Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day on the Roman calendar that became known as the “Ides of March.”  It marked the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar and the turning point in Roman history.  It was also a day for the common people to celebrate and feast in honor of the goddess of the year.

We don’t pay much attention to the death of Julius Caesar nowadays, but we mourn the death of civil debate in our national arena.  We have no feast to celebrate the popularity of any current political office holder, but only the bitter taste of discourse so harsh that we turn away in exasperation and disgust.

Donald Trump was duly elected under the existing electoral rules, yet the losing side of voters, politicians and media appear devoted not to accept the electoral outcome but to demean and find some way, anyway to dethrone him.

As a leader and healer, Trump is the elephant-ego who has a derogatory nickname for friend and foe alike.  He contradicts himself regularly and only seems coherent and mentally stable when reading from a teleprompter.

The Democrats, under the hysterical minority leadership of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, don’t bother with too many nicknames, or offer any alternative proposals, but declare every Republican achievement as a total disaster.

With little else to do, they lead the parade of fierce non-Trump voters and the media to trash his every move and desperately search for some way to unseat him.

With all this disharmony, all this name-calling and all this hostile discourse, since the election of Mr. Trump in November of 2016:

  • The economy has grown about 3.2%.
  • The 2017 tax plan appears to be generating positive results in raising wages and creating economic expansion.
  • The unemployment rate is at its lowest point in almost 20 years.
  • Our military has put ISIS on its last legs.
  • The stock market is up almost 25%.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor, black unemployment has fallen to 6.9%, the second lowest number since they’ve been keeping track.
  • The president has agreed to personally meet with Kim Jong Un, the first sitting president to meet with the North Korean leader.

Probably more accomplishments we’ve seen in one year than we’ve seen since Lyndon Johnson.  Not too bad for an unpopular president.

Now for some other things going on.


According to the Anti-Defamation League, incidents of Anti-Semitism surged 57% in the U.S. last year.  This was the largest increase since the ADL started keeping track.

Study:  The U.S. Has the Worst Quality of Life

According to a new study by U.S. News and World Reports, California has the worst quality of life of all 50 states, while North Dakota has the best.  The news magazine looked at each state’s environment, the physical and mental health of its residents, its political activism and its fiscal stability to come to its determination.

The study found the states with the best quality of life are North Dakota, Minnesota , Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

The states with the worst quality of life are California, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois and Texas.

Regardless of the study, I don’t think I’ll move to North Dakota.

Homeless in California

Governor Jerry Brown is entering his final year in public life riding high in opinion polls and generally praised by government officials.  But as the spotlight shifts to a new generation, there has been an increasing focus on the blight of poverty and homelessness under Mr. Brown’s watch—by his fellow Democrats.

Major Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles was the latest to weigh in, discussing what he said was the absence of state assistance in helping cities deal with the homeless.  Mr. Garcetti has come under fire for a major homelessness problem in Los Angeles, in a series of editorials in the Los Angeles Times.

“I love this governor—I think he’s done a tremendous job,” Mr. Garcetti said, “but in his last State of the State address, there wasn’t one mention of homelessness.  We need the state to step up.”

At a debate of Democratic candidates looking to succeed Mr. Brown as governor, Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor, spoke of California as a state plagued with high poverty, noting that this has happened as government has been controlled by Democrats.  “This happened on our watch.  We own this.”

One More Time

Mitt Romney is running to be a senator from Utah, which appears to be a platform to run against Trump in 2020.  If he campaigns against Trump like he did against Obama as a well-qualified business and government official who is reluctant to fight back against unfounded personal attacks, he will lose.

Romney will have to applaud the accomplishments of the Trump/Republican administration but say it was time to have a more consistent, less antagonistic and polarizing leader at the helm…and, above all else, he cannot let the personal attacks go by unanswered.

Trade War Coming

In his usual helter-skelter way, President Trump has threatened to impose a 25% tariff on imported steel and 10% on aluminum.  Trump thinks trade wars are easy to win.

The markets aren’t so sure.  Often these raises in tariffs don’t last too long, especially if there is retaliation.  Wars are not always predictable.


