Obama’s “Amnesty.”

November 22nd, 2014

I am not happy about Obama making his speech about amnesty and defying the GOP newly elected Congress to do anything about it. However, there is less here than it seems.

First: And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

king obama

I don’t believe him but the GOP could do worse than assume this is true. The next steps would be to take actions assuming he was not lying.

Obama clearly wanted to make himself look like the compassionate actor in this debate, and Republicans the heartless, cruel nativists. Instead of trying to fight that battle, make Obama own it and bypass it for the real battle the GOP wants to win on border security. Make Democrats vote against a border security bill, and make Obama veto one while his own amnesty remains in place.

Not everybody is willing to accept this as a phony gesture which I think it is.

When President Obama announces that he will be suspending laws to bless the illegal presence of millions of foreigners in the United States, he will have adopted the most basic philosophy of John C. Calhoun: some laws can be tossed aside because his ends justify the lawlessness.

I don’t trust Obama’s intent but I think he is a fool and did not plan this correctly, or else chickened out. There is more interesting comment at Powerline today.

Procedurally what happens is an undocumented person applies for ‘deferred action’ and then after receiving this ‘quasi-status’ – he/she is eligible for work authorization.

See the last paragraph on page 4 of this key memo: “Applicants must file the requisite applications for deferred action pursuant to the new criteria described above. Applicants must also submit biometrics for USCIS to conduct background checks similar to the background check that is required for DACA applicants. Each person who applies for deferred action pursuant to the criteria above shall also be eligible to apply for work authorization for the period of deferred action, pursuant to my authority to grant such authorization reflected in section 274A(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

I still think the Republicans can trump this with real reform. Then they can send a bipartisan bill to Obama and see if he vetoes it. That Powerline post also emphasizes that Silicone Valley is pushing this and that explains their support of Obama.

How many Senate Democrats would be willing to sustain that veto before the 2016 election? I’m betting not too many. But Republicans have a perfect opportunity to turn the debate in that direction now and force Obama and his shrinking number of allies on Capitol Hill to go on the record.

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The Iran Nuclear Program

November 18th, 2014

The deadline for the US-Iran nuclear talks is coming soon. Next week, in fact.

The negotiations so far have been an exercise in duplicity. I thought they might have a bomb purchased from North Korea in 2013 but that may not be true.

the RAND Corporation reports that the third North Korean nuclear test appears to many experts to be fundamentally different from its previous two efforts. North Korea’s first tests used plutonium to trigger the nuclear explosion. This one, according to some atmospheric tests, likely used highly enriched uranium, exactly the form of nuclear weapon pursued by Iran.

We have heard no more about this.

What next ? Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht have some thoughts about this. Gerecht is a former CIA agent who is fluent in Farsi and who has been studying Iran since the revolution in 1979. I read his book Know Thine Enemy, written under a pseudonym, a few years ago.

If the White House doesn’t end November with a cascade of concessions leading to a deal, there are four paths forward. None is appealing. Two might be effective—but the president is unlikely to choose either one.

They provide four options.

One-The White House could give up on diplomacy and pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear sites.

There is no chance that Obama would do this. Would Israel ? Maybe but only if the urgency seems critical.

Two. The administration could give up on the current talks and default back to sanctions, but again trying to undercut their seriousness, as the president attempted to do in 2011 and 2012.

Congress may have a say here, especially the new Congress.

Congress imposed the most economically painful measures—targeting Iran’s oil exports, central bank and access to the Swift interbank system—over his objections. The president has always hoped that “rationality” would take hold in Tehran, that the regime would see the economic benefits that come with good behavior. The Islamic Republic has enjoyed an economic reprieve, thanks to Mr. Obama’s decision last year to de-escalate sanctions pressure by blocking new congressional action and giving billions of dollars in direct sanctions relief as part of the interim deal.

This is the Obama we saw in 2009 when the Iranians tried to revolt.

Any hope they might have had in the Obama White House was quickly dismissed in the administration’s two statements on the matter. The first came from the president himself, anticipating a Mousavi victory (it is too soon to speculate on the source of this happy thought), and of course, in his narcissistic way, taking personal credit for it.

