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions. He knows his veto will block Congressional Republicans. He will use it to preserve ObamaCare, the War on Coal, and immigration reform. He does not fear his vetoes being overridden by Congress. He knows the Republicans will support the trade initiatives blocked by the Senate Democrats. He knows the media will back him on “government shutdowns.” He knows he beat them on the Sequester, substantially shrinking the United States military. Indeed, he knows the media will continue to have his back on his transformative initiatives. President Obama retains the Bully Pulpit. The media will generally act as an echo chamber. He knows that he can periodically call out, actually trash, Congress with the media supporting him. He has little respect for Republicans. He will use them as verbal punching bags. He believes in his being Messianic. He believes that just as President Lincoln had to suck it up during bleak years of the Civil War prior to receiving reelection and acclaim, so too his actions will be accepted by the American people. He is a narcissist in this respect. Even the American economy is finally turning around after the Great Recession. He fails to understand that much of the improvement is the result of fracking, which his Administration opposes. The large drop in energy costs is jumpstarting the economy, putting thousands of dollars in consumer pockets. He knows the EAP and other executive agencies will carry out his will. He knows that the supposedly independent federal agencies, such as the FCC and NLRB will vote, often by 3:2, to carry out his wishes. He believes that his Administration will still be able to run out the clock on Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS, VA, and scandals yet to unfold. Let’s look at what this “lame duck” President has done: Released more prisoners from GITMO; Restored relations with Cuba. Don’t be surprised in the next two years if the President attempts to totally resolve GITMO by unilaterally abrogating the treaty with Cuba, thereby returning GITMO to Cuba Entered into a climate agreement with China Continuing to trash Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Continuing the War on Coal He will reach an agreement with Iran He will continue a foreign and military policy of retreat. He will dare Congress to stop his unilateral immigration reform. He may have to swallow a border fence. He will take more vacations and foreign trips, explore more golf courses, issue more press releases, campaign on key priorities, and hold even fewer press conferences. He will win some and lose some, but his agenda will advance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Don't the Police Stop Policing the Inner Cities?

Why Don’t The Police Stop Policing the Inner Cities? Yes, and why not disband the Gang Squads? Why shouldn’t the NYPD pull out of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Harlem, and the South Bronx? Why should the LAPD continue to patrol South Central Los Angeles? Why doesn’t the Chicago Police Department pull out of the South Side? What if the San Francisco Police Department stayed out of the Fillmore and Hunters Point? Of course these are rhetorical questions. The protests over the past four months claim the police brutalize the ghettos; White cops kill male black teenagers, when they’re not harassing them. The solution is to stop patrolling the barrios and ghettos and let the residents fend for themselves. The assassination of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is a tragedy. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Treyvon Martin never should have died. We have five unnecessary tragedies. The nation has a history of police trying to keep a heavy hand on minority neighborhoods. The narrative of white cops being trigger happy with black male teenagers has a historical basis, but not now. No evidence exists that was the case with Michael Brown or Eric Garner. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a certified Lone Wolf nut job, killed the two officers. He walked up to their parked patrol car, kneeled, and shot both in the head. It was an execution. The perpetrator with an extensive rap sheet was primed for killing cops. We know he was motivated by the climate of police animus perpetrated by politicians, provocateurs, agitators, demagogues, and Reverend Sharpton. After shooting his ex-girlfriend in Owens Mills, Maryland, Brinsley took the bus to New York City. He tweeted :”I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours …. Let’s take two of them. #Shoot the Pigs” The President, Attorney General, Mayor De Blasio and Reverend Al Sharpton set the climate for the killings. They are reaping where they sown. They know juries will convict law enforcement officers for excessive force. For example, Johannes Mehserle, a white Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer fatally shot the unarmed African American Oscar Grant III on a BART platform. The tragedy was caught on cell videos. The officer reached fro his Taser, but pulled out his gun by accident. The jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter. The officers were assassinated Saturday, December 20. Hundreds of protestors marched a week earlier with a chant. The call was “What do we want?” The response was: “Dead Cops.” The question: “When do we want it?” The answer: “Now.” Mayor de Blasio met with protest leaders on December 19, but not with the police. Seven protestors that Saturday attacked two NYPD Lieutenants, Phillip Chan and Patrick Sullivan, on the Brooklyn Bridge. One suffered a broken nose. Mayor de Blasio’s response was to call it an “alleged assault.” The Mayor’s wife is African American. His children are thereby bi-racial. The Mayor said at a press conference during the weeks of protest that he had to “train” his son how to behave around the police, “how to take special care around police officers.” Does that apply to the officers who provide security for his family? The Mayor, like a typical politician shifting blame, says