13 December 2013

Quelling Qualms Over a Constitutional Convention of States

On the eve of the Mount Vernon Assembly, where nearly a hundred State Legislators gathered to discuss the framework for an Article V Convention of States, Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum issued an Action Alert decrying the effort.

The 89 year old Phyllis Schlafly has been a respected Republican constitutional scholar who was instrumental in stopping the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.  Schlafly has expressed skepticism  about the concept of a constitutional convention since the 1980s for fear of a “runaway convention.”  So  it is no surprise that her  Eagle Forum Action Alert would effectively telegraph a message of “hell no” to efforts at the Mount Vernon Assembly. 

 But a closer examination of the Action Alert reveals some specious arguments against what the Eagle Forum derides as a “Con Con”.

While it is true that there is not a tried and true tradition on the Article V Convention of States Amendment process, the Eagle Forum Action Alert did not seem to apply standard legal analysis to Article V.  The section reads:

The Congress . . . on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments . . .” [their emphasis in bold]

This leads the Eagle Forum to conclude that states only have the power to ask Congress for a convention and that the grant is discretionary.   This analysis under-plays the importance of the word “shall”, which means that if 2/3rds of the states make a similar request, Congress is mandated to call a convention. 

Sen. Sam Ervin (R-NC) by Ann Martin 
As the convention of states route to the Article V amendment process is uncharted territories, it is proper to be concerned about Congress seeking to take control of a convention.  The Eagle Forum alludes to efforts by Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) and Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL 6th) to shape a prospective constitutional convention.  The problem is that neither the “Ervin bill” nor any Hyde bill ever was enacted.  While the 1971 “Federal Constitutional Convention Procedures Act passed the Senate 84-0 in 1971 and also passed in 1973, the House refused to enact it. Moreover, Rep. Hyde was a minority member so his bills never made it to the floor.  

From a legislative history perspective, it is interesting that the “Ervin” bill modeled a Federal Constitutional Convention as being like a plenipotentiate joint session of Congress.  Ervin’s bill gave each state two at-large  as well as a delegate per Congressional district with one vote a piece. So one can appreciate the worry that Congress would highjack a constitutional convention by essentially appointing itself and dictate whatever terms the majority in Congress wills. But these bills were stillborn, so such a corrupted process has not been figuratively chiseled into stone. 

It is dubious if the Framers of the Constitution would have established a secondary track for amending the Constitution if a Constitutional Convention would be like a super-empowered legislature.  Prior to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the American colonies had a long history of Interstate Congresses.  This rich legislative history points to long established precedents of how a Convention of States ought to proceed.

In addition, fretting that States can only petition Congress for an Assembly ignores the will emanating from the State Legislatures who would call such an Article V Convention of States.   This is why the initial Mount Vernon Assembly session was so important, as it sought to establish ground rules for such a convention, and shared ideas for states to keep a convention under control.

IN State Sen. David Long (R-IN 16th, Ft. Wayne)
Indiana State Senator David Long (R-IN 16th, Fort Wayne) championed a Faithful Delegate law to accompany a call for an Article V convention of states.  This Faithful Delegate law precluded the prospective Convention of State participants from acting like free agents.  The Delegate would do the bidding of the State which they represented or their vote would be void, the delegate would be substituted and the maverick delegate would be subject to a felony.  Such is the cost of being a constitutional “free agent” with a Faithful Delegate law, unlike the slap on the wrist for Faithless Delegates in the Electoral College. 

While there may be several models for a Constitutional Convention of States, it need not be designed like a super-legislature needing a super-majority to approve amendments.  It could well be structured like a contingent election when the Electoral College deadlocks.  In the case of a contingent election, each state delegate casts one vote and the deciding tally must meet a required threshold.  Colonial Congresses also had the one vote per State precedent.  The Mount Vernon Assembly focused on framework for a Convention of States rather than pressing potential amendment issues to build the base in case it comes to ripeness.

Another needless concern of the Eagle Forum Action Alert echoes earlier concerns about a runaway convention threatening the Bill of Rights and basic liberties enshrined to the current Constitution.  Such worriers should be placated that a Convention proposing Amendments can only licitly do what it is labeled “proposing Amendments” In order for such a Convention to send Amendments to States for ratification, it requires 2/3rds approval.  That is a high threshold, whether is it measured by individual delegates or single vote state methodology.  Even if such an Amendment made it past that mark, it would still need to garner 3/4ths approval of states through their legislatures or a truly never tried means of state conventions. 

The Eagle Forum is of the mind set that conservatives need to win elections.  This is a sentiment upon which all conservatives would concur.  However, it is dubious if just winning elections is the entire answer to problems in our polity  when the Administrative State can supercede the will of the people expressed by their legislature (e.g. Cap and Trade), autonomously expand its authority (e.g. FCC) as well as other unchecked abuses by the Executive Branch and the Judiciary.

