Category Archives: Issues

John Bolton weighs in on Netanyahu’s Invitation

There has been much ado about the supposed audacious over-reach by House Speaker John Boehner in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint meeting of Congress.  My view is to favor the speech, because we will not hear the truth from President Obama on the full extent of the bind we have put Israel in.

However, here’s some thoughts from former UN Ambassador John Bolton as expressed in his recent op-ed published in the Pittsburh Tribune:

The stakes are as high as they come.  But Obama cannot be candid about the terms of the ongoing discussions, especially now.  The inevitable consequences of his dangerous position already are provoking widespread bipartisan disapproval in America.

The White House most fears the effect Netanyahu will have on congressional consideration of further Iran sanctions if no deal is reached.  Obama is worried with good reason.  Although Iran and the West have been negotiating since 2003, only Obama has made the massive concessions to Tehran that have brought a deal close at hand.  And it is not just what Netanyahu will say in Washington but also his timing that set off Obama and his acolytes.

In fact, Netanyahu previously addressed a joint session of Congress on May 24, 2011, demonstrating, among other things, his gaping differences with Obama regarding Israel’s ultimate borders, under negotiation with the Palestinians.  The New York Times reported that “Mr. Netanyahu received so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”  Even worse, from Obama’s perspective, The Times said Netanyahu’s “speech had many of the trappings of a presidential State of the Union address.”

Ironically, Obama touched off the current controversy when he persuaded or allowed British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby members of Congress against the pending Iran sanctions proposals.  At a joint Obama-Cameron news conference in Washington, the British leader answered forthrightly that he had spoken with senators and would likely speak to more, to convey “the opinion of the United Kingdom” that sanctions legislation would impair the ongoing negotiations.

Although publicly admitting Cameron’s lobbying effort was highly unusual, they [Senators] were hardly shocked in a day when foreign countries hire Washington lobbying firms to influence Congress, the executive branch and even U.S. public opinion.  And even less shockingly, we do the same to foreign governments.

What likely irritated Obama more was that Netanyahu’s star power will almost certainly eclipse Cameron’s and that the arguments in favor of sanctions legislation are more persuasive than the Obama-Cameron view has been thus far.  Moreover, British parliamentary elections are set for May 7, so Cameron’s timing obviously does not differ in principle from Netanyahu’s.

For the full article, click HERE.

Obama: Oh, those “clawback” penalties? Just kidding!

Megan McArdle is writing at Bloomberg about yet another waiver from the ObamaCare Law, this one to the provision requiring penalties be paid to the IRS of any excess in federal tax credits that an insured person may have received as health insurance subsidies, if the taxpayer does not pay the excess back by April 15th.

McArdle says this about the waiver of the “clawback” penalties:

It’s not relieving you of the obligation to repay; it’s just saying that you won’t be liable for a penalty if you don’t repay by the deadline.  Interest will continue to accrue, but the interest rates that the IRS charges are actually pretty reasonable (and probably much better than what your credit card company charges).  It’s the failure-to-pay penalties it layers on top — half a percentage point a month, with even stiffer penalties for failing to file — that really make your tax bill add up fast.

The full article is HERE.

Has Wayne Goodwin made a New Year’s Resolution?

If I had a “when pigs fly” posting category on this blog, this news might be allotted to it.  The Greensboro News-Record reported last month, HERE, that NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin had WayneGoodwindisapproved the insurance industry’s request for a 26% overall increase in the rates for homeowner’s insurance rates statewide, rates that were due to take effect in June.  In an even more surprising turn of events, Commissioner Goodwin ordered reductions in the rates for coastal counties, a reversal of the trend in recent decades.

Although the newspaper article makes no mention of it, I assume the insurance companies may have recourse to the courts.  No word so far, however, that they intend to sue, so like so many of you, I will hope for a lower homeowner’s insurance bill later this year.

Warthogs to the Rescue in the Caliphate

I’ve written twice before (HERE and HERE) about the misguided attempts by the military to retire the A-10 from their inventory of combat aircraft on the grounds that the Warthog is increasingly outmoded and obsolete.  But now, it appears that the military is having second thoughts, at least for the time being.  James Dunnigan is reporting at StrategyPage that:

Despite renewed U.S. Air Force efforts to retire the much loved (by their pilots and the ground troops who depend on it) A-10C ground attack aircraft, at least ten of them from a reserve unit have been quietly sent to the Middle East to join in the air operations against ISIL (Islamic State in A10_WarthogIraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria.  Many older ISIL members (who fought in Iraq before the A-10s were withdrawn) are not happy with this news while the soldiers and militiamen fighting ISIL are much encouraged.

This was kept quiet because earlier in 2014 the U.S. Air Force insisted it had to retire all of its A-10 ground support aircraft (to deal with a shrinking budget) and this time it was going to happen.  That statement had been heard several times before since the Cold War ended in 1991.  Many politicians do not agree with the generals and it appeared the air force would be forced to keep at least some of the A-10s.  There is little doubt that the A-10s will again make themselves useful.  That will slow down but not stop air force efforts to eliminate this popular (except among senior commanders) warplane.

A-10s were designed during the Cold War for combat against Russian ground forces in Europe.  That war never happened and the last American A-10 attack aircraft left Europe in mid-2013.  After that some politicians believed the A-10 might be needed back in Europe to help confront an increasingly aggressive Russia.  Meanwhile the A-10 proved to be a formidable combat aircraft in post-Cold War conflicts, first in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and later in Afghanistan and Iraq.  During the last decade the most requested ground support aircraft in Afghanistan has been the A-10.  There was similar A-10 affection in Iraq.  Troops from all nations quickly came to appreciate the unique abilities of this 1970s era aircraft that the U.S. Air Force is constantly trying to get rid of.  In 2011 the air force did announce that it was retiring 102 A-10s, leaving 243 in service.  At the same time the air force accelerated the upgrading of the remaining A-10s to the A-10C standard.

