Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Move Lowell Forward Explains the Process

Over at Move Lowell Forward there is a link to an explanation of the process for selecting the slate of nine recommended candidates for City Council.

I was very happy that it was a "process."  That is to say, we laid down some ground rules that sought to be objective.  We followed those ground rules.  When we saw the results we asked ourselves if we liked those results and then said amongst ourselves that that was the result of the rules we laid down, so we should happily accept.

There has been some talk in the comments over at Left in Lowell about the fact that without us publishing the returned questionnaires (Go here to see the questionnaire for City Council Candidates) we are less than transparent and others may not understand why we went the way we did.  Frankly, I think withholding is the proper decision. To fully understand the process you would have to go into each rater's brain and observe it when the person was making his or her choices. I am not sure that can be done. Rather, it is just the basis for arguments. Discussion yes, arguments no.

The summary of the process is here.

I would like to note that for those who did not return questionnaires, it was done politely and without rancor. I personally talked to Mayor Caufield and Councillors Armand Mercier and Alan Kazanjian and each of them was polite in talking to me.

If you are an A-10 Warthog pilot, you motto is "Go Ugly Early" (and rightfully so). However, for Lowell politics we should avoid that approach and show respect to others and assume that any slights are more likely mistakes than deliberate actions.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Did you notice that Left in Lowell got 73 comments.  Maybe blogs are more read than I thought.

New Technical Term—EBR

I heard this term on TV from the lips of one of the lawyers who argued the Heller Case before the US Supreme Court.

The gentleman was talking about the nebulous term "Assault Rifle."  Actually an assault rifle is fairly well described in military terms, but when the term is used by politicians or even some police it becomes something more amorphous.

The speaker suggested we use the term EBR—or Evil Black Rifle to describe this thing that is (a) a rifle and (b) scary.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  I decided to add a new category, SCOTUS, for Supreme Court of the United States, to better label this blog post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Berard Fundraiser

Ryan Berard, running for City Council, is having a fund raiser at Garcia Brogan's! Here is Ryan's EMail address:  "".

I was in there the other day for lunch and the waiter told me they have a new chief—bigger and better, I guess.  At any rate, the food was good.

While not the Owl Diner, the place is becoming popular for political meetings.  My lunch partner was with a red meat Republican and who shoud I see, but Ms Left in Lowell, Lynne Lupien.  Of course, we made introductions.

But, back to Ryan Berard:

Thursday, 8 October
6:30 to 9:00 PM
Garcia Brogan's
131 Middlesex St. Lowell, MA 01852

Remember, this is the place with its very own parking garage on top.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, September 28, 2009

City Council Endorsements

Move Lowell Forward, the non-partisan PAC looking at local races in Lowell (Mass) has provided its slate of endorsed candidates for City Council.

  • Kevin Broderick
  • William Martin
  • James Milinazzo
  • Franky Descoteaux
  • David Koch
  • Joseph Mendonça
  • Patrick Murphy
  • Ben Opara
  • Raymond Weicker
I think it is a good solid list. Not necessarily the list I would have picked, back when the paper was blank, but one that was built on non-partisan consensus.

The key for the voters of Lowell is to go out and vote.  Normally, about 12,000 registered voters show up for a local election.  Given past history, if 5,000 more voters go to the polls and vote with their nine votes for City Council, it could make a big different in the City Council—or not.

In the end the voters are the arbiters.

Regards  —  Cliff

Honduras and Brazil

Here is an item from the Wall Street Journal, by Mary Anastasia O'Grady.  The title is "Honduras Just Wants an Election:  The U.S. demand that Mr. Zelaya be returned to power before a vote is destructive."

Ms O'Grady is correct and the US Foreign Policy apparatchiks are wrong.

Regards  —  Cliff

How Long Should One Wait?

That is basically the question Law Professor Ann Althouse asks herself regarding criticism of The New York Times and their long count on the ACORN situation.

Granted, the video taping of meetings with low level ACORN staff members is amateurish, but at least they were on it.  Here is Professor Althouse about the NYT:
And what's with "Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire." Isn't the Times in the business of looking for facts? A great newspaper should be setting the "fires" — breaking stories — not covering stories that other people have broken, which is what the Times was left doing with ACORN.
The interesting thing is that ACORN has sued the amateur photo-journalists.  As someone noted, that opens ACORN to discovery.

At any rate, a great blog post by Professor Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, September 27, 2009

William Safire, RIP

An appreciation of the late William Safire is up at Forbes. I think the best line is:
He was irretrievably touched by the fact that life was made up of the actions of human beings and that the leisure of the theory classes was too expensive a luxury amid the grinding of social action and the exigencies of real people.
William Safire always had something useful to say.  In fact, I cite one of this books in a paper I have written for my Night School class on this coming Thursday.  The book is The First Dissident.

May he rest in peace.

Regards  —  Cliff

The pipes, the pipes are calling...

A Canadian officer, pinned down with his unit in Italy in 1944, urgently signalled his Commanding Officer—"Need reinforcements to rescue us.  Please send six tanks or one piper."

Possibly apocryphal.  Perhaps not.

The skirl of the bagpipe is strong medicine.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Local Politics—Fundraiser

I am not as good as other blogs in getting the word out about fundraisers, but I am hoping to get a jump on this one.

City Council Candidate Paul Belley is having his final fundraiser:
Longmeadow Golf Club
Oct, 1st  (Thursday)
6-9 PM
Music by the band the Funrazors  
Food and Fun
I liked the apparent play on words with Paul's band, the "Funrazors."

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is Paul's own band, as I understand it.

Some Things Expire Early

I thought this was interesting.

A friend of mine tried to travel on a US passport that was still good for 90 days—except the airline thought that wasn't good enough.

A cautionary tale.

Regards  —  Cliff

Do We Know Islam?

From time to time the question of the Long War seems to involve the role of Islam.  In the United States we tend to see a monolithic view of Islam.  An ongoing on-line discussion of the gathering this last Friday of Muslims on the Mall in Washington, DC, elicited this response from one group member. I think that the writer raises some good questions for the rest of us to ponder.

The fact is, that unless we ban the Muslim faith in our nation (a move I would oppose, as would the US Supreme Court, I would expect), we will find ourselves rubbing up against Muslims in our everyday life.  Learning about our Muslim neighbors will be useful to us and good for our Democracy.

So, on to one of the on-line discussants:
The Deobandi school of Islam—which represents over 100 million South Asians, and which is the well of doctrine from which the Taliban draws its more extreme views—formally renounced terrorism in the summer of 2008, after long and intensive discussions with a whole range of experts and religious figures.

Did anyone know?  Does anyone care?  How well do we—despite our obvious interests in this issue—know what is going on in the Islamic faith?  Exactly what signs are we looking for from a faith tradition with a substantially different approach to hierarchy and leadership than our own?

Isn't this move by the Deobandi school evidence of a fundamental commitment to combat terrorism, and an example of exactly what we want to see?  So why isn't this something we constantly note as evidence that things are changing for the better?

To put this in contrast, probably quite a few of us have some position on the crisis in the Episcopalian and Anglican churches surrounding sexuality and the ministry.  These bodies probably represent a significant element of Protestantism and, in fact, Christianity as a whole.

So if we're aware of this Christian issue, but not aware of an enormous school of Islamic thought that has taken a position that strongly supports our own in the war on terror, what exactly does that tell us about our familiarity with current political thought in the Ummah?  This is an n of 1, but it suggests to me that there's probably a hell of a lot I don't know about what is going on elsewhere.  To make it an n of 2, we might want to look at the efforts of Saudi clergy (not known for their ecumenical slant) to deprogram Al Qaeda foot soldiers and commanders, using Islam as the basis for condemning past activities.  There may be other rich veins to mine—I do not know, but presumably there are experts out there who are much more familiar with the workings of the Islamic tradition, the various schools, and the relationships between clergy, state, and people.
Just food for thought.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sine ira et studio

I came across this Latin phrase last week while studying for Night School.  It represents an approach sadly lacking in much news reporting this last week—lacking on all sides.

