24 April 2017

Update no.801

Update from the Heartland
17.4.17 – 23.4.17
To all,

            I am proud to announce the publication of my 12th book and the 5th book of my To So Few series of historical novels.

            Royal Air Force Fighter Command fought mind-numbing fatigue, overwhelming odds and precipitously diminishing numbers in the desperate aerial battle over Southeast England the world called the Battle of Britain. With the Air Defense System of Great Britain rapidly approaching the threshold of ineffectivity, the Germans shift their horrific aerial assault from the airfields and aircraft factories to London and the civilian population. His Majesty’s Government focused upon keeping the Germans from attempting a cross-Channel invasion, keeping the vital Atlantic supply lines open, and encouraging the United States to provide desperately needed war material. The miraculous shift of German bombardment targeting, soon to be known as The Blitz, brings breathing room to the nearly expended fighter pilots, and enables precious time for refit and renewal. As German daylight air operations begin to dwindle in favor of night bombing of the cities, Brian Drummond wades into a bad situation to save a comrade during an air raid in the West Country. Brian’s aircraft is seriously damaged. Unable to bailout, he crashes and is seriously injured. After being stabilized in a hospital, Brian recovers from his injuries under the care of Charlotte Palmer, as their relationship grows.
            The Verdict is available from all book retail outlets in print and digital formats.  I doubt it will be in stock with local brick & mortar stores, but the book can be easily special ordered at your convenience.  If anyone has difficulty obtaining the book in the form you wish, please let me know.
            Cap is working on Book VI that will take the characters of the To So Few series into 1941, the invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
            Saint Gaudens Press – the book’s publisher – in cooperation with Amazon, has created a Kindle eBook giveaway of The Verdict.  Any interested readers can visit the relevant web page to enter the contest:
            For those who may seek additional information about my writing, the parlier.com website has been updated for your review, or just ask.  After all, I do enjoy talking about writing, my characters, the story, and anything else that might come to mind.
            As always, I truly appreciate constructive criticism – good, bad, or ugly.

            Attorney General ‘Jeff’ Sessions announced the days of a slightly more relaxed enforcement are over and the USG is no longer going to turn a tolerant eye on state marijuana laws.  Sessions’ action stimulated Leonard Pitts to write another cogent, relevant and appropriate opinion.
“United States doesn’t need another War on Drugs”
by Leonard Pitts Jr. – Miami Herald
Wichita Eagle
Published: APRIL 17, 2017; 5:12 AM
I agree with Pitts.  In fact, I think he has been a bit reserved with his criticism of the government decision to reinvigorate the disastrous and ill-conceived notional “war on drugs.”  We have allowed the government to compromise our freedom of choice and fundamental right to privacy, and focus on the wrong issue.  The proper place of government is regulating the production, distribution and sale of psychotropic substances, and enforcement of proper public domain conduct for the public good and protection of public safety.  Richard Nixon took us down the wrong road criminalizing consumption of psychotropic substances, instead of protecting public safety.  Yes, Leonard Pitts is quite correct; we do not need another “war on drugs.”

            A friend and frequent contributor to this humble forum offered this article for debate: “MIT expert claims latest chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged”
by Tareq Haddad
International Business Times
Published: April 17, 2017
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Emeritus Theodore Postol argues that the U.S. Government claims were wrong.  He interpreted public information to conclude the event was staged by others to suggest the Assad regime perpetrated the recent chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun [800] that precipitated the U.S. cruise missile attack on Shayrat airfield in Homs Province [800].
My comment:
            Interesting perspective.  As I read the reporting of Postol’s analysis, I am left with the impression he does not have much experience with aerial-delivered chemical & biological weapons.  Chemical munitions do not have conventional explosive charges.  The design intent is the hold the device together during release and fall, to hold container integrity until the desired activation point.  There is generally just enough low-order explosive material to open the casing at the proper time and release the chemical agent.  Such devices do not want the heat and energy of a high order explosive as that will often damage or eliminate the desired agent contained within.  Thus, chemical and biological delivery systems generally do not reflect crater-ing effects common to high explosive devices.  Bottom line: I do not find Postol’s argument compelling.

