Bits and Pieces August 13th, 2013

Frank's cornerGood Morning Folks,

Death, divorce, and disease could be called the three Ds of misery. They slice through life like a tsunami of sorrow, raising doubts and destroying dreams.

Recently, Sally and I agreed that we have experienced all of these during our years together and is surely things we both would just as soon forget. We had suffered at least two of the three.

Our conversation brought Job to mind. In a short period of time, he lost his children, his health, his wealth, and his wife’s respect. Job’s distress was so great that he pleaded, “May the day perish on which I was born” (Job 3:3). Job wanted God to erase not just a year, but all memory of his existence! He had enjoyed years of success and respect. Now, he questioned the purpose of living (3:20).

Job wanted to die and be forgotten, but instead God made sure his name and story would be remembered forever and ever. Rather than give Job what he asked for, God gave future generations what they would need—an inside look at the spiritual battle between God and Satan. The result is a God-inspired document about suffering that has comforted countless people.

When what we fear actually happens, we know, thanks to Job, that God can use it for good.

U.S. Foreign Aid: Hypocrisy, Corruption & Ingratitude

When is a military coup not a military coup? That’s not an unsolvable riddle posed by the Sphinx. The answer is simple: When the deposed government has fallen out of favor with the U.S. State Department. Which is exactly what’s happened in Egypt. By avoiding calling the army’s ouster of duly elected President Mohamed Morsi a military coup, Washington can claim that it’s not bound by law to cut off the $1.5 billion it sends Cairo each year. (The applicable law, incidentally, is Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act.) This clear case of hypocrisy is only one problem with U.S. foreign assistance, as Charles V. Peña notes in a recent op-ed.

The U.S. government also shells out about $50 billion to other governments whose policies often seem to conflict with Washington’s official priorities—with Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq (in descending order) claiming the largest shares. According to Peña, U.S. aid goes to “some of the most corrupt governments in the world”—as measured by Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. But the United States seems to get little or nothing in return for its foreign-aid expenditures. Most countries that receive U.S. assistance usually vote against their generous benefactor in the halls of the United Nations. In addition, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that some of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid overwhelmingly dislike the United States; Pakistan, which receives more than $2 billion annually, gave America a favorable rating of only 11 percent.

“Egypt is a clarion call to stop throwing good money after bad,” Peña writes. “U.S. foreign aid to corrupt and authoritarian regimes, with no realistic expectation that we’ll get a favorable payback, is a losing bet.”

The Man Behind the U.S. Energy Boom

For decades, energy news was bleak. But that’s the old news. The new trend is that the United States is quickly becoming the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil. One of the heroes of this development passed away last month at age 94: goat-farmer turned oilman, George Mitchell. His innovations—and his remarkable life—should be widely celebrated, explains Independent Institute Research Director and Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II in USA Today.

Mitchell’s leading contribution was to figure out how to combine hydraulic fracturing (a/k/a “fracking”) and horizontal drilling. “Mitchell’s innovation was to drill straight down, then make a 90-degree turn thousands of feet underground to penetrate shale formations sideways,” Shughart writes. “A mixture of water, sand and chemicals was then injected under high pressure, releasing the trapped gas.”

This innovation has sparked a boom in natural-gas and crude-oil production, ending decades of declining U.S. energy output and driving U.S. energy prices significantly below prices in Europe and Asia. Other advantages, such as management and technical expertise, and a more hospitable investment climate, also suggest that the U.S. energy surge is here to stay. Yet at the root, Shughart reminds us, are the vision, risk-taking, and perseverance of one inventive energy pioneer: George Mitchell.

The Coming Airline Security Tax?

Given all that the U.S. government has done to make Americans the targets of international terrorists, there’s something particularly unseemly about PreCheck—the airport security program that allows passengers to pass through the TSA gauntlet more quickly if they pay $85 to submit to fingerprinting and background checks. Here’s how Ivan Eland puts it: “This is like paying a bumbling electrician to wire your house, subsequently suffering an electrical fire, and then having to pay him a fee to fix his botched handiwork so that a similar conflagration will never happen again.”

Admittedly, the analogy is imprecise. The situation is worse than above, in part because an average American citizen has about a one in 90 million chance of dying in a terrorist airplane incident, according to risk researcher Mark Stewart—less than the odds of being struck by lightning. That tiny risk would drop to even lower if the United States were to avoid needless interventions in the Muslim world, the source of blowback terrorism, Eland argues.

