Monday, April 27, 2015

It Takes a Party

Celebrity Watch:

Bruce Jenner Spotted on Motorcycle Ride in Los Angeles

All that you need to do is change gender, and you're news again.

Jennifer Lopez and Casper Smart Keep It Friendly in Las Vegas

I guess friendly is news.

Blake Lively: Breastfeeding Has Become a ‘Full-Time Job’

That should help with the unemployment problem.


Building your Vocabulary:


1. A note at the end of the book giving information about its production: font, paper, binding, printer, etc.
2. A publisher’s emblem, usually on the spine or the title page of the book.



It Takes a Party
Paul Krugman, New York Times
… there has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.

Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more. Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy — House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax — while slashing programs that aid low-income families.

Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested. Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, “systemically important” financial institutions.

And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

How did the parties get this far apart? Political scientists suggest that it has a lot to do with income inequality. As the wealthy grow richer compared with everyone else, their policy preferences have moved to the right — and they have pulled the Republican Party ever further in their direction. Meanwhile, the influence of big money on Democrats has at least eroded a bit, now that Wall Street, furious over regulations and modest tax hikes, has deserted the party en masse. The result is a level of political polarization not seen since the Civil War.




jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

OKC Bombing – 20 Years Ago

On April 19, 1995, a truck-bomb explosion outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, left 168 people dead and hundreds more injured. The blast was set off by anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh, who in 2001 was executed for his crimes. His co-conspirator Terry Nichols received life in prison. Until September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst terrorist attack to take place on U.S. soil.

At 9:02 a.m., a rental truck packed with explosives detonated in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The powerful explosion blew off the building’s north wall. Emergency crews raced to Oklahoma from across the country, and when the rescue effort finally ended two weeks later the death toll stood at 168 people, including 19 young children who were in the building’s day care center at the time of the blast. More than 650 other people were injured in the bombing, which damaged or destroyed more than 300 buildings in the immediate area.

A massive hunt for the bombing suspects ensued, and on April 21 an eyewitness description led authorities to charge Timothy McVeigh (1968-2001), a former U.S. Army soldier, in the case. As it turned out, McVeigh was already in jail, having been stopped a little more than an hour after the bombing for a traffic violation and then arrested for unlawfully carrying a handgun. Shortly before he was scheduled to be released from jail, he was identified as a prime suspect in the bombing and charged. That same day, Terry Nichols (1955-), an associate of McVeigh’s, surrendered in Herington, Kansas. Both men were found to be members of a radical right-wing survivalist group based in Michigan.

On August 8, Michael Fortier, who knew of McVeigh’s plan to bomb the federal building, agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence. Two days later, McVeigh and Nichols were indicted on charges of murder and unlawful use of explosives.

Oklahoma City Bombing: McVeigh and Nichols Sentenced

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was convicted on all 11 counts against him, and on August 14 the death penalty was formally imposed. The following year, Fortier, who had met McVeigh in the Army, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn authorities about the Oklahoma City bombing plan. Fortier was released from prison in 2007 and entered the witness protection program.

In December 1997, Nichols was found guilty on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, for killing federal law enforcement personnel, and was sentenced to life in prison. In 2004, he was tried on state charges in Oklahoma and convicted of 161counts of first-degree murder, including fetal homicide. He received 161 consecutive life terms in prison.

In December 2000, McVeigh asked a federal judge to stop all appeals of his convictions and to set a date for his execution. The request was granted, and on June 11, 2001, McVeigh, 33, died by lethal injection at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was the first federal prisoner to be put to death since 1963.

In May 1995, the Murrah Building was demolished for safety reasons, and a national memorial and museum later opened at the site.



jbv's Competitive Edge 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Police and Deadly Force

Celebrity Watch:
Anne Hathaway Crushes Emily Blunt on Lip Sync Battle
I guess that’s a valuable skill in show biz.
Building your Vocabulary:


adjective: Readily broken; breakable.
Did police use excessive force? 3 cases in the spotlight
(CNN) A man dies in police custody after a dog allegedly mauls him. A mentally ill man is shot dead after his family calls police asking for help. An officer shoots into a vehicle after a car chase, killing a man originally suspected of drunk driving.
As debate once again surges about whether police are using excessive force -- and whether race plays a role in how much force they use -- three recent cases from around the country are in the spotlight.
Details are still emerging about the incidents. In all three cases, which resulted in the deaths of African-American men, representatives of the officers involved have said they were physically threatened and acted appropriately.
Feidin Santana on S.C. shooting: I told them what they did was an abuse
(CNN) Feidin Santana, the man who recorded a South Carolina police officer fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed man, told CNN on Thursday night he was told by another cop to stop using his phone to capture the incident.
"One of the officers told me to stop, but it was because I (said) to them that what they did it was an abuse and I witnessed everything," he told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360˚."
Santana told Cooper an officer told him to wait where he was but eventually he left the scene to go to work.
In other interviews, Santana has said he feared for his life, which almost kept him from revealing the recording.
Do Police Use Deadly Force Too Often? (see New York Times discussion)
Some Opinions:
  • Police Shouldn’t Ask If a Shooting Is Justified, But If It’s Avoidable
  • Police Use of Deadly Force Is Rare, Scrutiny Has Risen
  • Walter Scott’s Death Should End Public’s Denial of Police Victimization of Blacks
  • No Way to Tell Without a National Database


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

lsrael and Iran

Celebrity Watch:

Jay Cutler's Autographed Football Gets Zero Bids at Charity Event

I bet that stings

Building your Vocabulary:


1. Sluggish.
2. Gloomy.
3. Cold.


Iran must commit to recognizing Israel's right to exist in final deal - Netanyahu

Jerusalem (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist be written into an emerging nuclear deal, as he convened top officials for talks on Friday.

"Some say that the only alternative to this bad deal is war," he added. "That's not true. There is a third alternative – standing firm, increasing the pressure on Iran until a good deal is achieved." And he stipulated that one of the provisions of a "good deal", must be an end to Iranian threats against the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here on April 1, 2015, has warned world powers that "Israel demands that any final agreement with Iran will include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel's right to exist,' he said.

"Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period." Israel is the Middle East's sole, albeit unacknowledged, nuclear power.

Under the deal, Iran's stocks of highly enriched uranium will be cut by 98 percent for 15 years, while its unfinished Arak reactor will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The powers hope that this, along with a reduction in its uranium centrifuge numbers, will make it virtually impossible for Iran to produce nuclear weapons.

Israeli media were divided over the accord, with an opinion piece in the daily Haaretz calling it "not a bad deal at all".

"Iran perhaps scored some victories in terms of the narrative... but the world powers made significant achievements of their own on the real practical issues," the left-leaning paper said.

The Jerusalem Post, in an article by British journalist Melanie Phillips, however, said the continuation of talks towards a lasting deal was a "terrifying situation".

"The US has been prepared to allow a regime that is openly pursuing America's destruction and the annihilation of Israel to achieve nuclear weapons breakout capacity," she wrote.

I differ from many (like Congress) who insist on supporting Israel in any case, including bad behavior. I think the proliferation of Israeli settlements in what is nominally the West Bank must be stopped and reversed.

Certainly the change of national boundaries by force goes against American principles and that’s what the settlements represent. We let Russia get away with it in the Crimea, but don’t expect this from an ally.

And now Netanyahu wants an acknowledgement from Iran that Israel deserves to exist. They have don’t believe Iran about nuclear development, but would believe their sincerity about this. For the U.S. this would provide Israel’s buy-in to the agreement.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

New law 'not about discrimination'

Celebrity Watch:

Chris Soules Kisses Whitney Bischoff on Romantic Date Night

Who are these people, and since when is a kiss headline material?

Lady Gaga spotted on Metairie Road (so?)

Is this news?

Michigan Couple, Expecting Baby Girl, Shocked to Give Birth to a Boy


Building your Vocabulary:


adjective: Pleasing or inclined to please.




The Republican Party is not conservative enough for Beck:


“I’ve made my decision — I’m out," Beck said on his radio show Wednesday, according to "I’m out of the Republican Party. I am not a Republican; I will not give a dime to the Republican Party. I’m out.”


The former Fox News host and founder of the Blaze supported the GOP during the last election cycle but has become disillusioned with the party in recent years over what he believes was its failure to stand up to the Obama administration — specifically, the Affordable Care Act and immigration reform.


