Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Happy Prediction, but NC doesn’t contribute

The Washington Post’s Elections Lab project attempts to analyze the prospects for future elections.  Less than a week ago they posted their latest prognostications for the 2014 fall elections in the U.S. House and Senate.  I was encouraged to see that they are now forecasting the continuing Republican control of the House as a near certainty, and the takeover of the Senate (52/48) as an 86% likelihood.  On the downside, North Carolina does not contribute to the projected happiness, as they believe Kay Hagan to be the probable winner in our Senate race.

The WaPo Elections Lab site is HERE, including a lovely graphic showing their projections by state.  Note the distinction between their prediction certainty categories of “likely” versus “leaning”.

Now, how’s about approving that Keystone Pipeline?

Laura Barron-Lopez is reporting at The Hill that the Department of the Interior has now given the go-ahead for acoustic sounding equipment to be used for oil and gas exploration on the Atlantic seaboard.  The news, reported HERE, seems to be a promising development in the efforts to find oil and gas deposits offshore as well as inland.  Here in North Carolina, the recent discoveries are all in the Sandhills region, but many experts believe that even larger reservoirs are to be found offshore.

Beaufort July 4th Parade, on July 5th

Because of the incertainty of how Hurricane Arthur would affect the Friday morning weather, the parade officials postponed the parade for 24-hours.  So, all the floats queued up on Front Street during the mid-morning hours of Saturday amid blue skies and perfect weather.  There was a good crowd, and the CCTPP members sitting on our float (pictured below while waiting in the queue) dispensed a lot of candy to the kids.  From the fixed kiosk on Courthouse Square, Diane also dispensed miniature flags and pocket constitutions.

Beaufort_July4thParade_CCTPP_Float

Here’s hoping next year’s parade goes off as scheduled, with even bigger crowds.

Sigh: A New Factor in the Climate Change debates

Climate change in general, and polar ice in particular, is affected by so many factors that it is difficult to isolate the magnitude of the contribution made by each, and whether the contribution tends to increase or decrease warming.  Among the things that we now suspect may contribute are earth wobble, solar flares, dust & soot, sun spots, deep ocean volcanic vents, cow farts, and the vast amounts of hot air emanating from Congress.

Watts Up With That, which bills itself as the “world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change”, has up a new article by climate journalist Harold Ambler noting the fact that the Antarctic now has a record-breaking area of sea ice.  The article itself is interesting, but one item from the comments section snagged my attention.  It was posted by someone using “NZ Willy” as the identity assumed for purposes of posting their comment, which deals with the operational details of one or more of the Earth Observation Satellites (WikiPedia list is HERE).  The main excerpt from the comment is as follows:

Just a brief reminder about the polarizing lens on the orbiting satellite.  Before 2008 the Arctic ice extent charts showed an upwards bump on July 1st when the polarizing lenses were switched from Antarctic to Arctic mode — this was so that Arctic melt ponds would not be interpreted as open water.  The reverse switch was on January 1st so was not evident on the charts because it was at the edge [of the chart].  Anyway, people complained about the bump so they decided to “improve” the chart by gradually turning the polarizing lens.  This rapidly became carte blanche for turning the lens any way they wanted, and accounts for much of the symmetry seen nowadays — when the Arctic ice anomaly rises, the Antarctic anomaly falls, and so on.  Today we see the Antarctic ice anomaly rising to record levels even as the Arctic ice anomaly is oddly dropping even as the ice edge is strong — this is because the Arctic ice concentration has dropped to about 75% – 80% all across the ice cap — because the melt ponds are all being interpreted as open water (see the washed out orange color on the ice concentration map).  It’s just that they’ve (presumably) turned that polarizing lens all the way into Antarctic mode to report as low an Arctic ice area as possible -– which thus causes the reported Antarctic ice extent to skyrocket.

Astute readers will immediately have cause to wonder about the climate credentials of NZ Willy, as I did.  So I undertook some investigation by means of several web searches, and I have concluded that, among all the contenders, the most likely identity of NZ Willy is:

1]  Dr. William Gray, 84 year old Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, whose intimates may or may not call him Willy, and who may have deceived the world for all these years into believing that he WAS NOT from New Zealand;

2]  Dr. Willie Soon, Astrophysicist and Geoscientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a Willie, but a Willie with no known connection to New Zealand, and;

3]  some guy from New Zealand

Unless NZ Willy does the right thing and steps forward to reveal his true identity and qualifications, the veracity of the claims made in his post will be open to question by some.  As for me, however, I have now added “Polarizing Weather Satellite Lens” to my list of the usual suspects.

What is Genius, and why is it linked to Mental Instability?

Genius takes many forms.  The accomplishments of the people that are thought of as today’s genius’s (like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, etc.) are different from the accomplishments of the historical figures (Michaelangelo, da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, etc.), but all of these people seem to share the attribute of very high levels of creativity.

In the world of the 21st century, psychiatry is informed by brain science, and among the developments that have helped to advance brain science is the MRI.  With the MRI, it has become increasingly possible to zero in on the precise areas of the brain that are involved in specific tasks, and specific types of reasoning.  Through these methods and others, psychiatric researchers now understand that there are different types of creativity, and that high levels of creativity have only a very loose correlation with intelligence.  Or to put it another way, highly creative people have intelligence quotients ranging upwards from about 120 on the Stanford-Binet, but beyond that, the accomplishments of such people (the genius factor) is not linked to their IQ.

Unfortunately, highly creative people also share a tendency toward mental health problems, and it is this association that University of Iowa neuropsychiatric researcher Nancy Andreasen is most interested.  The nature, underpinnings, and findings of her research is extensively revealed in the article she recently wrote for publication in the current edition of The Atlantic magazine.