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As I approach my 87th year of residence on planet Earth, I find myself thinking a lot about two things:

First, where my appearance first started and how my life grew through childhood, then through the struggles of finding an identity in the work-a-day world into what became an invigorating career as a small business entrepreneur and on into an enjoyable retirement.

Second, my birthday thoughts are about my father and his life.  We’ll get to that shortly.

So now with some fading physical agility, I guess it’s only natural to spend more time looking back.  It’s been a good life, so come along with me as I reminisce.

I was born in the Rockaway Beach Hospital on the southern shore of Long Island, New York.  Two years later, all evidence of that occasion was destroyed when the hospital burnt down.

About that same time, we moved to Jackson Heights, on the north shore of Long Island, where three of my father’s siblings and their families all held forte.

I was an underachieving but passable student in the relative ease of elementary school.  I was average height, but not slim.  When I fell down at about eight or so and broke my collar bone, it became clear I had very poor eyesight.

Although I loved sports, my limited sight kept me from playing baseball or football.  I helped organize and be a manager for our independently organized Spades and the Jr. Dukes.  Couldn’t we have thought of better names?

A basketball was big enough for me to see, but I was mediocre at best.  I had poor stamina; and my shooting was inconsistent at best.  I could pass, but you don’t get points for that.

From about age 11 on, I went to camp every summer—not because my parents could afford it but my mother was the year-round bookkeeper for a camp of 1,000 kids, separated in five age groups, built around a nice large lake in Port Jervis, New York.

Camp was fun over the years.  I was a camper, waiter, dishwasher and a salad chef’s flunky.

High school was kind of an entertaining merry-go-round.  I took up smoking and got involved in student government, but I have no recollection of what the politics were all about.

I failed French I with the textbook my uncle wrote.  My mother was quite upset.  My uncle thought it was a hoot.  The teacher failed me because she said I was cheating by copying from my neighbor’s final exam.  What she didn’t realize is that with my poor eyesight, I could barely see my neighbor’s paper.

So I repeated French I, and then they put me in the French Honor Class, where I sat in the back of the room reading Howard Fast novels.  By the end of French IV, the teacher realized I hadn’t been very attentive so she promoted me, but not in the Honor Class.

By the third day in Mr. Eckstein’s French V class, he said, “What are you doing here?  You don’t have a clue.  So he sent me back to French IV, where I somehow managed to get through the State Regents exam

The rest of high school was mostly uneventful.  I got away with a lot because my brother-in-law’s sister Esther always kept the attendance records (Delaney Cards) and she covered up a lot of my transgressions.  Couldn’t have made it without her!

Moving on to college at the University of Oklahoma was a venture into another culture and a different world.  Instead of moving into a college dorm, I went into an off-campus rooming house (big mistake).  I hung out with a bunch of older veterans, who gave me a different kind of education.  The only part of college life I participated in was the O.U. football games.  That was exciting!

I enrolled in the School of Drama, because I thought I wanted to pursue a career in stage design and lighting.  I had to take some beginning courses in speech and acting with all the young aspiring actors.

To be honest, they were all naïve and terrible.  I, who had no interest in these courses, was the outstanding student—and then Dr. Morteman, who oversaw my area of interest, wanted to know why I wasn’t up at school six days a week instead of going to play basketball or just hanging out.

That kind of settled it.  On to UCONN and a more familiar cultural environment, as well as my immersion with Beta Sigma Gamma I have blogged about several times.

After a crash course one summer in French, I got all the credits I needed for graduation.  The irony was, Professor Croteau, the French teacher, was probably the best teacher I ever had.  He made a year of French fun and a breeze to get through.

All in all, I was not unhappy my school days were over.  So much growing up!

As I have passed into my 80’s, I think of my father a lot and how our lives have been so different.

Through only a high school graduate, he was well-read and far more capable in the work world than he was able to demonstrate or achieve.

At age 87, he had suffered back pain for 30 years or more without the availability I had with pain management and relatively-minor corrective surgery.