It seems that on this issue, the Eagle Forum focuses on federal politics. However, reform of the Federal Government will only come from outside of the Federal City.  Article V provides a Constitutional mechanism for reforming our polity from outside of the District of Calamity (sic).  

In addition, conservatives power also lies within the State Legislatures, which could muster up to 30 States petitioning an Article V convention of states, which would create pressure on Congress to do something lest a Constitutional Convention be called. That is why the Mount Vernon Assembly took time to discuss process before proceeding.  Calling for an Article V Convention with strict instructions for delegates along with an Amendment like the Madison Coalition’s Regulation Freedom Amendment which could stand alone would set the stage for starting to restore the constitutional balance between Federal and State Governments. 

25 November 2013

Book Review: The End of Days by James Swanson

The End of Days : The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (Harper Collins, 2013 398 pages) is a readily readable account of the four days in November 1963. The author’s title was intended to be a metaphor which marked the end of days for JFK as well as naivite for the nation.

Swanson is a skilled writer who was able to condense 80 pages of source notes into a page turning murder mystery story without the mystery.  Swanson firmly believes  that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, and Swanson’s story gives no credence to the proliferation of conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination which have been circulating over the last fifty years.

Swanson gives 60 pages of background switching between the 35th President and his assassin in a parallel lives narrative style before their lives start to intersect in Texas. But occasionally the transition seemed rough.  Moreover, the use of ellipses to indicate jumps in narrative focus were not uniformly applied. 

One of the virtues of the End of Days was giving insight into Lee Harvey Oswald’s mindset by way of recounting Oswald’s appearances on New Orleans radio programs during the summer of 1963 supporting the Fair Play for Cuba cause.  These appearances on the Latin Listening Post and Conversation Carte Blanche establish that he was a sui generis leftist (a Marxist who was not a Communist who supported Fair Play for Castro but did give full throated public support for the Cuban revolution). Swanson interjects commentary into these recountings of radio interviews, so the casual reader can easily note Oswald’s lack of education, uttering things like “superflutious” instead of superfluous and a rhetorical tick when avoiding difficult questions.  These traits come into play later in Dallas.

Swanson’s short history of the Kennedy Administration does not whitewash the young Democrat President’s philandering foibles but it does not focus on it.  Kennedy is portrayed as a fervent anti-Communist who was positioning himself for his run for re-election on a pro-growth, tax cutting theme.  These traits are often ignored in other retellings of the American “Camelot”.  

The End of Days also adroitly points out the imaging campaign which the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy used to immortalize her assassinated husband’s Administration as Camelot.  A week after the assassination occurred, the Jackie called Pulitizer Prize winning author Theodore White for an exclusive three and half hour in depth interview about the tragic day in Dallas and the aftermath.  Swanson notes that White had a tight deadline to file his copy and that he violated principle rules by letting a principle subject read the piece before publication and offer editorial comment to insist that the Camelot analogy (referring to a popular Broadway play) remained.  That became part of the myth making and the mystique of JFK.

The detailed account of the run up to the dastardly deed, the manhunt and the interrogation of the perpetrator was masterful.  Since the Oswald murder by Jack Ruby and the state funeral were televised live and became iconic images imprinted on the American psyche, Swanson alludes to a couple of these scenes.  Unfortunately, The End of Days did not seem to have reproduction rights for the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald just before he was shot or little John John’s salute of the casket. 

Some of the photos that are included in the first edition in the funeral section do not strongly augment the telling of the tale. This is exemplified by the photo of night time vista of Arlington National Cemetery, the full  page spread for two JFK mourning buttons and the two mourning banners.  

Although The End of Days read like a Murder Mystery in which the reader knows what will happen, there were a couple of instances when the foreboding background voice of the fate that awaits seemed overwrought. The ending of the book seemed rushed in trying to tie up the loose ends about concerns about Robert Kennedy becoming President Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President and Jackie O’s estrangement from American popular focus. 

End of Days Author James Swanson 
While I enjoyed reading The End of Days, his media appearances had me expecting a little more.  In the run up to the fiftieth anniversary, Swanson reminded Americans not to persiverate on the assassination but to remember Kennedy’s virtues.  Moreover, the author urged conservatives to embrace JFK’s staunch anti-communism, patriotism and pro-growth orientation.  I had hoped that these sentiments would have been more evident in the epilogue. 

The End of Days would neither satisfy a Sixth Floor Museum devotee nor a convicted conspiracy type, but Swanson was not writing for that audience.  If someone wants to read a true life potboiler chock full of facts about the JFK assassination, they should consider reading James Swanson’s The End of Days.