Read the full article, HERE.

Hanoi Jane turns Seventy-Seven

In a post on December 21st at her vanity website, Jane Fonda declares that, to combat a recent episode of ennui, she has decided to build a shrine to herself.  The decision was made on her birthday, during her one-hour meditation period.

The shrine is to be nothing especially monumental she says, just “a small place where I can put things that remind me, conjure up in me, the qualities that represent my best self.  I will spend the new year collecting objects and symbols that will do that.  One will be from my 4th grade school report.  Things that remind me that I’m brave.  I’ve been forgetting that.  I will put a special candle on the shrine and burn sandalwood and put some special Native American artifacts that I’ve treasured over the years in honor of the Mohawk Nation where my Fonda ancestors built their homestead.”

Since Fonda now seems to have developed the patina of a national JaneFonda_Gunsighttreasure, with an impressive resume as an actress, political agitator, Black Panthers supporter, aerobics guru, broadcaster for Hanoi Radio, Palestinian supporter, and all-around American traitor, we should all help to restore her self-esteem if we can.  For my part, I have mailed her a memento from her past, something she may still believe is representative of her “best self”, and something which perfectly illustrates her bravery.  It is a 1972 photograph, above at right, of her sitting on and looking through the gunsight of a piece of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery, the same type that mortally wounded so many U.S. aircraft over the North’s capital city.  If they survived the shootdown, of course, the pilots went into the North Vietnamese prisoner of war system, exemplified by the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

Happy birthday, Janey.

Denunciation then and now: Korematsu and CIA Torture

Just over a week ago the Pew Research Center published the results of their poll on the American public’s reaction to the content of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “CIA Torture Report”, the huge report released PewPoll_CIAtortureby outgoing Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the months immediately after the September 11, 2011 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

A table showing the detailed results is at right, but it can be summed up by saying that the public seems to be much more understanding of the exigencies of the time than the left wing media would prefer them to be.  While I don’t think that sleep deprivation and waterboarding can be appropriately defined as torture, they certainly are practices better left to the regimes of South American dictators than to the repertoire of the United States government.  Still, the judgment cannot be intelligently made without an understanding and consideration of the circumstances.

In considering this national guilt spasm initiated by Senator Feinstein’s questionable release of the report, I am reminded of the condemnations that took place in the decades after World War II over the U.S. government’s internment of the Japanese in the months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  Indeed, the condemnations are even now not so far removed, as conservative author Michelle Malkin found when she wrote a heavily criticized book just ten years ago entitled “In Defense of Internment”.  In her book, Malkin argues that, in hindsight, the internment may have been unwarranted, but at the time the fear of sabotage by the Japanese living along the west coast was plausible and very real, and that fear cannot simply be dismissed from the arguments.

Today, in the minds of many, the issues surrounding the Japanese internment are encapsulated in Korematsu versus United States, a landmark case in which SCOTUS upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 Executive Order #9066, which directed all Japanese Americans to report for internment in a series of camps established at various points around the lower 48 states.  Here’s an excerpt from the WikiPedia page on the case:

In a 6–3 decision, the Court sided with the government, ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional.  Six of eight Roosevelt appointees sided with Roosevelt.  The lone Republican appointee, Owen Roberts, dissented.  The opinion, written by Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu’s individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.  (The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, adding, “The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding.”)  During the case, Solicitor General Charles Fahy is alleged to have suppressed evidence by keeping from the Court a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence indicating that there was no evidence that Japanese Americans were acting as spies or sending signals to enemy submarines.

The decision in Korematsu v. United States has been very controversial.  Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned on November 10, 1983, after Korematsu challenged the earlier decision by filing for a writ of coram nobis.  In a ruling by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the writ (that is, it voided Korematsu’s original conviction) because in Korematsu’s original case, the government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court that had a material effect on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Even the Obama administration has gotten into the act.  Judge Patel’s ruling notwithstanding, SCOTUS has never explicitly overturned their decision in Korematsu v. United States.  However, in 2011 Eric Holder’s Department of Justice filed an official notice stipulating that the decision was in error, thus erasing the case’s value as precedent for interning citizens.

For more information on Fred Korematsu, who died in 1985, click his WikiPedia page, HERE.  Likewise, for more information on Korematsu versus United States, that WikiPedia page is HERE.

Animated Views of the Venerable Colt Army M1911

The word venerable seems made to order for the M1911, Colt’s 1911 model semi-automatic pistol originally designed in 1911 by John ColtArmy1911Browning as a 45-caliber sidearm for the U.S. military.  It remained so for seventy-four years, until 1985, when it was replaced as the official military sidearm by the Beretta M9, my personal preference for a large-frame pistol.  Counting the examples manufactured for civilian use, for law enforcement, and for foreign governments, there have been around three million M1911 models produced.

What better example is there, then, for a high-quality animation illustrating all the inner workings of a semi-automatic pistol in operation?  None, I think, and after viewing the animation, you’ll agree.  Check it out, HERE, and for more on the M1911, the WikiPedia page is HERE.

The Malmedy Massacre at Three Score & Ten

This month marks the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the last major combat encounter in the European theater of World War II, and today marks the seventieth anniversary of one of the more heinous acts of the war, the Malmedy Massacre.

During the Battle, on the second day of the breakout by German troops through the Ardennes Forest, American soldiers of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were captured by the German First SS Panzer Division near the town of Malmedy in Belgium.  The German offensive was begun during a period of weather so bad that all Allied aircraft were grounded, and the Germans were desperate to move quickly toward, and to recapture, the Belgian port of Antwerp while the Americans were without the close air support that could quickly destroy the German tanks.  They could therefore afford no delays in their advance, and POW’s are a hindrance on the battlefield.