For many years, prior to WWII, my father was a printing broker (independent salesman).  He met my mother at a small S&L where she was a clerk.  The war essentially put the printing business on hold.  After that, he had  series of unchallenging jobs, including his last working years with his brother in a small ceramic tile jobbing business.

Different than mine, retirement for him and my mother was not all that happy.  At age 84, he and his wheelchair became residents of a nursing home.

He didn’t write a blog.  All he did was listen to music and the weather.  I watched with great anguish his struggles to open and turn the pages of a newspaper.  I think it was more a symbol than a meaningful reading activity.  I’m starting to have that same difficulty.

Although we shared the discomfort of a bad back, my life has had much more fulfillment.

So that’s my story.  At 87, I have a lot to be thankful for—lots of good friends all over the country; a marriage that works with a partner who has been a traveling co-pilot; two independent kids, successful in their own way; and a lot of great memories.

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The Economic Freedom of the World: 2017 Annual Report, co-published by the Fraser and Cato Institutes, features a wealth of new data on economic freedom worldwide—and for the first time, the report adjusts for inequality in economic freedom in countries that do not afford equal rights to men and women.  Since restrictions on the economic freedom of women significantly limit the size of that country’s markets and its potential growth.

While many countries were not affected by this adjustment, some countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, saw their ranking drop by more than 20 places.  The index’s authors based their adjustment on World Bank data on gender disparity, which considers questions such as whether men and women have equal property rights and equal inheritance rights and whether married women can open bank accounts, get jobs, and sign contracts in the same way as married men.  The report also reviews the trends in gender disparity since 1970—gender equality has been on the rise in the past few decades, and they find a positive relationship between economic freedom and gender equality.

The United States ranked 11th in this year’s report—up a bit from last year’s 13th (when adjusted for gender disparity), but still far below its 2000 ranking, when it stood in 4th place.  Hong Kong and Singapore remained the top two most economically free countries, followed by New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Georgia, Australia, and Estonia.

The report also features a timely chapter on the relationship between economic freedom and support for anti-immigrant populist parties.  Many believe that the success of these parties follows from high immigration levels, or from increased economic liberalism, which creates more competition and gives rise to nativist sentiments.  But the authors do not find support for these theories.  Instead they find that countries with less economic freedom and high welfare spending are more likely to support nativist, populist parties.

The Economic Freedom of the World report continues to demonstrate the clear connection between economic freedom and other types of freedom and prosperity.  The income of the poorest 10 percent of a country’s population is much higher in economically free countries, for example, and greater economic freedom is associated with more political rights and civil liberties.

Here in the United States we’re often surprised, as our rank in economic freedom slid from #2 in 1980 to #16 in 2013.  A bipartisan effort!  But this obscures the fact that over that same time period, the world’s average economic freedom score has jumped almost 20%.  To put that in perspective, in 2013 a score of 5.31 would place a country as the 149th most economically free (just ahead of the Central African Republic), while a score of 6.86 would place 87th (right behind Iceland).  Thus, the encouraging trend of the last 200+ years continues in dramatic fashion:  the world is becoming more free.

The foundations of the freedom index are personal choice, voluntary exchange and open markets.  Freedom of exchange and market coordination provides the fuel for economic growth and prosperity.

Here is a sample ranking of the Freedom Index in our states.

The top five include New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Indiana, North Dakota and Alaska.  The bottom five include New York, California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The overall rankings by the authors are compendium of personal and economic freedoms.  They scored each of the states on 200 policies encompassing fiscal and regulatory policies.  In addition to personal freedom, they weighted public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions impose on their citizens’ freedoms.

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My attitude, as well as my experience, with cruising has evolved over the years.  Aging has probably helped, I guess.

In the beginning of our 80 plus country visits, we took a short two-day rafting trip on the Kern River and an eight-day journey through the scenery and rapids on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  They were fun, exciting and very interesting, but you could hardly call either one cruising.

We were very committed to land and bike tours because we felt you could see and experience more of your destination and the people than on a cruise.