it’s the media blowing up the negative protests that has created the climate. A few more comments like that and Mayor De Blasio will lose the New York media as well as the NYPD. Michael Brown is an awful martyr for police brutality. His colleague in crime, Dorian Johnson, lied about what happened. He claimed Michael had his hands up, saying “Don’t shoot” as his back was turned to the Officer. Officer Darren Wilson’s testimony, supported by several autopsies, showed Michael Brown reached into Officer Wilson’s car, grabbed his throat, and grappled for the Officer’s gun. We call that “Suicide by Cop.” A police officer has the legal right to self-defense if a suspect approaches the officer with a gun, knife, or screwdriver, or is apparently reaching for a weapon. Suicide by cop is a known phenomenon. For example, Lamar Moore walked into a Detroit Police Station on January 23, 2011 and opened fire with a pistol grip shotgun. He wounded four officers before being shot dead by he officers. The “Hands up; Don’t Shoot” mantra is a fabrication. The President, Attorney General, Mayor and the Reverend know it. Yet they perpetuate the false narrative for political purposes. They have fueled the anti-police sentiment in parts of the public. Brinsley pulled the trigger; they lit the match. Attorney General Eric Holder is investigating the Ferguson Police Department. The President has a proclivity to side with the African American over the police. It began in July 2009. Sergeant James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates for ‘disorderly conduct” on July 16. President Obama said “[T]he Cambridge police acted stupidly….” He added “There’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” The President called it a “teachable moment” when the facts showed the Officer had probable cause to arrest the Professor. George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin in 2012. The President responded: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” He stated on March 23 prior to the trial “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” As to Ferguson, the President is believed to have met with Reverend Sharpton and Ferguson protest leaders on November 5. The Reverend said the President advised the leaders to “Stay on course.” The President has met with Reverend Sharpton 84 times during his Presidency. Reverend Sharpton is the President’s “Go to guy” on Civil Rights, as he often seems to be with Mayor De Blasio. President Obama called the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Pantaleo an “American problem.” The Eric Garner case is slightly different. It is inexplicable that the NFPD would dispatch at least six officers for selling $.75 “loosies” on the street, but apparently the word came from City Hall a few months earlier to crack down on the street sellers, who were costing the city millions in potential cigarette taxes. The combined state and city tobacco tax is $6.85/pack with the retail price being at least $11/pack with cartons selling for over $100. The result is a large bootleg market for untaxed cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo may, or may not, have technically applied a chokehold to Eric Garner, but the police had probable cause to arrest him. Officer Pantaleo never should have been in the position of arresting Mr. Garner, but he never should have resisted arrest. Garner suffered from obesity, heart disease, and heart disease, but in the law we take the victims “as how we find them.” Garner cried out 11 times “I can’t breath.” The City is going to write a large check in Eric Garner’s death, perhaps for 8 figures. Race was not an issue. The sergeant in charge at the Garner scene was an African American female officer. About 60% of the NYPD is non-white. The Mayor, a true Progressive, campaigned in the New York City Democratic primary to the left, against the NYPD. He appealed to the left by attacking the “Stop and Frisk” policy of the NYPD. The answer to my rhetorical questions is twofold. First, the job of the Police is to protect the public, that means throughout the City, regardless of neighborhood.. Second, the demonstrations and protests were from only a few; the vast majority of residents in the ghettos and barrios may have mixed emotions about the police, but they know they are the only protection they have. Officers Liu and Ramos were in a stake out vehicle outside two crime-ridden housing projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant. They gave their lives serving the neighborhood. I remember a cliché rom high school “Only a thin veneer of civilization separates man from the ape.” That veneer is the Rule of Law with the front line being the thin blue line of the police. Mayor de Biasio is in a battle with the police. It is a battle he and the people of New York City will lose.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Professor Susan J. Douglas of the University of Michigan Hates, Hates, Hates Republicans, or Does She? We interrupt the frantic search for a new football coach at the University of Michigan to announce that Professor Susan J. Douglas, Chair of Communications Studies at the University of Michigan hates Republicans. We know it because she posted an article on online “In These Times” entitled “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” She begins “I hate Republicans. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa, or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal ‘personhood.’” So much for a reasoned civilized discourse on public issues. She continued that while her views may seem biased “historical and psychological research back her up, and so it’s basically actually a fact that Republicans are bad.” I’ll love to see the research. She added that Republicans are rally good at being mean because psychological studies show they usually have traits such as “dogmatism, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity.” The reaction, at least in conservative circles, has been ballistic. Demands have been made that she be fired by the University, that the legislature cut funding to the University, that donations will be given to other institutions, and she has received death threats. Three University Regents (two Republicans and a Democrat) have called into question her statements. Excuse me, but why the outrage? Maybe I should be surprised, buy I'm not. Nor am I disappointed in her remarks. The Academy, especially in the humanities and social sciences, journalism and communications, and the law is overwhelming liberal to progressive to even radical. Ex-professors Ward Churchill of Colorado and Steven Salaita of Virginia Tech/Illinois are not exceptions to the norm. A look at 2012 campaign contributions illustrates the reality. 