Archive for March, 2011

Sarah Palin and the left.

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Sarah Plain is now on a trip to Israel and plans to meet with Netanyahu. This has brought out the angry left on MSNBC. Note the immediate snipe.

Palin, who was John McCain’s running mate in his failed 2008 campaign for president, rarely travels abroad and has been criticized for a weak foreign policy record.

Barack Obama, of course, had a foreign policy record from the ages of six to ten. He has criticized Americans for not learning a foreign language while he, himself, thinks Austrians speak “Austrian.”

Note the trend in the comments:

I take it the Koch brothers made a substantial contribution to the Israeli governing party to put this little junket together as I am sure they did in India. I am pretty sure Sarah didn’t just call

Why would this person, other than being an MSNBC viewer (one of the few), have reason to believe that the Koch brothers, villains of the month for the left, have anything to do with this trip? Of course, that is one of the mild comments.

Why is this woman visiting foreign nations now? To create the illusion she has experience in foreign policy for a 2012 run? She has no business visiting Israel and India, holds no office, and does NOT represent the United States in any way.

Is there a reason why she cannot go ? I would like to visit Israel in the next year or two and I have NO ambition to be president. Will I be allowed to go ?

As for representing the US, do John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi visiting Syria, a terrorist state and enemy of the US, have the right to undermine our polices ? Pelosi went when Bush was president and she clearly did NOT represent the US government. Kerry has long experience in dealing with enemy governments while holding a US office. His antics in 1972 probably got him a dishonorable discharge from his Navy commission, hence his re-dated certificate for his Vietnam medals.

The loony left hates Sarah Palin in a way that suggests they are really afraid of her. I am a fan of hers, although not necessarily a presidential supporter.

They just cannot stay away from her, like moths to a flame.

Calvin Coolidge

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Calvin Coolidge is one of our least understood, and certainly least appreciated presidents. Here is what the hip (for the times) writers had to say.

Apart from that, he did little, and believed that the surging stock market vindicated his minimalist approach. He showed as little concern for the idea that the boom might be unsustainable as he did for the fact that, during his presidency, membership of the Ku Klux Klan exceeded 4 million. Instead, he developed, and encouraged a reputation for being a man of few words. Commentators approved. “This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably,” wrote Walter Lippmann in 1926. No one imagined the economic catastrophe that lay ahead.

I have just read Coolidge’s autobiography and have another thought. First, all the clever quips about him show no understanding at all of his nature and experience. Second, would the “economic catastrophe that lay ahead” have occurred if he had chosen to run for another term ? Was the boom “unsustainable” ?

There is a thread of self hatred in all the discussion of the “Roaring 20s” and The Depression. We deserved the Depression, as best I can tell from the writings of the Roosevelt supporters after 1932.

Here is Coolidge in some of his own words. First, everyone should read this book to get an understanding of what America was like before the Welfare State. John Calvin Coolidge was raised by a father who taught him industry and thrift. His grandfather, Calvin Galusha Coolidge, died when his grandson was six years old. Here is the impression he made on his grandson.

“He was a spare man over 6 feet tall, of a nature that caused people to confide in him, and of a character which made him a constant choice for public office.”

“He and my grandmother brought up as their own children, the boy and girl of his only sister, whose parents died when they were less than two years old. He made them no charge, but managed their inheritance and turned it all over to them with the income, besides giving the boy $800 of his own money when he was eighteen years old, the same as he did my father.”

“In his mind, the only real respectable way to get a living was from tilling the soil. He therefore did not exactly approve having his son go into trade.

In order to tie me to the land, in his last sickness he executed a deed to me for life of forty acres, called the Lime Kiln lot, on the west part of his farm, with the remainder to my lineal descendants, thinking that, as I could not sell it, and my creditors could not get it, it would be necessary for me to cultivate it.”