Herewith, two excerpts, the first on the nature of creativity:

One approach, which is sometimes referred to as the study of “little c,” is to develop quantitative assessments of creativity—a necessarily controversial task, given that it requires settling on what creativity actually is.  The basic concept that has been used in the development of these tests is skill in “divergent thinking,” or the ability to come up with many responses to carefully selected questions or probes, as contrasted with “convergent thinking,” or the ability to come up with the correct answer to problems that have only one answer.  For example, subjects might be asked, “How many uses can you think of for a brick?”  A person skilled in divergent thinking might come up with many varied responses, such as building a wall; edging a garden; and serving as a bludgeoning weapon, a makeshift shot put, a bookend.  Like IQ tests, these exams can be administered to large groups of people.  Assuming that creativity is a trait everyone has in varying amounts, those with the highest scores can be classified as exceptionally creative and selected for further study.

And the second, on the subject of the book and movie by the same title:

In A Beautiful Mind, her biography of the mathematician John Nash, Sylvia Nasar describes a visit Nash received from a fellow mathematician while institutionalized at McLean Hospital.  “How could you, a mathematician, a man devoted to reason and logical truth,” the colleague asked, “believe that extraterrestrials are sending you messages?  How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world?”  To which Nash replied: “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did.  So I took them seriously.”

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses.  Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.  And some people, like John Nash, are both.

The full article, HERE, is lengthy, but worth the time to read.  And inquisitive readers may wish to supplement Andreasen’s views with those of Harvard professor and developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, as presented on WikiPedia, HERE.

Interim Report on Governor McCrory’s NC-GEAR Initiative

Earlier this week, Laura Leslie of WRAL put up an article, HERE, reporting on NC-GEAR Director Joe Coletti’s appearance before the NC General Assembly’s joint Program Evaluation Oversight Commission to elaborate on the Interim Report that was published in April.  NC-GEAR is a program initiated and favored by Governor McCrory, and the initial budget was established in last year’s General Assembly session at four million dollars.

A few days after the WRAL article was up, a friend wrote reminding me that, even before I retired from NC state government in 1995, there was a somewhat similar program (known as the Employee Suggestion System) to incentivize state employees into suggesting measures to save state funds.  That program is still around, and it is now known as the NC-Thinks program (I know, so easily parodied).

As my friend pointed out, this would seem to present an obvious case of program duplication that should be reported to the administrators of Governor McCrory’s NC-GEAR program.  So I did.  I went to the website, HERE, clicked on the Great Seal of NC logo, and keyed in the following text:

I am sure that I will not be the first to point this out to you, but there is already a state program that incentivizes state employees to make suggestions to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of state government operations.  The program is NC-Thinks, and it seems to be very similar in concept to Governor McCrory’s NC-GEAR initiative.

However, there is one clear distinction that may prove crucial.  The NC-Thinks programs offers rewards, cash and non-cash, to employees if their suggestions are adopted.  It therefore seems likely that an employee who comes up with a good idea will opt to submit it to NC-Thinks rather than to NC-GEAR.

There is, of course, an obvious solution.  Simply fold the NC-Thinks program into NC-GEAR, particularly the policy of offering rewards (of up to $20,000 cash for a truly blockbuster idea) in order to continue incentivizing employees.

In addition to the elimination of redundancy, there would seem to be another potential advantage to this consolidation.  The NC-Thinks program has been around for a long time (although under different names), so the staffers who currently work on the program may very well have some experience that would prove very useful to the NC-GEAR management.

In the various boxes asking who would be effected by my suggestion, I entered General Government, Citizens and Employees, and Cost Savings.

I followed up by sending an e-mail message to my General Assembly representatives, Representative McElraft and Senator Sanderson, alerting them to my civic-minded act in furtherance of Governor McCrory’s pursuit of state government efficiency.  I now sit back to await my gold star, and to see whether my suggestion is in any way incorporated into NC-GEAR’s final report, due in mid-February.

And by the way, dear reader, if you are also interested in improving the efficiency of NC State Government, this is your opportunity to sound off.

Hilarity from Hillary

Many pundits are having fun with Hillary Clinton’s recent declaration that she and Slick were dead broke when they left the White House.Hillary_DeadBroke  Kathleen Willey, however, takes a more serious poke at her, HERE, and understandingly so.  It was the severe financial straits in which she and her husband found themselves that caused Mrs. Willey to go to the oval office to beg Slick for a paying job, only hours before her husband succumbed to his depression and committed suicide.

Hillary apparently did not think her mid-December 2000 advance of $8,000,000 from Simon & Schuster for her memoirs, a deal that was reported by the New York Times, HERE, was worth mentioning.  Nor did she acknowledge that on the day they exited the White House, his annual pension of $150,000 took effect, as did her Senate pay of $145,000.  But piffle, at this point, what difference does it make?

Fox News has the damning details of her lie, HERE.  Check it out.

Choosing between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan — Must we?

Unfortunately, yes, we must.

I will not try to pretend that Thom Tillis, in and of himself, is a desirable candidate from the perspective of a conservative.  Tillis is a moderate, and if elected this fall, can be expected to behave in office much as other moderates have behaved, moderates such as Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr.

But in this instance, we conservatives cannot consider Tillis’ candidacy in isolation.  We must acknowledge the basic fact that, however disgusted we may be at the prospect of sending another moderate, go-with-the-flow Republican off to Congress, the alternative is another six years of Kay Hagan, and probably of Harry Reid.

This choice is made even harder by understanding that Thom Tillis is fully aware that we conservatives, if we vote at all for a senatorial candidate in the voting booth this fall, will feel constrained to vote for him if and when we face up to the fact that Hagan is the only viable alternative.  His strategy during the primary campaign was predicated on that assumption, and he did not even tip his hat to the Tea Party wing of the GOP.

