A Tale of Two Students

A long time ago – but not so long ago that it’s beyond contemporary memory; after the 1930’s teachers riots but before Common Core – there were two high school students named Martin and Dean.

 

Dean was an average student. The only subject he really excelled in was science. He wanted to go to college to become an architect. But the guidance counselor, Mrs. DiLood, said he couldn’t go to college because his grades weren’t good enough. In fact, she forbade him to apply for college.

 

Martin was an average student. The only subject he really excelled in was science. He and Dean used to compete for the best grade in science; Martin always won. Martin had suffered from non-paralytic polio as a child. Being bedridden, he had the time to basically memorize the encyclopedia.

 

Martin did not want to go to college. But Mrs. DiLood and his parents, seeing his gift for science, particularly physics, although not mathematics. His algebra teacher was a very short man who couldn’t write very high on the chalkboard and Martin was all the way in the back of the class. Therefore, he didn’t have the necessary background for success in mathematics and didn’t want one.

 

Martin wanted to become a mechanic. However, Mrs. DiLood and his parents were so adamant that he attend college to become an engineer that they wouldn’t allow him to take auto mechanics or any other shop classes.

 

Dean applied to the college of his choice anyway and was accepted (much to Mrs. DiLood’s consternation). He studied architecture and went on to become an architect. After designing buildings, he became a professor of architecture at a university.

 

After one semester of engineering classes, Martin began showing signs of stress. Stomach aches. Head aches. Depression. He wanted to come home but his parents insisted that he finish out the year. He came back home, went to a technical school for mechanics and became a very happy auto mechanic.

 

The Nephew is out in the Bay Area, attempting to restart his career. He showed great aptitude in math and the sciences. He was incredibly smart and didn’t seem to mind the hard work, for the most part. At least, not at first. But then he began to intern at his father’s company.

 

His supervisor constantly mocked him and verbally abused him. I heard it with my own ears. He was going back to school and I went to take a few photos of him working and there was this man telling him he was stupid and didn’t know what he was doing.

 

I’m proud to say that at my former company, at least in my department, we never treated our interns that way. My boss would have bitten his tongue off before he would call an intern names and abuse them.

The Nephew’s grades began to dip. He failed a couple of classes in his junior year (we tried to tell him to stay at the American school he was going to, but his mother insisted that he have experience in a foreign country). Then he went on to study engineering on the graduate level. After graduating, instead of immediately looking for a job (in the midst of the financial collapse) his mother took him on a Grand Tour of Europe and Asia for the summer.

 

When he did get some interviews, he didn’t do too well. He turned his father’s company down cold. Grandma E. was angry and his father was befuddled. His parents had spent thousands and thousands of dollars on his education. We all asked if he was sure he wanted to do engineering and he said, “Yes.”

 

But thanks to that idiot supervisor, I think my nephew wound up having second thoughts. If that was what being an engineer meant, no matter much money his parents spent, that wasn’t the way he was going to spend his life. And I couldn’t blame him.

 

The Nephew has a creative streak. His mother had him copying Monets when he was seven or eight, and they were pretty good for a kid artist. He’s talking about computer programming and I have an idea that he would probably be pretty good at developing computer games. That’s all he did through high school anyway, play computer games. He has the mathematical and engineering ability, the creativity, and the desire to enjoy his work. I suspect he wants to do something fun. The idea of building a bridge and hoping all your calculations are one hundred percent correct or the bridge will fall into a one hundred-foot chasm and dozens and dozens of people will die is probably not his idea of fun.

 

He was a pretty decent pitcher back in Little League. But his coach was a jerk who was jealous that The Nephew was a better pitcher than his son. So he yelled at him and screamed him until finally, one day, his mother had enough of this man abusing her kid, and dragged him off the pitcher’s mound in the middle of a game. A major embarrassment. Grandma E. and Big Brother were furious. I understood, though. I was kind of proud of my ex-sister-in-law. I’ve had my share and more of being screamed at.

 

I used to feel the way my mother does about The Nephew basically being out of work, until a friend told me the story of Dean and Martin. It rang a bell – being told that I was going to be a secretary not a writer when I wanted to be a writer not a secretary. I was only barely fast enough as a typist and far too slow for shorthand. I memorized the symbols well enough, but I didn’t have enough short-term memory space to keep up with a person speaking at normal speed. Luckily, along came dictaphones, and then word processors. I worked for awhile and then the word processors put me and a lot of other secretaries out of work. My editor rescued me just in time.

 

At the moment, I’m neither – I’m a barely-working photographer with a local newspaper group but getting a good reputation for being professional and having a lot of fun at my work). I must brush up on my typing skills once again. I enjoyed internal public relations when it was about the employees and best practice stories and taking photos of classes and motivational events. Things got too serious, though. The job became about selling the company to the employees and keeping secrets (don’t tell anyone, but we’re closing the entire office; why would I tell anyone an awful thing like that? I certainly did keep it to myself). I was laid off just in the nick of time.

 

Sometimes you know from the time you’re a kid what you want to be. Some people figure it out in high school, just in time to take the right courses. Other people are told what they want to be and sent off to work in a career that isn’t right for them and only brings them misery and failure. Others have to “bell the cat” and stand up to parents and guidance counselors and become what they want to be.

 

I’ve been brushing up on my typing in between photo shoots for the newspaper group. The money is running low and the condo association just hit us with a huge reassessment in dues. If I don’t get some work soon, I’ll be sharing dinner with my cat.

 

Common Core stresses job skills over knowledge, except for a very few elite students. That would be welcome news to students like Martin, but not Dean. Skills will only get you so far, and only for so long, as technology advances. I’ve had to spend the last two years learning new skills I didn’t have time to learn when I was working. Not to mention the money on the programs so I could actually produce something with Excel and PowerPoint. Like Dean, I was never allowed to learn PowerPoint because my typing wasn’t “fast enough.” I had to learn it on my own, instead, as Martin did through reading every auto and motorcycle magazine he could get his hands on.

 

When you’re a writer, you have to have a specialty, my father said. After a stint in newspaper reporting, he became a public relations specialist for Con Edison. He also worked for Iron Age magazine.

 

My own interests lean towards education and politics. Having had a very bad school experience, I’m intensely interested in the Common Core controversy and what it’s going to do to young minds. I’ve read every Scientific American article I’ve found on neurology. I’ve read about the history of education and philosophy, and I’m going to look into texts on methodology. I don’t want to see happen to some poor kid what happened to me.

 

A number of things must change if kids are to be as smart as students were in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties: they must have better nutrition, and that means more fats, not less. The education experience must, as John Dewey wrote, involve more personal experience than just simply reciting facts mindlessly. However, students, parents and teachers should keep in mind that practice, recitation, repetition and recall (reading aloud, reading repeatedly, and testing the memory) are what keeps the information stored in the grey cells.

 

Reading from a computer screen is not the same as reading from a book. We knew that back in public relations. Proofreading always worked better on a piece of paper than proofreading on the screen. However, there is something to be said for doing work on a computer; it eliminates the classroom politics. I don’t mean the political politics of Leftist teachers (although that is a problem).

 

I’m talking about the psychological politics. You’re too fat. You’re too thin. You’re too plain. You’re too ugly. You’re funny-looking. Your voice is too squeaky. Your clothes are out-of-date. You have an accent. You’re too shy. You’re too bold. You talk back too much. You don’t participate enough. You’re too slow. You’re too stupid.   You’re even too fast and smart. There’s an endless list. And this is just the teacher’s list of what’s wrong with you. If the other students don’t like you, and sometimes that’s a major factor in a teacher’s assessment of you (and all for basically the same reasons), you’re toast.

 

Computer stations would eliminate many of those problems. Of course, most kids enjoy the socialization of the classroom, especially if they can boost their grade average through charm, good looks, good luck, wit or some other manipulative asset. It’s part of human nature to bargain and negotiate, to outwit and outthink your adversary, even to lie and cheat. That’s what makes humans so clever (or think themselves so very clever). It’s survival of the fittest.

 

But what happens to the “unfit”? Think of a target. You’re ready to shoot and something comes between you and the target, or it takes your attention off the target. That thing is bullying. Or verbal abuse. Or mockery. Or humiliation. Or something physical like hunger, pain (which can accompany depression), or the sound of cruel laughter or shouting or something hitting you constantly. Your grades begin to plummet and you’re told to forget about it. Go home and study. Work harder.

 

Yeah, right. The last thing you want to do when you get home after a day of bullying is do something like homework, a portent of things to come the next day. You fall into a hole that, as a kid, is tremendously hard to dig out of. There are an awful of kids who are either failing or failing to live up their potential because of this psychological, it’s all-in-your-head, it’s-just-part-of-school-and-childhood-so-get-over-it trauma. An hysterical word! Difficulty, then.

 

The bullying must stop. These are quiet kids, generally, “social misfits” who might just have the right stuff for mathematics and engineering, disciplines that require a good deal of quiet, head time and not a lot of interaction with other people, if they were allowed to concentrate.

 

The resistance to stopping the bullying comes from those who profit by it, directly or indirectly. The bully who hasn’t got much going on upstairs. The average kids who see their grades going up the bell curve as the scapegoats’ grades go down. The teacher who, by ignoring and sometimes even encourages the bullying, wins the “respect” of the “normal” kids in class and gets a break from the mobster tactics of their students by this deflection.

 

Fifty years ago, I would have loved to have had a computer station instead of a teacher. The computer wouldn’t have cared what I looked or sounded like. I could have studied at my own pace and the computer would not have called me names. The thing would have just recorded my answers and told me if they were right or wrong. If they were right, I’d go on to the next lesson. If they were wrong, I’d just repeat the lesson, without any scolding, until I got it right. It would have been heaven.

 

Keep in mind, the computer stations will means billions of dollars in taxpayer money for Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who is producing the computers and the book publishers and computer programmers who’ll make money from the Common Core texts and applications. Parents wouldn’t mind the computers or new texts. It’s what not going into them: the truth. They’re writing in global warming garbage, revised history, and mathematical grammar, ala Noam Chomsky. Our kids won’t know how to read, write, know who the presidents of the United States were or who invented the typewriter (The typewriter? What’s that?!).

 

It’s history, that’s what it is. Technologically speaking, the typewriter is history. But it’s also History. It revolutionized business (and publishing). Communications became easier and faster.

But students won’t know that or anything else. Today’s students ask why they need to memorize anything, when they can just look up the word “typewriter” on Google.

 

The answer is power. Literally. Someday someone could turn off the power, for whatever reason, and we’d be like the characters in a certain Star Trek episode where once they were disconnected from the mainframe computer, they walked around mindlessly, bumping into one another.

 

Common Core is a long story and will prove to be a long controversy. John Dewey said that children should be allowed to choose their own vocations. That’s very true. There are countless stories of children who had to take matters into their own hands when they became adults.