Our travels bore that out.  The thought of being penned up in a confined boat space with a few thousand people did not seem very appealing.

In 2002 we took our first journey on Cruise West (CW); unfortunately, they are no longer in business.  They tried to expand too fast.  The compromise to our bias was that it was a small boat.  It had about 100 passengers and we loved traveling through the inside passage of Alaska.

It was only seven or eight days and we tacked on a land extension to Denali National Park and Fairbanks.

Had a great time and so we changed our mantra a bit and said small ships will be okay, but what we saw on the larger city size ships reinforced our bias on that score.

Two years later we happened upon Sea Dream Yachts and took a seven-day cruise with 90 or so guests down the west coast of Italy.  It was terrific and luxury compared to CW.  We followed up with a week in Sicily.  The combination worked well again.

Sea Dream still does these super, seven-day, luxury-style cruises, but now it’s a little more on the pricey side.

Comfortable with our new outlook on short, small boat cruises with a tack-on land tour, the next year we engaged CW again to go through the Panama Canal and on to Costa Rica, where we spent an extra five days.

In 2006 we decided to expand our horizon a little with a Viking River Cruise that housed about 150 passengers and took us from Moscow to St. Petersburg.  We followed that up with a second Sea Dream cruise from Dubrovnik to Athens.

We enjoyed Viking, although the food was kind of Russian.  Sea Dream was again a real treat.

Now we were feeling our cruise oats, so to speak, so the next year we took a Quark Expedition from Ushia, Argentina to Antarctica and then a CW cruise around Japan.

Antarctica was fabulous once we got there.  The Japan cruise offered some of the most beautiful gardens.

All in all, we were definitely enjoying our version of cruising.

In the following years we took a number of cruises.  Here’s a capsule look at each and what we liked on a scale of 1-to-5 (5 being best).

In 2008 we took a new Regent cruise with 480 of my closest friends from Dubai to Mumbai, India (2) and added a land package of India highlights (5).

The following year we joined 150 people on a Tauck river trip from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland (5) with small add on to Berlin (5).

2010 had us on two Travel Dynamics cruises with 150 people.  The first one was across the Great Lakes (4) with the addition of Toronto and Quebec (5) and then in the fall we went down the west coast of Africa (4) with a fascinating trip through Mali (5).

In 2011 we took our first Oceania cruise with 1,250 guests.  Went to the Caribbean which wasn’t much (2) but we loved the boat (5).

The next year we joined 250 passengers on a Seabourn journey from Venice down the Adriatic (2)—poor choice of ports and tours, with an attitude.  Adding Vienna was (5).

Come 2013 we joined Holland America with 1,250 passengers to Alaska with our adult kids (5).  About the same time Gabriele and kids took National Geographic to Alaska with 30 guests (5).

Then in 2014 we took an amazing trip on the Upper Amazon on National Geographic (5) followed by an add-on to Machu Picchu (5).

The next two years we went back with Oceania, 680 passengers, from Lisbon to Rome (5) and then Miami to L.A. through the Panama Canal.  Exciting the second time (5).

In 2016 we tried Ponant, success to Travel Dynamics to Iceland (3), after a stop in Amsterdam (5)—mediocre food and tours.

Come 2017, we were back on Oceania, Miami to Rome (4).  Eight days at sea were a delight.

The small ships get up close and can dock at most ports.  The big ships need bigger ports and often have to use tenders to get people ashore.  The small ships in places like Alaska and Antarctica get into more places and can watch the calving of the icebergs, for example.  The big ships look at it from a distance.

Although not super small, you can tell we really like Oceania.  We’ve been on four of their cruises.  We even like their bigger ships more than the smaller ones.  They’re casual, comfortable and well organized.  The food is good in a variety of dining venues.

In addition to the main dining room, there are up to four specialty restaurants at no extra charge; a buffet available for all three meals; an ice cream bar and hamburger/sandwich café.  They have laundry facilities, a good gym and overall ambiance at a modest price.

Overall, it’s been a great adventure on the high seas that we’ve enjoyed very much.

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Here are three things I found of interest this week.