There are several excellent accounts of the Malmedy Massacre, and the following is taken from the one maintained HERE at the History Place:

On the second day of the ‘Battle of the Bulge,’ a truck convoy of Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion was intercepted southeast of Malmedy by a regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, under the command of 29 year old SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper.  His troops had earned the nickname “Blowtorch Battalion” after burning their way across Russia and had also been responsible for slaughtering civilians in two separate villages.

Upon sighting the trucks, the Panzer tanks opened fire and destroyed the lead vehicles.  This brought the [American] convoy to a halt while the deadly accurate tank fire continued.  The outgunned Americans abandoned their vehicles and surrendered.

The captured U.S. soldiers were herded into a nearby field.  An SS tank commander then ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners, setting off a wild killing spree as the SS opened fire with machine guns and pistols on the unarmed, terrified POWs.

Survivors were killed by a pistol shot to the head, in some cases by English speaking SS who walked among the victims asking if anyone was injured or needed help.  Those who responded were shot.  A total of 81 Americans were killed in the single worst atrocity against U.S. troops during World War II in Europe.

After the SS troops moved on, three survivors encountered a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy and reported the massacre.  News quickly spread among U.S. troops that “Germans are shooting POWs.”  As a result, the troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance until reinforcements could arrive.  Gen. Eisenhower was informed of the massacre.  War correspondents in the area also spread the news.

And from the U.S. Army archives, HERE, this excerpt from the account of a survivor, Ted Paluch of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

Having dismounted the vehicles and taking cover in ditches alongside the road, Paluch recognized the troops as members of the vaunted SS by the distinctive skull and crossbones and lightning insignia on their collars.  They represented the advance units of the 1st SS Panzer Division, known as Kampfgruppe (Attack Group) Peiper, after their leader, SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper, a highly decorated veteran of campaigns in France and Russia.

“There were three of them behind the tank; they came down, and we were in the ditch, a ditch that is up to my neck,” he related.  They pulled down the road here and lowered the tank gun on us, and what could you do?  We had carbines, so we just surrendered.”

Paluch related that the initial treatment at the hands of the SS gave no clues about what lay in store for the prisoners, and even offered an amusing recollection.  “They marched us up here to the crossroads, they searched us, they took anything of value, cigarettes, watches, and I had a pair of socks and they even took those,” he exclaimed incredulously.

Along with members of his unit and others caught off-guard at the crossroads, the group of prisoners was herded into a field at the crossroads to await their fate.  They had no warning of what would transpire next.

“Then one command car came up and took a couple shots, and every tank and halftrack that came around the corner shot into the group,” he said.  “I was real lucky, as I was in the front end and only got hit slightly, but I think when they came around they fired into the center of the group.”

Pausing to catch his breath, he glanced over his shoulder and hesitated, almost as if reliving the moment in slow motion, before beginning again.

“This was their front line over here at one of these houses, and then anyone that moaned, they came around and they shot.  I played dead and just lay there,” he said.

The Germans murdered eighty-one Americans that day.  After the war, the commander of the German First SS Panzer Division, SS Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Peiper, was caught along with most of his close subordinates.  They were tried and found guilty of war crimes by a military tribunal, but sadly, they were all released in the end. There was no justice for those eighty-one American soldiers, so the least we can do today is to remember.

Will the V-280 be the V-22’s Little Brother?

Back in October, at the military blog DefenseTech, Kris Osborn reported that:

Bell Helicopter is beginning to manufacture parts for its new V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft, a next-generation helicopter being developed as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD program.  The program is an Army-led joint program designed to replace the Army’s current fleet of helicopters.

<snip>

Slated to fly by 2017, the V-280 is engineered to reach speed of 280 knots, achieve a combat range up to 800 nautical miles and perform in what’s called “high-hot” conditions — described as 95-degrees Fahrenheit and 6,000-feet.

The full article, HERE, includes much more information as well as an artist’s rendering of the aircraft.

The Consequences of Falling Oil Prices

The website that tracks the daily prices for the two main types of crude oil consumed in the United States is saying that the price of WTI is now at $59.95 per barrel.  As many readers will know, crude oil is priced in terms of 42-gallon barrels, and the main domestic price standard is for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a type otherwise known as “light, sweet” crude oil.  An alternate standard is known as Brent Crude, which is the average price of oil pumped out of the fifteen oil fields in the North Sea.  The price of Brent Crude is typically a bit higher than WTI, as the price of extraction is higher for undersea deposits.

I posted before, HERE, about the problems that falling crude oil prices pose for fracking producers, and on the day of the post (October 10th) the WTI price was about $87/barrel.  At today’s $59.95/barrel, the per-gallon price of WTI crude is $1.43, and we’re now seeing $2.53 at the pump.  There are almost no fracking operations in the United States that can produce crude for $60/barrel, not even close.

The ramifications of this price drop will be many, and worldwide.  Some are writing that the implications for revenue to the Russian government may imperil the Putin regime.

Keith Naughton joins the fray with a piece at the Daily Caller about the effects on the already-wobbly Venezuelan government.  Writes Naughton:

For over 15 years Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have pursued absurd socialist economic policies liberally mixed with heavy-handed repression, and an anti-American foreign policy.  Private property has been expropriated.  Political opponents have been harassed and jailed.  The crime rate is soared.  Essential items have disappeared from store shelves.  Maduro himself flat-out stole the last presidential election (of course the leftist leaders in Latin America just shrugged it off — showing yet again that the left only likes democracy when they win).

Now Venezuela is at the end of its financial rope.  Tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue have been wasted away and now that the price of oil has cratered, the country’s fiscal deficit is unsustainable.  Maduro is cutting spending, unloading debt at cut-rate prices, and arresting his political opponents.  Tension is rising between the armed forces and the Maduro’s Chavista paramilitary thugs.

The article goes on to list five ways in which a collapse of the Venezuelan economy and government would impact the United States and its allies.  Read the full article, HERE, to get the details of the five ways, and what the Obama administration is planning to do about the potential crisis.

