28 September 2014

R.I.P. Jim Traficant-- Beam Me Up?

Former Representative Jim Traficant (D-OH 17th) was critically injured in a tractor mishap on his daughter's farm in northeastern Ohio.  The 73 year old Traficant was believe to be pulling a vintage tractor which tipped over him inside the barn and trapped Traficant underneath the machinery. Paramedics found Traficant unconscious and eventually medivaced him to a hospital in Youngstown, Ohio where he was kept in a medically induced coma to try to stabilize him before he expired.

In a case of sad irony, the accident occurred on the farm which became the focal point of  the two month trial in which Traficant represented himself and was convicted on ten counts which included bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion.  Thus, the House of Representatives expelled  the eight term Congressman on a vote of 420-1 in 2002.

Traficant served seven years in federal prison before being paroled in 2009. While in prison, Traficant turned to art as therapy, which he would sell online to pay for more art supplies.  But being in "Club Fed" did not deter Traficant from running for office.  In fact, Traficant ran for his old Congressional seat while behind bars and won 15% of the vote vying against his former aide Rep. Jim Ryan (D OH-17th now 13th)

Traficant was a flamboyant figure on Capitol Hill.  Traficant insisted on styling a pompadour which Traficant himself called "the weed whacker" but a hairdo which others likened to muskrats mating.  In prison, it was became evident that Traficant just sported a bad toupe.  Traficant also insisted on wearing out of style clothing in the well of the House, like denim suits and wide lapel sports jackets.

What drew great notoriety for Cong. Traficant was his eccentric, amusing and "earthy" One Minute Speeches.

Traficant would often punctuate his political rant by saying "Beam me up!", thereby repopularizing the Star Trek catch phrase.  Assuredly, Traficant's quip of "Beam me up" sounds much better than supporters trying to sing it in a polka honoring the paroled Congressman.

These attention grabbing speeches would generate publicity as light hearted news for the low information voter, but these epic rants reflected the blue collar, common sense sentiments of his Mahoning Valley constituents. Traficant had a 97% anti-abortion voting record, which is certainly an anomaly among Democrats today.

In some ways, Traficant was a precursor of the Tea Party.  Traficant loudly spoke out against illegal immigration and advocated immigration reduction.  Traficant opposed Ukrainian Nazi John Demjanjuk's deportation, insisting that there already had been a fair trial. Railing against wasteful government spending, opposing open immigration, insisting on the rule of law and defying the Cocktail Party in the District of Calamity (sic) sound much like a proto-Tea Party type.

 Generally, Traficant spoke his mind, tried to represent his constituents political sentiments rather than reflect the will of party leaders.  That conviction (sic) cost him.  Traficant  was voting mostly along GOP party lines (but voted against President Clinton's impeachment).  So much, Traficant crossed party lines and voted for Denny Hastert (R-IL 14th) for Speaker.  Democrats punished Traficant by stripping him of his seniority and committee appointments.  Republicans did not reward him with anything for his on-the-limb leadership vote.  Thus Traficant found himself without a committee assignment for his last term in Congress, which had not happened in 100 years.

One might conclude that Traficant's comedic Congressional One Minute speeches, his out of fashion styling, crossing over party lines for Speaker and deciding to represent himself in court and Congress indicates that he was not so smart.  Well, Mr. Traficant earned two Masters degrees.  Moreover, Traficant defended himself in 1983 and beat a RICO charge, being one of the few to ever do so.  

James Traficant was a flawed but faithful fellow.  May the heavens beam him up and he yields back whatever is left.

h/t:  WFJM

26 September 2014

How the Clintons' Treat Pressitutes

The First Amendment of the US Constitution is in part intended to ensure Americans of a the Freedom of the Press.  But that fundamental freedom does not ensure access when progressive politicians want to manage the message by rounding up reporters and controlling access.

New York Times reporter Amy Chozick revealed how the Clinton Global Initiative separates reporters from an event which they are supposed to cover.  Of course, the special treatment is attributed to "security".  