Japanese-American Internment

On February 19, 1942, in what is now considered one of the worst mistakes of his presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which cleared the way for the internment of tens of thousands of people of Japanese descent.

The order came ten weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Up and down the west coast, posters appeared declaring that “all persons of Japanese ancestry will be evacuated.”  Some 110,000 Japanese-Americans were uprooted and moved inland to internment camps in remote locations scattered across seven states.  Nearly two-thirds of these “evacuees” were American citizens.

Security concerns prompted the drastic step—the U.S. government worried that people of Japanese ancestry might be spying for Japan.  Mexico and Canada took similar actions.  But the ugly truth is that hysteria and racism were also at work.  Many Americans, with images of burning ships and dead sailors at Pearl Harbor seared in their minds, looked at Japanese-Americans and saw the enemy.

Many internees spent two and a half years in the camps, which were hastily constructed miniature cities, full of wooden barracks and surrounded by barbed wire.  After the war, they faced the task of rebuilding their lives.

In no way can the internment camps be compared with Nazi concentration camps or Stalin’s Gulag, where millions died.  But the terrible fact remains that loyal Americans who had done no wrong lost their property and, temporarily at least, their liberty.  It’s an ugly blot on our nation’s history.

In 1988, President Reagan signed a law that offered a national apology to Japanese-Americans and $20,000 to each person who had been interned in the camps.

Many Medical Questions About Cannabis Remain

Thomas B. Strouse, MD, of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, talks about what is known and what remains to be determined.

“For what conditions do we know cannabinoids are effective?

“The FDA approves pharmaceutically processed cannabinoids for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea, and evidence shows that they are effective for that, although there are not studies to suggest that they are superior to other antiemetic drugs.  Some evidence, though not strong, indicates that they may help to treat cachexia, also known as wasting—the loss of lean body mass associated with advanced illness like AIDS or cancer.  Studies also indicate that plant-derived cannabinoids can help to reduce pain, particularly nerve pain, and that they may have a role in cases of treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy.  For everything else you hear about—such as insomnia, anxiety, multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases, to name a few—the evidence comes from anecdotes, small case series and generally is not based on high-quality studies.

“Is that because it’s been studied and not shown beneficial for these conditions, or is it that it just hasn’t been well studied?

“I would say the later—mostly it’s just understudied.  It has been very difficult to perform high-quality cannabis studies in the U.S. regulatory situation—remember that cannabis is still classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule I substance, which means the DEA considers it to be without valid medical use and highly addictive or dangerous.

“Beyond investigating potential benefits for certain conditions, what other issues need further study?

“There are many.  For one thing, most people who use cannabinoids get them not in the pharmaceutical preparations but in a whole-leaf form at a dispensary, where there is very little, if any, mandatory quality or safety control.  Whole-leaf cannabis has 400-to-500 compounds, and we know almost nothing about most of them.  We also need to learn much about basic safety issues around chronic use.

“Is it correct to say that anecdotal reports about the benefits of cannabis to alleviate certain condition would not be sufficient, from a doctor’s point of view, to demonstrate efficacy?

“It is a risk-benefit analysis.  If you’re a young person whose brain is still developing, it seems pretty clear that the risks of regular and/or heavy marijuana use, whether recreationally or to treat a symptom, probably outweigh the benefits.  It’s a very different analysis if you’re a 70-year-old with Alzheimer’s disease or late-stage cancer.

“What are some of the potential negative health effects?

“Any rational discussion of this topic has to acknowledge the well understood risks to the developing brains of young people who use marijuana regularly before their mid-20s.  This includes potential effects on memory and cognition, decreased motivation and the potential for hastening or worsening of a psychotic disorder for individuals who may be prone to developing one.

“In light of the current crisis with opioid addiction, is there any potential benefit to cannabinoids as a substitute for people who are seeking pain relief?

“The short answer is probably yes.”

UPS Maintenance Shows Us How To Resolve Problems

After every flight, UPS pilots fill out a form, called a “gripe sheet,” which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft.