Sine ira et studio is defined in Wikipedia as "without anger and fondness" or "without hate and zealousness" and is attributed to the Roman historian Tacitus.
The histories of Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus - more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed.
Of course politics was a lot tougher in those days. Just ask Augustus' adoptive father, Julius Caesar.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, September 25, 2009

"John Brown's Body Lies A-Mouldering in the Grave"

There seems to be some concern about an Elementary School in New Jersey, where the young children sing a song in praise of President Barak Obama.  Here is one link to this event.

The big thing that bothers me is the fact that at one point the children are singing to the tune of "John Brown's Body."

I have to go back to Fifth Grade, when as a student in Wenonah, New Jersey, I had moved from the newer school building (K  through Four, plus Shop) to the older building (Five through Eight).

In Fifth Grade (first floor, East side, me sitting on the south end of the classroom) we were taught music. We learned to play the flute  We also learned songs—"The Whiffenpoof Song," "Rachel, Rachel" (turns out I was wrong, it is "Reuben, Reuben") and the standards like the "Star Spangled Banner," "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America."

The problem was, we also learned other songs, one of which was a definite gateway to the other, both of them having the same music. There was "John Brown's Body" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  I am worried that what is happening today in New Jersey is that at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School they are getting ready to introduce them not only to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but worse, to "John Brown's Body."

The first, of course, violates the separation of church and state, which we invented after I left Fifth Grade.

The second, though has bothered me ever since I learned the words to the song.  Of course, I didn't learn the proper background for the song, which is that it was invented by a group of soldiers from some US Civil War Battalion raised in Boston, singing about Sergeant John Brown.

I thought it was a reference to Abolitionist John Brown, who had fought slavery in Bloody Kansas and then had staged the raid on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, where he was captured by Colonel Robert E Lee, leading a detachment of US Marines.  What was I supposed to think?  Was I to be honoring John Brown for knowing the evils of slavery and fighting against that evil? What about the role of law and order?

With all this backstory, I am worried about what the children are learning when they move beyond the "Obama Song" to the verse in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic:"
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on
Then there is this verse (third, I think) from "John Brown's Body:"
John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back! (3X)
His soul's marching on!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! his soul's marching on!
So, in Fifth Grade my social consciousness was raised and the question of what was a proper response to evil was not answered.

I am hoping the students at the Elementary School are not being led down the same path, the same way.

In the mean time, I hope they continue to show respect for our current President, just as they were taught to show respect for his predecessor. They were taught to show respect for President George W Bush, weren't they?

My only advice to the Principle is that in this day and age one has to expect that anything done could be on the front page of some newspaper or in the six o'clock hour of some news show.  A little thought is always helpful.  A little expectation of what people could make of the current activities is needed.  The kids were cute and I doubt if any lasting damage was done to them (unlike my Fifth grade experience).  However, if this kind of thoughtless musical meandering from common sense starts to spread across the nation it will be time to remember the lessons of Fifth Grade and John Brown and start a movement to abolish our current public schools and to start all over.


Law Professor Ann Althouse, who reports elsewhere that she voted for President Obama, is not too happy with this.  As of this posting she has garnered 115 comments.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Actually, not Kindergarten, but "Beginners."
  Or, in my case, not.
  Isn't that a strange combination?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Well, with the TSW race down to Mr Dukakis and Mr Kirk, it is time to move on.

Former Honduras President Manuel Zelaya claims the forces of what nation are out to assassinate him. Hint, a Middle East nation.

The Miami Herald said:
t's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he said his throat is sore from toxic gases and "mercenaries" are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.
And some secret group is out to assassinate him.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TSW Vote

State Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos did the right thing and voted NO on the TSW bill.  As did State Reps David Nangle and Kevin Murphy, earlier.

Thank you Senator Panagiotakos and thank you State Reps Nangle and Murphy.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Unfortunately, it passed the State Senate.

Quote of the Day

From President Barak Obama, responding to a question from Comedian David Letterman.
I was Black before the election.
The comment was in response to Mr Letterman's question about suggestions of racism in the US and in particular former President Jimmy Carter's comments.
Mr. Obama said the notion that racism is playing a role in the criticism, which has been voiced by former President Jimmy Carter and others, is countered in part by the fact that he was elected in the first place – which, he said, "tells you a lot about where the country's at."

"One of the things that you sign up for in politics is that folks yell at you," the president said, noting that "whenever a president tries to bring about significant changes, particularly during times of economic unease, there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up." He pointed to the experiences of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan as examples.
The President was accurate, insightful and funny, all at the same time.

Regards  —  Cliff

TSW Nominee

The Boston Globe has an editorial today, suggesting former Governor Michael Dukakis as the TSW.

This is the Michael Dukakis who thinks high speed rail is 110 mph.

The good news is that at least former Governor Michael Dukakis is not former President Jimmy Carter.

And, the White House is urging the Massachusetts Great and General Court to create the position of TSW so that health care reform can be passed.  The White House, and the US Congress, would be better off focused on getting together a bill that meets the needs of the American People and does it in a way that is politically acceptable to those same American People.  Having a Senator Dukakis there won't change the outcome if we don't change the bill.

We need to change the way we are doing business with health care.  The problem is, the monster bill HR 3200 and its siblings, are not getting the job done.  A simpler bill, which addressed the need for more providers where they are needed and a simplified safety net would be a much better solution than what we have now.  Don't break the current system—find solutions to the problems on the edges.

And, as for those who are concerned that we rank down in the 30s in terms of life expectancy, I suggest they urge their US Representative and their Senators to spend some money on newborns and the very young. Our high infant mortality is what is driving the our life expectancy numbers, statistics being what they are.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Teddy Seat Warmer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Larry Eagleburger on Honduras

"We should shut up and stay out of it."

Thus spoke former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

And, the former SecState also told lawyer and talk show host Gretta Van Susteren that she was his hero for supporting the current Honduras government against the US Government, which is harassing it.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  My previous post.

F-4D Pictures

The only "commercial" McDonald Phantom II flying in the US.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Economy and Economics

Major global shipping firms are facing a hard time.  About 12 percent of the global fleet of merchant shipping is anchored just east of Singapore, with minimal manning.

In short, it is hard to over-emphasize how bad off the industry is—they have had to lay off 50% of their employees.  Two years ago they would charge $2400, or $1800 to a WalMart, to ship a container from Hong Kong to Long Beach (CA).  Today they are happy to get $800, which doesn't even pay for fuel, but at least is cheaper than mothballing.

Part of the problem for the shipping industry is the competition from cargo jet liners, where the firms have cut their shipping rates to compete and where current "just in time" inventory control.  This has cut into shipping by sea.

So, the theory of economics—when there is a surplus, prices go down, seems to be working out in the global shipping market.  To copy with this, shippers are taking ships out of service.  What we are not seeing is a rebound in global shipping, but supposedly we are seeing an uptick in air cargo business

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What Was She Really Thinking?

Here is a different spin on Sarah Palin and her resignation.

I don't know the author, Greg Beado, and I don't have a subscription to Reason Magazine, but I do have a hat tip for Samizdata.


Here is a post over at End of Nihilism with a view on former Governor Sarah Palin.  Not everyone is down on Governor Palin.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Local Lowell Blogger.

Welcome, Future Citizens

The US Military, and especially the US Army, is offering an expedited path to citizenship for immigrants in a relatively new program described here.

Here is a synopsis:
In exchange for military service, the foreign recruits - who offer skills it would take years to teach - get an expedited path to citizenship.

Since the pilot program began in New York, expanding to Los Angeles in May, the foreign recruits have included 34 health care professionals and 385 people who speak languages such as Arabic, Polish and Swahili.

More than 69 percent of them have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with just under 10 percent for the Army as a whole.

"These are really accomplished individuals," said Naomi Verdugo, the Army's assistant deputy for recruiting.

More than 200 slots remain for recruits with language skills in the program, as well as more than 260 for health care professionals.
Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quote of the Day

It would appear to me that the only country that the Obama Administration is worried about is mighty Honduras, a veritable dagger pointed at Caracas.
Attributed to an unknown person to be known as "Y", "X" having already been taken some time ago.