96% of the Ivy League professors’ contributions in 2012 went to President Obama. It was 99% at Princeton. $221,176 went to the President from Yale professors versus only $8,705 to Governor Romney. The education sector contributed $23,237,329 to the President and $3,939,542 to the Governor. 87% of the law school contributions went to the Obama campaign. The pattern is similar at public universities. Of the nation’s top 27 publicly funded universities, only the faculty at the University of Kentucky gave more to the Romney campaign than the Obama campaign. University of California professors contributed almost $1.1 million to the Obama campaign. $146,346 went to Obama from the University of Texas versus only $4,650 to Romney. 85% of the University of Michigan contributions were to Democrats in 2012. The only surprise is that Professor Douglas expressed her thoughts in writing with no touch of subtlety, but plenty of irony. She has nothing to fear institutionally. Her views are protected by the First Amendment, tenure, and Academic Freedom. She is a highly respected scholar and author. She has not engaged in academic misconduct, unlike Professor Churchill. Nor has she resigned one academic position prior to receiving Trustee/Regent approval of a new position (Professor Salaita). Nor am I worried about conservative students being discriminated or retaliated against by her. The student grapevine is wonderful. Conservatives will either avoid her classes or lay low in them. Her problem is that she will forever be tarnished by the abject stupidity of her statements. They are forever on the internet. A chaired professor of communications studies should know better than push the email send button on intemperate remarks. She has now issued a statement, backed up by “In These Times.” Her original title on the article was “We can’t all just get along.” The publisher had unilaterally, without her knowledge, changed the title to “It’s Okay to Hate Republicans.” That may be, but it did not change the rest of the article, which starts “I hate Republicans.” The University issued a statement Wednesday night: “The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan. Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institutions. “At the same time, the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal. The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.” That brings us to the case of Omar Mahmood, a conservative Muslin student at Michigan. The junior literature and anthropology major wrote for both the Michigan Daily and the conservative Michigan Review. He penned an article for the Review, satirizing political correctness. It was “Do the Left Thing,” The parody offended a staff member of the Daily, who complained that it created a hostile environment. It also interfered with “social justice.” The Editor-in-Chief of the Daily dug up a bylaw, which provided that a writer could not be on another journal without prior approval of the EIC. He was also told to write a letter of apology as a condition on remaining on the Daily. He was not told who the complainants were. The editors claimed that a conflict of interest arose. He has been terminated from the Michigan Daily. So much for tolerance of free speech by the student newspaper, which was once a paragon of free speech. Omar returned to his dorm room one night and found it was vandalized. Video cameras saw four women in hoodies as the culprits. There has been little outcry at the University of Michigan on behalf of the conservative Omar.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Ornaments on the Cromnibus Christmas Tree

President Obama signed the 1603 page $1.1 trillion Cromiibus (CR-Omnibus) Spending Bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi once said of ObamaCare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can know what’s in it.” It was presented to Congress for a vote on three days notice. So much for transparency! Major tax bills are known as “Christmas Trees” because of the hidden provisions, called “ornaments,” buried in them, often at the behest of lobbyists. The Cromnibus Spending Bill was crafted in a closed room by legislative leaders of both houses. It was presented to the House and Senate with little time to read it before voting. So much for transparency! Day by day, we are discovering the Christmas ornaments in it. Senator Ted Cruz was upset from the right because it fully funded ObamaCare and did nothing to stop President Obama’s Executive Order for amnesty for millions of immigrants. Senator Elizabeth Warren attacked it from the left because it reversed Dodd Frank by letting large banks trade in the derivatives market. Speaker Pelosi and other liberals were irate because it increased tenfold the permissible level for contributions to political parties. Conservatives should be happy. The Republican negotiators obtained substantial concessions for their constituency. The farm lobby proved more powerful than the environmentalists. EPA and the Corps had issued a draft “interpretation” of the jurisdiction of the federal government under the Clean Water Act. The draft would have substantially extend the power of the government. Cromnibus requires the agencies to withdraw the interpretation. The bill also forbad the EPA from requiring farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions manure management