If Carly Fiorina was male, would conservative media pay so much attention? Clearly not, even though her campaign seems to impress those who have had direct contact with the ex-tech leader. Her campaign manager, Frank Sadler, promoted her in the Washington Examiner as:
an articulate, fearless conservative woman who terrifies the Clinton camp and won’t let the liberal media put her in a box
That might be a touch overdone, in terms of the Clinton camp: Fiorina is running 11th in the GOP field and the likelihood of her taking on Hillary as the GOP candidate is about the same as the probability that HP will start giving away ink for free. So should everyone just ignore her until she battles her way into say the top 6 or even top 8 contenders? Maybe not. Battle she will have to, but could it be that some GOP candidates are already thinking of her as a potential Vice President? She is pro-life and a successful, if controversial, business leader. She really really seems to want to get her toe, and why not the rest of herself, into a political office that has the weight to match her ambition. She is not a re-run and she seems to be full of the energy and focus needed to get anywhere in such a crowded field.
The question is can she sustain her campaign and climb high enough in the polls to get into the debates coming up in a month or two? And how do you do that with Trump sucking up airtime with his hard-wired ability to offend, provoke, and hit sensitive topics dead on? Carly Fiorina needs to say something noticeable. She needs an issue that she can leverage to get into the debates. Terrifying Hillary may be that issue, but likely is not. If anyone terrifies Hillary it is Liz Warren, and not Carly Fiorina. Carly is one of the boys in this crowded field and needs to throw a few elbows and raise a little ruckus just like she did at HP. She has the temper to do so, and should not hesitate. She just needs the moment, and the topic. Let’s see how good a scrapper she really is.
Will Greece implode? Will a Grexit cause the Euro to stutter and stumble? Europe has had several years to prepare for such an eventuality. German banks and the German government especially, have had to do a fair bit of stick waving as well as the occasional carrot dangling, seeing they’re up to their necks in Greek debt. The end game may finally be upon us and one hopes the Eurozone will avoid a serious meltdown, having had a few years to prepare for this slow-motion car crash. Whether one agrees with the austere spending cuts demanded by mostly northern members of the Union, the fact is that Greece paints an uncomfortable picture for America.
Yes, the USA owns its own printing press, but people or governments still have to hold the debt that results from years of deficit spending. How high is US government debt? One can argue net vs gross debt, given inter-governmental liabilities like the Social Security Administration’s trust fund, which is soon set to go into the red. The trust fund is not included in net debt definitions. But gross debt is still debt and has to be paid back eventually by taxing citizens and corporations. With gross debt as the statistical measure, the US has about 104% of it’s GDP mortgaged off as future obligations. Greece is now above 150%, but some projections warn that America is on the same statistical path when it comes to debt as Greece was about a decade or two ago.
And the ace up the sleeve of the Treasury Department is the US dollar’s standing as the reserve currency of the world. One has to remember, however, that this status did not magically appear one day as the result of some decree signed by central bankers around the world. Bretton Woods was important but the dollar became the reserve currency because savers around the world, whether individuals or companies or governments, recognized the inherent value of America’s currency. And this was so because America historically had it’s finances well under control, or was able to pay them back promptly when public debt grew rapidly as a result of wartime spending, for example. This is no longer the case. The best that can be hoped for is that entitlement spending – and that includes corporate giveaways and bank rescues – grow at a steady and predictable pace. To actually expect entitlement spending to fall on an absolute level is too radical and too financially prudent to be in the subset of possible policy options.
And the warnings about a Greek style debt debacle right in America may seem statistically distant. People don’t care about the issue do they? Guess what, voters do. And voters understand that a change in say, China’s sovereign wealth fund’s investment policy, would exert dramatic pressure on America’s finances. And the worst part of that is, it’s outside America’s control. Precisely because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, it depends on the faith of the world in America’s fiscal probity. And more than that, it requires that no other exogenous factors – like military conflict – undercut that good faith. The main argument against this happening is that all SWF’s are in the same boat and do not want to sink along with the dollar. That, as any investment fund manager will tell you, is a very dangerous foundation to rest your financial fate on. While not all, or even a majority, of voters would say the USA is bankrupt, they do worry about government dealing with it’s debts. Just like they worry, and deal, with their own personal debts. Policy wonks, please keep that in mind.
When then-Senator Trent Lott first used the term “nuclear option” in 2003 – to refer to using the speaker of the Senate to change or bend the rules to effectively shut down the filibuster option – it was 40 years since Dr. Strangelove had been released. The nuclear threat – still present of course – was less of an immediate danger and more of a metaphor. So it was handy for a senator looking to make a point. Unlike 1963 when the Cuban Missile Crisis was fresh in everyone’s mind.
