Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Trump Administration Refuses to Enforce Russian Sanctions Overwhelmingly Passed by Congress

The President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed..."
Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution
Well, maybe not so much...  Fox News reports:
The Trump administration has decided not to punish anybody for now under new sanctions retaliating for Russia's election-meddling, the State Department said Monday, in a surprising move that fueled further questions about whether President Donald Trump is too soft on Moscow. 
The government had until Monday to take two steps under a law passed by Congress last year in the wake of the 2016 presidential campaign. The first required the U.S. to slap sanctions on anyone doing "significant" business with people linked to Russia's defense and intelligence agencies, using a blacklist the U.S. released in October. The second required the administration to publish a list of Russian "political figures and oligarchs" who have grown rich under President Vladimir Putin. 
On the first item, the administration decided it didn't need to penalize anyone, even though several countries have had multibillion-dollar arms deals with Russia in the works. State Department officials said the threat of sanctions had been deterrent enough, and that "sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed." 
"We estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. She did not provide evidence or cite any examples.
Politico clarifies that, under the law, sanctions were to go into place "unless Congress is notified that prospective targets are 'substantially reducing' that business."  Yet, the Trump administration offers no evidence or examples of prospective targets reducing business...just a blank, vague assertion instead  And yet Congress is going to let the Trump administration is going to let the Trump administration off the hook for implementing a law which passed Congress almost unanimously?  
These sanctions were passed by Congress to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.  President Trump at the time complained loudly about the law but signed the bill anyway because he knew his veto would be overridden.  Undoubtedly the calculation was made that the best option was for the President to simply ignore constitutional duty to make sure the law is "faithfully executed."  
I thought we just got rid of an Imperial President who believed he could make policy without interference from the legislative branch.  Unfortunately, we ended up with worse. President Trump, far more than President Obama, believes he is a man above the law.  Unfortunately, several Republican members of the House of Representatives are working overtime desperately trying  to subvert justice so there are no consequences for the President Trump or his buddy, Vladimir Putin, for what happened during the 2016 presidential election.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Extremely Poor Experience Attempting to Adopt a Rescue Dog From Indianapolis Animal Care and Control

My family had dogs and cats growing up in Southern Indiana.   Thus, my four brothers and I (no sisters) grew up liking pets and have enjoyed dogs and/or cats in adulthood. When one  of my brothers recently moved from Indianapolis to a small farmhouse outside of Madison, Indiana, I knew the place would be perfect for a dog to run and play and otherwise enjoy life.  As I every few weeks go down there to visit him and his house is currently sans pets, I gave thought to surprising him with a dog on my next visit.  When I heard that Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (sometimes known as the City Pound) was running a $14 special on adopting pets until February 14th, Valentine's Day, I excitedly drove to the Southside facility to check out the dogs available for adoption.

I arrived at about 4:45 (the place closes at 6:00).  I was greeted almost immediately and checked in. The lady at the desk asked for my photo ID.  I showed her my driver's license and she took down my name.  She told me to have a seat as an "adoption counselor" would be with me shortly.

As I sat a few feet from the desk, a few people came in to check on lost dogs and those which had been impounded.  About 5:00, three men came in to adopt a dog.   After checking in, they were immediately led into the back to check out the available dogs.  I was a bit offended by their being allowed to cut ahead of me, but I thought it was an aberration and decided not to make a fuss.

I continued to sit and wait.  The clock showed 5:05...5:10...5:15...5:20.  A man came in for a lost basset hound  He was immediately helped and soon was in the process of reuniting with his dog.  Meanwhile another man had been standing waiting feet from the desk as long as I had.  He simply wanted to go to the back to see whether they'd picked up his dog.

5:25...5:30.  The patience of the man who was there to check if the facility had his dog was running out.  He was desperate to check on his dog as he had to get home and was overdue for insulin shot.

About this time I overheard that adoptions would not be processed as the clock had now turned to 5:30.   The "adoption counselor" who had finally emerged from the back (to help someone else of course) nodded that it was too late to adopt.