So, tea partiers, welcome to the real world.  Man up, get your mind right, and prepare to do what we must do this fall.  If it helps any, think of it as denying the election victory to Kay Hagan, rather than awarding it to Thom Tillis.

In the days after the primary election earlier this month, defeated 3rd Congressional District candidate Taylor Griffin, a classy guy, posted an excellent summary of why an attitude adjustment is vital to our goals for the fall election:

The 2014 primary election is over, the votes are in and the Republican slate for the fall is decided.  It’s tough to lose, I should know.  But, it’s time to start thinking about what to do next.

The focus now turns to the fall elections.  We have Supreme Court Justices on the ballot and a Senate race that very well may decide the shape of the Senate for the last two years of the Obama administration.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.  Whether you supported me or Jones, Brannon or Tillis, now is the time to put our disappointment behind us and band together as conservatives for what’s best for the cause.

Allowing Kay Hagen to win another term in office leaves Harry Reid in charge.  As Senate Majority Leader, he’ll be in a position to block every move we make in the House.  If we want to check Obama’s executive power, repeal Obamacare, restore constitutional principles, and start getting spending under control, it starts now.  

I plan to do whatever I can now to support every Republican on the ballot, from Walter Jones to Thom Tillis.  If we stand on the sidelines and allow Kay Hagen to prevail, we will only have ourselves to blame when we wake up and find Harry Reid still in charge of the Senate and Obama able to continue to press his liberal agenda forward.

Primaries are about selecting the candidate that represents our party.  While the outcome might not be what we want, we can all agree that the Republican nominees are far superior to the alternative.  Let’s put our disappointment aside.  I’m ready to get to work and hope you are too.

Politics ain’t pretty, but we all know what is in the overall best interest of the country.  So, in the immortal words of Roger Miller, “knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, DO IT”!

Common Sense from the NC Coastal Resources Commission

As most folks along the North Carolina coast are painfully aware, homeowner and flood insurance rates have been rising rapidly due in large part to the factoring in, by the insurance companies, of the Sea-Level Rise (SLR) predictions from past years.  In compliance with state legislation passed by the Republican majority in 2012, however, the state Coastal Resources Commission has re-examined the issue, deciding on a less ambitious projection period of thirty years rather than one hundred.

The full article, from the News-&-Observer, is HERE.

General Assembly Adopts New Rules for Citizen Visitation

Laura Leslie of WRAL news is reporting on new rules that were adopted earlier today by the NC legislature, rules that will affect citizens visiting the Legislative Building while the General Assembly is in session, particularly activist groups.  Among the highlights of the rules adopted for immediate effect by the re-activated Legislative Services Commission (LSC) are:

Some of the changes address old rules that judges have ruled unconstitutional, such as a prohibition on hand-held signs in the building.  A judge ruled the ban was a content-based restriction on speech, which violates the First Amendment.  Another discarded rule bans the public from the second floor of the Legislative Building.  

Other changes, backers say, are simply a reflection of current practices, such as the codification of the reservation procedure for groups wishing to protest at the front of the building.

But there are additional changes that go further.

Under the new rules, any group making enough noise to interfere with conversation at normal conversational levels is creating a “disturbance.”  Singing, clapping, shouting, and using a bullhorn are offered as examples of disturbing behavior.  All were common during Moral Monday protests in the building last summer.

The new rules also allow police or staff to order people to leave the building if they think those people pose an “imminent threat” of a disturbance, even if they haven’t done anything.  If the visitors don’t leave, they can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.  The term “imminent threat” isn’t defined in the rules.

Representative Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), the Chairman of the LSC, emphasized that the citizenry will continue to have full public access to the building and to their elected representatives, while ensuring that the legislators and their staff members are able to work effectively on the public agenda.  He also said that:

“We can’t allow situations where folks would crowd the doors and keep folks from getting onto the House floor or the Senate floor.”

To the predictable protests from the Moral Monday activists, Moore responded:

“Folks can gather all around this building anywhere they want.  In fact, it’s good to see people here.  That’s not what this is designed to do.  Folks will still be here protesting on Monday.  They’ll be able to protest lawfully in the way they’ve done in the past.  The issue with the Moral Monday protest for the few that got arrested was that they were in an area creating a disturbance at a particular time.”

For the full article, click HERE.

Diane Rufino’s Outstanding Essay on “How A Republic Dies”

As some of us will remember from our history readings, the Roman republic was, after the much earlier coalition of Greek city-states, the best known experiment in democratic government from the ancient world.  And to the progression of Rome from a republic to an empire, even setting the stage for it’s eventual destruction, the reign of the Roman general and dictator Julius Caesar was pivotal.  Today, historians recognize Caesar as a military genius.  Through force of arms, he expanded the republic northward all the way to the English Channel, and eastward to the Rhine river in what today is west-central Germany.

The death of Julius Caesar in 44-BC coincided roughly with the period in which Rome was transitioning from a republic to an empire, from a democratic form of government to an autocracy, but together, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire lasted almost a thousand years.

Late last year, Diane Rufino posted a very good, very entertaining essay about the years between the reign of Julius Caesar and the demise of the Roman Empire about five hundred years later.  Here is an excerpt:

… Caesar left Rome after his term as consul ended to take up a governorship he demanded in southern France.  Ignoring the orders of the Senate, he raised his own army, and led a path of conquest throughout all of Gaul.  Marc Antony, another brilliant general, was with Caesar at this time in Gaul and was making a name for himself.

