Sunday, February 27, 2011

Something to Think About Before You Go To A BDS Rally

Image from
The BDS movement is about one thing: supporter oppressors and instigators of violence. The BDS movment is not about peace, equality, or human rights because it supports undemocratic, violent organizations which are committed to violating human rights whenever possible.

If you believe in human rights, if you believe in liberal ideas, if you believe in peace, then you have to ask yourself, who does the BDS programme actually support?
Image from

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Honor of the Upcoming Apartheid Week... Some Inconvenient Facts About Israel and the Arabs

Click on the image to enlarge. Shamelessly stolen from

More Dancing With The Stars Rumors (2011 Rumors III)

This is just a quickie... but the two names that are getting thrown about a lot are:
Faye Dunaway


Christine O'Donnell

Now, Faye Dunaway, I get. She is a legitimate star, albeit one whose light has dimmed as she has gotten older and she's gotten fewer roles. Christine O'Donnell though to me is a little more of a mystery. Sure, she was the darling of the Tea Party last year, at least until the witch stuff started to come out, but otherwise, she is a failed candidate for senate.

I know which one I'd be more intrigued to see.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


President Obama should be impeached.

It may come as a shock to those reading, but I do not admire President Obama. I disagree on his approach to healthcare, leadership, and foreign policy. I think that his version of "sound economic policy" is best described as bread circuses. I think his position on gay rights has been, at best, lackluster. How could someone who seriously attempts to cast himself in the progressive or liberal democrat mode seriously suggest that they do not support equal rights for all when it comes to something as fundamental as marriage? Yet throughout the campaign, and as recently as this year, he has refused to fully support equal recognition of all persons in this country to receive the benefits of rights that we have reserved only for heterosexual couples.

 His latest attempt, however, to shed his image as a Johnny come lately to the idea that homosexuals should have the same access to the same fundamental rights is fundamentally wrong. It is also, I suggest, an abrogation of his duty as President. It does and should be viewed as a high crime or misdemeanor.

On Wednesday, President Obama instructed the Attorney-General to cease defending the Defense of Marriage Act(DOMA). By doing this, he abrogated to himself the determination of whether a law is constitutional. He also refused to do one of the  duties for which he swore an oath. Something that it seems the mainstream press is missing, he is also creating a precedent for executive nullification.

DOMA is and always has been an example of American legislation at it's worst. A law designed to deprive a class of people from a right recognized as fundamental to everyone not in that class. It was one of President Cinton's greatest failings that he signed it into law, rather than forcing Congress to override his veto.

From the Clinton Administration until yesterday that law has been defended by the Justice Department. Although President Obama refused to endorse equal protection for gay rights, he has always stated that he was against the law. Yet, when he had the backing of the electorate and near supermajority in Congress, he refused to do anything about the law. He did not seek to have legislation introduced to excise the law from the books. He barely made mention of it from 2009 until 2011.

In short, he had the opportunity and the means to do something about the law but refused to act.

Now, in a cynical move, President Obama has decided that the law is unconstitutional. As such, he has instructed Attorney General Holder to cease defending the law before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The case before the 2nd Circ, v. , is about whether or not the law is constitutional.

Here is the first problem with President Obam's action: it is not his decision to make. As anyone who has passed eighth grade history should know, much less someone who claims to be a constitutional scholar, the federal government is made up of three separate, co-equal branches. They are the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch.the legislators of the Legislative Branch, otherwise known as the House of Representatives and the Senate, draft and vote on the laws. The Executive has the authority to veto the laws, but, just as importantly, must execute and uphold the laws. Finally, the Judicial Branch adjudicates disputes over the laws, including whether the laws are in fact constitutional.

I defy anyone to point to a clause of the U.S. Constitution or its amendments to show where the Executive Branch, or the president himself has the power to make a binding determination that a law is unconstitutional when it has been passed and signed into law.

Yet that is exactly what President Obama has done.

Now the argument may be made that he has not instructed the various departments of the government to cease enforcing the law. However, with the law under attack and at issue in a court, he has essentially instructed the Attorney General Holder to allow the case to go into default, to not answer the appeal.

In boxing, it's called taking a dive.

Now, some people ask, why is this important? It's important because it sets a precedent for how future presidents will carry out their duties. Will they uphold all the laws? Or just the ones that they find fit their style or the needs of a special interest group.

For instance, what if the next president is a social conservative. And what if this social conservative decides he is not going to uphold the law repealing DADT. And when it is challenged by some group as being unconstitutional, he orders the Attorney General to decline to defend the law. Insert any controversial law there and you could have a future president do what President Obama has done.

This gets our Republic into a dangerous area. It confers upon one man the power to overrule legislation which has been validly passed.