I left at 5:33, absolutely disgusted by my experience attempting to adopt a pet from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control.

The entire time I was at the facility, I sat within 10 feet of the front desk, in clear view of the people working the counter.  Outside of my checking in, no one attempted to help me or even acknowledged that I was sitting there waiting and waiting and waiting.  The promised "adoption counselor" certainly never came out to talk to me.  And, of course, I never got to actually see a dog.

The Indianapolis Animal Care and Control facility seems to have no procedures whatsoever for how it goes about serving people who come to the shelter.  There seems to be no effort to track names or to take people in the order that they come in for assistance.

When I researched adoptions online, I read numerous complaints that Indianapolis Animal Care and Control does not bother to answer its phone.  I had called earlier and too found it difficult to get someone to talk with.  Another issue is that the phone menu is extremely long and you cannot bypass it by hitting "0" as you can with most voice menus.   In fact, hitting "0"  takes you back to the very beginning of the lengthy voice menu.

After all the controversy with Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, I had expected that it is now better run.  Perhaps.  But when it comes to the experience of adopting animals, my experience is that Indianapolis Animal Care and Control is failing the public big time.  I don't care to ever go back.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Real Problem with the "Shithole" Controversy

Watching the continued news coverage about the President Trump calling Haiti, El Salvador and African countries "shitholes" I find that a lot of commentators are, sometimes conveniently, missing the point of what is so disturbing about the President's vulgar reference.  His labeling of certain countries as "shitholes," by itself, would only be a diplomatic gaffe.  There are certain things a President shouldn't say out loud such as comments denigrating countries with which the United States has to deal.  A President employing common sense, which this President apparently does not have, would not have chosen such a vulgar label in describing those countries.

The real problem though was that his "shithole" comment wasn't really about the countries so labeled, but rather about the people who live in those countries.  President Trump was saying that the value of people is defined by the country from which they originate.  If people are from a "shithole", then they are less worthy of becoming American.

Such an ignorant comment by the President ignores the American history of immigration and the American experience.  Pretty much everyone who lives in this country had ancestors who came from "shitholes."  That fact did not define who our ancestors were.  Rather, it is because of the hunger for a better life that immigrants fled their "shithole" lives in their shithole countries to come to America.  Armed with ambition and the dream of a better life, most became great citizens who contributed so much to this country.    Trump's comment is a yet another assault on American values, in particular, the ideal emblazoned on the Statute of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
And, no, I don't for a second believe the President's late assertion that he never made the "shithole" statement.  First, given the President's penchant for constantly lying, he starts with zero credibility when compared to that of Senator Durbin and Graham.  Then you have the fact is the White House went 12 hours before there was a denial that the statement was made.  During that 12 hour stretch, President Trump gleefully was contacting conservative friends thinking the statement would play really well with the base.  

It was only when there was major criticism from pretty much everyone that the President reversed course and denied making  the statement.  That's when Senators Cotton and Perdue chimed in with their "can't recall" statements.  When the blowback didn't dissipate and, in fact, intensified, Senators Cotton and Perdue's memory suddenly evolved, so that they were now able to recall that the President didn't say "shithole."  Several others in the room, including Republicans, did not back up the President's denial, except for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nelson who during a congressional hearing yesterday claimed she only heard the President use "tough language."  Please.  Cotton, Perdue and Nelson should be ashamed of themselves.  It is so disgusting how so many in my party are willing to throw away their reputations and integrity to lie for a President who has no loyalty but to himself.

This country deserves better.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Conservative Radio Hosts Demonstrate What Is Wrong With My Republican Party

Friday morning I was driving around town and had the opportunity to listen to a few minutes of the "Chicks on the Right" program on WIBC.   For those of you unfamiliar with the program, I would describe it as two Valley Girls (Millennials, consult your online dictionary) suddenly stumbling upon conservative politics in their middle age and being granted a radio program to express their views.  That's what you're missing.  No, definitely not a fan.  However, to the credit of"Mock" and "Daisy," the radio hosts did express grave reservations about Donald Trump during the primaries and were some of the last conservatives to board the Trump train.

