15 September 2014

Update no.665

Update from the Heartland
8.9.14 – 14.9.14
To all,

Lest we ever forget – 11.September.2001!  May God rest their immortal souls.

The follow-up news items:
-- Our good buddy Vlodya Putin likes to use the term “Novorossiya” (New Russia).  I’m not sure what he means or how he defines the term.  Perhaps, he is referring to his efforts to plump up Russia to the glory days of Stalin’s Soviet Union.  Or maybe, he actually seeks to control the territory the Soviet Union occupied, controlled and subjugated in Stalin’s self-proclaimed sphere of influence or security zone, after the Great Patriotic War.  Actually, I think his ego was bruised by the success of the winter rebellion, the flight of his lackey Yanukovych, and the resultant loss of influence in Ukraine.  Now that his ire is raised, he figured he might as well punish the wandering Ukraine by carving out the entire eastern third of Ukraine [636, 640, 658] and by cutting off all access to the Black Sea for Ukraine.  An interesting little factoid in this whole nasty situation: none of the provinces in Novorossiya have even close to a majority of ethnic Russians, except for Crimea which is 58% ethnic Russian.  Given these elements, I think I will stop using the term “rebel” or “separatist” with respect to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.  Let us call those fighters exactly what they are – Russians.  They are Russians who seek to occupy, control and subjugate Ukraine, and while they are at it, do the same for all the other nations on their border – just as their ancestors did.
-- The President was spot on correct – ISIL is neither Islamic or a State [652].  They are simply just another mutation of the same ol’ Islamofascism we have faced for decades – violent thugs in the guise of religious zealots.  While the West and Allies appear to be organizing to oppose ISIL, “What matters are actions, not words,” as Sir Winston so succinctly stated.  The Sunni Arab nations have joined the coalition in name.  Now we need to see the offensive power of this coalition.  Time shall tell the tale.
-- The Dutch Safety Board issued its preliminary report regarding its investigation of the crash of Malaysian Airline’s Flight MH17 in Eastern Ukraine [657 & sub].  The report indicates the majority of their preliminary findings is based on interrogation of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR).  They found neither box showed any signs of tampering.  Both boxes ceased recording at 13:20:03 [Z] UTC, Thursday, 17.July.2014, which suggests a substantial, if not massive, malfunction.  Incidental examination and photographic evidence of the aircraft remnants in the debris field led them to note, “The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”  They went on to observe, “The fact that there were many pieces of aircraft structure distributed over a large area indicated that the aircraft broke up in the air.”
            I will add that the autopsy data, presumably collected from the victims recovered to date may yield further more specific information regarding the projectile penetrations.  Nonetheless, precise causal determination will not likely occur without detailed, forensic, metallurgical and chemical analysis of the surviving structural fragments.  Also, I must note, unbeknownst to me until the Dutch report, there were three other commercial aircraft transiting the area, all above the ceiling of the NOTAM restricted airspace (FL320).  Further, MH17 altered its flight path to avoid turbulent weather from its intended route.  The additional information strengthens the large missile attack hypothesis.  However, we have insufficient evidence to definitively prove a surface-to-air missile caused the loss of MH17.  Until the fighting subsides in the vicinity of the debris field and the crash remnants can be recovered for detailed laboratory examination, we will most likely not have a documented root cause.  My working hypothesis remains unchanged.

This public outrage against Ray Rice and now NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has gone way too far.  In this latest episode, I see a trend in our actions.  We have a distinct propensity to overreact, as if we must punctuate our opinion –the more demonstrative we are, the louder we are, the bigger the riot we incite, the stronger our opinion.  This is becoming contemporary lynch-mob conduct. 
            I have tried to find some balanced perspective with respect to tragic events:
Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman [537]
Michael Brown – Darren Wilson [661]
Now we have the Rice affair. 
Janay Rice née Palmer – Ray Rice
While Janay was not killed or seriously injured, the public hue & cry has virtually killed the livelihood of her now husband Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice as a consequence.  We want to find sinister conspiracies, clear evil, and most significantly, we feel the need to profess our outrage.  In the Rice affair, my outrage is rapidly mounting against the lynch mob mentality that so bloody well wants a head on a pike – an innocent man who has not been charged, let alone tried and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers.  I have a long history of protestation and condemnation of violence against women.  However, we are missing the contribution to the elevator incident by Janay Palmer; she escalated the confrontation and assaulted Ray; he reacted and decked her.  While I will add my condemnation of Ray’s over-reaction to the situation, Janay has rightly chosen not to file charges stemming from the February – FEBRUARY – incident, and further chose to marry the man.  To me, the days of Victorian chivalry and the Doctrine of Coverture are long past.  Women are either equal, or they are not.  If they are equal, they DO NOT get a pass to assault a man, expecting Victorian immunity from defensive action.  Janay Rice contributed to that elevator violence, but all that said, Ray Rice grossly over-reacted to the situation.  His response was clearly excessive to the situation.  However, that is not a reason to crucify the man.  Let us get real.  Citizens with dark skin pigmentation do not have a right to riot.  Women do not have a right to violent action any more than men do.  Lastly, when will we abandon this grotesquely unforgiving penchant to destroy a person’s life for a moment’s misjudgment – a felon who remains virtually unemployable even after he has paid his penance to society, or the man who stood tall to admit his violation of prevailing law as a teenager only to find so many doors closed to him as an adult.  This nonsense has got to stop.  Either we punish, forgive and move on, or we ostracize for a lifetime; we cannot do both.  The ostracism takes on a far more substantial and profound impact, far beyond the punishment required by law.  What is happening to Ray Rice, or even Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman, is far beyond the law, and grossly disproportionate to their offense or perceived offense.  We must climb down from our high horse of righteousness and help offenders beyond their transgressions.