 

It would be better if today’s students didn’t have to reinvent the wheel after finding that Common Core sold them short.

 

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

N.J. Gov. Christie’s Media Trial

N.J. Gov. Christie’s Media Trial

 

On the face of it, the 344-page report issued by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on behalf of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, absolving him of all blame in the George Washington Bridge lane closure on Sept. 11th of last year, seems absurd. Paid for by Christie, it’s as if Christie is writing his own report card on the matter and giving himself an A-plus.

 

However, the investigation(s?) being conducted by the New Jersey legislature are being run by the opposition political party, who have as much to gain politically by producing a damning report as Christie does by producing one that absolves him. Christie is considered a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

 

These are only investigations, not courts of law. No unbiased judges will weigh the evidence in the matter. In a court of law, Christie would be considered innocent until proven guilty. The Media, being closely allied with the Democrats, are inclined to produce whatever negative evidence they can find against him (and that hasn’t been much).

 

Christie, for his part, can only defend himself by hiring a law firm and producing a report that gives his side of the story. The Media would have us believe that his report alone clears him of all suspicion in the Bridgegate Scandal. Their headlines have put words into Christie’s mouth that the public, they hope, will read with a good deal of skepticism.

 

Who wouldn’t? New Jerseyans, knowing the governor better, are more likely to give his report credence. We know our governor well, much better than the rest of the country. We know him to be a schmoozer. We know him to be a purple, RINO Republican. We know he hates the TEA Party. He’s famous for declaring himself to be a middle-of-the-road politician. He publicly embraces Democrats whenever he gets the opportunity (i.e., witness the ice-creaming-licking photo op with Obama during Hurricane Sandy). He loves nothing better than to stick his Liberal-loving in Conservative faces.

 

For Christie to have ordered an act of political retribution against any Democrat for so spurious a reason as refusal to endorse him, of all things, is just beyond belief for any New Jersey resident, no matter their political persuasion. Christie’s just not that stupid. He would have to be pretty stupid to think a Democrat would cross a party line. He knows perfectly well they wouldn’t. If he didn’t know that, then he wouldn’t deserve to be governor of such a blue state as New Jersey. You don’t get much bluer unless you go to Massachusetts.

 

At the very worst, he might have made some off-hand remark, never meant to be taken seriously much less acted upon, that Fort Lee could be taught a “lesson” if the Port Authority closed off one its access lanes to the bridge.

 

So far, there’s no evidence that Christie had any involvement, direct or indirect, in the scandal. He held a press conference this afternoon announcing that the Chairman of the Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Samson (a Christie appointee) just resigned. He was not implicated in the report. An internal review of the agency called for reforms amid questions about the lane closures.

 

Christie also defended the objectivity of the law firm’s report, amid criticism from Democrats. Investigators reviewed over 250,000 documents and conducted over 70 interviews, and that it was led by six former federal prosecutors who “would not give away [their] reputations to do some type of slipshod job for me,” he said.

 

According to Fox News, “The report concluded that former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official David Wildstein and ex-Christie aide Bridget Kelly were behind the closures and that they were targeting Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. But it did not conclude why they wanted to hurt the Democrat and said there was no evidence that it was because he refused to endorse Christie for re-election last year. 

 

“Christie said he still doesn’t know why this was done.

 

“’It mystifies me on every level why this was done,’” he said. 

 

“The report says that Sokolich himself brought up the possibility of endorsing Christie but ultimately decided against it. The report says that even after that decision, the mayor remained on a list of Democrats whom Christie was considering appointing to various boards. 

 

“Former federal prosecutor Randy Mastro, who on Thursday unveiled the report, said Wildstein seemed to have a ‘bizarre political and personal animus’ against a variety of people.”

 

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly cautioned on a recent show that criticism of the report by Democrats is not for the consumption of New Jersey voters but rather for a national audience.  That is what we in New Jersey would caution our fellow Americans about.

 

Democrat voters, of course, will hear nothing that we say.  But we can tell our fellow Republican

and Conservative compatriots that, despite what you hear – grumblings from so-called “insiders” (who may simply be Democrat moles) – and whatever you might think of his RINO policies – as far as the GWB/Fort Lee lane closures are concerned, we don’t think he did it.

 

He’d as soon steal Lucy the Elephant’s tusks as make an enemy of a Democrat for something as trivial as a non-endorsement. He’s just not that kind of guy.

 

 

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 4:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is N.J. Going to Pot? Part Two

Have you ever read an elite liberal blog about how some revered liberal writer or politician (even Obama himself) entered the room, sucking up all the oxygen in the room? Did you know what they were talking about? Of course not, because you’re not an elite liberal and didn’t study biology while you were still in private school, and neurology in college.

The synapses need oxygen in order to fire up. When a signaling neuron comes along with a message, it trips a switch in the synapse with an electrical charge, much like a cigarette lighter, consuming oxygen from the molecules in the neuron. What the elites are saying is that revered Liberal has more synapses firing than the average Liberal snob, and certainly more than a Conservative, and far more than the average Conservative, or even Liberal, voter.

Marijuana eats up oxygen in the brain, to no good use – and that’s what Liberals want. They want to destroy our brains. Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

Seriously. They do. They want to limit our ability to learn and make decisions (like who to vote for).  It’s welfare for young adults.   Slowing down the brain’s activity through sedation makes it difficult for people under 23, whose myelin sheaths have not fully developed, to remember what they’ve learned. Today, the N.J. Senate intends to join the vanguard of states that have made pot, like homosexual marriage, legal. They’ve successfully diverted our attention with the latest anti-gun legislation, which will be voted on today, according to reports.

But pot is on the agenda as well. Yesterday, we described the real effects of marijuana on the brain. Some people haven’t a clue what a brain really is, what it does, or how it does it. That’s why they vote for anti-gun legislation, Common Core, Obama, and legalization of marijuana.

The brain serves as the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals. It is located in the head, usually close to the primary sensory organs for such senses as vision, hearing, balance, taste, and smell. The brain is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. In a typical human the cerebral cortex (the largest part) is estimated to contain 15–33 billion neurons (nerve cells), each connected by synapses (junction boxes) to several thousand other neurons. These neurons communicate with one another by means of long protoplasmic (a Star Trekish word for the living contents of a cell surrounded by a plasma membrane or cytoplasm, a membrane, or covering) fibers called axons (transmission wires), covered by a myelin sheath (a fatty insulation wire, composed chiefly of choline which prevents leakage of the electrical signal) which carry trains of signal pulses called action potentials, or more commonly, spikes (a short-lasting event in which the electrical membrane potential of a cell rapidly rises and falls, following a consistent trajectory) to distant parts of the brain or body targeting specific recipient cells.

The brains of all species are composed primarily of two broad classes of cells: neurons and glial cells. Glial cells (also known as glia or neuroglia) come in several types, and perform a number of critical functions, including structural support, metabolic support, insulation, and guidance of development. Neurons, however, are usually considered the most important cells in the brain. The property that makes neurons unique is their ability to send signals to specific target cells over long distances. They send these signals by means of an axon, which is a thin protoplasmic fiber that extends from the cell body and projects, usually with numerous branches (called dendrites), to other areas, sometimes nearby, sometimes in distant parts of the brain or body.

Axons transmit signals to other neurons by means of specialized junctions called synapses. A single axon may make as many as several thousand synaptic connections with other cells. When an action potential, traveling along an axon, arrives at a synapse, it causes a chemical called a neurotransmitter (endogenous, or organic, chemicals) that transmit signals across a synapse from one neuron (brain cell) to another ‘target’ neuron to be released. The neurotransmitter binds to receptor molecules in the membrane of the target cell.

Synapses are the key functional elements of the brain. The essential function of the brain is cell-to-cell communication, and synapses are the points at which communication occurs. The human brain has been estimated to contain approximately 100 trillion synapses; even the brain of a fruit fly contains several million. The functions of these synapses are very diverse: some are excitatory (exciting the target cell); others are inhibitory; others work by activating second messenger systems that change the internal chemistry of their target cells in complex ways (like flipping a switch on and off). A large number of synapses are dynamically modifiable; that is, they are capable of changing strength in a way that is controlled by the patterns of signals that pass through them. It is widely believed that activity-dependent modification of synapses is the brain’s primary mechanism for learning and memory.

Most of the space in the brain is taken up by axons, which are often bundled together in what are called nerve fiber tracts. A myelinated axon is wrapped in a fatty insulating sheath of myelin, which serves to greatly increase the speed of signal propagation. (There are also unmyelinated axons). Myelin is white, making parts of the brain filled exclusively with nerve fibers appear as light-colored white matter, in contrast to the darker-colored grey matter that marks areas with high densities of neuron cell bodies (the storage houses for the neurons).

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released at synapses when an action potential activates them—neurotransmitters attach themselves to receptor molecules on the membrane of the synapse’s target cell, and thereby alter the electrical or chemical properties of the receptor molecules. With few exceptions, each neuron in the brain releases the same chemical neurotransmitter, or combination of neurotransmitters, at all the synaptic connections it makes with other neurons; this rule is known as Dale’s Principle (a rule attributed to the English neuroscientist Henry Hallett Dale that states that a neuron performs the same chemical action at all of its synaptic connections to other cells, regardless of the identity of the target cell. However, there has been disagreement about the precise wording.

Thus, a neuron can be characterized by the neurotransmitters that it releases. The great majority of psychoactive drugs exert their effects by altering specific neurotransmitter systems. This applies to drugs such as marijuana, nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, fluoxetine (Prozac), chorpromazine (Thorazine – used for psychiatric patients), and many others.

The two neurotransmitters that are used most widely in the vertebrate brain are glutamate, which almost always exerts excitatory effects on target neurons, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is almost always inhibitory. Neurons using these transmitters can be found in nearly every part of the brain. Because of their ubiquity, drugs that act on glutamate or GABA tend to have broad and powerful effects. Some general anesthetics act by reducing the effects of glutamate; most tranquilizers exert their sedative effects by enhancing the effects of GABA.

There are dozens of other chemical neurotransmitters that are used in more limited areas of the brain, often areas dedicated to a particular function. Serotonin, for example—the primary target of antidepressant drugs and many dietary aids—comes exclusively from a small brainstem area called the Raphe nuclei. Norepinephrine, which is involved in arousal, comes exclusively from a nearby small area called the locus coeruleus. Other neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and dopamine have multiple sources in the brain, but are not as ubiquitously distributed as glutamate and GABA.

So basically, we come to it. Marijuana and its bigger brothers, heroin and cocaine, have a sedative effect on the brain. Some increase excitement in neurons; others depress them, causing extreme highs and lows. Marijuana makes its way more quickly to the brain, via the lungs, causing a virtually instant high, whereas alcohol is absorbed into the system more slowly (depending on how much you drink; the higher the alcohol content, the more potent you drink. One hundred percent alcohol will pretty much kill you).