What else ? Three. New, even more biting sanctions could be enacted, causing Tehran considerable pain. Current energy markets, with a declining price for crude, offer ample room for Congress to threaten sanctions against any country’s central bank involved in buying Iran’s oil exports, or in giving Tehran access to oil revenues now being held overseas and available only for trade with Iran’s five main oil buyers—China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.

The new Congress might be willing to do this. Will Obama ?

The wiser bet is that sanctions—though important in restoring the U.S.’s negotiating leverage—will fail without other forms of coercion. And Ayatollah Khamenei, if he isn’t otherwise deterred, may well respond to new, economy-crushing sanctions by accelerating the nuclear program, presenting Mr. Obama with the choice he most dreads: launch militarily strikes or accept Iran as a nuclear state.

It seems obvious to me that he is willing to accept their bomb and then allege that “Containment” would suffice. Would anything work ?

The White House could try to reinforce new sanctions with the credible show of military force to intimidate the Iranian regime. President Hasan Rouhani has rather pleadingly confessed in speeches and in his memoirs that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 scared the clerical regime and led him to advocate, as Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003-05, a tactical pause in the regime’s nuclear aspirations.
To achieve a more lasting impression now would require a significant military operation. Only one target would serve that purpose: Bashar Assad. Syria is Iran’s most helpful ally among Arab states. Taking Mr. Assad down would let Tehran know that America’s withdrawal from the Middle East and President Obama’s dreams of an entente with Iran are over.

I don’t see Obama doing this. Could Congress ?

Taking out Mr. Assad is unavoidable if Washington is serious about stopping the radicalization of Syria’s Sunni population and getting their help in defeating the radical Islamic State, also known as ISIS. And such an about-face by Washington would be shocking—perhaps paralyzing—in Tehran. Yet it is hard to imagine Mr. Obama taking such action.

Which means that Washington and its European allies will most likely angle for another extension of the talks. Ayatollah Khamenei may accept. The Iranian economy, despite the oil-price drop, has been noticeably improving since the interim deal was concluded in January—and the continuation of the talks poses no threat to further nuclear progress.

The Iranian bomb is probably inevitable, which will pose a severe challenge for Netanyahu, who seems the only adult in the room.

The Comet and the Shirt.

November 15th, 2014

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Comet_from_40_metres_large

The European Space Agency landed a probe on a comet this week.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of malfunctions. In the first, the “harpoon” that was to anchor the lander malfunctioned allowing it to bounce around a bit.

These revealed the astonishing conclusion that the lander did not just touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko once, but three times.

The harpoons did not fire and Philae appeared to be rotating after the first touchdown, which indicated that it had lifted from the surface again.
Stephan Ulamec, Philae manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center, reported that it touched the surface at 15:34, 17:25 and 17:32 GMT (comet time – it takes over 28 minutes for the signal to reach Earth, via Rosetta). The information was provided by several of the scientific instruments, including the ROMAP magnetic field analyser, the MUPUS thermal mapper, and the sensors in the landing gear that were pushed in on the first impact.

The result of this mishap was that the lander, which was using solar energy to recharge batteries, was not positioned properly to absorb the very weak sunlight energy at that distance.

But then the lander lifted from the surface again – for 1 hour 50 minutes. During that time, it travelled about 1 km at a speed of 38 cm/s. It then made a smaller second hop, travelling at about 3 cm/s, and landing in its final resting place seven minutes later.

That is quite a move and the result has been a very limited experiment as the lander has now shut down due to low battery power.

The landing, as sensational as it has been, has been completely overshadowed by a controversy over the shirt worn by the project director at the press conference.

shirt

The shirt seems to have images of scantily clad women on it and the world’s feminists erupted in wrath.

“No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt,” tweeted The Atlantic tech writer Rose Eveleth.

The poor dear ! The incident reminds of the hilarious (to me) incident with Larry Summers, when he was the President of Harvard. He made the mistake, when meeting with faculty, of musing that, perhaps, women were less interested in science than men. The result was a huge controversy that resulted in his resignation. The funniest (again to me) response to his comments was this:

The most remarkable feminist exercise in self-parody was that of MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, who famously told reporters that she “felt I was going to be sick,” that “my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow,” that “I just couldn’t breathe, because this kind of bias makes me physically ill,” and that she had to flee the room because otherwise “I would’ve either blacked out or thrown up.” The poor dear ! I wonder if she can stand the sight of blood ?