Regards  —  Cliff

AirLand Battle and Strategic Atrophy

This is a bit obscure if you are not a follower of the US Army's attempt to reinvent itself in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of the products of the Army's effort to relearn warfighting after the Viet-nam war was a new doctrine, known as AirLand Battle.  It was interesting enough that in about 1982 it made the cover of the New York Times Magazine.

Part of understanding all this terminology is thinking about warfighting as a bunch of blocks in a row, called tactics.  On top of them are a couple of blocks, call operational art.  At the top is one block, called strategy.  For an army person tactics covers things that are done from the squad level up through division or even corps (in a really big war).  Strategy directs downward and tactical success sums up to operational success, which sums up to strategic success.  But, all the tactical success in the world doesn't guarantee victory (see Viet-nam).  All the success at the operational level of war doesn't guarantee victory (see Germany in WWII).

But, questions are being raised, as they should be, given that was some 25 years ago, a quarter of a century.  Did we get it right?  Did we misplace anything?

So, along comes a couple of authors who challenge the received wisdom:  Alien:  How Operational Art Devoured Strategy.
The publication of the 1982 version of Army Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations, introduced to the English-speaking world the idea of an operational level of war encompassing the planning and conduct of campaigns and major operations. It was followed 3 years later by the introduction of the term “operational art” which was, in practice, the skillful management of the operational level of war. This conception of an identifiably separate level of war that defined the jurisdiction of the profession of arms was, for a number of historical and cultural reasons, attractive to U.S. practitioners and plausible to its English-speaking allies. As a result, it and its associated doctrine spread rapidly around the world. The authors argue that as warfare continues to diffuse across definitional and conceptual boundaries and as the close orchestration of all of the instruments of national power becomes even more important, the current conception of campaigns and operations becomes crippling. To cope with these demands by formulating and prosecuting “national campaigns,” the authors propose that the responsibility for campaign design should “actually” return to the political-strategic leadership of nations supported by the entirety of the state bureaucracy. This would mark the return of the campaign to its historical sources. If the United States and its allies fail to make this change, they risk continuing to have a “way of battle” rather than a “way of war.”
But, that is the long synopsis.

Here is a shorter version from someone out there on the world-wide web.
Can we blame our love affair with the Wehrmacht and all things Auftragstaktik as we developed the AirLand Battle design and the four basic tenets of initiative, depth, agility, and synchronization for impairing our strategic efficacy?

I guess we are the German Heereskommando...very good at the operational level of war.. but oh so bad at strategy... Proves the importance of choosing appropriate role-models.
Why do you care?

You care because it we mess this up then we will have wasted billions of dollars and thousands of lives chasing the hope of victory in our current and future wars without the possibility of that victory.

Remember when we put retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner in charge of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and then replaced him with L Paul Bremer.  With L Paul Bremer we were messing up the whole long term strategy.  It cost us.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Mission Orders, or literally mission type tactics.  You are told what to accomplish, not how to accomplish it.
  The top German Army Command in World War II.

Rep Tsongas on ACORN Vote

Earlier today I posted on the US House vote on defunding Acorn and noted that our Representative, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas voted against defunding.  I wrote to one of her Staffer's who provided this input, and did so promptly.
Good to hear from you.  Congresswoman Tsongas believes that the behavior displayed by ACORN employees was nothing short of despicable, and feels strongly that ACORN should no longer be permitted to receive federal funding in light of these developments.

While Congresswoman Tsongas feels that it is appropriate that ACORN will likely no longer receive federal funds, she was disappointed that the bill that was considered in the House was so broad that it could apply to organizations that had committed no wrongdoing and for that reason she felt compelled to vote against it.
While I still agree with the House Majority, I see Congresswoman Tsongas' thinking and it is a point of view to be considered and respected.

Thanks to John Noble.

Regards  —  Cliff



Yes.  Last night, in class we talked about the short story "Editha."

The consensus was that the protagonist, Miss Editha Balcom, was an unthinking patriot of the worst sort, who sent her fiancee off to fight a war he didn't believe in and which was, in the long run, unworthy of the United States.

One of the more insightful students drew parallels between the Spanish American War and our 2003 invasion of Iraq.  One didn't get the sense that there was anyone in the classroom prepared to defend President Bush's decision to go after Iraq.  (I could have made a case, but in 2002/2003 I thought the gain did not outweigh the risks.  The gain was two fold.  On the one hand, the international sanctions regime was going to go away.  Both Russia and France wanted it to go away.  Iraq would have been free to pursue its nuclear weapons program.  On the other hand the war promised possible socio-economic transformation of the Middle East and the solution to not only the terror threat posed by al Qaeda, but also the possible solution to our Israel problem.  On the risk side is the always present chance of failure in war.  In the words of one wag, "War is like childbirth.  The outcome is always uncertain.")

In today's collection of EMails was this item:
92 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson said that "...right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts-for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free."
So, there you have it.  On the one hand war is a terrible thing and to be avoided like the plague.  On the other hand, "right is more precious than peace," and we have the always esteemed President Woodrow Wilson telling us that.

This is a continuing issue in this nation and why free and open debate is important and why a "band wagon" approach to important political decisions is detrimental.  Think about Europe in July and August of 1914.

As Democrats told us during the Bush II Administration, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.  What is good for war is good for health care.

Regards  —  Cliff

  College Writing II
  I am thinking she is named for Saint Editha, and that would likely make her a "high church" Episcopalian.
  Spanish American war, in 1898.
  For those who learned the "new math" that would be 1917.
  Not that President Wilson deserves the esteem he gets, but it is the conventional wisdom.
  Well, not exactly, but it is an important point about the importance of dissent.

Strobes on the Connector

As followers of this Blog know, I have been on about the fact that two of the three strobe lights at the bottom of the Connector are burned out and have not been replaced and this problem is a couple of months old.

Thursday afternoon late (yesterday) I got a phone call from the District 4 Director, Ms Patricia Leavenworth, PE.

Ms Leavenworth told me that her folks responded to her question about the burned out strobes that the new national standards say no strobes on street lights.  However, being an engineer, she apparently wants to know the why behind the new policy and she is probing for that information.  When she passes it on to me, I will pass it on to you.

In the mean time, don't look for replacement strobe lights any time soon.

And a hearty thank you to Ms Leavenworth.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I wonder if anyone told Lowell City Government (re the light at Gorham and Union Streets).

I Will Try for a Comment

Here are the results of the US House vote to defund Acorn, which follows action in the US Senate to do the same.

I checked our Representative's web site, but Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, who voted no, had nothing up.

Here is what the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune (the Strib) had to say about Acorn and recent revelations.

I will send along this URL and ask Congresswoman Tsongas for some insight into her vote.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Voting no means that she voted to allow funding of Acorn to continue.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh Oh

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that he is handing the Air Force tanker contracting effort (the KC-X) back to the Air Force.

As you recall, this is a $35 billion dollar competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman (who is teamed with Airbus) to build some 179 aircraft.

Everyone and his brother has had a hand in this pie.  I am surprised that some firm out of Johnstown, PA, isn't teamed up with someone to produce the next Air Force Tanker.

The reason this is important is that the Air Force and the Navy (and the Marine Corps to a lesser extent) depend upon aerial tankers to conduct long range and long endurance missions.  And, this impacts the Army as well, in that strategic lift supports the Army.

The loss of this capability would have a major impact on our military capabilities, which involve projecting power far from our shores.

But, the other side of the coin is the potential loss of aircrews if the current KC-135 force starts falling out of the sky.

Hat tip to Neal Crossland for pointing this out to me.

Regards  —  Cliff

Happy Constitution Day

Cribbed from someone's EMail...
Any plans to celebrate the 222nd anniversary of our nation’s founding document on September 17 this year?

If not, it’s not too late to reacquaint yourself with the details of this historic record.

You can get a free copy of the pocket-sized publication “The U.S. Constitution & Fascinating Facts About It,” available in English or Spanish language editions.

The government sites below provide a wealth of information, training, and many other resources for people interested in exploring further.

Department of Defense Constitution Day and Citizenship Day:  links to the Constitution, promotional posters, a brief 15-20 minute on-line course, and a videotaped presentation featuring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

National Archives:  The Charters of Freedom: Constitution of the United States.

Government Printing Office:  Constitution of the United States main page.