Adults over the age of 23 are said not to be affected by marijuana the same way as young people. That is to say, their IQs are unaffected. Someone should do more research on that. After all, most neuroscientists still don’t know why we know things.

We know what happens when people who smoke pot get behind the wheel of car, though. Accidents happen. People and property are injured. Old ladies wind up with 32 broken bones and a metal plate in their heads. Worse though, are children, particularly teenagers are transformed into idiots.

Call your New Jersey senator as soon as possible and tell them you oppose this bill, S1896. Scutari called the existing legislation on marijuana possession, use and sale “archaic.” How many potheads could even spell that word, much less know what it means? Pot has the same effect on people that it had back in the 19th Century.

In fact, its effect is more potent thanks to the marvels of biological science and plantology. Let the New Jersey Senate know we’re not idiots. Oppose this bill.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Is N.J. Going to Pot? Part One

New Jersey Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has introduced a bill into the Senate to legalize marijuana and make it taxable.

 

According to the Bergen Record, “The measure would legalize marijuana possession and use for those who are at least 21 years old. If it does become law – and there is strong opposition to it from Gov. Christie – New Jersey would be the first state on the East Coast and third in the country to legalize the substance.”

 

Liberals, Libertarians, and Potheads should find out a few facts about pot beyond the commonly-held propaganda facts before cheering on this legislation. The following information comes from The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website.

 

“Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil.

 

“Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States. After a period of decline in the last decade, its use has been increasing among young people since 2007, corresponding to a diminishing perception of the drug’s risks that may be associated with increased public debate over the drug’s legal status. Although the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance (having no medicinal uses and high risk for abuse), two states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 20 states have passed laws allowing its use as a treatment for certain medical conditions.

 

“When marijuana is smoked, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. It is absorbed more slowly when ingested in food or drink.

 

“However it is ingested, THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells, called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are ordinarily activated by chemicals similar to THC that naturally occur in the body (such as anandamide) and are part of a neural communication network called the endocannabinoid system. This system plays an important role in normal brain development and function.

 

“The highest density of cannabinoid receptors is found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana overactivates the endocannabinoid system, causing the “high” and other effects that users experience. These effects include altered perceptions and mood, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.

 

“Marijuana also affects brain development, and when it is used heavily by young people, its effects on thinking and memory may last a long time or even be permanent. A recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.

 

“A number of studies have linked chronic marijuana use and mental illness. High doses of marijuana can produce a temporary psychotic reaction (involving hallucinations and paranoia) in some users, and using marijuana can worsen the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia.

 

“A series of large studies following users across time also showed a link between marijuana use and later development of psychosis. This relationship was influenced by genetic variables as well as the amount of drug used, drug potency, and the age at which it was first taken—those who start young are at increased risk for later problems.

 

“Associations have also been found between marijuana use and other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among adolescents, and personality disturbances, including a lack of motivation to engage in typically rewarding activities. More research is still needed to confirm and better understand these linkages.

 

“Additionally, because it seriously impairs judgment and motor coordination, marijuana contributes to risk of injury or death while driving a car. A recent analysis of data from several studies found that marijuana use more than doubles a driver’s risk of being in an accident. The combination of marijuana and alcohol is worse than either substance alone with respect to driving impairment.

For centuries, hashish and marijuana from the Indian hemp Cannabis sativa L., (“domesticated hemp”) have been grown in equatorial regions and used for medicinal and recreational purposes. In 1840, Schlesinger S. was apparently the first investigator to obtain an active extract from the leaves and flowers of hemp. A few years later, in 1848, Decourtive E. described the preparation of an ethanol extract that on evaporation of the solvent gave a dark resin, which he named “cannabin”. In 1964, the main active constituent of C. sativa L., Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was isolated and synthesized by Mechoulam’s laboratory. Two types of cannbinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, responsible for the effects of THC, were discovered and cloned in the early 1990s.

Once cannabinoid receptors had been discovered, it became important to establish whether their agonists (a chemical that binds to a receptor cell and activates the receptor to produce a biological response. Whereas an agonist causes an action, an antagonist blocks the action of the agonist and an inverse agonist causes an action opposite to that of the agonist) occur naturally in the body. This search led to the discovery of the first endogenous cannabinoid (endocannabinoid), anandamide (arachidonoyl ethanolamide). Later on other endocannabinoids were found, for example 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol).

 

Anadaminde, also known as N-arachidonolyethanolomine or AEA, is an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter. The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss, delight” and a chemical compound called “amide.” The simplest amides are derivatives of ammonia. It is degraded primarily by the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) enzyme, which converts anandamide into ethanolomine (an organic chemical compound that is both a primary amine and a primary alcohol and arachidonic (fatty) acid. As such, inhibitors of FAAH lead to elevated anandamide levels and are being pursued for therapeutic use.

These findings raised further questions about the pharmacological and physiological role of the cannabinoid system. This revived the research on cannabinoid receptor antagonists which were expected to help answer these questions. The use of the cannabinoid agonist, THC, in its many preparations to enhance appetite is a well-known fact. This fact led to the conclusion that blocking of the cannabinoid receptors might be useful in decreasing appetite and food intake. It was then discovered that the blockage of the CB1 receptor represented a new pharmacological target. The first specific CB1 receptor antagnoist/inverse agonist was rimonanbant, discovered in 1994.

The endogenous cannabinoid system includes cannabinoid receptors, their endogenous ligands (endocannabinoids) and enzymes for their synthesis and degradation.

There are two main receptor types associated with the endocannabinoid signaling system; cannabinoid recepter 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2). Both receptors are 7-transmembrane G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) which inhibit the accumulation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (a second messenger important in many biological processes) within cells. CB1 receptors are present in highest concentration in the brain but can also be found in the periphery. CB2 receptors are mostly located in the immune and haemtopoietic (blood formation) systems.

Endocannabinoids are eicosanoids (signaling molecules made by oxidation of 20-carbon fatty acids), which exert complex control over many bodily systems, mainly in inflamation or immunity, and as messengers in the central nervous system. The network of controls that depend upon eicosanoids are among the most complex in the human body. acting as agonists for cannabinoid receptors. They occur naturally in the body. Cannabinoid receptor-related processes are for example involved in cognition, memory, anxiety, control of appetite, emesis (you don’t want to know, unless you’re on chemotherapy), motor behavior, sensory, autonomic, and neuroendocrine responses, immune responses and inflammatory effects. There are two well-characterized endocannabinoids located in the brain and periphery. The first identified was anadamine (arachidonoyl ethanolamide) and the second was 2-AG (2-arachidonoyl glycerol). Additional endocannabinoids include virorhamine (O-arachidonoyl ethanolamine), noladin ether (2-arachidonoyl glyceryl ether) and NADA (N-arachidonoyl dopamine).

 

You can look up those long, Greek medical definitions yourself; they all pertain to sedation.

 

Where the scientists refer to “degradation,” it means the molecules are small enough to pass through the brain-blood barrier. The problem with pot appears to be its effect on myelin, the white matter that surrounds the axons, or transmission wires, in the brain that connect the synapses.

When the synapses fire, memories can either be restored or filed, or sent to other parts of the brain for storage. When the myelin fails or is destroyed, the synapses experience a power failure. The information is lost.

 

By age 23, at the very end of adolescence, the formation of myelin is completed. However, that process can be interrupted by disease, chemical reactions, and failure to absorb choline, the main component in myelin. Myelin is reinforced by constant, repetitious transmission and recall of information sent along the axon.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest usages of cannabis meaning the plant “common hemp, Cannabis sativa” in 1548 and meaning parts of the plant “smoked, chewed, or drunk for their intoxicating or hallucinogenic properties” in 1848. The OED traces the etymology to the New Latin botanical term cannabis – proposed in 1728 and standardized in Caolus Linnaeus’s (1753) Species Plantarum – from an earlier Latin cannabis, coming from Greek kánnabis.

The Ancient Greek kánnabis transcribed a Scythian (Persian/Iranian horsemen) term in the earliest (ca. 440 BCE) reference to recreational cannabis usage. Herodotus recorded cannabis steam baths in The Histories.”

“The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed [presumably, flowers], and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy.”

The historian and linguist Douglas Harper gives an etymology of English cannabis from Greek kannabis, from a Scythian or Thracian word, which is also the source for English “canvas” (viz., hempen fabric) and possibly hemp, a plant widely used to produce such common items as paper and rope.

The ancient Scythes didn’t know – and didn’t care – how kannabis affected their brains. It was enough that it made them “shout for joy.” Today’s pot-heads claim that marijuana is no different from alcohol. They’re right, in part. The chemistry of cannabis, the plant, contains an alcoholic element.

 

Where alcohol requires some time and varying amounts of consumption to have an effect, pot’s is instantaneous because its molecules are small enough to pass through the brain-blood barriers very tight net and more potent because the molecules have not been degraded. Rather like termites, they enter in a sort of stream, producing what’s known as the pothead’s “high.”

 

Totally harmless, Liberals and Libertarians would say. Or is it?

 

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Garden State Aims to Gun Down 2nd Amendment Rights

N.J. Senate Bill 993, sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg, District 37 (Bergen) and Nia H. Gill, District 34 (Essex and Passaic), accompanying Assembly Bill A2006, which was passed last Thursday, was scheduled to be heard in committee yesterday, although the NRA-ILA website noted that Bill S993 would not be on the agenda. If passed, the law would ban ammunition magazines over 10 rounds (A2006).   The law would also outlaw some of the most popular .22 rifles in the United States, turn their owners into felons, and force them to abandon their property or go to jail for as long as ten years – essentially a confiscation.

A full N.J. Senate vote on S993 is scheduled for Thurs., March 27. If the bill passes both the Senate and the Assembly, it will be sent to Gov. Christie’s desk that same day.

Last Thursday, the N.J. Assembly passed Bill A2006. The bill was approved by a 5-3 vote along party lines after a three-hour-long hearing. The hearing included testimony by 9-year-old Shyanne Roberts, a fourth -grade pupil from Franklin Township in Gloucester County and gun owner who participates in shooting competitions.

Roberts — who was accompanied by her father, Dan, a gun rights activist — said a Glock she owns, along with a custom-built AR-15 she’s expected to receive soon from a sponsor, would be made “worthless” under the bill because they have 15-round magazines.

A2006 would make the following change to existing law: “’Assault Firearm’ means… A semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds.” Those in possession of these popular guns would be turned into felons overnight for possession of so-called “assault” firearms – a second degree crime in New Jersey carrying up to ten years in prison, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 3-5 years, with no chance of parole.

What average citizens don’t realize is that rifles have tubular magazines built into the guns. They aren’t “changed” the way popular movies depict magazines. Cutting the number of bullets in the magazine from 15 to 10 will make most rifles and some handguns obsolete, along with our Second Amendment rights.

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), the bill’s sponsor, said that gunmen in several recent mass shootings had used high-capacity magazines, and were only disarmed when they needed to reload.