China’s New Boomers

Nope, not talking about “baby boomers”, I’m talking about nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.  David Tweed has a post up on Bloomberg News with the details.  A key excerpt:

“For the first time in history, China’s nuclear arsenal will be invulnerable to a first strike,” said independent strategist Nicolas Giacometti, who has written analysis for The Diplomat and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  “It’s the last leap toward China’s assured nuclear-retaliation capability.”

This new class of Chinese boomer will be equipped with twelve Chinese JL-2 missiles.  Tweed’s article continues:

The JL–2’s range of about 4,598 miles means China could conduct nuclear strikes against Alaska if it unleashed the missiles from waters near China; against Alaska and Hawaii if launched from waters south of Japan; against Alaska, Hawaii, and western continental U.S. if fired from waters west of Hawaii; and against all 50 U.S. states if launched from waters east of Hawaii, the report said.

The full article is HERE.

 

The X-37B

The U.S. Air Force has an un-manned mini-shuttle, and although no one admits to knowing what it is used for exactly, it apparently is very good at its mission.  From an article from earlier this week at the military blog Strategy Page:

A U.S. Air Force X-37B UOV (unmanned orbital vehicle) landed October 17th under software control after 675 days in orbit.  Previously an X-37B landed on June 16th 2012 after 469 days in orbit.  The first mission ended X37Bon December 3rd 2010 after 224 days in orbit.  The air force reports few details about the X-37B but has said it plans to launch another one in 2015.

The official endurance of the X-37B was originally about 280 days.  The real endurance appears to be nearly three times that.  The long endurance is largely because the X-37B carries a large solar panel, which is deployed from the cargo bay, unfolded and produces enough power to keep the X-37B up there for a long time.  The air force has not reported what the X-37B has been doing up there all this time.  The air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers.  Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA.

The X-37B is a remotely controlled mini-Space Shuttle.  The space vehicle, according to amateur astronomers (who like to watch spy satellites as well), appears to be going through some tests.  The X-37B is believed to have a payload of about 227-300 kg (500-660 pounds).  The payload bay is 2.1×1.4 meters (7×4 feet).  As it returned to earth, it landed by itself (after being ordered to use a specific landing area.)  The X-37B weighs five tons, is nine meters (29 feet) long and has a wingspan of 4 meters (14 feet).  In contrast the Space Shuttle was 56 meters long, weighed 2,000 tons and had a payload of 24 tons.

The X-37B is a classified project, so not many additional details are available.  It’s been in development since 2000 but work was slowed down for a while because of lack of money.  Whatever the X-37B is now doing up there has been convincing enough to get Congress to spend over a billion dollars on it.  What makes the X-37B so useful is that it is very maneuverable, contains some internal sensors (as well as communications gear), and can carry mini-satellites, or additional sensors, in the payload bay.  Using a remotely controlled arm, the X-37B could refuel or repair other satellites.  But X-37B is a classified project, with little confirmed information about its payload or mission (other than testing the system on its first mission).  Future missions will involve intelligence work, and perhaps servicing existing spy satellites (which use up their fuel to change their orbits.)  The X-37B is believed capable of serving as a platform for attacks on enemy satellites in wartime.  It is believed that recent missions may have also involved testing new spy satellite components in space, where the harsh environment, especially the radiation, can have unpredictable effects on microelectronics.

The “blue yonder” gets wilder every year.

What the Numbers Say on Police Use of Force

It seems as if everyone from the excreable Al Sharpton to the President is inexhaustibly beating the drum of racial unrest in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island, NY.  So the article written by Steven Malanga, titled as above, and published earlier this week in City Journal, is timely.  From the article, these interesting excerpts:

What’s striking in the progression of these later studies is a steady decrease in the number of people having interactions with the police—from about 45 million in 2002 to 40 million in 2011—or from about 21 percent of the 16-and-older population to about 17 percent.  One clear reason for the decline has been the corresponding drop in crime: the number of people reporting crimes or other problems to the police fell by about 3.6 million from a peak in 2002.  More important, perhaps, was that reports of use of force by police also fell, from 664,000 in 2002 to 574,000 in a 2010 report.  Those declines occurred across all races.  The number of African-Americans reporting that police used force against them fell from 173,000 to 130,000.  Among whites, the number has dropped from a peak of 374,000 to 347,000.

and

… in the most recent survey, in 2011, 88.2 percent of those stopped by the police said they thought officers acted properly.  There were few significant distinctions by race.  Nearly 83 percent of African-Americans judged police behavior to be proper, for instance.  The study also asked citizens whether they thought the police had stopped them for a “legitimate” reason—and here the data on race is particularly interesting.  Some 80 percent of all drivers viewed their stops as legitimate, compared with 68 percent of African-Americans.  But the study also asked drivers to report the race of the officers who stopped them, and African-Americans were just as likely to say that stops initiated by white officers were legitimate as those initiated by black officers.  Similarly, white drivers saw no difference in how they were treated by white officers or black officers on this question.

I continue to believe that we must be ever vigilant against the abuse of police power, but the full article, HERE, contains a wealth of information, is enlightening, and is well worth reading.  Since it contains statistics drawn from Justice Department studies, you will realize that Eric Holder has no excuse for pretending that the police have a built-in antipathy toward black Americans.

The DoD 1033-Program Along the Crystal Coast

Back in November before the election, I attended a meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort NC Tea Party in order to hear the scheduled remarks of Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck.  In the Q-&-A session afterwards, as someone who has become increasingly concerned about the militarization of law enforcement in America, I asked Sheriff Buck to what degree his agency had become militarized, i.e., how much military style equipment had been acquired by the Sheriff’s Department during his tenure.  I was pleased to hear the Sheriff say that, beyond the standard firearms, bulletproof vests, and other essential equipment needed to protect the safety of his officers, he saw no reason to pursue any military-type equipment made available by the federal government.