FreedomPop Now Allows Bring Your Own Phones

FreedomPop, a mobile cellular service initially backed by Skype founder Niklas Zennström, has been trying to make good on its slogan: “The Internet is a right, not a privilege” through a freemium business model. 

FreedomPop offers three tiers of phone plans.  The base level gives a customer 200 voice minutes 500 texts and 500 MB of data for $0.  FreedomPop’s e middle tier offers 500 voice minutes, unlimited texts and the 500 MB of data for $7.99.  If a FreedomPop consumer “splurged” to get unlimited voice, unlimited texts and 500 MB of data, it would only cost $10.99.  If a customer needs more, voice minutes are a penny a piece and 1 MB of data for 2.5 cents (or penny per MB for Premium Data subscribers)   FreedomPop does not officially support Hotspot for their handsets. FreedomPop customers are eligible more free services through social networking or participating in surveys et cetera. 

As a  a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), FreedomPop does not have to maintain a network and does not entice customers with subsidized brand new handsets in exchange for an expensive iron-clad contract.   FreedomPop utilizes an Voice Over Internet (VOIP) voice and IP.  FreedomPop finds that around 45% of their customers purchase upgraded service. 

During the first ten weeks of FreedomPop Phones, it was offering refurbished HTC Evo 4G Design phones  for $99.  This was a decent price for a free phone service, but the price was not right for a cellular consumer who has a stack of superceded smart phones at his fingertips   But after network partner Sprint finally gave its blessing, FreedomPop can now accept Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) for unlocked Sprint CDMA cell phones.  This allowed me to repurpose a legacy HTC Evo for a low cost (to no cost) second cell phone line.

Following their Freemium model, FreedomPop phones look to various approaches to monetize.  Much to FreedomPop’s credit, the company moved away from the $0.99 minimum usage charge which they initially attached to their Hotspots.  And data usage is frozen when there is less than 100 MB unless FreedomPop has permission to automatically top it off with a revolving charge.   FreedomPop does assess a $2.74 per month charge for voicemail, which can manually be excluded.  At sign up, customers are offered a complimentary 1 GB bonus, which later converts to a $9.99 a month charge. 

 If a customer took the premium 1 GB of data, the voice mail and unlimited talk and texting, the total bill would be $23.72.   On the one hand, FreedomPop’s $23.73 pricing is slightly more than the PayLo unlimited talk and text for feature phones but includes much more data.  On the other hand, Virgin Mobile offers unlimited texting, 300 voice minutes and unlimited data for $35.

Calls and texts are routed through a FreedomPop application on the smart phone.   Ths underlines that  savvy consumers should not look to MVNOs in isolation for answers about mobile connectivity.

There may be alternatives to the FreedomPop Voicemail.  Since  consumers are unable to port old cell phone numbers during FreedomPop Phone’s ongoing Beta testing period, a good idea is to link a G-mail Account with a new Google Voice number for messages.  Sidebar calling can be done with apps like Google Voice or Talkatone, so one can give the Google Voice number and call the person back using either service.  Google Voice can also move these voice messages into Google Chat.  Google Voice  not only records the message, it sends an email with a transcript (and will even translate it for you). If using this methodology, use the cell phone to authenticate Google Voice.  Necessity is the mother of invention for customizing cellular service for those willing to think outside of the box.

Granted that the sound quality for voice calls is typical of VOIP with a slight latency in signal and what can be characterized as car phone sound quality.  But these are small sacrifices for 200 free voice minutes. 

While FreedomPop cellular service  will have little appeal to “Digerati” who feel compelled to have the latest and greatest phones and think nothing of triple digit cell bills.  But there are some “old school” mobile phone users who are chary about monthly bills who would cotton to a one time charge for a smart phone and not needing to worry about charges for their “emergency” mobile device.  Those who would qualify for a federal Lifeline phone (a.k.a. Obamaphone) would get a much better deal with FreedomPop Phones, but the consumer would need to buy the older handset (which can be found inexpensively on E-Bay).  

As for myself, it is worth considering making FreedomPop a primary mobile carrier.  I use less than 300 voice minutes and 500 texts a month.  However there are times that I use more than 1 Gig of data and I would prefer to have a carrier which allows for Hotspot connections for a tablet. Hence, I will make FreedomPop a secondary phone.

22 November 2013

Surveying the Surfeit of Cheap Tablets

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaches, many merchants are highlighting inexpensive tablet computers as doorbusters or loss leaders to gin up overall Christmas holiday sales.  But before making impulse electronics purchases, it is wise to consider how you would use a tablet in mobile computing.  