Coolidge’s father kept a store and was elected to the state legislature. He chose the law for his son although it was very hard for him when his son left for Massachusetts to follow his desires. The account of Calvin’s boyhood is one of hard work but simple pleasure. He drove a team of oxen for plowing when he was 12 years old. Anyone who assumed airs were held in contempt. If the hired girl or man needed to go to town with the family, Calvin surrendered his seat in the wagon. His mother was an invalid although a strong personality. She died at 39 when he was a boy.

At the age of 13, he was sent to an Academy to further his schooling and prepare him for college. Both boys and girls attended and several of his family were graduates. He worked part time in a cab shop in the town where the Black River Academy lay. Vacations were from May to September to allow time for farm work. His father paid for his school expenses but any extra money he earned was deposited in a bank for him by his father. The principal and his assistant both lived to see Coolidge President.

In March of his senior year, his younger sister died of appendicitis. This was 1890 and knowledge of appendicitis was very recent. He carried this heartbreak with the discretion common for the time. After graduation, he moved on to Amherst College. His education was delayed a year as he became ill and had to spend time recovering; time he spent painting the interior of his father’s store. In the fall of 1891, he finally began at Amherst. His father remarried the year he began college and he was very fond of his stepmother, a school teacher.

In college, Coolidge excelled in mathematics, including calculus. He was not so strong in languages. His studies in History and Philosophy were also favorites. His grades improved with time and he graduated cum laude. From there, he entered into the study of law. He served as clerk for a firm whose partners he greatly respected. He dryly comments on the two methods of learning the law, by schooling and by experience. He prefers the latter and writes, “I think counsels are mistaken in the facts of their case about as often as they are mistaken in the law.” He also comments, “It is one thing to know how to get admitted to the bar but quite another to know how to practice law. Those who attend a law school know how to pass examinations, while those who study in an office know how to apply their knowledge to actual practice.”

He lived within the frugal limits of the funds his father provided for his upkeep, $30 per month. This left little for “unnecessary pleasantries of life.” In June of 1897, he felt adequately prepared for the bar exam and took it, passing as of July 4. 1897. He then entered the practice of general law. Since he had completed his preparation in less time than he had expected, he remained in the same law office for seven months after being admitted to the bar before he settled in an office in Northhampton. Here, he was to remain for 21 years until elected Governor of Massachusetts. His rent for his office was $200 per year.

He became involved in local politics, natural for a lawyer, and was elected to the city council, then became City Solicitor, which came with a salary of $600 per year. He held this office until 1902. In 1903, he was appointed Clerk of the Courts for Hampshire County by the Supreme Judicial Court. He considered this the highest honor he received as a lawyer. In 1904, he met Grace Goodhue who had graduated from college and came to the Clarke School for the Deaf to teach.

They were married in October of 1905. In 1906, they rented the home, half of a two family house, they were to have for 31 years. Their first child was born in September 1906. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served two terms, after which he declined renomination, something of a tradition in Massachusetts politics. Their second son was born and Calvin decided to devote all his time to his law practice. In 1910, he was elected Mayor of Northhampton. This was a local office and would not interfere with his law practice. In 1911, he was elected to the Massachusetts state Senate. He was re-elected in 1912 and became something of a force, interested in the western part of the state and its issues, especially transportation which at the time meant trolleys and railroads. In 1914, a bad year for Republicans, he became President of the Senate with the support of most of the Democrats as well as his own party.

The World War began the following summer. The Republicans were able to unite and became the legislative majority in the following election. The Governor was a Democrat but he and Coolidge cooperated well. Some of Coolidge’s later philosophy began here as he shows pride in reducing the volume of legislation and regulations in each year he served as President of the Senate, an office second only to the Governor. After the 1915 legislative session, he had intended to return to his law practice but found that he was being widely supported for Lieutenant Governor. He dryly comments that he was widely considered a liberal but even the businessmen came to him to offer support. As a result, he offered his name for the office but did not campaign.

