Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Death Penalty II

Back on Saturday I blogged on an attempt to resurrect the Death Penalty in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  At the time we knew what Rep Tom Golden thought, but not our other two State Representatives from Lowell.

Since then I have heard, first from Rep David Nangle and then from Rep Kevin Murphy.  My thanks to both for getting back to me and helping me understand their positions.

Rep Nangle believes there are some crimes that are so heinous that the Death Penalty should be available.  This puts him on the same side as Rep Jim Miceli and Rep Tom Golden.  This was pretty straight forward for a position.  I mentioned that I was opposed to the death penalty, out of courtesy.  Rep Nangle did say that he would stop by Rep Miceli's desk and see if he has started to count votes on this issue, noting that last time a Death Penalty Bill came up it went down to defeat.

A little while later Rep Kevin Murphy called and told me that he was against the death penalty.  His reason was that our understanding of the evidence is not as good as it should be and thus the danger of making a mistake is too high.  He mentioned the fact that the State Crime Lab is still working on establishing itself as the high quality lab it needs to be.  Here is an article on the State Crime Labs from 4 February 2009 issue of The Boston Globe.  I think Rep Murphy shows good insight into the problem of evidence in death penalty cases.  Even if you generally accepted the Death Penalty, the evidence needs to be air tight and right now it is not.

Thanks to our Reps for lettings us know.

Regards  —  Cliff

Judge Sotomayor and the Ricci case.

Ann Althouse says:
Sotomayor will take her seat of the Supreme Court.  We all know that.  What we don't know is what happens next.  And these hearings should be about laying the groundwork for the next series of appointments and the next presidential election.
That is the way I see it and I am not even a law professor.

Think about the long term!

Regards  —  Cliff

Coup in Honduras?

Over the weekend the military in Honduras rounded up the President and several of his cronies and shipped them off to Costa Rico. Was this a coup in the classic sense? Maybe not. The military was following the lead of the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Attorney General, all of whom had rejected as illegal the President's plan for a referendum on Sunday. All had told the President his plan for a nation-wide referendum to change the Constitution was out of line. The Army, which distributes ballots for elections, refused to do so, in light of the Supreme Court and Legislature. So, the President fired the head of the military and the Service Chiefs resigned in protest of that action. Then the President had his thugs break into the military barracks where the ballots were stored and took them and distributed them.

On the other hand, everyone, including our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is condemning the action of the military.

Sure, a coup is a bad thing. But what is a President acting outside the Constitution and in violation of that Constitution?

An anonymous commentator commenting on the Organization of American States (OAS) and its position on the situation in Honduras:
The US reaction shamed us. Honduras' institutions tried to deal with Zelaya's Chavez-inspired move to hold an illegal referendum. The primary voices against him came from the Supreme Court, Attorney General, and Congress; most are from his own party. The military obeyed constitutional order and quickly supported the process of naming an interim president, Congress president Roberto Micheletti. Aside from Chavez, Ortega, and Castro, Zelaya's only support has been from the masses - and not even much from them. While there are claims that Cuban and Venezuelan diplomats were beaten, I have seen no evidence.

I believe we should congratulate the armed forces and civilian leaders, especially the Court, rather then condemn them in the name of democracy, and indicate our willingness to support elections in November as scheduled.
One thing seems clear. The US is not really supporting democracy around the world. We are acting in favor of the status quo, whatever it might be. Stability is the order of the day under the current administration.

Here is the thought problem.
To whom should a soldier swear allegiance, the head of state or the Constitution?

What is the rule in the United States?

If the President goes rogue, what should the military do?

In a more concrete way, if the US President orders the US into a war that the US Congress has specificially voted down (and voted to not provide funds for), what is the duty of the military?
Regards — Cliff

Challengers for City Council

Here are the challengers for City Council, as I know them:
  1. Joe Mendonca, (whose website is here.) (Joe-Mendonca@comcast.net)
  2. Paul Belley
  3. Ryan Berard, (whose website is here.)
  4. Franky Descoteaux, (pronounced Dakota, I am told)
  5. Ray Weicker
  6. Syed Hussain
  7. Pat Stratton
  8. Patrick Murphy, (whose website is here.)
  9. James Wogas (whose website is inbound shortly.)(JIWish@aol.com)
EMail errors and corrections to crk AT theworld.com. (I am only doing it this way because that is the way the Big Boys do it and I assume it is to thwart spammers.)

I would not suggest that we take the position of "Vote them all out," but I do think it is time to think about each of the incumbents and each of the challengers and then try to find some fits.  Some of the incumbents have been great for Lowell and some haven't.  Perhaps we need some fresh faces with fresh ideas.  On the other hand, with only eight challengers running, at least one of the incumbents will be sticking around.

To be up front about my own position, I went to Jim Millinazo's campaign kickoff.  But, I also went to the one for Joe Mendonca and the one for Franky Descoteaux.  I didn't contribute equally to each of them, but I did contribute to all three.  You can check the records and see what I did contribute.

These are hard times, in the sense that they are challenging times.  Further, the question is not just what are we going to do to keep the city afloat in 2010 and 2011.

We also need to ask ourselves about the vision for 2020 and 2030.  Capital investments take a long time.  Whatever we want our city to be in 2020, we need to be taking the decisions now.

I am hoping to interview as many candidates as possible and post the results on my blog.  One of the questions I ask will be about vision for 2020 and the path to get there.  I will ask about what they think our demographics will be in 2020—that is looking one census ahead.  What about industry?  What about the University?  Will we be a destination city—people working elsewhere and living and dining and shopping here?

You need to be asking the candidates the same question.

And contributing money, even if it is only a dollar.

UPDATED CANDIDATES LIST

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 29, 2009

One Future for Publishing

I heard about doing "on demand" publishing about ten years ago, when it was being touted for colleges and universities and thought it would be wonderful for the rest of us.  And then nothing.

Finally, we hear about a small book store in Manchester Center, VT, where "Lurch" is cranking out up to 35 books a bad for customers, including a number of local authors who might otherwise never been published.  Our thanks to D C Denison for this article in The Boston Globe.  The only thing missing in an otherwise great article is the cost of a cross-section of books that have been produced by "Lurch," whose real name is "Expresso Book Machine."

The future has a lot to offer us and it isn't all bad.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week—Answer

The question asked, "How are Senator John F Kerry and TV personality David Letter alike?".

Tasteless joke about Governor Sarah Palin.
The Bay State senator was telling a group of business and civic leaders in town at his invitation about the "bizarre" tale of how South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford had "disappeared for four days" and claimed to be hiking along the Appalachian Trail, but no one was really certain of his whereabouts.

"Too bad," Kerry said, "if a governor had to go missing it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin."
I guess that if people stopped taking cheap shots at the Governor she might actually fade from the news. On the other hand, with people like Governor Mark Sanford engaging in public stupidity, she keeps moving forward.  I bet that sometimes President Obama wishes she had won the vote for Vice President, rather than Senator Biden.

Regards  —  Cliff

WHAT?!?!

I have got to go get a haircut, just to get away from the news.

With a hat tip to Instapundit we find ourselves at Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine, where the issue is copyright and censorship.

The title of the post, ripped from Shakespeare, is "First, kill the lawyers – before they kill the news."  It seems Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz is pushing a new concept.
Schultz says that David Marburger, an alleged First Amendment attorney for her paper, and his economics-professor brother, Daniel, have concocted their own dangerous thinking, proposing the copyright law be changed to insist that a newspaper’s story should appear only on its own web site for the first 24 hours before it can be aggregated or retold.
So much for blogs being up to date.  On the other hand, it would have slowed the spread of the details on the death of Mr Michael Jackson (there is only so much you can say on Twitter).

Then there is this post on Buzz Machine on Judge Richard Posner's comment on copyright.  Having read the total article at this location, I am not quite as concerned about the revered Judge Posner, but I was concerned for a moment.  The question of control of content in the age of the Internet is an interesting one.