And now, a little over 50 years since that film, it appears that Ted Cruz wants to make it clear that he’s no Slim Pickens riding the bomb onto the senate floor. That is, Ted Cruz believes that the nuclear option is not necessary when it comes to battling to repealing Obamacare. He would rather go for the funding, or more accurately, he has fought for de-funding in the past in an attempt to stop the healthcare plan put in place by Obama’s administration. He has accused his GOP Senate colleagues back in late 2013 of bombing their own troops to use another wartime metaphor. Ted also fought back against House Republicans when they accused him of giving up the fight against the Affordable Care Act. And throwing the responsibility for defunding Obamacare back to them. He insisted that senate procedural rules meant that then-majority leader Reid only needed 60 votes to end the debate and strip the amendment defunding Obamacare from the bill.
Could the freshman senator have rounded up enough GOP votes in the fall of 2013 on the senate floor? Who knows? Will Senate Majority leader McConnell eventually pay for what went down in the fall of 2013? Right now it seems to be Cruz who has to explain and point back at what he fought for, and convince people why his tactics were right. The battle over how to try and block Harry Reid from stripping the de-funding provisions from the bill that the House brought to the Senate shows how important procedure really is in the upper chamber. And how far legislators have come from the original founding father’s vision of the Senate’s role as a place of “advice and consent.” But for legislators in both chambers, procedure is and has been for some time, a matter of political life and death. Is Obamacare in danger of becoming the third rail of GOP politics? Let us hope not. Because every GOP candidate will have to touch the issue, and will have to do so convincingly. And should be allowed to do so as they see fit.
The sad state of our country took another leap to la-la-land with the backlash following Donald Trump’s remarks about illegal immigration from the Mexican border…notice I said “illegal immigration from the Mexican border,” not “Mexicans.” Our entire country in lost in translation here. His delivery can be received as insensitive, however the context of his opinion and remarks come from facts. And facts and truth are our social society’s biggest nightmare. This just goes to show, once again, you can’t have an opinion without having some sort of hateful label stamped on your forehead. So now Donald Trump is a bigot.
I believe Trump began this topic in reference to the 165,000 illegal immigrants have committed crimes and were released in the United States rather than deported. According to the number from the Department of Homeland Security, deportation has decreased 58% from 2009 to 2014. According to the CBP, in 2014 there were just under 21,000 border patrol agents in the US. Just over 18,156 of them were on the Southwest Border Sector.
Donald Trump did not ever say “Mexicans are rapists.” He said the illegal immigration coming over the Mexican border is bringing too much crime into the country such as drugs, and rapists. The numbers in that Border Patrol staff document from the CBP are more than proof of the truth of the criminal activity Trump is referring to. The truth hurts, and we can’t handle the truth. We’re telling a sad story here these days.
Trump is an international business man. His corporation employs 20,000 people. You think all of his employees are white? Get a grip, America.
It’s hard to know where to start in California. Or more precisely, where to stop. Consider fines for minor traffic tickets. A 25$ ticket can end up in the hundreds of dollars when assessments and surcharges are added. And God help you if you miss a court date due to hospitalization. It is estimated that 4 million state residents have a suspended license due to failure to pay fines. And traffic cops are pressured into pushing the envelope when handing out fines. Never mind that your meter is still valid or you ran into the drugstore to get change, you will be ticketed. Why? It’s all about the state’s dismal fiscal position. Governor Jerry Brown stated that the state budget “is finally balanced — more precariously than I would like — but balanced” back in January. Unfortunately, those who are precariously balanced are low income drivers who need a car to get to work. No license, no car, no job. Welcome to the sidewalk.
How to balance the budget without leaning so heavily on drivers? Forget about spending cuts. There’s a high-speed rail line and carbon footprint reduction waiting to gobble up hundreds of millions, make that billions of state dollars. Utilities will have to produce 50% of their power from renewable sources if Jerry Brown has his way. And then there’s immediate problems like crumbling infrastructure, a battle over university funding with USC president Napolitano (that Napolitano yes) threatening massive tuition increases unless Brown pours hundreds of millions or more her way. And fellow Democrats in Sacramento want more spending on social subsidies, or safety nets as they like to say. And of course, there’s the costs of Obama’s immigration reforms.
So if drivers think that the judicial system – which depends on traffic tickets for a large part of its financing – is going to go easy on them, sorry. In fact, think about it. A judge’s salary and courtroom budget is paid, in large part, out ot the traffic tickets that you are appealing in her or his court. An absurd and unjust conflict of interest if there ever was one. While that great-feared-future earthquake might be California’s worst nightmare at some theoretical point in the future, there is a nightmare going on in the Golden State right now. It’s more a drought-plagued tar pit of fiscal excess, with the economy slowly sinking into the viscous, toxic sludge as state legislators add further burdens to the taxpayer who sinks deeper and deeper into the morass. And no high speed rail system or bundle of carbon-footprint regulatory burdens will ever rescue them. Or help the low income worker who will end up on the street because of a traffic ticket.