After eight years, word grew that Julius Caesar was returning home.  The Senate was afraid that he would bring his army and march on Rome and pleaded with Pompey to organize resistance.  But Pompey was torn.  Caesar was his friend.  His wife was Caesar’s daughter and he loved her deeply.  But Pompey did as asked and began to build an army.  Unfortunately he could not do so in time and when Caesar marched into Rome, Pompey was forced to flee.  Caesar eventually bought off, threatened, or intimidated members of the Senate, and at his command, they crowned him Emperor and gave him concentrated powers for a period of ten years.  The people began to call him a tyrant.  Senators called him a tyrant.  Caesar countered by assuring them that he needed the power “to save the republic” and that after the ten years was up he would turn control back to the Senate.  He didn’t trust the Senate …

Settle in, and read the whole thing at Rufino’s blog, HERE.

This Week’s CCTPP Meeting Highlights (04/08/2014)

This week’s meeting was well attended, but very short due to the necessity of many members needing to attend another meeting that began at 7pm.  Nevertheless, the members were able to hear again from Board of Education candidate Janiece Wall, and to get in some informative Q-&-A with her.

The highlights, according to my notes, recollections, and follow-up:

Mrs. Wall is opposed to Common Core, and is particularly opposed to the curriculum changes that will be a consequence of it’s implementation.

She said that she was concerned about the Carteret County Schools budget, and that she would delve into the system’s budgets in an effort to understand them and to glean cost savings therefrom.

Although she could not think of any specific instances or issues with which she has or would disagree with Superintendent Dan Novey, she declared her willingness to do so when necessary.

When I posed subsequent questions on the issues of tenure and salaries her responses were as follows, with my slight editing for brevity and clarity:

CCTPP-QUESTION:  We have been told that North Carolina is “46th in the nation” in teacher pay.  It is a misleading statistic, however, as … no adjustments are made for state and regional costs of living, for differences in benefits, or for miscellaneous supplements.  So the question is, do you believe that the teachers in Carteret County are underpaid?

JW-ANSWER:  Yes, I believe all competent teachers in NC are underpaid.  Teachers are expected to go beyond the classroom every day in their duties.  Some examples are lunch duty, bus duty (morning & afternoon), teacher’s meetings, seminars, and parent conferences (without any comp time being given).

CCTPP-QUESTION:  The NC General Assembly enacted legislation last year that included … an attempt at converting teacher remuneration to a more merit based system that offered … bonuses to higher-performing teachers.  A condition was that teachers would have to give up … the tenure system over a period of time.  The two questions I have are, first, do you consider tenure to be a vested property right of teachers who have been awarded it, and second, do you favor or oppose the abolition of teacher tenure?

JW-ANSWER:  I believe we can continue to reward great teachers with tenure while removing unqualified teachers from the classroom.  Tenure should be earned by the teacher and given as a reward for excellence in the classroom — not guaranteed to all teachers after a few years of service.  A new teacher in NC is not considered for tenure until she enters her fourth year of teaching.  During the first three years, a mentor is assigned to evaluate the teacher with an assessment tool provided by the State.  If during this time, the teacher does not meet the State standard, tenure should not be given.  If a teacher is given tenure and becomes complacent in the classroom, there are legal alternatives to terminate her contract.

This account will conclude the posts devoted to assessing the ideological alignment of the primary candidates with the values and preferences of the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots.  Our members will vote soon, and our selections will be named in about a week or so.

A final thanks is in order to all the candidates who were willing to appear at our group meetings to expose their personal backgrounds and policy beliefs to the scrutiny of our members.

Schedule Set for 1st NC-GOP Senate Candidate Debate — But Is Harris Included? [ BUMPED ]

The Charlotte Observer has posted notice of the first scheduled debate between the primary candidates for the Republican nomination, all of whom hope to be the Republican challenger this fall to NC Senator Kay Hagan.  The debate, which is also co-sponsored by the Raleigh News-&-Observer and Time-Warner Cable News, is to be held April 23nd on the campus of Davidson College in Davidson, NC, about 20 miles north of Charlotte.  The line-up of debaters is to include Greg Brannon, Mark Harris, Heather Grant, and in the cow’s tail position, Thom Tillis.

The online notice, HERE, includes additional information to include the time and specific location for the debate, parking information, an online registration form, and a space for those who might wish to pose a question to one or more of the debaters.  Note that attendance is free, but attendees MUST PRE-REGISTER.

 

UPDATE

As you may have heard, one of the three sponsors for the debate, WRAL, has dismayed many conservatives by shutting candidate Mark Harris out of the debates on the grounds that, according to one of their polls, he had less than the requisite 7% share.  The Harris campaign is determined to get WRAL to reconsider, however, in light of the following:

1)  Candidate Harris has exceeded WRAL’s polling threshold three times since November 2013, most recently in March immediately following WRAL’s anchor poll.   
 
2)  Real Clear Politics averages every poll conducted for the race, and Harris finishes a close third in that average by just 2.7%.  And this is before any of Harris’ planned political advertising hits the media!
 
3)  Two polls since WRAL’s anchor poll show that Harris is the only candidate on the rise, while others are sitting stagnant or slipping.  In fact, the most recent polling shows Harris above WRAL’s threshold, and it was even conducted by the same polling firm, Survey USA.

I think it is likely that WRAL is excluding Mark Harris in order to help Thom Tillis get the requisite 40% share of the primary vote.  If you want to help persuade WRAL to reconsider their exclusion of Harris, here is the contact information:

Telephone the WRAL Assignment Desk:  919/ 821-8600
E-Mail them at AssignmentDesk@WRAL.com
Berate them on their Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/wraltv
And if you are a twit, tweet them at:  www.twitter.com/WRAL

Arise, tea partiers, and loudly voice your outrage at this transparent liberal attempt to sway the upcoming Republican primary election!  Also, pre-register for the debate if you think you would want to attend in the event that Mark Harris is one of the debaters.