This monitoring went to the extend of a 20 something year old aide following Ms. Chozick into the bathroom.  Kind of sounds like North Korea, but with electricity.

Perhaps the New York Times reporter earned some extra special treatment considering the critical pieces which the "Old Grey Lady" published in 2013 about the disarray with the Clinton Foundation:

“For all of its successes, the Clinton Foundation had become a sprawling concern, supervised by a rotating board of old Clinton hands, vulnerable to distraction and threatened by conflicts of interest. It ran multimillion-dollar deficits for several years, despite vast amounts of money flowing in.”
Control access and effectively manage the message.  So much for "All the news that's fit to print". Or as Greta Van Susteren pointed out, many in the White House press corps are happy to accept Obama Administration edits of White House Press Pool reports.

The Obama Administration brags that it is "absolutely" the most transparent Administration ever.  But just because White House Spokesman Josh Earnest uttered the phrase, it ain't necessarily so. In July 2014, 38 press organizations and transparency groups sent a letter to the White House calling for  the Obama administration to end “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies".    The plea from the press noted:

“Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees,” the letter reads. “This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship—an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.”

Confining journalists is not just a Clinton trick. Reporters have recently been sequestered in a bedroom during an Obama fundraiser.

One unlucky journalist was made to wait in a maintenance  shed while the Golfer in Chief hit the links at the tony Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Gainesville, Virginia.  While Houston Chronicle reporter Kevin Diaz could not see any of the drives on the golf course, he could report a motorist on I-66 give the Presidential motorcade a "lone eagle salute" to the motorcade.  And in 2011, Vice President Joe Biden's aides locked a reporter in storage closet during a fundraiser.

While these shoddy treatments of the press can be chronicled through jocund journalistic jibes on social media or short comedic reports on television morning news, this is because the perpetrators were liberals with whom the reporters generally agree.  If a Republican treated the press in such a high handed manner, no doubt the Fourth Estate would be clamoring for impeachment.

Controlling access and projecting positive optics as an easy story for prospective presstitutes.  Former Senator Hillary Rodman Clinton has been touted as one of the smartest and most accomplished women in America thus she should become President.  When I queried a die hard Hillary! supporter, I asked her to cite one concrete accomplishment from her four year tenure in the Obama Administration's Secretary of State.   This Hillary fan did not not even try to claim that Hillary's extensive travels counted as an accomplishment. When pressed, the Hillary supporter resorted to retorting that Hillary earned it by standing by her man through thick and thin.

So to reach low information voters predisposed to support a leading female candidate, it may be enough to feed presstitutes with positive stories and manage messages by controlling unfiltered access.

This might explain why the Lamestream Media ate up the Clintons' photo op at the 39th annual Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) Steak Fry but criticized President George W. Bush for posing with a fake turkey when visiting troops in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving.

[L] Ex-Sen.  Hillary Clinton (D-NY) [C] Ex- President Bill Clinton [R] Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) at Steak Fry 

Whereas, National Review's Jim Geraghty, who certainly would not get a press credential on a Hillary! campaign, presented more piquant coverage of the Iowa photo op.

“How perfectly Clintonian: ‘While a crowd of several thousand Democrats waited on a sloping, grassy field below, Mrs Clinton, her husband and Senator Harkin staged a mini-grilling of steaks for the press at a single barbecue grill in a fenced-off enclosure, framed by a handsome tree and a picnic table filled with some patient Iowans. Mrs Clinton gamely posed, pretending to grill a steak that had been pre-cooked for her"

24 September 2014

Dangerous Illusions of War

President Obama took pride that he unilaterally led US troops out of Iraq in 2011 (without achieving a Status of Forces agreement) and promises to do the same in Afghanistan by 2016.  Casual political observers may now conclude that President Barack Obama has dispensed with the dangerous illusion about optional wars after the aerial bombing  of ISIS and Khorasan Group targets in  Syria. US CentCom claims that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of an imminent attact on US targets, potentially even in the U.S. Homeland.

However, in the run up to the still unnamed mission from the nascent anti-ISIS coalition, President Obama insisted on being clear about not having American boots on the ground.   