Regards  —  Cliff

Europe Looks at the US

I was over looking for the weekend joke (and whatever insights Julie might have) at Happy Catholic when I found a link to a blog titled Rachel Lucas.  Rachel Lucas is a Texas expat living in the UK (Julie issues a "language warning" regarding the blog).  Ms Lucas links to a 23 June article in Der Speigel, which was talking about the then upcoming visit of Chancellor Angela Merkel to DC to visit President Obama.  I have put Chancellor Merkel's photo up on the right, just in case she pays a visit to the Lowell Folk Festival and you bump into her.  (There doesn't seem to be much of German Folk Ways at the Festival these days, so a visit would be welcome.)

My take-away from the article is that Germany thinks that it wasn't just President George W Bush who was shifting the focus of US foreign policy away from Europe.  The staff writers at Der Speigel think that the Obama Administration is just looking toward Europe to see what is in it for the US and is already shifting its gaze toward China (gee, I wish they had said India).

The other thing—and this is what gives it a local flavor, given recent blog posts here in Lowell, about Lowell—is that the Germans seem to think that the Obama White House is a bit overbearing.
Obama's visits to Dresden and Buchenwald also ruffled some feathers in Germany.  The US president's advance team, which had been sent to help prepare for the trip, made a negative impression on the Germans through their coarse language and overbearing behavior. German officials were shouted at, treated like schoolchildren and told to wait their turns.

"We have never experienced such a hardline approach during any visit," says an official from Germany's Foreign Ministry.
Unfortunate.
A clash of cultures is raging between Berlin and the United States on the issue of financial policy.  The administration in Washington is combating the financial crisis by taking on more and more new debt.  When former President George W. Bush came into office in his first term, there was still a budget surplus.  According to conservative estimates, the United States will accumulate about $9 trillion (€6.5 trillion) in new debt just in the period from 2010 to 2020.  The country's debt could soon amount to 100 percent of its gross domestic product.  The dollar is already faltering, having lost 7 percent of its value against the euro in the last two months.

But the White House believes its policy of printing money is necessary, not risky.

...

Archaic fears, combined with the memories of two different years, are at the root of the two countries' fundamentally different positions on the purpose and tools of monetary policy.  The Americans remember the 1929 global economic crisis with horror. For them, there is nothing worse than a shrinking economy, which they see as the epitome of hunger, hardship and ruin.  The Germans, on the other hand, think of 1923, when hyperinflation destroyed assets and plunged many into poverty.
We should not dismiss the German fears of hyperinflation.  First off, it helped pave the way for the rise of National Socialism.  Second, it could be a serious problem here if printing money turned into inflation and the inflation got out of control.

Longish article but it is always good to see how others view us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Who Is Running?

In the middle of last week I went to the Campaign Kick-Off for City Councilor James L. Milinazzo (pictured right).  Isn't it intresting that when the Councilors are lined up alphabetically, Councilor Milinazzo is last.  There is a stretch of 13 letters ignored.

At any rate, Challenger Ray Weicker (he claims not to be related to Lowell Weicker) was there and someone pointed out to him he needed an answer to the question of what he would cut to save money.  There was some debate, Lawyer Weicker wondering it any answer wouldn't just make enemies and another suggesting he would look uninformed and wishy-washy if he dodged the question.

With two current members of the City School Committee standing there, I suggested he could say he would cut the School Committee to save money.

I was joking.  The education of our youth is critical to the future of this City. Not the only key factor, but still sine qua non.♠

But, it raises an interesting question.  One of the two School Committee members I was standing with has been in The Lowell Sun two days in a row.  (Located, at least for a while, here and here and here.)  And, she has been the subject of discussion over at Left in Lowell and the Lowell Shallott promises it's own opinion on Monday (I urge caution here, as the Lowell Shallott can be a little rough.

At this point I should point out that I actually know Regina and have for about a decade.  From time to time I have been on WCAP with Regina and George Anthes.  I have phoned in when Regina was on in the afternoon to disagree with her on this or that issue.  Also from time to time I have electronically forwarded items on terrorism as they have come into my hands.  On the other hand, we do not carry on a continuing dialogue, on line or in person.

Another point is that the supposed threats sound a little off key.  While I have never been threated by Regina, or anybody else connected with the school system, the idea that it would be the arms then the head just doesn't sound right to my ear.  Normally when I have heard something like that it has been more like "I am going to rip his lips off" or "I am going to rip his head off and ... ."  The second is a common enough expression, as I confirmed at dinner the other night.  On the other hand, an expression not common enough that I hear it frequently.  I wonder if Ms Scott misheard, or Ms Faticanti misspoke; or they cleaned it up for the family newspaper.

Frankly, I am somewhat dubious about the criminal case.  On the other hand, I am not a lawyer.  In the end, it might go away.  Or not.  In saying that I am not trying to influence the jury pool. But, is the criminal case, as someone suggested earlier, a setup for the "hostile workplace" issue?

The issue of a "hostile work environment" came up in an article in Friday's The Lowell Sun.  The School Committee is forming up to talk about it.  That said, several members want to wait and see what happens with the legal case.  (That is a polite way of saying they wish to kick the can down the road, committee member Jackie Doherty notwithstanding.)

This could go on forever—or at least past the election in November.  I am just saying that the wheels of justice tend to grind slowly, notwithstanding our right to a speedy trial.

Let us assume that Ms Faticanti wins reelection in November.  (At this point I would think that is the way to bet.)  There is, so far, only one potential challenger who has taken out papers to run for School Committee, or so I hear.  Further, I hear that she has also taken out papers for City Council.

So, in making our scenario, let us assume that the School Committee becomes a hostile work environment for Ms Faticanti in 2010 and she resigns and moves to Harvard, Mass.  Who would take her place?  Special election?

Where am I going with this?  We need to be doing something to crank up enthusiasm on the part of our fellow residents to run for office.  I played "sacrificial lamb" twice, so I am looking for a bunch of you other folks to take at least one stab at it.  Sure, you will be beaten.  That is part of life.  The good news is that you will be helping to make the City a better place by helping to make the incumbents less secure and by helping to form up issues and by giving your fellow residents some options on the ballot.

Regards

♠  I know, but this one I knew, but had to look up the spelling.  "The indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient."  If President Andy Jackson can use it, I can use it.

Assassination as Policy and Why it is Folly


On this date in 1914, 95 years ago, the key triggering event for World War One happened.
On 28 June 1914, at approximately 1:15 pm, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Gavrilo Princip, 19 at the time, a member of Young Bosnia and one of a group of assassins organized by The Black Hand.
The Prince and his wife are shown to the right, thanks to Wikipedia. Here is the Wikipedia article on the assassination.

In the next 37 days there were a lot of opportunities for Government leaders in Europe to step back from the brink. There were also opportunities for the People to step back. The Government leaders across Europe fumbled away their chances, or ignored them, and the People thought it would be a jolly good war. People thought that it would be quickly over and that the soldiers mobilized would be home for Christmas. It was not to be.

The way to think about it is that war is like child birth. The outcome is always uncertain.

To the right is a picture (courtesy of Wikipedia) of the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Gray, who characterized the situation in Europe in the Summer of 1914 as:  "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."  This comes down to us as "The lights are going out all over Europe."  If you think of World War II as just a continuation of World War I, sir Edward was quite prescient. If you think that "The Great War" didn't end until 1991, then you can view him as brilliant in his insight.

Dr Hedley P Willmott characterizes the time of World War I as the time, "when men lost faith in reason."  It may be fair to say that liberal Europe (in the older sense of liberal) died in the trenches of the Western Front sometime between 1915 and 1918.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Labels in The Long War

There is a debate going on within the US military, and especially within the US Army and it has to do with how much emphasis the US Army should put into counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine, TTP (tactics, techniques and procedures),♠ equipment and training, vs the doctrine, TTP, equipment and training to fight a "conventional" war.