It used to be that tablets were the ideal media consumption device. Tablets with 7" to 10" screens allow an individual to have an almost immersive view of videos.  Applications (a.k.a. apps) generally provided shortcuts which facilitated internet interactions.  Some tablets like the Nook and the Kindle were more e-ink reading devices which could have proto-tablet functions (checking e-mail, Wikipedia, and text based websites).  But Amazon’s Kindle Fire sought to be a loss leader which was a shopping portal doubling as an entertainment device.   Samsung’s strong showing with its Galaxy Tablets as well as the “phablet” Note series sought to tie tablets to cellular carriers.

Discern what are your mobile computing needs.  If you want a communications device with a larger screen (and you don’t mind carrying a 5.5" device in a pocket or a purse), then a “phablet” like the Samsung Note may be the best choice for you.  Many retailers will be offering enticing prices for such hybrid phone/tablets, but be prepared to be locked into a cellular carrier for a year or two.  If you want to keep having the latest and greatest devices, look into the early upgrade programs from major cellular carriers. 

Tablets sales used to be driven by Apple’s i-Pad, which came out in 2010.  The i-Pad still wins 29.6% of the tablet market while asking for a premium price that is rarely discounted.  While this writer is not purposely not part of the Apple cult, if one feels compelled to buy an Apple for its reputation of ease of use, enticing design or to keep up with the Jones’, then buy an i-Pad and sleep in on Black Friday.

As an electronics consumer, I like to get the most bang for my buck with tables and not be limited by a vertical monopoly manufacturer.   Currently I own a couple of Amazon Kindles and a WebOS HP Touchpad.  I love to read on an e-ink device like the Kindle.  Unfortunately, my Kindle 2 (with the slow but unrestricted 3G coverage) is losing its charge and computer geeks are reluctant to change out the battery.  While the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite provides even better e-ink resolution, the newer model has dropped the headphones option and the text-to-speech feature.  For my purposes. the text-to-speech ability is important for times which I want to enjoy books but can not have my eyes on the screen.  But text-to-speech is included in the Kindle Fires.

Regarding my HP Touchpad, I knew that it was a dead-end from the moment I acquired it in the HP fire-sale in the August 2011.  But WebOs is an elegant operating system and the HP Touchpad had upscale features.  Two years later, it is running fine and should be serviceable for the foreseeable future.  Alas, there are not many new WebOs applications available.  In order to use some hotspots, there are apps that are necessary and I am reluctant to make it a dual booting Android tablet.  So between an ailing e-reader and a red headed stepchild tablet, I have my eye out on the surfeit of cheap tablets.

 Some have tried to take advantage of the slow demise of the Barnes and Noble Nook by using the SD card as an Android boot.  It can work, but realize that the Nooks OS takes up nearly 3/4ths of an 8 GB e-reader.  The 16 GB Nook HD tablets (list $150) offer more storage.  But there are serious questions to the long term viability of the Nook.  So it may only be good for reconfigured use or as a stuck in time tablet. 

Having owned several Kindles over the past four years, I am entrenched in Amazon’s e-reader market.  The Amazon Kindle Fire HD has achieved around 5% market share, but it should suffice for my own  supplemental tablet/ infotainment needs.  Although a 16 GB Kindle Fire HD (list  now $169) has a 7" screen is markedly smaller than the 9.7" HP Touchpad screen, it is a more manageable size for e-reading functions.  Moreover, my mobile computing needs have not been as video oriented.  The Kindle Fire HD has Bluetooth, which should allow a wireless keyboard for productivity.  The Kindle Fire HD  does allow for hotspot connection hence  buying a 4G version is costly and unnecessary.  

For those interested in getting Black Friday bargains for the Amazon Fire, be aware that the discounts will be for the Fire HD (2nd generation) not the newer Fire HDX.

If one can live without using a tablet as a camera or a phone or having the “Mayday” feature, the HD will have most of the improvements of Kindle Fire OS 3.0 “Mojito “ (a forked version of Android).   Many of the cut rate Kindle Fires are 8 GB (which should leave around 6 GB for internal storage along with the cloud).

While most mobile computing people look to tablets as a media consumption device, some industrious individuals want to have a tablet that is a  quasi laptop without the bulk or balking at the price of a MacBook Air (list $999).  When Microsoft entered the tablet market, it tried to appeal to such customers with the Microsoft Surface RT.  The price point of the Microsoft  Surface 2  (list $449) rivals that of the i-Pad (list $499), but Microsoft throws in fully functioning version of Office and 200 GB of SkyDrive storage and plenty of cloud storage, features which generally cost extra elsewhere.

The 10.6" touch screen of the Microsoft Surface makes full use of Metro interface, but if one wishes to run old programs, it is necessary to buy a Microsoft Surface Pro (list $899), which is much pricier.   The big tiles on the start screen are customizable and offer updated embedded information.  The Surface RT allows multitasking.  