“We see time and time again in the news. It is when the individual goes to reload their magazine clip, brave individuals are able to step up and apprehend those individuals,” Greenwald said. “In Sandy Hook, children were able to flee and escape.”

According to the N.J. Star-Ledger, “Greenwald’s testimony was punctuated with shouts of “time’s up” from the crowd. Bryan Miller, executive director of the anti-gun violence group Heeding God’s Call, said he doubted Roberts’ guns could not be fitted with 10-round magazines, and called the testimony a ‘set-up’ by her father.

“Max McGuire, a political science graduate student at Villanova University and Cranbury resident, said attempting to stop mass shooters with the law would be ‘like lowering the speed limit to stop drag racers.’

“’You cannot do this. This is my property. This is stuff that I bought legally, and I committed no crime,’ McGuire said.

“But those who supported the bill noted that the federal assault rifle ban that expired in 2004 had limited magazine size to 10.

“’This is not new,’” said Kristen Wald, a member of the New Jersey chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. ‘…I cannot add testimony that is more clear than the example of 11 children being able to escape the Sandy Hook perpetrator as he scrambled to replace a magazine.’

“The panel amended the 2004 bill to exempt certain .22 caliber rifles, often used by Boy Scouts.

The panel also approved a measure that was intended as an olive branch for gun-rights supporters, but did nothing to assuage them. The bill (A2777) allowed drivers transporting guns between home and a range or hunting grounds to make ‘deviations as are reasonably necessary,’ meaning ‘purchasing fuel, using a restroom, and contending with an emergency situation.’

“Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, said current law gives judges more discretion than the bill would, and urged the committee to broaden the language by adding the word ‘including’ before specifically outlining the permitted deviations.

Yet according to the NRA-ILA (the lobbying arm of the NRA) website, back in January of this year, U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang, of the Northern District of Illinois (an Obama administration appointment), ruled the city’s ban on firearm sales and transfers within the city was unconstitutional. The suit was brought by the Illinois Association of Firearms Retailers and three individuals, with the backing of NRA.

“The Chicago transfer ban was part of a series of ordinances the city hastily enacted after its total ban on handgun possession was invalidated by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2010 opinion in McDonald v. Chicago.  Chicago’s crusade to be the nation’s most oppressive jurisdiction for gun owners has yielded other important victories for the Second Amendment.  These included the Seventh Circuit’s holding in 2011’s Ezell v. Chicago that Chicago’s ban on discharge (notwithstanding its requirement that residents obtain live-fire training as a condition of owning a gun in the city) was unconstitutional.

“Other aspects of the city’s wide-ranging gun control regime have been whittled down in response to litigation and the broad preemption provisions of Illinois’ recently-enacted Firearm Concealed Carry Act (the result of yet another successful Second Amendment case in the Seventh Circuit, 2011’s Shepard v. Madigan).  The transfer ban remained, however, a symbol of the same political denial and impudence that have ironically helped move the Second Amendment needle in the right direction through litigation time and again.”

The Star Ledger story also noted, “The bill (A2006), which was approved by a 5-3 vote along party lines after a three-hour-long hearing, was sought by gun-control advocates and family members of some of the 20 elementary school children killed at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

“Other gun-rights supporters said the bill would do nothing but make them less able to fend off criminals and force them to give up or sell out-of-state expensive firearms that would suddenly be illegal. Several warned they would not comply with the bill if it became law.

“The measure has the support of Senate and Assembly leaders, but the question is what Gov. Chris Christie will do when it reaches his desk. Last year, Christie signed several minor gun-related bills, but vetoed those most sought by gun-control advocates, including a ban on .50 caliber rifles that he had called for months earlier.

“Asked about New Jersey’s gun laws at a town hall meeting in Mount Laurel, Christie didn’t say what he would do about new proposals, though he did take the opportunity to note that he had vetoed more bills than any governor since at least 1947.

“I have worked and trained very hard to get to the level I am at, and if A2006 becomes law, I will be forced to choose between giving up on a very bright and promising future in a sport that I love, or asking my dad if we can move to another state,” Shyanne Roberts said.

“Everyone is upset about bad people doing bad things to others. But punishing the people who didn’t do anything wrong is not the way to stop bad people.”

Democrat and Liberal Republicans found a magic bullet in their attempts to ban all guns, or otherwise deprive citizens of their right to bear arms in the Newtown shooting. Sensationalizing and exploiting the tragedy, they noted with grim satisfaction that Adam Lanza’s mother was an NRA member. She gave her 20 year-old son guns and shooting lessons, even though it was known that he had severe mental and emotional problems.

It was the second-deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and the second-deadliest mass murder at a U.S. elementary school, after the 1927 Bath School bombings in Michigan.

Eighty-five years. That was the last time so many schoolchildren were murdered in the United States (with the exception of Virginia Tech, whose victims were not children; but no matter that). There was the Aurora, Co., theater shooting. Oh but, wait – Colorado is a gun control state. The shooters weapons were illegally obtained.

These shootings were horrible events. But in every case, there is one overlooked element, thanks to the Media’s own fanatical obsession with guns – mental illness. There have also been workplace shootings. But these usually only involved a spouse or lover, or a supervisor and the shooter.

We should be more afraid of our government and the bureaucracy it has built up around itself.

Let us hope that the NRA-ILA is correct and that the committee hearing for S.993 scheduled for yesterday has not yet been rescheduled. Let us not be put off or confused. Lawmakers are moving quickly to push this anti-gun legislation and send it to Governor Chris Christie.  Please contact your state Senator TODAY and respectfully urge him or her to OPPOSE S.993.  Contact information for your state Senator can be found here.

 

 

 

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The First Day of Spring, 2014

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and residents in our area were celebrating.  Well, sort of.

 

The N.J. EPA’s Department of Water issued towns in our flood-prone area a $400,000 grant to desilt and desnag our rivers and brooks.  This is no small feat, after Hurricane Sandy. The storm felled hundreds of trees into the hundreds of brooks, streams and rivers in our area.  If we get a rainy spring, that water is going to back up and flood those areas.

 

But will the “Cavalry” arrive in time?  There is no timeline yet as to when the repair work will be done and Beaver Brook is rising.

 

Beaver Brook isn’t actually a brook; it’s a ditch that farmers in the 18th and 19th Centuries dug to drain their lands so they could grow crops.  In Lincoln Park, Beaver Brook was given the name for the animals that were once in abundance in this area.  Lincoln Park’s neighbor, Pequannock Township gives it the more prosaic name of “East Ditch.”

 

No one can remember the last time Beaver Brook (or any of our other streams and rivers) was desilted and desnagged.  One former resident, visiting her father and his business, said the last time was when she was a little girl.  Probably right around the 1984 flood.

 

One of the EPA’s (and the DOT’s) concerns is the railroad trestle bridge over the Pompton River.  Few people realize it’s even there.  Unless you’ve taken the train out of Lincoln Park station or points west, you’ve never been over it or seen it.

 

I was working in Manhattan in 1984 – lower Midtown Manhattan.  I remember the flood of 1984 washed out the bridge completely.  I believe I had to take the bus and I recall my employers demanding to know why I was late (I was never late to work while there).  They checked it out and found out I was telling the truth.

 

After the water subsided, I was back on the train.  The tracks are built on a very high berm, at least 12 feet high and still the water went over the tracks.  Looking out the train window, the houses wallowed in the receding waters.  We passed an old, abandoned, rusted car that my friend and I used to climb into.  We would pretend we were racing in the Indianapolis 500.

 

Her nearby home used to flood all the time.  All the houses along our numerous streams and rivers used to be summer bungalows or cottages, including my grandparents’ house.  They were converted to year-round use about the time the George Washington Bridge was finished in 1931.  After the war, veterans were searching for affordable housing.  They certainly couldn’t find it in New York’s Westchester County and Long Island was filling up, even though living there was only a little less expensive.

 

Instead, they headed for New Jersey.  My mother’s brother moved here and when my grandfather retired from the Academy on Long Island, he and my grandmother moved here.  When we got back from our adventure in California, my family moved here, too.

 

Luckily, Mom recognized flood plains when she saw them and we moved to the hilly section of northwest New Jersey.  Still, my grandparents bought a house in an area where they used to vacation and in the 1968 flood, they had to get a row boat to get my grandmother out.

 

One big flood (1984) and a couple of hurricanes have gone by since the last time the authorities desilted and desnagged our streams and rivers.  Let us hope, once the work is done, that it won’t take them another 46 years to clean up the rivers.

 

 

 

Published in: on March 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Internet Connection Correction

Al Gore did not invent the Internet.  Let us make that clear first.  Secondly, the U.S. government doesn’t and never has run the Internet.

 

One of my readers is Big Brother’s BF from high school and a high I.Q. commuter systems analyst.  “Prof.” B, if you please.  Reading my previous post about Obama giving away our Internet freedom, he e-mailed me immediately.

 

“I don’t even know where to start with this,” he wrote, “but being kind, it’s uninformed.”

 

It was also the story from the Washington Post; I neglected to use quotes or attribute my source, which was very bad of me.  That’s what happens when you’re in the midst of applying for an actual, living-income job, taking photos for the local newspaper, as well as covering municipal and school board meetings, playing with two bands, and trying to keep up with your blog.  Mea culpa.

 

So now that we know the Washington Post is uninformed, this is what Prof. B has to say about the Internet situation:

 

“First,” he continued, “the U.S. government doesn’t and never has run the Internet.  It started out as the ARPANET, but was moved to ICAAN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and an Internet consortium, becoming the Internet we know today.  At the moment, the U.S. has the root nameservers in government facilities (at least the .com and .net root servers).  But it is administered by ICAAN, not the government.

                                                       

“What the U.S. government IS doing is empowering the ICAAN in an effort to prevent an ITU (the International Telecommunications Union, based in Switzerland) takeover of the Internet, something that WOULD put the Internet under the control of foreign governments’ vice  the public/private sector is in (with some government participation).

 

Prof B. has been working with people he knows on various Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) committees to ensure the ITU, which comes under the auspices of the United Nations, “never gets near the Internet (or we’ll either not have one, or have a very fractured one).  An ITU takeover would be disastrous.  What the U.S. government is doing may just obviate their bid (something the ITU has been driving on very hard for the past 18-plus months).  Dubai was just the tip of the iceberg, but shows how weak support is for a “free” Internet (free from control by dictatorial governments).

 

I told him I’d gotten the information from a newspaper source.

 

“I don’t follow the idiot media,” he wrote back.

 

The battle is between the Good Guys (the IETF) and the Bad Guys (the ITU).

The professor continued, “[T]he ITU, under the auspices of the U.N., has been trying to gain control of the Internet.  Try researching on the ITU.  They are a scary bunch and heavily controlled by countries like Russia, Iran, etc., even though we (the U.S.) pay the lion’s share of the ITU budget.

