Mon Dieu, ce n’est pas vrai!

Translation, My God, it isn’t true.  How on earth can a Rodin scupture be hiding in plain sight for decades in the corner of a municipal building in NJ?

A Rodin sculpture of Napoleon has been discovered in a Madison, NJ. Auguste Rodin died in 1917 and was in his time, a very controversial artist.

It was reported by the New York Times, in a wonderful story, which has posted it on the internet.

A Rodin Hiding in Plain Sight in a New Jersey Suburb

William Rockerfeller, Jr is mentioned in the article.  He is John D. Rockerfeller’s brother and co-founder of Standard Oil.

Stay tuned,

Dave

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He said/she said …

If the real thing don’t do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn to the wick
Oooo, Barracuda, oh yeah

Lyrics from Barracuda by Heart

He said, she said and then the video said.   And the video showed the truth as plain as day.

I am talking about the recent spat between Representative Frederica Wilson and White House chief of staff,  General John R. Kelly.    The statement by Kelly was that Wilson bragged how she secured $20 million for a South Florida FBI building in 2015 through twisting Obama’s arm.   It would have been another dumb and distracting feud, except the speech had been video taped by the Sentinel Sun.  What Representative Wilson had done was just the opposite – she acknowledged the help of Senator Marco Rubio,  Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, all Republicans, and she never took credit for the funding of the building. In fact, she wasn’t even elected to Congress when funding for the building occurred.

The building was named after two slain FBI agents. Wilson did take credit for approval of the name of the building just days before the dedication.

Pretty mean spirited stuff from the White House.   Lesson to General Kelly- don’t escalate a feud, if it means crossing over between what is an opinion to what is a lie.  For this one, I don’t need any research, it’s all on the video.  See link:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fl-reg-wilson-kelly-tape-of-speech-20171020-story.html

It may be pretty small, but it looks like the White House is lining up on the side of the lie instead of the truth.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Immigration Removals

I know this is a hot issue.  This blog is narrowly focused on historical and recent removal statistics.  Here’s my conclusion – Trump in 2017 will likely deport the same or slightly fewer immigrants than Obama did in his last year.   I know this seems contrary to the general impression that Trump is far more aggressive against illegal immigrants  than Obama.  I will explain why.

President Obama record of deportations is shown below based on the ICE website.  There is an upward trend in deportations, peaking at 409,000 in 2012, then declining to 235,000 by 2015.  I’ve rounded the numbers for convenience.    The deportations in fiscal year (FY) 2016 are basically the same as 2015, at 240,000 removals,  or an average  20,000 deportations per month.

immigration trends

The blue bars are the non-criminal removals.   The priority shifted during Obama’s administration to target removals of illegal immigrants with a criminal convictions, as the blue bars become smaller percentages of the entire bar over time.

The decline in removals from 2012 to 2016 is likely attributable to a reduction of immigrants coming through from Mexico.   Security barriers including extension of the security fence and electronic surveillance likely discouraged immigrants or at least made the crossings much more expensive.   There is a network of “coyotes” operating in many countries, such as Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua which organize illegal entries into the US, and my extremely limited polling indicates the cost is rising, costing as much as $10,000.   News of increased border enforcement  can  discourage illegal entry.    Therefore, it should  not be interpreted that a decline in removals means that enforcement is lacking.

The Obama administration, through Executive Orders,  aggressively targeted illegal immigrants with criminal records, as shown by the graph below:

ice removals

 

The blue line is for “interior removals” (away from the border or near border towns) and is represents the Obama’s efforts to target immigrants with criminal conviction records.   I don’t have a breakdown of these offenses,  but they likely include fairly minor offenses.

ICE attributes the increase in removals in 2016 due to: (1) increase state and local cooperation through the priority enforcement program (PEP) and (2) increased border security.    They state that 99.3% of the illegal aliens by ICE in 2016 met the enforcement priorities.     The statistics for 2016 are provided below:

2016 Statistics
Number %
At border removals 174923 72.8
Interior removals 65332 27.2
Total 240255
At border convicted of a crime 78351 44.8
At border, not convicted of a crime 96572 55.2
total 174923
Int. removals convicted of crime 60318 92.3
Int. removals not convicted of a crime 5014 7.7
Total 65332
All removals convicted of crime 138669 57.7
All removals not convisted of crime 101586 42.3
Total 240255
At border, non-criminals 96572 95.1
Int. removals, non-criminals 5014 4.9
Total 101586
Suspect of confirmed gang members 2057 0.9
Not suspected or confirmed gang members 238198 99.1
Total 240255

Probably, if Trump’s policies are working as he claims,  the interior removals of immigrants convicted of crimes would rise above 60,318 in 2017.    The best estimate I have at present is 202,000 removals for 2017, which will be about 14% below 2016.   This would not be any fault of enforcement, but rather a decline in border crossings.  Separating fact from fiction will be challenging.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Qatar’s Cows

cows.pngI swear I’m not making this up!  The idea of cows in Qatar would normally be preposterous given Qatar’s six months of brutally hot and dry summer.  Camels and sheep, ok, but cows- that’s impossible!

