31 October 2010

DOJ on AK Write-Ins

The National Review Online published an outstanding legal analysis by Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission, regarding the many irregularities in the Alaska Division of Elections actions to facilitate Write-In candidates.  Von Spakovsky contends that the powers that be in the Alaska Division of Elections and the DOJ "show a dangerous willingness to bend regulations in furtherance of political objectives."

The Obama Administration's Attorney General Eric Holder has been running the Department of Justice in a polemic manner, especially in election issues.  The DOJ  Civil Rights Division dropped prosecution of the Black Panther's Philadelphia Voter Intimidation case at sentencing (after the case was already won) amidst rumblings from some whistleblowing ethical attorneys that reverse discrimination cases would not be pursued.  Moreover, the DOJ has sent poll watchers to certain precincts in Arizona after anti-illegal immigration groups wanted to prevent election fraud. I am unsure whether the letter of the law matters much if it is counter to the winds of Hope and Change.

Political Hangups

Once again in this general election campaign, political shenanigans were caught on tape because the caller failed to hang up.

In early October, the Jerry Brown for Governor (D-CA) campaign called Scott Rate, a LAPD police union leader and left a message.  The Brown campaign caller thought that he or she hung up but the line was not disconnected.  The answering machine caught Brown Campaign officials refer to his Republican California gubernatorial opponent Meg Whitman as a whore.  Such misogynist epithets may be commonplace in politicos’ locker room talk, but it takes on much more meaning when applied to a female opponent.  When it came up in a gubernatorial debate later in the week, Brown first tried to sluff it off as being a mistaken recording.  It took three pointed questions for Brown to apologize.  While this sexist slight and his reluctance to make amends was revealing of Attorney General Brown’s character, I found it just an embarrassing campaign gaffe.

The news stemming from an Alaskan answering machine are much more concerning.  A reporter from Anchorage CBS affiliate called Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller’s campaign spokesman and left a long message.  He thought that his I-Phone had hung up but it had not disconnected.  The tape reveals the reporter and the news editor discussing how to create negative news about Joe Miller.  One angle that the news staffs considered was checking the Miller campaign volunteers to see if any registered child molesters were working on the campaign.  The other concept was to seize upon any chaos which might occur at a Miller campaign rally amongst supporters and spread it on Facebook and Twitter, ala the Rand Paul Kentucky Senate debate tussle.  When the reporter realized that the call had not disconnected ,he sent the Miller campaign spokesman a text message saying, “Damn iPhone… I left you a long message. I thought I hung up. Sorry.”

I guess that CBS did not learn from the Rather Gate debacle of 2004 about orchestrating an October Surprise with ruse news to torpedo a candidate.  The creation of conflict is like the ABC News crewmember who was aggressive taunting protestors to the Ground Zero mosque in August, 2010.  

The quintessential dirty trick was the Red Pepper imbroglio, which involved a slandering booklet which attacked Senator Claude Pepper (D-FL) on the eve of the 1950 Senate Primary.  Time reported about a redneck speech by Peppers opponent George Smathers (D-FL):

Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, he has a brother who is a known homo sapiens, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy.

This redneck speech was never actually given but it entered American political lore and summarized the election eve smear that can kill a campaign’s momentum without time to adequately refute the questionable charges.

In the age of the Internet, politicians can quickly try to respond to smears late in the campaign.  But it is impossible to unring a bell.  This sort of ersatz October Surprise in Alaska seems like overt electioneering by the media.  I wonder if the Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK) campaign will complain?  I would not be waiting by the phone since these dirty tricksters have difficulty hanging up.

UPDATE 11/02  Despite the initial denials by KTVA officials that the Joe Miller answering machine recordings were not what they seemed and that the recordings had been tampered, the Anchorage CBS affiliate fired the news director as well as the assignment editor.

29 October 2010

Show Me Some Voter Fraud

The other day while listening to the talking heads shows I heard someone say that Jack Valenti, the chief lobbyist of the Motion Picture Association of America, quipped that we wanted to be buried back home in Texas so that he could remain active in politics in the afterlife.  Even though Chicago is notorious for votes from the graveyard, inflated voter roles also allow deceitful, desperate partisans from cheating our democratic republic of proper representation.

When 15 counties in Missouri have more registered voters than citizens 18 years or older, it is situation rife for voter fraud.  It is hard to believe that is an improvement on the situation than in 2005 when 37 Missouri counties had more registered voters than actual population.

Before one flies off the handle at this voter roll disparity and scream out charges of “Voter Fraud”, it is prudent to consider the Missouri Secretary of State’s suggestion that the situation may be caused by federal law the prevents voters from being purged from the rolls for two federal election cycles.  That might account for some inflation of voter rolls.  But a couple of counties that did not make the top 15 counties but still flagged some concern is that St. Louis County had 98.2% voter registration and Jackson County (Kansas City) had 88.6% voter registration.  It is hard to believe that there is such civic activism amidst underprivileged urban demographics.

These systematic challenges are compounded by court cases that limit state and local governments which actually conduct the elections from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship.  A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which included former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) struck down Arizona’s right to inquire about citizenship status of voters, citing federal supremacy on conflicting laws as well as ensuring that voter registration was widely available and free of obstacles.  This ruling overturned a prior Ninth Circuit ruling in 2008 that Arizona Proposition 200 did not violate the National Voter Registration Act. So now a photo ID along with a utility bill is sufficient to be registered to vote, along with an affidavit of veracity under penalty of perjury.  The penalty of perjury does not inspire fear amongst undocumented individuals who fake social security numbers, so this enables  illegal voting mischief which dilutes citizens’ voice as expressed at the polls.

Once again, the 9th Circuit rejects the expressed will of Arizona to protect the state and its citizens from the flood of illegal aliens flooding into the state in favor of federal capriciousness and abstract ideals of openness.

28 October 2010

Right On Write-Ins!

After the Alaska Supreme Court ignored standing law about partisan information near the polling place which enormously helps Senator Lisa Murkowski’s  (?-AK) Senatorial write-in campaign, outraged Alaskans acted quickly.  Anchorage Radio Personality Dan Fagan urged his KDQF listeners to engage in civil disobedience and file write in applications to the Division of Elections.  The window for filing closed today but the Anchorage office of the Division of Elections received 56 write- in candidate applications in 45 minutes.

If the final ruling from the Alaska Supreme Court allows for write in candidate cheat sheets,  Murkowski’s name could be lost in a sea of candidates which would frustrate would be voters.

This judicial October Surprise ignored standing Alaskan law and the stay seems to be skewed in order to help an endangered incumbent. But for once the citizenry did not passively stand on the sidelines for this dirty trick but fully exploited this insider opportunity.  Perhaps after this audacious ad hoc electioneering, the “Men In Black” will follow the law rather than make it up using situational ethics.

Update 10/29  It turns out that 154 write-in candidates registered with the Division of Elections.  Also, a Murkowski campaign volunteer complained to KDQF that Fagan's content bordered on election tampering, but did not threaten legal action or demand Fagan's firing. Nevertheless, the station pulled him off the air on Friday and would review the issue on Monday.

Update 10/30 Sarah Palin speaks out on Facebook to defend Dan Fagan's right to speak out over the election and not be threatened by beltway elitists. 

The Meek Shall Inherit...Good Will?

There have been persistent rumors from the three way Florida Senate race that Democrat nominee Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL 17th) would drop out of the race to clear the path for Governor Charlie Crist (?-FL) to beat frontrunning Republican nominee Marco Rubio. Like any good politician,  Meek has vociferously denied the gossip, despite being in third place and only polling around 20%.