Thus there has evolved a new set of terms:
  • coindinistas—those who believe the Army needs to have a strong focus on counter-insurgency and that it is a sufficiently specialized activity that it requires its own doctrine, TTP, equipment and training,
  • cointras—who believe there is something to this COIN action, but believe that a well trained soldier can adapt and do well in any situation, and now,
  • coin-fused—which says it all
A discussion of this whole issue, and the introduction of the term "coin-fused," can be seen here.  This is the Tom Ricks blog, Mr Ricks being the former defense reporter for The Washington Post.  Some of those debating in the blog comments are Colonel Gian Gentile, currently teaching history at West Point, and Reporter Carl Prine, who is credited with inventing the first two terms.

An interesting, fun, and important debate.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  Not everything is doctrine, thus TTP. But, in the US Army every activity is covered one way or the other.

Hoosiers

Here is a different take on Singer Michael Jackson, who recently passed away, in case you haven't noted it in the media.

Blogger Ann Althouse has this post, which started from an item in The New York Times.  It is about Hoosier John Roberts (future Chief Justice of teh US Supreme Court) writing a memo recommending the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan) not sign a letter out to fellow Hoosier Michael Jackson.  Here is the memo:
I recognize that I am something of a vox clamans in terris in this area, but enough is enough.  The Office of Presidential Correspondence is not yet an adjunct of Michael Jackson’s PR firm.  'Billboard' can quite adequately cover the event by reproducing the award citation and/or reporting the President’s remarks.  (As you know, there is very little to report about Mr. Jackson’s remarks.)  There is absolutely no need for an additional presidential message.  A memorandum for Presidential Correspondence objecting to the letter is attached for your review and signature.
I don't speak or read Latin either, but I understand it to be "voice of a terrified clam."

If you haven't checked out Kad Barma's take, it can be found here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Death Penalty

Per The Lowell Sun, State Representative James R Miceli, Democrat of Tewksbury and Wilmington, is calling for a return of the death penalty.

Here is the lede:
Disgusted by the brutal beating death of a Worcester boy, Rep. James Miceli plans to file a bill today that would reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts.
I agree that we are all outraged when someone abuses a child and even more so if that person kills the child.  That said, society is evolving in the direction of not executing people, just as we evolved away from the practice of "draw and quarter."  But, Representative Miceli wishes to bring the practice back.  Here are several reasons why this is a bad idea:
  • The Great and General Court has not nearly finished with the business of saving the Massachusetts economy and putting us the proper road for success in the next quarter century (to include some real ethics reform for the Commonwealth's Government, to include Beacon Hill).  They don't have time to be drawn into a lengthy debate on the Death Penalty.
  • An Execution usually costs a government more than just letting the person rot in prison for the rest of his or her life.  When we are raising taxes due to falling revenues it is not time to be thinking of new ways to raise costs to the Commonwealth.
  • Sometimes the death penalty seems to be more about solving emotional problems than coming to good legal conclusions; never a good thing.
Then we have our own Representative, Tom Golden (D-16th Middlesex), coming in support of Representative Miceli.
"I'd vote for that," said Rep. Thomas Golden, a death-penalty supporter who said there are some heinous crimes with little doubt of a person's guilt that warrant the punishment.
How little, one wonders.

I know that Representative Miceli is supporting the approach of then Governor Mitt Romney, with its use of DNA to ensure guilt is properly established.  On the other hand, there are three issues here:
  • What if DNA evidence is not conclusive?
  • What if there is so much pressure the Government fudges its case?
  • Where is the justice when two people are guilty of basically the same kind of murder and one is executed due to DNA evidence and the other is convicted, but without the DNA evidence?
I wonder where the other two Musketeers stand on this?  Maybe I will EMail them.

I figure you know where I stand.  If not; the death penalty should be reserved for captured and convicted spies with information not yet transmitted to their handlers.

UPDATE: Spelling error. Quilt to Guilt.

Regards  —  Cliff

Train Wreck Coming

I noted (hat tip to Laura Rosen and War and Piece blog) that The Atlantic has a piece up talking about Vice President Joe Biden being called in to settle a simmering dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Director of National Intelligence.

This is a problem brought about by the post-9/11 reforms that added another layer of bureaucracy to the IC, the Intelligence Community.  The question is, who gets to appoint the intelligence "station chiefs" in each of the nations where we have an embassy.  With some 16 intelligence organization in the Federal Government, the station chief is an important bureaucratic personage, with authority to say which intelligence personnel may and may not visit their country.
In separate pleas to National Security Adviser James Jones, CIA director Leon Panetta and current DNI Dennis Blair asked for a speedy resolution.
What didn't happen was a quick resolution.  So, now it is over to the Vice President.  To go back to the article:
Beginning with the first DNI, John Negroponte, the new intelligence directors wanted more control over who served as the country's chief intelligence representative in foreign countries, reasoning that that there would be instances where the CIA's station chief might not be the best person for the job, and noting that the CIA was but one of 16 different intelligence agencies that served the president, policy-makers and the Department of Defense.

Even more important—and more institutionally tender—the DNIs want the authority to coordinate and manage resources in those countries without having to go through the CIA director. Who reports to whom? Does a station chief have two masters? The answers—Biden's answers—could shape the future of the U.S. intelligence community.
So, we have the man from Delaware, who can't tell the difference between the Governor of New Jersey and the Governor of Virginia, deciding who should be picking CIA Station Chiefs for the CIA.  Good luck to us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 26, 2009

Update to "Indefinite Detention for Terrorists"

Here I posted on an article on the White House considering an Executive Order on detention of people being held in the Global War on Terrorism or "The Long War."

What I missed was that one of the authors of the linked article, Dafna Linzer, is no longer a reporter for The Washington Post.  Rather, she stopped working for The WashPost in 2008 and now works for a blog, Pro Publica, which can be found here.

To anonymously quote a perceptive observer:
Is that the way of investigative journalism now? Wow.
Maybe it is.  How we get our news has been in flux since soon after I hit this planet.  The big format weekly news magazines of my youth (Life, Look, Colliers, Saturday Evening Post) are gone.  Walter Cronkite still sails off the coast, but his mastery of the evening news format is gone.  We used to get our video news when we went to the movies on the weekend.  CNN arrived and then found itself being challenged by FOX.  Matt Drudge, looking like a young Walter Winchell, showed up.  Papers have Web Editions.  On the other hand, the telegram is gone and no longer is the long distance phone call an indication of serious illness or death in the family.  AM Radio thrived, died and then came back, partly thanks to Rush Limbaugh.  We now have not only blogs, but twitter.

And, only a hundred years ago, there was little of this, except for Pathé News.  People would throng into the streets to read what the newspapers had posted on their windows or there would be "Extra" editions.

Regards  —  Cliff

Indefinite Detention for Terrorists

Now comes a report in The Washington Post that the White House is drafting an Executive Order that would allow indefinite detention of Terrorism suspects.
The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, is drafting an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.
We will quietly pass over who was the last President to assert such a claim.

I have believed all along that we should make there folks in Gitmo and other places "honorary Prisoners of War," which would allow us to hold them for the duration of the "War on Terrorism," or whatever we are calling it this week.  Such a war will last longer than the "War on Drugs."

Here is an interesting highlight to the problem with the prisoners and the issue of Gitmo. According to one of those "unnamed"♠ White House sources,
"Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said.  Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.
Much as I don't like the use of Executive Orders for issues that the US Congress should be acting on, this is probably a good idea.

If I had a category for "governing is harder than running," this would get so tagged.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  I think that "unnamed" sources are a menace.  We don't know if this is the President trying to send a trial balloon or someone on the inside trying to sabotage an idea being considered by the President or his National Security Staff.  Unnamed sources are pernicious.

Why We Were Slow to Field the MRAP

Here is the URL for a small booklet on one aspect of reforming Pentagon Procurement.

This all speaks to protecting our Service members from the impact of IEDs (Improved Explosive Devices).  For a time in Iraq the IED was the major focus of attend and the major cause of combat deaths and combat injuries.  One of the proposed solutions was more armor for vehicles our troops were using.  A lot of ink has flowed on this issue and the attached booklet adds to the ink slick.