On this particular program, the topic of Michael Wolff's new book "Fire and Fury" came up.  The hosts proceeded to tell listeners that the allegations in Wolff's book ring true and reflect the concerns they had expressed about him when he was pursing the nomination.  Then they proceeded to say that the book made them even more supportive of the President.

Let's recap.  Mock and Daisy hold the position the mere fact that a book is written making claims they long believe are true - that the Donald Trump is unfit to be President, namely that he is ignorant, won't read even one page summaries of issues, has the temperament of a 6 year old child, constantly lies, doesn't have the attention span to sit through many meetings, and may have declining mental faculties - makes them more supportive of the President.  Seriously?

Sadly, many Trumpers hold the same position as Mock and Daisy. They know Donald Trump is not fit for office, yet they support the President enthusiastically because no one makes liberals madder than Donald Trump.  The welfare of the country, our safety and security, as well as survival of American democratic institutions, take a backseat to party tribalism.

Donald Trump isn't the problem with my party, but rather a symptom of the problem.  The problem is those in the GOP who put their blind angry and hatred of the other side ahead of doing what is in the best interests of the United States of America.  My Republican Party needs to be better than that.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Scientific Study Indicates Oceans Have Only Warmed 0.1 Degrees Celsius in Past 50 Years

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography published a new study in the January 4, 2018 issue of Nature which casts doubts on the anthropogenic global warming doomsday scenario that sharply rising ocean temperatures doom the planet.  In a summary, the Institution summarizes its the new technique for measuring ocean temperature and the findings in the study:
There is a new way to measure the average temperature of the ocean thanks to researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. In an article published in the Jan. 4, 2018, issue of the journal Nature, geoscientist Jeff Severinghaus and colleagues at Scripps Oceanography and institutions in Switzerland and Japan detailed their ground-breaking approach. 
Determining changes in the average temperature of the entire world’s ocean has proven
NASA has been a leader in sounding the alarm about rising sea levels
to be a nearly impossible task due to the distribution of different water masses. Each layer of water can have drastically different temperatures, so determining the average over the entirety of the ocean’s surface and depths presents a challenge. 
Severinghaus and colleagues were able to bypass these obstacles by determining the value indirectly. Instead of measuring water temperature, they determined the ratio of noble gases in the atmosphere, which are in direct relation to the ocean’s temperature. 
“This method is a radically new way to measure change in total ocean heat,” said Severinghaus. “It takes advantage of the fact that the atmosphere is well-mixed, so a single measurement anywhere in the world can give you the answer.”   
In the study, the scientists measured values of the noble gases argon, krypton, and xenon in air bubbles captured inside ice in Antarctica. As the oceans warm, krypton and xenon are released into the atmosphere in known quantities. The ratio of these gases in the atmosphere therefore allows for the calculation of average global ocean temperature. 
Measurements were taken from ice samples collected during the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide coring project, of which Severinghaus is a leader. Over the course of six field seasons in Antarctica, a drill removed ice in cylindrical samples 2.7 meters (just under 9 feet) in length. The final sample was taken at a depth of 3,405 meters (over 11,000 feet) in 2011. This record spans nearly 100,000 years and the age of the layers can be determined to within 50 years. Earth’s atmosphere mixes on a scale of weeks to months, so a measurement of these air bubbles gives what is essentially a global average. For this study, scientists focused on samples 8,000 to 22,000 years old, and collected data in increments averaging 250 years in resolution. 
New insights into the glaciation cycles that occurred on Earth long before humans began affecting the temperature of the atmosphere and oceans are now possible using the technique of measuring noble gas quantities. The study determined that the average global ocean temperature at the peak of the most recent ice age was 0.9 ºC (33.6 ºF). The modern ocean’s average temperature is 3.5 ºC (38.3 ºF). The incremental measurements between these data points provide an understanding of the global climate never before possible. 
“The reason this study is so exciting is that previous methods of reconstructing ocean heat content have very large age uncertainties, [which] smooths out the more subtle features of the record,” said co-author Sarah Shackleton, a graduate student in the Severinghaus lab at Scripps. “Because WAIS Divide is so well dated, this is the first time that we've been able to see these subtle features in the record of the deglaciation. This helps us better understand the processes that control changes in ocean heat content.” 
This paper is the result of fifteen years of work for Severinghaus, along with graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in his lab. Discussions with another professor at Scripps, atmospheric scientist Ralph Keeling, brought about the idea. Keeling studies the argon levels in the atmosphere to get a similar record of ocean heat going back a few decades. However, air bubbles trapped in ice don’t preserve argon levels accurately. Severinghaus discovered that xenon and krypton are well preserved in ice cores, which provides the temperature information that can then be used by scientists studying many other aspects of the earth’s oceans and atmosphere over hundreds of thousands of years.
“Our precision is about 0.2 ºC (0.4 ºF) now, and the warming of the past 50 years is only about 0.1 ºC,” [Severinghaus] said, adding that advanced equipment can provide more precise measurements, allowing scientists to use this technique to track the current warming trend in the world’s oceans.
Alarmists have claimed that the ocean's temperature is rising .12º Celsius for each of the past five decades, or .6ºC total.  TThe fact that it has risen only 1º  over 50 years (and even that number is well within the margin of error so the oceans may have actually cooled) should cause the alarmists to rethink their "consensus."  Of course it won't because anthropogenic global warming climate change has always about the corruption of the scientific process to pursue a liberal environmental agenda.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Eight Predictions for 2018