FURTHER INFORMATION

I am not a twit, but I contacted WRAL by all the other three methods.  Below is the text of my e-mail message, Facebook post, and my telephone rant.  Feel free.

Dear WRAL Management:

You people should be ashamed of yourselves for so blatantly displaying your favoritism toward Thom Tillis by excluding Mark Harris from the April 22nd Senate primary debate.  Harris is a viable contender and  among the frontrunners, so you are excluding him in order to help Tillis reach the magic 40% vote total.  Your actions indicate a disgraceful bias, and you ought to reverse this decision.

If you telephone, state the subject matter (Exclusion of Candidate Mark Harris from the Senate Primary Debate) when the operator first answers.  She will immediately connect you to a recording.  After the recorded message is done, wait for the beep, then speak your piece.

Senate Intelligence Report: Torture didn’t lead to bin Laden. Jose Rodriguez says different. [BUMPED]

Earlier this week I posted the paragraph below under a title that was comprised of the first sentence in the current title.

That’s the title of THIS piece from Bradley Klapper of the Associated Press.  However, the article does not reveal what I think is a critical question when evaluating the conclusion of the Senate Intelligence Committee:  How many of the fifteen Committee members were Democrats, how many were Republicans, and how did each member vote on the conclusions in the report and in the 400-page summary, which is to be released today?

To clarify, the Senate Intelligence Committee  is composed of eight Democrats and seven Republicans.

 

UPDATE

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is the former head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the author of “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”  Appearing as a piece on the editorial page of the Washington Post, Rodriguez has written a rebuttal to the Associated Press article cited in my first post, referred to above.  The entire text of his rebuttal is reprinted below:

People might think it is wrong for me to condemn a report I haven’t read.  But since the report condemns a program I ran, I think I have justification.

On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify and release hundreds of pages of its report on U.S. terrorist interrogation practices.  Certain senators have proclaimed how devastating the findings are, saying the CIA’s program was unproductive, badly managed and misleadingly sold.  Unlike the committee’s staff, I don’t have to examine the program through a rearview mirror.  I was responsible for administering it, and I know that it produced critical intelligence that helped decimate al-Qaeda and save American lives.

The committee’s staff members started with a conclusion in 2009 and have chased supportive evidence ever since.  They never spoke to me or other top CIA leaders involved in the program, or let us see the report.  Without reviewing it, I cannot offer a detailed rebuttal.  But there are things the public should consider.

The first is context.  The detention and interrogation program was not built in a vacuum.  It was created in the months after September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 men, women, and children were murdered.  It was constructed shortly after Richard Reid narrowly missed bringing down an airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.  It continued while U.S. intelligence learned that rogue Pakistani scientists had met with Osama bin Laden to discuss the possibility of creating crude nuclear devices.

When we captured high-ranking al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida in 2002, we knew he could help us track down other terrorists and might provide information to allow us to stop another attack.  Those who suggest we should have questioned him more gently have never felt the burden of protecting innocent lives.

Second is effectiveness.  I don’t know what the committee thinks it found in the files, but I know what I saw in real time: a program that provided critical information about the operations and leadership of al-Qaeda.  Intelligence work is like doing a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box top and with millions of extra pieces.  The committee staff started with the box top, the pieces in place, and pronounced the puzzle a snap.

The interrogation program was not flawless.  But we identified and rectified our mistakes and, where appropriate, reported suspected wrongdoing to the Justice Department.

Third is authority.  This program was approved at the highest levels of the government, judged legal by the Justice Department and regularly briefed to the leaders of our congressional oversight committees.  There was never any effort to mislead the administration or Congress about the program.  In 2006, then-CIA Director Michael Hayden expanded those fully briefed on the program to include all members of the intelligence oversight committees.  It is a travesty that these efforts at transparency are now branded insufficient and misleading.

When portions of the report are released, I hope the CIA’s response, pointing out its flawed analysis, is also made public.  But before anything is released, authorities must ensure that we don’t make the job of my successors, who are trying to prevent future terrorist attacks, any harder.

Nancy Pelosi once insisted that she had never had a briefing on the CIA’s interrogation program.  The Obama White House insisted that the Benghazi attacks were a mindless reaction to an internet movie.  The Senate, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, are both still firmly in the grip of the President’s party.  You be the judge of who to believe on this issue.

Is Mark Harris Gaining Ground with the Tea Party?

On March 13, Mark Harris spoke before the Carteret County Republican Men’s Club to pitch his suitability to be the new junior Senator from North Carolina.  I was in attendance, and posted THIS account the next day briefly outlining my favorable impression of him.  Also, about three weeks ago I posted THIS link to the lengthy interview that Brant Clifton (of The Daily Haymaker) did with Mark Harris.

Earlier this week, the Republican NC-GOP Senate hopeful appeared before the Caldwell County Tea Party to present his case to them.  He won a great many of them over, apparently, but you can judge the tone of the News-Topic article, HERE, for yourself.

Greg Brannon Is Still Giving It His Best Effort

In spite of the negative publicity associated with the recent civil trail verdict against him, Republican NC-GOP primary candidate Dr. Greg Brannon of Cary is still in there pitching.  Underscoring his continuing committment to the challenge of winning the Senate seat held at present by Kay Hagan, Dr. Brannon gave THIS revealing interview to AP reporter Gary Robertson earlier this week.  A comprehensive article, and worth reading.

The only leading candidate for the GOP Senate primary nomination that has not been seen yet in Carteret County is Heather Grant, a medical professional from Wilkesboro who describes herself as being more in accord with Greg Brannon’s views than any of the other primary candidates.  We will have an opportunity to hear from her at the Crystal Coast Republican Men’s Club meeting of April 10th.  Check the Events List on the right sidebar of the Home page for details, and click HERE to read a recent article on Mrs. Grant from WRAL.com.  And for much more on her, go to her website, HERE.