He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1915 by 75,000 to 50,000. He had spent the election season campaigning for the candidate for Governor, Samuel McCall. Since the office did not include presiding over the state Senate, Coolidge thought he might have time for his law practice but this was not to be and he took in an associate who, in time, took over the law practice. He mentions that the public expects Chief Executives in all levels of government to conduct themselves as an “entertainment bureau.” For this reason, he spent much time speaking on behalf of the Governor.

In 1917, the US entered the war and the Governor, who wished to become a US Senator, suggested that Coolidge announce for Governor. He was elected and, shortly after the election, the Armistice was signed, ending the War.

I will continue this in the next post. I think Coolidge will become a more important historical figure as we see how Barack Obama is duplicating the pattern of Hoover/Roosevelt in turning a severe recession into a depression. Had Coolidge been president in 1929-30, history might be very different. In the next post, I will go more into his political philosophy as VP and President.

The USA as a fiscal system.

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Powerline today has an analysis of the USA as if it were a firm applying for funds from Kleiner, Perkins. The presentation has a number of slides, which I will reproduce here.

The net worth of the US is on the right side scale. The trend is pretty obvious. The small improvement is probably a sign of some recovery in the past year.

Spending has followed historical events, such as World War II. The trend, however, is not good. After 1930, spending on entitlements began and has grown out of control.

Defense spending is blamed by leftists but there has not been a lot of defense spending since Vietnam.

Taxes have followed a steady trend line until Obama was elected. The sharp rise has not helped as costs far outstrip revenue.

What, then, is the problem ?


Entitlements plus interest alone will exceed revenue by 2027. That’s 6 years from now.

The left wants to raise taxes.

How high must tax brackets go ?

How do we compare to other countries ?

Better than some and not so good as others.

Can the left stop denying reality and start to discuss the reality ?

What a tsunami looks like

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

This video, from Al Jazerra of all places, shows what a tsunami looks like;

The movie, Hereafter, does an excellent job of simulating the tsunami that hit Thailand two years ago. No one, I suspect, thought they would have another real example soon.

Union rule

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

The situation in Madison Wisconsin has been so well covered by Ann Althouse on her blog, that I have not felt it necessary to mention it. Yesterday, the situation began to change. This is what union rule would look like:

The state Senators had passed the limited budget bill that included only the collective bargaining provisions. The Democrats had blocked the fiscal portions of the bill by fleeing the state two weeks ago. Walker has had this option since they left but he and Majority Leader FitzGerald, were negotiating with the Democrats in hopes the standoff could be ended. The negotiations (not reported by the MSM, of course) broke down when it became apparent that the Democrats are nationalizing this controversy. Walker then encouraged the Senate Republicans to go ahead with Plan B. They did and the law was signed by Walker yesterday.

Why has this issue been so inflammatory? There are even leftist academics who are advocating serious violence.

My prediction: 10 years from now public higher education, at least in many states, will have ceased to exist. 20 years from now state governments will realize that they still own the buildings and property on their former state university campuses and start charging us rent to use them. 25 years from now citizens will complain that they can’t afford to send their children to college–any college. But by then the peasant class will be so firmly established that it won’t really matter.

Welcome to the 19th century.

Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers’ rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. (Thanks to Steve Nadler for the link.) At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke. (Ted Honderich’s somewhat controversial work on Palestinian terrorism is a recent exception.)

Here is a respected academic advocating political violence on the pattern of the Palestinians. The Cloward-Piven Strategy lives again ! Naturally, the two authors were sociologists.

Why has this rather routine process in a midwest state gotten such national attention? There are at least two reasons. One is that Obama has to win Wisconsin next year to be re-elected. Wisconsin has been a blue state for many years and was the origin of Progressivism with the La Follette family. It is even the origin of the public employee unions, as the AFSCME began there. However, the Republican swept state offices in the 2010 election. Why ?

The wave of red crashed ashore in Wisconsin as well, as Republicans took over the governor’s mansion, a Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and the state legislature.

Political newcomer Ron Johnson defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by a comfortable 5-point margin, and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker took the governor’s office by a similar margin over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Republican Kurt Schuller defeated incumbent state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass, and Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was re-elected.