systems.” Nor can it require greenhouse gas permits for methane emissions from bovine flatulence or belches. The EPA budget was cut by $60 million back to 1989 spending limits. The Department of the Interior was barred from listing the sage grouse as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Export-Import Bank was ordered to loan funds to companies to build coal powered plants overseas. The Department of Energy was barred from developing or enforcing new standards for new energy efficient light bulbs. The IRS was cut $345 million, with more to come next year. Nor did First Lady Michelle Obama’s food lunch restrictions fare well. The government was barred from mandating less salt in food lunches while schools can seek waivers from the whole grain requirements for pasta and tortillas. In the tradition of earmarks and pork barrel politics, funds were appropriated to expand Savannah Harbor and for a National Heritage Area in West Virginia. Relief was granted to non-profit Blue Shield and Blue Cross to preserve special breaks threatened by ObamaCare. Multi-unit pension plans were given the power to cut pension benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on behalf of the hospitality industry, got funding for a marketing program for foreigners to visit the United States. $64 billion was appropriated to support overseas defense activities, such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The Internet Tax Freedom Act was extended a year until next December. Cromnibus blocked the District of Columbia’s legalization of marijuana, but blocked the Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana actors allowed under state laws. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah, and Festivus to all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Incoming Republican Congress Should Terminate Douglas Elmendorf and the Congressional Budget Office

The Congressional Budget and reconciliation Act of 1974 created the Congressional Budget Office to provide objective, non-partisan analysis of proposed legislation. In essence, its job is to “score” legislation. The Director of the CBO serves a four year term and can be reappointed. The CBO is a Congressional agency rather than in the Executive Branch. The Director is therefore appointed by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. Doug Elmendorf is the current CBO Director. His term is up. A debate is underway in Washington and within the Republican Party whether to reappoint Mr. Elmendorf and perhaps even abolish the CBO. The answer should be easy. The Congressional Budget Office is a failed experiment. Part of the failure is inherent in its charge from Congress. First, it is to score legislation on a ten year basis from the date of enactment, which creates many opportunities to game the scoring. Second, it must score legislation on a static rather than dynamic analysis. By way of explanation, static scoring assumes changes in taxes will have no effect on behavior, a clearly unreasonable assumption. A proposed tax increase of $25 billion in capital gains will result, as proven time after time, in a decrease in revenues as investors adjust their financial planning. Conversely a cut in the capital gains tax rate results in an increase of tax revenues. Dynamic scoring accounts for real life responses to taxes and regulations. Third, the CBO adopts Keynesian economics as a cornerstone of the benefits of government spending. Thus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in 2010 that “for every dollar a person receives in food stamps, $1.79 is put back into the economy.” The $1.79 comes from the CBO. Speaker Pelosi followed in December 2011 by stating that extending unemployment benefits would add “600,000 jobs to our economy.” By that reasoning we should become an economic colossus with 100% unemployment. The more unemployment we have, the more jobs unemployment compensation would create. Policy reasons justify unemployment compensation, but Keynesian multipliers are not a valid one. Fourth, the CBO uses baseline budgeting, which assumes a percentage increase annually in the baseline. Attempts by Republicans to cut the growth rate results in political, demagogic cries the Republicans are “cutting” whatever, such as food lunches. The fifth reason is that the CBO is not an objective, non-partisan agency, which brings us to ObamaCare. One of Professor Jonathon’s offensive statements is that “The Bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If the CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the Bill dies. So it’s written to do that.” That was a disingenuous statement in more ways than one. The reality is that the CBO worked hand in glove with Congress to massage the Bill so that it would show a positive cash benefit to the economy. The CBO advised the Congressional drafters on how to manipulate the numbers. Professor Gruber has become persona non gratis, indeed a nonentity, within the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration. Professor Gruber met in the White House on July 20, 2009 with President Obama, Doug Elmendorf of the CBO, and administrative officials. Professor Gruber described the critical meeting as follows: “ So we had a meeting in the Oval Office with several experts, including myself, on what can we do to get credible savings on cost control that the Congressional Budget Office would recognize and score as savings in the law.” Remember the ten year scoring requirement? ObamaCare was structured such that the tax increases would go into effect in 2010, but the coverage would not occur until January 1, 2014. Thus, ten years of revenues would be front loaded, but only 6 years of expenditures would be scored. Thus, the CBO could report with a straight face that ObamaCare would reduce the deficit by $180 billion by 2019. We also learn that the CBO’s calculations essentially followed Professor Gruber’s econometrics model to score the Act. Garbage in, Garbage out! The CBO reported in February 2014 that ObamaCare would result in the loss of 2 million jobs by 2018, 2.3 million by 2021, and 2.5 million by 2024. The CBO reported later this year that the original estimated cost of $940 billion has now doubled to $1.76 trillion. The CBO admitted ObamaCare will add $131 billion to the deficit over ten years rather than cutting it. Doug Elmendorf and the Congressional Budget Office were complicit in foisting ObamaCare on the American people. They should join the Democratic Senators and Representatives out of office because of ObamaCare before they do more damage.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bill Cosby: We Hardly Knew Thee - Why Bill Cosby Doesn't Get the Presumption of Innocence