I have avoided commenting on the Reeva Steenkamp – Oscar Pistorius murder case in South Africa.  Now, we have a verdict.  A good friend summarized the verdict quite crisply.  “Culpable homicide” is South African for “felony stupidity.”  As seems to be the theme of this week’s Update, Oscar’s disability cannot be an excuse or rationale for bad behavior.  Firing a pistol at a closed bathroom door because he was afraid – really!  His actions that night may not have been premeditated murder beyond a reasonable doubt, but it was murder nonetheless.  I trust the judge will send him to prison for a sufficiently lengthy time, for him to contemplate the idiocy of what he asked us to believe.

News from the economic front:
-- A federal judge sentenced the convicted, former, hedge-fund manager at SAC Capital Advisors, Mathew Martoma, to nine years in prison for insider trading.  The judge also ordered him to forfeit US$9.38M.  Last February, Martoma was found guilty of making illegal trades in pharmaceutical stocks, generating some US$275M in profit and avoided losses for the firm.  We can only hope the prosecutors go after the others involved and recover the ill-gotten gains plus a hefty fine.
-- The Federal Reserve is preparing to levy a tougher version of a capital surcharge than agreed to by international regulators on eight of the country’s largest banks.  At issue is a requirement for the world's largest banks to hold an extra layer of financial padding in case of a crisis.
-- Bank of England Governor Mark Joseph Carney publicly stated the British economy will likely meet its inflation and jobs goals, and the central bank may start to raise its benchmark interest rate early next year in what would be the first move toward unwinding the extraordinary stimulus brought on by the Great Recession.

Further comment on police militarization from Update nos. 662 & 663:
“Regarding my comments earlier on militarization of police, I ran across this article.”
“Cops’ deadly identity problem: How police officers’ military uniforms affect their mental state – New scientific research suggests the effect of militarized dress on cops is more profound than imagined. Here's why”
by George McRuer
Published: FRIDAY, SEP 12, 2014; 10:55 AM CDT
My response:
            I will not quibble with the basic premise of the McRuer article.  I would say in general the implications are true.
            Where I will argue is with his conclusion:
“If we believe that peaceful protest is the backbone of democracy, then we should not be dressing our officers in a way that makes them see citizens as enemy combatants. By applying our understanding of the psychology involved in policing, we can equip our officers to facilitate, rather than escalate, the democratic process.”
The conclusion presumes what Law Enforcement (LE) faced in Ferguson was “peaceful protest.”  Throwing projectiles and Molotov cocktails, looting, destruction of property, gunshots and confrontational conduct are NOT “peaceful protest.”
            We can argue the chicken & egg paradox with respect to events in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.  We can even argue the genesis of Brown’s belligerent conduct, or the inherent hostility of the police toward the citizens they serve.  Yet, once the leaders and instigators of those “peaceful protests” lost control and allowed outside anarchists to degenerate their rightful activities, the local LE had no choice, and I am thankful they had tools to at least localize the violence.  I would not want LE to be in a position of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
 . . . a follow-up comment:
“I agree on Ferguson. What I've read is that most of the lawlessness was from outsiders. It started as a peaceful, local protest. Locals even tried to block looters.
“But that aside, I think that dress has a psychological impact on the person wearing the outfit and the person viewing it. In a civil situation it creates an unnecessary escalation of the confrontation to a military context. As you point out, it's difficult to know what escalated first.
“I don't know if you saw this, but then San Diego Public Schools acquired a Caiman MRAP. I just think the whole thing is getting out of hand...”
“San Diego School District's New 18-Ton Armored Vehicle Creates Stir”
by Bill Chappell
Published: September 13, 2014 4:36 PM ET
 . . . my follow-up response:
            Agreed.  I had not seen the article.  Thank you. 
            It is a “what’s wrong with this picture?” item.  MRAP & SDSD = what’s wrong with that picture?  Yet, for a paltry US$5,000 . . . the school district could not buy an automobile for that amount.
            My beef with that whole Ferguson fracas is the wrong focus.  The biggest issue for me is the incitement by the agitators like Sharpton, Jackson, et al, with no semblance of control . . . as if they just happened to appear at a spontaneous street rally.  They created the environment that allowed the outside anarchists and troublemakers to infiltrate their “peaceful protest.”  They setup the conditions for the riot.  They boisterously demand police accountability.  I want instigator accountability.  If they incite the conditions that become a riot, they should be tried for all the damage that results.  We must stop giving them a free-pass just because they have dark skin pigmentation and they play to our collective societal guilt for past injustice.

No comments or contributions from Update no.664.

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