Even law professors of otherwise libertarian leanings are outraged !

And I will be more provocative: In the broad span of human culture, fashion is more important than space travel.

Back to Glenn:
… Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt… featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women.
Some women noticed? Everyone noticed! It was an extremely showy shirt, and Taylor chose it for some reason. We were supposed to pretend we didn’t see it? It’s not as though the “some women” made something out of nothing. To blame the women for making this a topic is to impose a burden on us all to shut up about something obvious. If Taylor had wanted to keep everything focused on the achievements of the team he was on, he wouldn’t have picked that shirt. Why attack the women?

Why indeed ? They are only reacting inn the way their hormones dictate. After all, colleges are now having to include “Trigger Warnings” in course materials and even descriptions of classes, lest sensitive female and transgender students be wounded.

To add to the amusement, there is actually research (performed prior to the present atmosphere of intimidation) on sex differences in mathematical ability in children.

In the November 2000 issue of Psychological Science, for example, a team headed by Vanderbilt University’s Camilla Persson Benbow summarized earlier research showing “sex differences in mathematical precocity before kindergarten”; “sex differences in mathematical reasoning as early as the second grade (among intellectually gifted students)”; and “pronounced sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability” in a 1980 study of 9,927 intellectually talented 12-to-14-year-olds.

That would never be allowed these days.

The shirt, by the way, is sold out. He gets to keep his tattoos, I guess, and that should suggest his sartorial taste.

The other issue, ignored by almost all the female commenters on the event, is the choice of energy source for the lander.

The comet is, after all, powered by solar panels that need six or seven hours of sunlight per day to recharge the batteries.

its solar cells are only receiving an hour and a half of sunlight each day instead of the six or seven hours needed to recharge its batteries for extended operation. If nothing is done to improve its orientation, Philae likely will exhaust its battery and shut down sometime during the next few days.

It has already shut down.

The next issue is whether there is enough sunlight energy at that distance, 317 million miles from earth. The other alternative would be nuclear power, which has been used on other probes.

For more than 50 years, NASA’s robotic deep space probes have carried nuclear batteries provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. Even the crewed Apollo moon landings carried nuclear powered equipment.

However, the United States’ supply of plutonium-238, which fuels these batteries, called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), is running low. Experts worry that ambitious planetary science missions in the future may have to be put on hold until more of the radioactive substance is available.

With the current state of the nuclear power industry, that may be a while.

War Movies.

November 11th, 2014

Veterans Day seems to be a good day to consider war movies. We saw the movie Fury last night and it was technically pretty good. A couple of folks on veteran sites complained about the haircuts but I don’t know if they would have been different in April 1945 in guys who had been fighting all the way from the Normandy beaches. I objected a bit to the tank they used as it looked like the Sherman Firefly that the British used. However, the movie web site says it was an M4 A2E8 which does look like the Firefly.

M4A

The combat scenes were intense and looked authentic to me. They even had a Tiger I from a museum in Britain. Most tanks that I see in Movies, including Patton, are not authentic Shermans.

tiger I

The tactics looked pretty good as they showed that Shermans had to get around the Tiger Tank to attack the rear where the armor was thinner. The Russians used the same tactics with their T 34 which was the best tank of the war.

Char_T-34

The story was about the same plot as Saving Private Ryan although some of the objectionable lines, like saving Ryan was “the only good thing that will come out of this war,” as if Hitler was not a good reason. The plot device is basically the same with the new guy as an innocent who survives and the experienced guys all get killed.

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Psychiatry and the “deinstitutionalism” movement.

November 4th, 2014

There is a piece in the City Journal this quarter about the New York state experience with psychotic citizens and the prison system. Years ago, I wrote a book about my experiences in medical school and still have some thoughts of publishing it as an e-baook. Chapter One included my own experience working in a psychiatric hospital before the changes took place that put the mentally ill on the streets.

In June of 1962 I was released from active duty. A place in the 1962 first year medical school class had been held for me, but I needed a job for the summer until classes resumed in September. I came across an ad in a Los Angeles paper for medical students to work at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles. I was a medical student, albeit one with only a month of medical school under my belt, and I responded to the ad. I got the job, which consisted of performing annual physical examinations on patients in the closed psychiatric ward of the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles. My first experience with patients then was with chronic schizophrenics in a VA hospital.

As I entered upon my new duties at the VA hospital I had more experience than one would expect of a one-month medical student because I had been a corpsman for three years (only one on active duty). Nonetheless, performing annual physicals on 200 psychotic adult men was a daunting task. The psychiatry attending staff and residents decided that they would not do these required physicals because they thought physical contact would interfere with their relationship with the patients. These were the days of Psychoanalysis in psychiatry and examining or even touching patients was considered harmful. They chose medical students to do the task, and I was hired along with a few others. I reported to Building 206 on the Sawtelle Veteran’s Administration Hospital campus about the 15th of June to start my job. Building 206 housed 200 patients, all but a few of whom were chronic schizophrenics. There was one elderly black gentleman who suffered from tertiary syphilis (also called “General Paresis of the Insane” in the old days) contracted during the First World War. He had been a Veteran’s Administration Hospital patient since about 1928. The remainder was from World War II and Korea. The second floor of the building was a locked ward where patients were not allowed out on the grounds without being accompanied by a staff member. There was even a locked room on that floor where patients were confined in strait jackets if they were too agitated to be free on the locked ward. The first floor patients were in an “open ward” where they were allowed to go to the canteen and to go about the grounds of the hospital but were not allowed off the hospital grounds without a pass. If someone left without a pass he had “eloped.” There was one building on the hospital campus with a higher level of security than Building 206, but these patients of mine were chronically psychotic and not allowed to wander about freely except when they were on pass. It was an interesting experience for a first year medical student.

The VA Psych hospital was called The Sawtelle Veterans Home at one time.

The VA Psych hospital was north of Wilshire and evidence of the psych hospital is not easy to find.

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Election Day

November 4th, 2014

Election Day in California is pretty dull because California is a one party state with Democrats and their illegal alien voters running things.

ya vote

“We don’t need no stinkin’ voter IDs !”

Elsewhere there is excitement. Voting machines in multiple states are changing GOP votes to Democrat.

The Cook County Board of Elections Deputy Communications Director Jim Scalzitti said the machine’s failure was “a calibration error of the touch-screen on the machine,” and that Moynihan’s votes were not actually registered. Scalzitti said that voters are always asked to double-check their votes before they’re counted.

The same “error” is occurring in North Carolina and Maryland, the latter a state where the Democrat governor is in trouble with a GOP challenger close in polls.

Naturally, that is where voting machine “errors” will cluster.

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Medicaid for All

November 1st, 2014

My concept of Obamacare has been that it is a transition period to a single payer that will be Medicaid for everybody. Belmont Club (Richard Fernandez) seems to agree.

One of most fascinating things about the failure of Obamacare is it has occasioned the rise of private exchanges, which are now on track to completely dwarf the public Healthcare.gov exchanges. Obamacare is becoming Medicaid for all. That is where all their expansion is coming from, the metal plans it offers, not so much.

The abolition of employer-provided insurance has led companies to simply give workers money to purchase their own health care on a private exchange. Urgent care clinics are booming because they charge much less than Obamacare network prices when a policy holder has not yet reached his deductible. What is repealing Obamacare is that people are working around it, according to their preference. Vermont, for example, is creating a single payer health care system. The Left approves, but it is a rejection of Obamacare just the same.

Thus, private money offsets legal tender. Private security replaces public safety. Private armies replace the United States Armed Forces. Private exchanges replace public exchanges. In the end, only the poor will be left with the public stuff.

I have been of this opinion since the beginning.

At least 2.9 million Americans who signed up for Medicaid coverage as part of the health care overhaul have not had their applications processed, with some paperwork sitting in queues since last fall, according to a 50-state survey by CQ Roll Call.

Those delays — due to technological snags with enrollment websites, bureaucratic tangles at state Medicaid programs and a surge of applicants — betray Barack Obama’s promise to expand access to health care for some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

As a result, some low-income people are being prevented from accessing benefits they are legally entitled to receive. Those who face delays may instead put off doctors appointments and lose access to their medicines, complicating their medical conditions and increasing the eventual cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Democratic lawmakers who have promoted the law’s historic coverage expansion are wary of acknowledging problems that hand opponents of the Affordable Care Act another rhetorical weapon, said Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard University School of Public Health and Kennedy School of Government.

That was a year ago.

What now ? The Heritage Foundation has a post about the Medicaid expansion that is Obamacare.

Heritage research shows 40 of 50 states would see increases in costs due the Medicaid expansion. If all states expand, state spending on Medicaid would increase by an estimated $41 billion by 2022.

The costs are being shifted to the states. Will that work ?

Analysis by Heritage shows that by 2022 any projected state savings are dwarfed by costs. Moreover, these projected savings assume states will further reduce payments to hospitals and clinics for uncompensated care. But, as Heritage’s Ed Haislmaier points out, it is more likely that hospitals will lobby state legislatures for more money rather than less.

It all depends on cutting reimbursement to providers. Is that likely to increase access for anyone ?

What it will do is shift those who can afford to pay into a parallel system of cash clinics and practices, Which I have predicted.

There have been other suggestions but it is unlikely that any great reform would be tolerated now after the failure of the Democrats’ attempt.

Instead, I think the Republican Congress should pass legislation to make Obamacare voluntary and let the ,market works things out.

Transpac Race 1981.

October 30th, 2014

I’m sorry to intrude with a bit of light relief but the news is so depressing that I tend to regress to my younger days when life was simpler and Reagan was president. The Transpacific Race is held in odd numbered years from Los Angeles to Honolulu. The only mark of the race course is Catalina Island, which has to be taken to port. In 1981, my boat was new and I took a crew of kids.

My 16 year old son (Now almost 50) was the youngest. I was, of course, the oldest and one other crew member was in his 30s. The rest were less than 23. The race began in 1906 and has been held alternate years except for the Second World War. A guy named Richard Rheem served in the Pacific during the war and, after the war, revolutionized the race by understanding the weather in the north Pacific and the Pacific High, which dominates the race. He set a record in 1949 which stood for many years, Until broken by Ticonderoga in a famous race in 1965. Books have been written about that famous yacht and I have several in my library. Ticonderoga is 32 feet longer than my own boat yet we finished the race only a day slower.

Here is a clip of a movie I made as I expected that I would only be able to do this race once.

We came within 9 minutes of winning over all and I watch the video of the race once in a while to remember the pleasure.

At this point of the race we are well into the trade winds and changing to the 1.5 ounce spinnaker because it was windy and night was coming with trade wind squalls. The wind usually was about 25 knots and we were doing 15 to 18 knots most of the time. If our speed dropped below 15, crew members would stick their heads up from below to see what had happened. The really strong wind and the squalls were at night where the wind would occasionally hit 40 and even 50 knots for short periods. Looking at the video, you can see that it is evening and we are getting ready for a stormy night. The trade wind clouds are ahead and gather as the sun goes down.

The clip is my favorite because of how hard the kids were racing, doing what is called a “peel-off” spinnaker change that would typically be done in a short day race to avoid losing moments of time to a competitor. Here we are 1000 miles offshore. After the fifth day, we saw no other boats until the finish. It isn’t easy to keep racing hard when you can’t see another competitor.

Our best day was 286 miles in 24 hours. A tremendous speed for a 40 foot boat.

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Here is our trophy for second in fleet. The fleet was 75 boats. We were one of the smallest.

Trophy Present

Here is me getting the trophy at the banquet. I was thinner then.

Reduced blogging.

October 29th, 2014

For a while I have noticed that comments dropped way off and I attributed this to the fact that I had some health issues a couple of years ago and slowed down blogging considerably. I have also been invited to blog at Chicagoboyz and did not always post the same things here. I do often write the first draft here so I can see it, or, if the topic seems more local to my own community or interests like Mission Hospital, I only posted the item here. If anyone is interested in my posts over there, they are Here although most are at both sites.

A couple of commenters seem to be coming back and commenting so I thought an update was in order.

I’m still teaching at Keck (USC) medical school in the same Introduction to Clinical Medicine Program as I have for fourteen years now.

I also spend a day or two examining recruits at the Los Angeles MEPS which allows me more time to visit with young people and I enjoy it.

Catalina

October 17th, 2014

CatalinaLaborDayRace