Indiana governor: New law 'not about discrimination'

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended the new state law that's garnered widespread criticism over concerns it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians and said Sunday it wasn't a mistake to have enacted it.


Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to discuss the measure he signed last week prohibiting state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Of Bieber, Clerihew, and Jindal

Please indulge my inability to figure out how to format articles on this blog.

Celebrity Watch:

Best jokes from a Justin Bieber Roast

"Bieber has 10 million fans – most are in middle schools, or standing at least 500 feet away from one." – Kevin Hart

"Justin's fan are called beliebers because it's politically incorrect to use the word retards." – Natasha Legerro

Building your Vocabulary:


noun: A humorous, pseudo-biographical verse of four lines of uneven length, with the rhyming scheme AABB, and the first line containing the name of the subject.

Named for writer Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), who originated it. Earliest documented use: 1928. Here is one of his clerihews:

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, “I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls
Say I am designing St. Paul’s.”

Following Bobby Jindal:
Bobby Jindal is my favorite political target. There's just so much material there. Louisiana has suffered because of his trying to be "pure" conservative in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Well he is up to 2% in the polls. Is he really running for Vice-President?

Jindal sits at about 2 percent in national Republican polls. He has become such an afterthought that he recently resorted to asking himself a “gotcha” question. The media hadn’t bothered, and he wanted to stay in the conversation.

Last year, Jindal spent about 165 days — 45 percent of the year — outside of Louisiana, according to the Advocate newspaper. That included four trips to New Hampshire and five trips to Iowa.

Jindal has an elite résumé. He was a biology major at Brown University, and a Rhodes Scholar. He knows the science, or at least he ought to. But in his rise to prominence in Louisiana, he made a bargain with the religious right and compromised science and science education for the children of his state. In fact, Jindal’s actions at one point persuaded leading scientific organizations, including the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, to cross New Orleans off their list of future meeting sites (PDF).

Jindal signed a law the “Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), “which is named for what it is designed to destroy” says James Gill, a New Orleans columnist. Gill has also written an article titled “Bobby Jindal might stand out in Iowa -- as a 'financially irresponsible ideologue who wrecked healthcare and higher education.”

Jindal signed the LSEA into law in 2008, endorsing the thinly veiled attempt to allow creationism into the science classrooms of his state. The backers of the law made it clear that material on intelligent design would be high on the list of supplemental materials that local boards and teachers could present to their students.

In a 2008 interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Jindal said that he wanted students “to be presented with the best thinking, I want them to be able to make decisions for themselves, I want them to see the best data. … I’d certainly want my kids to be exposed to the very best science. I don't want any facts or theories or explanations to be withheld from them because of political correctness.”


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

War with Iran

News headline of the week:

Celebrity headline of the week:

Feature article:

I don’t have much to say this week, simply that I came across an article that could interest you.This is the first time that I have seen war with Iran offered as a policy recommendation. Will it come out the author’s suggested way? It is doubtful, almost unthinkable, but perhaps we need to consider it carefully. The article was edited for length, but click on the headline to see it in full.

Let us know what you think.

By Joshua Muravchik, published in the Washington Post

About the treaty with Iran: What does Netanyahu offer as an alternative? War?

What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran’s power to achieve that goal.

Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. Nor would the stiffer sanctions that Netanyahu advocates bring a different result. Sanctions could succeed if they caused the regime to fall; the end of communism in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and of apartheid in South Africa, led to the abandonment of nuclear weapons in those states. But since 2009, there have been few signs of rebellion in Tehran.

Otherwise, only military actions — by Israel against Iraq and Syria, and through the specter of U.S. force against Libya — have halted nuclear programs. Sanctions have never stopped a nuclear drive anywhere.

Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does.

Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary. Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.

And finally, wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably. We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.

Nonetheless, we might absorb some strikes. Wrenchingly, that might be the price of averting the heavier losses that we and others would suffer in the larger Middle Eastern conflagration that is the likely outcome of Iran’s drive to the bomb.

Yes, there are risks to military action. But Iran’s nuclear program and vaunting ambitions have made the world a more dangerous place. Its achievement of a bomb would magnify that danger manyfold. Alas, sanctions and deals will not prevent this.


jbv's Competitive Edge