Secretary of State Doug LaFollette was the only Democrat left standing among statewide officeholders.
Democrats lost control of both houses of the state legislature, making Wisconsin the only state in the nation where Democrats lost a governor’s office, a Senate seat and a complete legislature, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Why the furor ? After all, the issues were not earth-shaking ones.

Why did this happen ?

State taxpayers were concerned about the fiscal situation. Walker had been left a huge deficit by his Democrat predecessor. Some of this was denied by the hard left which said that there was no deficit. This has been disproved.

To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.

Actually, the alleged “new spending consists of promised tax breaks for employers who bring new jobs to the state. No new jobs, no tax breaks. Democrats have trouble with these matters. It requires math. The same left claims that the Social Security Trust Fund actually contains funds.

The rebuttal:

In other words, Walker’s decisions did impact the budget — but not necessarily the budget for this current fiscal year, which is facing $137 million shortfall.

“The vast majority of the cost of those bills … will be in the next budget, the 2011-213 budget, which has not even been debated yet,” says Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.

Instead, this current year’s deficit is mainly due to other factors: the nearly $60 million Wisconsin owes Minnesota, and deficits in various state departments, including the corrections department, the medical assistance program, and the public defenders’ office.

“This stuff [the Walker legislation] will add to the deficit of the upcoming budget, but it has no immediate impact,” says Healy. “Gov. Walker is trying to be responsible and actually do something to try to stop the bleeding. And for anyone to say that somehow he made the current situation worse is just plain wrong.”

Ezra Klein, a 26 year old UCLA graduate with no financial experience seems to be the source of this accusation. Mr Klein would do well to study the matter more, even carefully reading the letter he quotes, before making accusations.

Under the new law, government workers will vote annually on whether they wish to be represented by a union, and the state will not be compelled to extract union dues from employees’ paychecks on behalf of the unions. Health-care and pension benefits for government workers will be set by the people’s elected representatives outside of the union-dominated collective-bargaining process, and wage increases will be indexed to inflation. Government workers still will enjoy salary-and-benefit packages that in most cases exceed what those workers could hope to command in the private sector, along with such hard-to-price benefits as enhanced job security.

That is the real source of the rage on the left: Mandatory union representation, empowered by mandatory collective bargaining and mandatory dues deductions enforced by the state, creates an enormous flow of cash for Democratic political candidates and their pet causes. From 1989 to the present, five of the ten biggest donors to American political campaigns have been labor unions, including public-sector unions such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The overwhelming majority of those donations go to Democrats. The union bosses and their Democratic patrons know that giving workers more of a choice about union representation will diminish that power and reduce that cash flow. That is what this is about, for all of the cheap talk about “civil rights” — as though federal employees in Washington were being treated like second-class citizens because their unions do not enjoy the same princely powers until now wielded by Wisconsin’s

The provisions on union membership and mandatory dues collection are stilettos aimed at the heart of union political power. In Indiana, governor Mitch Daniels decertified public employee unions by executive order when he took office two years ago.

On his first day Daniels reversed an executive order signed by a Democratic predecessor granting collective bargaining rights to state employees. Union membership plummeted overnight. “I think they were happy to have the extra thousand dollars that would have gone to dues,” Kitchell said. Decertifying the public-employees’ union has spared Indiana pressures that have crippled other state governments. Unhindered by union demands, the governor instituted a “pay for performance” scheme, rewarding state employees who met explicit goals with raises ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent. The salaries of underperforming employees stayed flat. No one was fired, but every time a job went vacant a supervisor had to justify hiring a replacement. The number of state employees has fallen from 35,000 to under 30,000, back where it was in 1982.