Congress voted for funding to train Syrian rebels, but that training is said to take a year to accomplish.  Now that American airpower decimated ISIS and Khorason targets near Aleppo and Raqqa, Syria, an ISIS pull out would leave a power vacuum.  Without American boots on the ground, who re-establishes order?  Prior to the bombing, former Marine Corps Commandant (Ret.) General James Conway suggested that Mr. Obama's apparent strategy against ISIS did not have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding.

Mr. Obama may still harbor the illusion about cafeteria conflicts, but General Douglas MacArthur's warning that: "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it" rings true today.  

America acting to stop the brutality and belligerence of terrorist armies like ISIS and the Khorason Group which threaten US is a tardy step in the right direction.  However, not having a clearly defined plan of action other than ruling out boots on the ground may keep the chimera alive for the Commander-in-Chief.

20 September 2014

Reflections on "The Battle of the Sexes"

Bobby Riggs was a pro tennis star who was at the of his game in the late 1930s and the 1940s.  But Riggs is most remembered for his battle of the sexes.  In 1973, the 55 year old Riggs came out of retirement to play a couple of matches against much younger female tennis stars.

Originally, Riggs wanted to play Billie Jean King but King initially refused.  So Riggs arranged a match with Margaret Cox, who was at the time the top female player in the world.  Riggs achieved easy victory in what was dubbed "the Mother's Day Massacre" by using lots of drop shots and lobs which kept the 30 year old Cox off balance.   In the national limelight, Riggs played up his chauvinism and taunted female players over his victory over "the lesser sex".

The Mother's Day Massacre caused the 29 year old King to change her mind and agree to play Riggs.  The Battle of the Sexes was played on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome before a record setting crowd of 30,472 spectators and a television audience estimated at 90 million.  King won the $100,000 winner take all prize on 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  This Battle of the Sexes elevated Women's Tennis in America , fueled the politically correct womens' liberation movement and highlighted the Title IX law.

But there was more to the story than athletic prowess on the court.  The Battle of the Sexes was lots of show business.  Billie Jean King entered the Astrodome in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed like Egyptian slaves, ala Cleopatra.  Not to be outdown, Bobby Riggs entered the Astrodome on a rickshaw drawn by scantily dressed models.  Before the match, Riggs gave King a giant lollypop and King offered rigs a piglet.  This spectacle seems akin to the WWF rather than the noble sport of Wimbledon.

Behind the scenes, there were efforts to augment the women's liberation propaganda.  Billie Jean King insisted that ABC Sports drop tennis color commentator Jack Kramer because he was critical of  King and the 26 year age advantage.  Prior to the match, King proclaimed: "He [Kramer] doesn't believe in women's tennis. Why should he be part of this match? He doesn't believe in half of the match. I'm not playing. Either he goes – or I go."

There has been some speculation through a 2013 ESPN Outside the Lines feature which alleged  that Bobby Riggs might have thrown the match in exchange for the mob cancelling Rigg's debts.   Rigg's history as a hustler lends some credence to the gambling connection, as Riggs won a tremendous sum in 1939 by betting on himself to win at Wimbledon.  But Riggs supposedly took a polygraph to prove that he did not prove the match.  Ironically, Jack Kramer, the tennis voice that King silenced for the "Battle of the Sexes", insisted that Billie Jean King won the match fair and square.

The spectacle, the underlying themes and the promotion of "the Battle of the Sexes"  should be instructive to understand how sports are marketing themselves through controversy, guided messaging and chasing a profit as much as excellence on the field of play.

14 September 2014

Find the Real Islamic Scholar

Former U.S. President George W. Bush

Former President George W. Bush (Harvard Business School, MBA '75)

   The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don't represent peace.  They represent evil and war.