Here is a quick introduction from the head of the Institute that sponsored the research for the booklet, Dr Patrick Cronin:
I attach our latest Occasional Paper, co-authored by INSS Senior Fellow Chris Lamb.  His incisive and empirical analysis of the difficulty of fielding mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles offer an excellent case study for thinking about the Pentagon's present approach to fielding irregular warfare capabilities.  The bottom line is that the problem cannot be reduced to acquisition reform; larger reforms are needed.  He and his co-authors end by quoting Secretary Gates: "In the end, the military capabilities we need cannot be separated from the cultural traits and reward structure of the institutions we have."
The problem is actually pretty complicated.  It is complicated because:
  • The MRAP, in the end, may not be the right answer to the problem of counter-insurgency.  The reason is that to defeat the insurgents it may be necessary for the soldiers to get out and walk among the people being protected.  That is not to say that running down a Main Supply Route (MSR), the MRAP might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
  • An organization as large as the Pentagon only works because there is a lot of delegation and a lot of committee work.  This sometimes leads to the dreaded "sub-optimization" argument, which has been around for at least 50 years.  This can be reduced to "my part works great and just because you are having problems with your part doesn't mean I need to redesign my part."
You may already have an opinion, in which case reading this may be superfluous.  On the other hand, this might be a short, insightful read.

I thought the interesting part was at page 34 of the booklet.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Working Past Retirement

It must be the season to talk about dementia.  The recent issue of The Lowell Sun had an AP article on how delaying retirement delays the onset of dementia.

The article, which is now in the part of The Lowell Sun history, located behind a User ID and Password, says that:
Experts from King's College London analyzed data from more than 1,300 people with dementia.  They considered factors including education, employment and retirement.

Researchers found that people who retired later were able to avoid the mind-robbing Alzheimer's disease longer than people who retired earlier.

Each extra year of work was associated with approximately a six-week delay in the onset of dementia.
OK, six weeks doesn't seem that long, but still, it points to the fact that being active, using your brain and interacting with other people, is important to keeping your faculties.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

How are Senator John F Kerry and TV personality David Letter alike?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hot Dog Diplomancy Off for Iranian Diplomats

Apparently the idea of extending hot dog diplomacy to Iran is off.  At least according to Allahpundit it is off.

This seems reasonable.

The side story here is that the typical Embassy Fourth of July celebration is not a US Government funded activity.  Due to the continuing cuts in Embassy funds over the years, the Embassy goes out and solicits money from US firms overseas to pay for the celebration.  How embarrassing.  I wonder what Niki thinks about that?  What about our two Senators?  Maybe I will stop by and ask tomorrow.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gerbalism

Yesterday at the Accuracy in Media Blog Daniel Glover talked about a commencement address at the University of Oregan.  The commentary is a bit over the top and a bit partisan (anti-Obama), but the point made in the commencement address is a good one.  Per Mr Glove,
Doug Bates doesn't know it yet, but with the help of his daughter, the associate editor of The Oregonian has coined the perfect descriptor for journalism in the Age of Obama:  "gerbilism."
The talk Mr Doug Bates gave can be found here.  As Blogger Glover tells us, Mr Bates explained:
As a child, his young daughter confused Bates' profession with the name of her favorite rodent in a school report about what her parents did for a living.  "My dad Doug works at the newspaper," she wrote.  "First he went to college to learn about gerbilism."
So, with the gerbil as the example, Mr Bates, the commencement speaker, goes on...
Lately, I've been thinking about that long-ago school paper, and I've decided "gerbilism" is a pretty good word for what's been going on in the news media these days.  Gerbilism is an apt term for something that's soft and warm and cuddly, safe and timid, with no sharp teeth and no bite whatsoever.  Gerbilism, I've decided, is partly responsible for a lot of our nation's problems today.
Not the whole story, but part of the story.  Tough as The Boston Globe thinks it is on Beacon Hill, it isn't.  It is "gerbilism."

On the other hand, in the Netherlands they are going to fix the problem of newspapers with a tax.  A tax on the internet at the ISP, to fund the old approach.

Regards  —  Cliff

Flying

Flying is fun.  It is the kind of thing that is worth working hard to participate in.  It is different for different people.  Here is one person's attempt to fly.


I hope that our move from fossil fuel does not prevent people who want to from learning to fly.

Regards  —  Cliff

Added Blog

I added the Jackie Doherty blog to my Blog List for Lowell. I did it for three reasons:
  • Jackie seems to be the only elected local official with a blog and that should be honored
  • What is happening with our Schools is very important and we need to be paying attention to all sources of information
  • Jackie actually knows who I am and such a thing needs to be honored
Lowell is lucky to have so many blogs, some of which are wonderful and some of which raise some questions as to taste.  But, this isn't Canada and no one has the right to be free from being offended.  Long live the First Amendment.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Double Standard?

Earlier I blogged on the actions of The New York Times with regard to its intrepid reporter, David Rohde.

Apparently I wasn't the only one to ask about a possible double standard.  The well respected Howard Kurtz talked about it in his blog today.  I leave it to you to figure out how you feel about it.  As I said before, I think they did the right thing, but choices such as this need to be made with a degree of humility.

Regards  —  Cliff

Iran Voting

From what I can tell, the President did well in his Press Conference.  There is some nattering about a planted question, but it does not become a habit, this "question from an Iranian source" was a good strategic communications move.

As to the vote itself, a preliminary analysis has been done and four main points made:
  • In two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.
  • If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory was primarily caused by the increase in voter turnout, one would expect the data to show that the provinces with the greatest increase in voter turnout would also show the greatest 'swing' in support towards Ahmadinejad.  This is not the case.
  • In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups.
  • In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas.  That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth.  The claim that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces flies in the face of these trends.
Having heard differently about the rural areas, I am not sure I am ready to accept this judgment, but still, the other three bullets alone suggest a problem with the vote counting.

This is not going to get better with age.  The Iraqi establishment is setting itself up for a long term tarnishment of its image.  I know they don't see it, but then neither did Kermit Roosevelt, Jr.

There are a lot of statistics in the report and maybe my Daughter, who once did some analysis for Memet Ali, will look at this and leave a comment indicating that this looks OK or not.

Regards  —  Cliff

Protests in Iran

Protests in Iran are a problem not only for Iranian leaders, but also for US leaders.  And, Senator John McCain's speech on the Senate floor (described as Angry by the L A Times) may have driven the US President to hold a news conference.  Again, going back to the L A Times, the President is trying to move from Defense to Offense.

It will be interesting to see what the President says.  He is on the right course, but his packaging may need adjustment.  Going out to play golf, as he did Sunday, may be the wrong signal.

It will be interesting to see how the President proceeds, and important to the game underway.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot Dog Diplomacy

Someone I exchange EMails with suggested that now is the time to make the point that Iranian Diplomats around the world are not welcome at our Fourth of July Parties this year, given what their Government is doing to their own People.  I think this person is correct.  Maybe next year, but until the beatings stop, no invite.

"US says hot dog diplomacy still on with Iran"

Regards  —  Cliff

Korea and Extended Deterrence

Extended deterrence?  Who knows what that means?  Amongst those who do, who would have thought it was still around?

Well, Reporter Richard Halloran thinks so.  Writing in the Honolulu Advertiser he picks up on the nuance at a recent Presidential Press Conference and writes on it.
Last week, however, Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea issued a joint statement saying that "the continuing commitment of extended deterrence, including the U.S. nuclear umbrella," provides assurance that the U.S. would respond if Pyongyang ever puts into action the threats it has repeatedly hurled at South Korea.
As the opinion piece writer says, we have had a recent re-articulation of our Extended Deterrence policy.  The Air Force reissued its Air Force Doctrine Document, Nuclear Operations, on 7 May 2009.  The doctrine has been renumbered, to AFDD 2-12.
Extended Deterrence
During the Cold War the US provided for the security of its allies by threatening a nuclear response in the event of an attack on them by the Soviet Union.  This policy, based on the threat of retaliation, served as the foundation for what is now called extended deterrence.  Extended deterrence remains an important pillar of US policy; however, its application in the context of the 21st century is very different from the Cold War.  Today, extended deterrence is less about retaliation and more about posturing to convince an enemy that they are unlikely to achieve the political and military objectives behind any attack on the US or one of our allies.