But the cows are coming to Qatar, so the  Qataris can drink really fresh milk. Baladna Farms in Qatar has built special cow sheds with temperature control.

baladna farm

In June 2017, an economic blockade of  Qatar was initiated by  Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE)  and agricultural products.   I have discussed this in prior blogs. Qatar really has only a small agricultural industry, well until recently!

In many ways, Qatar is pushing back, with increased trade with other countries including Iran, Turkey and Morocco. Plus,  they are now in the dairy industry, as shown in the video below.

It has to cost a lot to  maintain air conditioned structures in the middle of the desert with the summer day time temperature well over 100 degrees.  Airlifting cows has got to cost a fortune.  The news media stated the first two deliveries were 230 cows using Boeing 777 Cargo planes.   The goal in to have 4,000 cows in Qatar by mid-September.

It is certain that Qatar has turned this economic blockage into an economic windfall for Qatar’s company, Power International Holdings.  Having enormous gas resources to generate cheap electricity for the air conditioned sheds really helps.

Saudi Arabia new Crown Prince thought he could push around Qatar through economic measures.   Qatar is not only rejecting the 13 demands of Saudi Arabia, but pushing back big time, by restoring full diplomatic relations with Iran.

Links:

https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/07/08/2017/Baladna-Farm-plans-to-meet-Qatar-s-dairy-needs-by-April-2018

There’s many other news stories found by searching Google for “Qatar Cows”

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Standing up for Trump

After criticizing Trump on a wide range of issues,  the New York Times came to Trump’s defense.      The incident began with the posting of  a video clip supposedly showing a 3 year old child in a wheelchair at the White House which alleged to show the child attempt to shake Trump’s hand, and Trump snubbed him.   It was all nonsense as  3 year olds move their hands around alot –   that’s what babies do!

This clip was pick up by a website called the washingtonjournal.com,  a highly biased website against Trump.  It had nothing to do with the CSPAN, Washington Journal broadcast.

It went viral quickly.  The well known author of Harry Potter books,  J.K. Rowlings tweeted how horrible Trump’s actions were, but later realized that she had been fooled.   Factcheck.org wrote,

Even ‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling, who criticized Trump on Twitter for the alleged snub, was misled by the video clip. Rowling later deleted her tweets and apologized to the family.

The NY Times ran a photo showing the president bending over, and in fact, shaking the hand of the child.   They also stated that J.K. Rowling apologized to the family for her error, but did not apologize to President Trump.

You can see New York Times professionalism in the article.

Link:  J.K. Rowlings apologizes for Anti-Trump Tweets (but not to Trump)

I always like the quote attributed to Mark Twain, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

While this would make a nice end to this blog, my curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to know what  Twain really said.   Turns out,  the origins of  this  great quote may have come from Jonathan Swift in 1710, some 200 years before Twain’s death.

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it

(See link at the end)

It is very interesting that printing presses were praised as spreading knowledge and creating a greater sense of an informed public essential for democracy and at the same time, spreading rumors and false stories.

Today,   the culprits for originating and disseminating falsehoods (I like this word) are websites, political radio stations, and news commentary television shows.  If you check out the “Pants on Fire” lies on Politifact, you will find they come mostly from bloggers, although some are attributed to comments made by Trump at events.

I admit to being a news snob.  What is nice about the mainstream print media is it can’t undone or updated, and it will be seen by experts on the particular topic.  So, journalists have to tread carefully on “breaking news.”  The New York Times and the Washington Post are not particularly good places for political hacks.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Pants on Fire

Quote investigator

Politifact.com

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Deal: Fixing Obamacare

Since the ACA was passed in 2010, the Republicans have predicted the eventual demise, either through court challenges or legislative repeal. President Trump nominated Tom Price as the Health and Human Services Department. He demonstrated a real knack of avoiding the question, and instead talking in general terms of what are the good intentions of the Department.  Spin all the positives possible.

The question Price would like to respond to, is: “Doesn’t the Department have the public’s best interest in mind when it comes to health care?” Or at least “Isn’t everything proposed by Republicans excellent, as compared to what we have.”