It seems that whether by hook or by crook there are efforts to diminish Democrat Meek to the background.  The Politico is reporting that Meek had twice signaled that he would drop out of the race.  The Miami area Congressman was a longtime Clinton supporter, so he was approached by former President Clinton’s top aide Doug Band.  After Meek expressed serious consideration of this modest proposal, President Clinton followed up.  The White House was apprised of the situation but did nothing.

Apparently, Democrat grandiose learned from the Sestak situation and no political offices were proffered for dropping out of the race.  But Clinton argued that Meek would be seen as a hero for dropping out and defeating Rubio.  Meek seriously considered it a week ago but was swayed by his wife’s belief that Meek could still win the race.  When asked about Crist’s evolving positions in the campaign during the last debate in Orlando,  Meek joked: “When I hear flip-flops down the hall, I think it’s the Governor”.  That does not sound like Meek wants to submissively clear the path for Crist to the Senate

Adding to the intrigue is Charlie Crist’s appearance on MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann Show. Of course it is the height of hypocrisy for Crist who anointed himself as a guy “who is about as conservative as you can get” to appear on the Lean Forward news network. But Crist’s likely motive is to appeal to left leaning viewers of MSNBC in the sunshine state with the argument of inevitability.  Currently, Meek is polling at 15% which puts Crist within 7% of Rubio.  If Crist can convince another 5% of the electorate by dispiriting Democrats to his cause, Crist could win outright or “win” it through recounts.

This Crist strategery (sic) has several flaws.  Florida has been early voting for 10 days.  It’s a little late to effectively force Meek to drop out.  Secondly, NBC’s David Gregory hit Crist hard on multiple occasions for his flip-flops.  It is dubious that Democrats would see Crist as a political savior instead of a self-serving opportunist. Thirdly, the aftermath of Democrat gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D-FL) being caught cheating during the last debate, combined with a national conservative tide and distaste over the Florida Senate race, Democrats might prefer to stay home rather than help a tan turncoat.

Ontario Dhimmitude

Strictly Right, a Conservative North American blogsite, wanted to host an event in London, Ontario featuring Mark Steyn, an infamous Canadian political and cultural critic.  So Strictly Right organizers  sought to rent the London Convention Centre (LCC) from the City of London.  Recognizing Steyn’s controversial status, the organizers assured the venue that adequate security would be provided for the event. The LCC  initially seemed very accommodating to the event. But within a week, the LCC  reneged on the arrangement because of pressure from local Muslim groups and that the LCC’s Board of Governors did not want to alienate Muslim clients.

Fortunately for fans of free speech, Steynapalooza will be held at the larger but more expensive Centennial Hall.  It is alarming to see how the fundamental freedoms espoused within the 1982 Canadian Charter of Freedom and Rights are seem so gossamer to the government so as not to offend Muslims.

Mark Steyn’s controversial status in Canada stems from a 2007 complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission for Maclean’s Magazine article entitled “The Future Belongs to Islam”.  The complainers contend that Maclean’s did not give space for rebuttal which they contended violated their human rights.  Additionally, the complainers noted that most of Maclean’s 22 articles about Muslims had been written by Mark Steyn. While the Ontario Human Rights Commission in April 2008 determined that it did not have jurisdiction over magazine content, it did strongly condemn the Islamaphobic portrayal of Muslims and reminded the media that it needed to engage in responsible and unbiased journalism.  This pronouncement was pithily skewered by Steyn:  "Even though they (the OHRC) don't have the guts to hear the case, they might as well find us guilty. Ingenious!"

In reaction to Steyn’s stinging statement about free speech objections, the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission wrote a letter to the editor of Macleans which arrogantly asserted that  that Canadians were wise to put “reasonable limits” on the expression of hatred.  But eventually even the federal CHRC complaint against Steyn was dismissed on its merits.  In his introduction to the book The Tyranny of Nice, Steyn excoriates the indifference of the Canadian media to the power grab that he says,

 [E]xplicitly threatens to reduce them to a maple-flavoured variant of Pravda... [A]n alarming proportion of the Dominion's ‘media workers’ seem relatively relaxed about playing the role of eunuchs to the Trudeaupian sultans.

Steyn’s way with words and his sharp perspectives might only be a cultural curio, but this drive towards dhimmitude is not just limited to hosers in the Great White North.

Certainly the sacking of Juan Williams by National Public Radio over stating his feeling of discomfort about culturally identifiable Muslims in airports shows that the Tyranny of Nice is mimicked by the left in America.  Despite the recent conviction of the South Park terrorist, the Lamestream media can be quite chary so as not to offend Muslims.   Seattle based cartoonist Molly Norris called for a “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” which so raised the ire of jihadists that she literally became an un-person to prevent Islamic assassination.

Write-in and Stay A While in Alaska

Within hours of Alaska Superior Court decision which enforces current law about respecting the non partisan zone around polling places, the Alaska Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling and allowed voters at early voting polling places to see the lists if they say they need help and want to be shown a list of write-in candidates.  The Supreme Court did set some parameters in that the party of the write-in must not be disclosed and that the ballots from those seeing this list of write-in candidates must be segregated pending any appeals.

This Stay from the Alaska Supreme Court has the potential of helping Murkowski at the ballot box, in the court of public opinion and in the litigation afterwards.  The special help for write-in candidates continues throughout early voting, albeit that the ballots will be segregated.  

The Murkowski campaign can play the high road and say that they want to help people exercise their franchise.  If the Alaska Supreme Court rules against the procedure in the end, they will raise the specter of voter disenfranchisement.  If the general election results are close, Murkowski can follow the path that some Democrat candidates use, win through litigation.  A sitting senior Senator can command significant funds to litigate a challenge to the results.  Murkowski and the so called Alaska mafia certainly have vested interests and have marshaled significant resources (namely Alaskans Standing Together) to help "their" candidate.  

Strange things can happen during protracted recount fights.  In 2004, Republican Dino Rossi beat Democrat Christine Gregoire for Washington State Governor's race by 261 votes out of 2.8 million votes cast.  There was an automatic recount due to the close race which Rossi led by 42 votes.  During a third hand recount, more votes were found in King County (Seattle) and Gregoire lead by 126 votes.  An amazing swing of over 400 votes!  Republicans attempted a lawsuit but he judge hearing the lawsuit ruled that the Party did not provide enough evidence that the disputed votes were ineligible, or for whom they were cast, to enable the court to overturn the election.  There was no appeal to the Washington Supreme Court and Gregoire was declared Governor.

Then there is the example of Minnesota Senate race in 2008.  There were preliminary reports on election night that Republican Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) led by over 700 votes over Democrat Al Franken but the certified election results had Coleman leading by 218 votes.  Since the margin was less than 0.5%, there was an automatic recount.  Democrats invested serious resources in litigating the recount since disputed votes could be challenged or championed.  After this recount, Franken led by 225 votes.  Another shocking swing of 443 votes.  Coleman filed an election contest that went before a three judge panel, which allowed 318 of 387 disputed ballots counted, which increased Franken's lead to 312 votes. After nearly seven months of recounts and litigation, Senator Franken was installed. 

Hugh Hewitt wrote a book that says it all:  If It's Not Close They Can't Cheat.  Hewitt wrote that polemic tome with Democrats in mind.  But it seems apt for the Elites in office protecting their perceived entitlements.  I think that a quick reading of John Fund's Stealing Elections will be quite helpful in sorting out the Alaska aftermath.  

27 October 2010

She Who Must Not Be Named

Two noteworthy items from the Last Frontier of Campaigning.