     When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace.  And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.  
                          ~ President George W. Bush,  Islamic Center September 17, 2001 

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama as law student (J.D. Harvard '91}

Now let’s make two things clear:  ISIL is not “Islamic.”  No religion condones the killing of innocents.  And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.  And ISIL is certainly not a state. 
                           ~   President Barack Obama, The White House September 10th 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron 

Caricature of British Prime Minister David Cameron (M.A. Brasenose College, Oxford '88)

"They [ISIS] boast of their brutality; they claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace. They are not Muslims, they are monsters.” 
                                    ~ British Prime Minister David Cameron September 14, 2014 

Self appointed ISIS/ISIL/IS Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi

                                       Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (B.A., M.A., PhD Islamic Studies, Islamic University of Baghdad}

Here the flag of the Islamic State, the flag of tawhīd (monotheism), rises and flutters. Its shade covers land from Aleppo to Diyala. Beneath it, the walls of the tawāghīt (rulers claiming the rights of Allah) havebeen demolished, their flags have fallen, and their borders have been destroyed. Their soldiers are either killed, imprisoned, or defeated. The Muslims are honored. The kuffār (infidels) are disgraced. Ahlus-Sunnah (the Sunnis) are masters and are esteemed. The people of bid’ah (heresy) are humiliated. The hudūd (Sharia penalties) are implemented – the hudūd of Allah – all of them. The frontlines are defended. Crosses and graves are demolished. Prisoners are released by the edge of the sword. The people in the lands of the State move about for their  livelihood and journeys, feeling safe regarding their lives and wealth. Wulāt (“governors”) and judges have been appointed. Jizyah (a tax imposed on kuffār) has been enforced. Fay’ (money taken from the kuffār without battle) and zakat (obligatory alms) have been collected. Courts have been established to resolve disputes and complaints. Evil has been removed. Lessons and classes have been held in the masājid  and, by the grace of Allah, the religion has become completely for  Allah
  ~  Declaration of Islamic State by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim ibn Awwad)  July 1, 2014

It would seem that someone who constantly quotes the Quran and interpretive sharia texts and has several advanced degrees in Islamic studies would be the best bet in that bunch.  While we may vehemently disagree with Bakr al Baghdadi's interpretations and implementation of sharia law, it seems incredulous that secular Western leaders insist that ISIS is not Islamic. Former President George W. Bush was closer to the mark in his comments that the face of terror is not the true face of Islam, but that may be more wishful thinking that comparative theology. 

In a faith of 1.57 billion believers throughout the world, Islam can have many different expressions and emphases.  America has been blessed by a Muslim community which freely practices their faith in a peaceful manner.  Across the Atlantic Ocean, Europe has a more acrimonious experience. Many nations have colonial ties with Muslim majority nations, like Britain (Pakistan), Netherlands (Indonesia), France (Algeria).  Other European nations invited Islamic immigration as guest workers, like Germany (Turkey) but the cheap labor never moved back home. Now that there are significant European Muslim populations in concentrated enclaves which are adverse to assimilation.  Consequently,  there are no go zones where the police avoid and the Islamic communities semi-formally administer Sharia law, which often conflicts with the jurisprudence of the rest of the state. 

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has condemned the brutality of ISIS in beheading hostages and killing unbelievers (be they Jewish, Nazarenes a.k.a. Christians, and even other Muslims who do not adhere to their Salifist jihadism) as a" unique evil".  Alas, this is not historically accurate, as the victory of the Knights Hospitaller in Great Siege of Malta (1565),the Holy League's victory at sea in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the defeat of the Ottomans in the Siege of Vienna (1683) marks efforts by Muslims to expand their caliphate by the sword. 

Islam is more than a religion but is also a holistic political system with its own jurisprudence. Political Islam is a manifestation of this theocratic thread in Islamic thought. Bakr al Baghdadi's declaration demonstrated point by point how ISIS was incorporating its interpretation of sharia law. Time and again, we in the West are told that Islam is a religion of peace. But the root of the word Islam means submission.  Perhaps by submitting to the five pillars of Islam, a believer is said to gain peace.  Another myth is the CAIR-full instruction that jihad simply means "interior struggle".  The word jihad means struggle.  In the Muslim world, jihad means Holy War.  If it were just the interior struggle, why would Qu'ran 4:94 exempt the elderly and children from jihad?