Tonight’s CCTPP Meeting — A Brief Recap

Tonight’s meeting of the Morehead City faction of the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots was well attended, with a busy agenda.  First, Chairman Bob Cavanaugh reported on his recent unofficial poll of Tea Party principles in eastern North Carolina, as well as the members in attendance, with the conclusion that most of the support for a Republican primary challenger against Senator Kay Hagan is still with Greg Brannon.  This remains so in spite of the recent developments that would presumably affect his electability, vis-a-vis Kay Hagan, in an adverse and substantive way.

Next, Chairman Cavanaugh announced that Ken Lang has resumed the responsibilities of CCTPP Communications Committee Chairman.  Ken is also the Administrator for the CCTPP Facebook page.  His resumed duties will be to administer the maintenance and use of the CCTPP E-Mail List, and to recruit speakers for the CCTPP meetings as well as the Carteret County Republican Men’s Club meetings.  Anyone interested in being added to the E-Mail List or in speaking before either of the aforementioned groups should contact Ken, and his contact information is on this website under the CONTACTS / CONTACT CCTPP menu bar.

Next, we heard remarks from Willie Montague, a young man from Willie_280WideMorehead City who was an early supporter of what became the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots.  Mr. Montague has been living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in recent years, but hopes to return to Morehead City as soon as he can find employment here.  He is a minister and an exceptional public speaker, and he also has a business background.  Anyone who thinks they might assist in improving his employment prospects in Carteret County, give him a jingle at 918/625-7783.  Note that this area code is 918, not 919.

In his remarks before the group, Montague made several important points about his is experience as someone who once campaigned in Broken Arrow for a seat in the Oklahoma state House, particularly with respect to what he learned as a black conservative trying to appeal to the black community there.  He was also persuasive in making the point that any effort aimed at bringing about a conversion to conservative principles among black people must arise from within that community.

The group next heard from Randy Feagle, a downeaster running to un-seat Carteret County Commissioner and Commission Chairman Jonathan Robinson.  Mr. Feagle believes that he would be a more responsive Commissioner for District #6, especially with regard to Fire and EMS issues.

Lastly, the group acknowledged, with best wishes, another birthday for Rose Thompson.  Her 29th, we presume!

We Stole It Fair And Square, Then Carter Gave It Away

In a few years, it will have been forty years since President Jimmy Carter signed the treaty giving the Panama Canal back to the Panamanians.  Since then, the Panamanian canal management authority has undertaken a massive modernization and expansion project, and by the fortieth anniversary of the treaty, the Canal is expected to be able to lock through some truly huge ships, even Amercan aircraft carriers and the new generation of super-large tankers and container ships.
Panama_Canal_630
John Wohlstetter recently locked through the old Canal in a much smaller vessel, and has written THIS update on the goings-on in the formerly American Panama Canal Zone.

Speak No Ill of the Dead — Except for Lawrence Walsh

Many of us remember the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, and it’s aftermath.  It was ugly, so ugly that I eventually split with a number of my conservative friends over the issue of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s lying to Congress.  True, it was a Congress controlled by Democrats, all working toward the goal of diminishing the Reagan presidency, but I drew the line at lying to Congress.  The system cannot work if a President’s minions are allowed to lie in sworn testimony before Congress, as is being amply re-demonstrated during the Obama presidency.

In fact, from my perspective, the best thing to come out of the whole affair was Fawn Hall’s Playboy magazine centerfold some months later.  Say what you will about Ollie North, but he sure could pick a secretary.

In relation to the Iran-Contra investigation, the largest thorn in President Reagan’s side, and in the side of many within his administration, was the Iran-Contra special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, a Democrat.  Walsh’s zeal in the pursuit of illegal activity was exceeded only by his eagerness to besmear President Reagan and his close underlings, and as usual, he had the unflagging cooperation of the print media, particularly the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Lawrence’s name is in the news again because he passed away recently.  Paul Kengor has up a well written piece in The American Spectator about how Walsh was perceived by one of his contemporaries, William P. Clark.  Bill Clark was a long-time friend of Ronald Reagan from his California days, and served pro-bono on the defense team of many accused in the Iran-Contra affair and it’s coverup.  Here is a short excerpt from Kengor’s article:

As Weinberger’s pro bono legal counsel, Clark went to Oklahoma to meet with Walsh.  Speaking as a former judge to judge, Clark tried to persuade the independent counsel that his actions were unjust—or, as Weinberger later put it, “absurd and terribly damaging.”

Clark was shocked by Walsh’s response.  He concluded that Walsh was interested in only one thing: some kind of admission of guilt by Weinberger, or as Weinberger put it: “preferably something—anything—that implicated President Reagan or even Vice President Bush.  If I would give that, the independent counsel’s office could then arrange for no indictment and a light sentence.”

Weinberger and Clark concluded that Walsh’s team wanted Weinberger to be “cooperative” as Walsh and his lawyers pursued Ronald Reagan.

For the full article, click HERE.

Two Speakers set for next Morehead City CCTPP Meeting

As can be seen on the Events List (at right in the sidebar), our next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday evening at the Golden Corral in Morehead City.  We are scheduled to have the following two speakers:

Willie Montague is a former resident of Morehead City, and was a member of the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots back in 2010 or so before moving to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  Now visiting relatives in the Carteret County area for a short while, he is an erstwhile candidate for a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and we hope to hear his experience with that campaign as well as his views on how we can stimulate black conservatives to join our activism, and perhaps our group.