Firstly, the Alaska State Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner has ordered that the Alaska Division of Elections must remove a list of certified write-in candidates from polling places.  The Division of Elections anticipated that there might be some confusion amongst voters in regards to Senator Lisa Murkowski’s  (?-AK) write-in candidacy, so it had unilaterally drew up a list for any enquiring voters at the polling place.

This effort to help Murkowski directly contravenes Alaska regulations that forbids any information about write in candidates within 200 feet of a polling place.  The Alaska Democrat Party filed the lawsuit but was joined by the Alaska Republican Party.  Judge Pfiffner cited past practices in his ruling

If it were important 'assistance' for the division to provide voters with lists of write-in candidates, then the division has been asleep at the switch for the past 50 years. The division first developed the need for a write-in candidate list 12 days ago.

Patti Higgins, the Chairwoman of the Alaska Democrat Party which filed the lawsuit suggested that the Division of Elections could have changed the regulation using an emergency procedure but instead chose to take a unilateral course of action.  The State will appeal this case to the Alaska Supreme Court.

The Murkowski campaign spokesman put on a brave face and expressed confidence that voters who wanted to fill in the oval for write in candidates and fill out her name would not be deterred.  There may be some concern, however, about spelling Murkowski.  To that end, Alaskans Standing Together, the Native ad-hoc independent expenditure committee, has printed out a bunch of fake Lisa Murkowski tattoos that were distributed at a Native convention.  Staffers from Alaskans standing together encouraged their members to hide these temporary monochromatic tattoos so as not to violate state regulations about campaign materials within 200 feet of a polling place.

The second eye-catching item from Alaska is a new ad produced by the Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller.   He intentionally plays off of the slight against Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell to frame his race against Murkowski in a Halloween hue.  It is unclear if Miller was trying to produce a quirky campaign ad to go viral or to energize more Tea Party types to his cause.

In my estimation, it was a better ad than the John Dennis Oz motif against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th).  Miller’s ad was also clever to play off of the Harry Potter “She Who Must Not Be Named”, which subtly touches on a write in’s candidates challenge.  But if there is any solace for Murkowski, Alaskan Election staff certainly have been very sympathetic to her plight and there is a history of being generous in judging write in voters’ intent.

22 October 2010

All Things Considered...Legally

The termination of Juan William’s employment at NPR over his personal opinions on FNC's The O’Reilly Factor has become the Talk of the Nation (sic).   Right leaning media rushed to William’s defense as a honest liberal and to defend efforts to quash free speech.   The left wing chattering class on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Show and ABC TV's The View railed against the unfair unilateral action against Williams.

This poor personnel decision by NPR certainly generated bad publicity in the press and serves as a battering ram against politically correctness in the elitist Lamestream Media.  But this move was a business decision governed by contract, which involves legal considerations.  The macro effects of this ham handed move may have public policy implications next year.

While the public is not privy to the contract between Williams and NPR, it is known that NPR has been nervous about having its news staff appear on Fox News Channel.  Williams reveals that NPR tried to prevent him from appearing on FNC’s O’Reilly Factor.  When Williams refused, NPR requested that he did not identify himself as an NPR journalist.  Moreover, NPR demanded to either control all of Williams Fox appearances and writing or that he was demoted to a news analyst who was not a full NPR staff member.  When Williams contractually agreed to be labeled a news analyst, NPR cut his salary and his on-air time.

Well, NPR has proffered several rationales for this firing.  First, it was about William’s allegedly out of bounds opinions. When William’s statements was not outrageous enough in the court of public opinion, NPR tried a different strategy.

NPR press flacks floated a trial balloon that it was NPR’s general policy that prohibited NPR staff from acting as pundits that cloud their journalistic judgment.  This rationale did not pass the laugh test, as Mara Liaison and Nina Totenberg have been saying interesting and provocative things on the talking heads shows.

NPR refined this thought tract to having a news analyst not giving personal opinions.  This excuse makes no sense whatsoever as a news analyst must share personal perspectives on issues, but it has the virtue of being limited to NPR’s limited pool of news analysts.

NPR culminated with an ad hominem attack on Williams through comments made by NPR CEO Vivian Schiller who suggested that Williams should keep his fears of Muslims between himself, his psychiatrist and his publicist.  Schiller walked that over the top comment back after bad publicity saying that she spoke in haste.  Damn right!  Schiller’s gratuitous slam just poured gasoline on the fires of justice.

If it was simply a boneheaded personnel move, Williams would be wise to forgo litigation.  Roger Ailes signed him to a three year exclusive broadcast contract for $2 million.  But the NPR CEO’s vindictive invective was defamation.  I do not know Williams personal affairs, but if he was seeking psychological help, Schiller’s slam was a prima facie violation of HIPAA, a serious offense.

Megyn Kelly of FNC showed her legal acumen by pointing out two vulnerabilities in NPR’s stated reasons for firing Williams.  By pointing out the numerous incidents of NPR personalities acting as pundits throughout the media, their general policy excuse does not hold water.  NPR claims that it warned Williams many times not to appear on the Factor.  Kelly notes that William’s continued appearances on the show may show that NPR constructively waived their rights by not disciplining him early on.  Additionally, William’s revised NPR contract that made him a news analyst specifically did not contain a clause which allowed NPR to direct his outside activities.

If this was a contract case, it would be litigated in the District of Columbia.  I would love to serve on such a jury. A well respected liberal Black male who has written four books about civil rights versus an elitist non-profit organization with duplicitous standards. I’m sure that such a case would be settled out of court.  NPR is building a new palace on North Capitol Street.  Under such circumstances, Mr. Williams might end up holding the lease on that edifice with his settlement.

As for the larger issues, NPR has lifted the veil and shown itself to be a virulently partisan leftist politically correct organization that tolerates no dissent.  That would be fine if it were a private corporation surviving on its own merits.  But NPR receives federal funding.  Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), who is poised to be the next Speaker of the House if the GOP wins the majority, wonders why American taxpayers are funding a left wing network, especially when our government is broke.  Defunding NPR should be a popular move in the next Congress, especially amongst Tea Party candidates.

 NPR can claim that it only receives 2% of its funding from the government, mainly through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  So it won’t matter much if it’s funding is cut.  But half of its funding comes from membership dues charged to syndicating stations. As the KCET-TV disaffiliation shows, NPR can only lean on big stations so hard. Congress might reconsider overall funding for public broadcasting, which could really put a financial squeeze on NPR. That could really bring some Fresh Air (sic) on the public airwaves.

21 October 2010

A Partly Sunny Forecast for European Solar Energy

In the decade since the Germans passed a Renewable Energy Law, there has been a proliferation in German solar power generation.  The generous feed-in tariff, which is a policy mechanism that guarantees grid access and long term purchase contracts for energy production, has spurred  spurred the installation of large scale photovoltaic plants near Freiburg, the German “Solar Valley” as well as on solar panels on homeowners' rooftops.

The Renewable Energy Law spread the costs of the stimulus to all German taxpayers.  But it was a huge windfall (pardon the pun) to install solar panels.  These contracts had a 20 year duration with a guaranteed purchase rate at $0.46 per kw/h.  To give you an idea of how generous those terms are, Connecticut has the highest price in the contiguous United States at $0.19 per kw/h (the average US price of electricity is less than $0.12 per kw/h.)