            Prime Minister Theresa May made a call for an early general election on 8.June, apparently in an attempt to solidify her position and give her more authority in the upcoming Brexit negotiations with the European Union.  She became prime minister when her predecessor David Cameron resigned, which left her with a very slim majority of 17 in the House of Commons.  This move is a gamble for May, but a very smart one it seems to me.  If she is correct, it will strengthen her position and make her less dependent on the support of the euro-skeptics of her Conservative Party.

            The ouster of William James ‘Bill’ O'Reilly Jr. at Fox News has brought the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace to the forefront, again.  In typical manner, O’Reilly claims the accusations against him are unfounded, since he has not been charged, tried, convicted and punished for his crimes.  He gets a reported US$25M pay out for his troubles, and his victims do not get their day in court for justice.  The behavior of which he is accused of is consistent with his public conduct.  O’Reilly does not respect those who do not believe as he believes and he does not respect women.  I am certain he truly believes he has done nothing wrong, since he is an alpha-male and entitled to treat people as he chooses – just another version of royal prerogative – it is his God-ordained station in life.  No wonder Trump defended his friend; they are two peas from the same pod.

            As this week’s Update closes, the French people voted in the first round of their presidential election.  I confess to be rather anxious about what may come with this election.  No candidate is likely to garner 50% of the vote, so a runoff election will be necessary in June with the top two vote-getters.  As I voiced in the British European Union vote [758], I think it would be a very negative outcome if an anti-EU candidate won the presidency in France.  We await the decision of the French people.
            According to widely reported, preliminary (unofficial) results, Independent Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron collected 23.9% of the vote; and Marion Anne Perrine ‘Marine’ Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right, nationalist, National Front gained 21.4% of the vote.  As the top two of eleven candidates in the first round, Macron and Le Pen will face off in Round 2 on Sunday, 7.May.2017, to decide the election.

            Comments and contributions from Update no.800:
“You already know how I differ with you to some degree about the POTUS, so I restrain myself to the following reaction to 800:
“1.   Congratulations on the 800 mark!  I wish I had seen the first several hundred that I missed, and I envy my brother's previous relationship with you as a friend and fellow patriot who admired your commentary.
“2.  Re: ‘end of bipartisanship.’  ...disagree only in the genesis.  ...prior to the Reagan administration and most likely originated in the Johnson administration ...
My response:  BINGO!
“3.  Re: ‘Gorsuch.  ...the only proper ‘stated position’ for a judge should be, must be, the law.  Personal opinions have no place in judicial pronouncements.
“Having sought and experienced the best and hardest job I ever had, the trial judge with the highest individual case load in the state of Mississippi, I was exhausted after my term of 12-14 hour days handling both the mundane and the esoteric original trial and lower court appeal issues, listening to the incompetent and the excellent witnesses and advocates, ruling on incessant objections, doing my own research before we had law clerks at the trial court level, ruling from the bench without benefit of any jury on which to blame erroneous interpretation of inconsistent facts, establishing innovative court reforms to level the playing field for visiting attorneys, pushing mediation to encourage settlements instead of the wasteful litigation that had lined the pockets of the attorneys previously, teaching lawyers rules and behavior standards that my predecessor had ignored in favor of local attorneys to avoid possible challenge at election time, resisting the constant threat to avoid all things controversial like other chancellors did so as to stay popular enough for re-election, etc.  I succeeded as a matter of principle and, of course, was retired at the polls, but sleep well and enjoy a pittance from the public employee retirement system.  THEREFORE, I claim credibility on this subject because I am still steeped in the principles of judicial ethics, so I must chime in.  The inane questioning of a Supreme Court nominee by members of the U. S. Senate about his opinion on questions that have been or may be before the court shows either their individual ignorance or pervasive political bias.  No judge is permitted--indeed all are prohibited from -- public expression of personal views on pending questions.  Judge Gorsuch would have categorically disqualified himself if he had taken the bait.
“On the other hand, personal views within written decisions often help explain, defend, and make more palatable an opinion of an appellate judge who rules based upon the law as written rather than on his or her personal opinion, thereby reinforcing the proper role of the judiciary under our constitution and referring controversial matters to the legislative branch where they often belong.”
My reply:
            Thank you . . . a labor of love.  The early versions were called “Update from Italy” during my employment and residency in Italy.  I saved ‘em all.  You are welcome to read them; easy enuf to send ‘em.  It just wasn’t practical to post them.
            I feel like I have known you for many years.  Your brother was very proud of you and we talked about you, even though you and I had not met, yet.  He was a very good man; I miss him.
            Re: “end of bipartisanship.  Oh, you were still quoting me.  We agree on the genesis . . . correct?
            Re: “Gorsuch.  My concern with all the fundamentalists (or strict constructionists) is the relationship between enumerated authority / rights and fundamental rights (not directly expressed in the Constitution), most prominently, a citizen’s fundamental right to privacy.  Are their rights of citizens beyond the Constitution?
            Thank you for your perspective as a judge.  I have never liked attaching judicial position to popular opinion . . . inherently politicizing the judiciary – never good. 