Although my estimation of Sheriff Buck’s judgment went up a notch that evening, the same cannot be said for some of the other law enforcement agencies along the Crystal Coast.  After years of public clamor by folks who are as apprehensive as I about the aforementioned militarization, the Department of Defense has finally made public a detailed list of the military equipment given to law enforcement agencies all over America through the 1033 Program.  Below is a graphic depicting the goodies handed over to policing agencies along the Crystal Coast:

DoD-1033 Gifts on CC

Because of President Obama’s reaction to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other similar events recently, I expect that he will soon direct the Pentagon to refuse equipment to law enforcement agencies that cannot show that their policing personnel are not racially representative in comparison to the surrounding community.  Congress has also become somewhat interested in the issue of police militarization.

To peruse the entire list, organized alphabetically by municipality within states, click HERE, and be prepared to wait awhile after you make your selection from the two state groupings.  And, if you are a Crystal Coast reader residing in one of the localities in the list above, you might want to ask why they need the firepower.

Chinese Economy bigger than U.S.? Not so fast.

Earlier in the week a new assessment of international economies was released by the World Bank’s ICP, or International Comparison Program, and China was said to have come out on top.  But the people at MarketWatch are saying, HERE, that the ICP was doin’ it wrong, and that it will be a decade, more or less, for China to surpass the United States economy.  The article is brief, so read the whole thing.

Highlights of Tuesday’s CCTPP Meeting

At the meeting held last Tuesday, November 25th, the discussion was lively concerning the options that had been identified by Carteret County staff to implement the recommendations of the Springsted Corporation in their Compensation Study (earlier post HERE.)  Most of the attendees felt that the cost of even the least costly option was still too high considering the state of the economy in general, and the dismal prospects for County revenues in particular.  Since no consensus emerged from the discussions, members were left to their own devices for making their views known to the Commissioners.

After the discussions had concluded, a digital projector was set up and the 45-minute “Rocky Mountain Heist” video (below) was shown.  The video is narrated by Michelle Malkin, who previously lived in California before moving with her husband and kids to Colorado several years ago.  The video highlights the process by which four super-wealthy Colorado Democrats were able, by the end of the 2012 election cycle, to elect a Democratic Governor and a Democratic legislature (yes, both houses) in a state that just a few years ago was firmly red.

For those who were unable to attend the meeting, here’s the video:

The Carteret Commissioners take on the Springsted Study

Tomorrow morning, the Carteret County Commissioners will hold a special session beginning at 8:30am in the usual meeting room for the purpose of further deliberations on the Compensation Study done by the Springsted Corporation, and on Springsted’s recommendations for revising the County’s employee compensation policies.

At this point, there are four options before the Commissioners.  In the following options list, the term “SAFE Minimum Level” refers to the levels that are believed to be comparable to the compensation being paid in neighboring counties based on the Springsted survey.

1]  Moving the salary of most employees up to the SAFE Minimum Level, expected to cost the County about $1,007,952.  Employees who are already being paid above the minimum would be unaffected.

2]  Moving the salary of all employees up to the SAFE Minimum Level or to a level that is 2% above their current salary, whichever is greater, expected to cost the County about $1,158,071.

3]  Moving the salary of all employees up to the SAFE Minimum Level plus an additional one/half percent of their current salary for each year of service, expected to cost the County about $1,667,450.

4]  Moving the salary of all employees up to 110% of the SAFE Minimum Level plus an additional one/half percent of their current salary for each year of service, expected to cost the County about $3,389,367.

Over the weekend I read the Springsted report and several related documents, and some of my conclusions will be presented at the CCTPP meeting tonight.  If you are interested in this issue, please try to attend.

If time permits, we will also show the “Rocky Mountain Heist” video at tonight’s meeting.  For the trailer and more on this 45-minute video, click HERE.

On the Crimean Border, Putin Rattles the Nuclear Sabre

As I have written previously, HERE, Russian President Putin views the incorporation of the western Ukraine as a key part of his long-range plan to gather many of the former Soviet satellite states around the motherland once more.  Like many others, I also think that he recognizes the weakness of President Obama, and will therefore press his territorial ambitions before the end of Obama’s term.

In the current issue of the online Financial Times, Gideon Rachman has up an article about the escalations in recent months of Russian rhetoric as regards their nuclear capabilities.  He also quotes the current commander of European NATO forces, U.S. General Philip Breedlove, as saying that Putin’s military had moved to the Crimea “forces that are capable of being nuclear”.

From his article, this telling excerpt:

Last week, Pravda – the Soviet mouthpiece during the cold war – ran an article headlined, “Russia Prepares Nuclear Surprise for Nato”.  It crowed that Russia has parity with the US in strategic nuclear weapons and boasted: “As for tactical nuclear weapons, the superiority of modern-day Russia over Nato is even stronger.  The Americans are well aware of this.  They were convinced before that Russia would never rise again.  Now it is too late.”

The recent elections in the U.S. have drawn attention away from the situation in the Ukraine, but it is by no means resolved.

For the entire article, click HERE.

Immigration Reform: Money Talks

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article written by their reporter Julia Preston, in which she identifies the main funders of the push in recent years for “comprehensive immigration reform”, also known as amnesty.  It is a good article, but it may be behind a paywall Illegal_Immigrants_2for most readers.  Hence my extensive excerpting, beginning with this:

Over the past decade those donors have invested more than $300 million in immigrant organizations, including many fighting for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally.

<snip>

The philanthropies focused on a dozen regional immigrant rights organizations that make up the backbone of the movement.  They also supported Latino service organizations like NCLR, also known as the National Council of La Raza, and legal groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, and the National Immigration Law Center.

<snip>

The Ford Foundation already had a decades-long track record of funding nonprofit organizations aiding immigrants.  In 2003 Ford and Carnegie joined with several other donors to create an unusual collaborative fund to augment support for local groups.  Since then, Carnegie has given about $100 million for immigration initiatives, all in conventional charitable donations, including millions to help legal immigrants become American citizens.