A few days late, but here are my predictions for 2018:

1.  Stock Market:  The stock market will end 2018 lower than it began in 2017.  Even though the drop is actually the result of a long overdue market correction, Democrats will seize on the declineas proof the GOP tax cut in December of 2017 failed.

2.  Unemployment and Economic Growth:  Having reached "full employment" in 2017, the unemployment rate will begin to rise again in 2018.  Meanwhile, the increase in GDP will stall before the end of the year, opening the possibility of the country going into recession in 2019.   While both economic factors will be more the result of the natural cycles of the economy rather than the result of economic policy, Democrats will use the souring economy as political fodder in the 2018 election.

3.  National Politics:  Democrats will win the U.S. House picking up 40+ seats, while reaching a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate.  The number one issue in the 2018 elections will not be healthcare or taxes.  It will be impeachment.

4.  Indiana Politics:  Sen. Joe Donnelly will easily win re-election. Indiana Republicans will feel the effects of a national Blue Tidal wave as the Democrats narrowly win three statewide offices, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Auditor, while picking up 10 seats in the Indiana House.  Indiana Republicans will lose a congressional seat as well.  The (Indiana) story of the 2018 elections will be highly-educated voters in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis turning sharply against the GOP brand, and the concerns that trend will continue and threaten GOP domination in the state.

5.  Russia:  Mueller's investigation will continue to net several indictments and plea deals in early 2018.  When criminal charges reach the Trump family (think Jared Kushner), the pardons will start flying.  Talk of a constitutional crisis will ensue.  All hell will break loose. Mueller will ultimately be fired by Trump.  Mueller's activities will conclude with a report to Congress that the Trump campaign actively solicited and accepted help from the Russians during the 2018 campaign and that Trump and others attempted to obstruct justice into the investigation of those activities.  The document will also highlight that Trump's company is deeply in debt to Russian lenders and has for years laundered money for Russian oligarchs.  Democrats House members will sound the alarm for impeachment which Republican House members will ignore while continuing to attack the credibility of Mueller, the FBI and the Department of Justice.  The election of 2018 will be a referendum on impeachment.

6.  Supreme Court:  Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement upon the appointment of his replacement.  In addition, another justice, likely a liberal, will leave the court because of serious health problems or death.  The confirmation of two replacement justices will stall in the Senate.  2018 will end with 8 justices, including a reluctant Kennedy, on the court.