Comment to the Blog:
“I see that United Airlines passenger as legally wrong and morally right. He is a doctor who was traveling to see a patient, and he had paid for his ticket and boarded correctly. He wasn’t even bumped in favor of some other passenger, but for airline employees who did not pay. The fact that airlines can over-book and ‘bump’ passengers legally says more about their ability to buy politicians than about anything else. This sort of runaway greed is bound to meet with resistance at some point.  I hope to see much more. Awareness of this is one more reason I do not fly.  I am not afraid of flying itself, but I’m not willing to put up with airlines or risk the Department of Homeland Insecurity.  Not everyone has that choice.
“I can only mourn for Turkey.  Their experiment with democracy lasted longer than many.
“Your other correspondent’s concern about Trump supporters punching or otherwise attacking him is supported by events.”
My response to the Blog:
            Re: unruly passenger.  The airline had no means to assess the veracity of his statement in a timely manner.  He was not morally right to resist law enforcement.  There were other means for him to object, if he believed his rights were violated.
            Re: airlines.  I am NOT defending United Airlines.  They were wrong to deal with the over-booking onboard the aircraft; should have been dealt with in the lobby.  I have faced onboard removal more than a few times; I never liked that threat.  “runaway greed” – I think that is a bit steep.  In this instance, they were sacrificing revenue in pocket for the larger picture; they had to move a flight crew quickly to avoid losing a plane-load of paying passengers.  Running an airline is NOT an easy juggling act.  They are driven by load-factor.
            Re: Turkey.  We shall have to keep a close eye on the political evolution in that important country.
            Re: Trump supporters.  Indeed!  Passions have been stirred.
 . . . Round two:
“The passenger had no means of immediate defense. While he probably had some sort of ID, it's not as if the enforcers would have considered it. Appealing to some authority figure later, even if it worked, would do nothing for his medical mission.
“‘Runaway greed’ is pretty appropriate to airlines and involves more than their brutal method of removing over-booked passengers. They are the industry that perfected strategic bankruptcies.  Together with telecoms, they made it ordinary to reduce service and raise ‘nuisance fees’ to an art form.  It would be inappropriate to describe airlines as other than greedy.  The only unusual aspect of the United incident is that such incidents are not common or get little notice.  I suspect that most people just feel helpless and don't resist.  So much for that ‘rugged individualist’ American image.”
 . . . my response to round two:
            Re: “no means of immediate defense.  To be blunt, that is irrelevant.  The small print on every airline ticket says something to the effect that the airline reverses the right to bump passengers.  We are all subject to the same rules.
            It is unfortunate that you have such a negative view of the airlines.  I wish I had an entire commercial aircraft to myself and I rode in first class just because they liked me and appreciated my being a passenger; but that is not realistic.  Airlines are driven by load factor.  Most of them need load factors of 60-80% just to break even.  For years, government regulation seriously constrained the industry; they lost money.  Now, they are making money.  I do not like all these damnable charges: assigned seats, aisle seats, carry-on bags, everything of value they can think of; but, it is how they make money.  The balance point must be out there somewhere.  Perhaps the USG should form its own airline to just breakeven.
            Most citizens do not resist law enforcement.  I do not want to do anything that encourages resistance to law enforcement.
 . . . Round three:
“We will disagree on airlines. They lost money only enough and long enough to declare bankruptcy, escape creditors, and come back to making even more. I find them repellent.”
 . . . my response to round three:
            We shall respectfully disagree.  I think you overly simplified the financial basis of the airline industry.  That is your choice.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cap                        :-)