The link below is his interview on Meet the Press:

Youtube video: Meet the Press

He is correct that HHS administers five health plans.  He’d love to talk about the other 4 non-controversial plans.

Trump has tweeted repeatedly, is that he will never own Obamacare, just let it implode.   So Price as the plan’s administrator will be accused of neglecting the program for partisan purposes.

Now,  any fix of Obamacare will not happen with Tom Price as secretary.   What a fix would entail is increased subsidies for lower income families to encourage enrollment  massive advertising with reminders that people without insurance will face tax penalties.    It will take legislative action to fix Obamacare.

Trump could emerge on top, being the ultimate deal maker between feuding Democrats and Republicans.  To avoid alienating Republicans, he should never talk of a fix, but rather a merger of taking the best of both plans, and putting together one that will work for all Americans.    Call it a consolidated or reconciled bill or non-partisan bill.   Yes, that’s BS, but it’s the only BS that will work.   Price would be replaced by a real expert in healthcare systems.  Defunding of Planned Parenthood and abortion payments would not be part of the consolidated plan.

The Democrats have come up with a new slogan,  “A Better Deal” in which they will include a promise of a better health plan.   Trump would steal their thunder by endorsing what is basically their plan.

The Trump health plan would be despised by many Republicans, but now it would be the Republicans who would have to vote down something the Democrats support.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

South Sudan – Part 2: Relations to other countries

  • Climate Change and the US Withdrawal from the Paris Accords

Disease, famine and war have ravaged South Sudan.  Add the effects of climate change, for which the developed countries, including the US, EU, India and China bear responsibility for this.   The government revenues come from oil.  It is estimated that 95% of the population rely on subsistence farming.  Climate change is resulting in deforestation, destroying the timber industry.   The decline in timber resources is also due to illegal exports by other countries.

See links:  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/war-torn-south-sudan-grave-risk-climate-change-48695857

(video is about Somalia, while the article is on South Sudan)

UN Report: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/6/29/Confronting-climate-change-in-South-Sudan.html

According to the ABC news report:

At its climate change conference last month, South Sudan reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris climate agreement and criticized the U.S. withdrawal under President Donald Trump.  “Trump thinks climate change isn’t a reality,” says Lutana, South Sudan’s climate change director. “He should know that his pulling out won’t stop people from continuing to work on it.”

  • US and South Sudan 

The human rights violations by the South Sudanese government, as they terrorize the Nuer ethnic group are staggering and include the torture and  killing of children and women.   South Sudan has also purchased weapons from North Korea according to the UN.  For this reason, the US maintains trade sanctions against South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_violence_in_South_Sudan  (this is pretty horrific)

Also:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan

In January 2017,  in a goodwill gesture,  President Obama partially lifted some trade sanctions.  The partial lifting ended on July 12, 2017,  and was conditioned on South Sudan government showed progress in certain areas, including maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.   If there wasn’t significant progress, President Trump would be able to re-instate the sanctions.   However,  the White House simply delayed a decision on sanctions for another 3 months.

The Special Envoy to South Sudan resigned in January 2017, and the Trump administration has yet to nominate a replacement.  Also the Trump adminstration has yet to nominate an Assistant to the Secretary of State for African Affairs.  The Secretary of State stated his intent to cut US foreign assistance programs (USAID) by 40%.

Links:  https://www.voanews.com/a/white-house-stance-on-south-sudan-unclear/3936540.html

The US is providing 199 million dollars in famine relief to South Sudan and neighboring counties.   Given that South Sudan is surrounded by six countries,  I am not sure how much will be spent on South Sudan.

Meanwhile other countries seem more interested in dealing with the government in making oil deals, than helping with the problems of disease and famine.   To export the oil, the oil flows through a pipeline to Port Sudan in the country of Sudan.  Sudan receives a cut of any South Sudanese oil which is exported.  Since Sudan is considered a state sponsor of terrorism, US oil companies are prohibited from participating in the oil development deals of South Sudan.

Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_South_Sudan

  • Recent Events

The President of South Sudan has threaten to kill journalists who write stories, that he considers “against the country.”  Thus the press is limited by intimidation and in some cases imprisonment.   Access to certain websites has been shut down.