Why Bill Cosby Doesn’t get the Presumption of Innocence The simple answer is that this presumption may exist in a court of law, but not in the court of public opinion. A Los Angeles jury may have acquitted O.J. of the double murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, but the American people convicted him. We knew he did it, as did a Santa Monica civil jury, which subsequently held him liable for the wrongful death of the two. I liked the public persona of Bill Cosby: the comedy albums out of the late 1960’s, I SPY which pioneered a lead African America in a TV show, and the Cosby Show, featuring an African American cast. America loved Bill Cosby the comedian; we loved Fat Albert and the Jello commercials. He was a benefactor of Black colleges. Bill Cosby was a pioneer. He paved the way for the African Americans comedians and actors today. We liked Bill Cosby at one of his concerts at the Orange County Fair two summers ago. We now know that Bill Cosby was a façade, hiding the dark side of the private Cosby. The public persona was but a mask for the private persona. I like Bill Cosby when he advocated a frequently unpopular position in the African American community advising them to start at home in improving themselves and advancing in America. I will not be able to quote that Bill Cosby in the future. Many a star, many a celebrity, many an athlete, many a politician is a lothario. They may be single or married, but America will generally not care as long as it’s consensual and they don’t do something stupid in public. Big Cosby is different, partially because our image of him has been shattered, but mostly because his acts involved drugging and forcing himself on women. The sex was not consensual. Woman after woman has emerged out of the Hollywood shadows to expose a pig and serial rapist, going back to the 1960’s. That should not have occurred. Rumors repeatedly flew through the Hollywood community. His peccadillos were well known. However, the producers, directors, networks, and media did not want to “out” him. He was too popular and financially remunerative. Skilled lawyers would always represent him as long as he could pay them. O.J. was essentially broke after his L.A. criminal trial. Hollywood believes in redemption for the legally and morally charged as long as the public does not turn on them. The Cos was emboldened because he got away with it. No one wanted to listen to the victims. Even a prosecutor, who believed Cosby was guilty, did not feel he had enough evidence to go to trial. You don’t attack an icon unless you think you can win. The NFL and college football also looked the other way at players involved with sexual and domestic abuse until this past year. The fans want wins, not jail time. Bill Cosby is like a Greek Tragedy. First the Gods built him up, literally from his bootstraps in the Projects, and now in his twilight years throwing him back down. The American people have spoken. Even his concerts are being cancelled now. The lesson is that it was the new social media, which brought him down. Social media is not bound by the traditional constrains.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Dianne Feinstein Frank Church CYA CIA Report

The Senate Democrats created The United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Operations (The Church Committee), chaired by Senator Frank Church (D. Id). It issued 14 reports in 1975 and 1976. The Church Committee damned the CIA, portraying the CIA as a rogue elephant operating outside the government. Richard Welch, the CIA Station Chief in Athens was one of several “outed” in the report. He was assassinated shortly thereafter The CIA was shattered and demoralized. The damage continued in President Carter’s Administration. He severely cut the human intelligence (humint) efforts of the CIA, appointing Admiral Stansfield Turner as Director of the CIA with emphasis on technical intelligence (techint) and signals intelligence (sigint). No more eyes and ears on the ground. CIA Director Turner orchestrated the Halloween Massacre, laying off 820 operational positions. Even fewer eyes and ears on the ground. The CIA was demoralized and understaffed for decades. The Senate Intelligence Committee issued Tuesday its long delayed 525 page, redacted Executive Summary on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation practices after 9/11. It criticized the practices as more brutal and less effective than the CIA led the President and the public to believe. The Agency allegedly misinformed the President, Congress, the Justice Department and the public. The Feinstein Democrats in the Senate almost four decades after the Church Committee again characterized the CIA as a Rouge Agency. It castigated the CIA. It slammed the water boarding, ice baths, death threats, and sleep deprivation techniques. The prisoners were sometimes kept in closed boxes, chained to the walls. The word “torture” permeates the report. Senator Feinstein called the CIA’s enhanced intelligence program as “A stain on our values and in out history.” The report was issued under the imprimatur of the Senate Intelligence Committee, but it is more in the nature of an opening statement or brief by a prosecutor. Fatal flaws exist with the report. First, the Democratic staff committee acted without Republican input. The Republican Senators on the Committee recognized five years ago that the committee staff