Here, I think, is the heart of the Democrat/union fury at Scott Walker. Unions, especially public employee unions, are heavy hitters in politics and support Democrats almost exclusively. The push for “card check” by the Obama administration during the last Congress was an example of payback for union support. Private industry unions have found themselves unable to win elections in attempts to organize workers at non-union plants. Therefore, they have tried to get “card check” passed while the Democrats held Congress. Card check is a term for non-secret ballot elections. The voter has to make his vote public and therefore subject to the sort of pressure seen above in the video.

incoming legislators would do well to heed the public’s desire for big government and big labor to step back and allow the free enterprise system and job creators to get our economy moving again.

One of the signature issues of the election was the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” and its “card check” provision that would have effectively eliminated private ballot voting for employees deciding whether to join a union. Poll after poll warned that voters—including union households—would reject any attempt to circumvent the secret ballot, and they made good on their word. More than 40 candidates who had voted for, cosponsored, or endorsed EFCA were asked not to return—including at least 31 who co-sponsored the bill in the 111th Congress.

It is important to note this was an American issue, rather than a partisan issue. In the Senate, eight candidates who supported card check lost while West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who came out against the bill, won. And voters in four states, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, and South Carolina, passed measures to head off any potential efforts to kill secret ballots in their states.

This is an issue related to that in Wisconsin. Unions need money and dues are the “mothers milk of politics” to quote Jesse Unruh, late political power in California. Why do they need money, aside for political power? You will not read this in the NY Times or LA Times but unions are in deep financial trouble.

‘We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama,” declared Andy Stern last month, and the president of the Service Employees International Union wasn’t exaggerating. The SEIU and AFL-CIO have been spending so much on politics that they’re going deeply into debt.

That news comes courtesy of federal disclosure forms that unions file each year with the Department of Labor. The Bush Administration toughened the enforcement of those disclosure rules, but under pressure from unions the Obama Labor shop is slashing funding for such enforcement. Without such disclosure, workers wouldn’t be able to see how their union chiefs are managing their mandatory dues money.

Alarm is coming even from inside the AFL-CIO — specifically, from Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who sits on the AFL-CIO’s finance committee. Bloomberg News reports that he is circulating a report claiming the AFL-CIO engaged in “creative accounting” to conceal financial difficulties heading into last year’s Presidential election. As recently as 2000, the union consortium of 8.5 million members had a $45 million surplus. By June of last year it had $90.6 million in liabilities, or $2.3 million more than its $88.3 million in assets. “If we are not careful, insolvency may be right around the corner,” Mr. Buffenbarger warned.

Here may be the answer to the furious and violent reaction to Scott Walker. The dues provisions and annual election provision may cut union income by up to 90%, especially in a tight economy when that $1000 in dues money could come in very handy. After Mitch Daniels ended mandatory dues collection in Indiana, union dues income from public employees fell 95%. The recent furor and walkout by Democrats in Indiana concerns that new legislation would affect private unions and their dues. Daniels has suggested that the legislature delay this issue for now. The proposals would make Indiana a “right-to-work” state.

By the end of 2008, the SEIU also owed Bank of America nearly $88 million, including its headquarters loan and another $10 million for unspecified purposes. This is the same BofA that the union has spent the past months attacking as the face of Wall Street excess. The SEIU has protested outside of Bank of America offices and demanded the resignation of CEO Ken Lewis. We assume no one forced the SEIU to invest in real estate or borrow from a bank to finance it.

An SEIU spokeswoman says the union works on a four-year cycle, in which it goes “all out for the presidential election” and then rebuilds its finances. She adds the union has paid back more than $10 million of the $25 million it borrowed last year. But it’s nonetheless true that the SEIU’s liabilities have continued to climb each year from 2003 to 2008.

The dues and annual election provisions, if copied by other states in serious fiscal peril, could cut the union movement off at the knees. That is where the fury originates.

No explanation is necessary

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Another underground video is now available. It was a sting, of course, but the length of the video pretty much explains itself.

Here is NPR. No explanation is necessary.

Yes, it is quite clear what they believe.