The Idaho State Police, or ISP for short, have a problem on their hands. The problem is what kind of problem they have on their hands: is the problem process versus justice; or process as justice; or process before justice? On October 18, 2011 county deputy Scott Sloan was responding to a 911 call – that would be an emergency although it is not clear what the emergency was – and heading down U.S. 30 near New Plymouth, Idaho. That means he was driving fast, up to 115 mph on a 55 mph road, with lights flashing and siren blaring. Up ahead Barry Johnson was puddling along in his 83 Jeep at 24 mph and as the county deputy approached from behind, Barry Johnson turned left, into traffic in other words, and despite slamming on the brakes, deputy Sloan slammed into Johnson’s Jeep still doing 85 mph. Johnson died and an ISP reconstruction – done by state troopers trained and dedicated to the task of accident reconstruction – found that Barry Johnson had been drinking. His blood level was somewhere between 0.053 and 0.1271. The legal limit is 0.08, so by law Johnson was likely drunk and likely got scared and confused by the approaching squad car and turned right into Sloan’s oncoming vehicle.
What followed was an in-house quarrel between primary crash reconstructionist Trooper Quinn Carmack and primary investigator Trooper Justin Klitch, as well as higher ups in the ISP like Col. Ralph Powell and Capt. Sheldon Kelley. Sgt. Rice of the ISP was also tainted by the process. It centers around Carmack’s refusal to include information on Johnson’s alcohol blood level as Carmack felt he could not determine that Barry Johnson’s alcohol level caused or even contributed to the accident. Safe to say that many within the ISP disagreed strongly with Carmack. And it got heated fairly fast, seeing that Deputy Sloan could face serious consequences due to being accused of making an “unsafe pass” and “operating an emergency vehicle in an unsafe manner.” One can read Cynthia Sewell’s detailed account in the Idaho Statesman of how the process itself spun out of control with prosecutors and defense attorney’s playing every questionable move by ISP officers for all it was worth. The charges against Sloan by prosecuting attorney Richard Linville for felony vehicular manslaughter were dropped, however, as the result of two conflicting crash reports: one with the blood alcohol information in it as a result of senior ISP officers pressuring the investigators, and the other original one without it. Prosecuting attorney Linville said the conflicting reports undermined his ability to prosecute the case and so he dropped the charges.
By any reasoned view, how Carmack could decide that alcohol was not a factor in the crash is astounding. But reading Sewell’s article gives one a sense of how far any inquiry – whether judicial or quasi-judicial or otherwise – is nowadays mired in detailed quibbling over process. Detailed quibbling with vested interests at stake. Barry Johnson died, and that is tragic. But ask yourself this: when you need police help in a hurry, do you want your state trooper to drive 55 in case a drunk is gliding down the county road at less than 30 mph? If some prosecutors and some ISP Troopers had their way, the answer would be yes.
How did he do it? GOP aides to every other candidate are asking that question right now. Donald Trump just came 2nd in a recent Fox news poll. In a couple of weeks he surged from around 4% to 11% which places him behind Jeb Bush at 15%. One can imagine that economics has a lot do with it. But it’s also his condition as an outsider, and a well-known one at that. Try these statements Trump made during his announcement:
- I’ll be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created”
- They (China) “kill us. I beat China all the time.”
- “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists, I’m not using donors, I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
Will Trump suck in airtime and force other GOP contenders off of the Fox news Top 10 candidates debating ticket? He already is. In the same Fox news poll, disapproval of Obama’s administration on issues like IS and foreign policy were higher than on economic issues. But at the same time, in terms of specific issues that were a concern to voters, the results listed the price of health care and the nation’s economy around 5 points ahead of Iran and islamic terrorist attacks on home soil. Where foreign policy issues and where domestic economic and health care issues sit in voters’ minds seems hard to nail down. Does Trump’s tough-negotiator persona translate on some level into credibility on foreign issues in voters’ opinions? That seems a stretch, but Trump is compelling, and that means other candidates will have to devise ways to try and make him less so, or lose out on a debating spot later this summer.
Will a majority of GOP voters – never mind voters in general – ever vote for Trump as president? The polls say exactly the opposite, at least a poll back in March where almost 75% of GOP voters said they’ll never vote for Trump. Could it be that they suspect it’s all about ratings for The Apprentice? It certainly could be all about Trump’s cash flow from the series, but his senior political advisor, Corey Lewandowski – who ran voter registration at Americans for Prosperity – says voters want someone from the business world who actually knows how to create jobs. A tough-minded outsider who will deal with China and the Middle East in a no-nonsense manner. Let’s see if this latest Trump creation – Donald Trump as a presidential candidate – is a long-term plot or just a wonderfully obnoxious supporting actor in search of ratings. The rest of the GOP field will be praying for the latter.