The Open Society Foundations of Mr. Soros, an immigrant born in Hungary, have invested about $76 million in the past decade under the rubric of immigrant rights, according to Archana Sahgal, a program officer.

The Atlantic Philanthropies were founded by Charles Feeney, an Irish-American billionaire who built his fortune with a chain of duty-free shops.  Atlantic has given nearly $69 million in 72 immigration grants in the last decade.

By the way, it you click on any of the three links above to the latino immigration support sites (NCLR, MALDEF, National Immigration Law Center), you will probably see where some small portion of that $300M went.  These sites are well designed and pretty slick.

While it is good to know who the opposition is, we should not let these “big money” numbers diminish our committment to blocking any immigration legislation that includes an amnesty.  Remember, the recent election results showed clearly that the big money does not always prevail.

Senior U.S. Navy Officer relieved over China Assessment

As regular readers will know, I have written often about the activities and putative intentions of China with respect to the South China Sea.  One of those posts from last February, HERE, was about the assessments of a U.S. Navy Senior Intelligence Officer, Captain James Fanell, in regard to the specific objectives behind China’s Mission Action 2013 exercise, which took place in November, 2013.

Captain Fanell’s official title is (or was) Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence & Information Operations (PACFLEET), and his assessment was formally presented to an annual conference in San Diego of the senior members of the American military naval forces as well as naval contractors.  The theme for the 2014 conference, known as the 2014 Western Conference & Exposition (WEST-2014), was “Shaping the Maritime Strategy: How Do We Make It Work?”.  Also on the conference panel alongside Captain Fanell was Rear Admiral James Foggo, the Navy’s Chief of Operations, Plans, & Strategy.

Now comes word, via the Navy Times, that Captain Fanell has been relieved of his post by Admiral Harry Harris, apparently over the candor he displayed in his remarks at the West-2014 conference.  It seems that the Pentagon brass, and presumably the U.S. State Department, feel that his assessment of China’s intentions threaten the relationship between the U.S. and China at a time when the Obama administration is trying to engage China.

The Navy Times article is HERE, and for good measure, the WikiPedia page for the “Senkaku Islands dispute” is HERE.  And, in case any reader wonders why I attach such importance to developments in the South China Sea, it is because the Senkaku Islands, as well as many other disputed islands in the region, are currently regarded as Japanese territory and are thus included in the United States’ mutual defense treaty with Japan.  In other words, if China tries to take any of these islands by force, the U.S. is obligated to provide military assistance to Japan.

Previous posts on the situation in the South China Sea and on other matters related to U.S. military interests may be assessed by clicking on the “Military Affairs” sub-category (under the “Issues” category) from the sidebar to the right (only on the website’s Home page).

Asset Forfeiture: an egregious abuse in Iowa

I have written before, HERE, about police power abuse in the form of asset forfeiture laws and their enforcement.  In that connection, I have come to believe that everyone should:CopsAbusePower

a]  ALWAYS, at the earliest opportunity, ask a law enforcement officer why you were stopped on the highway or why you are being otherwise detained in order to get his reason on the record;

b]  NEVER give consent to a police search of your vehicle, your home or other real property, or your person;

c]  NEVER linger past the point at which the LEO acknowledges that the process related to his previously articulated reason for detaining you has ended, and if that point is not readily discernable, ask the LEO outright.  Specifically, never respond to any questions asked beyond that point, no matter how innocuous they may seem.

If you wish to know one of the many reasons why I advocate this, click HERE.

SCOTUS to take on King versus Burwell

I’ve written twice before this year (HERE and HERE) to comment on the progress through the federal court system of two ObamaCare cases.  The two are among the many filed that are predicated on the contention that ObamaCare subsidies cannot be legally paid when the health care coverage is purchased via a federal exchange (i.e., through the Healthcare.gov online portal) by a resident of a state that did not establish a state exchange.  North Carolina, of course, is one such state.

The first post noted the ruling in July of a 3-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case named Halbig versus Burwell.  The panel ruled, via a 2/1 majority, that such subsidies were illegal under the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or ObamaCare).

The second post was about a similar ruling, this one from a District Court in eastern Oklahoma in a case known as Oklahoma versus Burwell.

In the D.C. Circuit case, Halbig versus Burwell, the defendants (the Obama administration’s DHHS head Sylvia Burwell or her successor) had asked that the full court review the case, and their request had been granted.  Since the Obama administration has succeeded in recent years, with Senator Harry Reid’s help, in appointing several new liberal justices to the D.C. Circuit Court, this move was expected to eventually result in a victory for ObamaCare by way of an “en banc” reversal of the 3-judge panel’s ruling.

Now comes word in an announcement Friday that the Supreme Court has agreed to review King versus Burwell, another such case arising out of Virginia.  In this case, a 3-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Richmond, reached the conclusion that the residents of all fifty states were eligible for the federal subsidies, regardless of whether their state had created an exchange.

Since the lower federal courts are now split, the Supreme Court must resolve the basic issue.  We do not know which justices voted in favor of taking on the case, but it takes a minimum of four Supreme Court justices to grant certiorari, and it is something of a truism among court watchers that SCOTUS does not usually take on a case for the purpose of affirming a lower court ruling.  In addition, Justice Kennedy, the justice who is usually characterized as the Court’s current “swing vote”, was one of the four dissenters in NFIB versus Sebelius, the 2012 case in which Chief Justice John Roberts presided over a 5/4 majority to uphold the ObamaCare individual mandate.

There is, therefore, some basis for taking the optimistic view that there is substantial sentiment on the court for a view of the subsidies issue that is not in accord with that of the Obama administration’s Justice Department.

Another “Disparate Impact” Case

I am beginning to think that the Obama administration may set a new record for the number of regulations and/or executive actions that have or will be struck down by the federal courts.  The most recent instance happened on the day before the mid-term election, when Judge Richard Leon of the D.C. circuit (appointed by G.W.B.) wrote in his opinion that the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act language “appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking on steroids.”