Preparing the battlefield

Monday, March 7th, 2011

On the day before Emperor Darius planned to battle Alexander at the battlefield of Gaugamela, thousands of slaves leveled the field to assist in the use of chariots with great scythes mounted on the wheels. Darius believed he had not had enough room to use his superior numbers at Isus, the first battle two years before.

It didn’t help.

Now, we see another attempt to prepare a battlefield. The political left fears that Obamacare and its mandate will not survive Supreme Court scrutiny so they are viciously attacking Justice Thomas and Scalia in an attempt to intimidate them. No mention, of course, is made of various speaking engagements and contacts with left wing groups by such members of the Court as Ginsberg (Former ACLU counsel) and Kagan (Obama Solicitor General).

Still reeling from a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to an explosion of political ads from corporate interests and fearful the court could overturn President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, liberal groups have launched an aggressive — and, at times, personal — attack on the court’s most conservative justices.

The sharp questioning of the impartiality and ethics of Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and, to a lesser extent, Samuel Alito, represent the most concerted attack on a bloc of justices since the early 1970s, when conservatives waged a long campaign against the liberal justices of the Warren court, most notably Justices William O. Douglas and Abe Fortas.

Abe Fortas was a crony of LBJ and a labor lawyer. His nomination to be Chief Justice was derailed by ethics complaints that caused him to resign as Associate Justice soon after.

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson, then President, persuaded Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg to resign his seat to become Ambassador to the United Nations so that he could appoint Fortas, his longtime friend, to the Court. Johnson thought that some of his Great Society reforms could be ruled unconstitutional by the Court, and he felt that Fortas would let him know if that was to happen. Johnson and Fortas did collaborate while Fortas was a justice; Fortas co-wrote Johnson’s 1966 State of the Union speech.

Now, THERE is conflict of interest ! All in a good cause, of course. The Great Society that has bankrupted the United States.

Thomas and Scalia have been accused of undermining public confidence in the court by engaging in partisan politics and making decisions that could benefit the political and financial interests of family members and associates. And liberal groups have called on the Justice Department to investigate whether the two justices’ alleged conflicts of interest should have disqualified them from voting in the 2010 decision on political spending, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. One low-profile liberal watchdog group last week asked the Missouri Supreme Court to disbar Thomas.

This is standard Saul Alinsky tactics, of course.

“What we’re seeing is that there is major concern among liberals that the four died-in-the-wool conservatives on the court — with Justice Kennedy, when they’re able to bring him on board — are now in a period of real activism,” said Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and author of a book about the sometimes heated battles surrounding the jurisprudence of the liberal justices appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“In this [modern] context, it’s not so surprising that attacks on the justices would veer from the purely ideological into attempts to delegitimize the justices personally, to some extent,” said Feldman, who clerked for retired liberal Justice David Souter but nonetheless drew fire from the left for a February New York Times op-ed in which he argued that the political engagement of Thomas and Scalia pales in comparison to their predecessors and could, in fact, help better inform their decisions.

No, facts are not of interest. The LA Times has weighed in with the disappointing Jonathan Turley waving the bloody shirt.

This was a rally sponsored by Common Cause, Turley’s sponsor.

Louis XIV of France was infamous for his view that there was no distinction between himself and the state, allegedly proclaiming “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the State”). That notorious merging of personality with an institution was again on display in a February speech by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas before the conservative Federalist Society.

Wow ! Heady company for the poor kid from the South Carolina ghetto.

Thomas used the friendly audience to finally address a chorus of criticism over his alleged conflicts of interest and violation of federal disclosure rules concerning his wife’s income. Rather than answer these questions, however, Thomas denounced his critics as “undermining” the court and endangering the country by weakening core institutions.

In January, Common Cause released documents showing that Thomas had attended events funded by conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch. Thomas was even featured in Koch promotional material — along with Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others — for events that sought financial and political support for conservative political causes.

Horrors !!!