The body of the Microsoft Surface RT includes a built in kick stand.  The Surface RT has micro SDSX ports allowing users to add memory.  The magnetic Touch Cover is ordinarily a $100 add on which both protects the screen and is a keyboard.  While the Windows Apps store is not as robust as the Android or i-store, they claim that plenty of apps are free. 

If you have Surface appeal, it is possible to find a Surface RT for under $200 during Black Friday sales, but it would be wise to look for sales which a buyer tne pays a little more and includes the Touch Cover. 

There will be plenty of Black Friday sales on Android tablets.   If Android tablets have an appeal, determine which version of OS the hardware has, as earlier versions of Android  (prior to 4.0“Jelly Bean”) are not optimized to tablet proportions. Also be aware of how much storage is on the tablet.  A $40 tablet that only boasts 4GB will barely hold one movie.  That might be good enough for kinderspiel but would quickly be condemned to the land of misfit toys for most other tablet users. 

This holiday shopping season it may be easy to acquire a tablet but take the time to choose the right tablet for you. Consumers who are content to pay premium prices for an entertainment consumption device which is touted to work out of the box should opt for an i-Pad. Busy businessmen may want the Microsoft Surface to be able to do Office work while surfing the web on their tablets.  Those who want an all in one mobile communications device should consider a “phablet” like the Samsung Galaxy Note.  Avid readers who want the functionality of a tablet should lean towards the Amazon Kindle Fire.  And there are a variety of inexpensive Android tablets which may motivate impulse shoppers.

h/t: BFAds

19 November 2013

Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address

On November 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address to dedicate the battlefield in the bloodiest skirmish during the war between the States as a resting place for the fallen.
Lincoln was said to have written his brief remarks on the back of an envelope, yet those scribbling still resonate today.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The acclaimed PBS Civil War documentarian Ken Burns has been promoting  "Learn the Address" by inviting 58 prominent Americans to recite those solemn words of President Lincoln from 150 years ago.

It is worth noting that the only person amongst the nearly three score of cynosures who failed to read the speech as delivered at the cemetery in Gettysburg was President Barack H. Obama.  Our current President omitted the words "under God".  Perhaps there was a teleprompter glitch.  More likely, it is conscious return by Mr. Obama to conveniently edit seminal American documents to suit his tastes. Such a cavalier approach to what Ken Burns called pure Presidential poetry seems to be what honest historians want to avoid.  

In addition, President Obama chose not to travel the 75 miles to Gettysburg for the Sesquicentennial, despite having a light official schedule.  This is an odd omission as Mr. Obama declared his Presidential run at the steps of the Lincoln statehouse in Springfield, Illinois and adorned the White House with many Lincolnesque trappings. Those closely associated with President Obama have suggested that "the whole website thing" prevented a visit to Gettysburg.  Yet Mr. Obama had time on Sunday  for a round of  golf and also attended a Maryland Terrapin-Oregon State basketball game

Yet  President Obama will be in the forefront in ceremonies commemorating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Although the currently elected occupant of the White House will be absent, this should not stop us from actualizing Abraham Lincoln's exhortation:

[T]hat we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

12 November 2013

Satirizing the Quirks of Social Media Communication

While the Internet 2.0 has greatly increased a sense of feeling connected with others on the World Wide Web, this phenomenon has caused some quirks in communications. 

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake satirized the proliferation of hashtags through a reductio ad absurdum video using the hagtags in real life dialogues.

Since short written exchanges can be misconstrued without facial cues, many internet interlocutors choose to use emoticons.   To supplement these non-verbal cues,  entrepreneurs Paul and Douglas J. Sak  patented and sought to market new punctuation to clarify things-- the Sarcmark.

Free spirits chafed at profiting from punctuation.  A mock website "Open Sarcasm" sought to blacklist the SarcMark in favor of the temherte slaq (the inverted exclamation point) with a tongue in cheek tag line: "Sarcasmists of the World Unite!" 

But another reason that  the SarcMark has failed to catch on was the price for being smarmy.  The grammatical genius initially priced his punctuation at $1.99 for lifetime use, whereas typing ;-) was just three keystrokes and had no cost.  Brilliant!  

Communication has changed in the Internet Age.  Now, sending e-mails are too long for the digerati and may be considered passé.  Traditional types often have difficulty in adjusting to sharing in 140 characters or less.  

Short form social media like Twitter will not be the be all and end all in communicating complex thought.  But it can attract eyeballs to see something more.

h/t: Mike Keefe

08 November 2013

Book Review: The War on Football: Saving America's Sport by Daniel J. Flynn

Daniel J. Flynn
So many of those who write about sports come from a liberal persuasion.  So it was refreshing to read Daniel J. Flynn’s book "The War on Football: Saving America’s Game” (Regnery Publishing, 2013, 216 pages) as he iconoclastically uses science, history and social relations to defend a beleaguered sport.  Perhaps Flynn’s tenure as the former Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia inspired the author to include over 50 pages of footnotes to score his points, lest anyone doubt him. Flynn surveys the sport on the Pop Warner level, collegiate football programs even womens’ football leagues as well as the pros to try to discern the truth about football.