                              

“The ICAAN holds little sway with anyone.  Transferring the top-level domains (TLDs) to the ICAAN strengthens their position (which is a multi-stakeholder position for the continued governance of the Internet).

 

“There really is a lot involved here with many players jockeying for position (mostly governments inimical to the U.S.) to gain control and regulate the Internet.  The U.S. is attempting to counter this.  The ICAAN and IETF have been in charge and should stay in charge through their multi-stakeholder model.  If this ever changes (and it would with government interference through the ITU), the Internet as we know it would change for the worst.”

 

So, I did my homework, as he requested.  I went to the IETF’s site first:

“The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual. The IETF Mission Statement is documented in RFC 3935.

“The actual technical work of the IETF is done in its working groups, which are organized by topic into several areas (e.g., routing, transport, security, etc.). Much of the work is handled via mailing lists. The IETF holds meetings three times per year.

“The IETF working groups are grouped into areas, and managed by Area Directors, or ADs. The ADs are members of the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Providing architectural oversight is the Internet Architecture Board, (IAB).  The IAB also adjudicates appeals when someone complains that the IESG has failed.  The IAB and IESG are chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) for these purposes. The General Area Director also serves as the chair of the IESG and of the IETF, and is an ex-officio member of the IAB.

“The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the central coordinator for the assignment of unique parameter values for Internet protocols. The IANA is chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) to act as the clearinghouse to assign and coordinate the use of numerous Internet protocol parameters.

“The IETF Standards Process is described in The IETF Standards Process (see also RFC 2026).

“The mission of the IETF is to make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet.

“The IETF will pursue this mission in adherence to the following cardinal principles:

“Open process – any interested person can participate in the work, know what is being decided, and make his or her voice heard on the issue. Part of this principle is our commitment to making our documents, our WG mailing lists, our attendance lists, and our meeting minutes publicly available on the Internet.

“Technical competence – the issues on which the IETF produces its documents are issues where the IETF has the competence needed to speak to them, and that the IETF is willing to listen to technically competent input from any source. Technical competence also means that we expect IETF output to be designed to sound network engineering principles – this is also often referred to as ‘engineering quality.’

“Volunteer Core – our participants and our leadership are people who come to the IETF because they want to do work that furthers the IETF’s mission of ‘making the Internet work better.’”

“Rough consensus and running code – We make standards based on the combined engineering judgment of our participants and our real-world experience in implementing and deploying our specifications.

“Protocol ownership – when the IETF takes ownership of a protocol or function, it accepts the responsibility for all aspects of the protocol, even though some aspects may rarely or never be seen on the Internet. Conversely, when the IETF is not responsible for a protocol or function, it does not attempt to exert control over it, even though it may at times touch or affect the Internet.

As for the ITU, according to Wikipedia:

“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally the International Telegraph Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies. The ITU coordinates the shared global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, and assists in the development and coordination of worldwide technical standards.

“ITU also organizes worldwide and regional exhibitions and forums, such as ITU TELECOM WORLD, bringing together representatives of government and the telecommunications and ICT industry to exchange ideas, knowledge and technology.

“The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

“ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a member of the United Nations Development Group.  Its membership includes 193 Member States and around 700 Sector Members and Associates.

 

 

“The ITU comprises three sectors, each managing a different aspect of the matters handled by the Union, as well as ITU Telecom:

Radiocommunication (ITU-R)

Managing the international radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources is at the heart of the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R).

Standardization (ITU-T)

ITU’s standards-making efforts are its best-known – and oldest – activity; known prior to 1992 as the International Telephone and Telegraph Consultative Committee or CCITT (from its French name “Comité consultatif international téléphonique et télégraphique”)

Development (ITU-D)

Established to help spread equitable, sustainable and affordable access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

 

ITU TELECOM

ITU Telecom organizes major events for the world’s ICT community. ITU Telecom World 2011 is ITU Telecom’s 40th Anniversary with the first event in 1971.

“A permanent General Secretariat, headed by the Secretary General, manages the day-to-day work of the Union and its sectors.

“The current regulatory structure was based on voice telecommunications, when the Internet was still in its infancy.  In 1988, telecommunications operated under regulated monopolies in most countries. As the Internet has grown, organizations such as ICANN have come into existence to manage key resources such as Internet addresses and domain names. Some outside the United States believe that the United States exerts too much influence over the governance of the Internet.”

That was a quote from the Russia Today website, in the Russian and India Report, on May 29, 2012, in an article, entitled, “Russia calls for Internet revolution:” 

“Russia, backed by China and India, is pushing through a takeover of the internet by a U.N. supranational agency to make the web truly universal. The aim of the plan is to standardize the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.  Leading emerging economies supported by other United Nations members initiated the discussion around handing over internet regulation to a UN agency. At present it is controlled by private shareholders.

“BRICS countries China, Brazil, India and Russia share the belief that the Geneva-based U.N. agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), would do a better job if put in charge of international cyber security, data privacy, technical standards and the global web address system.

“The head of the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Larry Strickling has been categorical, saying in the regulations supposed by the initiative “it is really the governments that are at the table, but the rest of the stakeholders aren’t.”

“On April 19, US Congress adopted Resolution 628 ‘expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should preserve, enhance, and increase access… to an open, global internet.’

“’It is the sense of the House of Representatives that if a resolution calling for endorsement of the proposed international code of conduct for information security or a resolution inconsistent with the principles above comes up for a vote in the United Nations General Assembly or other international organization, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations or the United States representative to such other international organization should oppose such a resolution,’ the bill announces.

“But the International Telecommunication Union is far from giving up. The United Nations agency prepares to hold a vast World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in December [2012] in Dubai where ITU member states will discuss the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) that might expand the ITU’s mandate to encompass the internet.

“The ITR is a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries.

“Last June, then-PM Vladimir Putin met ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. The two discussed global access to the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT). Vladimir Putin announced his support for an internet takeover by the United Nations and backed the International Telecommunication Union.

“Recalling that the ITU is one of the oldest international organizations (an extension of the International Telegraph Union established in 1865), Putin said that ‘Russia was one of its co-founders and intends to be an active member.’”

So said Russia Today back in 2012.

Back to Wikipedia.

“Current proposals look to take into account the prevalence of data communications. Proposals under consideration would establish regulatory oversight by the U.N. over security, fraud, traffic accounting as well as traffic flow, management of Internet Domain Names and IP addresses, and other aspects of the Internet that are currently governed either by community-based approaches such as Regional Internet Registries, ICANN, or largely national regulatory frameworks.  The move by the ITU and some countries has alarmed many within the United States and within the Internet community.  Indeed some European telecommunication services have proposed a so-called “sender pays” model that would require sources of Internet traffic to pay destinations, similar to the way funds are transferred between countries using the telephone.

“The WCIT-12 activity has been attacked by Google, which has characterized it as a threat to the ‘…free and open internet’.”

“The European Parliament passed a resolution on Nov. 22, 2012, urging member states to prevent ITU WCIT-12 activity that would ‘negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online.’  The resolution asserted that ‘the ITU […] is not the appropriate body to assert regulatory authority over the internet.’

“On Dec. 5, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution opposing U.N. governance of the Internet by a rare unanimous 397–0 vote. The resolution warned that ‘… proposals have been put forward for consideration at the [WCIT-12] that would fundamentally alter the governance and operation of the Internet … [and] would attempt to justify increased government control over the Internet …’, and stated that the policy of the United States is ‘… to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful Multistakeholder Model that governs the Internet today.’  The same resolution had previously been passed unanimously by the upper chamber of the Congress in September.

“An amended version of the Regulations was signed by 89 of the 152 countries on Dec. 14, 2012. Countries that did not sign included the United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, India, and the United Kingdom. The Head of the U.S. Delegation, Terry Kramer, said, ‘We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.’  The disagreement appeared to be over some language in the revised ITRs referring to ITU roles in addressing unsolicited bulk communications, network security, and a resolution on Internet governance that called for government participation in Internet topics at various ITU forums.  Despite the significant number of countries not signing, the ITU organization came out with a press release: New global telecoms treaty agreed in Dubai“.

“The conference itself was managed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). While certain parts of civil society and industry were able to advise and observe, active participation was restricted to member states.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation expressed concern at this, calling for a more transparent multi-stakeholder process.  Some leaked contributions can be found on the wcitleaks.org web site.  Google-affiliated researchers have suggested that the ITU should completely reform its processes to align itself with the openness and participation of other multistakeholder organizations concerned with the Internet.

According to Prof. B., “Of the 178 participants at Dubai where the ITU made their bid at an Internet takeover, only (if I remember correctly) 37 delegates walked out — the US, EU countries, and a few of the more ‘free’ countries.”

“The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in the United States.

“EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amici curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers baseless or misdirected legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use, and solicits a list of what it considers patent abuses with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.”

As for ICANN, (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), it’s a “nonprofit, private organization headquartered in Los Angeles.  It was in September 1998 to oversee a number of Internet-related -related tasks previously performed] by other organizations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which ICANN now operates.

“ICANN is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. This work includes coordination of the Internet Protocol (IP) address spaces (IPv4 and IPv6) and assignment of address blocks to regional Internet registries, for maintaining registries of Internet protocol identifiers, and for the management of the top-level domain names space (DNS root zone), which includes the operation of root name servers. Most visibly, much of its work has concerned the DNS policy development for internationalization of the DNS system and introduction of new generic top-level domains (TLDs). ICANN performs the actual technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS root registries pursuant to the ‘IANA function’ contract”.

“ICANN’s primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

“On Sept. 29, 2006, ICANN signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce that moved the private organization towards full management of the Internet’s system of centrally coordinated identifiers through the Multistakeholder Model of consultation that ICANN represents.

“In the Memorandum of Understanding that set up the relationship between ICANN and the U.S. government [the Department of Commerce], ICANN was given a mandate requiring that it operate ‘in a bottom up, consensus-driven, democratic manner.’ However, the attempts that ICANN made to set up an organizational structure that would allow wide input from the global Internet community did not produce results amenable to the then-current Board.  As a result, the At-Large (direct public) constituency and direct election of board members by the global Internet community were abandoned in 2002.”

 

Prof. B wrote further, “Hope your readers can keep up with all the legal mumbo jumbo [not to mention the technical lingo].  Those that do will have a better understanding of the Internet and its workings.

 

“The ICAAN has no real power,” he says.  “Handing them the .com and .net root nameservers (not just operation, but actual physical control, and out of US government offices) very much empowers them and allows the U.S. government to say it doesn’t control them (as many countries like Russia, China, Iran, etc., would have you believe).  After all, possession is nine-tenths of the law.  And the ITU can’t ‘force’ the U.S. government to turn over the servers to them; the ICAAN won’t do it.

 

“Make no mistake.  The current ICAAN/IETF/Internet consortium is multi-stakeholder with participation from private sector, business, and interested individuals, and some limited participation from the government (they have no real say).  This would change dramatically with the ITU who have NO private or public sector participation and are run solely by governments.