      Randy Feagle

Randy Feagle

Randy Feagle has retired from being a teacher at East Carteret High School, and is now running in the primary as a challenger for the Carteret County District #6 County Commissioner seat currently held by Chairman Jonathan Robinson.

As an additional attraction, the Golden Corral will prepare, as a one-time special concoction not seen on their regular menu, the mouth-watering Kangaroo Pouch Medallions with Dandelion Root Puree, over rice.  Don’t miss it!

SCOTUS Protects Property Rights from Guvmint Land Grab

From an article in The American Spectator by Jack Park on Brandt Revocable Trust versus United States:

In 1875, Congress, hoping to spur railroad construction and encourage settlement and development in the western states, passed the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act, which gave railroads “right of way through the public lands of the United States.”  In 1908, the Laramie Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad (“LHP&P”) took Congress up on its offer and acquired a 66-mile-long right of way in Wyoming.

In 1976, the United States granted an 83-acre parcel of land in Fox Park, Wyoming, to the Brandts, with an exception for the railroad right of way, as the LHP&P’s line ran through the Brandts’ parcel.  But nothing in the deed said that the right of way would revert to the United States if the railroad abandoned it.

In 1996, the LHP&P’s successor did just that: abandoned the line and tore up its tracks and ties.  Should the Brandts, who hold the underlying property, then take posession?  Or can the United States, which gave the right of way to the railroad in the first place, turn it into a recreational trail?  The answer was of interest not just to the Brandts but to all of the landowners who have railroad lines created by the 1875 Act running through their properties …

On this one, the Supreme Court handed a big win to the advocates of private property rights, so hooray!  And, to read the entire article, click HERE.

Whoa! Judicial Misconduct In The Greg Brannon Civil Trial?

Jodi Riddleberger of Greensboro is raising the issue of whether the presiding judge in the civil action brought against Dr. Greg Brannon should have recused himself due to a possible lack of impartiality.  It seems that Ms. Riddleberger has done some research and concluded that the judge may have contributed to the election campaign of Senator Kay Hagan when she ran for Elizabeth Dole’s Senate seat in 2008.

As regular readers will know, a civil court jury found earlier this year that Dr. Brannon, back in 2010, had provided misleading or false information to potential investors in a technology start-up called Neogence, and that as a result, he had to refund their contributions in the aggregate total of $450,000.

Ms. Riddleberger has written to the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission about the matter, saying this in part:

I am writing to make a formal complaint against Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins …  But who is Judge Bryan Collins?  According to Judgepedia, Collins … began his legal career as an attorney in private practice from 1985 to 2005.  In 2005, he became the Public Defender for Wake County.  He was then elected a Superior Court judge in 2012 and his current term expires in 2020.  He is a registered Democrat.

By conducting a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) search for political campaign contributions, we see that a Bryan Collins in Raleigh, who listed his occupation as Public Defender, contributed the sum of $500 to the Hagan Senate Committee in 2008.

I’m no lawyer, and I can’t possibly pretend to understand all the technicalities of impartiality.  That said, does anyone think it smells a little funny that a judge known to support one candidate for office would be allowed to try a case involving that candidate’s potential future opposition?

This is certainly an interesting development, but we have to keep in mind that the jury found Brannon guilty of the financial impropriety, not the judge.  I think Brannon’s attorneys will need to allege some specific bias on the part of Judge Collins before this has a chance of going anywhere.

Let’s Help This Democrat Pry Open the Black Box

All of we coastal homeowner’s have been dismayed at the recent increases in homeowner and flood insurance premiums as a result of the Biggars-Waters legislation that became law in 2012, compounded by insurer actuarial calculations that may be based on dubious projections of future hurricane activity and/or sea level rise.  In fact, we members and friends of the Crystal Coast Tea Party Patriots recently instigated an e-mail campaign to urge our NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and the NC Rate Bureau to engage the issue.  The United States Congress also acted to alleviate the situation with the passage earlier this month of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, now on President Obama’s desk awaiting his signature.

It is time now for the General Assembly to act.  Last year, state Representative Paul Tine (D-Dare) introduced a bill (HB-519) in the House that would force North Carolina insurers to be more open and specific about their actuarial computer models, and the nature of the input data they use to calculate rates.  The bill, HERE, would mandate that certain historical experience data be a part of the input data, and that rate calculations be based on two models, rather than only one.

Molly Parker of the online Wilmington Star-News wrote an informative article last week about how the focus, insofar as this bill is concerned, will shift to the Senate for the upcoming short session.  Last year the bill went dormant in the Senate Insurance Committee, but Representative Tine is hopeful that it will be voted out for consideration by the full Senate this summer.  Since Senator Norman Sanderson is Vice-Chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, we share his optimism.

The full article by Molly Parker is HERE, and a related Star-News editorial is HERE.

Brant Clifton posts on his Saturday interview of Mark Harris

In a post at his blog the Daily Haymaker, Brant Clifton writes at length about his interview yesterday with Senate hopeful Mark Harris, who also appeared earlier this week before the members of the Crystal Coast Republican Men’s Club.  The post, HERE, also reveals something I did not know.  Apparently, rival candidate Greg Brannon is on record as saying that he did not vote for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

Mark Harris at the Republican Men’s Club Meeting

On Thursday, I was among those attending the Crystal Coast Mark_HarrisRepublican Men’s Club meeting on Emerald Isle, and US Senate candidate Mark Harris was the featured speaker.  For those who have not seen him in person, my opinion is that he is a strong speaker with good projection, much as you would expect a Baptist Minister to be.  I also thought he was very focused and well rehearsed with respect to the issues he knew to be of interest to a conservative audience (this is a good thing), that he was able to deftly field every question put to him, and that he is, despite being a neophyte politician, a man who appears to be at ease in campaign mode.