had no intention of preparing an objective study, but rather a hatchet piece. Second, the staff did not interview the CIA officials or personnel involved with the enhanced interrogation program. They could have shed a light on many aspects of the investigation, especially the success of the intensive interrogation. The staffers acted like armchair quarterbacks with no understanding f how intelligence gathering works. The Report purports to conclude that no effective evidence was obtained through enhanced interrogation. Instead, the meaningful information was obtained from detainees prior to their being subjected to enhanced intelligence. Vice President Chaney succinctly summed up the Report: “The Report’s full of crap.” The Report ignores the background of the CIA’s actions. About 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 when four commercial airliners were transformed into flying bombs. Several Americans jumped out of the burning Twin Towers to a certain death rather than be consumed by flames. Washington was fearful of a second wave of attacks. An anthrax attack occurred around the same time. Limited intelligence indicated the terrorists were attempting to acquire a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. President Bush led the way in directing the CIA to do whatever was necessary to safeguard America. Congress was kept fully informed, at least on 30 occasions, of the details of the CIA’s plans. Several Democrats apparently asked the CIA more than once if the CIA needed even greater authority. Several key Democrats are now claiming ignorance in an exercise of selective memory. The Report is an attempt to cover their gluteus maximi. A famous hypo over the past two decades is of terrorists secreting the “Bomb” in an American city, often New York City. One of the terrorists is captured. The simple question is if torture should be used to determine the location of the Bomb in time to defuse it before it explodes. A common answer in my class prior to 9/11 is that torture would be inappropriate. The overwhelming view after 9/11 is to do whatever is necessary.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Getting a Clear Picture on Beijing's Smog

Beijing has a smog problem. The city knows it. The government knows it. The world knows it. 189 days in 2013 experienced heavy air pollution whereas only 176 days registered good air quality. A severe pollution episode last February with a smog blanket resulted in a scientist saying Beijing was “living through a nuclear winter. The pm2.5 level was 505. The air pollution was interfering with photosynthesis. A standard measurement of smog levels is the pm2.5 scale, which measures particulate matter of 2.5 micrometers or less. 25 and below is considered healthy. Above 300 is dangerous to health. The United Sates Embassy in Beijing records the pm2.5 levels hourly. An app for Beijing’s air quality is available. It currently is 107 at 9:22 Pacific time. It had been above 400 earlier. The government knows it must solve the problem, but it is not confined to Beijing. Smog is pervasive throughout China. 16 of the world’s most polluted cities are in China. I was in Beijing last week. I experienced the smog. I thought in arriving in Beijing that the Beijing smog was a combination of industry and the automobile. I was wrong; it’s much more complicated than that. Yes, Beijing has a problem with its coal based industry and steel mills. In this respect Beijing is analogous to Pittsburgh of a century ago and the infamous 1948 Donora Smog with 20 dead and over 7,000 ill 30 miles from Pittsburgh. The Chinese Academy of Sciences published a study a year ago, reporting the sources of Beijing’s smog. Secondary aerosols (sulfates and nitrates) were responsible for 26%, followed by industrial pollution with 25% and coal burning with 18%. Coal produces 70% of China’s electricity from over 2,300 plants with a new plant coming on line every 10 days. Globalization resulted in in heavy industry leaving the United Sates, often to China. It seems the United States may also have exported pollution to China. 39.2% of the smog comes from outside the province. especially Hebei and Tianjin Provinces. Hebei has a concentration of polluting heavy industry, especially steel. The rapid industrialization of China, as it had earlier in the United States and Europe, is leaving a trail of air, water, and toxic pollution in its wake. China’s industries externalize their pollution by dumping it on the public. Beijing’s smog is partially imported pollution, just as poor air quality from Los Angeles and Orange County, California blows through a gap in the mountains to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Pollution does not respect artificial political boundaries. The imported pollution complicates the smog control problem. Soil dust accounts for up to 15% of Beijing’s pollution. The city has historically been plagued by major sandstorms. The Chinese Academy of Sciences Study reported that waste burning and cars only accounted for 4% of the smog. However, a different study by the Beijing Environmental Protection Monitoring Center reported auto exhausts accounted for 31.8% of emissions within the city. The once omnipresent bicycle has been replaced by the ubiquitous car. Indeed, bikers and pedestrians get no respect from Beijing drivers. China now has 240 million vehicles on the road. 17.9 new vehicles were sold in 2013. The American auto industry has a great year when 16 million vehicles are sold. The government exercised Herculean efforts to clear the air before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) November 7-12. Heavy industry was shut down within 124 miles of the Capitol and auto driving was restricted. Residents referred to the resulting clean air as “APEC Blue.” China has experienced two decades of rapid economic growth coupled with little pollution control. The country plans to remove 6 million old cars from the road this year. It shut 103 heavy industry facilities last year. It’s not enough. Air pollution controls, at least as strong as throughout the United States, for automobiles and plants must be imposed.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Did Rolling Stone Pull a Duke Lacrosse on the University of Virginia