7.  Global Warming:  This month it will be announced that 2017 was one of the warmest years on record.  Americans, suffering through one of the worst cold snaps in years, will shrug their collective shoulders.  Meanwhile, there will be a push-back, with more and more scientists questioning the "consensus"  regarding the amount of anthropocentric global warming taking place and the supposed dangers a warmer climate represents to mankind.

8.  Technology:  A few American cities will follow Europe's lead and begin trying out driver-less buses.  The year will end with driver-less cars being in development by all major auto manufacturers.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Picking Seven Winners and Losers for 2017

Presenting seven winners and losers for 2017.


1.  American Investor:  The economy went from doing well in 2016 to doing even better in 2017, with the stock market soaring.   Workers with 401Ks and other investors did incredibly well.

2.  Women:  This year ushered in a new awareness for sexual harassment in the workplace.  Women are signing up to run for office in record numbers.

3.  Democratic Party:  Republicans began the year winning several special elections for Congressional seats, but ominously the margins were much more narrow than should have been given the ruby red nature of the districts.  In November, Democrats won a sweeping victory in Virginia that not only included the Governor and other statewide offices, but also scores of state assembly districts, a victory that has taken that body from a Republican super-majority to on the verge of a 50-50 tie.  Then came the shocker in December.  Republicans lost the special election to fill the United States Senate originally vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

4.  Corporations:  Corporations did extremely well under the GOP tax bill.  Contrary to the assumption of Democrats, not all corporate-type entities are large monoliths, overflowing in stockpiled cash.

5.  The Mainstream Media:  Despite getting lambasted by the President and his allies (or actually probably because of), TV networks like CNN and MSNBC, and news publications like the Washington Post and New York Times are enjoying better ratings and rising profits.

6.  Tom Brady & The Patriots:  Brady rallied his team to win the Super Bowl in early 2017 and the 40 year old quarterback appears poised to take his team back to the big game again in 2018.  As a Colts and Peyton Manning fan, I hate to admit their success, but it is impossible to deny.

7.  Major League Baseball: Ratings were up as a strong regular season was capped by a highly competitive and exciting post-season.  MLB is poised to gain fans as NFL declines in popularity.  That is if the baseball Gods do not blow it by continuing to do stupid things like having Playoff and World Series games run past midnight, when young and old fans of the game have long since gone to bed.


1.  Political Civility:  Name calling, "alternative facts," and lying has become accepted as part of political discourse.  It is not clear how our Republic will survive if the truth no longer matters.

2.  Steve Bannon:  He lost his job at the White House, then his candidate for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore, went down to spectacular defeat in December.   By the end of the year, President Trump was seen cozying up to Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell, Bannon's arch-nemesis.  Bannon's expressed desire to primary "establishment" Republicans, with the support of President Trump, appears to be on shaky ground..

3.  GOP-Controlled Congress:  It wasn't before the end of the year that Republicans in Congress got around to passing a major piece of legislation.  Now entering 2018, the GOP majority in the House appears to be in great peril and the Democrats have a shot of winning the Senate, despite a map skewed heavily in favor of Republican challenges to red state Democrats.

4. American Democratic Institutions:  Institutions that Americans have taken for granted,  things like a free press, the rule of law, and an independent, non-politicized FBI, are under full scale assault by President Trump and his GOP allies in the House.

5.  Michael Flynn & Paul Manafort:  Flynn started the year as national security adviser.  He ended the year as a convicted felon. Paul Manafort was indicted for money laundering (seriously what took so long?) and other charges and faces spending the rest of life in prison if he doesn't cut a Flynn-like sweetheart deal to cooperate with the Mueller investigation.

6.  America's Youth:  We adults just added nearly $1.5 trillion to the deficit you will have to pay back during your lifetime.  You're welcome.

7.  Apple:   The I-Phone 10s are not selling and Apple was caught causing older I-Phones to slow down.  It appears the shine is wearing off the apple.