Library of Congress:  “The Federalist Papers” a series of 85 essays urging the citizens of New York to ratify the new United States Constitution.  The Federalist Papers are considered one of the most important sources for interpreting and understanding the original intent of the Constitution.
Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spinning the Acorn

Law Professor Ann Althouse fisks the NYT over the Acorn and Van Jones stories here.

She wanders a little and then pulls it all together in the end.

It appears that the Republicans, being in disarray, have taken to reading the Democratic Party playbook.

I am not sure if this is good news for the Republicans or if it is bad news for the Republic.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  There is a Jon Steward clip on the Acorn story, which Law Professor Glenn Reynolds has over at Instapundit

TSW Update

Yesterday's Headline:  "Lawmakers divided on filling seat."

Today's Headline:  "Votes are lined up to appoint a senator."

It is all about the Teddy Seat Warmer (TSW).

But, the important reason for this blog post is that it gives me a chance to apologize to Globe OpEd Columnist Ms Joan Vennochi.  In a blog post on Sunday evening I suggested that Ms Vennochi had brought up US Representative Joe Wilson (D-SC) one more time in her story on the situation on Beacon Hill regarding the TSW issue.  In fact, it was Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray who noted Representative Wilson and decided that Representative Wilson and his outburst toward the President was a reason to support a TSW.  Frankly, I don't see it, but if you are pushing a TSW you may be looking for reasons.

Let the record show, I thought that Representative Wilson was out of line when he shouted out during the President's speech.  On the other hand, he is not the first and will not be the last.  I also think the US House of Representatives went too far in their vote to formally rebuke Representative Wilson.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

Do you agree with Congressman Ike Skelton, who issued this statement today, 16 September 2009?

This statement was issued by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) following today’s classified administration briefing on the situation in Afghanistan:
“I was pleased to receive today’s classified update from the administration on the situation in Afghanistan. As the Obama Administration and Congress have an opportunity to learn more about General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment and about what resources are needed to implement our strategy, I call on everyone to give our military commander’s request serious consideration.

“While we have a tough fight in Afghanistan, we picked the right general for the job. We took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan when we invaded Iraq, but U.S. national security and regional stability demand that we give Afghanistan the attention it deserves. Afghanistan can no longer play second fiddle to other national security concerns.”
Tough question?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We Still Need Fighter Pilots

From time to time there is a cheap shot sent my way about manned aircraft vs drones.

So, I am happy to mention this news article.
A drone pilot's nightmare came true when operators lost control of an armed MQ-9 Reaper flying a combat mission over Afghanistan on Sunday. That led a manned U.S. aircraft to shoot down the unresponsive drone before it flew beyond the edge of Afghanistan airspace.

The U.S. Air Force stated that a manned aircraft took "proactive measures" to shoot down the Reaper, which ended up crashing into the side of a mountain. Reaper drones have typically engaged in hunter-killer missions over Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan by targeting enemies on the ground with Hellfire missiles.
Regards  —  Cliff

Clunker Program

My buddy Juan sent this along...
  • A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.
  • A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.
  • The average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.
  • They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that's 224 million gallons per year.
  • That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.
  • 5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's US consumption.
  • 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75 per bbl.
  • So, we all contributed to spending $3 save $350 million.
  • Hmmm! How good a deal was that?
  • I'm thinking that they will probably do a great job with health care though!
The one thing that may be good from the Cash for Clunkers program is that it seems to have provided stimulation for the auto industry.  How long it lasts is yet to be determined.  But, it isn't saving a lot of auto fuel.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, September 14, 2009

Is it President Obama's War?

No, of course it isn't.  As I have said before.

However, that doesn't stop Globe OpEd Columnist James Carroll from suggesting that.
The scale of President Obama’s military mistake is becoming clear exactly as the moment of his greatest opportunity to improve American life has arrived. The tragedy, as with Lyndon Johnson, will be the destruction of his proposed social transformation by his simultaneous opting for war, as his core supporters among liberals and Democrats feel bound to oppose him.
I think that Mr Carroll thinks that it is easy to dismount the tiger.  That is not the case.

Here is a sentence from the column:
Especially dangerous is the Taliban’s transformation by its war with America from a crackpot cult with local reach into a mythic resistance force drawing ever wider support.
The first problem with this sentence is that that crackpot cult provided a home for al Qaeda.  The reason we went into Afghanistan is that al Qaeda, operating under the protection of the Taliban, orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, and before that attacks on US facilities (including embassies) across the Middle East.

So, Question Number 1 is, if we pull out and the Taliban returns and al Qaeda goes back in and continues to make war on the US, is it OK for us to go back in and once again depose the Taliban to get to al Qaeda?

Not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan is opposed to the US.  A lot of folks have supported the United States, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  These are folks who ran for office as we tried to install democracy.  These are folks who served as interpreters.  These are folks who have done business with the US military.

So Question Number 2 is, if we pull out, will we offer these people who supported us the protection of the United States in the form of offering them refugee status in the US, leading to citizenship.

We have seduced people into doing some "Western" kinds of things, like girls going to school in Afghanistan.  Some have had acid thrown in their face for the crime/sin of going to school.

So Question Number 3 is, what is our moral obligation to those whose expectations we have stimulated.

Mr Carroll ends his article with this paragraph:
In citing Ted Kennedy last week, the president said that health reform is “above all a moral issue’’ involving “fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.’’ But that exactly defines what is at stake in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our troops being uselessly killed is a moral issue. That internecine violence among sects and factions a world away grows worse because of us is a moral issue. Obama has continued the Pottery Barn carelessness of his predecessors. For the sake of social justice, American character, and the hope of his own presidency, the time has come to stop it.
Mr Carroll uses the term "moral" three times in the sentence.

The fact is, there are moral issues at stake, but it isn't just about our soldiers (our including all the NATO troops who participate in these struggles), but about all sorts of moral commitments.

And, in talking in terms of saving the lives of US service members, Mr Carroll owes it to himself and to us to look down the road ask what happens if we pull out.  It isn't a single answer.  It is a series of answers and like the branches of a tree, it spreads out in different direction.
  • What happens to Afghanistan?
  • Where does al Qaeda go?
  • What happens in Pakistan?
  • What happens to the Pakistan Nucs?
  • How is India impacted?
  • Does it end up nuclear war in South Asia?
  • If the Taliban supports insurgents in China, how does China react?
  • What if there is another 9/11 event in the US or Canada or Mexico?
  • What about Islamist militant ties in Latin America?
  • What about terrorist ties to drug cartels?
The thing is, if one is going to suggest a change in strategy, one owes it to the reader to think through some of the long term implications.  Mr Carrll fails to do that.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Day, New Slant

Ed Driscoll, over at Pajamas Media, has a blog post on the Main Stream Media, "T’was Accountability That Killed The MSM."

Although, I think the death of the Main Stream Media may be overstated.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  And Howard Kurtz, over at The Washington Post lays into Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, but then admits the MSM blew the story on Mr Anthony "Van" Jones.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Award to Sun Editor

Jim Campanini, editor of The Lowell Sun is one of "four journalists who will receive the Yankee Quill Award for contributions to the betterment of journalism in New England."

It can all be read here.

Here is the gist of it:
Bill Ketter, chairman of the Academy of New England Journalists and also part of the 16-member award selection committee, said judges were impressed with Campanini's vigorous defense of the First Amendment throughout his career, but particularly during his editorship at The Sun.

"There isn't a public meeting or a public record that he hasn't fought for access to, therefore protecting the reader's public interest," Ketter said, adding that Campanini's efforts moving the newspaper into the digital world have been impressive.
Congratuations to Mr Campanini.

On the other hand, I came across this quote today.  It is from Thomas Carlyle's diary and is about the England's entry into the Crimean War:
It is the idle population of editors, etc., that have done all this in England.
Apparently Mr Campanini has not been idle."

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.

Page A19?

Page A19 of Sunday's Boston Globe is where they stuck the demonstrations in DC that might loosely be call a "Tea Party" rally against Federal Government spendinig.

The Washington Post gave it page one, top of the fold, billing in the paper edition, with two photos.  I wonder if I can see two of my grandchildren in the photo.