Many Muslims live out their faith peacefully.  But to deny that the so called Islamic State is not Islamic because it does not comport to our sensibilities as outsiders of what Muslims ought to believe is ludicrous. While we should not mistake all Muslims as radical Islamists, it seems silly to inculcate a cognitive subterfuge. 

Jonah Goldberg offered a challenging point to our secular Islamic scholars entrenched in the corridors of power:  "Instead of Americans trying to persuade Muslims around the world that terrorism is un-Islamic, why shouldn't Muslims be working harder to convince us?"

13 September 2014

Reconsidering the Release of Ravens RB Ray Rice

On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice and his fiancée Janay Palmer  had gotten into a fight while in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The altercation was initially described as a minor physical altercation. Both Rice and Palmer were arrested on simple assault charges.

On February 19th, police obtained the security camera video from the Revel Casino, which showed that the 26 year old Running Back cold cocked Palmer and then dragged her out of the elevator.

When evidence was presented to a grand jury, Rice's was indicted with third degree aggravated assault.  The very next day, Rice and Palmer got married.  Although Rice rejected a plea deal on the charges, Rice plead not guilty and enrolled in a diversion program for first time offenders to receive counseling which could could legally clear him within six months.

Alas that was not the end of the issue for Ray Rice.  The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, noting that the League and the Union did not have a policy on domestic violence.  There was a public hue and cry against what was considered to be a lenient punishment from the NFL.  After all, players caught using illegal narcotics or performance enhancing drugs could have stiffer punishment.

 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed that he did not have all of the information about the event four months after the event.  This claim has come under scrutiny as the NFL had the police tape in Feburary.  Moreover, Rice insisted that he was upfront with the NFL over what occurred.

To placate the public NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the League "didn't get it right" with the Rice ruling. So the NFL beefed up its punishment for domestic violence, imposing a six game suspension without pay for a first offence and a virtual lifetime ban on the second instance.  Goodell said:

"I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values, I  didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

The question is to how the infraction is determined and when it is imposed.  For instance, Rice was not CONVICTED by a jury of his peers or a court of domestic violence.  And his diversion program would wipe the legal slate clean. And what sort of appeal process is there for the league.  It also begs the question of whether an employer should impose sanctions on players for conduct outside of the workplace and on charges not substantiated by society.

On September 8th 2014, TMZ Sports released the full Ray Rice elevator assault video.

This prompted swift response.  The Baltimore Ravens unconditionally released their star running back.  Moreover, the NFL indefinitely suspended Ray Rice.

By chance, the first Thursday Night Football game on CBS featured the Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburg Steelers. CBS initially planned to use a promo which featured the song "Run This Town" with Jay-Z and Rihanna, the latter who suffered felony assault  at the hands of rapper Chris Brown in 2009. The network also pulled a comedy sketch between Don Cheadle and Rihanna.   Instead the CBS Sports pregame consisted of somber interview by CBS Morning Show host Nora O'Donnell which harped on domestic violence.

Much of the media seemed flummoxed when Ravens fans proudly wore their Ray Rice jerseys for the Thursday Night Football game. Such fans believed that it was a one time event, Rice apologized and had been punished once by the League.  Moreover, other players with domestic violence charges hanging over them, like Carolina Panthers Defensive End Greg Hardy was convicted of assault charges yet was able to play on Week 1 while the charge is on appeal.  But there probably was no videotape.  Rice was not legally convicted yet he has suffered the playing death penalty on what might be called double jeopardy in a legal context.

While domestic violence is reprehensible, there weere already existing remedies to redress the offense which had been administered. The Ray Rice videotape seemed to skew the process and railroaded Rice while not equally applying punishment for similar offenses to others. The NFL has become notorious for political correctness. From persecuting the Washington Redskins for keeping their 75 year old team name to glorifying a 256th draft choice because of his alternative sexual preference, the NFL has become PC.  Based upon the controversy as to when Goodell saw the Rice videotape, the League may be hoisted on its own politically correct petard.