 

“The Internet consortium works.  Why governments are intent on breaking it is beyond me, but what they really want is control.  

 

“Rewind to the origins of the Internet.  This was a tool for academic collaboration and free exchange of ideas.  Fast forward to today and you see that it is a tool for everyone, business, academics, and anyone with a message they want to get out to a wide audience (hence all the spam).

 

“Looking to the future, we can either allow it to go on as it has, or turn it over to governments to dictate what content it can carry (and inevitably, what they can charge their citizenry to use it). These are wanna-be book burners, but they want to burn digital media and only allow their messages.  China already has the great (fire)wall of China.  We need to keep governments out or risk the freedoms we enjoy.”

 

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Published in: on March 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Obama Gives Away Our Internet Freedom

Mom has said that we should tell her of any particular object we wish to inherit from her.  I put my name on her ancient manual typewriter.   With the United States relinquishing control over the administration of the Internet, this blog could find itself quickly banned by China or Vladimir Putin.  We’ve already made Russia Today’s (RT) 20 World’s Most Dangerous Blogs (can you imagine that?) right alongside the likes of national right-wing blogsters like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.

 

U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move that pleased international critics but alarmed some business leaders and others who rely on the smooth functioning of the Web.

 

Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash last year to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance.

 

The change would end the long-running contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit group. That contract is set to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.

 

“We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan,” Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, said in a statement.

 

The announcement received a passionate response, with some groups quickly embracing the change and others blasting it.  In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) called the move “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.”

 

But former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tweeted: “What is the global Internet community that Obama wants to turn the Internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”

 

The practical consequences of the decision were harder to immediately discern, especially with the details of the transition not yet clear. Politically, the move could alleviate rising global concerns that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight position to help spy on the rest of the world.

 

U.S. officials set several conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying a new oversight system must be developed and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world. An international meeting to discuss the future of Internet is scheduled to start on March 23 in Singapore.

 

The move’s critics called the decision hasty and politically tinged, and voiced significant doubts about the fitness of ICANN to operate without U.S. oversight and beyond the bounds of U.S. law.

 

“This is a purely political bone that the U.S. is throwing,” said Garth Bruen, a security fellow at the Digital Citizens Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group that combats online crime. “ICANN has made a lot of mistakes, and ICANN has not really been a good steward.”

 

Business groups and some others have long complained that ICANN’s decision-making was dominated by the interests of the industry that sells domain names and whose fees provide the vast majority of ICANN’s revenue. The U.S. government contract was a modest check against such abuses, critics said.

 

“It’s inconceivable that ICANN can be accountable to the whole world. That’s the equivalent of being accountable to no one,” said Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, a trade group representing major Internet commerce businesses.

 

U.S. officials said their decision had nothing to do with the NSA spying revelations and the worldwide controversy they sparked, saying there had been plans since ICANN’s creation in 1998 to eventually migrate it to international control.

 

“The timing is now right to start this transition both because ICANN as an organization has matured, and international support continues to grow for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance,” Strickling said in a statement.

 

Although ICANN is based in Southern California, governments worldwide have a say in the group’s decisions through an oversight body.  ICANN in 2009 made an “Affirmation of Commitments” to the Commerce Department that covers several key issues.

 

Fadi Chehade, president of ICANN, disputed many of the complaints about the transition plan and promised an open, inclusive process to find a new international oversight structure for the group.

 

“Nothing will be done in any way to jeopardize the security and stability of the Internet,” he said.

 

The United States has long maintained authority over elements of the Internet, which grew from a Defense Department program that started in the 1960s. The relationship between the United States and ICANN has drawn wider international criticism in recent years, in part because big American companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft play such a central role in the Internet’s worldwide functioning. The NSA revelations exacerbated those concerns.

 

“This is a step in the right direction to resolve important international disputes about how the Internet is governed,” said Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a group that promotes open access to the Internet.

 

Verizon, one of the world’s biggest Internet providers, issued a statement saying, “A successful transition in the stewardship of these important functions to the global multi-stakeholder community would be a timely and positive step in the evolution of Internet governance.”

 

ICANN’s most important function is to oversee the assigning of Internet domains — such as dot-com, dot-edu and dot-gov — and ensure that the various companies and universities involved in directing digital traffic do so safely.

 

Concern about ICANN’s stewardship has spiked in recent years amid a massive and controversial expansion that is adding hundreds of new domains, such as dot-book, dot-gay and dot-sucks, to the Internet’s infrastructure. More than 1,000 new domains are slated to be made available, pumping far more fee revenue into ICANN.

 

Major corporations have complained, however, that con artists already swarm the Internet with phony Web sites designed to look like the authentic offerings of respected brands.

 

“To set ICANN so-called free is a very major step that should be done with careful oversight,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. “We would be very concerned about that step.”

 

So what’s the problem? Is this really a big deal?  Well, it was back in 2009 when the Morristown Tea Party split over whether to educate voters or back candidates.  The better-funded group, the one that wanted to raise funds to support candidates, bought up the Morristown Tea Party name, and every known version of it to prevent the other group from carrying the Morristown (N.J.) brand.

 

Eventually, the case wound up in court, and the citizen-oriented Morristown Tea Party won the rights to the domain name.  In the meantime, the other group bought up hundreds of other domain names in the region, including the tea party town names of every town in northern New Jersey (or at least as many as they could get hold of), in addition to locally-recognized names (“Tri-County,” “Route 23,” etc.).

 

WordPress.com is currently the domain owner where this blog appears.  But with the whole domain-name concept seemingly being thrown to the wind, the rules and the ownership could change.  Some international group could take it over and decide certain blogs that didn’t meet its “standards” could be shut down.

 

There’s a reason the United States was the custodian of the Internet:  we are the bulwark of freedom of the speech and of the press.  Those freedoms are written right into our Constitution.  The same cannot be said of Russia, China, or any country in the Middle East.  If domain names, and ownership, can go to the highest-bidder, freedom of the press will be history.

 

 

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Politics of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Over the weekend, Crimea voted to secede from Westernized Ukrainia to rejoin the Russian Federation and the U.S. relinquished its stewardship over the Internet.  These are both disquieting news stories.  But being mystery lovers and conspiracy theory addicts, we’re still wondering, over a week after it disappeared, what happened to Malaysian Air Flight MH370.

 

The disappearance of Flight 370 has raised questions about government authority to keep information from the people, the ability of our advanced technology, and why news organizations are loathe to introduce the possibility of Muslim motives.

 

The latest reports have turned their attention to the pilot, Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah.  The pilot’s wife and three children moved out of the family home the day before the plane went missing.  According to U.K. Mail Online, “An image has emerged of the pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet wearing a T-shirt with a ‘Democracy is Dead’ slogan as it has been revealed he could have hijacked the plane in an anti-government protest.

 

Shah was said to be a “fanatical” supporter of the country’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim – jailed for homosexuality just hours before the jet disappeared.  Capt. Shah was an “obsessive” supporter of Ibrahim. And hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur it is understood the 53-year-old Shah attended the controversial trial in which Ibrahim was jailed for five years.

 

“Campaigners say the politician, the key challenger to Malaysia’s ruling party, was the victim of a long-running smear campaign and had faced trumped-up charges.

 

“Police sources have confirmed that Shah was a vocal political activist – and fear that the court decision left him profoundly upset.  It was against this background that, seven hours later, he took control of a Boeing 777-200 bound for Beijing and carrying 238 passengers and crew.

 

“Yesterday, Malaysian police searched his house in the upmarket Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam, where he had installed a home-made flight simulator. But this newspaper can reveal that investigators had already spent much of last week examining two laptops removed from Shah’s home. One is believed to contain data from the simulator

 

“Confirming rising fears, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that MH370 was deliberately steered off course after its communication system was switched off. He said it headed west over the Malaysian seaboard and could have flown for another seven hours on its fuel reserves.

 

“It is not yet clear where the plane was taken.  However, Mr. Razak said the most recent satellite data suggests the plane could have been making for one of two possible flight corridors. The search, involving 43 ships and 58 aircraft from 15 countries, switched from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean.

 

“In another dramatic twist early Sunday Indian officials however, said the search was on hold until “fresh search areas” were defined by Malaysia. It is unclear what the reason was for the delay.

 

Data showing the number of plausible runways where the plane could have touched down – which need to be at least 5,000 feet – offer a baffling number of potential locations.

 

Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on Sept. 16, 1963, with si being added to give the new country the name Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation.

 

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The Malay constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.  He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

 

Since independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly-industrialized market economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world.  It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

 

Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. In the Malay Peninsula, the first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos. Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the 1st century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influence on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.  Sanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the 4th or 5th century. The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the 2nd century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the 15th century.  Between the 7th and 13th centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijaya empire. After the fall of Srivijaya, the Majapahit empire had influence over most of Peninsular Malaysia and the Malay Archipelago. Islam began to spread among Malays in the 14th century.  In the early 15th century, Parmeswara, a prince of the former Srivijayan empire, founded the Malacca Sultanate, commonly considered the first independent state in the peninsula area. Malacca was an important commercial center during this time, attracting trade from around the region.

 

Executive power is vested in the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister. The prime minister must be a member of the house of representatives, who in the opinion of the King, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from members of both houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister is both the head of cabinet and the head of government.  The incumbent, Najib Razak, appointed in 2009, is the sixth prime minister.

 

Malaysia’s legal system is based on English Common Law. Although the judiciary is theoretically independent, its independence has been called into question and the appointment of judges lacks accountability and transparency. The highest court in the judicial system is the Federal Court, followed by the Court of Appeal and two high counts, one for Peninsular Malaysia and one for East Malaysia. Malaysia also has a special court to hear cases brought by or against Royalty.  Separate from the civil courts are the Syariah Courts, which apply Shariah law to cases which involve Malaysian Muslims and run parallel to the secular court system. The Internal Security Act allows detention without trial, and the death penalty is in use for crimes such as drug trafficking.

 

Race is a significant force in politics, and many political parties are ethnically based.  Affirmative actions such as the New Economic Policy and the National Development Policy which superseded it, were implemented to advance the standing of the bumiputera, consisting of Malays and the indigenous tribes who are considered the original inhabitants of Malaysia, over non-bumiputera such as Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indians. These policies provide preferential treatment to bumiputera in employment, education, scholarships, business, and access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. However, it has generated greater interethnic resentment.  There is ongoing debate over whether the laws and society of Malaysia should reflect secular or Islamic principles. Islamic laws passed by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party in state legislative assemblies have been blocked by the federal government.

 

The Malaysian constitution guarantees freedom of religion while making Islam the state religion. According to the Population and Housing Census 2010 figures, ethnicity and religious beliefs correlate highly. Approximately 61.3% of the population practice Islam, 19.8% practice Buddhism, 9.2% Christianity, 6.3% Hinduism and 1.3% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. 0.7% declared no religion and the remaining 1.4% practiced other religions or did not provide any information. Sunnis form the majority with non-denominational Muslims being the second largest group of Muslims at 18%.