Full compensation for seized property was the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s 8-1 decision to rule the USDA’s raisin management program in California unconstitutional. The supply management enacted in 1949, and based on a 1937 USDA program had farmer’s giving a raisin tithe to the government to ensure a stable price for the crop. Marvin and Laura Horne said enough in 2003, and have been waging a battle against the program and the government’s ability to demand a portion of their raisin crop ever since. They won the minds of the Supreme Court, with some skirmishes between Justice Thomas and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. With one exception, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented, saying that the supply management program did not deprive them of all their property rights, and only limited their income.
As a Bronx-raised Nuyorican, it is perhaps unlikely that Sotomayor saw herself as a direct companion in arms of Cesar Chavez and farm worker activism. But as a student activist who fought and denounced her way up the student ladder in Princeton and Yale in the 70’s, she surely saw herself and sees herself, alongside Cesar Chavez, as a pioneer for Hispanic student rights and Hispanic rights in general. It is safe to say that Sotomayor is far from being a libertarian, and despite receiving reviews of her judicial rulings that characterize her rulings as neutral and non-ideological, it is clear that she has no problem with state intervention. Be that affirmative action – of which she was practically a case study in terms of latino students in her years at university – or the conditioning of property rights by a an all-present state.
Aside from wondering how stable raisin prices are of any importance today in a connected global world where agricultural products move from continent to continent, Sotomayor’s stance on property rights is unsettling. Her view seems to be: the Hornes should be grateful the government didn’t take more of their crop. What counts is civil rights, and it’s corollary of activism, rather than property rights. So the ghost of Cesar Chavez is indeed near and dear to Justice Sotomayor’s heart and mind. And that’s hardly surprising.
Look at what Robert Pirsig did. That gun-toting, beer-guzzling, motorcycle-riding, unrepentant smoker who wrote the Zen and the Art of … book that launched a thousand new age fantasies brought Zen philosophy into the prosperous Western mainstream as much as any swami or guru. It was inevitable that, some forty one years after the book’s release, we now have the possibility of a Zen Secretary of the Treasury swearing office in early 2017. The Dali Lama of derivatives, billionaire hedge fund manager Mark Spitznagel, is now on Rand Paul’s team. Spitznagel is an Austrian adherent, that is a devotee of the Austrian School of Economics. To orthodox economists a mere fringe cult. To it’s members they are the key to economic freedom. But Spitznagel takes it to another level: he is a Zen Austrian – perhaps it should be abbreviated as a Zentrian – not to be confused with a centrist which he is not. His book, the Dao (or Tao but Dao is the more acceptable pronunciation of the Chinese apparently) of Capital promises to revolutionize our economic processes like Marx’s weighty and nefarious tome attempted to do some 150 years ago.
Clear your mind of the immediate and change dimensions. You must learn to “perceive a long span of forward moments” and visualize far ahead in time. Stop shouting and pointing on the trading floors of Chicago; you are trapped in a paradox that Swami Spitznagel will solve for you. But you must learn to carefully tread the path. You see, time is a series of coordinated “now” moments like “beads on a string.” Got it? Worried about deflation? Inflation? Unemployment? You are trapped in your paradox. Celebrate the paradox and follow Swami Spitznagel. Late on that project at work? Tell your higher-ups that time is not exogenous, but in fact the endogenous primary factor of things, and that patience is a precious treasure.
Ok, he is a billionaire who started in the pits of Chicago at 22 years old, and he did predict the crash of 2008, but so did others. What would Mark Spitznagel do for the American economy? While he is a very successful trader who understands profoundly the psychology of markets, does that make him a good advisor? Or a good potential Secretary of the Treasury? We will all have time to find out, and to puzzle over his tome, the Dao of Capital, which is entertaining and confusing for those of us who are not born traders. Rand Paul has certainly made a splash with this announcement. Or is that a Zen dive into an intertemporal mind shift?
As Trey Gowdy shows why he was a very successful prosecutor before becoming a legislator, it should be remembered why Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, a flashpoint date for any crazed islamic terrorist. Apparently there was a surplus of budgeted funds that had to be spent before the end of that month when the fiscal year ended. So Stevens found himself in a city besieged by al Qaeda linked terrorists in a hostile nation like Libya that was entering a new unstable phase in it’s violent and corrupt history. Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Smith knew they might die that very night as Smith’s posting on the internet revealed. Benghazi was meant to be a symbol of the new democratic Libya and those Libyans who opposed Gadafi. And Stevens was there to supervise the spending that would help achieve that symbolic and real status for the city. Benghazi was also a strategic point, where arms were smuggled to opponents of Gadafi and into Syria as well. It turned out tragically to be a symbol of bureaucratic bungling and failed security, more than anything else.