Through alliances and treaties, our extended deterrence strategy provides a nuclear umbrella to friendly and allied nations.  Our nuclear umbrella assures allies of our commitment to their security and serves as a nonproliferation tool by obviating their need to develop and field their own nuclear arsenals.

In the case of the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO), the deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe is not a Service or regional command issue—it is an Alliance issue.  Moreover, actions concerning nuclear posture in NATO have an impact on the perceptions of our allies elsewhere.
Unfortunately, life continues to be interesting.

Regards  —  Cliff

What Did She Know?

And when did she know it?

According to Mother Jones Senator Dianne Feinstein is not happy with the IC's contribution to our knowledge of what is happening in Iran.  This is based upon, in part, a post at the CNN Political Ticker, located here.
“I don’t think our intelligence – candidly — is that good.  I think it’s a very difficult country in which to collect intelligence right now.  I think our ability to get in there and change the course of human events is very low . . .”
The Senator then goes on to say that we are NOT trying to impact the course of human events in Iran. She bases that on briefings to, one would assume, the "Gang of Eight," by people from Clandestine Operations.

After praising President Obama for his handling of the situation, Senator Feinstein goes on to say:
“It is very crucial, as I see, that we not have our fingerprints on this. That this really be truly inspired by the Iranian people,” Feinstein said.  “This is really within the hands of Mr. Moussavi, with his supporters, with the bulk of the Iranian people.  And I think the important thing is that this may well reveal the enormous fallacy behind this Iranian religious-inspired regime,” she added.
But, does DiFi really think the Iranians believe that we aren't sticking our oar in this water?  Are there folks who think that we are prepared to actually "get in there and change the course of human events," as DiFI said?  And leave no fingerprints?

The President's efforts to keep the rhetoric down is a good move at this point.  It is like watching a car crash in front of you.  You want to shout out advice and do something, but there is nothing you can do.

Regards  —  Cliff

Keeping Secrets

I was thinking about blogging about Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her membership in the Belizean Grove, a female counterpart to the all male Bohemian Grove.  I picked up on it from reading a Michael Kinsley opinion piece in The Washington Post.  I like Michael Kinsley as an opinion writer and I liked him on "Cross Fire" and at Slate.  That doesn't mean I agree with him.  But he is smart and honest. (Hat tip to Instapundit.)

But, then I saw where The New York Times, and some other newspapers, have been keeping a secret for the last seven months.  This secret is that one of the reporters for The Times had been kidnapped and was being held captive by the Taliban.  On the recommendation of experts on kidnapping and negotiations The New York Times elected to keep it all quiet and other newspapers, like The Washington Post, went along.  Here is part of a news report from the WashPost:
"From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David's family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages.  The kidnappers initially said as much," Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, said in a story posted on the Times' Web site.

"We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David's plight have done the same.  We are enormously grateful for their support."
I think The New York Times and the WashPost and other news outlets did the right thing to keep quiet about this.

That said, it gives me a more jaundiced view of those situations where The New York Times sees fit to disclose military secrets, based upon the right of the People to know.  I like the right of the People to know.  I also like to see a balance when it involves the lives of our Service members and the security of our nation.  I just think I would like to see The New York Times appearing a little less sanctimonious about the whole "National Secrets" thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Protecting Our Children

I think it was Thursday that I was talking, at work, to Jane and Donna, about protecting children.  I am a generation older than both of these ladies, but still they were concerned about our culture's tendency to over-protection of children.

In "my day" things were a little looser, but there were two big differences.  First, there were a whole lot more children.  Second, there were a whole lot more mothers in the neighborhood, so it was a lot tougher to avoid being "supervised."

But, still, sometime before I was 13, and probably closer to 10 or 11, I walked home with my buddies one afternoon from the movies in the City of Woodbury, NJ, down the tracks of the train from Philly to Atlantic City.  The distance we walked was a couple of miles.  I also remember being out on the railway trestle on that same line, but south of our town.  It must have been 50 or 75 feet in the air—and I don't like high places.

So, I found the article in the "G Section" of the 20 June 2009 edition of The Boston Globe interesting.  By Joanna Weiss, it is "What, Mom worry?" I thought it was a good discussion of risks faced by children, and their parents.  Ms Weiss' attention getter is the question of letting her "almost-5-year-old" alone on the front stoop while she ran back in the house to get a lunchbox.
Last week, Lenore Skenazy set me straight by asking me a question: How long would you have to leave your kid outside alone for it to be statistically likely that she gets kidnapped?

Answer: 750,000 years.
I know times have changed. We lived in a hotel in London for a few weeks in 1974.  We were just down from Speaker's Corner. We let our 13 year old Daughter take her two younger Brothers on the Tube to a movie. We had all been on the Tube and it wasn't a mystery.  And, we all felt safe in London.  Would I do it again, today.  Of course not, but my then Daughter is older now and less reliable. ☺

This is a family group decision, but I hope parents are brave enough to give their children a little space, when they can.  Kids should not have to learn about the world after they turn 18.

Regards  —  Cliff

Interesting Sidelight

I was reading "The Column" in this Sunday's Lowell Sun and they had this item:
In related news, since last week council incumbents Rita Mercier and Jim Milinazzo have taken out their nomination papers, as have School Committee incumbents Dave Conway, Regina Faticanti and Jackie Dohert.
That would suggest to me that long time School Committee Member Regina Faticanti is not going "gentle into that good night."♠

We do have a situation here, between School Superintendent, Dr Chris Scott and Lowell School Committee Member Regina Faticanti. Neither side seems about to cut a deal, a view which is supported by this summary.

Given the situation and assuming nothing happens on the legal side between now and the election, it could be an interesting vote, come November.  Maybe it will bring out more residents of Lowell to the polling places.  That would be a good thing.  The current "situation" is not a good thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  With due respect to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

Quote of the Day

Over at Samizdata there is a debate raging over this quote:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

- Voltaire, rationalist & satirist (1694 - 1778)
Regards  —  Cliff

Happy Father's Day

The 21 June Funky Winkerbean cartoon sums it up.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 19, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

LATE!  LATE!  LATE!

Within the last seven days Instapundit has been running a GREEN masthead.

The question is, why?

The supplemental question is, what happened in 1953 that still reverberates today with regard to this situation.  The hint is that Kermit "Kim" Roosevelt, Jr. grandson of President T R Roosevelt, played a major role in this activity.

The answer to last week's OBQW is James (Goober) Smith, Brigadier General, USAF (ret).  Ambassador Designate Smith and I (and also his wife, Janet) taught together at the National War College (and there is Teddy Roosevelt again).  I believe what he brings to the table is that he is a known supporter of the President (one of the general and flag officers who stood up on stage to support then Senator Obama in his run) and his military background sends the signal of continued US military support for Saudi Arabia. General Smith is a former F-15 EAGLE Wing Commander and the F-15 is the jewel of the Royal Saudi Air Force.  These little connects are important in diplomacy.  So, in my mind a good choice.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Save Frank Rich Society

This has to be quick, because I have to get to bed, but I couldn't pass up this Roger Kimball blog on New York Times Opinion Writer Frank Rich.  As noted earlier, my Middle Brother, Lance, sent me a link to the column and I blogged it.

In the piece linked above, Mr Kimball was a little hard on Mr Rich.  Read the article to see how hard.

His idea for a "Save Frank Rich Society" is here:
We shouldn’t.  But we shouldn’t just leave it at that. Frank Rich is clearly a man who needs help.  He is delusional, intoxicated partly by what he thinks of as his power at The New York Times, partly by his panoply of dislikes.  It cannot be healthy, indulging in all that — can we use the word? — hate.  Let’s start a “Save Frank Rich Society,” whose first aim would be to relieve him of a post in which he is clearly doing himself, and his newspaper, grave damage.  A man of his talents should really be elsewhere — writing PR for ACORN, for example.  Can’t someone find him an honest — or at least another — job?
The other interesting part of this was Comment Five from "Ryan."
You Republicans are the jokers.  A tiny racist party of fat, white, balding [DELETED] who wrecked the country and the army. No one gives a crap what you think now. WHY, BECAUSE YOU LOST THE ELECTION!
(My deletion.)