Are you starting to see the pattern ? The Citizens United decision is a proxy for the favors done the left by past campaign finance legislation, including that authored by John McCain. Obama was elected by a flood of unidentified money coming from God knows where. He turned down federal financing after promising to abide by the rules. His campaign TURNED OFF credit card validation software so the source of the contributions could not be traced. Fake names were used. Contributions poured in from other countries including Gaza, controlled by Hamas.

What is interesting to me is that the merchant acquirer has knowingly violated a basic CNP fraud prevention technique to accommodate a merchant (Obama Campaign). I think that both the Associations (VISA & MasterCard) would be highly interested in looking at the merchant acquirer that was processing these transactions. The value of ignoring the AVS responses is that multiple invalid transactions may be made without fear of being rejected by the authorization systems. This means that the real owner of the credit card account is willing to allow multiple transactions to be made on the account using different names and addresses that under normal conditions would be denied. The merchant acquirer has a complete listing of all transactions done and it would be very interesting to see how many transactions were conducted on the same account number using different names. I would think that this would be a Federal violation under the current campaign funding laws.

No, this is unimportant. The election is over and Obama and his friends, whoever they are, won.

What is important is Clarence Thomas and his wife’s job.

Worse yet, Common Cause discovered that Thomas had failed to disclose a source of income for 13 years on required federal forms. Thomas stated that his wife, Virginia, had no income, when in truth she had hundreds of thousands of dollars of income from conservative organizations, including roughly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation between 2003 and 2007. Thomas reported “none” in answering specific questions about “spousal non-investment income” on annual forms — answers expressly made “subject to civil and criminal sanctions.”

In the interests of full disclosure, I was consulted by Common Cause before the release of the Thomas documents. I found the violations regarding Virginia Thomas’ income particularly alarming.

Virginia Thomas was receiving money from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which the court in 2010 struck down limitations on corporate contributions to elections.

A justice is expressly required by federal law to recuse himself from any case “in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” This law specifically requires recusal when he knows that “his spouse … has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.

Virginia Thomas, like the 40% of Greater DC who are not government employees, is a lobbyist. She was before she met Justice Thomas. I was not aware that lobbyists whose clients lose on an issue are fired. She could broadly be construed to have a financial interest in issues that come before the Court but this is not a new issue. They have been married since before he was elevated to the Court and her occupation has not changed.

The present tactic is not new.

In 1991, Thomas returned to government service in the Legislative Affairs Office of the United States Department of Labor, where she argued against comparable-worth legislation that would have mandated equal pay for women and men in jobs deemed to be comparable. That year, her husband, Clarence Thomas was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to fill the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the retirement of Justice Thurgood Marshall. She attended the contentious Senate confirmation hearings and stood by her husband as he was accused of sexual harassment. During the confirmation hearings, several Democratic Senators claimed that her job with the Labor Department might create a conflict of interest for her husband if he was seated on the Supreme Court.

This is just more preparation of the battlefield for the coming Obamacare decision. I expect it to be nasty and vicious and, for Justice Thomas, very personal. The left knows no scruples in gaining an advantage in a struggle.

The same efforts will be made with Scalia but he does not seem as vulnerable. Thomas’ life, and that of his wife, have been the subject of slander and libel since 1991. If you doubt that, take a look at the comments following the LA Times column by Turley. Get ready for the political equivalent of eye gouging and biting as this winds to a conclusion. After all, Obama learned his politics in Chicago.

Some bragging

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I mentioned my daughter (the middle one) who had lived in Spain for a year in a comment to a short post. I thought I would add a photo and some more bragging.

This photo was taken in 2003 on a trip that included England and Italy. She is obviously standing next to the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum.

She is finishing a masters degree in library science at UCLA in June and then will move across town to USC where she will work on her PhD in History, including one more year in Spain. She wants to work on the study of and the cataloguing of Arabic manuscripts from the Andalusian period. She writes and speaks Arabic in addition to Spanish and Portuguese.

Maybe I was hasty about Egypt

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Two weeks ago, I posted a pessimistic piece about Egypt post Mubarak. Now, Austin Bay has posted a pretty optimistic piece that may be better informed than mine. I hope so.