But Benghazi is also another example of blowback. Once again, this time far more quickly than in Afghanistan for example, islamic terrorists used the instability to turn on America. This does not mean that because of blowback the US should do a Rand Paul retreat from the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere. That would be a disaster, now and for a long time to come. What it does mean is that politicians with little experience and training in security – in the fullest sense of the word – need to listen to those who do know about how to conduct covert and overt operations in the Middle East and North Africa and other volatile and extremely dangerous regions of the world. That desperate requests for added security were ignored while Clinton tried her hand at playing spy chief is unsettling and must have had, and undoubtedly has, a very demoralizing effect on those in intelligence and the diplomatic service who risk their lives in the service of America’s foreign policy.
But it also must be remembered that CIA personnel arrived late. Bureaucratic delays waiting for the thumbs up from someone higher up in the command chain – yes it was in terms of mere minutes but those minutes likely cost lives – on the part of the intelligence community in place in Benghazi sabotaged the rescue attempt. The amount of assets nearby or reasonably close were overwhelming. They arrived late. All of them. Let us hope that from the tragedy of Benghazi lessons are being learned by all. By Hillary Clinton who seems unwilling to admit the disaster that occurred under her supervision. Or by others actors, who it must be said, often seem to have to operate under the burden of government officials worried more about media coverage than lives at stake.
Jerry Seinfeld recently said he stays away from playing at colleges because the younger generation is too “conservative.” Not politically speaking, but as in they are too sensitive and politically correct. Basically, they can’t take joke, or receive a statement or “opinion” without jumping to conclusions and slapping a label on someone.
You can’t have an opinion anymore. Your statements definitely make you a “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobe,” “misogynist,” “androgynist,” “prejudice,” and labels go on. What happened to having an opinion. You can’t say anything anymore and it’s incredibly disappointing. What is going to happen in these coming years, that people no longer listen to someone’s opinion and actually hear what they have to say. “I respect your opinion, but I disagree,” isn’t part of their dialogue.
If you disagree with immigration policy for “Dreamers” you’re a “racist.” You’re not an American with a vote and an opinion.
Rachel Dolezal is not ridiculous, only deeply misunderstood. She, in fact, stands proudly at the cutting edge of ethnic identity and in the future we will see how limited our perspectives were. It does not matter that she was a blond teenager shyly smiling into the camera in the photograph being paraded unfairly across the media. Unfairly because right next to it is a photo of the real Rachel Dolezal, with curly deep auburn hair and confident eyes staring down the photographer. She is now a complete, rounded adult who has found her inner ethnic identity. It’s not a case of her lying about having actual African-American heritage, along with white and Native American. It’s about that disconnect between one’s inner core and assigned ethnic identity.
Transgender is of course, firmly placed in the mainstream of cultural consciousness. From Navy Seals to Olympians, they are here and they are proud. So why not Transethnics? Rachel Dolezal has always been black. She just did not realize it. And if she has to place fake hate mail packages and create suspect situations of racial harassment or even hate crimes that most likely had not have ever occurred, she points to a more profound truth: the emotional rather than the scientific. Just as rape is not defined by the evidence but by the social construct within which it might occur, so ethnic identity is not defined by one’s genes but rather one’s inner self, one’s chosen ethnic identity.
Rachel has come out of the closet and should be welcomed with applause and support. She needs to proudly state who she is and all she has done for race relations in Idaho and Spokane. And of course, she has a diverse and fascinating academic career ahead of her: Transethnic Studies. She gets to build on her current career as a part-time professor in Africana Studies in Eastern Washington University. That’s not a typo: Africana deals with the African diaspora as well as Africa itself, and now Rachel has through her own pioneering efforts uncovered the far greater diaspora: those around the globe who are black and don’t realize it. Perhaps some of those in the African-American community who have dedicated their lives to combating racism will disparage such a perspective; radical new ideas always meet resistance from entrenched bourgeoisie elites. Fear not professor Dolezal, you are the future.
While he looks like a Madrid banker with his slicked-back hair, Danny Diaz is All-American. As in Washington D.C. born and educated at George Mason University with a degree in communications. Before he entered politics – and yes, with a bang – he was a public relations account executive. So he comes from the ad business but has been a GOP operative for over a decade, and not just any operative. If you believe his biography, subject to revision one suspects, he’s the guy who helped put Roberts and Alito into the US Supreme Court in 2005-6 and assured George W. Bush a handful of key states in 2004. Through the National Hispanic Working Group he helped spearhead the outreach to latinos on the part of Republicans. He was with McCain in 2008 and proudly puts it in his bio at his firm FP1 Strategies. Not featured is his role as a senior adviser to Romney’s 2012 losing effort. His ties with the RNC are close as well.
So Jeb has turned to one of his brother’s advisers to shake things up and shift his campaign out of neutral. Does Diaz get to be Jeb’s Carl Rove? And is this enough, or even the right thing? While Diaz’s ability to absorb terabytes of news and information and print out a continual stream of angles and stories for a waiting press is impressive they say, can he shift conservatives towards Bush? Or does he even care? Is his mission to aggressively broaden Jeb’s appeal and bring in new Republican supporters – among hispanics for example? With his bilingual boss it should be easier to do that than it was for his boss’s older brother.
Perhaps it would be unfair to say Jeb has brought in Los Mad Men: quick-thinking hard-nosed communications experts who are not above playing dirty and have a hispanic heritage to top it all off. But the fact that the substance of Jeb’s positions remain contentious with more than a few GOP voters will be a problem that Danny Diaz will need to use all his skills and then some to solve. Will the Jeb Bush Metrorail become a Manhattan Yellow Cab careening down the primary pathways with a hot young account executive at the wheel? Stay tuned for the first episode.
The Transport Security Administration, or TSA, is in trouble. It’s ex-bosses have denounced it as mired in a bureaucratic ‘morass’ and as being mismanaged, and costly to run. Wetland metaphors abound, and it’s alarming. This is the agency that is charged with operating airport security screening. These are the guys and gals that keep armed terrorists and bombs off the flight you have to take to get where you’re going. Undercover investigators, probing the robustness of the system that the TSA runs, were apparently successful 96% of the time in smuggling fake explosives and (presumably fake) banned weapons through the screening checkpoints. That’s a fail rate of almost 100%.
Imagine Israeli check points producing the same numbers when tested by undercover agents. Wouldn’t happen of course. And Israel is smaller and perhaps – in the sense of the size of the country only – easier to secure logistically compared to the U.S. But Israel is smack in the middle of the world’s most unstable and arguably most dangerous region. A failure at an airport security check leads far more directly to a bombing and/or death than in America.
While some say that privatization is the answer for operating the security checks, while leaving the TSA in charge of overseeing transportation and aviation safety in particular, perhaps Israel can help out America. Is this such a rare thing to say? Couldn’t any private firm specialized in airport security have input from some of the best in the world at security? Of course it would have to clear ACLU challenges and government union protests. But the technology is way ahead of the unions and the bureaucrats. All that’s needed is to use it intelligently and in a reasonable enough way that airports are still a convenient way to get on a flight and not an opportunity to stand in line for hours and hours at a time. Again, the use of biometrics is spreading quickly and is the future of security. Privacy advocates will continue to protest and SciFi films will imagine all sorts of dystopias. But airport security requires operational management that’s as smart as the technology that can identify terrorist, criminals, and any others who are an immediate threat to security.
Let’s be clear, between marine ports of entry, land borders, airports, and even train and bus stations, the TSA and DHS have a huge territory to cover. One that is constantly in motion, 24/7. Why not shed some of that operational obligation to firms that can do it more effectively? And if some of the private sector expertise is Israeli, all the better.
The point isn’t that the latest massive cyberattack came from China. The attack on The Office of Personnel Management that has possibly compromised the personal data of millions of government workers, some of them in key areas, almost certainly originated in China. The question is who exactly in a country of almost 1.4 billion people is doing the attacks. Yes, Chinese hackers linked to specific Chinese military units – PLA Unit 61398 specifically – have been indicted by a federal grand jury, but there may be more than just military-run cyber warfare at play here. According to some, like Bruce Schneier, civilian hacker groups may be just as responsible for security breaches in the U.S. And the problem is far greater than even the Pentagon thinks, according to him. And if the Chinese military “recruits for its organizations from this self-selecting pool of experienced hacking experts”, then the creative pool of malicious talent available to groups like PLA Unit 61938 is deep indeed.
But what happens on this side of the Pacific matters even more. Cyber security experts Sood and Enbody, writing in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs last December, state bluntly, “most software and hardware vulnerabilities are the result of poor coding practices and dearth of security understanding in the developers.” They add, “programmers prefer to have an easy way to access software for recovery purposes such as debugging.” Yes, debugging must be an irksome task for a developer, but dealing with the breakdown of a critical defense system caused by easy backdoor access is a disaster waiting to happen. Software developers need to get on board in a way they perhaps haven’t really bothered to in the past, being above the old-fashioned concerns of the industrial world. Or worse, developers consider espionage and treason as fun and games rather than a life-and-death ethical problem. Any software that has any possible connection to a critical system needs to be as bullet-proof, or spear phishing-proof if you will, as possible. From the moment a developer begins to work on the code. That’s not going to be easy in today’s angry climate, given the backlash to NSA meta-data gathering techniques. But it has to be done, and hopefully is being done. From drones being hijacked, to GPS and logistical systems being compromised, the U.S. Military has the absolute right to demand contractors and developers are up to speed on cyber security. And no one has to listen in on your mobile phone calls to get that done.
Miami Dade College is enormous. Who knew? Those in South Flordia certainly know that the humble beginnings of Dade County Junior College, back in 1959 when Jeb Bush was barely out of kindergarten, have long since been left behind. As Miami morphed into the unofficial capital of Latin America, Miami Dade College has boomed. A key event in that evolution was in 1980 when Jeb Bush was returning from a stint as a banker in Caracas, Venezuela. The Mariel boatlift of Cuban refugees brought around 125,000 exiles to South Florida shores in the fall of that year before Carter – rightly worried about his electoral image – shut the operation down. And Miami Dade College – Florida’s first integrated junior college whose mandate was to give African American and Cuban exiles an education – created an outreach program for the recently arrive exiles. At that time Jeb Bush was working on his father’s vice-presidential campaign but as soon as Reagan and Bush had won, he pulled up stakes and moved to his in-law’s adopted state.
So of course Jeb is going to announce – finally – his presidential bid from Miami Dade College. Immigration and Education all bundled up in one key location in the heart of Miami. Perfect for the man who moved to Miami for love and money and became the adult he is in 2015 in that city and that state. That is, as Cubans transformed Miami into the city it is today – for better and for worse – Jeb was right there, building his wealth through a variety of enterprises, some linked to his political capital, and becoming the perfectly bilingual speaker that he is – with a Cuban and not a Mexican accent to boot. It is clear that he is not backing down an inch from his policy platform in the face of conservative criticism and will use the opportunity on June 15 to stake his territory as a moderate GOP candidate with lots of history on his shoulders. The Jeb Express is no high-speed bullet train, but rather a Metrorail, elevated above the squabbling of his petty competitors and gliding smugly through the muggy Miami air. First stop – Common Core and Immigration folks!
There’s a storm in Kansas, with howling winds and tornadoes ripping up the wheat fields and leaving devastation in its wake. Yes, it’s the Great Kansas Budget Crisis of Twenty Fifteen! Enormous tax cuts enacted by Gov Brownback back in 2012 – 2013 has slashed top state income taxes from 6.49% all the way down to 3.9%! That’s two and half percent! Ok, it’s about a 40% reduction in what was already a fairly low income tax rate. And at the low end of the income tax scale, it was reduced a little over 34% from 3.5% down to 2.3%. And some taxes on small business were eliminated. In the resulting shortfalls spending on some programs has had to be cruelly slashed by 4%. 4%!! And contributions to state pensions had to be trimmed slightly meaning the beneficiaries of those pensions have to invest a touch more of their own money into their future retirements.
Is this a true crisis? Or is this cooked up storm with it’s gnashing of teeth over education – itself the meat of a judicial battle between the state supreme court and the lower courts – and a few relatively modest cutbacks? Some school districts have had funding reduced and it seems the state government has had to slow down “funding increases for entitlement programs” in the words of the New York Times. Slowing down the rate of increase seems hardly a devastating cutback to entitlements. In fact, it’s not a cutback at all.
So the debate over how to save money seems to center on education, where funding has been selectively cut. And on how to get a little more out of slightly less. But education in Kansas seems to have an enshrined right to total spending goals that must be met, come hail, floods, locusts, or God forbid, tax cuts. Some GOP state lawmakers have complained that business has not moved quickly enough to their state in response to the tax cuts. Perhaps they should remember Reagan’s legacy: the one that lasted well into Bill Clinton’s presidency and did the hard work of providing the incentives for innovation that would later transform the economy in the 90’s. Supply side economics works, but over several political cycles. Gov. Brownback needs to prove that he’s as tough as he likes to look. And quick draw every liberal trying to exaggerate the shortfall in the hope of raising taxes to enable raising spending, to raise taxes to raise spending, and onward and upward in what is a true fiscal tornado. One that slowly twists and turns and sucks in everything in it’s path.
The Georgetown Business Improvement District, or BID, wants a pie-in-sky solution to traffic problems in historic, tony, and expensive Georgetown. As in Washington DC. In fact, it’s a gondola-in-the-sky solution that would have the metal and plastic bubbles you see on ski hills, suspended from cables, crossing over the Potomac river and bringing pedestrians to and from Rossyln, in Arlington, Virginia. There’s a D.C. Metro stop in Rossyln, unlike in Georgetown which is pleading for one. But until the subway comes to Georgetown, whenever that is, D.C. Council has funded a $35,000 feasibility study on using Gondolas to alleviate congestion on Key Bridge and get pedestrians between the two well-heeled neighborhoods.
One wonders how effective gondolas would be at moving reasonably significant numbers of pedestrians between the two shores of the Potomac. Perhaps Durham boats manned by history buffs could be just as effective, seeing they would be a lot cheaper than the estimated $ 50 to $ 80 million the Gondolas would cost. And about as fast as gondolas as well. Not particularly stable at high speeds, to put it mildly, gondolas have been used in hilly areas and amusement parks for good reason: they are slow and carry few people at a time. But then again, maybe the aim is not to carry large amounts of pedestrians between the two neighborhoods but rather the (un)elected few. As in Georgetown University academics lucky enough to live in Rosslyn, who could gaze thoughtfully down at the water as they slowly cross the river on the way to and from work.
If, on the other hand, it is meant to move large numbers of commuters, a gondola seems expensive and absurd. But perhaps there is a way out. The Potomac Gondola – or whatever they name it – could serve as a tourist attraction as well by combining it with Exorcist film locations. Perhaps it could cross near 3,600 Prospect Street, the house where all that head-spinning action took place. It’s almost next to the river and very close to Georgetown University campus. Perfect for tourists, students and staff! And when a Metro stop for Georgetown is finally built – at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion – the gondola can continue as a tourist trap. Literally. Imagine being stuck in a suspended gondola in mid-winter when the system fails, staring down at the icy waters of the Potomac. Or at that house at 3600 Prospect Street. Who wouldn’t pay for that?
Maybe it’s his Italian and Irish heritage, but anyone a few years from sixty has no right to look as good as Rick Santorum does. Of course, the Oval Office tends to add gray hairs in a hurry to it’s occupants and now that Santorum is officially in the race, we can speculate on how he would deal with the pressures of the top job in the country. And how many gray hairs he will have should he make it to the presidency. But then again, maybe just maybe, Rick Santorum’s faith and values give him an inner strength that shines through. Like Ben Carson, he’s a true social conservative. Unlike Ben Carson, he is an experienced politician with a Senate record.
Which means that all his political missteps and controversies are public knowledge and will be dredged up again on the campaign trail. His success with female voters is a question mark, as his staunch, conservative Catholicism puts him at odds with most liberals and moderates on gender issues. As well as gay issues, and questions of faith and education, as well as his sharp criticism of pornography which has been ridiculed by some and disregarded by many. His choice of home schooling for his children will sit well with evangelicals but may provide an attack point for more moderate rivals. For more moderate rivals to defend themselves from Santorum’s fierce defense of his positions that is. His faith in his own positions almost seems to compel him to seek confrontation in order to see who is with him and who is against him on any given issue. While George W. Bush may have used that phrase, Santorum seems to live by it every single day. As if it wasn’t a choice.
Will Santorum be a viable choice for GOP candidate to the presidency? 2012 was literally a passion play for the man who had been the Republican leader in a very close race up to his withdrawal for reasons intimately tied to his faith and his family. Santorum is back four years and some six weeks after his leaving the race to be with his daughter. To say the GOP field is very different this time around is an understatement. To assume that Rick Santorum will be one more in a crowded field would be a mistake, however. Rick Santorum seems compelled to run for president. As if he had no choice but to do so.
God bless the Justice Department for charging fourteen FIFA officials with corruption. That is, with nurturing “a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for the biggest sport in the world.” While baseball, for example, has certainly had it’s share of scandals over the years, they have tended to be fixed with rigorous and thorough responses on the part of the league itself or of the courts. Is baseball as clean as a pitcher’s mound the morning of the first game of the season? No, clearly not. But the capacity, and more importantly, the will to ensure a reasonable sense of order and justice prevails over that pastime so central to life in America. And in other professional sports, even if to a lesser extent, in professional boxing.
Apparently the Zurich-based organization has over $1 billion in cash on hand. A cash ratio that is a touch on the conservative side, given that FIFA has revenues of around $1 billion a year. If you believe their books. If they actually have books that would pass even a modest audit done by say your grandmother, who happens to be a retired bookkeeper. About 15% of that billion dollars is at stake in this indictment, and where those tens of millions of dollars came from and where they went, is something we may actually discover over the process of the FIFA Fourteen’s trial. Professional soccer is awash in corruption and has been for decades if not generations. And FIFA is part of the problem, not the solution. So far President Sepp Blatter has not been charged, but if the Swiss actually cooperate fully with the Justice Department, who knows where this will end?
And the problem is far more than a playing field that is not level. The playing field is soaked with bloody violence from hooligans – especially in South America where the English (Irish to be specific) problem has reached far and wide into the very structures of the clubs and Conmebol – to Asian gamblers cutting the stadium lights after half-time to guarantee a favorable score stays that way, to players throwing games, to corrupt referees everywhere, including Germany’s 2nd division. To vote-buying in FIFA and on and on. While media commentators have delighted in descending on American athletes who have – willingly or unwillingly – ingested banned substances, whether cough medication or steroids, corruption is so profound in soccer that there is a resigned acceptance of the fact in most of the world, including the media. Let us hope that the Justice Department brings some of the clarity and zeal they have brought to baseball to the seething, decadent world of football association football (that would be soccer). It is long past time for an honest accounting at FIFA.