The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form so that the pilots can review the gripe sheets before their next flight.

Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident…

P:  Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel.  Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from the midget.

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Someone at lunch one day asked if you could impeach an appointed, non-elected Cabinet Secretary.  I didn’t think so, but several other people did.  I thought it was an interesting question along with the notion I’ve had for some time that the criteria for impeachment might be a little too high, so I decided to investigate.  Here’s what I found out.

Impeachment in the U.S. is an expressed power of the legislature that allows for formal charges against a civil officer of government for crimes committed in office.  The actual trial on those charges, and subsequent removal of an official on conviction on those charges, is separate from the act of impeachment itself.

Impeachment is analogous to an indictment in regular court proceedings, while trial by the other house is analogous to the trial before judge and jury in regular courts.  Typically, the lower house of the legislature will impeach the official and the upper house will conduct the trial.

At the federal level, Article II of the U.S. Constitution (Section 4) states that “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”  The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the U.S. Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.  The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate.  In Nixon vl. United States (1993), the Supreme Court determined that the federal judiciary cannot review such proceedings.

That’s a pretty high bar.

Maybe the definition should be broadened so it would be easier, more practical to achieve or maybe we should consider other alternatives such as employed in the Parliamentary System; a vote of “no confidence” or a “motion to censure.”

Impeachment can also occur at the state level; state legislatures can impeach state officials, including governors, according to their respective state constitutions.

In our history there have been 19 impeachments of federal officials; 15 were judges, including 13 District Court Judges, one Court of Appeals Judge and one Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Chase in 1804.

In addition, there was one Cabinet Secretary and one U.S. Senator, John Blount of Tennessee in 1797 impeached.

Filling out that number were two presidents:  Bill Clinton in 1988 and Andrew Jackson in 1868.

Contrary to popular belief, both Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew were not impeached.  They resigned before impeachment might have taken place.

Over the years, political scholars have recognized the difficulty the country faces when the president or other high government official, because of deleterious behavior, has created a constitutional crisis.  Impeachment is difficult to come by.  The definition is a very high bar to meet.

One alternative scholars proposal is to broaden the definition of impeachable offenses to include grievous errors in foreign affairs or inattention to the duties of their office.

Two other proposals have been offered which have been utilized in parliamentary governments and would certainly be easier to achieve in our system.

A motion of no confidence is a statement or vote which states that a person in a superior position in government is no longer deemed fit to hold that position.  This may be based on said person falling short in some respect, failing to carry out obligations, or making choices that other members feel are detrimental.  As a parliamentary motion, it demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government.

A censure motion is different from a no-confidence motion.  “No Confidence” leads to compulsory resignation, whereas “Censure” is meant to show disapproval and does not result in a resignation.  The censure motion can be against an individual or a group of officials.  Censure motions need to state the reasons for the motion while no-confidence motions to not require reasons to be specified.

Either of these proposals would require an amendment to the Constitution, which in and of itself would be difficult to achieve, but it might be interesting and beneficial to have some alternatives to impeachment.

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This week’s blog is taken from the newsletter of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, written by William Perry Pendley, attorney and president of MSLF.

“Weeks ago, it seemed common sense—and the Constitution—might prevail when Congress indicated it would veto a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plan to abandon its decades-old, race-neutral process of hiring the most motivated, best prepared, and most highly-skilled air traffic controllers (ATCs) to keep American travelers safe in the skies.

“No such luck.  Fearful of a presidential veto is it stopped the FAA’s race-based hiring scheme, Congress on July 13, 2016 cut a deal allowing the FAA to hire half of all new controllers based on race.  President Obama signed the legislation on July 15, 2016.

“Soon, the rest of us will find out how these rookie ATCs fare in guiding 87,000 flights a day carrying tens of millions of passengers across the U.S.

“I have battled Congress’s willingness to disperse funds, grant contracts, and award licenses on the basis of race for more than 25 years, and the struggle is ongoing.

“In 1995, a case I brought on behalf of a small Colorado business that was denied highway construction subcontracts because of a racial preference reached the U.S. Supreme Court; it resulted in a landmark ruling (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena) that the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee applies to Congress.