I wonder what "Ryan" will be saying in 17 months.  If the Republicans lose again in November 2010, he will feel justified.  If they win, then he will feel ... what, disgust with the voters?

In the interest of full disclosure, I buy, and read, The New York Times every Sunday. The Route 38 Store holds a copy for me.  I used to also buy The Washington Post, but the delivery chain broke down months ago and has not been reestablished.  (The WashPost has great comics.)  I guess I could drive down to Harvard Square to see if they have it.  Thinking.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Streets of Tehran

From Bloomberg News we have this information on the ongoing protests over the results of the Iranian 2009 Presidental Election.
Tens of thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi rallied yesterday in the capital of Tehran in a fifth day of demonstrations, as Iran’s Foreign Ministry registered a diplomatic protest over what it called “interfering remarks” by U.S. officials since the vote.
Mr Mir Hossein Mousavi received only 34% of the vote in the recent elections, to the 63% won by current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The outcome was totally against expectations and has raised the idea of voter fraud, not just on the part of Mr Mousavi and his followers, but across the globe.

(I think that if it had been 52% for President Ahmadinejad it would have been much more believable, given his support out in the countryside—although the majority of Iranians live in urban areas.)

The support outside Iran is subdued, but there are actions of support, including doing things to sustain Twitter, which is the social networking tool presently being used.  Apparently "Flash Crowds" are back.

I noted that Instapundit now has a green banner—green being the color of Mr Mousavi's insurgent efforts.

When I took my wife out to LongHorn Restaurant for dinner (half way between the DRC Mother Ship off the 93 Freeway in Andover and our home in the Belvidere), I found the receipts and the credit card receipt printed on green paper.  So, I asked the Greeter if this was in support of the Iranian opposition.  His response was that they don't support Iran.  I further explained and he said that if I supported Mousavi, then they support Mousavi.  Good answer.

It does seem the issue of the election, which is fraught with so much potential to see things change in the Middle East, is being downplayed in the US media, notwithstanding the Iranian Foreign Ministry protest about US interference.

So far, fifteen people have been killed as the Central Government tries to suppress the protests.  What is interesting is that the protesters are not just college students, but includes middle aged people.  Here is a photograph from Teheran


and an anonymous quote to go with it:
If the Iranian regime does not put this down hard and fast they are going to crumble.  When the respectable "Mom" starts taking swings at the cops or the regimes attack dogs, something has dramatically begun to change.  And if "Mom's" take to the streets and are gunned down—then the regime will be on borrowed time, and we may see a replay of Romanian circa. 1989.
This is an interesting series of events and very serious.  It also raises the question of if we should have a "realist" view of the Middle East or if we should be taking a view of the area that puts an emphasis on spreading democracy♠.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  In researching the links I came across the Henry Jackson Society.  I always like Senator Scoop Jackson.

Joe Mendonca Kick Off

Joe Mendonca is running for City Council.  Joe was on the School Committee for some time, doing a great job.  Then he ran for City Council and came in 10th and actually got on for a few weeks, when a Council Member resigned.  But, then he ran again and was again the runner up.

Needless to say, I am a big fan of Joe's.

Joe is running again.  He dropped off a "mass mailing" at the Post Office, which went adrift.  Given that (1) Joe has done this before and (2) we have one of the better Post Offices in the nation, this is a low probability event, but such things do happen.  So, I am posting on the mailing, which is an invite to his Kick Off Event.

Where:  Lowell Elks Lodge on Old Ferry Road
Date:     Thursday, June 18th
Time:     7-9 PM

Suggested contribution is $20 per person

Regarding the contribution, I was at a meeting last night where we touched on the cost of running. The two people who got on the City Council last time for the first time spent an average of $42,000. That is a lot of money. If we are going to encourage people to run for office—and people have to run for our system of government to work—we are going to have to help fund them.  We is you and me.

I hope to see you there.

Regards  —  Cliff

Canadian Freedoms

Here is a post at Reason on Jennifer Lynch, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Those of you following this may remember that she is the one who went after Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, and lost.

From one of the Commenters:
Ms. Lynch apparently just doesn't get that whole free speech thingee. No surprise there. A whole lot of people, left and right, some well meaning, some less so, don't understand why free expression is the most important right that a human possesses.
Remember, in Canada, if you feel offended by what someone says you can go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and they can, at no expense to you, haul that person into a hearing and if they find against that person prohibit him or her from saying such hurtful things again. And, the person hauled before the commission gets to pay for his or her defense.

I tagged this "First Amendment," but remember, in Canada there is no such thing as a First Amendment, in any form. As Ms Lynch says:
Tolerance and open-mindedness are ideals to which Canadians have subscribed, and are part of the quest for equality that has come to define our country all over the world. They are the foundation of the Canadian Human Rights Act, whose promise is to give effect "to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have" without discrimination....

There is no hierarchy of rights with some rights having greater importance than others. They work together toward a common purpose.

It is up to legislators and courts to find the appropriate balance that best protects the human rights and freedoms of all citizens.
You get some free speech, but not so much that you might offend me.

Or put another way (quoting from a Wikipedia article on this Canadian organism):
In an exchange during the Marc Lemire case, lead CHRC investigator Dean Steacy was asked "What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?" Steacy responded: "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value. It's not my job to give value to an American concept." (The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to "freedom of expression" whereas the U.S. Constitution refers to "freedom of speech.")
I guess we could put that down to a common language and border and a total separation of ideas.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Voting in Lowell

Tonight I was at a meeting of Bloggers (Lynne Lupien of Left in Lowell, Dick Howe of the eponymously named RichardHowe.com and Greg Page, The New Englander.  Our presenter was Victoria Fahlberg, of "One Lowell," and our host was Gallagher and Cavanaugh, LLP.

The topic was changing the way we count votes in Lowell.  The aim was to increase voter participation and thus increase the common good by involving more of the citizens.

I have blogged about this before.  HERE on 3 April 2009.

The idea is that in addition to voting for your favorite nine for City Council (or fav six for School Committee), you rank your votes, your favorite on top and down to the candidate who just edged out number ten.  Then, when the votes are counted, all those with a majority are in and then the weighted votes are counted to try and give someone else a majority.  The description of the process can be found HERE.

Here is where I stand on this.  Too few residents of Lowell are voting in local elections.  For us to move forward into the 21st Century we all need to be involved, and that includes voting (and many more of us need to run for office).  Changing how votes are counted might help that.  It takes a charter change to change how we vote (back to the way it was in the 1940s).  To get a charter change each of you has to do two things:
  • Sign the petition, and
  • Vote for the petition when it comes up on the ballot in November
I fully support this idea and urge you to also support it.

Further, for those of you who wonder, the Lowell Republican City Committee voted in its last meeting to support this ballot signature drive.

If Left in Lowell and Right-Side-of-Lowell can get together on this, it should be easy for the rest of you.

If you want to sign a petition, contact One Lowell or contact me and I will bring the petition by for your signature.  Because it is a change to our charter we need eight percent of registered voters (some 52,000) or over 4,000 signature--and closer to 6,000 since some will be thrown out.  All by 31 July of this year.

CORRECTION:  It should have been Lynne Lupien and has now been corrected.

Regards  —  Cliff

Temporary Change in Format

I am conducting a test, so that I can talk intelligently about moderating comments with someone I know.  I have thus thrown the "Moderate Comments" switch.  I am not sure how long this will last, but not long, I suspect.  Then it will be back to the free-for-all it was meant to be.

In the mean time, please post comments, so I can practice the "moderation" that I need.

Thanks for your understanding as I explore the limits of the technological envelope.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 15, 2009

How We Poll, Politically

Today Gallup released a new poll.  Ms Lydia Saad, writing for Gallup, had this headline:
“Conservatives” Are Single-Largest Ideological Group
Percentage of “liberals” higher this decade than in early ’90s
This item can be found here.