 

All ethnic Malays (of some ancestry other than Malaysian) are considered Muslim by law of the Constitution. Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 83.6% of the Chinese population identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%), along with small Hui-Muslim populations in areas like Penang.  The majority of the Indian population follows Hinduism (86.2%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (6.0%) or Muslims (4.1%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputera community (46.5%) with an additional 40.4% identifying as Muslims.

 

Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts in matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi’I  legal school of Islam, which is the main madh’hab  of Malaysia. The jurisdiction of Sharia courts is limited to Muslims in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and child custody among others. No other criminal or civil offences are under the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts . Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts do not hear matters related to Islamic practices.

 

Malaysia’s main newspapers are owned by the government and political parties in the ruling coalition, although some major opposition parties also have their own, which are openly sold alongside regular newspapers. A divide exists between the media in the two halves of the country. Peninsular-based media gives low priority to news from the East, and often treats the eastern states as colonies of the Peninsula. The media have been blamed for increasing tension between Indonesia and Malaysia, and giving Malaysians a bad image of Indonesians.  The country has Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil dailies.

 

There is very little freedom of the press, leading to very little government accountability.  The government has previously tried to crack down on opposition papers before elections.  In 2007, a government agency issued a directive to all private television and radio stations to refrain from broadcasting speeches made by opposition leaders, a move condemned by politicians from the opposition Democratic Action Party.  Sabah, where all tabloids but one are independent of government control, has the freest press in Malaysia. Laws such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act have also been cited as curtailing freedom of expression.

 

So what about this Anwar Ibrahim whom Capt. Shah followed so closely that he actually attended the politician’s trial on charges of sodomy a day before Flight 370 was to take off?

 

From 1968 to 1971, as a student, Anwar was the president of National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students.  Around the same time, he was also the president of University of Malaya Malay Language Society, he was one of the pro tem committee of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) or Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, which he co-founded.  At the same time, he was elected as the 2nd President of the Malaysian Youth Council or Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM).  In 1974, Anwar was arrested during student protests against rural poverty and hunger. This came as a report surfaced stating that a family died from starvation in a village in Baling, in the state of Kedah, despite the fact that it never happened.  However, the life of the rubber tappers in Baling was utterly depressed as the price of rubber dropped in 1974. He was imprisoned under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial, and spent 20 months in the Kamunting Detention Centre. From 1975 till 1982, he was representative for Asia Pacific of World Assembly of Muslim Youth under Sheikh Hassan Abdullah.

 

In 1982, Anwar, who was the founding leader and second president of a youth Islamic organization called  Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), shocked his liberal supporters by joining the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), led by Mahathir bin Mohamad, who had become prime minister in 1981. He moved up the political ranks quickly: his first ministerial office was that of Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983.  After that, he headed the agriculture ministry in 1984 before becoming Minister of Education in 1986. By then, speculation was rife about Anwar’s ascent to the Deputy Prime Minister’s position as it was a commonly-occurring phenomenon in Malaysia for the Education Minister to assume the position of Deputy PM in the near future.

 

During his tenure as Education Minister, Anwar introduced numerous pro-Malay policies in the national school curriculum. One of his major changes was to rename the national language from Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu. Non-Malays criticized this move as it would cause the younger generation to be detached from the national language, since they would attribute it to being something that belongs to the Malays and not to Malaysians. As the minister of education, Anwar was elected as the 25th President of UNESCO’s General Conference. In 1988, Anwar Ibrahim became the second President of the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

 

In 1991, Anwar was appointed Minister of Finance. During his tenure as Finance Minister his impact was immediate; Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth. Shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as a top four finance minister and in 1996, Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year.  In the midst of the Asian Financial Crises of 1997, Anwar was hailed for guiding Malaysia through the period of instability. He backed free market principles and highlighted the issue of the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia.  He advocated greater accountability, refused to offer government bail-outs and instituted widespread spending cuts.  These prescriptions saved the Malaysian economy and earned Anwar many accolades, including the Asian of the Year from Newsweek International.  As a deputy prime minister and finance minister, in March 1998, Anwar Ibrahim was selected as the Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund from March 1998 until September 1998.

 

In 1993, he became Mahathir’s Deputy Prime Minister after winning the Deputy Presidency of UMNO against Ghafar Baba. There is a report of Anwar using large cash payments to win support.  Anwar is alleged to have resorted to money politics to secure his position as deputy president of UMNO.  Even foreign journalists witnessed Anwar’s followers handing out packets of money to acquire support of UMNO division leaders. These followers were said to be working under Anwar’s instructions. Anwar was being groomed to succeed Mahathir as prime minister, and frequently alluded in public to his “son-father” relationship with Mahathir.  In early 1997, Mahathir appointed Anwar to be acting Prime Minister while he took a two-month holiday. Early in his political career, Anwar was a close ally of the then Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad but subsequently emerged as the most prominent critic of Mahathir’s government.

 

Towards the end of the 1990s, however, the relationship with Mahathir had begun to deteriorate, triggered by their conflicting views on governance. In Mahathir’s absence, Anwar had independently taken radical steps to improve the country’s governing mechanisms which were in direct conflict with Mahathir’s capitalist policies. Issues such as how Malaysia would respond to a financial crisis were often at the forefront of this conflict.

 

Anwar’s frontal attack against what he described as the widespread culture of nepotism and cronyism within UMNO (and the ruling coalition as a whole) angered Mahathir, as did his attempts to dismantle the protectionist policies that Mahathir had set up.  “Cronyism” was identified by Anwar as a major cause of corruption and misappropriation of funds in the country.

 

During the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis Anwar, as finance minister, supported the International Monetary Fund (IMF) plan for recovery. He also instituted an austerity package that cut government spending by 18%, cut ministerial salaries and deferred major projects. “Mega projects,” despite being a cornerstone of Mahathir’s development strategy, were greatly curtailed.

 

Although many Malaysian companies faced bankruptcy, Anwar declared:  “There is no question of any bailout. The banks will be allowed to protect themselves and the government will not interfere.”  Anwar advocated a free-market approach to the crisis, including foreign investment and trade liberalization. Mahathir blamed currency speculators like George Soros and supported currency controls and tighter regulation of foreign investment.

 

In 1998, Newsweek magazine named Anwar the “Asian of the Year.”  However, in that year, matters between Anwar and Mahathir came to a head around the time of the quadrennial UMNO General Assembly. The Youth wing of UMNO, headed by Anwar’s associate Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, gave notice that it would initiate a debate on “cronyism and nepotism.”  At the General Assembly, a book, 50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM (“50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister”) was circulated containing graphic allegations as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar.  The book was written by Khalid Jafri, an ex-editor of the government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National. Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a lawsuit against the author for defamation.  Police charged the author of the book with malicious publishing of false news.  Among the allegations in the book was that Anwar is homosexual. The police were instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims. In what the Sydney Morning Herald termed a “blatantly political fix-up,” Anwar was arrested on  Sept. 20, 1998. He was subsequently charged with corruption for allegedly interfering with police investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. While he was in police custody in 1998, Anwar was beaten by the then Inspector General of Police, Rahim Noor. Rahim was subsequently found guilty of assault and jailed for two months in 2000.  He made a public apology to Anwar and paid undisclosed damages.

 

In April 1999, following a trial widely believed to be unfair, Anwar was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Two months later, he was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, which he was ordered to serve after he completed his six-year sentence for the sodomy case.  His trial and conviction were widely discredited by the international community. Amnesty International stated that the trial proceedings “exposed a pattern of political manipulation of key state institutions including the police, public prosecutor’s office and the judiciary.”  Many world leaders, including U.S. Vice President Al Gore, called for his release from prison. His conviction was overturned by the Malaysian Supreme Court and Anwar was finally released from solitary confinement on Sept. 2, 2004.  In July 2008, he was arrested over allegations he sodomized one of his male aides, but was acquitted of the charge in January 2012.  The presiding judge ruled that DNA evidence used in the case had been compromised.  However on March 7, 2014 (the day before Flight 370 took off), the appeals court overruled the High Court, reinstating the conviction. The decision came as Anwar was preparing to contest a by-election on March 23, 2014 which he was expected to win. The conviction prevented him from standing.  Human Rights Watch was critical of the decision saying it was politically motivated.

 

Shortly after Anwar was dismissed as deputy prime minister by the then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar and his supporters initiated the Reformasi movement.  It consisted of several mass demonstrations and rallies against the long-standing Barisan Nasional coalition government.

 

The target of the reformasi campaign was then Prime Minister Mahathir, who was perceived as corrupt and having stayed too long in office.  The legacy of the reformasi movement, however, was felt during Malaysia’s 2008 general election, in which the People’s Justice Party (PKR) led by Anwar Ibrahim won 31 parliamentary seats.  As a result of the electoral success of the PKR, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, and the Democratic Action Party coalition coalition, the Barisan Nasional government lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

 

At the 1998 APEC Summit in Kuala Lumpur, the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, gave a speech supporting Anwar and the reformasi movement in front of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific premiers.

 

Reformasi led to the formation of a new multiracial-based party named Parti Keadilan Nasional (National Justice Party). In 1999, a general election was held. The new Parti Keadilan Nasional, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, and Democratic Action Party formed a Barisan Alternatif  (Alternative Front), in a combined initiative to replace the standing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government. In August 2003, Parti Keadilan Nasional merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia (Malaysian’s People Party) to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) or People’s Justice Party headed by Wan Azizah as president. PKR made huge gains in the 2008 general election, winning 31 seats and becoming the largest opposition party in parliament.  On April 2008, PKR, PAS and DAP formed a new alliance named Pakatan Rakyat.

 

With the sodomy verdict partially overturned in 2004, Anwar was released from prison as he had already served his sentence for the corruption offence.  The original author of the book died in 2005 of complications from diabetes but not before the High Court found that he had committed libel and awarded Anwar millions of ringgit in compensation.

 

UMNO sees itself as Malay nationalist, moderate Islamist and fiscally conservative representing the Malays of Malaysia, although any Bumiputra (indigenous Malaysian, a category which includes people such as the non-Malay and usually non-Muslim Kadazan, Iban, Davak, etc. of East Malaysia) may join the party. UMNO is generally regarded as the “protector and champion of Malay supremacy, which states that Malays are the rulers of Malaysia or  “masters of this land,” as stated by former UMNO Youth Information Chief Azimi Daim in 2003. The party’s advocacy of the primacy of the rights of the Malays is sometimes viewed by non-Malays as coming at the expense of non-Malay rights.