Interesting to me, the Globe print edition had the reporter as Nafeesa Syeed.  The on-line edition has the reporters as Emma Brown and James Hohmann. Same lead photo.  Different words.  Here is the print edition (Nafeesa Syeed) lede:
Tens of thousands of protesters fed up with government spending marched to the Capitol yesterday, showing their disdain for the president's health care plan with slogans such as "Obamacare makes me sick" and "I'm not your ATM."
Here is the on-line lede:
Tens of thousands of conservative protesters, many complaining that the nation is racing toward socialism, massed outside the US Capitol yesterday, angrily denouncing President Obama’s health care plan and other initiatives as threats to the Constitution.
They are different and the on-line lede has a spin the print edition does not.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I wonder if the title at the top of the page, Boston Sunday Globe means it is a whole new paper?
  Shouldn't "president" have been capitalized?

"Fear Mongering"

I think that Boston Globe letter writer Betsy McCaughey, of New York, summed up my concerns about end of life issues and the health care bill we have seen, HR 3200.

After you read the letter, consider that one lesson from military service is that people pay attention to what is inspected.  And not just in military service.

Regards  —  Cliff

Seat Warmer Reprise

How about Teddy Seat Warmer (TSW)?  I see a photo-shopped image of a Teddy Bear (from that other great political dynasty, the Roosevelts) sitting in a seat on the Senate Floor.

Joan Vennochi wrote about this today, giving it a "girl power" spin and doing a good job of telling us that Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray is playing hardball.  On the other hand, I thought the swipe at Representative Joe Wilson was a little out of place. Do you think, in the day, she took a jab at the Democrats who booed President George Bush? 

Regards  —  Cliff

  And fair is fair, Republicans who booed President Bill Clinton?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Update on 9/11 (In a Way)

Someone sent this along:
This day (12 September) in 1683 was the high point of the Second Jihad. On this date the Siege of Vienna ended after a combined force led by John III Sobieski of Poland defeated the Turkish invaders.

The battle raged for 15 hours before the Turkish invaders were driven from their trenches. The red tent of the grand vizier was blown up, but he escaped while thousands of members of his routed army were slaughtered or taken prisoner. Reports stated that it took the armies and the Viennese a week to collect the booty that was left behind in the Turkish camp.
But, as Dick Howe notes from time to time, all politics (and war is an extension of politics) is local.  And all anniversaries are personal.

Regards  —  Cliff

Those Terrible Republicans

When the Fox News Channel "News Watch" program was young, Neal Gabler was the panelist who made the show interesting for me. While I didn't often agree with him, I thought he did some good reasoning.  Today, not so much.

Mr Gabler's OpEd in today's Boston Globe is titled "The extreme Republican Party."
Let’s not mince words here: We now have an entire political party that is not only dedicated to the mediocre. It is dedicated to the nearly deranged.
Well, it is true that he didn't mince words.

Mr Gabler then goes on to say that most Democracies have a left party and a right party and that they are differentiated, but close in view.

Then, Mr Gabler goes on to make the point that the Republicans represent a fringe party.
The only bright side is that according to a recent Pew poll, only 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, which makes them not only a fringe in beliefs but also, thankfully, in numbers.
But, it gets worse.  As the analysis continues Mr Gabler notes:
What is under the radar is something more recent and more terrifying for the health of our political system: The Republican Party has become a small minority of out-of-mainstream people (think Representative Joseph Wilson’s outburst to the president this week) but, by virtue of its history, of the media attention it receives, and, frankly, by default, it still occupies a central place in our political life. In any other Western democracy it might have become a far-right splinter party. In America, we don’t really have splinter parties. When one of our parties goes crazy, it doesn’t slide to the margins.
On and on it goes, but here is the OpEd writer's bottom line.
Maybe Democrats should be happy that Republicans have been reduced to a lunatic fringe. But the lunatics still have their seat at the table, and someday they may be sitting at its head again. What then?
The part I don't understand is, if the Republican Party is this small fringe group of lunatics, why would they ever be able to mount a comeback?

Maybe Mr Gabler is concerned that the Republican Party has become the US equivalent of the French Front National (FN) and will soon find its own Jean-Marie le Pen.

I am sorry to disappoint Mr Gabler, but while the US Republican Party has no leadership at the national level, so to speak of, it is not about to become a North American version of the FN.  Sure, Representative Joe Wilson failed to show the politeness expected of a Republican, the Party as a whole has shown a lot more decorum than the Democrats did at the beginning of the Decade, when George Bush was President.  And, booing the President goes back further than President Bush.

The real problem is that while more and more Americans are eschewing party labels, there is still a sense of liberal, libertarian and conservative.  This should make local Lowell Blogger Kad Barma happy.  However, when the voters go to the polls, they normally have only people from political parties.  In 2006 and 2008 the voters showed that President Bush and the Republicans had exhausted the good will of the People.  Frankly, the Republicans in Congress had lost their way and deserved to lose the majority.

In the mean time, there is a more interesting discussion of the whole Joe Wilson/incivility issue, and the larger issue of if the Republican Party is "racist" over at the Volokh Conspiracy.  As of this writing, 163 comments.

But, back to Mr Gabler, the question is, what happens in 2010?  If the stimulus has not ended the recession and if the health care outcome represents an imposed solution rather than a negotiated compromise, then the Democrats could lose seats.  On the other hand, if the economy turns around, Health Care Reform is acclaimed by all and the wars are under control, all will be well for the Democrats and Mr Gabler can then turn his time and considerable talents to advising the Republicans as to how to be a real center of the road (right side) political party.

Good luck to us and good luck to Mr Gabler.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This article has also been blogged over at the Richard Howe blog site.
  Maybe it is just me, but when I think fringe I think 5% or so.
  This is even if the Republican Party still lacks leadership at the national level.

The Empty Senate Seat

On Wednesday, 9 September, The Boston Globe ran an editorial that urged Beacon Hill to change the rules for dealing with a vacant Senate Seat one more time.

It would seem that with Senator Kennedy passing away the United States is in a crisis (read healthcare) or Massachusetts is in a crisis (read constituent services).

As to the first, if the loss of one senator makes a critical difference, then we don't have a concensus and going forward is a questionable idea. For a razor thin majority to ram a major change to life in these United States through the US Congress seems like a bad idea.  The arrogance of saying that the other 49.99% will get over it is a little much.

As for the second crisis, we had a perfectly good solution just a few years ago and the people on Beacon Hill, apparently at the urging of Senator Kennedy, got rid of it.  As Pogo would have said, "Yep son, we have met the enemy and he is us."

Given that this Commonwealth embarrassed itself many years ago with the Gerrymander, the Great and General Court is wise to show some caution. What we don't need is some Walt Kelly like person inventing the term "Teddysenator," to describe someone installed as a seat warmer.

The other thing that struck me about the editorial is that while it recognizes the problem of having super majorities in both Houses, it does not seem to recognize the danger and the need for the People of Massachusetts to do something about it.  This is some superficial analysis, but nothing serious.  Worse, having identified a problem, there is not even the hint of a first step to a solution.  I would call that very poor staff work.

Regards  —  Cliff

  If Senator Kerry and his office did the constituent services only half as well as Senator Kennedy and his office did the job, there would be no crisis.  I think the reason Chancellor Meehan is not in the current race is he is biding his time and waiting to run against Senator Kerry, who might be vulnerable.
  And history being what it is, this would be a second example of a "Teddysenator" in recent Massachusetts history.

Friday, September 11, 2009

International Criminal Court and Your Neighbors

I am not sure Investors Business Daily is always correct, so I am a little dubious about this report on the International Criminal Court (ICC), showing up in Kabul to investigate the actions of our troops, and I would presume, other NATO troops.  But, then we have this in The Wall Street Journal.
The prosecutor said forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- which include U.S. servicemen -- could potentially become the target of an ICC prosecution, as the alleged crimes would have been committed in Afghanistan, which has joined the war-crimes court. However, every nation has the right to try its own citizens for the alleged crimes, and the ICC can step in only after determining a national court was unable or unwilling to pursue the case.
Further on, the WSJ says that Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, said that "the court was also looking into the actions of the Taliban."  And who will haul the Taliban accused into court?  Maybe the NATO Troops.

The Manchester Guardian covered the issue and had this sentence:
According to Moreno Ocampo, Nato now explains to colonels during training that if they commit atrocities, they may be brought before the ICC, so that "if those who are planning know they will be prosecuted, they will do something different".
Maybe that explains why the Germans wouldn't go out and deal with the two hijacked fuel trucks, and instead left it to the US Air Force, with 70 some dead as a result.

So, I call on Mr Moreno-Ocampo to choose between my F-15E buddies and the Taliban manning the checkpoint.  Which one committed the war crime?

The good news is the following from the WSJ:
The specter of international trials of U.S. troops was central to the Bush administration's objection to joining the court, and the U.S. hasn't ratified the Rome Statute that set up the ICC in 1998. While the Obama administration has spoken more positively of the court, the president hasn't signed the treaty, which would need Senate ratification.
The good news is that President Bush did not push the treaty and that neither has President Obama.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  And the title?  It could be your Massachusetts National Guard buddies or someone you went to high school or college with a couple of years ago.

9/11 Anniversary

I put off blogging today to see what might happen.

To me this would be the kind of day that al Qaeda might decide to try another spectacular terrorist event.  That, however, is my thinking.  The eighth anniversary and a new president might be the time to make a statement.

However, nothing seems to have happened.  And thank God for that.

The fact that nothing happened may be due to the vigilance of the US Government, and the vigilance of our friends and allies.

Or, it may be due to the fact that for Osama bin Laden and his associates have a totally different historic perspective. The key dates may be things like 1492—not about Admiral Christopher Columbus, but when the Moors were expelled from Spain. Maybe it is 1683, when Islam was turned back at the gates of Vienna.  Perhaps some other date.  Whatever sparks the memories of the members of al Qaeda, it is likely different from what we might pick.

Even today we know too like about those who oppose us in the "Long War."

This is not a knowing in the sense of giving us empathy with those who would destroy us to achieve their goals in the Middle East, but a knowing in the sense of understanding what is going on in the minds of those who oppose us and would destroy us to achieve their goals.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Well, I missed last week.

As for the answer for the week before, the Treasurer of the United States works for the Secretary of the Treasury. Also, since President Harry Truman appointed Georgia Neese Clark, back in 1949, every Treasurer of the United States has been a woman.

The first Treasurer of the United States was Michael Hillegas.  However, when the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was confirmed, Mr Hillegas resigned and was replaced by Samuel Meredith.

The incumbent is Rosa Gumataotao Rios.

But, on to this week's question.

Yesterday the Great and General Court held a hearing on changing the law regarding replacing a US Senator who has vacated his or her position.

The questions is, if the Governor appoints someone to be the "interim" US Senator (a suggested by the late Senator Ted Kennedy in a letter released a few weeks ago), will the law be constitutional in requiring a "temporary" appointee to resign so that someone subsequently elected can assume the seat?  That is to say, will the plan work as Senator Kennedy suggested or is it fraught with Murphyisms?

Regards  —  Cliff

  And the third in a row from California and the sixth Latina.
  "Murphy's Law: If an aircraft part can be installed incorrectly, someone will install it that way."


I thought the Gucci Advert on the back cover of the 14 September 2009 issue of The New Yorker was tacky.

No photo provided at this blog site.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I thought the below quoted anonymous comment on a blog post comment with regard to an article in Small Wars Journal made some good points in a few words:
The fundamental issue is that our forces invariably see themselves as the 'battlespace owners,' not the Afghans. Not only should we follow Coeus' suggestion to reinforce legitimacy by funneling resources through local leaders, we must confer legitimacy on all elements of Afghan authority, including Afghan Army and Police leaders and forces as the 'battlespace owners.' They will win the current, evolving war, as Michael Yon described it, not us, because it is theirs to win, not ours.
The original article, by Dr Ronald Holt, is at this location.

Regards  —  Cliff


Growing up in the 1950s, I remember people beginning to talk about nuclear war and the living envying the dead.  Such talk became greater in the 1960s, toward the tail end of which I used to sit Victor Alert—15 minute quick reaction alert with the aircraft armed with a nuclear weapon.

But, the idea that civilization would end with nuclear war or some other activity has always seemed strange to me. Now, someone muses on the outcome of a mass death event that did not totally wipe out all human life.

It seemed like a reasonable analysis to me.  Not pretty, but reasonable.

Regards  —  Cliff

Joe Says No

And I think it is a good thing for the Democratic Party.

Here is The Boston Globe article.

Dynasties are stunting to nations and political parties.  Open fields encourage new talent to emerge and new ideas to bloom.

Thanks, Joe.

Regards  —  Cliff

President (I hope) Inspires Our Students

Today the President of the United States talks to the students of the United States and I think it is a good thing.

This is an action with precedent—he will be following in the footsteps of President George W Bush.

On the other hand, the Department of Education has stirred up some controversy with its lesson plan, which played right into the hands of those who are protesting the Administration's plans to reshape the US economic landscape with TARP and the bailout of GM and Chrysler and now health care.  Even the Education Department admits it erred.  I do think the protestors have been distracted by this tempest in a teapot.

Dan Phelps of The Lowell Sun, referred to the protestors as "silly."  Well, Dan is a local columnist and a little over-the-top language is part of his style.

On the other hand, for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to refer to his fellow citizens as "just silly" after his Department messed up the proposed lesson plan, which invited the criticism, shows that the Administration has lost the sure hand it has shown in getting its message across to the American People.  I am hoping that Rahm Emanuel has quietly taken Mr Duncan to the wood shed for his comment on one of the Sunday Talk Shows.

As a side comment, former Speaker Newt Gingrich just said on Fox News that he read an advance copy of the speech released by the White House and it is a terrific message for our school children.  And, he noted the precedent and said, "fair is fair."


Remember, Bush did it in 2001.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I tried to find a link to the article on page A6 of Monday's edition of The Boston Globe, and failed.  I will keep a copy upstairs if anyone wants to check it.  EMail me ( or call me—I am in the book.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Federal vs Private Wages

I borrowed this image from Instapudnit, who got it from Cluster Stock.

Before we go to far, I need, in the interest of full disclosure, to mention that my Father was a Civil Servant.  My next youngest Brother made it to SES in the Civil Service, before the urge not to move out of California caused him to resign and go to LockMart.  My youngest Brother is still a Civil Servant.  That is the sum of my Brothers and I talked them both into joining the Civil Service.  My Daughter and two Son's are Godless Contractors, working for the Federal Government.  So, I am not down on the Civil Service.  I have a lot of admiration for those who are members of the Civil Service.

However, it does seem that the disparity between what Federal workers get and what people in Private industry earn is strangely large.

Here is some background data and a little bit of a discussion from the CATO Institute.

On this labor day it is well worth asking if that is the kind of disparity we believe we should have?  Remember, Labor day was created to celebrate the value of private labor to the US economy and the growth of the nation.

What do you think?

Regards  —  Cliff

Posting Comments

Is Jackie Doherty's Blog Site having trouble with "Comments"?

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Van Jones Resignation

Has marriage made Law Professor Ann Althouse cranky?

It appears to me she was all over The New York Times this morning over their story on the resignation of Obama Administration Environmental Czar Van Jones.  The fact is, Mr Jones has been a subject of some controversy over the last few days, but The Times has been ignoring the subject up until an early Sunday morning (the first dateline I saw was about 6:05 this morning) announcement by the White House.

But, who is Anthony "Van" Jones?  He is a thirty-nine year old lawyer, environmental advocate and civil rights activist.  In March of this year he was appointed by President Obama to be Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

The bigger problem is The New York Times.  As Professor Althouse points out in her Blog Post, the announcement of the resignation is the first time The Times touches the issue.

Actually, the on-line New York Times "Caucus" Blog touched on this Saturday.  Here is part of the posting:
Mr. Jones was caught on tape using an unprintable word to describe Republicans and allowed his name to be put on a letter requesting an investigation of whether the Bush administration allowed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to happen as a pretext for war. Republicans say theses incidents call into question his ability to handle the $80 billion in tax payer dollars he’s budgeted.
Professor Althouse thinks this is a quibble.  She notes that the petition conveyed a different meaning:
The petition — read it — "calls for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war." (Boldface added.)
Unlike my wife, I am not sure Mr Jones had to go.  He has been sloppy in ways that can get you in trouble in our Nation's Capitol.  At least he wasn't down by the Jefferson Memorial with this decade's version of Fanne Foxe. And, I still have some faith in the US Congress to police the Administration, as is their responsibility, regardless of parties in power.

That said, I do believe the key point is that it is time for The New York Times (and others) to get serious about news reporting in all its outlets.  Our democracy depends upon a press that is inquiring and not in bed with whatever administration is in power.

The NRO claims that like the withdrawal of Chas Freeman to be Director of National Intelligence, the MSM didn't talk about this until it was all over.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There are some who think that the use of Czar (or Tsar) to describe the head of this or that Administration program is just an effort at put-down.  I think that such a view misses the fact that the term, used properly, captures the fact that this person is outside the normal process, is responsible to the President, and (best I can tell) is not approved by the US Senate, the way some Cabinet Secretary or other political appointee would be.  Some, such as retired admiral Dennis Blair, has Czar-like responsibilities, but are in billets that require Senate Confirmation. They should not be known as Czars.
  I would think the White House plan would be to avoid the Sunday hard copy newspapers and have the announcement be OBE'd before the Monday papers go to bed.  At least that is the way I would have played it.
  In fairness, the published article in the paper itself hews closer to the original statement, using the phrase "... including his derogatory statements about Republicans in February and his signature on a 2004 letter suggesting that former President George W. Bush might have knowingly allowed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to occur in order to use them as a “pre-text to war.”"
  This is not to deny his past communist or pseudo-communist associations and his declaration that he became a communist.  For one thing, people change.  For another, we don't think the President would actually hire a known communist, or that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel would allow him to do that, do we?  While most American's couldn't spell VENONA, most instinctively react badly to the idea of Communists in their Federal Government.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Honduras Errors in DC

What are we doing in Honduras?

Does this sound like arrogance?
MR. CROWLEY: She [Secretary Clinton] did not have to reach that decision to take the action that she took today. As to what Micheletti [Honduran interim President] takes from this, clearly, this is going to have an impact on the Honduran de facto regime.  It's going to have an impact on those who have supported the coup.  And our hope is that as they see the seriousness of purpose, and as they also see that, at this point in time, there"s no way out of this—they, we believe, had the judgment that if they just get to an election—to election day, that this would absolve them of the actions they've taken. And we're saying that based on conditions as they currently exist, we cannot recognize the results of this election. So for the de facto regime, they~Rre now in a box and they will have to sign on to the San Jose Accords to get out of the box that they're in.
It does to me and it is our State Department talking.

Then there is this in the news item someone sent me:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is welcoming the United States' decision to cut millions of dollars in aid to Honduras.

Chavez says "it's about time" Washington took action against the government that has been in charge in Honduras since a June 28 coup ousted his ally, President Manuel Zelaya.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly announced the decision to cut more than $31 million in non-humanitarian assistance on Thursday.

Kelly added that the U.S. would not recognize the results of Honduras' upcoming presidential elections under current conditions.
Sure, President Hugo Chavez, who is a modern day Salazar, likes the idea of the US Government taking action against a nation where the Supreme Court and the Legislature acted against a President who was violating the Constitution—conducting his own coup, so to speak. 

Here is a comment by an anonymous author: 
Apparently we can deal with a government that, by our own definition, is guilty of genocide, while at the same time punishing others for "threatening democracy." By the way, al-Beshir took over in Sudan after a Muslim Brotherhood coup. In Honduras, at least, those who removed Zelaya were pro-U.S.
Little nations in our neighborhood get beat up if they won't toe the line, but big nations elsewhere, who we can't beat up, get to do as they like.  This makes us sound like the neighborhood bully.

Regards  —  Cliff

  That is the agreement.  But, I certify the person knows of what they speak.
  Attributed to the AP, but I can't find the original on line.  Now that I think of it, they owe me an EMail.
  My understanding is the Constitution of Honduras has no provision for impeachment.  At least that is one of the older kids told me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

BBC Fails its Strategy Test—On Basics

Early in the week I was driving to work and listening to the 0900 NPR BBC News Report and the on-air news reader was talking to a reporter who apparently was in Afghanistan. The reporter said that this week General Stanley McChrystal, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, was submitting his strategy to his civilian masters and in a couple of weeks he would submit his resource requirements.

I am hoping, and expecting, that General McChrystal worked those two things together.  The standard War College characterization of strategy is matching "Ends, Ways and Means").  I learned this characterization in a Seminar Room from Army Colonel Arthur Lykke, who wrote the book when I was at the Army War College.  The quick rundown on the concept can be found here. Note the acknowledgement of Art Lykke in the paper.

Frankly, my personal characterization drifts a little from Art Lykke's three legged school. I would say that strategy is
matching objectives, threats and opportunities in a resource constrained environment.
But, "ends, ways and means" is a catchy phrase and covers the subject very well.

No matter how you slice it, understanding your resources is key to developing your strategy.

But, the BBC report separates the two.  I tried to find a copy of the audio report, but didn't. However, I found this contemporaneous BBC report on the internet.
This report does not mention increasing troop numbers - that is for another report later in the year - but the hints are all there, our correspondent says.
That the NRP's BBC news program would suggest to its listeners that strategy and troop strength (resources) are two different things shows that the level of discussion is not yet very high.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He is also the commander of US military forces in Afghanistan.

Unemployment Inches Up

Out today, Unemployment up three tenths to 9.7% in August.

DOL has also changed their Statistics Web Page.  The latest numbers are on the right, second item down.

Regards  —  Cliff

Comments on Comments

Has the Internet become a self-licking ice cream cone?

Here is Tiger Hawk spending a day (yesterday) commenting on every post by Instapundit

As you might figure, Tiger Hawk is a law school graduate.

Here is the "Second Derivative".  There will not be a "third derivative" at this site. (That was ambiguous, wasn't it.  I mean to say I will not be commenting on each of the comments.)

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Yesterday I blogged on problems with retail sales organizations.

I was down on the support I got, looking for sox.  (I ended up purchasing on line.)

Then Wednesday night my wife and I headed out for class and as usual, I stopped by the gas station on the river by South Campus.  I normally purchase a Caffeine Free Diet Coke and a Sprite Zero, plus two small packages of peanuts.

I went to the checkout stand and there was Steven, who I recognized from last semester's shopping and a new guy, Nuhu.

I asked Steven if business has picked up since classes started and he said yes.  Then he proceeded to tell Nuhu that I was going to night school to get a degree with a major, since my BS has no major.

He nailed it!

Three months of not seeing me over the summer and he remembered me and could talk about me to his fellow clerk.  One sharp young man.  I hope there are many more like him out there.  Good going, Steven.  I will be bringing my custom to you all semester.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Beeb Strikes (Out) Again

Ignore the image at the right for a moment.

I got to this by going from Instapundit to the BBC (The Beeb) to the Pew Trust. The BBC Article was "Online politics reserved for rich."

The minor headline is "US civic engagement remains in the hands of the middle-class despite hopes that the internet would democratise political involvement."

Reading the article one comes away with the impression that the BBC thinks that the rich people (those making at least $100,000 per annum) are running politics in the US and that the rest of us are down at the poverty line, making less than $20,000.  Perhaps it is because being the UK the idea of a true Middle Class is missing.  Something is missing.

Here is the key paragraph:
According to the report 35% of US adults on incomes of at least $100,000 (£62,000) participate in two or more online political activities compared to just 8% of adults on incomes of less than $20,000 (£12,000).
Now, check out the chart.  What do we see?  We see a steadily increasing involvement in politics and in politics on line as income increased.  Frankly, this should not be surprising.  When I was making $222.30 a month, plus room and board, I spent less time on politics and news magazines and newspapers—the sort of internet of the day.  I wrote one Senator in about ten years.  He never returned my letter and I then didn't vote for him for President.

Later, when I have more disposable income and more disposable time I spent more time thinking about politics and doing something about it, within the limits of my employment.

I think the reporter was either (1) lazy, (2) totally non-analytic or (3) looking for facts to back up his or her prejudices.

I would call this one a hit for that reporter.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Here is the Pew Trust Report in PDF Format.

Torture II

Then there is this from WashPost opinion writer Richard Cohen, "Torture's Unanswerable Questions."

Per Mr Cohen, "The issue is not Cheney. The issue is the issue."

Regards  —  Cliff

Small Bore Entrepreneurship

Based upon my experience Tuesday, maybe we are turning into a "communist" economy, as understood by those of us who are old enough to remember hearing about the problem with both quantity and choice at the Soviet State Department Store, GUM.

I went to Rite Aide to purchase a pair of brown, large, compression sox.  While I had previously purchased a pair of such sox there some time in the past, there was not a pair on the display on Tuesday.  The approach I would have hoped for would have been:  "Yes sir, they aren't being stocked right now, but we can order you a pair, or two pairs, and they will be here within a week, and I can call you when they come in."

Sadly, it was not to be. This is a display from the manufacturer's distributor and they only restock what they have on display.  The clerk did take my phone number and offered to call around to the other Rite Aide stores in the area, but I have not heard from her yet.  She was polite and cheerful, but not effective.

Later in the day I went to a CVS  where I walked in and tried to describe my quest, but failed.  I wandered off and found the hosiery section, where a clerk told me that there were no other displays.  I then looked around and saw an aisle with medical supplies and found what I was looking for in type, but not in color and size.

On the other hand, at Staples my experience is that the female clerks are the ones who know the territory and the male clerks are clueless.  This is, of course, a generalization, but it does influence who I ask for help. And, it is an embarrassment to me, based upon my gender.

My wife says it is the big chains that cause this kind of thing.  She is a "small town" girl.

I think it is treating the clerks like clerks rather than like thinking human beings who should be encouraged to interact with the customers and should be encouraged to show initiative.  And maybe a small investment in training?  You squash initiative a couple of times and you may be successful in killing it, or at least driving it into hibernation.  The bureaucratization of entrepreneurship.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Which will remain nameless, as I know several people who work at various CVS stores and whom I see as real "go-getters."  Thus, this malaise isn't universal, but it may be spreading.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Today both The Boston Globe and The Lowell Sun had opinion pieces on the issue of torture as part of the war on terrorism.

I would like to state my position up front.  I think that torture is wrong at a moral level and a legal level.  I believe that without the tools that would allow successful interrogations without torture, torture is generally not effective.  Further, I believe that eschewing torture helps our overall public diplomacy effort, our psychological operations, and our interrogation efforts.  While these "non-kinetic" considerations may appear unimportant, they are in fact very important when one is involved in a long war that involves "hearts and minds." 

I believe that trained interrogators, who know the language and culture and who work calmly can do a better job harvesting information than interrogators using torture.

On the other hand, the CIA IG report suggests that we had some success with torture with regard to Khalid Shaykh Muhammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.  By torture we are talking "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," e.g., sleep deprivation, hot and cold conditions and waterboarding.

At this point I would like to emphasize that I believe the ends do not justify the means.

That said, in the days after the 9/11 attacks, the People of the United States, and the Government, were concerned about more planes in more skyscrapers.  Like rounding up Japanese on the West Coast in 1942, resorting to the use of torture to gain critical information seemed like what was needed to save lives.  It was a dumb idea.  And it was against the law.  And it was against what we stand for.  But, it was natural and if it hadn't been done and there had been another attack the People and their Representatives in Congress would have been out to wipe the Administration from the pages of the history books.

In The Boston Globe Opinion Writer Derrick Z Jackson talks about the torture issue in an OpEd titled "Cheney’s dark side - and ours."  Mr Jackson is for letting the hounds of law loose, no matter the cost. 
Now, as Cheney continues to defend the dark side - even without conclusive proof that waterboarding coughed up critical intelligence - he is daring Americans to come out of the shadows to demand a bright light on interrogation and prisoner-treatment practices that render us hypocrites on human rights.  To some degree, Attorney General Eric Holder is attempting this with his probe.  But it appears that the inquiry will be limited to any CIA officers who went beyond legally authorized methods.

That is not enough. President Obama has sought to avoid controversy - and avoid demoralizing the CIA - by saying he wants to look forward, not backward.  But these last eight years have revealed too many brutal abuses to write them off as only the actions of a few rogues.

We are at the point where nothing less than full congressional hearings, or a full Justice Department investigation, will let us know how high the rot started and how deep it went.
The thing is, to make the legal system work we have to not only inquire about the seniors, but also the juniors.  In Nuremberg we established the principle that "just following orders" was not a defense with regard to criminal activities by Service members and Government Civilians.  Unlawful orders are to be disregarded—disobeyed.

Then we have the view from the editorial board of The Lowell Sun.  In an editorial, "Holder's decision tortures America," the Sun asks if it isn't all political.
Is politics driving U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's investigation into CIA interrogators who might have used harsh techniques -- even torture -- on terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other detention centers?

Holder says no. He says he's sticking up for the independence of the AG's office to prosecute CIA violators. Holder has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the CIA's "brutal" interrogation program.

Legally, Holder is on sound footing. But when his boss, President Barack Obama, says one thing and Holder does another, we have to wonder if this isn't a convenient cover for giving liberal Democrats what they want:  revenge on the former Bush administration.
This brings out that problem with the US Attorney General.  How much deference does he owe to the views of the President?

The President is sitting there with Dennis C Blair, his Director of National Intelligence, and James L Jones, his National Security Advisor, telling him that an over-enthusiastic prosecution of possible wrong-doers in the CIA will depress morale there and will make the nation less safe.  This is not to be dismissed lightly.  Rumors of CIA Agents balking at assignments are starting to circulate.  There are CIA people, no matter how misguided, who pressed on when their seniors said, "We have your back."  Of course, with a change in Administrations no one has anyone's back.  Usually, in such a situation, the bureaucracy closes ranks and wins, but when they bring out the lawyers it is a whole new story.

Throw into this mix the fact that former Senate President Dick Cheney has taken this issue and run with it.  Sure, he is out selling his new book.  The fact is, in his television appearances he is mopping up the floor with President Obama and Attorney General Holder.

The Lowell Sun is correct in expressing concern about the politicalization of the CIA and the impact on morale in that agency.  We need those people on the job and focused, and not running the yellow pages, looking for a lawyer.

Commentator Derrick Jackson is correct in expressing concern that the guilty should be punished.  However, I believe we need to distinguish between the evil and the over enthusiastic.  And, at the risk of missing a few, we need to do it quickly.  In war people do stupid things.  The trick is to sort out what we prosecute and what we ignore.

What Attorney General Holder owes the President, and soon, is an assessment of whether or not he is going to enfeeble the CIA.  And, this is not a "let the chips fall where they may" issue.  If we lose the clandestine service, it then falls to the Department of Defense Special Operations forces to do that kind of thing.  That would be a mistake with more impact than the CIA's use of torture.

So, we are back to the "Goldilocks Rule."  Mr Jackson is too hard.  The Sun's editorial board is too soft.  We need President Obama to get this just right, and soon.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Calgacus, a Briton of some sort, is attributed as the author of the judgement about the Romans, "they make a desert and call it peace."  As an American I would like to think that we have been stepping back from that view for at least the last 100 years.
  That is my read, but I will send him the URL and if I have offended him he will be free to comment, EMail me, or hang me up to ridicule in his column.
  I blame former President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal for this.  That made the use of political guidance from the White House problematic.
  And there is talk of CIA Director Leon Panetta leaving early, adding to the turmoil.  Director Panetta is a Democratic insider and his departure would likely be to the detriment of the CIA and thus US Security.  (See footnote below.)
  There are those who will ask if it makes a difference, given that the CIA missed 9/11.  On the other hand, we, as laymen, don't know how many 9/11 like events the CIA thwarted, both before and after.  That, of course, is the Cheney argument.  They kept us safe.  You don't have to be a fan of former Senate President Dick Cheney to believe that the CIA has likely prevented other 9/11s, once the Agency progressed forward on 9/12.