The lead paragraph sums it up.
PRINCETON, NJ -- Thus far in 2009, 40% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal.  This represents a slight increase for conservatism in the U.S. since 2008, returning it to a level last seen in 2004.  The 21% calling themselves liberal is in line with findings throughout this decade, but is up from the 1990s.
Ms Saad's "Bottom Line"♠
Although the terms may mean different things to different people, Americans readily peg themselves, politically, into one of five categories along the conservative-to-liberal spectrum.  At present, large minorities describe their views as either moderate or conservative—with conservatives the larger group—whereas only about one in five consider themselves liberal.

While these figures have shown little change over the past decade, the nation appears to be slightly more polarized than it was in the early 1990s.  Compared with the 1992-1994 period, the percentage of moderates has declined from 42% to 35%, while the percentages of conservatives and liberals are up slightly—from 38% to 40% for conservatives and a larger 17% to 21% movement for liberals.
The only problem is that the author makes the assumption that "moderate" represents the middle and everything else is a deviation from the middle.  Is that really true?

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  I find "Bottom Line" to be an irritating phrase.

Interesting Op-Ed

My Middle Brother sent me this link to an OpEd by Mr Frank Rich, from Sunday's New York Times.

I can't really say what is typical of a Frank Rich OpEd, since I tend to only read them on Sundays, but I do find him a monomaniac.  He is not so much an analyst as a polemicist.  So, here is what I wrote my Brother; well with the edits that an additional reading bring to mind.

Frank Rich is a danger himself, but at least he recognizes that Shep Smith is fair and balanced.  This OpEd was not.

It is all about the Right with Mr Rich.  What about that Muslim terrorist who killed one US soldier and wounded another, in our country?  Not a mention.

And, as for the Dep't of Homeland Security booklet that is supposed to be a "report about far-right domestic terrorism," I read it.  It wasn't "plausible," as Frank Rich asserted it was.  It was a terrible amateurish job.  Mr Dibbs, my Nineth Grade Social Studies Teacher, would have given me a "C" for such work, but only out of sympathy for my having made an effort, however bad it was.

There is—there always has been—a group of folks who are the followers of the "No Nothings."  Some bring us political reform, like cleaning up City Government, a hundred years ago.  Today some just talk a good game and some are a danger.  My concern is that Frank Rich is out to paint all the Republicans into that "No Nothing" corner with these incidents.

Besides not talking about the Muslim who killed the soldier (how do we classify that?) why does he not try to capture some of the Republicans instead of just speaking to the Democrats?  Why doesn't he say, for instance, look at Gov Palin, who understands bi-racial affairs, even in her own marriage, and then build on that?  His overheated rheoteric makes it sound like all of us Republicans are nut cases.

Yuch!

Regards  —  Cliff

He Hides Behind His Jokes.

Over at Instapundit we have a link to Pajamas TV and "Zonation."  The item is "AlfonZo Rachel Presents:  Letterman, Palin and a Topless Drew Barrymore".

To see the video you have to sit through a 30 second commercial for Pajamas TV.  One thing you learn from the commercial is that Pajamas TV is a lot cheaper per month that The Boston Globe.  The content can't be must worse.

I think that Mr AlfonZo Rachel nails it with regard to Mr David Letterman.  Mr Letterman hides behind his jokes as he pushes his own particular political views.  It isn't pretty.

On the other hand, it is reported that this evening Mr Letterman will take another shot at an apology.  Maybe this time he will show that he is serious about the apology.  I would hold off on this post except that I am going to bed soon and won't be staying up to watch Mr Letterman.  I will count on the Blog-o-sphere to update me in the AM.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feeling Isolated

My wife and I were down to NYC for a birthday party on Saturday.  My wife's cousin's wife turned 70. Lucy Bulliet, whose CV is here.  The neatest gift was a painting of Lucy by her husband.  Lucy was portrayed as a Hindu goddess, complete with four arms.  The feet were a little strange, but the head and the arms were very good.  And one of the four hands held a cherry, which went with Lucy's maiden name, Cherry.

Roughly 25 people were at the party and I feel very confident that my wife and I were the only Republicans present.  Lucy has a whole Obama collage on the wall of the hallway to the kitchen.  That said, this group of Martha's relatives love to mix politics and bridge and food and have a great time.  And I love it.  However, at this party there was one awkward moment.

There was a book on the living room coffee table about the death of Adolph Hitler, based upon the recently opened Kremlin files.  Since my wife just finished a course at UMass Lowell on the Holocaust and had read large sections of Mein Kampf for the course, she had commented on how Herr Hitler was expert at speaking to crowds and how his technique was to keep refining an idea toward its simplest form, in order to sell it.  She pointed out how Hitler's Myers Briggs personality type would tend to lead him in this direction. She then noted that she thought that David Axelrod had done that for President Obama during the campaign.  At that, one person, a friend of Lucy's husband from back in Illinois said, "We can't talk politics."  That was that.

Needless to say, this felt strange.  I found myself in the political minority and feeling that I was best off keeping my mouth shut.  My wife later went up to this woman and apologized and said that she had not meant to offend.

In a nice gesture, Sal, the son-in-law of my wife's other cousin, came up later and said something to the effect of "We complained for eight years under Bush, you should be free to complain for the next four or eight years."  Sal is a good kid (compared to me) from Philly (PhD in Marine Biology), and like me, an out lander.  I really appreciated his comment.

And, we all need to keep talking.

TYPO CORRECTION:  Don L noted that I typed "when" instead of "went."  Corrected.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Willow Palin

Can we send Mr David Letterman to Coventry?  Like we should have done with Mr Woody Allen, for his relationship with his step-daughter?

Making a joke about Governor Sarah Palin's 14 year-old daughter, Willow, seems like a new low.

As someone put it:
sometimes, schmucks like Letterman just cross the line.  His ilk should be shunned by any man with any sense.... no matter what political view.
Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

Here is one for everyone to play.

Who did the President nominate to be the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia?

Hint.  Someone who lives inside a 50 mile radius of Lowell.

For extra points, where do he and his wife live?

And, for discussion—here you get another hint—why is this person a good choice.  (Let it be noted that I think this person is a good choice, but not because he or she speaks Arabic—doesn't.  Or because this person is a Middle East expert—isn't.)  The hint is you can find this person's biography if you go to this web site.

And one last chance for extra points.  What is this person's nickname.  It comes out of a Civil War marching song.

And, last week's answer was Sal DiMasi.  It is so sad.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Letter to the Editor

The editor of The Lowell Sun, that is.

This is Sunday's "Ups and Downs" editorial.

State officials can't continue dragging their feet on a strong ethics reform plan or Massachusetts voters may completely lose faith in state government, a feeling that could result in major changes come Election Day.

With last week's indictment of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi—the third time in a row that a speaker has been indicted on federal charges—Beacon Hill lawmakers are feeling pressure from residents to act on ethics reform. The reform proposals put forward last week by the House, Senate and governor do not go far enough.

Bay State residents often joke that state ethics is an oxymoron, but the joke has gone on too long. Massachusetts citizens are no longer laughing, and it's time for state lawmakers to change the status quo.

Massachusetts residents have enough problems without having to constantly worry that corrupt politicians are lining their pockets at the expense of struggling taxpayers.

The Sun has previously called for term limits for the speaker of the House and we do so again. People in powerful positions for long periods of time can far too easily succumb to arrogance and feel as though laws do not pertain to them. By limiting the speaker's reign, Massachusetts can strive to limit the abuse of that position.
The Sun missed the boat. Nothing is going to happen unless (a) there is a major depression and the whole Democratic Party goes down for the count or (b) one of the three Muskateers is found in the famous Governor Edwin Edwards' proposed pickle on one of his runs for election.