It is wrong. It is a violation of President Obama's oath. By following this illegal order, Attorney General Holder should likewise be held accountable.

A president, no matter how well intentioned, has the power to act as a king would.

President Obama has committed a high crime or misdemeanor. He has broken his oath of office. He should be impeached.

Too bad that the members in the Senate, in either party, lack the moral courage necessary to take the appropriate steps. It is even more unfortunate that the press has been hailing this decision, giving their imprimatur and adding legitimacy to his action.

No matter how right the ultimate intention may be, in this type of situation, breaking the law, breaking the oath, is never justified. There is a system in place to deal with this. President Obama had the opportunity  to avail his administration of the system. Yet he has chosen to abdicate his duties and has ordered his subordinates to follow his lead.

Like other presidents who violated the law, President Obama should and mist be held accountable. He should be impeached and forced to stand trial.

Otherwise, the system means nothing. The Constitution is dead letter and ceases to act as a restraint on any sitting president. And our rights are committed to the whim of an elected tyrant.

President Obama must be held accountable for his actions as the Constitution demands.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MUNI Chief May Leave... Good Riddance

So San Francisco's Muni head may be getting a new job. Reports are that he is in the running to take over the Washington D.C. airport authority.

Guess what? Let him.

Let him go under-perform somewhere else. Let him go mess up and overspend in another locality.

Above all, let him go so that we can try someone new in the position. Someone who might have the gumption to stand up to the unions without the rest of the city having to get involved. He's been inadequate since he started in 2006.

Under his watch, he failed to take the steps necessary to bring Muni into compliance with its mandated targets. He failed to keep service from being cut. He failed to make sure the fares got collected.

In short, he has failed.

However, and I'm sure that some out there want to, if you want to look at his accomplishments, he brought the city together. That happens when you increase fares twice in five years. That happens when you slash service across the board because he and his staff could not get it together to do more than "limp along." And he succeeded in bringing down the approval of Muni to its lowest levels since 2000.

A list any bureaucrat would be proud to brag about, I'm sure.

But his proudest accomplishment, I am sure, is ending the program that cracked down on fare cheats. Apparently, Mr. Ford agreed with special interest groups who complained that being forced to pay the fare was "classist" and "racist".

If I had the power, he would have been out of a job the first time the system had to cut service to the people of San Francisco. Let's hope the Washington D.C. airport people are as snowed by his resume as the SFMTA has been. Unfortunately for us, the Washington transit people weren't, otherwise he'd have been gone by now.

With Mr. Ford hopefully going, things need to change at Muni. First off, the Muni employees need to be brought back to reality and that means the next contract needs to bring their salaries in line with the economic realities, not the fantasies of the union heads. Second, the $315,000 salary for the head of Muni needs to go. If it stays, it has to be conditioned on performance. We are letting our City's department heads fail with no repercussions. That needs to change. Muni is the poster child for San Francisco's failure right now (though wait a week and I'm sure that will change).  It needs to be rehabilitated, from top to bottom.

We want to be a transit first city? Fine. Then we have to have a transit system that makes that goal. Right now, its not. That must change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Rumors II (Pre-Season DWTS)

So its looking like there are finally some leaks about this season's cast for Dancing With Stars. It appears that two of the pros will definitely be back. Louis Van Amstel will be there (meaning that there will be a short female among the professionals) and Lacey Schwimmer (which means that obviously there is no Santa Claus otherwise he would've read my letter.)

As far as "stars" go, some of the rumors lately have been centered around Wendy Williams. The support for this is that she is planning to put her show on hiatus for a little while. The little while would be the same time that Dancing With The Stars will be airing.

Another rumor has been about Kendra Wilkinson being a contestant this season. That one I am not so sure about. She just announced she is pregnant again and I do not think that ABC's legal department or insurers are ready for an injury to occur to a pregnant woman.

One of the weirder rumors that is floating about is that Carlos Leon may be in the cast. Apparently, he has been expressing interest in joining the show. Now who is Mr. Leon? He's Madonna's ex-husband and the father of her daughter, Leon. The man is famous for impregnating Madonna. Does that really make him a star or unlucky?

Then there is the report that Candace Cameron Bure is joining the cast this season. You may remember her better as DJ Tanner on Full House. More recently, she has been on a show called Make It or Break It on ABC Family.

Thankfully, it is being reported that Rev. Al Sharpton has turned down DWTS. Again. A better question is why did they bother asking him once?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I May In Fact Just Be A Curmudgeon

So if you haven't guessed, I have now, and pretty much always been, a geek. I was that guy playing D&D, working in high school journalism while doing speech and debate. The only thing I did not do was watch anime in the original Japanese because I got so frustrated trying to read quickly and watch what was going on the screen.