I last wrote about the issue of “disparate impact” on October 25th, in a POST in which I noted that SCOTUS had agreed to take up the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs versus The Inclusive Communities Project case, and that the case would be an important one because of the potential for the Court to back away from the “disparate impact” doctrine established by Griggs v. Duke Power.

The case before Judge Leon was brought against HUD by the American Insurance Association (AIA).  The members of the AIA were burdened by the Obama administration’s over-reaching interpretations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, interpretations which had the effect of permitting HUD to bring many of the members’ business decisions under scrutiny for civil rights violations.  In an example from 2012, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), a NYC-based public interest group, sued Allstate Corporation for refusing to insure flat-roofed houses in Delaware.  In their suit, NFHA claimed that minorities were more likely to live in such buildings, and that they were therefore subject to discrimination by Allstate’s policy.

As an aside, in his twelve years on the federal bench, Judge Leon has compiled an interesting history.  For details, check out his WikiPedia page, HERE.

The Internal Revenue Service, a Law Unto Itself

I did not post about this in the run-up to Election Day, but not because it does not deserve our fullest attention.  Reporter Shaila Dewan of the Obama_HammerNew York Times put up an article on October 25th (possibly behind a pay wall) about the latest egregious abuse by the Internal Revenue Service, this time relating to the practice of “structuring”.  These are the two opening paragraphs:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant.  For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime.  Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

and later in the article:

… money was seized under an increasingly controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agents to take property they suspect of being tied to crime even if no criminal charges are filed.  Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.

Critics say this incentive has led to the creation of a law enforcement dragnet, with more than 100 multiagency task forces combing through bank reports, looking for accounts to seize.  Under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks and other financial institutions must report cash deposits greater than $10,000.  But since many criminals are aware of that requirement, banks also are supposed to report any suspicious transactions, including deposit patterns below $10,000.  Last year, banks filed more than 700,000 suspicious activity reports.  Owners who are caught up in structuring cases often cannot afford to fight.  The median amount seized by the I.R.S. was $34,000, according to the Institute for Justice analysis, while legal costs can easily mount to $20,000 or more.

There is nothing illegal about depositing less than $10,000 cash unless it is done specifically to evade the reporting requirement.  But often a mere bank statement is enough for investigators to obtain a seizure warrant.  In one Long Island case, the police submitted almost a year’s worth of daily deposits by a business, ranging from $5,550 to $9,910.  The officer wrote in his warrant affidavit that based on his training and experience, the pattern “is consistent with structuring.”  The government seized $447,000 from the business, a cash-intensive candy and cigarette distributor that has been run by one family for 27 years.

I don’t think the idea of a truly flat tax is feasible, but one strong argument in its favor is that the IRS could be virtually eliminated.

The full article is HERE.

The Phony War, 75-Years On

Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in September of 1939, days after Hitler broke his word and directed his military forces to invade Poland.  England declared war to honor their military alliance with Poland, but they did so with the full knowledge that they were totally unprepared to fight the Nazis.  Along with the other allies from World War I, including the United States, they had virtually disarmed in the aftermath of winning the “war to end all wars”.  They desperately needed time to re-arm, and so for a period of about eight months (from September, 1939 through May, 1940) neither side fired a shot against the other.  This period came to be known as the “phony war”.

In many ways, the phrase can be aptly used to describe what is going on with President Obama’s air campaign against the ISIS forces in the Middle East.

Max Boot, a well-known military correspondent, put up a short piece over the weekend at the online Commentary Magazine site which highlights some aspects of this lunacy.  From the lead-in:

If you want a laugh, go to the Central Command website and click on their press releases.  Every day there is a new dispatch about the anti-ISIS air campaign in Iraq and Syria known incongruously as Operation Inherent Resolve.  The latest release is from October 28: “U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Monday and today using attack and fighter aircraft to conduct four airstrikes.  Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq Monday and today using attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.”

What’s so funny here?  The fact that Central Command is trumpeting a mere 13 airstrikes, which only highlights how anemic this whole air campaign remains.

The full article, for which you may be required to register, is HERE.

Obama’s Southern Border Policy and the EV-D68 Virus

Suspicion has been growing that President Obama’s executive order from earlier this year, in which he granted permission for thousands of young hispanic immigrants to legally cross the southern border into the United States and then be bussed all around the country, is responsible for the national epidemic of the EV-D68 virus.  This is a serious concern, as the virus has already killed nine people in the U.S., paralyzed over GangstaGuvfour dozen others, and hospitalized hundreds more.  The epidemic, which began in August, is especially worrisome because there is no vaccine for EV-D68, an enterovirus which manifests itself in scores of slightly different strains.

Last week, Neil Munro put up a well-researched article on the Daily Caller website that explored several aspects of the issue, including the apprehension on the part of many researchers and other health care professionals that expressing too keen an interest in the origins of the outbreak could jeopardize their federal grant funding.

From the article:

The inflow of roughly 9,000 under-13 children from Central America were guided by smugglers or relatives to the Texas border, and then handed over to U.S. border agencies.  Obama’s agencies knowingly relayed most of these 9,000 “unaccompanied” kids to their parents or relatives living illegally in the United States.

<snip>

Roughly 14,855 people came over in 2013 in “family units,” and another 68,445 “family unit” people arrived in 2014, according to federal data.  That’s a total of 83,300 “family unit” people, with roughly 40.000 under-13 kids in two years.  Only a few hundred migrants were immediately sent home, even though the president has the authority to repatriate them.  Instead, Obama’s deputies released nearly all of the parents and kids to travel where they wished, pending their eventual appearance in court.

The full article, to which I have linked via the print page, HERE, is lengthy but worthwhile due to the scope of its content.

Can’t We PLEASE Put These Folks In Prison?