My fear was stated here:

“One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.”

I went on to say:

Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

Austin Bay has the advantage of two more weeks of observation of the rapidly evolving situation. He quotes Haaretz, a rather left wing Israeli newspaper that is more hopeful. Hope is not a policy but Israelis are far more interested in the situation in Egypt than we are. They have to be as they share a border.

The revolution in Egypt is far from over. The popular uprising may have succeeded in ousting president Hosni Mubarak and most of his top associates, but the young people who led the protests at Tahrir Square are certainly not resting on their laurels.

Tens of thousands returned to the square on Friday, this time demanding to shut down the internal security authority, Amn al-Dawla. By yesterday, dozens of young people had already taken over the headquarters of the organization, notorious for terrorizing Egyptian citizens under Mubarak’s rule. The takeover was prompted by fears that organization officials were destroying evidence of their involvement in torture and other human rights violations.

This may be good news but I keep going back to the French Revolution, which set the standards for all revolutions to come.

Until the election, both Israeli and international observers agree Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, remains the key authority in Cairo. The mission facing Tantawi and his generals is to take Egypt safely through a transition period that will culminate with the establishment of civilian and democratic rule. The army is maneuvering between the establishment it knows well and the street, a new and not yet entirely familiar player.

The Army is the best hope for Egypt, as it has been for Turkey. A key factor in our failure to do better in Afghanistan is the fact that a crude and stupid Congressional reaction to the news that Pakistan had a nuclear bomb was to cut off all contact between Pakistan’s army and ours. That was nearly fatal as there are few ties between Pakistani officers and the US army, which are usually established as junior officers. These contacts were abolished by a Congress that knows little about foreign relations, especially those not published in the New York Times.

If we finally have to leave Afghanistan under unsatisfactory conditions, much of the failure should be attributed to Congress and its crude attempts to manage US policy it knows little about.

The following is good news, if true.

The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is seen as the opposition body most prepared for a general election, but the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.

Just keep remembering that the Kerensky government thought it had the Bolsheviks under control in 1917. Bay is still optimistic for another unusual reason.

The article argues that “the real power belongs to the young people [in Egypt] who managed to change political reality.” Media in Israel are missing “the generational shift taking place in Egypt and perhaps the entire Arab world.”

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll– now that’s a universal language. Al Qaeda doesn’t rock and roll. A burka is not sexy. On the twitter-connected Arab street, these may be Al Qaeda’s fatal social flaws. I don’t know what Al Qaeda’s drug policy is (probably pro-hashish), but I know its alcohol policy. Hence one of the most important socio-cultural quips of the first decade of the 21st century: “Democracy, whiskey, sexy.”

But once again back to Haaretz, this time on the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, it will be a factor but “the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.” Interesting analogy. Remember, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is factionalized — but so are ultra-Orthodox Israeli parties.

We will see. I hope he is right. Unfortunately, Turkey is slipping into Islamist hands as the AKP party continues to arrest army officers on phony charges.

Here are Annie and her mother in an Istanbul restaurant. Everybody spoke English and were more than courteous.

I have tried to explain to my daughter Annie how the friendly Turks, who did so much to make her visit to Istanbul pleasant, want to arrest large numbers of Army officers, like the one who gave her a tour of the Scutari Barracks, a major Army headquarters.

This officer is a major, spoke English perfectly and gave her a tour.

I guess I will have to do a post on the history of Turkey for her. She certainly wouldn’t learn anything about it in college. She was 14 when those photos were taken. I wonder if the Turks would be as friendly now. I suspect they are because we were in Istanbul, the westernized and secular part of Turkey.

I hope Egypt will learn a lesson from Ataturk, who is still revered in Turkey, at least modern Turkey.

Lack of blogging

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

This blog, for anyone who stops by to look, has been kind of inactive the last two weeks. I am sick of politics, have been reading Rumsfeld’s book and, in general, am a bit depressed about the future. I fear stupidity may be winning in Wisconsin.