When I did speech and debate, I did it through a fairly hard core program that as a group had a lot of success. Those who coached me were rarely touchy-feely types who were overly concerned with my self-esteem. They were concerned with turning me into a polished speaker who could hold an audience's attention and grab judges votes. Self-esteem came from doing well.

And that brings me to what happened recently. A call went out for judges to judge a competition (it was a mock-trial competition). Now I never did mock trial back in the day, but I have judged it a few times, though not for a few years. The last time I judged, I was told to make my comments constructive, and not to just tear down the student being judged. Which I think is the way to do it.

However, the other day, when I went to judge, I was told by the organizers to be as positive as possible. Huh? Whats the point of my judging and critiquing their presentations and questioning if not to tell them how to get better?

Apparently, the self-esteem is the big thing because, as one of the organizers said, "Some of these student's don't come from the most economically advantaged backgrounds." We warned about criticizing too much because it might deter them from coming back.

Let me get this straight: you want me to overly positive in my comments and to refrain if possible from the negative aspects of what they did because the students are poor? That's all the more reason they should be fairly and justly criticized. I'm not saying I, or any other judge out there, should tear them apart because we can. If people want to improve, then they have to know what areas need to be improved upon.

So when the time came to give the critiques, I went last. I was really hoping that the other judges on my panel were going to show me the way, because they were both former participants in mock trial and had been judging regularly (as opposed to my last judging experience which was happened pre-9/11). And what did they say? They both gushed over the participants and how well they did, without offering a single criticism.

Did they not see how both sides failed to answer direct questions posed to them in the pre-trial phase? These questions were not out of left field. They went to the heart of case that the students were going to try. I was not expecting Theodore Olsen-type answers, but really the questions each had a simple answer that should have been a core value for either side. For the prosecution it should have been all about the victim. For the defense team, it should have been all about the constitutional right at stake.

I know what its like to work hard at that age and be critiqued by someone who has little familiarity with either the competition or the substance of what is being argued. But I also know how valuable fair, constructive criticism was compared to the "Great job" only ballots that I got back from some judges.

So here are a few of the things that I did not get to say last night, mostly because one team left without asking for any feedback. And for that team, it was a serious mistake, even though they got the conviction.  They are:

  • Don't turn your back on the jury. 
  • Don't stand so that you are the only person who can see the witness. Yes, your suit jacket was nicely pressed, but I would have rather heard what you had to say and your witness' testimony. Its not a conversation between yourself and the witness. Its a conversation between the witness and the jury that you are prompting. 
  • Cross Examination is cool, but its easier. The better mock trial attorneys I saw were the ones who were able to bring out the story on direct. 
  • Just because cross examination is cool doesn't mean you go up without a plan. Know where you are going. Simply getting admissions are useless if you have not teed up the issue earlier so that the jury knows its important.
  • When arguing the pre-trial motion, known what your core value is and stick to it. Don't dance around the questions that the judges will ask you. If you are asking the judge to do something and he asks you how it goes in line with something else in the document universe (like another decision) find a way to bring it on to the ground you want the judge to rule on. For example, the other day the case dealt with a law on cyberbullying. In the packet there were cases going both ways. The judge threw up relative easy question on how you distinguish between this case being litigated and one where a restriction on free speech was upheld. For the defense, you need to go and distinguish it head on. The teams I witnessed, both talked around the point, seemingly afraid to stand up for their position. It undercut their advocacy. There is not a perfect answer, but there were multiple options for ways to handle it. 
  • Both sides needed to listen better to the testimony which was being given. Both sides missed beautiful straight lines because they were wedded to their prepared questions and did not deviate from the order that they were written. The other side opens themselves up, go for it. The worst that can happen is what...? Its not like anyone is really going to go jail here. Have fun. Try it out. 

And finally there is one comment to a female participant lawyer that there is no way I would ever be allowed to say to the group and I would be hesitant to say it to her directly, but I will here. You know who you are. That skirt is only appropriate in a courtroom where David E. Kelly is running the show. Really.

By the way, Mrs. Angrybell, who has been reading this as I have been typing it confirms that, yes, in fact, I am a curmudgeon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Reason Why The Debt Ceiling (And Government Debt) Matters

So its been a while since I put something up. And I had started a number of postings on whats going in various parts of the world. But this afternoon, I was reading about the Suez Crisis in 1956 and it reminded about why some things are more important.

For those who were failed by their history teachers, in 1956 Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Originally, the Suez Canal was owned by the French and Egyptian company which built the canal. Called the Universal Suez Canal Company, the stock of the company was held by French and Egyptian investors, most notably the Egyptian government. But the Egyptian Government ran into a severe financial crisis in 1875 and had to sell the shares. The shares were purchased by Great Britain. So, basically you have an Egyptian corporation whose shareholders were either French investors or the British Government.

Gamal Nasser, the president of Egypt in 1956, had earlier embarked on a policy of deliberately confronting Great Britain and other Western Powers. This resulted in Egypt drifting into the Soviet orbit during the Cold War. By 1956, with Britain's power waning, and France coming off the recent defeat at Dien Bien Phu, Nasser was ready to cut all ties with the west in bid to assert the primacy of Egypt in the Middle East. He ordered his military to physically seize control of the Suez Canal. As soon as the canal was seized, which it was by surprise, he froze all the assets of Universal Suez Canal Company, and ordered the forced sale of all the stock from the shareholders, thereby nationalizing the company and the canal.

Now, the British and the French were not prepared to take this act of thievery lying down. The only problem was the U.S. The Eisenhower administration had no desire to get embroiled in some flap in the Middle East. The United States had already been snubbed by Egypt when Nasser recognized the People's Republic of China. In retaliation, the US withdrew its support for the Aswan High Dam project, a move that some commentators believe was the trigger for Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal. Despite the cooling relations with the Egyptians, the U.S. failed to demonstrate any leadership in the situation, content to sit on the sidelines on this one.

With the U.S. failing to commit to any actions, the British and French enlisted the aid of Israel, who were suffering from the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran (in the Red Sea) which effectively closed the port of Eilat in Israel, in a plan to regain control of the canal. The result became known as the 1956 Sinai Campaign or Sinai Crisis.

On 29 October 1956, the IDF executed Operation Kadesh. Paratroopers and mechanized columns struck Egyptian positions in a blitzkrieg-style attack. Within days, the IDF had captured the whole of the Sinai Peninsula, including Sharm el Sheik in the south, which was the base from which the blockade of Israel was managed and directed. Having seized control of the Mitla Pass, the IDF was within 30 km of the canal, on 2 November 1956.

As part of their agreed plan, Great Britain and France initiated their operations on 31 October 1956. Known as Operation Musketeer and Operation Telescope, depending on phase of the operation, British and French forces invaded the canal zone, seizing control of strategic points and expelling the Egyptian Army after a short fight. By 6 November 1956, the military operations were concluded.

Although successful, the British, French and Israelis soon had the rug pulled out from under them. The Soviet Union began to threaten that Britain, France and Israel did not withdraw, it would lend Egypt military support. At the same time, the US was caught between trying to support the Hungarian revolution while reconciling how to support its allies in their endeavor in Suez. Unfortunately, the Eisenhower Administration could not, especially with the spectre of Soviet intervention becoming a reality. Trying to favor the Hungarians, the US forced the British and French to withdraw and the Israelis to surrender almost all of its gains in the war.

How did it do this? The primary power involved was Great Britain. However, British finances, which had been rocky for years, were being buoyed by the United States holding millions of pounds sterling worth of bonds which had been issued by the Bank of England. Because Britain's losses in recent years had been so bad, it was applying to the IMF for emergency funds. The IMF funds were denied to Britain by the United States. Eisenhower, to make his point, unmistakably clear, instructed his Secretary of Treasury to prepare to sell the British bonds. Sale of the bonds would have resulted in a massive devaluation of the pound, making it worthless. Faced with the potential for a worthless currency, meaning that Britain would be unable to import food or fuel, the British Government was forced to concede the issue.

It was a humiliation for the British Government, Empire, and its people. It was a blow to British prestige that still lingers. Britain was no longer a world power, but effectively a US satellite or a junior partner, unable to act in major foreign policy issues without the approval of Washington.

Without the British support, France could not sustain the occupation on its own. Its own resources were stretched by the rebellion in Algeria as well as the costs of recent war in Indochina. Without their British partner, they too were forced to withdraw from the Suez Canal.

Anyone noticed what happened there? Without debating the rights and wrongs of the Sinai Campaign, look at why the British and French were forced to surrender a significant concession. It was because of the British debt held by the United States. The amount of debt held in the form of the bonds was so great, that if only some of the bonds were sold, the Pound Sterling would be significantly devaluated. Had all of them been sold, and Eisenhower was believed to be ready to sell them all to make his point, then Britain would have been bankrupted.

We were allegedly Britain's ally in the Cold War. Being lead by a president who had demonstrated in the past great respect to Britain.

Who holds an awful lot of our debt? China.

And I'll be willing to say that they don't like us half as much as Eisenhower liked Great Britain back in the day.

And someone wants to raise the debt ceiling, again.  Maybe that's not such a good idea. Unless of course you want our government to cede its independence of action to a debt holder with as much power as we had over Britain in 1956.