To change who runs Beacon Hill will require a "Trinity" of factors:
  • The People—That would be our residents here in Lowell who will have to have the willingness to turn their backs on the incumbents, but also willing to write checks and gather signatures and hold signs for insurgents (see below, Lamb).
  • The Press—All the Media; The Lowell Sun, WCAP, The Boston Globe, etc, willing to not only denounce corruption but to denounce individual Representatives by name for not voting for a corruption free operations, and moreover, going out and finding potential candidates and promoting them.
  • The Lamb—That would be the sacrificial lamb willing to run for office against overwhelming odds.
Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Holy Land

The President's speech on Thursday, in Cairo, has increased the spin in the commentariat.  I would say, all-in-all, it did the job the President wanted it to do.  Now the question is, was that enough.

I liked the fact that he made plain that the Holocaust happened.  Denial is not helping things.  The more Iran denies it the more paranoid the people in Israel will become.  The real problem there is that when you have enemies, it isn't really paranoia.

Are we ever going to get a solution to that problem?  Will we have peace?  Will there be space for Israel to exist alongside its Arab neighbors, in peace, free from the random bombings and rocket attacks it now endures?  Will the Palestinians find a homeland and a chance to become a people with the ability to choose their own future?  Is Gaza not a virtual prison, with Israel controlling all entry and exit, including all imports?

Then there is the question, do the Arabs need Israel as an issue. Somewhere I saw where someone attributed that idea to one of his professors, a P J Vatikotis.  (Can you believe it, someone who didn't make it into Wikipedia?)  The same person who raised the issue of if the Arabs need Israel as a focus of their attention also pointed out that the Arabs cite the Crusader States and how it took the Arabs 200 years to make them go away, but eventually they did.  Memories go back a long way in that neighborhood.  If the Arab mentality is that this will take 200 years to fix, but in the end Israel will go away, then thoughts of "peace" are probably misplaced.

As Clausewitz points out, the Defender, in a way, is always responsible for the war.  The Defender could have just given in to the demands of the Aggressor.  And, if those who went before us had developed a national concensus to allow for Jewish immigration out of Germany in the 1930s, before the Holocaust took off, then we might not have this problem today.  But, that was a different era and a time with different concerns.  I can just hear people in 1938 saying that Germans surely wouldn't kill millions of Jews, just because they are Jewish, would they?

President Obama is trying a new approach to this area, one different from that of his predecessors.  I hope he has better luck than they did.

Regards  —  Cliff

Homelessness Encouraged

I am hoping this story has been turned around by the time I got around to posting it, but it tells us something about having too many rules and being too ridgid in our application of those rules. Isn't there anyone who knows how to turn a blind eye? Isn't there anyone who knows how and when to use "basket leave"?

This is from Don Schruber and concerns a homeless man in San Francisco, who tried to turn his life around.  Turns out it was a mistake.
The city bureaucracy robbed a homeless man of the money he made shining shoes — in the name of getting a $491 sidewalk vendor permit.
It is just sad. I am part of the set of Lowell Homelessness Plan sub-committees and am happy to report that I have not seen this kind of short range, sub-optomizing, thinking here in Lowell and if I do see it I pray that I have the courage to point it out.

The Blog author, Don Surber, ends with this:
I left my heart in San Francisco. It needed it more because it had none.
Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit.

Missed It

It turns out there is a place called Wikio, that monthly lists the top political blogs.

I didn't make it into the top 100 and they don't list down to where this blog sits. In fact, none of the Lowell Blogs made it. I guess we just have to get a little tougher and garner more links.

Hat tip to Instanpundit, who took me to ABC News' Rick Klien, who sent me to the site referenced.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 5, 2009

Presidential Signing Statements

According to John Elwood, blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, President Obama is ahead in signing statements four to one vs former President Bush, for this point in his Presidency.

Here is one that has statements that might raise concerns. If the Congress can't act to cut off funds or actions, where is its power?  Not that I am advocating it, but if Congress voted to cut off all funding for Iraq on or after 1 October 2009, could the President blow it away with a "Signing Statement"?

Regards  —  Cliff

Words to Live By

Kimberly Dozier, who is a reporter who got "blown up" in Iraq, delivered the commencement address at her alma mater today.  The line I like is;
Set out every day to live with grace, honor and a certain degree of stubbornness—hopeful stubbornness, but stubbornness, in everything I do.
A hat tip to someone I know who shall remain anonymous, per some archaic, but useful, rules.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

This week's Question has to do with State politics.

Amongst the several current and former Speakers of the Great and General Court, who have been indicted, who is the most recent?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Reading the letters in The Boston Globe one hears cries of anguish over this situation, but not clear thinking. Here is Mr Walter W Horan, of Marblehead:
During these stressful economic times, the citizens of the Commonwealth have reached a breaking point with arrogant and self-serving legislative "leaders."
The fact is, no breaking point has been reached.  We will know a breaking point has been reached when people write in and say they are going to run in a primary, against an incumbent, or run as a Republican or Libertarian or Peace and Freedom Party candidate against the incumbent.  We will know we are really there when folks start shouting, throw the bums out, including MY bum.  Until then it is a case of your Rep (or State Senator) is a disgrace, but mine is just fine.  That is a guarantee that things will continue as they are.  Steady as she goes.  No Change.

Here is my test, Mr Horan.  Write a check for $500 to my campaign fund.  I don't have one at this time, but if I got a check like that I would sure start one.  The fact is, Money talks, rhetoric walks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Graduation

Speaking of being late, I am late with this one also.

On this last Monday my co-worker Dawn Grasso finished her last class for her last course for her Bachelor's Degree.  Since I am one of those who bugged her about getting her degree, I stand forward to offer my total congratulations for a job well done.

Actually, a better job that I did.  Dawn got a 3.85 GPA.  I managed to squeak out a 2.87 when I graduated—and had some time on the Dean's bad list (Academic Probation).

And congratulations to her husband, Louis, who helped her accomplish this goal.  Dawn works in the same office I do, as did her husband, until he got a job here in Lowell, working on production of undersea cables.  I now refer to Louis as "the cable guy."

Of course, this wouldn't be complete without me noting that after a great Summer Break the Masters Degree is beckoning this fall.

One of the many nice things to come out of this is that one of Dawn's co-workers is looking at doing a degree program herself.

In this global economy, with knowledge and inventiveness being the key to success, we need to be encouraging everyone to go for more education.  Think about how many college graduates India and China are producing each year.  It is global competition and we need for everyone to be armed to compete.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Over at Then there is this there is a post on one of the seven Harvard graduates to obtain a commission this year.  My colleague at Then there is this knows this young lady, since her Father is a classmate and squadron mate of his.  A nice story.

Breakup

Boy am I late on this!

Breakup was 1 May 2009 at 8:41 P.M. Alaska Standard Time.

There were two winners. One was Stephen Gregory, from Galena, Alaska, who purchased his tickets at Just Haircuts in Fairbanks, Alaska. The other was Claudia Russell from Juneau, Alaska, who purchased her tickets at Foodland Super Drug in Juneau, Alaska.

Juneau is the Capital of Alaska. Galena is an Athabascan (or Athabaskan) town of 675 people, with an airfield capable of handling jet fighters, although the Air Force no longer pulls air defense alert at the airfield.

The Jackpot was $283,723.00 and was paid on 1 June 2009.

Regards  —  Cliff

Breakup

Boy am I late on this!

May 1, 2009 at 8:41 P.M. Alaska Standard Time
Stephen Gregory from Galena Alaska purchased his tickets
at Just Haircuts in Fairbanks Alaska.
Claudia Russell from Juneau Alaska purchased her tickets at Foodland Super Drug in Juneau Alaska.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Space Plane

This looked interesting (I found it on Drudge).  The X-37 is slated to launch at the beginning of the new year.

While the X-37, a product of Boeing's "Phantom Works" at Lambert Field, in St Louis, does not carry people, it is a reusable space vehicle, which should cut down on costs.  Also, not being man rated it should be even cheaper.

Here is an item on an early drop test from the (Scaled Composites of Mojave, California) White Knight.  The actual launch into space will be via an Atlas:
Tucked inside the shroud of an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), the winged craft will be boosted out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, orbit the Earth and then make an auto-pilot landing in California.
We land UAVs every day in a remote fashion and the Soviet Union landed a Space Shuttle size vehicle on auto-pilot after boosting it into space.  This should work out fine.

Regards  —  Cliff