For various reasons, I went into the meeting somewhat dubious of the view that Mr. Harris was a genuine conservative, but after hearing his formal remarks, and being permitted some one-on-one time afterwards, I am now prepared to believe that he is the real deal.  We will not hear from rival candidate Heather Grant for another month or so, but at this point I think Harris is definitely a contender for being the best conservative alternative to Thom Tillis.

For more in-depth information on Mark Harris’ views on the issues of the day, visit his website, HERE.

The Instapundit Presidential Preference Poll

A couple of days ago, Law Professor Glenn Reynolds took a poll of the readership at his Instapundit blog on who their preferences were for presidential candidates in 2016, and the results are in:

CPAC_2014PollInstapundits readership is mostly conservative, as is Professor Reynolds, but it seems a bit odd to me that Nikki Haley and Rick Perry got so few votes.

Also, for what it’s worth, HERE is a report on CPAC takeaways, from CNN.

A Carteret County Boy Makes Good, Twice!

In ceremonies earlier this month at the Pinecrest High School Speech and Debate Championships in Southern Pines, Jace Lawrence, a sixteen year old senior at East Carteret High and President of their award winning National Forensic League speech and debate team, has won the North Carolina Speech and Debate Team Student of the Year award.  Remarkably, this win comes close on the heels of his Tarheel Forensic District Student of the Year award the previous week.

L-R, ECHS Teacher/Coach Julia Brown, parent Mary Lawrence, Jace Lawrence

Left-to-Right, ECHS Teacher & Debate Coach Julia Brown, parent Mary Lawrence, senior Jace Lawrence

Jace, the son of Bud and Mary Lawrence, was the only student from Carteret County to travel to the state championships.  There, he competed in two categories, Impromptu Speaking and Original Oratory, breaking into semi-finals eliminations in both events.  His original oratory entitled, “Resetting the Sails,” addresses the challenge of realizing the American dream given the constraints of our present economy, and re-defines that dream to be attainable with renewed resolve, courage, and perspective.

For more on the National Forensic League, their website is HERE.  In addition, WikiPedia has a page on them, HERE.

Reconquista Rising: The 9th Circuit Gets It Wrong Yet Again

Live Oak is a small community close to the north shore of California’s Monterey Bay, just a couple of miles east of downtown Santa Cruz, and roughly in the middle of California’s western coastline.  Like most of the places in California, there is a large Hispanic population, but the area around Santa Cruz has the highest concentrations of Hispanics in California.

On May 5, 2010, the date of the annual Mexican holiday known as Cinco de Mayo, several male students came to Live Oak High School wearing tee-shirts bearing depictions of the American flag on them.  The school administration sent them home after they refused his request to hide the flag by turning the shirts inside out, saying that they could either leave school voluntarily for the day, or be suspended.  Figuring this was a no brainer, the boys left for the day.

On behalf of the boys, the Freedom Law Center sued, and the case made it’s way to the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.  A three-judge panel of the court ruled against them, holding, in essence, that the right of the Hispanic students at Live Oak High School to be incensed over being shown the American flag trumped the boys’ First Amendment rights of free expression.

On behalf of the boys, attorney William Becker of the Freedom Law Center says he will first ask for an en banc review from the Ninth Circuit (a reconsideration by the full court rather than the three-judge panel), and if that fails, he will appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

As might be expected, there have been a number of articles written about this case.  One, from American Thinker contributor William Sullivan, is HERE.  Another, written by law professor Eugene Volokh, is HERE.  The official Freedom Law Center account is HERE, and it includes a photo of the boys wearing their flag attire.

And by the way, Cinco de Mayo, which honors the victory by Mexican troops over the forces of Napoleon III at Puebla in 1862, is much more widely celebrated by Hispanics in the United States than by Mexicans in Mexico.  That is one of the reasons why I think such celebrations here are often thinly veiled accolades to the idea of an Aztlan Reconquista more than anything else.

Project Morpheus has a sixth Successful Test Flight

This marks another successful test (Elon Musk did it earlier, I think, with Space X) of an unmanned vehicle ascending, moving laterally, then descending under it’s own power, something that is more difficult to do than the video would make it seem.  This flight took place at the Kennedy Space Center earlier this week.  In this flight, the sixth of the series, the craft flew to 467 feet altitude and then traversed 637 feet, including diverting course mid-flight, before landing in the hazard field 56 feet away from its original target while simulating hazard avoidance.   

WikiPedia has more, HERE, on Project Morpheus.  An excerpt:

Project Morpheus is a NASA project to develop a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) test vehicle called Morpheus Lander in order to demonstrate a new nontoxic spacecraft propellant system (methane and oxygen) and an autonomous landing and hazard detection technology.  The prototype planetary lander is capable of vertical takeoff and landings.  The vehicles are NASA designed robotic landers that will be able to land and takeoff with 1,100 pounds (500 kg) of cargo on the Moon.  The prospect is an engine that runs reliably on propellants that are not only cheaper and safer here on Earth, but could also be potentially manufactured on the Moon or even Mars.

The Alpha prototype lander was manufactured and assembled at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Armadillo Aerospace’s facility near Dallas.  The prototype lander is a “spacecraft” that is about 12 ft (3.7 m) in diameter, weighs approximately 2,300 lb (1,000 kg) and consists of four silver spherical propellant tanks topped by avionics boxes and a web of wires.

The project is trying out cost and time saving “lean development” engineering practices.  Other project activities include appropriate ground operations, flight operations, range safety, and the instigation of software development procedures.  Landing pads and control centers were also constructed.  From the project start in July 2010, about $10 million was spent on materials in the following 3+ years; so the Morpheus project is considered lean and low-cost for NASA.

Now for the way-cool video: