Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Gov't in Tokyo

The World may be flat, but in the political terrain it is constantly undulating.

In Japan we have had an historic change of Government.
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's next leader Yukio Hatoyama, fresh from a historic election win, faced the task on Monday of forming a government to tackle challenges such as reviving the economy and steering a new course with close ally Washington.

Sunday's victory by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ends a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and breaks a deadlock in parliament, ushering in a government that has promised to focus spending on consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of bureaucrats.
In economics, the new Government is likely to be more Keynesian
Analysts say the decade-old Democrats' spending plans might give a short-term lift to the economy, just now emerging from recession, but worry that its programs will boost a public debt already equal to about 170 percent of GDP.
In Foreign Policy the new Government will likely steer a course more independent of the US.
The Democrats want to forge a diplomatic stance more independent of the United States, raising fears about possible friction in the alliance. They have also vowed to improve ties with Asian neighbors, often frayed by bitter wartime memories.

"(Hatoyama) is basically articulating the idea that the U.S.-led Pax Americana era has come to an end," said Sheila Smith at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Maybe VP Biden was correct after all.  No, just a lucky guess based on having lived about six decades.

Regards  —  Cliff

Patrick Murphy Out and About

To quote from his Press Release:
In walking the city, Murphy has been heartened by the response.  Campaigning in all kinds of weather—the torrential rain this past Saturday, and the extreme heat just weeks ago—Murphy has worked hard to spread his positive message, his priorities on the council, and his sense of responsible leadership.  The Campaign is on schedule to reach its hopes of canvassing all of Lowell, as Murphy seeks to represent the whole of the city, not simply become the surrogate for a few.

Since his blue and white signs were printed little over a week ago, well over a hundred of Patrick Murphy's have been placed on private property, with many more to go up later this week. As the campaign's signs, message, and recognition have spread, so has the support and volunteerism increased for it.
I can't vouch for Patrick Murphy, but I know his Mother and Father were out and about in my part of the Belvedere.  Signs popped up and people were canvased.  I found out that the two parents are former school teachers.

I like Mr Murphy's letter to Governor Deval Patrick, concerning our now lost Preliminary Election.  Well written and clear.  Made a good case, although apparently not good enough.  On the other hand, I didn't do any better.

In a move that might appeal to Kad Barma, amongst others, Patrick Murphy, at his web site, says of elections:
We must therefore also change the larger system itself. I intend to lead by example, to refuse campaign donations, to forgo the councilors’ stipend and benefits, to clear a path to victory that turns this deeply flawed system upside down and widens what is thought possible for future elections.
This will be a test of if big money is needed to win elections in the city.  With people in 2007 spending tens of thousands of dollars, Mr Murphy will be giving us a good example of it smart campaigning, with the proper message, can win a seat on the City Council.

And, Mr Patrick Murphy seems to have a sense of humor.  Check out the picture.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Peace in the Holy Land—Jimmy Carter

Former President has again written on peace for the Middle East, or at least between Israel and Palestine.

I have put off writing this review between my hope is at war with my pessimism.  That has not happened.  In fact this Blog Post started on 7 July and it is now 29 August.  Still little hope.

Here is the "other side of the coin," presented as an interview by Michael J Totten of writer Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.  Mr Goldberg has written about his relationship with a prisoner Prisoners:  A Story of Friendship and Terror.

A first-hand understanding of how they think.  People in the United States find it hard to understand how people in Hamas and Hezbollah think.  It’s alien.  It’s alien to us.  The feverish racism and conspiracy mongering, the obscurantism, the apocalyptic thinking – we can’t relate to that.  Every so often, there’s an eruption of that in a place like Waco, Texas, but we’re not talking about 90 people in a compound.  We’re talking about whole societies that are captive to this kind of absurdity.
That isn't a helpful start.  In noting this quote I do it because Michael Totten is a serious roving journalist, a person worthy of some respect.

President Carter argues for US involvement:
Again, American leadership and involvement has been lacking but are key to an agreement.  From the United States' side an ancillary potential benefit is the possibility of Syria's increased cooperation in achieving our goals in Iraq, the promotion of peace in Lebanon, and reduction of terrorism in the region.  American cooperation will also be required in resolving other Israel-Syria issues involving water rights, the environment, and trade. (p 171)
SPOILER ALERT!  The basic plan President Carter proposes is (page 181):
  • A demilitarized Palestinian state, with international security forces.
  • Land swaps to keep some Israeli settlements around Jerusalem, but withdrawal of settlers elsewhere
  • A sharing of Jerusalem, which would be the capital of both states
  • Unity between Gaza and the West Bank and an agreement for Palestine and Israel to recognize a right to live side by side in peace
  • A specific time limit for achieving the goals
Back to Mr Goldberg and the Michael Totten interview.

This is why I’m negative about the intentions of Palestinians. If their goal were statehood, they could have had statehood.  Therefore, you have to give serious credence to the idea that their goal is not statehood, that it’s more important to rid the Arab world of Jewish nationalism than it is to have a Palestinian state that would improve the lives of individual Palestinians now.
And there you have it.  Peace is at hand, but only if Palestine is interested in statehood along side Israel.

The question is, how do we test that proposition and give the Israelis the sense that it isn't a single roll of the dice, with the stakes being their homeland?  I didn't think that President Carter answered that question.  On the other hand, how long can Israel hold out without a peace agreement with her neighbors?

Regards  —  Cliff

  This book has a copyright of 2009, with the first hardback being out in January 2009.  President Carter suggested on page 181 a date of September 2009.  I could barely read the book and review it by September 2009.

We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land:  A Plan That Will Work
Jimmy Carter
Simon & Schuster
New York
182 Pages plus annexes and index
$27.00 (Less with Amazon)

Are We Going to Mess Up Over Honduras?

For a refresher, the former President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, seeing himself as another Hugo Chávez, started trying to do things that ran around the Constitution, the Legislature and his own Attorney General.

Finally the Honduran Supreme Court said he was out of control and told the Army to arrest him.  Think about it.  Those people in the black robes staging a "coup."  Well, it wasn't a coup.

But, the US blunders ahead (from The Washington Times):
A U.S. State Department official told the Reuters news agency on Thursday that department staff have recommended that the ouster of Mr. Zelaya formally be declared a "military coup," which could deprive Honduras of millions of dollars in aid beyond about $18 million already suspended.
Are we concerned about what President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela says?

Here is what one person, not President Hugo Chávez said recently:
This is just hair-pulling dumb.   Dumbness following dumbness.   Be outraged; rattle the trees, sponsor negotiation.   But cutting off further aid?   More sanctions?  Wonder what the Hondurans think of their long-time ally now?   Wonder what Central America thinks?
No, this is not Kad Barma—not the use of capital letters. This is a person used to teach strategy at one of our war colleges here in the US.

Latin America is so important to the United States and is treated as such a backwater.  It is sad.

Regards  —  Cliff

Behind the Sun's Headlines

Over at the Lowell Republican City Blog is a comment on the local news about Mr Ames being fired and the the arrival of the FBI.

The post does briefly mention the Federal One Audit Act and the Public Integrity Section of the US Department of Justice.

I thought it was a great post.

Regard  —  Cliff

Congrats to Victoria Fahlberg

And now the hard work begins.

Dr Victoria Fahlberg and her Fair Vote Lowell ballot proposition has garnered enough signatures to get on the ballot in November.  Reporter Jennifer Myers writes:
Elections Office manager Gail Cenik reported that Victoria Fahlberg, the executive director of ONE Lowell who is spearheading the Fair Vote Lowell initiative, turned in 5,126 valid signatures yesterday, more than 900 above what was required for ballot placement.
To achieve her ultimate objective, Dr Fahlberg must not only muster a majority of those voting in the November election, but must also get out a large segment of the voters.  She needs far more than the normal 12,000 or so who vote in local elections.  In fact, one-third of the registered voters.  We normally turn out about 25%.  That is because of the rules for amending the Charter for a Plan E type of government.

The explanation of the ballot initiative is best left to the Fair Vote Lowell web site.  One of the points I will make is that it is designed to better weigh the needs and interests of the voters.  In 2007 only one candidate, Rita Mercier, received one half the vote plus one vote.  The rest were elected with less than 50% of the vote, and the fifth through tenth candidates were within 521 votes of each other and the last person to go on the council was 304 votes behind number five.  Six votes separated two winner and three separated two others.  I got these numbers from Dick Howe's blog, here.

This issue of voting for this amendment one way or the other is, to me, important.  Please plan on voting in November and please talk to everyone you see and mention the importance of voting.  I would like you to vote in support of Dr Fahlberg's ballot initiative, but I believe the most important point is that you vote.

UPDATE:  I added some statistical data.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rendition Lives On

According to an article by Reporter David Johnston in The New York Times the Obama Administration has said it will continue the policy of the last two administrations with regard to the rendition of terrorism suspects:
The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but pledges to closely monitor their treatment to ensure that they are not tortured, administration officials said Monday. 
I am trying to think this through.  The Obama Administration "pledges" to closely monitor Syria and other nations to ensure they don't torture people.  And if they do we will do what?  Not send them any more terrorism suspects?  Chalk up the first ones to bad luck?

Given the creation of a new federal mechanism for interrogation of terrorism suspects, the High Value Interrogation Group, located in the FBI and headed up by the National Security Council, and given that we are saying we will not allow torture, I don't see a reason for resorting to extraordinary rendition.

I see this as a way to empty our prisons and to not allow terrorism suspects on US territory, where they could use our legal system to attempt to win their freedom or to engage in lawfare.

I score this as little change and little hope.


Kad Barma comments on this over at Choosing a Soundtrack.  Kad is younger than I am and thus a little less forgiving.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Or more properly, extraordinary rendition, is the practice of sending a foreign criminal or terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a country with less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners.
  Yes, Monday, the 24th and this is Saturday the 29th.  I don't read The New York Times, except on Sundays.  But, from Instapundit to BoingBoing to me it took that long.  So much for the speed of the Internet.
  Per Wikipedia, "lawfare is one of several alternative war-making concepts outlined in the 1999 Chinese book Unrestricted Warfare, which is principally concerned with the new variety of offensive actions available to an international actor that cannot confront another power militarily. "Lawfare" is a form of warfare waged by using the nascent field of international law to attack an opponent on moral grounds: "international law warfare (seizing the earliest opportunity to set up regulations), etc.""

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fixing Traffic Lights III

I just now called Patty Leavenworth (Patricia A. Leavenworth, P.E.) of Mass Highways District Four—(781) 641-8300, extension 48322.  The issue was the traffic lights at the end of the Lowell Connector and the fact that there is now only one strobe light.

She was not in, so I left a voice mail, with my cell phone number and my issue.  We will see.

I do hope this doesn't go on too long.  I am not that good with Roman Numerals.

Regards  — Cliff

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Senatorial Election

Dick Howe gives us his estimate on the key dates in the Senatorial race that the law demands.
  1. Nomination papers due – November 10, 2009
  2. Special primary election – December 22, 2009
  3. Special general election – February 2, 2010
As Dick points out, 10,000 signatures.

What with this and that, it is going to be very busy for the next few months.

Regards  —  Cliff

Health Care Reform

Someone sent me this following link.  I thought it was a good post, if a little scatological at the end.

However, one of the commenters felt that it was important to point out that the AMA does have an official position on health care.

Let it be noted that the AMA position shows that there is not an economist on the staff.  Their position does not show increased demand is not being matched by an increase in production—that is to say, if we provide more insurance for people and work on allowing seniors to get better treatment by adjusting Medicare Insurance, then we are going to have to find more health care providers.  Who is addressing that?

Regards  —  Cliff

Hit Counter

Yes, I installed a hit counter. This is my fourth try and appears to be successful, if humiliating.

Hat tip to Kad Barma, who sent me a link to Stat Counter.

Regards  —  Cliff

Stupid Missile Defense

Granted its Reuters, but still, they are reporting that Russia is installing a missile defense system near their border with North Korea.
"We are definitely concerned by the conditions under which tests are being carried out in North Korea, including nuclear devices," the chief of Russia's general staff Nikolai Makarov told journalists in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.
I thought missile defense didn't work.  Didn't anyone tell the Russians?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Replacing our Senior Senator

I didn't want to get into this so soon, but it is out there.  Brietbart News Service quotes Governor Deval Patrick as saying he would sign a bill to allow him to temporarily appoint a Governor.
In radio interviews Wednesday morning, Patrick called the idea "entirely reasonable" and told WBUR-FM that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.

"Massachusetts needs two voices" in the Senate, Patrick said.
A lot of folks have held forth on this.So, now it is time for me to comment.

This move is strictly about the Health Care (Insurance) Reform effort in the US Congress and may be for naught if Senator Robert Byrd can't make it to the floor.  That said, in my life time a Senator has been wheeled in on a stretcher to vote.

But, what do we gain from sending someone down to DC for five months, the Health Care issue aside.  I would argue that we gain very little.

Who are we sending down?  Someone who is getting a political payoff and is expected to toe the party line.  We are not talking a lot of creativity here, are we?

The idea is that this person needs to be there to help us get our fair share of the pork.  Will the person develop the contacts needed to do that in the five months he or she is there?  I don't think that it is likely that the person will sway votes the way Senator Kennedy did for DDX and the Alternative Jet Engine for the F-35. 

This interim appointment would be just one more seat warmer and a captive of the office staff on Capital Hill and the Party Interests on Beacon Hill and not able to deliver the bacon, and only maybe an important vote on some issue.

Ask yourself.  Which Senator will think he or she can swing a deal with the "seat warmer" when that person is not going to be there a few months down the road when it is crunch time and the whip is counting noses?

There are only two reasons for the Great and General Court to reverse course in this embarrassing way.  The first is the Health Care Bill (if you think the Democrats are going to try to ram it through over a Republican filibuster).  The second is because the members of the Great and General Court think Senator Teddy Kennedy is in Heaven looking down on them and making comments to St Peter.  The third is that it is another cheap way to honor someone who has provided service in the past, but without really doing anything—sort of like naming a building for someone who is still amongst the living.

There you have it.  I think it is a dumb idea, I think it brings ridicule to our Great Commonwealth, and, I think that in the end it will not "amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

Regards  —  Cliff

  I liked this ending line from this Blog Post.  How true.  "Sigh. It’s not even 24 hours and the politics of this is pushing out front. However, I suppose, it is argued, time is of the essence."
  Senator Robert Byrd, who is 92, has been in ill health recently.
  That said, I am not sure Senator John Kerry, our new Senior Senator is up to the task either.  We may be in trouble for a few months to a few years in terms of Pork Barrel Spending.
  An action I find deplorable.

Out Back Question of the Week

Greg Page was correct about the number of Senate votes needed to invoke cloture—60 as a hard number.  Congratulations to Greg

This week's question is, what is the difference between the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury?

The supplemental question is, and I am trying not to telegraph this, what is one of the side differences?

Regards  —  Cliff

Anonymous Postings

I wrote this in the AM, but set it to post in the PM.  My reason was to provide a pause, given the passing of our Senior Senator.  I wonder if I should write to Randy Cohen of The New York Times and ask him if I am acting ethically?

Mr Cohen, who writes an ethics column for The New York Times, has a column today on anonymous blogging and commenting.  A hat tip to Professor Ann Althouse for this article.  Here is the issue:
Last week Judge Joan Madden ordered Google to identify the anonymous blogger whose site, “Skanks in NYC,” hosted by a Google subsidiary and now removed, slammed the fashion model Liskula Cohen.
Jumping down to Reporter Cohen's "bottom line" we find this:
Here is a guideline.  The effects of anonymous posting have become so baleful that it should be forsworn unless there is a reasonable fear of retribution.  By posting openly, we support the conditions in which honest conversation can flourish.
Maybe OK on the surface, but I see two problems with this.

The first problem is that he has carved out a hugh exception for reporters.  Personally, I think anonymous sources is ruining Washington.  Forget fashion model Liskula Cohen, what about Leon Penetta, the Director of the CIA and the rumor he is going to step down?  What about "Deep Throat," a disgruntled FBI senior manager who thought he should have been made the Director after the passing of J Edgar Hoover?  Going to the ethical question, did the ends justify the means?  Or, from a legal point of view, does the Cohen case set a precident that would allow a future President to sue a future Woodward and Bernstein for the name of "Deep Throat"?  In for a penny, in for a pound.

Secondly, notwithstanding Reporter Cohen's argument that "times have changed," they haven't.  If it was good enough for Ben Franklin, why isn't it good enough for Rosemary Port?

Then we have this item:
But conditions change, and what was benign in one setting can be malignant in another; that’s why we no longer allow people to wander the streets of our cities carrying guns.  (O.K., we do allow that.  But we have a good reason:  to protect ourselves from marauding dinosaurs.)
The fact is we do allow people to wander the streets of our cities carrying guns.  It is just that New York City hasn't heard about the Heller Case.  Some man even showed up at President Obama's Health Care Town Hall in Portsmouth, NH, with an "assault rifle" and a pistol.  No harm, no foul.  No law broken.

I believe report Randy Cohen is currently off the beam and needs to start listening for the "A" and the "N" and then make a course correction.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Please note that my link is different from the one in The New York Times.  I think that is ethical in that (1) I did identify it and (2) by going to the article you can find the original link.
  One wonders if Reporter Cohen is related to fashion model Cohen.  Reporter Cohen notes that he was once married to Katha Pollitt.  He notes that the Model Liskula Cohen, who went to court to force Google to out blogger Rosemary Port, is an acquaintance of the previously anonymous blogger.
  I am not saying that Richard Nixon was a good President or that he shouldn't have resigned.  I am saying that "Deep Throat" played a dirty game out of personal animosity.
  This is a long clip, but the interesting part about the "gun totter" is from about 1:56 to about 2:56.  Note that there is a 15 second advert in the beginning, before the clock restarts.

Senator Edward Kennedy, RIP

I had been meaning to blog on the question of changing the law with regard to vacant Senate Seats in Massachusetts when reality caught up with me.

The passing of any person is a sad moment.

For the Commonwealth of Massachsuetts it is more, in that it is the loss of not only one of our neighbors, but also of a very effective politician.

Going from Instapundit to a link to an Irish Blogger to a link to the Manchester Guardian, I found an appreciation by local report Dan Kennedy.

May Edward Kennedy rest in peace.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Candidate Speaks Out

Here is Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee Candidate Fred Bahou saying that the City Council should vote in the incremental increase in the tax on meals.

Aside from the fact that I agree with him on this issue, I like the fact that he is forthright on it as he goes before the voters this November.

The point is, the Lowell City Budget is $295 million dollars and as accepted by the City Council a few weeks ago, included an estimated $450,000 from the 0.75% surtax on meals.  That is 74¢ on every $100 spent at a restaurant.  Maybe it is OK with me since when my wife and I go out to dinner we spend way less than $100.  I am thinking, without drinks, this is less than 50¢ per visit to your favorite restaurant.

But, the point is, we have to be responsible and if we budget to include this $450,000 from the tax, then we need to raise the money—or cut services.  That is, or should be, the Republican Party way.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, the City Council did vote to defend one personnel slot.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Terrorist Interrogation Plan

Is it just me who thinks this is a bad idea?

From today's Washington Post we have this headline:
New Unit to Question Key Terror Suspects
Move Shifts Interrogation Oversight From the CIA to the White House
The reporter is Anne E Kornblut.

Here is my Problem A:
Obama signed off late last week on the unit, named the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG.  Made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the interrogation unit will be housed at the FBI but will be overseen by the National Security Council -- shifting the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.
This is too close to the White House.  If there is another problem with interrogations it will not point to someone with no Constitutional authority in the area, the VEEP.  It will point straight to the President.  Then Attorney General Eric Holder will not be considering who to go after in the CIA.  It will be if he should turn the files over to the US House of Representatives, for impeachment.  Space is important in politics.  As with electricity, it is an insulator.

My Problem B is that we are centralizing things and thus removing areas of competition.  If things are going correctly, that is a good thing.  However, if things start to slip within the unit, or there is pressure from the White House (or Congress)—say there is another 9/11 scale incident—then there are no alternative models, no alternative examples of how to do things.

My Problem C revolves around the fact that we have not decided if terrorism is a crime or an act of aggression, to be dealt on a military basis:
Interrogators will not necessarily read detainees their rights before questioning, instead making that decision on a case-by-case basis, officials said.  That could affect whether some material can be used in a U.S. court of law.  The main purpose of the new unit, however, is to glean intelligence, especially about potential terrorist attacks, the officials said.

"It is not going to, certainly, be automatic in any regard that they are going to be Mirandized," one official said, referring to the practice of reading defendants their rights.  "Nor will it be automatic that they are not Mirandized."
I guess the up side of this is that the fear of having to listen to lawyers eight hours a day might drive some suspects to confess to anything.

I understand the Administration's desire to signal a new direction:
The administration is releasing the new guidelines on the day when what it sees as the worst practices of the Bush administration are being given another public airing.  New details of prisoner treatment are expected to be included in a long-awaited CIA inspector general's report being unveiled Monday about the spy agency's interrogation program.
My hope is that by the time most Senators have read this that the White House will have done a "re-think" and this will go away.

Regards  —  Cliff

, Ms Korblut, 36, used to be with The Boston Globe.
  My own take on it is that the goal is to make it a law enforcement issue, but when we are facing a serious threat we sometimes have to bring in the military.  It is best when this is done overseas and not in the US.  While the posse Comitatus law was passed for ignominious reasons, it is, in the long run, good domestic policy.  The idea of doing it on a "case-by-case basis" suggests to me that they have no thought out game plan.  My answer is that it isn't either, but a spectrum.  Trying to make it one thing or another shows a lack of the flexibility of mind needed to successfully fight terrorism.  However, you need to know what phase you are in and not try to do it on a "case-by-case basis."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spider Solitaire Feature

I was playing a game of Microsquish (c) Spider Solitaire on my VAIO computer. Things were going well. I had six packs down in the lower left hand corner with two deals yet to go.

Unfortunately, I had only six cards left to cover the ten (10) slots (four of which were empty).  When I tried to deal the next set of ten cards, I got the warning as shown—"You are not allowed to deal a new row while there are any empty slots."  Obviously, the code is not able to count the number of cards available and come to a correct conclusion—deal the next row.

I wonder if there is a Spider Solitaire gripe sheet?  I wonder if there is a patch out there?  Suggestions welcomed.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The New Media

Over at the Richard Howe blog there is a comment by Greg Page, The New Englander, about being on line, versus going out and being with people.

Along the same line, The Instapundit links to an article that talks about the new technology and politicians.  I am not sure there is any new ground broken, but it is a nice review.

At the Instapundit link there is a plug for Professor Glenn H Reynolds' book, An Army of Davids:  How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.

Regards  —  Cliff

Move Lowell Forward

The political action committee, Move Lowell Forward, had its kickoff last evening at the Garcia Brogan's Restaurant.  Dick Howe blogged about it here.

My wife and I attended, as one might expect, and met a number of interesting people, and then had dinner with Lynne Lupien and her husband, Chris, at the Restaurant.  I again found the food to be good and the price reasonable.

There were two incumbents at the party, Jackie Doherty, from the School Committee, and Kevin P. Broderick, from the City Council.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fixing Traffic Lights II

A month ago I called down to Mass Highway District Four and said that two of the strobe lights on the red stop lights at the end of the Lowell Connector were burned out, leaving one working.  The person I talked to "rogered" the problem and said that he would talk to the person responsible.

Yesterday (Friday), I wrote to the District Four Director.  I sent her an EMail and pointed out that it was 20 July that I talked to someone in her office and mentioned the burned out lights.  We will have to see if she gets the EMail and then responds.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, August 21, 2009

When Nat Hentoff is Nervous

When Nat Hentoff is nervous, I pay attention.  Here he is talking about the current Health Insurance discussion.  This appeared in The Jewish World Review.  Here is the lede:
I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him.  I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking.  But now I am finally scared of a White House administration.  President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive.  Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.
Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Time to Check on Old Predictions

Here, from June, is Commentator Michael Barone talking about how President Obama governs.

Do we think this was prescient?

Does this apply to the current Health Care imbroglio?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friday Event

As some of you know, I am the Chairman of the "Move Lowell Forward" PAC, whose home page can be found here.  My co-chairman is Lynne Lupien, of the Left in Lowell blog.  Sure, there isn't much we agree on, but we do agree on how much we love Lowell and on how we want to Move Lowell Forward into the 21st Century.  Corny, but true.

We are doing a "Kickoff" tomorrow (Friday, the 21st of August), at 6:30 PM.  This will be a chance to meet the MLF folks and also some of the Candidates for City Council.  So, in a way, it is a "Meet and Greet."  You are invited!

The venue is the new Garcia Brogan's Restaurant, located at 135 Middlesex Street, underneath the new parking garage (Edward Early Jr. Garage).  Another way to think about it is that if you stepped out of Elliot's Hot Dogs, with your back to the front of Elliot's, Garcia Brogan's is down the street to your left.

We will be having hors d'oeuvres from 6:30 PM.  Please feel free to drop in on us.

The hors d'oeuvres should be good.  My wife, Martha, and I went to Garcia Brogran's for dinner and found the food and service good.  In fact, we ended up at a combined table with five others, including a couple of hearty trencherman. This wasn't force community—three of the people we knew and the other two were interesting companions.  Part of the time I talked soldier communications in Afghanistan with one the the people I had just met.  He is a Systems Analyst, working on a possible solutions.  Very interesting.

Everyone was pleased with the food, the service and the price.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

How many votes does it take to invoke Cloture in the US Senate?

The reason this is important is that both Senator Richard Byrd (D-WV) and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) are having medical problems and may not be able to report to the Senate to vote for Cloture, when the time comes.

I got the answer wrong earlier this week, but my wife corrected me and put me on the path to truth.

This question is important for President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid because of the proposed Health Insurance reform bill before the US Congress.

For extra points, how did this play out in Massachusetts State Politics this week?

Regards  —  Cliff

  That would be to vote to stop a filibuster and bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swine Flu Information

There is actually information out there from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Swine Flu (H1N1).

If you snuck a peak behind the code you would see one very long URL for that link. Also, when you get to the link there are a lot of subsets, including various specific recommendations and also information in a number of different languages from English.  And some Pod Casts.

At this link is the page that talks to four kinds of flu.  This is important in that flu comes in varies and it also mutates.  I was reading something this AM that suggested the good news was that we had not seen any mutations to date in the US.

Keep well and drink lots of liquids—no not those kinds of liquids.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS: A Hat Tip to Linda King of the Lowell City Department of Planning for this info.  It was part of her duties with regard to our Ten Year Homelessness Plan.  A Ten Year Plan.  Sure, it makes you think of Gosplan, but it also means that there is some strategy out there in our City's Government.

Health Care

The Lowell Sun has an OpEd by Mary Anna Sullivan, who, along with her husband, sold us their wonderful home on Mansur Street. Thank you, Dr Sullivan.  The subject is health care.  For a while the Opinion Piece can be found here.

Because of the vagaries of the Internet, and the value of the article, I quote it in full here:
The medical model for best quality and low cost

The Lowell Sun
Updated: 08/19/2009 06:40:43 AM EDT

By Mary Anna Sullivan, MD

As the debate over health-care reform rages this summer, and recommendations are made as to how best to deliver quality care to all while containing costs, more discussion needs to focus on how we organize and deliver care.

Under the current model, multiple providers can order lots of costly tests for a patient and perform procedures, even if there is little evidence to support the intervention.  We pay providers to do more, even when "more" is questionable or redundant. Some assume incorrectly that high cost leads to high quality.

An efficient, successful model for care is the integrated group practice, a tried and true, organized strategy that enhances delivery and contains costs.  Integrated care networks are doctor-led -- not insurance-dictated -- and coordinate primary, preventive and chronic disease care for a patient through a primary care physician.  In a system like this, individual providers are not paid according to procedures performed or tests ordered; instead, providers receive a salary from the hospital or network.

There is no incentive to test more or do more in order to gain more financially.  The system's foundation simply harnesses the collective medical knowledge from all of the patient's providers to deliver a cost-effective, evidence-based, high-value outcome.  Because the primary-care physician coordinates care, and the medical record is shared, redundant tests and the frequency of office visits are reduced.

Thus, this model averts delivery fragmentation and the documented entrepreneurial spirit that fee-for-service inspires. Providers focus solely on practicing good medicine, even prevention counseling, something that has historically been underappreciated under fee-for-service.

Recent news accounts have singled out Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic as examples of great, multi-group delivery as low cost. Locally, Lahey Clinic, a sister hospital, has operated in the same way since its inception more than 80 years ago.  Just like Mayo and Cleveland, Lahey offers high-quality care at lower cost and does exceeding well on nearly every health-care scorecard.  For example, Lahey is among the top nine hospitals in the country for low mortality after heart attack, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  The Dartmouth Atlas ranks all hospitals across the country; Lahey ranks highly along with Mayo and Cleveland, uniquely among Boston teaching hospitals that deliver care in a much more costly way without improving quality.

When last year The Boston Globe published a series titled "A health-care system badly out of balance," it featured Partners Healthcare hospitals (MGH and Brigham and Women's) that are paid more by insurers for identical services provided at other Boston-area academic medical centers. In their analyses, the newspaper concluded the Partners' care -- which is fee-for-service based -- was "often no better than average."

Arguments have been made that if doctors have access to expensive technology, oversupply of specialists, and abundant inpatient beds, they will be used and will drive up costs.  This is true, but it is not that simple.  It is the system of delivery that should be examined more closely because that will have a more lasting effect on quality and cost, without sacrificing either.  Integrated group practices reduce perverse incentives and put focus back on the physician-patient relationship, our greatest hope to rein in spiraling costs while preserving what is best about American medicine.

Dr. Sullivan is chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and chief quality and safety officer at Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Burlington.
In my humble opinion the debate is wrongly focused.  It should be about "Health Care," as opposed to "Health Insurance."  Think about it as the delivery system.

Part of my concern is that people will be greatly disappointed if the proposal before the House of Representatives passes.  The reason is that the actual delivery will not much change, given that we are not expanding the delivery system, either in breadth or in depth.  By breadth I mean we will not have extra folks to go out and meet the needs of those isolated from the current delivery system, because they live too far away or have had no insurance or lack the necessary cultural understanding of how to exploit the delivery system to meet their needs.  By depth I mean that we may well be contracting services to some degree, due to the increased demand (increased expectation of service), without an increase in delivery capability.  We are heading for a train wreck.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Note that since this is a link to an article in The Lowell Sun, it will likely expire in 30 days.  I will not be updating the link at that point unless I am shut in with the Swine Flu.

Cancel The American Revolution

Well, at least at Yale.

This is actually old news, but now Eugene Volokh has commented on a Christopher Hitchens post at Slate on Yale's being unwilling to include the key illustrations in a book on the "Danish Mohammad Cartoon" controversy.

As you recall, there were a series of cartoons about the Prophet Mohammad published in a Danish newspaper.  That was followed by outrage on the part of some that this exercise of free speech would be allowed in that it offended them.  This was followed by calls for boycotts of Danish products and a series of riots across the Muslim world in which people, mostly rioting protesters, died.  Several Danish Embassies were torched.

With the new book from Yale Press we have surrender in anticipation of a problem.  Mr Hitchens states:
The Aug. 13 New York Times carried a report of the university press' surrender, which quoted its director, John Donatich, as saying that in general he has "never blinked" in the face of controversy, but "when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question." ...
Law Professor Eugene Volokh concludes:
Is that the message that our leading academic institutions should be sending?  Not just that it's so easy to force Americans into silence, but that the threat of criminal violence is enough to make us morally obligated to be silent?
Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Had That Idea Earlier

Sometimes you have an idea and don't act on it.

Here is someone who took "my" idea and acted on it, or rather a whole neighborhood which did.

The neighbors got together and put up signs, threatening speeders with being shot by paint ball guns.

In my idea I would sit at the corner of Route 38 and Route 133 and shoot at motorists who kept going left onto Route 133 even after the light for them turned red.

Regards  —  Cliff

Franky Dakota You Tube Advert

Actually, on the ballot, Franchesska Descoteaux.  If you are voting for Franky, for Lowell, it is important to remember Franchesska Descoteaux.

Franky has a short advert on You Tube, which can be found here.

Two things stood out in my mind:
  1. A strong emphasis on economic development for the City of Lowell.
  2. Stating in print at about 45 seconds "Stand Up For Professional City Government."
Both of those are strong points for me.

The fact that Franky and her husband, Matthew, have started three successful businesses in our downtown tells me that she knows the ins and outs of starting businesses and as a City Council member will be sympathetic to the problems of those who do wish to start a new business in town.

I like what I see so far. I am looking forward to what the other Candidates have to say.

UPDATE:  First I call the spouse Michael, when it is Matthew, but catch it, and have to repost.  Then Greg Page points out to me that it is Franchesska, and I have to repost, again.  My apologies to both Franky and Matt.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Ongoing Conversation re Health Care

Law Professor Ann Althouse, whose blog motto seems to be "two short sentences and a link," has written a much longer post on the idea of a "conversation"

The blog post can be found here.

The quote from the President that kicked off this blog post is:
I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place.
PALIN WARNING:  Professor Althouse points out that Former Governor Sarah Palin's use of the term "Death Panels" changed the direction of the conversation. This use of opposite terms for the same thing is discussed later by Professor Althouse here.  She is talking about dysphemisms—"the substitution of a harsh, disparaging, or unpleasant expression for a more neutral one."  Professor Althouse thinks it worked for Former Governor Palin.

Back to the original link, I think it is an interesting commentary by the Law Professor.  Getting married a couple of weeks ago seems to have fired her up.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From an On Line Dictionary.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not Living Right

I must not be living right.  My wife called Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and left a message with one of the staff.  This was about my wife's views on the proposed Health Care Reform bill in the US House of Representatives.  Within a week she had a nice letter back from the Congresswoman.

I, on the other hand, was listening to a Tsongas call-in and at the end left a message, as I was invited to.  That was a week before my wife called the Congressional Office.  I have yet to hear back.  I did stop by the Lowell office about a week ago and was told that it was being worked down in the DC office.

So, what was my comment?

I am concerned about the economics of it all.  If we have about 260 million people in this nation with health insurance and about 47 million without health insurance, how are we going to provide the actual medical care for those without insurance?  Or, are those 47 million getting medical care now, but the payment process will change?  It is a simple economic question.

If the medical industry is producing 260 million units of care a year and there is some degree of market stability, then when there is an additional demand for 47 million units, per economic theory, if there are not sufficient doctors, nurses and other health care specialists ready to move into the market, the only thing that can happen is the price goes up or there is rationing.  I haven't yet figured out how we are going to get more coverage without opening the spigot of health care training.

And, there is a need for more health care out there.  For one thing, out across broad spaces across the fruited plain the people are spread out and the health coverage is thin.  My buddy Neal has a cousin who is a doctor and he flies to his patients.  It would appear we need health care extenders (relatively quickly trained Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) in my concept) to provide more and better coverage.

Then there are the inner cities where there is insufficient health coverage, aside from Emergency Rooms, which are sometimes overwhelmed by people with medical issues that would be better treated if the patient had a primary care physician.  This is another place where Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners could make a difference.

So, what do I propose?  I propose that the US Congress expand the US Public Health Service to include a greatly expanded uniformed corps of Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, who would pay back their education by serving in a location selected by the USPHS.  The Surgeon General sends you off to school for a year or two for qualification and then for a "pay back" you are sent to Montana or Detroit, Michigan for three years to work with certified MDs to provide quality care to the people in your area.

With this process people get a change to have issues resolved more quickly and those people can then be passed on to specialists if there are serious problems.  Further, the USPHS healthcare provider can move into the neighborhood and advocate for things like childhood shots and dealing with identifiable health hazards.

Is this a solution with a lot of problems?  For sure.  However, it addresses the economic side of the issue.  If we are going to provide more health care we are going to have to provide more providers.  The time to start is right now.

Where is the response from Representative Tsongas' staffers?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Let us be honest, there is rationing today.  My buddy "X" has Parkinson's Disease and he is on an experimental regimen of treatment.  My non-medical judgement is that the treatments work well.  A while back I helped him reformat his Excel Spreadsheet where he tracks the costs, which are currently not covered by either Medicare or TRICARE.  Frankly, we don't have the extra money that would be needed if either my wife or I needed such experiment treatments.  He gets the treatment and I wouldn't be so lucky.  Rationing.
  One of the seven uniformed services in the Federal Government.

Strange Cars

Last evening my wife and I were driving back up from visiting her cousin and her family, down in Cohasset (birthday party).  Coming north we saw an auto carrier with two cars on top and a Citroën 2CV—the deux chevaux (actually, the deux chevaux vapeur)—on the bottom, all by itself.  The photograph to the right shows the general design of the automobile (Copyright Graham Cullimore, PinkDylan, Car Rebuilt by Frome 2CV.)

For reasons not totally obvious, I always thought that name stood for two chevrons, since, in fact, the front grill has just that, two chevrons, for decoration.  Well, not all 2CV, but most I have seen.  It turns out that the French for chevron is chevron, at least according to Babel Fish.

The vehicle we saw looked to be in good shape, especially considering that the model hasn't been produced in 20 years.

Like the VW Bug, the 2CV is a pre-World War II design that found its place after that war.

Maybe I should file this under memories of Europe.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another View on Health Care

I don't know John MacKey, nor do I know his business, "Whole Foods."  On the other hand, I did find a link at the Ann Althouse Blog to his OpEd in The Wall Street Journal.  The OpEd, "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare," says we need Health Care Reform, but the current proposals in Congress are not the answer.

Mr MacKey seems to me to make some sense in his OpEd.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Some language not suitable for use in the parlor.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Electric Cars

If one believes this article, "Will Electric Cars Wreck the Grid?," in Scientific American, there are possible problems ahead as the nation switches toward electric cars.

The theory is that delivery of electricity consists of three phases, production, transmission and final distribution.  The author of the article, Colin Sullivan, suggests that it is that third phase that is endangered by electric cars.  He was talking to Ed Kjaer, director of Southern California Edison's electric transportation advancement program.
Chief among those challenges is how thousands of power-hungry vehicles would tax distribution transformers at the local level. Such transformers have historically handled electricity load for about 10 average-size homes each.

Adding a plug-in car to the grid is equal to about a third of a house, Kjaer said. And because early adopters are likely to spring up in geographic concentrations, that could mean overloaded transformers at the distribution level or plug-in cars potentially causing power outages.

"The worst imaginable situation you could have is your neighbor yelling at you because you blacked out the neighborhood," Kjaer said.
But, it isn't just the transformers.  Apparently there is the question of the outlets for charging at home.  Having to "plug in" our two cars in Alaska, during the winter, I hadn't thought about the extra power drain, but there is this paragraph:
Among the obstacles are building out charging sockets in homes and permitting them through local authorities, in addition to mapping a future network of charging stations. The process for residential construction can sometimes take months, which would likely deter buyers. And limited range means charging stations away from the home are a must.
Somehow I don't see myself driving an electric car down from Lowell to Virginia to visit some of my grandchildren. Although, if we could leave late and stop overnight at Armonk, NY, that might work. If the la Quinta has a "hitching rail" with places to plug in one's car.

I wonder who I call to see if anyone is working the home outlet problem in Lowell?

The Six Phases of Planning

I had forgotten about this neat little summation of the planning process, but was reminded today in an EMail from the Editor of the Joint Force Quarterly:

Phase 1:  Wild enthusiasm.
Phase 2:  Surprise, shock, and disillusionment.
Phase 3:  Total confusion.
Phase 4:  Search for the guilty.
Phase 5:  Punishment of the innocent.
Phase 6:  Promotion of non-participants.

And so it goes, project after project.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Today one of the Great and General Court subcommittees met to decide the fate of the "Home Rule" Petition to allow the Lowell City Council to drop the Preliminary (Primary) Election for City Council.

The question is, who from Lowell testified, and how?

The supplemental question is, how will the committee report out?

The big question for the voters is, does the City Council care about us?

Regards  &mdash  Cliff

Rush Slips

I think Rush Limbaugh slipped up today on his radio program.

Mr Limbaugh referred to President Obama as an "idiot."  I think el Rushbo went over the line with that comment.

That is not to say there is not precedent.  Remember the bumper sticker that said:
A Village in Texas is Missing its Idiot
Very clever, I admit.  However, over the line.

The President of the United States is the President of all of us and he deserves a modicum of respect.  Whether we agree with him (or her) or not.

To say the President is wrong, is ignorant of the facts, is acceptable to me.  To suggest impeachment and conviction is OK with me.  But, there needs to be some limits.

I would like to hear that tomorrow Mr Limbaugh says that he went to far today.  He can do that and still hold that the President is wrong, seriously wrong, on Health Care.  More on Health Care Reform later

Regards  —  Cliff

Insight From The Globe

I sent a "Letter" off to The Boston Globe addressing another Letter, which addressed a Book Review.

As per usual, I got an auto-reply from The Globe, telling me they would review my letter.  In this case I responded to the auto-reply and asked an ethical question—how long should I give The Globe to publish my letter before I was free to put the topic up on my blog.

Matt Bernstein, the Letters Editor, wrote back to me promptly and here is what he said:
That's a good question, and I'm glad you asked.  I usually leave a 10-day window between publication of a story or opinion piece and publication of a letter in reaction to it.  If, after 10 days, you haven't heard anything, it's safe to assume a letter won't be published.  Also, I try to leave at least three months between publications of letters by the same writer, and since you just had a letter run July 1, I'm going to pass on this latest one. So, by all means, feel free to post it to your blog.

Thanks for your continued interest.
This is useful information for all of us.  Note also that Mr Bernstein knew that he had published a letter of mine a little over a month ago.  I don't believe it is because I am a famous personality in the Boston Area.  I think that the Letter's section, which has its own Editor, is looked after carefully.

I am pretty confident that polite letters to editors do get published (I am a Lowell "Blow In" but have several letters published in The Boston Globe and quite a few in The Lowell Sun.  Letters to the Editor are like comments to blog posts.  In the case of comments to blog posts, at least this blog, if they are not defamatory or written with a lot of bad language, they are going to stay up, even if you think I am dead wrong or stupid and say so.  But, violate the rules and it will come down.  As an FYI, all comments are copied to two of my EMail accounts, so even if it is a comment on an old blog post, I will still see it.  Time consuming, but responsible.

In another post I will talk about the letter itself.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And, I will be cross-posting this to the LRCC Web Site.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Space Elevator

That is the popular term (to the extent the word poular can be used for this space exploration concept) for the idea that we can run a wire from the earth to orbit and just run things up and down the wire.

There is a new book out on this concept and related ideas, reviewed at this web site.  The book is Space Tethers and Space Elevators, by Michel van Pelt (Praxis, 2009, $29.95)

I thank my Brother Lance for pointing out this web site.

Regards  —  Cliff

Attaboy for Niki

I LIKE the fact that our Representative, Niki Tsongas, is holding town hall meetings to talk about the health care plan before the US House of Representatives.

Sure, there is some heckling and a lot of heated rhetoric, but this is democracy the way it should be.  People are involved and not just letting a far off group of politicians and bureaucrats decide the fate of the nation.  Maybe it will even spill over into our local elections here in Lowell this Fall.  I am hoping so and hoping the result will be increased voter turnout.

This whole issue of Town Hall Meetings and active citizens was discussed in an article in today's Lowell Sun.  Written by Matt Murphy, the article, "Is this debate healthy?" has the subtitle:  "Tsongas says local -- and vocal -- meetings on reform are important."  Here is the heart of the article:
Controversy stemming from the protests has centered around whether a majority of the country is truly opposed to President Barack Obama's health-care reform plan, or if Republican and special-interest groups are purposefully organizing the disruptive protests to pressure lawmakers.
With regard to the question of if the Republican or special-interest groups are organizing these protests, I think that they are "Johnny come lately" to this protest movement.  I base that upon my own participation in the Greater Lowell Tea Party movement.  Unless you think that Chelmsford Republican activist Sandi Martinez is part of the Republican Establishment (hint here, she has crossed swords with some of the State Republican Party apparatchiks) the local Tea Baggers, as we are sometimes called, is a strickly grass roots effort.

Here is a comment by Law Professor Glenn Reynolds in The Washington Examiner ("Remember when Protest was Patriotic?"):
It's true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations -- ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.

But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.
And would a college professor ever lie to you?  Of course not.  Just look at UMass Lowell Professor Frank Talty.
UMass Lowell political-science professor Frank Talty drew comparisons to the last time Congress tried to tackle the health-care system.

"Clearly, there's some kind of communication going on among those opposed to health-care reform, whether it's the Republican party, special-interest parties or listeners of Rush Limbaugh," Talty said. "The shrillness of the debate, of the opposition, reminds me of what happened in 1993, when health-care reform got close. The opposition is ramping up, and people are getting scared off."
In this case he has skipped right over the more recent Bush Administration attempt to reform Social Security.  The fact is, the protest knife cuts both ways.  Just ask those who were trying to reform Social Security.  And, then we have the "Truthers" out there.

But, back to our Congresswoman.
She also admitted that she is unlikely to change her mind on the need for reform, but said listening to voters can impact her views on certain aspects of the complex bill.
To bring up a hackneyed expression, she "gets it."  Citizens are trying to impact her views on aspects of a very complex bill.

I, for one, think we need health care reform.  I even have a question pending before Representative Tsongas' staff.  It has been there for a couple of weeks.  If an answer doesn't emerge soon I will just give you my opinion on the issue.

In the mean time, it is my humble opinion that we have had too much "trust me" out of DC and not enough hard facts.  That said, the US Congress is in the process of putting a bill together and as Bismark once said, "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."

The other thing to keep in mind is the idea of evolution.  As much as someone from the US Government, never mind the Branch, says that things won't be like that, evolution is a powerful fact of nature and whatever the US Congress passes and the President signs, it will evolve.  That is a fact of life and even Creationists know it is true.  The question is, where will it go?  That is why the initial crafting is so important.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Why was the dateline Boston?  What does Boston have to do with anything?  Does the mention of a couple of other Democratic Congressmen require a Boston dateline?
  It is always good to remember that we are all members of one or another "special interest" group.  I am a resident of Lowell, a person on Social Security, a retired military person, a veteran of the Viet-nam war, a Roman Catholic, a pilot and on and on.  And so it goes.
  Yes, that Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lenzi Proposes Term Limits

City Councilor Michael Lenzi, announcing he will not run for another term of office in the City, suggested we need greater turnover on the City Council.
"I don't regret serving. It's been a great two years," Lenzi said. "I think everybody should serve two years."
One wonders if others on the City Council will follow his example.

For sure, if Mr Lenzi is serious about "everybody" getting a shot we are going to have to have more velocity in terms of new people getting elected to the City Council.

Hat tip to Jack the sleeping giant.


Marie Sweeney, over at the Dick Howe blog consortium talks about the 1969 election.  Interesting and educational.

Regards  —  Cliff

Approach to North Korea

I will state up front that I think that in the end The Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK, aka North Korea) will get a small number of nuclear weapons and a way to deliver them.  On the other hand, I don't think they will use them.

That said, we do need to be careful about how we work this issue and one of the reasons is Japan and South Korea.  If either thinks we are going to cut our own deal and move out, they will be energized to obtain nuclear weapons.  That will put a small dent in our non-proliferation efforts.

So, in today's Boston Globe we see this item on the US being willing to do one-on-one talks with North Korea.
The Obama administration said yesterday it is willing to hold direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons if it first resumes international negotiations.
On the other hand, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, yesterday warned against such actions.  I am not a big fan of Henry the K, but he is a very bright person and has some insight.
Already, speculation is rife that the Clinton visit inaugurates the prospect of a change of course of American policy and of a bilateral U.S.-North Korea solution.  But two-party talks outside the six-party framework never made any sense.  North Korean nuclear weapons threaten the North's neighbors more than they do the United States.  The other members of the six-party talks are needed to help enforce any agreement that may be made or to sustain sanctions on the way to it.  These countries should not be made to feel that the United States uses them as pawns for its global designs.  To be sure, the Obama administration has disavowed any intentions for separate, two-power talks.  But the other parties will be tempted to hedge against the prospect that these assurances may be modified.  That feeling is likely to be particularly strong in Japan, where a national election campaign is underway and where Tokyo already feels it has secured inadequate support on behalf of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
As an aside, do you think Dr Kissinger figured this out on his own for his Sunday column or do you think some unhappy person inside the Obama Administration leaked this problem to Dr K so that back fire could be created before the announcement?  In DC one can never be sure.

At any rate, the US needs to be careful in how it deals with North Korea.  Even if we play a perfect game, there are a lot of other players and they could "make mistakes."  Further, economic collapse in North Korea could make it a whole new ball game.  And that isn't even considering possible chaos if the upcoming transition of power from Kim Jong Il to his son, Kim Jong Un, is interrupted by internal North Korean coups.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And that isn't counting the rumor that North Korea is helping Burma learn to make nuclear weapons.  Burma?

Contacting the Blogger

Someone said that I did not publish my EMail, so it was hard to get in touch with me.

Therefore, I updated my profile by clicking on the "show email" block.

If that is not satisfactory, please let me know and I will put it out in plain sight.


Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sun on Regina

In an Editorial in today's Lowell Sun the writer called for School Committee member Regina Faticanti to resign.  The Editorial is "Time for Regina Faticanti to step down."
The Sun is not determining guilt or innocence in this matter; that is for a court of law to decide.  But we do believe that the allegations of bullying behavior and the resultant criminal charges are an unnecessary distraction for the School Department and an embarrassment for Lowell as a whole.

Additionally, the city of Lowell could be held financially liable for Faticanti's alleged actions.  With the city and state in financial crisis, this is no time for Lowell to be hit with a civil lawsuit regarding the alleged actions of an elected official.  We hope such a lawsuit is never filed, but we are concerned that if Faticanti remains on the School Committee, one may be.
At this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I note that I know Regina Fatacanti and have known her, in her work at WCAP, for some time.  That is to say, I have been in the WCAP Studio with her and from time to time I have sent along government reports and academic papers on terrorism and counterterrorism, as they come my way.  Those are subjects that are part of the area she is studying in her graduate work.  In that time she has never threatened to rip my head off or otherwise abused me.

That said, one wonders if School Superintendent Chris Scott had not heard any stories about Ms Faticanti's (apparently well known) method of addressing issues.  Did she take the job knowing this or was she blindsided (or, third option, did she think that she would be exempt)?

On the other hand, something I would like to know—did The Lowell Sun, in the past, ever endorse Ms Faticanti for election to the School Committee.  If they did, was it in ignorance of Ms Faticanti's management proclivities?

This whole imbroglio is a most unfortunate turn of events for the City.  That said, to attempt to truncate it before it has fully played out may also be unfortunate.  However this plays out it will set the tone for management of our schools for years to come—and maybe for the City as a whole.

The Sun did not venture to guess about Ms Faticanti's guilt or innocence.  Although I am not a lawyer, I will try.  I am expecting the verdict to be "Unladylike conduct, but no criminal offense."

Then there is the whole question of the hostile work environment, raised by Ms Scott's lawyer.  That is as much political as it is legal.  I am thinking it could break either way.  Either way, it will impact the relationships between the "professionals" and their elected supervisors for years to come.  And, if it gets that far, it will cost the city some money.

What I worry about with the hostile work environment question is that it will set back, indirectly, any effort to have a more professional, long term City Manager.  The appointed School Superintendent will gain in power vis-a-via the School Committee, but that may, in the long run, create a backlash, which will then make the School Committee so powerful that the next School Superintendent will not be able to do his or her job properly.  And, there will be a knock-on effect for the City Council.

In the end, I think everyone deserves his or her day in court, if they want it.

And, for Ms Faticanti, while resignation might end the election question, there will still remain the criminal case, the possible hearing on workplace harassment and then, perhaps, a civil suit.  Unless, of course, someone has cut a backroom deal.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Note that since this is a link to an article in The Lowell Sun, it will likely expire in 30 days.  I will not be updating the link at that point unless I am shut in with the Swine Flu.
  No, I was not aware of this as an issue.
  Sort of like the Scottish verdict of Not Proven.
  By "professional" I mean someone who is going to be dedicated to being our City Manager and not just using it to put a bullet on his or her resume.  As Warren Shaw pointed out this AM on his WCAP program, increased professionalization will require a culture shift in Lowell.  A little culture shift would be just fine.

Asleep at the Switch

That would be me.

Reference our Out Back Question of the Week from two weeks ago, and the answer, here, one would have thought I would have picked up that MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas accepted a buyout on Thursday.

For $327,487 only, the MBTA board made Mr Grabauskas go away.  On the other hand, the Commonwealth's Transportation Secretary, James A. Aloisi Jr., recognizes that to fix the MBTA some crockery is going to have to be broken.
Aloisi said he would meet next week with David D’Alessandro, the former John Hancock chief executive who will lead a “top to bottom’’ review of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The review, Aloisi said, will be finished by Nov. 1, when the merger of state transit agencies is set to be complete. Aloisi continued to leave open the possibility that fare increases proposed by Grabauskas would not be implemented.

“We’re in a time of changing the status quo,’’ he said. “And that’s a good thing. There are no sacred cows.’’
We can only hope.

In the mean time, the amount of the settlement—the amount remaining on Mr Grabauskas' contract—seemed high to some.
"It’s financially irresponsible," said Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "If you have good cause, fire the guy. If you don’t, let him serve out his time and earn his money. For the taxpayers and toll payers to have to foot this bill is just totally irresponsible."
On the other hand, when you try to push people around they sometimes push back.  The fact is, the MBTA Board didn't have the votes to actually fire Mr Grabauskas.  In the words of reporter from The Globe:
In a high-stakes stare-down, Grabauskas won a significant payout, $327,487, that Patrick administration officials did not want to pay. That’s because, during a chaotic, closed-door negotiating session of the MBTA board, administration officials failed to persuade enough board members to fire or put Grabauskas on leave, which would probably have led to a smaller settlement.
I don't think the Patrick Administration was rally ready to take on Mr Grabauskas.

In the mean time, Mr Grabauskas can be preparing himself to run for state-wide office near year, as a Republican.  It would not be his first such run.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Local Lowell Issues—The Economy

I got an EMail from the Franky Descoteaux Campaign, pointing out that they have put up their "Economic Plan" on their web site. It can be seen here.

I have some criticism.  I think it should be on its own nested page under the heading of Issues.

It didn't mention our two US Senators, one of whom for sure has been a major source of money and opportunities for this Commonwealth and our area.

On the other hand, it mentioned "strategy" twice.  Here is the difference between "tactical" and "strategic."  Tactical is what is going to happen between now and the 2011 election.  Strategic is what is going to be happening in 2012 and later.  Tactical is what you do with what you have.  Strategic is what you do with that small amount you can afford to invest after you meet your immediate needs.  We need a strategy, and not just for 2012, but for 2022.

Further, I like the idea of public/private partnerships.  Apparently the US House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, mentioned the Eire Canal the other day.  The State of New York built that piece of infrastructure and everyone prospered.  The trick is to know what the public side should do and what should be left to the private side.  Virginia Postal talked about that on her blog recently.

I know that Franky Descoteaux is running for City Council and not City Manager, but the one thing conspicuously missing was a mention of the role of the City Manager.  I hope that is corrected soon.  It is the City Manager with the staff to do the long range planning needed to make things click for Lowell.

In summation, looking good, Franky.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, that would not be the one with the initials JFK.

Out Back Question of the Week

Why is there an August Recess for the US Congress:
  1. Because that is what they had to do before air conditioning and they are slow to adapt
  2. Because even with air conditioning DC is a terrible place in August.
  3. Because they need the time to do fund raising they can't do by telephone.
  4. Because they really do want to go home and find out what the voters are thinking.
  5. Because they are worried that if they stay in session too long the Health Care Reform protesters will come to DC and picket and cause a ruckus, disrupting their lives.
  6. So the President can appoint people to office without having to get Senate Confirmation.
  7. Another reason, to be supplied by the respondent.
  8. Some of the above.
Regards  —  Cliff

Outback Question of the Week—Answer

The answer to last week's question was really based upon how you view things.

My own feeling is that someone who turned around the Registry of Motor Vehicles and then ran into a brick wall with the MBTA may have found himself without the authority commensurate with the job.

Put into English, either the "hacks" or the "unions" have a strangle hold on the operation and nothing short of bankruptcy is going to fix it.


Regards  —  Cliff

  I don't really like the term hack, because it seems to be used to smear hard working civil servants.  On the other hand, there are times it applies.
  Don't get me wrong here.  I like unions and think they are an important part our economic system.  My Father was in a picture that appeared in The New York Times in the 1930s, helping to lead a strike at a steel mill in Johnstown, PA.

Neighborhood Initiatives

This think this is a good thing.  One might wish it to go faster, but Lowell is a fairly big city and money is short.

The City is beginning a Neighborhood Impact Initiative.
Lowell was recently the site for a study which proved the validity of the “broken windows” theory of neighborhood stabilization and crime reduction.  Cleaning up and repairing the infrastructure and overall appearance of neighborhoods has been proven in Lowell to reduce crime and prevent further deterioration.  Next Thursday on August 13th at 6 p.m. the City Manager’s Neighborhood Impact Initiative will kick-off in Moulton Square in Centralville.  The Neighborhood Impact Initiative was introduced as a comprehensive program to stabilize and revitalize our low- and moderate-income neighborhoods through the concentrated investment of staff and financial resources of all of the City’s departments to supplement existing city-wide efforts.
I think this is a very good thing.  While I know there are studies that bring into question the "broken windows" theory, my intuitive sense is that keeping after those broken windows is important.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This is sad

At some level, this is a sad event.  On another level it is justice achieved.

As some may recall, back on 3 August 2005 a raid on then Congressman William Jefferson's home in Washington, DC, resulted in the finding of $90,000 in cold cash—in the freezer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Public Indecency

This report, from The Times talks to the Sudan and its current view on women and what they wear in public. 
Lubna Hussein is nothing if not brave. Arrested last month in a Khartoum café, the Sudanese United Nations official was accused, with 12 other women, of violating public decency by wearing trousers, and taken away to be flogged.  Ten of the other women submitted meekly to this arbitrary and barbaric sentence, received ten lashes at a police station and were ordered to pay a substantial fine.  Ms Hussein challenged the order, demanded a full trial and said that she was ready to receive not 40 but 40,000 lashes if the courts could prove that the sentence was not only constitutional but laid down in the Koran or the Hadith, the body of Muslim tradition and teachings.
However, this is about more than just one woman's insistence on the right to wear trousers in public.  There are larger diplomatic issues at stake.
Washington is seeking a modus vivendi with Khartoum in order to bolster the fragile peace agreement in the south and seek a way of bringing peace to Darfur, and an Administration official called last week for Sudan to be removed from the US terrorism blacklist.

All this could be jeopardised by a court ordering Ms Hussein to be flogged — a prospect that Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, has called a violation of human rights standards. Her fight for women’s rights has alarmed the zealots and Islamists around Mr al-Bashir. But unless he curbs their malign influence, his chances of ending his country’s pariah status look bleak.
At this moment US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Kenya.  Her remarks at the 8th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act included these words:
We believe in Africa’s promise. We are committed to Africa’s future. And we will be partners with Africa’s people.  I hope all of you have had a chance to either see or read President Obama’s speech last month in Ghana.  He said there what we believe:  Progress in Africa requires partnerships built on shared responsibility.  The flip side of responsibility is opportunity – shared opportunity.  And that is what I wish to speak about this morning, how we can work together to help realize the God-given potential of 800 million people who make their homes and find their livelihoods in the valleys of the Great Rift, across the plains of the Serengeti, in vibrant urban centers from Nairobi to Johannesburg to Dakar, and why seizing the opportunities of Africa’s future matters not only to Africans, but to all of us.
I searched on Lubna Hussein's name on the DoS website, but got no hits.

Progress is made slowly and sometimes there are steps back rather than forward.  I hand it to Ms Hussein for being willing to stand up and be counted.  And I wish her good luck.

Hat tip to Person A, who knows who she is, if she reads this post.  To quote Person A:
This case, however, serves as a small example of what one person's defiance can signify.  It also reminds me that "we cannot want it more than they do," and that change is best an internal effort that other countries can choose to support or not.
Regards  —  Cliff

  If it was The New York Times, I would have said so.  Therefore, it is that London newspaper.
  In the past Sudanese women occupied positions in all professions and were relatively free, but this appears to be changing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Moving Lowell Forward

As someone who was born in a city where the mills all went away, Johnstown, PA, I am very interested in my adopted city having a vision and doing well.  And, I am interested in Lowell doing it without the bad publicity that Representative John Murtha brings to Johnstown.

Thus, when I had a chance to cooperate with Lynne Lupien of Left in Lowell on a non-partisan effort to encourage Lowell voters to vote and to encourage Lowell City Council candidates to tell us, the voters, how they are going to make the city better, I carefully considered and then jumped in with both feet.  In fact, I am the Chairman of "Move Lowell Forward" Political Action Committee.  My Co-Chairman is Lynne Lupien.

Please visit out website, at and see what we are talking about.

Are key points are:
  • Professionalism in city government;
  • Economic growth for local jobs and stabilizing the tax rate
  • A strong educational system
  • Safe and clean neighborhoods
  • A better quality of life and effective public services
  • Respect for, and adherence to, our Plan E city charter.
Let's be honest.  On the level of national, or even state policies and politics, Lynne and I are more likely to disagree than agree.  However, that doesn't mean that we can't find our areas of agreement and help move things forward.  With regard to our Great City, Lowell, we are in major agreement at this point in time.

But, agreement or disagreement, the most important thing for each of you is involvement.  Learn the issues and get out there and vote.

And, before you get to the ballot box, ask questions, write letters, post comments and make contributions to candidates.  For incumbent and challenger alike, running is hard.  Find one or more candidates you like and support them.  Please.

And, please support the "Move Lowell Forward" PAC.


Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  And for those of you who don't wish to comment, but do wish to send me an EMail, it is crk (at)  I have replaced "@" with " (at) " because I believe it will keep the spammers at bay.  This substitution is more an act of faith than actual programming knowledge.