PreCheck is currently a voluntary program. But it’s conceivable that the Department of Homeland Security would someday make it mandatory for all air travelers to submit their fingerprints and obtain security clearances ahead of time—and for an additional fee. “Do you think this scenario is outlandish and would never happen?” Eland asks. “Many would not have surmised that we would be required to disrobe—either physically or electronically—before boarding a plane either.”

Missouri Bans Satire

Sunday I wrote about how Tuffy the Clown, who clearly should be droned, wore an Obama mask at the rodeo. Because it wasn’t a Bush mask he was banned for life and all future clowns must now go through Clown Sensitivity Training. You think I’m making this up.

The fair also said if the association is to ever sponsor a rodeo again, it must first show proof that “all officials and subcontractors … have successfully participated in sensitivity training.”

Missouri isn’t the first to ban satire. While it will get you smeared by the media as a racist (unless it’s a Bush mask, cheering Bush’s assassination on public airwaves, or you’re a member of Occupy), American anti-satirists stop short of making it an arrest-able offense, as in other tyrannical countries. Well, except for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Bad Judicial Ruling Says Child Can’t be Named “Messiah”

Editor’s Note: I read this yesterday morning in the Jackson Sun and knew there has got to be something fishy about this one. Mainly because The Jackson Sun and Gannett published it with a fever….. the more I thought about this rather poor decision and poor taste by the parents….. judicially ruling against poor taste was always been a hang up that I have had. Here is Ken’s report which I have to agree with….

Yahoo News Service is reporting on a Tennessee story broken by Knoxville’s WBIR-TV Channel 10.  In Newport, TN Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ruled that a 7 month old child’s name be changed from “Messiah” to “Martin.”hoo News

The child’s parents were in court because they could not agree on a last name for their son. They are not married and the name was such a point of contention that they ended up in court over it. But when Ballew found out the child’s first name, she forced a change there, too. Per Judge Ballew, the child’s name will be Martin DeShawn McCullough. The assigned name incorporates the last names of both parents.

Ballew made the change, the only first name she has ever ordered changed, because:

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Judge Ballew said. …

She said the decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a county with a large Christian population.

“It could put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is,” Judge Ballew said.

I share the Judge’s opinions but despise the actions they produced.

Tennessee Supreme Court changes statutory rape evidence based on Memphis case

Abandoning legal precedent dating to 1895, the Tennessee Supreme Court Monday ruled that a minor victim between 13 and 17 who consents to sex with an adult in a statutory rape case should not be classified as an accomplice. (Note Subscription required)

Lawmakers Limit Town Hall Meetings

New York Times: “Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.”
“With memories of those angry protests still vivid, it seems that one of the unintended consequences of a movement that thrived on such open, often confrontational interactions with lawmakers is that there are fewer members of Congress now willing to face their constituents.”

Editor’s Note: Interesting…. I haven’t seen notice from our local Councilman for two years…. I swear I thought he said he would have one every month….

CPSC sues defiant CEO individually in Buckyball case

A year ago, Walter Olson wrote: “It’s rare for a regulated company to mount open and disrespectful resistance to a federal regulatory agency, but that’s what the maker of BuckyBalls, the popular desktop magnetic toy, is doing in response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s effort to ban its product.” The maker in question had devised cheeky, sarcastic ads asking why other products with injurious potential (coconuts, hot dogs) weren’t banned on the CPSC’s logic.

One reason it’s rare to mount open and disrespectful resistance to a federal agency is that agencies have so many ways to make businesspeople’s lives unhappy. This spring, breaking new legal ground, the CPSC reached out and named CEO Craig Zucker personally as a respondent in its recall proceeding.  According to a Gibson Dunn commentary,

For the first time, the CPSC is pursuing individual and personal liability against an executive for a company’s alleged violations of the Consumer Product Safety Act.  Although it remains to be seen whether the CPSC will adopt this approach in other cases, at minimum, this demonstrates just how far the CPSC is willing to push the envelope.

It’s just the latest example, the law firm says, of a pattern in which “the CPSC has aggressively enforced its governing statute and regulations, repeatedly pushing the limits of its expanded authority.”

As Morrison & Foerster says in its client alert:

Despite [Buckyballs maker] Maxfield and Oberton’s aggressive publicity campaign against the CPSC, the CPSC continued to pursue its complaint. Maxfield and Oberton folded and the company dissolved in December 2012, making the complaint moot. In February 2013, the CPSC moved for leave to file a second amended complaint naming the former CEO, Craig Zucker, both individually and as an officer of Maxfield and Oberton. The CPSC requested the same relief against Zucker as it had against Maxfield and Oberton—i.e., recall, refund, and compliance reports.

While Zucker has “argued that he could not be liable as he did not personally manufacture, distribute, or sell the product at issue,” CPSC has invoked something called the responsible corporate officer doctrine, approved by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Dotterweich (1943) and U.S. v. Park (1975), which “permits responsible corporate officers to be held liable for the actions of the corporation, even in the absence of personal guilt on the part of the individual.”

Especially when the individual has helped promote Internet memes making fun of the CPSC.

“Race-based claims thrown out in Paula Deen lawsuit”

The deposition-extracted tidbits were enough to bring down Deen’s culinary empire, but that doesn’t mean they were actually relevant to anyone’s legal case against her: “U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled Monday that [Lisa] Jackson, who is white, has no standing to sue them [Deen and her brother] for race discrimination.” [USA Today]

Michelle Malkin destroys Democrat on racism in the Tea Party

Michelle Malkin is a master when it comes to exposing the racist tactics of the left and how they attempt to use racism paint Republicans as racist. And in the clip below she takes on a Democrat who is trying to allege racism in the Tea Party and hits back hard with racism from the very top of the Democrat Party, destroying her narrative.

 Three Cheers for Tax Avoidance

IN A HEARING before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Carl Levin, the subcommittee’s chairman, is feeling ashamed. Not of himself, but on behalf of Apple Inc., whose booking of profits in low-tax jurisdictions outside the United States is the subject of debate. “Don’t kid ourselves as to the implications of what this means for America’s revenue,” Levin says. “No company should be able to determine how much it’s gonna pay in taxes, how many profits they’re gonna keep offshore, how they’re gonna bring ‘em back home, using all kinds of gimmicks to avoid paying the taxes that should be paid to this country.

 Budget Deficit on Track to 5-Year Low

The government reported a $97.6 billion deficit for July but remains on track to post its lowest annual budget gap in five years, the AP reports.

Editor’s Note: Deficit is equal to the amount of debt compiled for a given financial year.

Lawmakers Limit Town Hall Meetings

New York Times: “Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.”
“With memories of those angry protests still vivid, it seems that one of the unintended consequences of a movement that thrived on such open, often confrontational interactions with lawmakers is that there are fewer members of Congress now willing to face their constituents.”

Editor’s Note of Sarcasm: Interesting that I have not heard of a single meeting from the current councilman from our district 5 in two years…. maybe he is trying to distance himself from any conversation. I could have sworn he said something about that…..

Ted Cruz turning into Rick Perry’s worst nightmare in Iowa

Texas Governor Rick Perry can’t afford to lose any of his 2012 Iowa supporters if he is to have any chance to win the 2016 Republican presidential caucuses there.  So Team Perry can’t be pleased to read the headline, “Cruz Garnering Excitement Across Republican Factions.”  Yes, that’s fellow Texan Ted Cruz. The freshman senator. The 42-year-old firebrand who’s young enough to be Perry’s son. Houston Chronicle

Ben Carson: Congress must “surgically excise” Obamacare

Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson says Congress must “use the purse strings” it controls to kill Obamacare, surgically excising it from the rest of the federal budget. Newsmax

Donald Trump calls US a ‘laughingstock’ and warns Republicans that Hillary Clinton will be ‘really tough’ to beat

Donald Trump called the US a ‘laughingstock’ on Saturday and said Republicans better find a strong presidential candidate or they will face certain defeat in the 2016 election. Daily Mail

Don’t bother: The pols who won’t make it in 2016

Jennifer Rubin: Why you don’t need to worry that a group of newcomers are going to be among the serious contenders in 2016. Washington Post

Obama’s response to NSA was to appease the public, not reduce the spying

[The person known as] Barack Obama flat out admitted that this was about appeasing a public that doesn’t trust the administration, not about reducing the surveillance. InfoWars

America’s three worst Pravda press organizations

Tom Blumer: The competition for the most loathsome news organization in the US is fierce. PJ Media