Accusations of rape must be taken seriously. They are not to be brushed off, disregarded, or ignored. Yet, not every allegation of sexual assault can be proven, at least legally. A growing awareness in America is the problem of sexual assaults on campus, especially when alcohol is involved. Thus, when Rolling Stone Magazine ran a featured article, “A Rape on Campus,” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely on November 19, 2014, detailing the sordid attacks on Jackie, a University of Virginia coed two years earlier, it was believed. It fit the narrative of drunken fraternity brothers coupled with a culture of willfully ignoring campus rape and apparent university indifference. Animal House in the 21st Century! The well-written article is compelling, graphic, and sickening. The description of the University’s reactions to claims of sexual assault is as compelling as the attacks themselves. When asked why the crimes weren’t reported, the response was “No one wants to send their daughter to the rape school.” Phi Kappa Psi voluntarily suspended itself, followed by the University suspending all fraternity and sorority life until next semester. The University is reassessing its policies and asked for a special counsel to be appointed. The board of Visitors, the governing body, convened a special meeting. Over 1,000 alumni wrote critical letters to the university. The Phi Kappa Psi house was vandalized. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges sent the University of Virginia a letter demanding assurances that the school is in compliance with student safety standards. It is a powerful narrative. So was the narrative 8 years ago of the Duke Lacrosse team. An exotic dancer alleged she was raped by three players at a party on March 13, 2006. The tale went viral. 88 Duke professors ran an ad in the student newspaper in protest of the players’ actions. The lacrosse coach was fired and the team suspended for the season. Michael Nifond, the District Attorney, vigorously prosecuted the three accused players, eventhough the innocence of one player was clearcut. Reade Seligman was clearly photographed at an ATM machine several miles away at the precise time of the alleged assaults. DA Nifong was so eager to convict that he withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. The complainant’s case slowly fell apart. Even her companion denied anything occurred. The national rush to judgment was a mistake. It was a costly mistake for Duke. Reports are that it might have cost Duke as much as $80 million in settlements and attorneys fees and costs. The Duke Lacrosse Team narrative was believed because it fit an existing narrative. So too with the Rolling Stone article. A sexual assault may have occurred with the victim’s memory playing games with her. It happens. But it did not happen as depicted in Rolling Stone. Jackie has told differing stories to supporters and the media. She said she had met the initial acquaintance when they were both lifeguards at an aquatic camp. He was a brother in Phi Kappa Psi, where the assaults allegedly occurred. She identified him a short time ago to friends. He is not in fact a Phi Kappa Psi brother. He denies ever having met her. Nor did the fraternity apparently have any members working at the Aquatic Club at the time. She claimed in the article that the assaults occurred on September 28, 2012. The fraternity had no parties scheduled around that time and says no brother fits the description of her initial attacker. The writer did not contact the seven (earlier) five attackers out of respect for Jackie who did not want them contacted. She explained: “I am convinced it could not be done any other way or any better. I am not interested in diverting the conversation away from the point of the article itself.” That’s now what’s happening. The violation of basic rules of investigative reporting is drawing attention away from the narrative. Rolling Stone’s first response to criticism was denial: “Through our extensive reporting and fact-checking, we found Jackie to be entirely credible and courageous, and we are proud to have given her disturbing story the attention it deserves.” The editor changed his position yesterday: “In the face of new information, there now appears to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan promises the University will conduct a through investigation of the incident and of the school’s response activities. Sabrina’s article got the desired impact in the short run.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Conservatives Are Aghast at the New York City Non-Indictment in the Eric Garner Homicide

The contrasting reactions to the grand juries non-indictments in the Ferguson and Eric Garner deaths are illuminating. Conservatives supported the Ferguson decision no to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Civil libertarians protested. Both riots and peaceful demonstrations followed. “Hands up; Don’t shoot” became the rallying cry. Conservatives supported the decision. The overwhelming weight of the evidence showed the Officer had the right to self-defense as Michael Brown unwisely attacked him in his car, and that the deceased was not shot in the back. Eric Garner’s death was different. The cry became “I can’t breathe.” Peaceful demonstrations followed throughout the country. Conservative pundits, including those of FoxNews, are outraged by the Grand Jury’s decision. The video in the legal phrase “Res Ipsa Loquiter” speaks for itself. Even former President George W. Bush found the decision to not indict “hard to understand.” Congressman Peter King (R. NY) had a contrary position. He said on FoxNews' Megyn Kelly show that since Eric Garner could say "He couldn't breathe," that showed he could breathe. Unlike Congressman King, I understand what Eric Garner was saying. I can literally say as an asthmatic to a doctor that I can't breathe when the asthma is so severe that it is as though I cannot breathe. A 6’3” 350 lb. African American was gang tackled and apparently chokeholded for selling Loosie cigarettes, that it, single cigarettes, for $.75 each on the street. He was crying out “I can’t breathe.” He was left alone in extremis for a time while paramedics stood by. Capital punishment for a $.75 cigarette seems cruel and unusual punishment. Eric Garner resisted arrest in the sense that his arms were flailing and he refused to cooperate with the horde of officers surrounding him. The Officer testified before the Grand Jury that he did not use a chokehold proscribed by the NFPD, but a wrestling move he was taught in the Police Academy and which is legal under New York State law. The video looks like a chokehold. New York City Mayor De Baslio said: ”This is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain, and searching for a solution …. We’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we’re not dealing with decades years of racism leading up to it, or a decade of racism – we are dealing with centuries that have brought us to this day.” Eloquent, but wrong – a misdirection and feint over the underlying problem, which is of the day – nor the centuries , but New York’s rapacious cigarette tax, the consequences of which proved tragic with Eric Garner. Mayor De Blasio told the police weeks earlier to enforce the cigarette tax and go after the street sellers, such as Eric Garner. The City and State needed the revenue. New York State imposes a tax of $4.35/pack of 20 cigarettes. New York City adds another $1.50 to the tax, yielding a tax of $5.85/carton, or 29.25 cents per cigarette. Packs retail for $13 - $17, with cartons selling for $130 and up. In short, the government is making more off a pack of cigarettes in New York City than the tobacco companies. The cigarette tax raises money, when it’s collected, but over 60% of the cigarettes sold in New York are bootlegged into the state. The tax is so regressive that the poor can spend 22% of their disposable income on cigarettes. Truckloads of cigarettes are bought in Virginia with a tax of $.30/carton and then enter the New York blackmarket, often selling on the streets of New York as “Loosies” for 75 cents each. Eric Garner was the final link in the distribution chain. He had 2 ½ packs of Newports on him when the confrontation with the police occurred. He died because of a modern tax policy. No one should be confronted by the police over a single cigarette. We have not yet been told if he was selling taxed or untaxed cigarettes. There is no justice in his death, but the settlement with his family will chew up much of the City’s cigarette tax revenue.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Justice for Ferguson is Not Revenge or Vengeance

Justice is not revenge. Justice is not vengeance. Justice is not looting. Justice is not arson. Justice is not rioting. Justice is not Ferguson after the Grand Jury decision. Justice is not looting, vandalizing, or destroying 60 businesses in the Ferguson area. Justice is not shutting down the 44, 110 or 580. Justice is not shutting down BART. Justice is not shutting down shopping centers, yelling “If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no profits.” Yet, that is what a few are using Ferguson as an excuse to do – all because of a false narrative. The narrative was laid out by Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown’s companion, that a white police officer shot Michael Brown in the back while his hands were raised, thus giving rise to the chant “Hand’s up; Don’t shoot.” The story fits the historic narrative of police harassing, beating, and even killing African Americans, especially young males. Michael Brown became a symbol. Not this time though. Dorian has an outstanding warrant and Michael a rap sheet. The two were partners in crime earlier that day in robbing a convenience store of cigarillos, caught on video. The death of Michael Wilson is a tragedy. Michael Brown should not have been killed. Darren Wilson should not have had to shoot him. Michael Brown should not have openly carried the stolen cigarillos in public. Nor should he have attacked Officer Wilson in his car and grabbed for the Officer’s gun. We cannot know what Michael Brown was thinking, but we know his actions. Eyewitnesses and autopsy reports tell the tale. The Grand Jury of 9 whites and 3 African Americans took 97 days, listening to 70 hours of testimony and 60 witnesses before reaching their decision to not indict Officer Wilson. Dorian Johnson lied. The narrative is false. The agitators, building on the legacy of African American distrust of the police, are not letting the facts get in the way of a good narrative. Justice is not claiming that Ferguson is to this generation what Selma was to an earlier generation – but that’s just the Reverend Al Sharpton. Justice is bringing to the bar of justice those who committed criminal acts in Ferguson. Let us note though that the number of perpetrators in almost every post – Grand Jury incident is low, usually less than 200. The vast majority, 99.9999%, are not rioting, looting, or torching. They are respecting the rule of law. Justice is the product of the rule of law, a process by which the American legal system resolves a dispute following the rules of law in an orderly and peaceful manner before an impartial judge and judge. The American public understands that Michael Brown is not a proper symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. The Reverend Al Sharpton said that Ferguson is to this generation what Selma was to an earlier generation. That’s Al Sharpton being Al Sharpton. It is not America. And it’s not Selma. The tragedy of Ferguson is two fold. The first is the death of Michael Brown. The second is reigniting the issue of race in America while setting back the progress we’ve made in recent decades. Legitimate grievances, of which there are many, will be consumed by the incendiary fires of Ferguson.