Links: http://www.dw.com/en/south-sudan-blocks-access-to-independent-websites/a-39786961

I wish I could be more positive about South Sudan.  The crisis in the country should be a great concern to the developed world.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qatar Stalemate

After the deadline ended, there was not  sufficient agreement among the Saudi coalition  to ratchet up the sanctions against Qatar. Food is being supplied by Turkey.   Military conflict appears off the table.   Tough talk comes mainly from the Saudi’s and foreign minister of the UAE.   Thus,  the softer partners in this conflict might be Egypt and Bahrain.    A settlement to restore relations with these countries might be a first step.   There has to be some concession from Qatar.  Germany is trying to be work with Qatar and other countries in finding a diplomatic solution.  I’m certain they do not want Russia to become involved, perhaps any more than they are already.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Happy Fourth of July

When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the American revolution had been ongoing for over a year.   It is really a masterpiece of brevity, clarity and restraint.  Although legislative and judicial branches of government existed in England, through various means, the King had usurped their authorities.  There is restraint in the document- the King is never mentioned by name (it was King George) nor is anyone else named.  It is the actions  of the King, rather than the person under attack.

The Preamble is famous for the single sentence:

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence does not require faith in a God or Creator, but a faith in equality of mankind.  If there is a single word that stand out,  it is “self-evident.”   It just says, that this is something we know to be true.     The liberties are not  particular benefits given to the people. Rather they are  something government can not take away from people.  They are “inalienable rights.”    Liberty as a fundamental right would extend from the emancipation of slaves to our participation in  World Wars I and II.

The Declaration is not a working document to define liberties.  Instead it  identifies the various actions  taken by the King in abusing his powers and usurping the power of the legislature and judiciary.  The document simply states the King, by his actions, did not respect the rights of the people.  The Bill of Rights as enacted 15 years after the Declaration, would specify the rights of Americans.  The Constitution has been amended many times in the 200 year history, to extend the rights of citizens.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Further rights as given in the amendments to the constitution are the right to a fair trial, right to be compensated when government confiscates personal properties, right against unreasonable searches and the right of all Americans to vote.   These are citizens’ civil rights.

As decided by the Supreme Court, each of these rights is binding on every law and regulation  at every level of government.   The powers of  the executive branch are kept in check by  the independence of the judiciary branch and the freedom of the press. The Supreme Court hears cases today regarding First Amendment rights- see post script at the end of this blog.

A well informed public is the best way basic liberties can be maintained.  I want to end this Fourth of July blog on a very positive note.   Freedom of the speech,  the independence of the courts and legislature,  and the concept of equality of mankind, irregardless of race, color or religion, are still our core values.    Democratic process is not the easiest way to get things done, nor are some of the results to everyone’s satisfaction, but the overall  system  is working quite well.

Enjoy the day!

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS: I will forgo adding links, but you may check out the latest Supreme Court ruling involving First Amendment Rights in the Trinity Lutheran Church case.   I hope to add more on religious freedom in future blogs.

You can find the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence at Wikipedia- happy searching.

Qatar – Criticism of the “Demand List” Grows

The demand list is short.   Clearly missing from this list, is any basis for the demands.

But, it is clear underlying these demands is  a general accusation  that Qatar supports terrorism.  It is accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood through commentary from the Al Jazeera news network.    The Muslim Brotherhood is recognized only by certain countries as a terrorist organization.

Further, it is accused of harboring terrorists within its country.   In this respect, we can welcome Qatar to the club as we too harbor “terrorists.”  Surprised!  They are only labeled terrorists by leaders outside of our country.

One US harbored terrorist is Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish national, who according to Wikipedia:

He is currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list and is accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gülenist Terror Organisation (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, FETÖ). A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen.  Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen from the United States.

Mr. Gulen is 76 years old, and came to the US in 1999 for medical reasons.  He was an ally of President Erdogan until the anti-corruption protests in 2013.  The US has refused to turn over Mr. Gulen, until it receives evidence of terrorist activities.   Why make a fuss over just one elderly man which has been convicted of crimes against Turkey?   Because of our values and national sovereignty.  Gulen has a US permanent visa.  Also, he has never advocated violence.   In fact he is very much against Islamic violence as follows:

Gülen has condemned terrorism. He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians and said that it “has no place in Islam”. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12, 2001, one day after the September 11 attacks, and stated that “A Muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Gülen lamented the “hijacking of Islam” by terrorists.

President Erdogan’s definition of a terrorist is likely the same as Syrian President Assad, as anyone whose ideas might threaten the continuation of his regime.

President Obama did not hand over our “terrorists” without sufficient evidence of terrorist activities.  President Trump will do the same.  Qatar will do the same.

The demand to shut down Al Jazeera will fail.  Saudi Arabia can not tell a news network in another country what it can and cannot broadcast.

It is hoped that this list of demands will highlight the fact that the blockade led by Saudi Arabia  is political power grab  and has no role in the fight against Islamic jihadists.  It also shows how the Saudi’s “played” President Trump’s visit to their maximum advantage.

Stay tuned,

Dave