This boom in renewable energy production should be a fulfillment of environmentalists’ green dream.  But the explosion of solar power is threatening Germany’s aging power grid.  The system is not equipped to handle the fluctuations of renewable energy sources.  Stephan Kohler, an energy advisor to the German government, observed that “The network is facing congestion due to solar power..[t]hat is why the expansion of solar power has to be cut back quickly and drastically.”  To that end, subsidies for rooftop solar panels were reduced by 16%.   Taxpayers costs will increase to an extra $0.05 per kw/h but that will increase as the years go on.

Aside from the sky high subsidies that are guaranteed for two decades, the grid can not accommodate the variable energy production. But since the purchase contracts are guaranteed, the wasted energy would be costly and would occasionally overload the system.

The Obama Administration has often pointed to Spain as the paradigm for how a national renewable energy policy is a job creator.  Unfortunately, the same boom and bust phenomenon occurred in sunny Spain.  The Spanish Government launched a campaign to attract renewable energy with a slogan of “The Sun Moves Us” as well as a generous feed-in tariff.  Unfortunately, there were many low quality, poorly designed solar panels erected on the Spanish plains.  Due to the long-term guaranteed purchase contract for up to $0.58 per kw/h, the Spanish Government was on the hook for many uneconomic solar projects.  The Zapatero government subsequently capped production and cut payments which caused a solar bust and Spain lost its vanguard solar status.

During the campaign, Barack Obama indicated his inclination to nudge America towards renewable energy by taxing and regulating conventional energy sources until it becomes economically unproductive.  This aspiration would come to fruition if Cap and Trade legislation were enacted. In the February 2009 Stimulus (a.k.a Porkulus) package, $80 billion was earmarked for renewable energy, including a $3.4 billion allocation for a smart grid.

Fortunately, most American regulators have shied away from feed-in incentives and have tried a a technique to require municipalities to purchase a percentage of energy production from renewable sources.  As the winds of change blow towards Washington on November 2nd, American public policy planner and legislators need to learn from European errors of irrational exuberance and encourage renewable energy projects that do not become expensive white elephants.

Three Squares at School

Schools in Washington, DC have started to serve dinners at school to an estimated 10,000 students or about a quarter of the student population.  Poverty activists claim that 40 percent of D.C. households with children did not have enough money to buy food. This program is justified as an effort to curb childhood hunger obesity and difficulty in learning.  This dinner at school program will cost the schools about $5.7 million and the spending is reimbursed through a USDA Child and Adult Food Program budget.

To be fair, this program is also utilized in 13 states but none to the extent of DC Public Schools. But the DC City Council heightened the stakes in school meals by passing the Healthy Schools Act in May, which required that schools prepare healthier low-fat meals and rewarded school cafeterias for using locally-sourced fresh ingredients.

There are some interesting synergies and perplexing priorities with loading the schools plate with more than the responsibility of educating children in the classroom.  Since the USDA program is paid on a per meal basis, there does not seem to be a means testing for the school dinners.  So well to do kids can gather around the school’s dinner table without consequence to the school’s budget. At seven public schools, meals are prepared at the DC Central Kitchen,  a non-profit agency that helps the homeless and ex-offenders reenter the job market. The City Council micro-managing mandate about healthier meals and fresh, local ingredients means that mystery meat may be off the menu, but the supposed good for you food may not appeal to many finicky childrens’ palates.

This school dinner program raises some contentious issues. School dinners would not induce as much indigestion to taxpayers if the DC Public Schools performed their primary task well.  But the DC public schools overall per student spending is $25,000 and it has some of the worst performing students in the nation.  DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee felt compelled to resign her post because her take charge approach to improving student test scores by holding teachers accountable became a political issue that contributed to her Mayor’s defeat in the primaries.

Many question the propriety of usurping parental duties to feed your family.  If the government is providing three hots then why not a cot too? If schools don’t want to go that far, maybe they can follow the lead of Cincinnati Public Schools and bus high school seniors to the early voting polling place with a sample ballot that just shows Democrat candidates.  Afterwards, officials can take them out for ice cream.

South Park Terrorist Pleads Guilty

Zachary Adam Chesser, whose nom de guerre is Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, pleaded guilty to crimes communicating threats, soliciting violence and aiding a terrorist organization stemming in part from his jihad against South Park creators.  Chesser faces up to 30 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on February 25th.

Chesser is a 20 year old Bristow, Virginia man who dropped out of his foreign language studies at George Mason University, married a Muslim woman he met in college and adopted jihad as a new interest.  Chesser twice traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabab, the terrorist group warring against the UN and US backed transitional government in Somalia.  Prosecutors argued that on one trip Chesser flew with his infant son to Mogadishu so as to obscure his intentions.

Domestically, Chesser ran a number of jihadi websites that called for violence against Americans.  But Chesser drew significant attention to himself when he responded to a South Park episode that he thought defamed the Prophet Mohammed by portraying him in a bear suit. Chesser’s internet posting suggested that Trey Parker and Matt Stone might end up like Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was brutally murdered by a Muslim thug upset at Van Gogh’s 10 minute film “Submission”. Moreover, Chesser posted links that revealed Stone’s and Parker’s home addresses.

ABC News notes that Chesser highlights the spike in homegrown terrorists who have been radicalized on the internet.  The FBI Intelligence Assessment on the Radicalization Process notes that disaffected individuals can be cultivated towards jihad by alienating them from their former life, indoctrinating them with an extremist form of the Islamic religious, cultural and political tenants and willing candidates adopt the indoctrination.

Juan Williams lost his job at NPR by recognizing his own apprehensions at apprehensions in an airport with passengers who outwardly identify themselves as Muslims.  After our collective experience over the last decade with 9/11, the Shoe Bomber, the British Liquid Bombers conspirators and the Fruit of the Kaboom bomber, it is not another isolated incident that certain segments of society seem to be hot for jihad. But are well along the road to dhimmi-tude when we are becoming paralyzed by political correctness in acknowledging the threat or doing anything that might cause offense to jihadists.

Now NPR CAIRs Not (sic) for Juan Williams

Long time NPR news personality Juan Williams was terminated by National Public Radio (NPR) after offering his opinions on FNC’s O’Reilly Factor.   Williams was asked by the host for his views regarding the walkout reaction to the Goldberg/Behar gaggle on ABC’s The View when O’Reilly said that Moslems committed the atrocities on 9/11/2001.

Williams, a reliable liberal voice who also often appears on Fox News programs, concurred with O’Reilly’s observation that Moslem jihadists are the biggest threat to the world today.  Sharing unusual honesty, Williams dared to say,

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

It did not matter that Williams couched his views by added that there are plenty of good Moslems but that those who were strongly identifying with Moslem culture are more prone to jihadism.

NPR’s press release noted that Williams remarks, “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”.   That high minded statement of standards seems rather hypocritical considering NPR approving the Mark Fiore’s  “How to speak Tea Bag” on their own website.   NPR omnibusman Alicia Shepard claims that no one knew that “tea-bagger” was a sexual slur.   NPR executives would neither apologize for the cartoon nor remove it from their website. NPR Vice President for News Ellen Weiss said, This one satire is not the only coverage on the topic and while it offends some members of the audience, I see no reason to remove it."

If Williams’ introspective opinions on ANOTHER NETWORK  was controversial and over the line, Michelle Malkin points out that an NPR affilliate employee Sarah Spitz of KCRW wished death on Rush Limbaugh, and this was not considered a firing offense or even a distancing of the repugnant view by the network.

Could William’s termination be due to the $1.8  million endowment by George Soros Open Society Foundation to endow hiring 100 political reporters for NPR?  Aside from its left of center slant, NPR has been well known for skewing news for reporters with endowed news beats.  For instance, NPR used to only have one Pentagon reporter but had five science reporters that were endowed by generous grants by public minded corporations.  Of course, this underwriting would never have any influence on NPR science coverage since Public Radio is so fair and balanced and unbeholden to corporations–not.

A more likely causal connection is Politically Correct dhimmitude.  On Wednesday, the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a press release demanding consequence for William’s opinion. CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad stated: "Such irresponsible and inflammatory comments would not be tolerated if they targeted any other racial, ethnic or religious minority, and they should not pass without action by NPR.".  Williams was notified of his termination Wednesday night.

Williams was off the PC reservation and expressing these concerns was anathematic to elites.  So much so, NPR CEO Vivian Shiller was quoted as saying to the Atlanta Press Club that Juan Williams should should have kept his feelings about Muslims between, "himself and his psychiatrist or his publicist," But Shiller walked that statement back after bad publicity and said that she spoke in haste.

Juan Williams has never been the darling of conservatives as he was a reliable liberal.  However, Williams has a remarkable record for his honesty and integrity about racial issues.  Williams sometimes stood alone and reused to  succumb to the drum beat of conformism to so called civil rights leaders.  If people can not connect the dots and see how individuals who aggressively immerse themselves in Islamic culture are going to be more prone to the siren song of violent jihadism then this country is well on its way to dhimmi-tude.

20 October 2010

Tea Time for DeMint Will Not Be with the Effete Elites

While being interviewd on FNC’s Hannity, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) made it clear that he was not willing to play a part of a go along to get along between the beltways Grand Old Party.  DeMint’s view is that the Republican Party should be about limited government with less taxes and less spending.  DeMint acknowledged that the GOP lost their majority when it became more about bringing home the bacon than about ideals.

During this television interview, DeMint revealingly stated:

I don't want to be in Washington another six years and watch the Republican party betray the trust of the American people again. I mean, we had the White House. We had a majority in the House and the Senate. We voted for more spending and more earmarks. Most of our senior members seem to be focused on taking home the bacon. I'm going to be in a Republican party like that and that's not what the Republican Party is across America.

DeMint clearly aligns himself with what Angelo Codevilla labels the “Country Class”.  If the GOP party establishment continues to act more like a Georgetown Cocktail Party, then DeMint and the Tea Party will look beyond reshaping the Republican Party and have a organization of their own.

Sotomayor's Sympathetic Sagacity?

During her confirmation hearings, there was some controversy over a standard “Wise Latina” line that Sonia Sotomayor intoned for implementing diversity in the judiciary. Now that she is on the bench, we now can better appreciate Associate Justice Sotomayor’s sagacity.

The Supreme Court was weighing whether to hear Pitre v. Cain, a prisoner’s rights Eight Amendment case. The facts are that Anthony Pitre is a Louisiana state prisoner who was HIV-positive. Pitre wanted to get out of chores that obliged him to work in 100 degree Fahrenheit heat. So Pitre stopped taking his HIV medication. The corrections facility denied Pitre’s petitions to get lighter duty, despite his deteriorating physical conditions. Pitre complained that this was cruel and unusual punishment. Prison staff maintained that Pitre was bringing this stress on himself for not taking his medication.

The Magistrate Justice dismissed the claim as being “patently frivolous”. The Federal District Court judge agreed. The Fifth Circuit concurred. When the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, refused to hear the case on an 8 to 1 vote. Usually the denials of cert are one line orders. But Justice Sotomayor wrote a four page dissent.

Justice Sotomayor sagaciously suggested:

Pitre’s allegations, if true, describe “punitive treatment [that] amounts to gratuitous infliction of ‘wanton and unnecessary’ pain that our precedent clearly prohibits.” I cannot comprehend how a court could deem such allegations “frivolous.” Because I believe that Pitre’s complaint states an Eighth Amendment violation, I would grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and reverse the judgment below.

So a person can foolishly put themselves in peril and the authorities need to walk on eggshells to accommodate this choice. I wonder if the phrase “Letting the inmates run the asylum” rings any bells with Sotomayor.

19 October 2010

Whatever Happened to Minnesota Nice?

Reports of the debates between Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN 8th) and Republican challenger Chip Cravaack were surprising due to the chaotic, raucous nature of the debate.  The debate at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Auditorium was not a mild mannered Oxford styled debate.  It was characterized by the Duluth News Tribune as angry mobs facing off against one another rather than a candidate forum.

As the debate was starting, Oberstar was met by catcalls from Cravaack supporters saying “Liar” and “Obama Junior”.  Oberstar supporters from the Democrat Farm Labor party responded in kind and this continued throughout the 90 minute debate, despite entreaties by the moderators for civility.  The speaker system seemed inadequate so the audience participation drowned out the debate.

This rowdy crowd was a marked contrast to the Gobernatorial debate last month, where there was virtually no heckling or cheering during the debate.  A Cravaack supporter thought that emotions were heightened due to the federal issues of health care, the economy and abortion.

It is unfortunate that the meeting dominated the message, as Oberstar, the 76 year old Congressman, had a couple of incoherent responses, like “If you don’t like clean water then...join the Supreme Court”. And it is remarkable how Oberstar wants to pass legislation to correct Associate Justice Scalia’s “incorrect interpretations” of law.

I am sorry that this candidate forum contradicts the illusion of Minnesota nice.  But after the Franken-steal (sic) recounts of 2008, Minnesota nice seems as fake as WWF wrestling results, apologies to ex-Governor Jesse Ventura (Reform-MN).

BASTA for the City of Bell

The City of Bell, California continues to make waves regarding the corruption and waste.  This summer, the LA Times reported that this modest low middle class bedroom suburb in Los Angeles County had some of the highest salaries for city officials in the nation.  An analysis of California Public Records Act reveals that the city payroll swelled with many six and seven figure public “servants.”  Robert  Rizzo, the Bell City Manager, received an annual salary of $787,637, but with benefits the cost approached $1.5 Million. Moreover, Rizzo's contract calls for 12-percent raises each July, the same as his top deputy Rizzo’s assistant pulled in a cool $376,288. Not a bad assistant’s salary considering that the President of the United States earns only $400,000 a year.

The police chief, Randy Adams, was paid $457,000 which was 33% more than his counterpart in Los Angeles, a city that is 10 times larger.  Adams had been brought out of retirement to clean up corruption in Bell, but he demanded a salary that was better than his retirement from the Glendale, California police force.

All but one City Councilmen earned $100,000 a year for a part time job and sometimes the meetings lasted but a few moments.  Council members in other cities of a comparable size only received $4,800 for their services.

California law limits the salary of city councilmen to several hundred dollars a month.  The corrupt city officials got around this inconvenient legal obstacle by having the salaries approved in a special election that only 400 voters participated which gave the city charter status.

This news generated considerable public outrage.  During a raucous town hall meetings, there were shouts of "¡Fuera!” (Spanish for “Go Away”) from the mainly Hispanic originated citizenry. The Council threatened to clear the hall due to the disorderly dissent.  Police Chief Adams wanted the meeting to end due to fire marshal concerns (nevermind any consideration of his inflated salary).

Enraged Bell Citizens formed the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse (BASTA which means “Enough” in Spanish).  This good governance group tipped off the LA Times about the salary corruption in the City of Bell and threatens to recall City Councilmen.

In the wake of this public outcry, City Manager Rizzo, resigned and the city council voluntarily took pay reductions.  Mindful of the mid-term elections where Attorney General Jerry Brown (D-CA) is running for Governor, the Attorney General’s office investigated the kleptocracy.  On September 21, 2010, former city manager Robert Rizzo, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia and council members George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello were arrested and charged with misappropriation of public funds.  But those who have not resigned are still in power unless they are convicted of felonies.

But the financial fun is not done in the City of Bell.  Rizzo designed a supplemental pension plan that allowed 25 year Bell city servants to retire at 90% of their final salary.  Rizzo may have ignominiously left office but he and his cronies will not be impoverished in retirement.

Although I am inclined to support grassroots good governance groups like the Tea Party movement, I have reservations about BASTA.  The state is considering putting the City of Bell into state receivership, which seems to have vocal support at City Council meetings But BASTA's latest press release is reluctant about putting the city into receivership.   In addition, BASTA is requesting that Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 34th) to create federal bailout legislation to relieve Bell from its debt obligations. It is telling that BASTA gets significant backing from the Bell Police Officer’s Association and AFSCME Council 36.  This Bell bailout if enacted into law would just passes the responsibility for local corruption to U.S. citizens who are Taxed Enough Already.  This should not be a test case which opens the floodgates for bankrupt states and municipalities.

Fecklessly Favoring SEIU Kickbacks in Elections

The full board of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) decided to overrule their own General Counsel’s finding and declined to prosecute the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for violating federal election law for requiring local affiliates to contribute to its PAC.  This clearly violates FEC rules but the FEC will not take any action.  Thus, the SEIU will  effectively be allowed to force its members to contribute another $9 million in the next election cycle. To add insult to injury, the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF) did not receive a full explanation of the FEC’s ruling until after the time for appealing the ruling had tolled.

In October 2008, the NRWF filed a complaint which challenged an amendment in the SEIU constitution that requires each local to contribute $6 per member to the SEIU International PAC.  The locals that did not implement this arrangement would be fined 150% of the charge.  NRWF President Mark Mix thought that this was prima facie case of coercion as well as a money laundering scheme since the penalty charges would come from general treasury funds, which are prohibited from being used for political purposes.

The FEC issued a one page letter of dismissal letter but did not fully explain their ruling for 111 days.  The FEC is supposed to immediately give its reply to the interested parties within a 60-day reply period so that everyone gets a chance to see the decision and comment upon it.  Bruce Cameron, the NRWF counsel that brought the complaint, asserted that: “To bring an appeal I have to show that the FEC abused its discretion. I can’t do that with a simple dismissal letter.” So the FEC overrules it is own General Counsel, does not prosecute obvious violations of election law, does not adhere it established standards for timely transparency and effectively precludes an appeal by an interested party.

This electoral injustice is not only relevant in the throes of a mid-term election campaign where union financial backing and boots on the ground for Get Out the Vote Effort, but because of an attempted Executive Branch appointment to the FEC.   The Obama Administration nominated SEIU labor lawyer John Sullivan to fill the open Democrat seat on the six person FEC board of governors. Questions have been raised about Sullivan’s involvement with the Clinton/DNC/McAuliffe/Teamster scandal that allowed Jimmy Hoffa to become President of the Teamsters.  The Sullivan nomination was quietly withdrawn by the Obama Administration in early October after 18 months complaining about the a broken appointment process.  Regarding the withdrawn Obama FEC nominee, I think of the title of a Bill Ayers opus “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows.”

"The Raving"

Kudos to Steve Grammatico of BigGovernment.com for penning an outstanding parody of Edger Allen Poe's classic poem.  This  satire was inspired by Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and is entitled "The Raving".

18 October 2010

Welcome to La Casa de Maryland

During a debate sponsored by the Washington Post between Maryland Gubernatorial candidates, Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) deflected a question about punishing illegal aliens by referring to them as “New Americans”.  Republican challenger, former Governor Bob Ehrlich (R-MD) bristled at the euphimism of calling illegal aliens as “New Americans”.  While Ehrlich was enthusiastic about legal immigration, he chaffed at the characterization of illegal immigrants as simply “New Americans”.  Erlich made an inspired analogy that “If someone breaks into your home, are they considered to be new members of your family?”

Ehrlich attacked O’Malley for supporting an organization that encourages illegal behavior, namely the Casa de Maryland.  Supercillious fact checkers claim that Casa de Maryland did advocate illegal activity, but the organization opposes the enforcement of deportation order and trains their constituents on their rights during immigration raids.

Maryland is not a border state, so it does not face the intense immigration problems that Arizona faces.  But as the example of Prince William County, Virginia’s crackdown on illegal aliens, they tend to leave less welcoming places and are attracted to friend places.  Considering O’Malley’s eight point lead in the polls and his unflinching support for “New Americas” regardless of status, the Casa de Maryland had better prepare for many more guests to avail themselves to the hospitality of the “Free State” taxpayers’ infrastructure and social services.


During a prior analysis of fundraising in the Alaska Senate race, I noted that Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK) was receiving $800,000 of funding from native corporations.  This seemed like a quid pro quo so that the senior Alaska Senator would continue to bring home the bacon to Frontier State natives.  However, an excellent investigative expose by Washington Examiner reporter Timothy P. Carney shows how this funding is actually a “rent-an-Eskimo” racket.

The strong support from Alaska Native Corporations (ANC) should be This should be no surprise since they  were formed by legislation sponsored by recently deceased former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) in the 1970s.  These Native Corporations have long been supporting the “Alaska Mafia”, namely friends and family of the Murkowskis, Rep. Don Young (R-AK AL) and the Stevens.

 “Alaskans Standing Together” was formed in late September by mainly by nine Alaska Native Corporations to oppose Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller and support the incumbent sore loser Sen. Lisa Murkowski.  These nine privileged, well connected for-profit corporations contributed $900,000 to keep their patron in power.

What is interesting is that this money is not coming from Political Action Committees but directly from Corporations’ treasuries.  That is quite concerning since special no-bid contract rules apply for these Native Corporations when winning federal contracts.  Five of the Native Corporations supporting Murkowski have scored $16 billion in no bid contracts.  And those worksites are not in the just Great White North, but include Puerto Rico and Florida.  So now taxpayer money is being funneled from these Native Corporations to their political patrons.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) commissioned a recent report which stated: The GAO has repeatedly reported that some sole-source procurements to ANCs have resulted in paying significantly more for services and products than were warranted." Some might think that this might not be so bad if it helps underprivileged native Alaskans.  After all, native Alaskans have garnered an average of $615 a year from the ANCs.

Alas, ANC representation on K Street lobbyists (which indirectly include members of the “Alaska Mafia”) syphon off much of the contract profits through lobbying fees.  And McCaskill found that in the several ANCs that released financial data, 69% of executive compensation went to non-natives.  It can be argued that this is K Street lobbying money (without PAC restrictions) directed to preserve the pork barrel patroness while using earmarks for aboriginal Americans as a front–hence the “rent an Ekimo”.

This sort of crony capitalism and wastefulness by big government should anger good governance groups, the Tea Party and Momma Grizzlies.

These ANC special interest groups had better hope that their patsy patrons can spell L-I-S-A  M-U-R-K-O-W- S-K-I correctly on their write in ballots.

Some Congressional Cardinals are Endangered Political Animals

Membership has its privileges.  Usually after a politician survives his or her first re-election, it is easy street for a Congressman.  The incumbent will gather a huge campaign war chest by virtue of being a high profile politician and a proven winner.  The continued service in the halls of Congress often leads to seniority and chairmanships (or ranking member status) which garners support from interested public policy stakeholders.  If the incumbent’s party is in power on the state level during redistricting, the Congressman’s district can be gerrymandered so as to make it a safe seat.  Congress’ re-election rate is typically more than 90%.    If those advantages are not enough, if an incumbent sees that it will be a rough race he or she can retire and not face the tough opposition.

That is why this midterm election is so fascinating.  The winds of change have been blowing since before the primaries, which motivated some endangered incumbents to want to “spend more time with their families”. Witness the case of  eight term Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI 1st), who faced angry constituents after eventually caving on his opposition to Obamacare.  It is a similar story for two term Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), although this may also be positioning for a challenge to President Obama in the 2012 Democrat primaries.  Tired from his 16 terms of service, House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI 7th) chose to retire rather than face a tough general election campaign.

That is why this mid-term election is so fascinating as some Cardinals of the Congress are endangered species in the fall.  Rep. John Dingell (D-MI 15th) has been in Congress since 1955 (!) and had been considered one of the five most powerful Members of Congress is in trouble. Republican challenger Dr. Rob Steele is an Ann Arbor heart surgeon who is so concerned about bad health care legislation that he decided to run for office.  According to a recent Detroit Free Press poll shows that Steel, a political novice,  has a slight lead over the 27 term incumbent Dingell.

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN 8th), an 18 term incumbent and Transportation Committee Chairman, is having a real general election challenge from Republican Chip Cravaack.  An internal GOP poll at the beginning of October showed challenger Cravaack trailing Oberstar by 3 points.  Granted, such commissioned polls can be skewed to buck up a candidate or to make news.  But it is significant that such an established incumbent is polling below 50% in a District that the Cook Report claims is only D+3.  It is revealing that Cravaack is leading Oberstar 3 to 1 on fundraising within the 8th Congressional district.  Oberstar only received one contribution over $200 in the last quarter from within the district.  This suggests questionable enthusiasm within the district which might depress Get Out The Vote efforts on election day.

Even the powerful Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee  Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA 4th) is not safe.  The nine term Congressman is facing a challenge from a 35 year old Marine Corps veteran Sean Bielat, who is within striking distance in the polls.  It must be a serious challenge if Frank’s boyfriend, James Ready, felt compelled to heckle Bielat during a press availability.

 We will soon see, but I suspect that Congressional re-election rate of over 90% is going down in this change election, and some of the casualties will be surprising.

Press or Prat?

Sean Bielat, the Republican challenger to Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA 4th) , was having a small press availability when he was heckled by the boyfriend of Barney Frank.  It seems that Frank’s significant other, James Ready, thought that by hiding behind a camera that he had a cloak of invincibility so he could pester Bielat with jejune grade school taunts.

This is another take on a classic campaign dirty trick.  Senator George Allen (R-VA) was being followed by a young cameraman from the Jim Webb (D-VA) campaign.  Allen tried engaging the dirty trickster by addressing him as macaca.  The Washington (com)Post made this off the cuff comment into a huge issue, which drove down Allen’s voter base and he lost the election by less than 10,000 votes.

The Ready heckling takes opposition agitation to a whole different level.  It is gobsmacking to think that an incumbent is so desperate to send his significant other to engage in such a high profile dirty trick.  It is one thing for a spouse to make a public appearance for the candidate, but it is quite another to have him act as an agent provocateur.

Even though same sex marriage was judicially imposed in Massachusetts in 2004, Frank had not formalized his partnership with Ready.  Still Sean Bielat treated Ready with the hands off deference of a family member.  Had Bielat made an off the cuff verbal misstep, Frank would have used it as a huge campaign issue to save his flailing re-election campaign.

Then consider the content of the boyfriend’s hecking.  Bielat was briefing the press when he gets taunts about “You better get used to it,” by the heckler Ready.  Ready does an in your face critiques of Bielat’s humorous attempts to get back to the press briefing.  Considering the quality of Ready’s argument, the next exchange would be “I’m rubber and you’re glue”.

Frank’s boyfriend was trying to exploit the protections of the press while acting as a puerile partisan prat. If the Lamestream press did their jobs, they would cover this like George Allen’s macaca moment and question this taunting tactic. But somehow this odd behavior does not raise any eyebrows or merit any coverage.

If there is any solace, the 15 term incumbent is having the race of his career against Bielat.  The 35 year old Marine Corps veteran who is challenging Frank is running for a district that Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) won by 53% in January.  And despite being a high profile incumbent Congressman, Barney Frank is consistently polling below 50% in a two person race.  Even in the deep blue state of Massachusetts, Sean Bielat has a good shot at being victorious.  If that happens, the stock of Sylvester the Cat imitators will crater.

17 October 2010

Kimchi Crisis--Say It Isn't Seoul?

There is a Kimchi crisis on the Korean Peninsula as prices are skyrocketing after a couple of bad harvest seasons for Napa Cabbages and White Radishes.  The Korean national press is proclaiming this as a national tragedy as prices doubled in a week and are six times what cabbage prices were last year. Now there are reports that gangs of cabbage rustlers are heisting the crucifer crops to price gouge during the shortage.

Kimchi is a fermented pickled cabbage that is ubiquitous feature of Korean cuisine.  There is a saying on Korean that “kimchi is half of all food provisions”.  It is more common than ketchup in America.  Koreans eat 2.2 million tons of kimchi a year and have it with nearly every meal.

Aside from the constant presence of kimchi in Korean kitchens, it is difficult for Westerners to understand the cultural importance of kimchi. Food blogger Craig Goodwin likens the autumn ritual of making kimchi by Korean families to the American tradition of having a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving.

This price spike has public policy considerations in Seoul’s Blue House.  The Prime Minister is eliminating the 30% tariff on Napa Cabbage and the 27% tariff on White Radishes.  Moreover, Korea is importing these crops directly from China for the first time.  The opposition Democratic party is claiming that the large river reclamation project is destroying farmland used for cabbage cultivation, which the Korean government staunchly denies.

While they are in this pickle, Korean President Lee Myung-bak has been forced to admit that he would only be able to eat cheap and inferior externally sourced cabbage.


In this season of intense partisanship, it is a welcomed break to enjoy a well done parody.

Ronnie Butler leads a charming spoof of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan song "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General".


Swimming the Tiber, English Style

The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham, announced that he was going to be converting from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church. This move was prompted by what Bishop Broadhurst considers broken promises about provisions for opponents of women’s ordination to the Episcopate.  The path to conversion was facilitated by Pope Benedict XVI’s establishment of a “Personal Ordinariate” which allows converting Anglicans to maintain their way of worship and does not necessarily strip converting leaders of their episcopal offices.

Bishop Broadhurst felt that he had no choice but to accept the Holy See’s offer.  Broadhurst broadsides the Church of England’s General Synod:

It has been fascist in its behaviour, marginalising those who have been opposed to women's ordination. We have not been given any space.

To quell concerns about womens’ ordinations in 1993, the Church of England adopted an Act of Synod that introduced the notion of “two integrities”. At the time, that compromise seemed to provide a permanent safeguard against female ordinations through a system of "flying bishops" for traditional minded parishes.  But it had become clear that this compromise was just a stalling tactic until womens’ ordinations became inevitable.

Since the General Synod moved ahead with the introduction of female ordinations without any further concessions to traditionalist, it is feared that there will be a mass exodus of Anglo-Catholics away from the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  It still is possible, however, that the legislation on female ordinations could be blocked in 2012.

Broadhurst expressed disappointment that he is leaving the Church of England but he feels that the concerns of traditionalist have been ignored and that the Vatican seems to understand those beliefs and will not wait.  The Holy See has been quite receptive to welcoming estranged Anglicans brothers in Christ, but there have been some grumbling that English bishops have not been as easily welcoming.  So during his visit to the United Kingdom in September, Pope Benedict gently reminded the Bishops of England and Wales to generously implement the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which establishes means for Anglicans to bring their traditions into the Catholic fold.

Broadhurt’s strong statements have generated criticism both from those remaining loyal the the Court of Lambeth as well as those who are sympathetic to traditionalists.  Broadhurt’s swim across the Tiber could be complicated by a technicality that may make him ineligible for coverage under the Ordinariate. Broadhurst was baptized a Catholic and left the Church to become Anglican.  This Ordinariate may not cover retro-verts

Quebec is Still Stuck on Separatism

Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe insisted that Quebec separatism is not dead while speaking before the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.  It has been 15 years since the last Quebec last voted on breaking away from Canada and currently no such referendum is anticipated in the future.  But Duceppe wanted to lay the intellectual foundation for an independent Quebec.

During the last provincial referendum on Quebec’s status in September 1995, President Bill Clinton spoke out against Quebec sovereignty. Mindful of that history, Duceppe pleaded, “What we hope to see from the United States government is, first and foremost, no interference in our domestic affairs when Quebecers make their decision.”  The Bloc Québécois did not formally try to press their point with officials in the Obama Administration due to a focus on the mid-term elections.

 In the event that the Quebec does approve a sovereignty referendum, the Bloc Québécois and other independence advocates would want quick international recognition by the United States and France so as to give an aura of legitimacy and aid in the breakup negotiations between Quebec and the Canadian governments.  This Quebec foreign predicate follows in the wake of the recent International Court’s approbation of the Kosovo Compromise.

Duceppe tried to sell the virtues of a sovereign Quebec as being a win-win with the United States as it would have “very solid allies” for the price of one North of the border.  Duceppe analogized the breakup of the Canadian confederation as being like the fall of the Berlin Wall, despite a curvy road for a decades, it would all work out.  Besides, Duceppe bragged that Quebec does $51 billion in trade with the United States, which is more than the rest of Canada.  Duceppe put it succinctly, “Money talks...”.

Despite Duceppe’s predicate that an independent Quebec is inevitable, it may be more of a chimera in the near future.  The Bloc Québécois is not in power and elections may not be held for a few years. Then there is dissention in the ranks.  François Legault and Joseph Facal, a couple of former Parti Québécois MPs, are said to be establishing a right of center provincial party that concentrates on economics not Quebec sovereignty.  Then there is the inconvenient truth that support for sovereignty dropped from 49.4% during the 1995 referendum to somewhere around 35% today.

The continuing struggle for Quebec sovereignty illustrates the challenges that a democracy has in governing a bi-cultural or multi-cultural state.  Canada’s two nations, one state situation was born from the spoils of victory in the Seven Year War (a.k.a. The French and Indian War) where New France was ceded to the British in 1763.  Modern Quebec secessionism stems from urban intellectuals agitating since the 1960s.  Despite the rest of Canada bending over backwards to accommodate the distinct society of Quebec, nothing seems to quell the yearning for independence.

Canada is officially bi-lingual (except for practical and juridical purposes in Quebec).  The Meech Lake accords of the early 1990s were means of giving Quebec a veto power over the constitution, more provincial power over immigration among other things. Still this was a hard sell for separatists, and the Parti Québécois opposed it to push for more concessions.  This grand compromise had opposition from the public due to perception that it was a back room deal which cut out the public’s voice.  Eventually, the deal could not receive unanimous support in Manitoba because an aboriginal Canadian leaders felt cut out of the process and the perception that too much was ceded to Quebec.

Part of the American experience was the Melting Pot where immigrants integrated their cultural traits into the greater society to prosper in the land of opportunity.  The tribulations of a bi-cultural state such a Canada illustrate the dangers of vaulting multi-cultural rights over the general welfare of the a nation.

16 October 2010

Brown Locks Up the Illegals Vote

During a Brown for Governor Rally at UCLA which featured an appearance by former President Bill Clinton, Jerry Brown exuberantly exclaimed before a friendly University crowd:

“We have enough wealth to continue to have a great university and get every kid into this school that can qualify. Now when I say every young man and young woman, I mean everyone – whether they are documented or not. If they went to school, they ought to be here."

This modest proposal overshadows the joint appearance with the beloved impeached chief executive.  Clearly Brown thinks that he can lock up the illegals' (and possibly the Hispanic demographic) support by this extravagant promise for a bankrupt state.

Public sector unions (like Teachers Unions) received generous pension packages courtesy of recalled Governor Gray Davis (D-CA). Unfortunately, these legally enforceable promises account for $500 billion in unfunded liabilities. Over the past year, Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger (R-CA) has had trouble implementing unpaid furloughs for state workers because of the budget crisis. Many California taxpayers received IOUs for rebates on State Income Tax filings because there was not enough money in the state coffers. Yet Brown, who was nicknamed Governor Moonbeam during his prior term in office from 1975-83, thinks that there is enough wealth to accommodate every qualified student into the California University System.

Is it any wonder that Brown’s 1992 Presidential campaign used the telephone number 1-800-NUTCAKE?

I doubt that this story will be virtually ignored in the Lamestream Media, as it is easier to cover the Maid Up (sic) agitprop pushed by Gloria Allred or the sexist slur that the Brown campaign leveled against opponent Meg Whitman (R-CA)  at the end of a fundraising phone message.

Yet Brown still seems to have a lead over his Republican rival by slightly more than the margin of error.  Based on that polling, it may be Back to the Future for California, but the theme will be by the Rolling Stones LP “Sucking in the Seventies”.

Maligning Multiculturalism in Middle Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech in Postdam in which she noted that so called “multikulti” notion that had utterly failed. During her speech to young members of the Christian Democratic Union, Merkel opined that allowing people from different cultural backgrounds to work side by side together without integrating did not work.

During the 1960s, Germany started inviting many foreign workers to come live in West Germany to alleviate labor shortages.  But the temporary workers never left and the mainly Turkish immigrants did not strive to fully integrate into German culture and society.  Merkel added: “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: 'They won't stay, sometime they will be gone', but this isn't reality.”

German unemployment is at 7.5%, which is its lowest rate since 1992.  But a study by the Fredrick Ebert think tank shows that more than 30% of those Germans surveyed believed that the country was “overrun by foreigners”.  An equal number thought that the 16 million immigrants had moved to Germany to take advantage of social benefits.

I suspect, however, that the grievances of multiculturalism are not simply economic but are cultural. Merkel supported German President Christian Wulff’s statement that Islam is a part of Germany like Christianity and Judaism.  But Merkel tried to strike a balance by stressing that immigrants needed to integrate themselves into German society, including learning the German language.

In neighboring France, there has been tension amongst nativists and their Muslim citizens over a law which bans the burka.  The law which forbids wearing a veil such as a burka or a niqab in public under threat of a $213 fine for wearing one or a $43,392 fine for forcing a woman to wear one in public. The bill was enacted after  President Sarkozy declared that burka was not welcome in France.  But the legislation was carefully crafted so as not to use the terms woman, veil or Muslim.

These two storylines are examples of how Europe is starting to perceive multi-culturalism as a threat to their very society.  Since most of Europe seems post religious, railing against a holistic religio/judicial/political philosophy as radical Islam can easily be seen as xenophobic.  The irony is that Germany can not afford to be purely nativist as they have a shortage of skilled workers and need to attract foreign workers.

There is no simple solution to this dilemma.  But it should serve as a cautionary tale for US about allowing the unfettered immigration of unskilled workers who do not leave and refuse to assimilate.