“The late Justice Antonin Scalia concurred in that decision, ‘In the eyes of government, we are just one race here.  It is American.’  With its ruling, the Court also overturned two of its earlier decisions holding that Congress could set aside public works funds for minority businesses (Fullilove v. Klutznick, 1980) and award radio and television broadcast licenses based on race (Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC, 1990).

“We’re not there now.  Racial preferences flooded back into almost every major legislative act in Barack Obama’s first term.

“Then, early in Obama’s second term, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced plans to ‘transform the [FAA] into a more diverse and inclusive workplace that reflects, understands, and relates to the diverse customers we serve.’

“First, the FAA killed a successful agency program that established accredited aviation degree curricula in 36 colleges and universities in 23 States and Puerto Rico to prepare future ATCs on a color-blind basis for training at the FAA Academy at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City.

“Following that sweeping measure, 2,000 to 3,500 ready-to-hire, highly qualified graduates of those programs got ‘Dear Applicant’ emails advising them that the FAA’s hiring process had changed and they must reapply.  An FAA official later reported that their names had been ‘purged’ from FAA job application files.

“Finally, the FAA announced it would hire via a General Public Announcement—commonly referred to as ‘off the street’—U.S. citizens with high school diplomas, who speak English, and pass a 62-question ‘Biographical Questionnaire’ (BQ), which includes such questions as, ‘The number of high school sports I participated in was?’  ‘How would you describe your ideal job?’  ‘What has been the major cause of your failures?’  ‘More classmates would remember me as humble or dominant?’

“Late last year, my legal foundation filed a class action lawsuit in Arizona federal district court on behalf of an Arizona State University double major graduate who scored 100 percent on the FAA’s long-standing, demanding, eight-hour computer-based Air Traffic Control Selection and Training exam.  His name had been purged from eligibility for hiring regardless.  Incidentally, he along with most of the other ready-to-hire graduates ‘failed’ the BQ test.

“Our lawsuit relies in its reasoning on my 1995 victory and on a 2009 Supreme Court decision that struck down New Haven, Connecticut’s decision to abandon the race-neutral hiring of firefighters to increase racial diversity.  Anticipating congressional action, the case was stayed in early June, to begin again this month.

“But the FAA had pressed forward with disastrous results.  Because the FAA slowed, froze, and then changed the hiring process, unfilled vacancies among air traffic controllers are at a 26-year high, and more could come quickly.  For example, every ATC in one Alaska international flight sector could retire tomorrow.

“Meantime, the FAA’s Oklahona City training center is laden with raw trainees unskilled in English, unable to obtain security clearances for DUIs among other reasons, and lacking the discipline for the arduous 17-week training syllabus—the dropout rate is wreaking havoc with class size and schedules.

“Congress bemoaned the gap in hiring but did little else aside from the partial killing of the preposterous BQ ‘test.’  And then, somewhere in the back rooms, it caved in.

“When the bill finally emerged it contained a typical legislative-style compromise.  It said that, after giving preferential consideration to veterans with air traffic control experience, half of all new air traffic controllers must come from the college degree program, which Congress sensibly and legislatively reinstated.  But the other half will be hired ‘off the street,’ apparently to satisfy the FAA’s pursuit of racial diversity.

“This scheme fails for several reasons.  First, it reaches only half of those ‘purged’ from job application lists.  It is not a remedy for those adversely affected—they remain at the back of the line, uncertain as to how to ‘reapply.’

“It also does not prevent the FAA from doing the same thing again, and, worse yet, it give congressional approval to a 50 per cent racial quota—after the Supreme Court in 1995 sharply criticized what was, at worse, a 15 per cent preference.

“One other result:  Congress’s belated splitting of the difference came too late to save three of the ATC schools that were set up to train everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed.  One of the three schools that failed to survive was the most racially diverse of all, the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

“Fasten your safety belts as we see what happens next.”

In the meantime, let’s hope and pray the old qualified ATCs are in the tower.

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