Most readers will be at least somewhat familiar with the efforts of North Carolina’s Jay DeLancy and his Voter Integrity Project, but do you know that James O’Keefe, the video prankster who makes a specialty of exposing the fraudulent practices of the liberals behind such organizations as ACORN, also has a focus on voter fraud?

Yep. And, standing on the shoulders of DeLancy’s VIP, his Project Veritas Action group just finished an expose on voter fraud in western North Carolina. The seven-minute video is below, and it’s a dilly.

Five Key Implications if Baghdad Falls to ISIS

That’s the title of an article from earlier this month by Patrick Poole, PJ-Media’s national security and terrorism correspondent. Since it appears Saigon_Evacuationthat it may be only a matter of time before ISIS takes the city, in spite of the Obama administration’s air campaign, Poole’s points, HERE, are worth considering.

Let’s all hope that our Green Zone troops and other Americans in Baghdad don’t end up being evacuated like the Saigon evacuees, pictured at right.

SCOTUS and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Earlier this week I put up THIS post about how the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which has the potential of resulting in the curtailing, or perhaps even the rescinding, of the Court’s previous invention of the “disparate impact” doctrine.  The doctine was initially established in a case known as Griggs versus Duke Power Company, from 1971.

A couple of months ago, in the September issue of The American Spectator, Washington Free Beacon reporter and American Spectator contributor Bill McMorris put up an excellent article about Griggs v. Duke Power, and how, over the course of the last 40+ years it has been subject to the law of unintended consequences.  McMorris article is entitled “How The Supreme Court Created The Student Loan Bubble”, and here’s a taste:

The saga began in 1969 when Willie Griggs, a black man born in the segregated South, decided he was overdue for a promotion.  In order to get one, per Duke Power Electric Company rules, he had to pass two aptitude tests and possess a high school diploma.  Griggs smelled racism.  The tests surveyed employees on basic math and intelligence questions.  None of Duke’s fourteen black workers passed.  Griggs and twelve others sued the company for discrimination.  A district court and federal appeals court accepted Duke’s claim that the tests were designed to ensure that the plant operated safely.  Duke bolstered its case by pointing out that it offered to pay for employees to obtain high school diplomas and that white applicants who failed to meet the requirements were also denied promotions.

The Supreme Court wasn’t buying it.  This was North Carolina after all.  <snip>  Griggs found that if blacks failed to meet a standard at a higher rate than whites the standard itself was racist—a legal doctrine known as disparate impact.

and

“Despite their imperfections, tests and criteria such as those at issue in Griggs (which are heavily…dependent on cognitive ability) remain the best predictors of performance for jobs at all levels of complexity,” University of Pennsylvania Professor Amy Wax has found.

<snip>

“Most legitimate job selection practices, including those that predict productivity better than alternatives, will routinely trigger liability under the current [Griggs] rule,” Wax wrote in a 2011 paper titled “Disparate Impact Realism.”

The solution for businesses post-Griggs was obvious: outsource screening to colleges, which are allowed to weed out poor candidates based on test scores.  The bachelor’s degree, previously reserved for academics, doctors, and lawyers, became the de facto credential required for any white-collar job.

We know what happened next.  The federal government’s provision of Pell Grants and low interest student loans resulted in an abundance of funding to pay for college tuition and study materials, which in turn allowed the higher education institutions to both raise tuition and create frivolous and/or easy majors (Women’s Studies, African Studies, Native American Studies, Underwater Basket Weaving) to entice even the lazy students into signing up.

McMorris’ article at The American Spectator is HERE, and the full article is well worth the time it takes to read it.

The current case to be taken up by SCOTUS is known as Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs versus The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  It is a very important case because of the potential for the Court to back away from the “disparate impact” doctrine established by Griggs v. Duke Power.  For more on the current case, check out THIS article on the ThinkProgress website from earlier this month.

UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Holt: Where is your apology to Mary Willingham?

Earlier today, he special report prepared by independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein on UNC-CH “no-show” classes for athletes was released.  The report is damning, and in response to questions about its content from reporters, UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt moved quickly to say that heads would roll, and she apologized to the student athletes for “prejudging their capabilities”.

But not a word about Mary Willingham.

As regular readers will know from my three previous posts this year on this subject, Mary Willingham was an academic advisor to the UNC-CH athletic department, and she was the first to call attention to the fact that many of the school’s athletes were essentially illiterate, either at the point they dropped out, or at graduation in those rare instances in which they actually gained a diploma.  For her efforts, the University effectively sacked her.

In the first (HERE) of my three earlier posts, I merely noted Willingham’s assertions as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  In the second, HERE, I wrote at some length about the problem and presented an example of an essay written by one UNC-CH athlete to satisfy an assignment in a African-American Studies class.  In the third, HERE, I wrote about the extensive efforts on the part of UNC-CH Chancellor Folt and the University to discredit Willingham and her claims, aided and abetted by CNN, among others in the mainstream media.  In light of the revelations contained in the Wainstein report, this paragraph from an article written by CNN reporter Sara Ganim in mid-April of this year seems astonishing:

Without actually naming her, UNC released a summary report that implied she incorrectly deduced that 60% of the sample were reading below a high school level, and that 8% were reading below a fourth-grade level.  “Outside experts found no evidence to support public claims about widespread low literacy levels,” UNC said in a statement.

Although early accounts focused on Julius Nyang’oro, the former professor and chairman of the African Studies department at UNC-CH, the Wainstein report now puts Debby Crowder in the line-up.  Crowder was second in command to Nyang’oro within the Department.  Conveniently, both Nyang’oro and Crowder are retired.

The full article at the Charlotte Observer is HERE, and it is well worth reading.  To read the full Wainstein report (in PDF form), click HERE.

And another thing.  The article from the Charlotte Observer mentions one Alphonse Mutima, and identifies him as a Swahili professor.  I ask you, dear reader, WHAT THE HELL does UNC need with a SWAHILI PROFESSOR?  Jeez, Louise!