When listening to the news today, it is hard to escape hearing ancillary reports on the War on Football.  Between the news that former Dallas Cowboy running back Tony Dorsett declaring that hits from his NFL career contributed to his diagnosis of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).  Then there are the charges of hazing by Miami Dolphin Guard Richie Incognito that he bullied other 300 pound rookie players.  Then there is the irate Texas parent who pressed administrative charges of bullying against Alendo High School Football Coach Tim Buchanan after winning the game 91-0.

The battle against football is not simply for safety but it mirrors a “wussification” of society as well as reflecting the lessons which we want to teach our children. So instead of giving football a proverbial pat on the back for instilling discipline, teamwork and the virtues of hard work, football is given a kick below the belt by pointing to questionable science to win their game.

There is no doubt that football is a physically demanding sport, which requires conditioning and practice.  However, the mainstream media weltanschauung is colored by a perception that football is an American version of a gladiator sport.  While there were periods in history, such as 1905 and 1968, where many mortal injuries on the playing field occurred, Flynn contends that rule changes and better equipment mitigate those serious casualties.  So today anti-football fanatics concentrate on concussions. 

The $765 million settlement by the NFL to former players since 2006 with brain damage claims as well as suicides of Junior Seau and Dave Duereson which supposedly implicates CTE to the tragic deaths contributes to the public perception that football is an unsafe sport.

 Flynn’s "The War on Football" book debunks these simple conclusions as they are not bourne out by the facts.    Cheerleaders are more at risk for concussions than football players, but which athlete embodies the fearsome warrior traits so disfavored by Cocktail Party elites?  

Scientists can not find a causal effect between football and CTE.  However hucksters selling safety are able to profit hawking equipment with dubious extra protection.  Moreover, Flynn casts a shadow upon Mark Lovell’s Intermediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), noting how the expert lacks scientific detachment as he successfully  markets his “low to moderate reliability” product to sports programs desperate for cover against litigation.

The pro-football settlement regarding concussions may have a ripple effect which could well diminish the lower levels of the sport.  Some anti-football crusaders want to ban the sport to minors.  This nanny state protection for the children , which would effectively kill football as the physicality of the sport make football a young person’s sport.  In addition, the skills required for teamwork, precision and strategy takes time to develop to attain the athletic achievements that American football fans admire.  

As a casual football fan who loves history, I appreciated learning how football evolved as a uniquely American sport.  It was amusing to find out that Notre Dame greats George Gipp and Knute Rockne superceded their “tramp athlete origins” to become paragons of football.  In addition,  Pop Warner had his own foibles but still left a great legacy to football.   Flynn’s iconoclastic arguments against the junk science concerning concussions and football were compelling and often ignored by a sensationalist, liberal leaning mainstream media. 

The tone of the book was fair but decidedly not objective.  I appreciated the cynical asides peppered throughout the book questioning junk science or the tongue in cheek critique on litigators: “They don’t teach physics in law school.”    Flynn had so won me over that I was rooting for a blowout at the end instead of the more restrained conclusion that: “Football is good for you.  Play. Watch. Cheer.”

h/t: EdDriscoll.com 

29 October 2013

Sean Penn Cruz-ing for a Political Bruising (sic)

That Maui Wowie from 1982 must have been pretty chronic to inspire such pearls of wisdom to seek the to commit Congress-critters with whom Penn disagrees into insane asylums.  And to suggest that the Executive Branch has such authority makes Mr. Hand's one-on-one history tutoring moot.

Of course, Fast Times on Richmond High was a 1982 movie, and Sean Penn was play acting a stoner surfer there who had delusions of grandeur.  This recent appearance on Piers Morgan was meant to be taken seriously and Sean Penn was playing himself.

Penn was promoting his activism for Haiti.  But in the same breath of supporting his altruistic cause, he chooses to insult the electorate and the Tea Party while slandering Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

 [T]he way peoples perception of political positions are, is a direct reaction to their lack of, of their education which is a huge problemthat we're dealing with in the country.
and between of an uneducated people and the solipsism of people like Ted Cruz and their party.
 It's a poisonous thing and these things with what we talked about with, you know, this is why this period of time, this is one of the things that's so fascinating to me in Haiti.

Penn's political pronouncements with Piers Morgan do not sound very coherent.  But he was not on a script and TOTUS (Teleprompter of the United States) was otherwise occupied.

But I hate to break it to the activist/actor but if you are trying to raise funds for Haiti, you are insulting many of the people who AEI's Arthur Brooks argues are the most charitably inclined as individuals.  But maybe after Penn's  J/P HRO group received $8.75 million from the World Bank for Haitian relief, maybe he does not need more friends.

After Penn's "Crazy" diatribe on Piers Morgan Live,  people can figure out who got wasted.  Res ipsa loquitur-- the fact speaks for itself.

28 October 2013

Book Review: 40 Days for Life by David Bereit and Shawn Carney

40 Days for Life: Discover What God Has Done…Imagine What You Can Do (Capella Books 2013, 269 pages) is a book which chronicles the trials and tribulations for the 40 Days for Life  campaign as prayer vigil against abortion from its genesis around a wooden table in College Station Texas in 2004 to its spread world-wide.  The book is co-authored by David Bereit, a pharmaceutical rep who left comfortable career to follow the call of the Holy Spirit to do His will in uncertain circumstances.  The other narrative voice is Shawn Carney, a young Texan who inherits the College Station leadership after Bereit answered the call to work for other Pro-Life organizations in Washington, DC. Carney became the Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life, while  Bereit later returned  to lead the National 40 Days for Life campaign.

[L] David Bereit [R] Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life 

The 40 Days for Life idea was modeled after several key scriptural moments, like the flood which necessitated Noah's Ark and Jesus' Prayers in the Desert before beginning His Earthly public ministry.  Similarly, the book followed a structured course.  Each chapter is one of forty vignettes, followed by concurrent scriptural  passage concluded with a prayer.  Presumably, this book was intended to be read over forty days.   Perhaps it had a different impact in short, reflective increments rather than reading the contents in several sittings.

The power of the faith of Bereit, Carney and of many prayer warriors who participated in the 40 Days for Life is palpable. The book does not sugar coat the hardship and anxiety of starting up the campaign.  But their testimony shows how the Lord provides.  40 Days for Life also recounts some of the acerbic resistence which Pro-Lifer's were met with in witnessing the call of their conscience by publicly praying against abortion.

Several of the stories are quite striking and seemed pulled from current headlines.  The Grand Rapids Michigan story of 72 Ransom Street NE which building that had seen both heaven and hell.  The building started as a synogogue in the late 19th Century, only to become a Greek Orthodox Church in 1949 and in 1994 the vacated  building was turned into Western Michigan's largest abortion clinic.  However after many prayers and fundraising, LIFE International (an Evangelical Christian ministry) against abortion took over the building in 2004 and made it their headquarters. 

The details of the unhygenic conditions, the crusted blood on the linoleum floor and rusted abortion instruments at 72 Ransom Street called to mind the horrific details from the recent trial and conviction of late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia. The appalling conditions are not isolated incidents in abortion mills, but pro abortion advocates get apoplectic if anything id deemed to impede the so called "right to choose" or more clinically "womens' reproductive health".

An interesting aspect of 40 Days for Life is showing how the impetus for 40 Days for Life has spread worldwide.  The book tells of campaigns in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the  Georgia Republic . Defending life and forming consciences is not easy, especially in countries like Tblisi, Georgia where the average woman has 3.1 abortions and most occur after marriage.

The years of globe-trotting by Bereit and Carney to prayerfully support unborn children allowed for some serendipitious experiences. Shawn seemed to have quite a knack for unexpectedly rubbing elbows with his opponents. 

 On the first day that Carney went to pray at an abortion clinic, he befriended new on her first day working for Planned Parenthood in Bryant, Texas.  Nearly a decade later, Abby Johnson had risen to be the Director of that Planned Parenthood facility, but Ms. Johnson sought out Carney after witnessing a 13 week fetus writhe in pain during an ultrasound guided abortion.  

[L] Abby Johnson [R] Shawn Carney

Dr. Leroy Cahart, MD
On a flight to Washington, DC, Carney found himself seated next to the notorious late termabortionist Dr. Leroy Cahart, MD. Carney had conducted a prayer vigil near Carhart's Nebraska facility the day before.  Rather than confront the abortionist, Carney charitably chose to pray for Carhart.  The Spirit left him with a sense of joy that he could return to his family whereas the abortionist was obliged to return to his abortion practice.

The book was mostly conversational in tone, reading almost like an oral history that was culled  by their collaborative writer Cindy Lambert.  However, a couple of entries  started with ambitious introductions but the transitions to their stories seemed forced and rough. For example, David citing the Martin Luther King assassination as an introduction to Devanie's story based in Memphis.  Or  Shawn's "Deep in the Heart of Texas" prelude which strained to link the case of Jane Roe (Norma Leah McCorvey) with  an unrelated contemporary abortion facility in Houston, Texas.

Two chapters of 40 Days for Life had narratives from other pro-life activitists.  The testimony which Milwaukee's Dan Miller was flowing, first hand and illustrative.  But including the entirety of a 2 1/2 page e-mail on "The Rest of the Story" which twice apologized for the length of the missive begged for consolidation.

While Shawn's role  as Campaign Director for 40 Days for Life certaily required his extensive travel to show support various far-flung campaigns, detailing those logistics was sometimes detrimental to the heart of the story.  It made sense to share such facts to augment the tales of hardship which tested him as the 40 Days for Life campaigns started off.  Of course, the Cahart story deserved some travelogue background.  But for me, it was off-putting and unnecessary to mention the hardship of flying two cross country red eye flights to be in Los Angeles to celebrate the closing of an abortion facility.

40 Days for Life would be a welcomed bedside daily devotional for prayer warriors committed to the Pro-Life cause.  It gives great examples of the power of prayer to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to defend life.  The book gives many perspectives on how abortion affects the unborn child, the often grieving abortive mother, the father, the extended family and the community.  If only people spouting pro-choice propaganda would choose to  the time to read 40 Days for Life, one wonders how many hearts of stone would turn to flesh.

When this review was composed, the Kindle price of 40 Days for Life was lowered to $2.99.  At that price, the book is well worth the read.

22 October 2013

An Animated G.K. Chesterton on Rubbish

It is amazing how prescient that Chesterton sounds in the District of Calamity (sic) during the Twenty First Century.

21 October 2013

President Obama's Rose Garden Shamwow

Three weeks after the launch of Obamacare open enrollment, President Barack Obama held an event in the Rose Garden regarding the so called Affordable Care Act. 

With all of the reports of problems with the Obamacare launch, there was some expectation in the Lamestream Media that no drama President Obama would get mad about what Time called "His Broken Obamacare Website". Maybe the President would act like a leader and fire those in charge of the bureucratic bungle, such as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.   

Unfortunately, the press availability in the Rose Garden seemed like an extended  25 minute Shamwow commercial. The only element missing was the pitch line "But wait, there's more."

The big news per Jake Tapper at CNN is that the website malfunctions were not called glitches but were upgraded to kinks.   So after funneling $500 million to Quebec's CGI to set up the fatally flawed web portal Healthcare.gov, President Obama suggested using the call center, or letting health navigators assist them in signing up for the mandatory coverage lest they be taxed. 

Despite the $54 million which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has earmaked for health care navigators , they had no  background checks and the staffing contracts were awarded to Seedco in Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and New York.  Seedco  is the same company which settled a civil fraud lawsuit in 2012 for faking at least 1,400 of 6,500 job placements under a $22 million federal contract. 

Signing up for Obamacare involves revealing all sorts of personal information that is rife for identity theft.  There are already reports by Watchdog.org in Tennessee that scam artists are posing as navigators who coax medicare recipients for their information.   But there also shady characters who are designated as ACA Navigators.  Rosilyn Wells, the only Obamacare navigator in Lawrence, Kansas had an outstanding warrant for check kiting and has a $1700 state tax deficit.  This makes USIS's flawed background checks on Wikileaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis look thorough. 

Sadly, Sebelius does not have any time to testify before Congress  about the flawed Obamacare roll-out, but could attend the inaugural Kennedy Center forum the night before.  Perhaps to quell the blow back from this P.R. faux pas, Senate Majority Leader Dick Durban (D-IL) went on Sunday talking head shows to insist that Sebelius will ultimately testify.  Presumably, it will be before the Senate so there is a choreographed kabuki show where Democrats chastise Sebelius more in sorrow than in anger.

Vince Offer (a.k.a. Shlomi)
But such factual side shows take the focus away from the center stage in the Rose Garden rally.  One of the stalwart arguments against Tea Party Conservatives efforts to attach defunding Obamacare to the Continuing Resolution was the mantra that "It's the law".  Listening to the Celebrity-in-Chief's sales pitch, he soft peddled the kinks but felt compelled to sell stories to the American people of why it was a good deal for you.  If Obamacare were a good deal, the White House stenographers pool known as the elite liberal media (a.k.a. the Lamestream Media) would have plenty of positive stories to buttress the ACA.  Instead, Mr. Obama had to try to channel the spirit of Billy Mays or imitate Vince Shlomi,  the Shamwow Guy, to sell his already passed public policy.

If that was not enough, it just so happened that a person prop in back of President Obama fainted and the President caught her.

This was a phenomenon quite prevalent when candidate Obama was running for President in 2008.  It seemed to have mostly disappeared during the first term, but made some reappearances while on the hustings for his Re-Election campaign in 2012.

Considering the content of the Presidential high pressure pitch for "the law" despite its evident early shortcomings, fainting seemed apropos for the Rose Garden feint.