 

But of late, many Malay politicians have strongly tried to revive the spirit of Malay nationalism and patriotism but with more emphasis on Malay unity and a return to Islamic doctrine as to counter PAS claimed that the party is the one and only Islamic party in the country. Among the politicians involved are Ibrahim Ali, member of Parliament from Pasir MAS, Zulkifli Noordin, Member of Parliament from Kulim Bandar Baru and Naseron Ismail, chairman of Waris PEKEMBAR, a support group within UMNO fold who wanted more changes in the leadership and for UMNO members to fully uphold its Constitution while struggle for the Malay rights and continuity.

 

Given this perspective and Shah’s political proclivities, one has to wonder whether Capt. Shah hijacked the plane in protest of Anwar Ibrahim’s arrest.  Were his passengers Chinese ethnic Malays who practiced one of the minority religions?  The statistics from Wikipedia indicate 83.6 percent of ethnic Chinese Malaysians practice Buddhism.  Since Ibrahim, while “fiscally conservative” was clearly a radical Muslim.

 

Some conspiracy theories suggest Shah was steering his jet towards Kazakhstan or Pakistan, with a cargo loaded with weapons.  But Pakistan is getting plenty of military hardware from the Russian Muslims.  Was he looking to load his plane up with weaponry?  Or was he bringing weaponry to a much needier Muslim group – the Uighurs in the Xinjiang Province of China?

 

How much anti-Chinese sentiment did Capt. Shah bear towards his passengers?  That the re-arrest of his political hero, preventing Ibrahim from participating in the March 25th elections, could influence Shah is practically indisputable.  However, preparation for such a hijacking would have taken more than a day’s planning.  Was he aware of the significance of the date?  Was it just coincidence that he (or someone else) apparently cut off communications at the Vietnamese air space?

 

Given the political background, it’s easy to see why the Malaysians have been reluctant to share information with the media.  At some point, if the northern route theory is correct, the airliner would have had to fly, for some hours, over China.  Yet China, to no one’s surprise, has not been forthcoming with any information.

 

Not so much as a ping.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on March 17, 2014 at 1:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Jolly” News for the Congressional GOP

David Jolly, general counsel to Florida Congressman Bill Young, won the special election race in Florida’s 13th District against Democrat Alex(andra) Sink.  The special election was called when Young died on Oct. 18, 2013.

Jolly is against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and says he has goals of lowering taxes and cutting spending. He believes Israel is one of the premier allies of the United States and has a goal of not cutting the United States commitment to the military and to its allies. He is pro-life, says that he “support[s] the constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. He supports the Balanced Budget Amendment, but would have voted to raise the debt limit in early 2014.

 In a February 2014 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Jolly clarified his position on same-sex marriage by saying, “Listen I think the sanctity of one’s marriage is between the two partners and their God. I don’t look to the state for the sanctity of marriage and so I’m ok if a state adopts a same-sex marriage amendment.”   

Jolly’s opponents in the Republican special primary were State Representative Kathleen Peters (29%) and Conservative Tea Party candidate Mark Bircher (24%).  Jolly won the primary on Jan. 14, 2014 with 45 percent of the vote.

After Jolly won the Republican nomination, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $500,000 on advertising on his behalf.  Nevertheless, there was friction between the national committee and Jolly, who criticized the advertising. Jolly downplayed the differences, stating that he and the Republican Party stood for the same things.

Democrats are said to be extremely worried over Jolly’s victory, although Florida’s 13th Congressional district has voted Republican since the 1980s.  In 2012, it was reassigned, effective January 2013, to Pinellas County. The 13th district includes an area from Dunedin to western and northern St. Petersburg.

During 2003–2012, it encompassed all of Sarasota, DeSoto, and Hardee counties and most of Manatee County except for a small northern coastal portion that was then located in the neighboring 11th Congressional District. It also included a small section of Charlotte County.

Jolly is the GOP’s kind of Republican, willing to make financial “deals” with the White House and ignore crucial social ideals, such as the sanctity of marriage.  He says that marriage is between the two (or more?) partners and God and that the state has nothing to do with it.

Except of course that states and their municipalities are responsible for issuing the marriage licenses (and divorces – Jolly’s divorce was recently finalized, amicably).  The reason the state was involved in issuing licenses was to enforce social regulations; to prevent such immoral acts as marriages between first cousins; marriages to underage minors; marriages to illegal aliens; marriages between multiple partners; marriages to animals (bestiality); and, until recently, marriages between people of the same sex.

If Congressman Jolly had read his Bible, he’d know that God made His position on homosexuality in general quite clear in Sodom and Gomorrah.  How, then, could any Christian (or Jew – the account of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in the Old Testament) believe that God would approve of homosexual marriages?  Certainly, Jesus came to Earth and told us that God is merciful and that it is for Him to judge the sins of others. 

If you don’t believe the Word of God, or that the Bible was some sort of forgery, you can always take a trip to the Alps and look at the gouged-out mountain where the meteor or asteroid struck at exactly the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, sending a barrage of fiery debris raining down on those two Biblical cities.

The states used to be the guardians of values.  That all began to change at the turn of the 20th Century.  By the 1960s, the transformation had gained significant momentum.  God was kicked out of the schools.  The Sixties were the Age of Free Love.  Now a child of the Sixties, communist-bred, is sitting in the highest office of the land.  His Supreme Court overruled God and declared that denying homosexual marriage is unconstitutional.

The Constitution mentions God.  Does the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mention Him?  That’s the real source from which the Supreme Court derives its authority in this matter.  They consider the act of marriage a choice and a civil right, between two people, no matter their sexual orientation.  Why then do we even bother licensing marriage, if the state should not be involved in what is considered a “private” matter?

Liberals use the concept of “individualism” at their convenience.  Generally, individualism is a thing to be frowned upon.  Except when it comes to a woman’s choice to abort a fetus (okay).    Or when a child refuses to pledge allegiance to the American flag.  Or when an individual objects to a nativity scene on the town square.  Or when a gay couple sues a photographer who refuses to photograph their “wedding ceremony.”  Who’s the individual in that last scenario, the couple or the photographer?  According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its public accommodation clause, it’s the united homosexual couple.

A War on Individualism is what we’ve come to expect of communist-oriented Liberals and Progressives.  But not from the Republican representatives Conservatives have been forced to rely upon to represent them in government.

House Speaker John Boehner’s rabid denunciation of the conservative-oriented Tea Party is an indication of how the GOP feels about Conservative voters and representatives.  The Washington Post reported on Dec. 12, 2013:  “In a remarkable moment of political clarity, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) escalated his feud with outside conservative advocacy groups that have repeatedly undermined his leadership team’s agenda for three years.

 

“’Frankly, I just think they’ve lost all credibility,’” Boehner told reporters Thursday at his weekly press briefing.

 

“After years of enduring broadsides from groups such as Heritage Action, Boehner’s last straw came this week when the collection of Washington-based groups attacked the bipartisan budget deal that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) negotiated, with several announcing they opposed it before Ryan and his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), unveiled it Monday night.

 

The Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is showing his true colors. In the New York Times of all places, McConnell said he and other establishment candidates are going to “crush” grassroots conservatives.

Even as younger voters (as Rush Limbaugh notes in his January 2014 Limbaugh Letter), are turning away from Obama, Republicans are moving towards the Left.  State governments are caving in to legalizing homosexual marriage in obeisance to the Youth vote, the most uninformed and electorally inactive voting bloc in the country.  They don’t vote, as a rule, but most polls show them highly favoring the legalization of gay marriage (as well as marijuana).

On the other hand, they rely on comedian Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame on Comedy Central, as a news source.  Stewart has wily way of deflecting criticism of outrageous comments by claiming he’s ‘just a comedian’ while serving as a conductor of White House talking points to the nation’s loyal youth.

That means the children are running the nursery.  Young people with incomplete or poorly-formed cognitive abilities are deciding the fate of our nation.  Young people still dependent upon their parents’ income or who are renters just starting out are deciding that redistributing the wealth of the nation is a great idea.  They’ve bought into the idea of “social justice” because they don’t know any better.

Our society has caved into every adolescent, cringe-worthy demand they’ve made, from rock music to pornography to violent videos to the commonplace use of profanity to total sexual licentiousness.  For some forty years, fewer and fewer people have been getting married.  Shacking up is good enough.  Unless you’re a gay couple with a religious axe to grind.  Or you just want to take an axe and grind down centuries of religious, Christian teaching.

That is when the Liberals find the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights decidedly convenient.  Separation of church and state (which doesn’t exist in the Constitution).  “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  That’s what it says.  Twist that statement a little here, tweak it a little there, add in a sentence or two from the 1965 Civil Rights Act regarding “discrimination” and suddenly, immoral acts gain legal standing.

Now two people of the same sex can be married by an unwilling clergyman, photographed by an unwilling photographer, and cut a wedding cake baked by an unwilling baker.  All of this should not be.  Then they can go home to their private bedroom to do whatever (which is Constitutionally correct, if not exactly moral), smoke some weed (it’s legal, now; but if they really want to fog their brains out, go to it), watch the latest comedy on the Gay TV channel (also Constitutional), and fill out the adoption papers for a Third World baby (kind of disgusting; there is evidence that children brought up in such homes don’t fare very well, but it’s NOOB).

So why should we protest it?  Because we are a free country.  But just because we’re free doesn’t mean that we must condone immorality and licentiousness.  The rise in homosexual awareness has helped families with gay or lesbian children.  In the past, the coming out of a child always meant disappointment and estrangement from the family.  Parents simply couldn’t bear the strain of “losing” a child in that way, and chose to forgive and embrace their children instead.  Estrangement was just too hard on their heart-strings.

The parents can’t really be blamed for accepting and embracing their homosexual children.  But our society, and the nature of sexuality, can.  There is an entire catalog of sexual fetishes.  Like the base natures of anger and violence, sexual energy is always eager to join the party, if not the fight.  Sexual violence defense attorneys have known that for centuries.  It operates on the primal level, according to psychology.  Once you’ve taken the bait, as with marijuana, or cigarettes, or even alcohol, you’re hooked on that particular vice.  There’s no going back, no turning around.

Or if there is, in the case of homosexuality, the government has outlawed the practice of reversing the inclination.  A very strange thing for a government that claims to be strictly hands-off when it comes to adult sexual behavior.  The government finds it very handy that the American people think that what people do in their own homes is none of anyone’s business (and it isn’t).  At least in this instance.  Teach your children the safe use of firearms and you’re going to have the local DCF on your doorstep.

It’s one thing for a married “couple” to cross the threshold into their own home.  It’s another thing for them to come out again in public where other people who find their practices repugnant, immoral, or even evil (a bit of a stretch) must go to extremes to accommodate them.

Thanks to the government and legislators like Congressman Jolly, instead of having a list of photographers who gladly specialize in homosexual weddings, gay couples are free to target, pursue, and sue (and basically rob) businesses that specialize in matrimonial ceremonies who do not believe that homosexual marriages are made in Heaven.

 

Published in: on March 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment