Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blogger vs Local Council

This from The [Manchester] GuardianCouncillors resign en masse after criticism by blogger.

Hat tip to Chris Hazel.  Thanks.

Per The Guardian
Eleven out of 15 councillors in a Somerset local authority have resigned "en masse" in protest against a barrage of criticism from a blogger, it emerged today.

Some 11 members of Somerton council's complement of 15 stepped down on Tuesday.

The walkout came after blogger Niall Connolly branded some members "jackasses" and referred to one leaflet as being "like a Nazi call to arms".

A motion was then proposed that members step down, citing "impossible working conditions".
"Impossible working conditions?"  Are the citizens not allowed to show disapproval? 

The Muck and Brass Blog is the cause of the uproar. The motto of the blog is Non Mihi, Non Tibi, Sed Nobis, Not Me, Not You, But Us.

From the most recent blog post:
The last three days have been very busy here in sleepy old Somerton but the media circus has now left and its time for a little reflection.

What has become obvious, in the wider response to this blog, is the very real dissatisfaction that is felt by so many people across the UK and beyond, with regard to the performance of those who are meant to represent us. That dissatisfaction is real and it is based on the experiences or ordinary people, ordinary people who our leaders seek to ignore in pursuit of their own agendas.
It would seem that bloggers have become the new agitators of politicians.  Not quite the "Committees of Correspondence" in our own pre-Revolutionary days, but still...

Still, if the Council members have a clear conscience, there should be no resignations.  However, if they don't, it is time for them to make way for others.  Or the voters to do the equivalent.

Regards  —  Cliff

Afghanistan and the "Decision"

Those who follow this blog know, or I hope they know, that my concern about Afghanistan is if we will stick it out.  I have been banging on about Congress. Now comes Columnist David Brooks, of The New York Times and he is talking about President Obama and "The Tenacity Question."

Here is someone else's summation of the article:
The experts thought Obama was conducting an "intelligent policy review," but had three concerns about the president himself.

First, the wonder if the president "possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.

Second, "they do not know if President Obama regards Afghanistan as a distraction from the matters he really cares about: health care, energy and education. Some of them suspect that Obama talked himself into supporting the Afghan effort so he could sound hawkish during the campaign. They suspect he is making a show of commitment now so he can let the matter drop at a politically opportune moment down the road."

Third, "they do not understand the president's fundamental read on the situation. Most of them, like most people who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, believe this war is winnable. They do not think it will be easy or quick. But they do have a bedrock conviction that the Taliban can be stymied and that the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be strengthened. But they do not know if Obama shares this gut conviction or possesses any gut conviction on this subject at all."
And the most important of these is the first.  Sometimes in a fight it is just being willing to stand there and take it until the other side backs down.

But, there is tenacity and there is stupidity.  On the Western Front in the First World War tenacity turned to stupidity and millions died.  On the other hand, in the Second World War, between the Battle of France (lost) and the Battle of Britain (won) tenacity guided the British to the right decision and the Germans didn't get to fully implement Generalplan Ost and kill or exile 42 million people to build a Greater Germany.

Let us not be rushing the President to a decision.  He needs to find the answer himself (and within himself) and then he needs to be behind it 100%.  Having taken a decision, he then needs to sell it to the American People and to the US Congress.  This is no place for nuance. 

Regards  —  Cliff

  Which is to say, no place for a Senator Kerry like nuanced approach.  This is the time and place for a George Bush like stubbornness, either way the President chooses.

Where Will It End?

I thought this exposition of the situation in Watford Borough, in the UK, pretty well summed it up.  It seems that being the parent of a child does not mean you can be with that child in the Watford Borough Council run playgrounds, unless you have been vetted by the police.  The full news story from The Daily Mail can be found here.

The obvious answer is to never take your children to that playground again.  However, the convenience of it will cause parents to go back to the playground and let the "acceptable" "play rangers" manage their children, thus taking one more step back away from our own freedom.

As an aside, we need to be careful before the law of unintended consequences catches up with us regard to Level X Sex Offenders.  I heard this AM that some communities in our Commonwealth are closing off major sections of their community to such predators.  The number I heard was 98%.  If we do that we will eventually have to find a new place for such people to live and work.  I am thinking somewhere out in Western Massachusetts, near the New York State Line, all living together in their own community. [WARNING:  This is sarcasm.]

I find myself wondering if something changed between when I was a child, in the 1940s and 50s and today.  I wonder when it might have happened.  I wonder what the cause might have been.  Looking back, I remember that at about the age of eight I started stopping in and playing chess with a nice old man who lived in the next block, with his wife.  My parents didn't say anything to me about "being careful."  Then I would go off in the woods behind the house, unsupervised, and play for several hours with my buddies and the key point was to be home on time for dinner.  In 13 years of schooling I rode the school bus for a total of a couple of days, in eighth grade.  We had moved to a new town in a different state and it took a couple of days to meet up with a couple of kids from the neighborhood and decide to walk to school, taking a shortcut across an empty field.

We are now heading in a new direction here with regard to our children and we have not gotten to the end of where it is leading and we don't seem to be thinking about that end.  We are being careful, but at what cost?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, October 30, 2009

A New Flag

I have been on the road for three weeks and just getting out and about in Lowell again after that three week hiatus.  One thing I noticed tonight was that there is a new Commonwealth Flag flying from the Middlesex Superior Courthouse/Registry of Deeds Office up on Gorham Street, at Elm.

Thank you. 

I am assuming Register of Deeds Dick Howe had something to do with this.

Regards  —  Cliff


I have been involved in endorsing candidates for City Council, so I don't begrudge anyone else doing the same.  Still, I found one quarter page advertisement in today's Lowell Sun to be a bit unusual.  Apparently, so did the editor of The Sun, since Reporter Christopher Scott was assigned to write on it.

What was unusual was that the full Beacon Hill delegation, St Stephen and the Three Musketeers, signed on to endorse a single sitting City Councilor Alan Kazanjian.  Confirming my impression, Reporter Scott had quotes which showed that the delegation feels that Mr Kazanjian has been knocked around a little bit with "negative" press coverage.  The three Reps took the "innocent until proven guilty" approach.  The other approach is that of Curtis LeMay—"I cannot distinguish between the unfortunate and the incompetent and therefore will not try."

It is up to the voters.  They can agree with the delegation and vote for a hard charging City Councilor who is trying to get things done.  Or they can pass over a sitting City Councilor this time as he moves through a cloud of dust, kicked up by people who have worked for him outside of Government.

If you want to see a list of my endorsements for City Council, go here.

Tuesday will be very interesting.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Sun reports the cost of the advertisement, which includes a full color photograph, at $2,600.  It was a nicely done advert.
  No, not that Curtis LeMay; the one from Ohio.

The High Cost of Homelessness

I just got back from a day conference at the "new" UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.  This was one of a series titled "Keys to Ending Homelessness."

This particular conference was the first of the series and dealt with Social Security Disability Benefits.  Very interesting and a lot of good information.

The lunch speaker was Dr Jim O'Connell, from Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, and his talk was very informative.

One of the pieces of information I picked up was that there was a Federal study from 1999 to 2003 of 119 people living on the street.  Within that group, they managed over 18,300 visits to the Emergency Room in those five years.  That is a lot of visits.  The average is over two per person per month.

Someone once told me that an emergency room visit costs about $1,000.  That would make it about $18,300,000 total cost.  That is a lot of money.

Going to another source, Joe Finn, of Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (pronounced Ma has ah), when, during an experiment a group of street people were moved into housing, their medical costs fell to half.

So, putting Dr Jim O'Connell's numbers with the cost of visits and the hope of cutting costs, providing housing to those 119 street people might have cut the number of visits in half. If the cost of a room for each of the 119 people was $1,000 a month, then we might have save $2,000,000 over five years.  Sure, that is only $400,000 per year, but I bet that would have hired a couple of teachers or a couple of policemen.

Fixing the homeless problem is not just about our moral duty to our fellow man.  It is also good dollars and sense.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

In a number of places in Lowell the American flag flies at night.

The question is, what is the rule for flying the American flag at night?  (For those of you who think that it is silly to "have rules" for such things, don't look at what Washington is doing to American health care these days.)

To make it easy, this is a multiple-guess test:
  1. The flag must be flown from the building itself and not on a flag pole at ground level.
  2. The flag must be flown on the side of the main (public) entrance to the building.
  3. The flag must be flown on the East side of the building, facing the rising sun.
  4. The flag must be illuminated.
Regards  —  Cliff

UPDATE:  "Poll" updated to "Pole" per the admonition of Bill, from Chelmsford.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Election Results on Tuesday

I should be studying, but this item caught my eye. Hat tip to Kim.

The Lowell Sun is promising live streaming results of Tuesday's Election—you are going to vote, aren't you.

They say you will be able to see it here.

I would think that LTC would also have something up.  I will ask on Thursday, when I am on City Life as one of two guests at 7:00 AM. George Anthes will be the host and Bob Hatem will be the co-host.  And John McDonough will be the producer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Old Theme, New Presentation

High School English Teacher Patrick Welsh, who has been writing periodic OpEds for The Sunday Washington Post for at least 20 years, has one out today on missing fathers—Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's About Parents.  Mr Welsh teaches at the well financed T C Williams High School, in Alexandria, Virginia.
"Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."

Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.
Further down in the OpEd piece teacher Welsh talks about the School Superintendent and his own school's administrators and how they don't understand this very important point about fathers.

Mr Welch does mention Ronald Ferguson's Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap.  Mr Ferguson is the director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard.  Another book to add to my list.

I guess that is another book I am going to have to read.  In the mean time, I wonder to what extent the "missing father" is a problem in our own schools.  Does anybody know?  Has anybody asked those running for School Committee?

If the "missing father" is a real factor and if it is a factor in Lowell, then we are going to have to see some creativeness if we are going to overcome this hurdle.  And, frankly, reading Teacher Welsh from time to time, I don't find him someone to be blowing smoke.  He is a straight shooter.  I accept that this as a real problem, although perhaps not so much in Lowell, but I would like to be sure.

I got to this article via a hat tip from Instapundit, who referenced this blog on the issue by the Advice Goddess, Amy Alkon.  Ms Alkon adds some thoughts to this issue and has some comments from readers.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, October 24, 2009

George Will re VRWC

Columnist George Will, writing in The Washington Post comments on Representative Michele Bachmann (MN-R).  A good read, here is the final paragraph:
When she was a teenager in Anoka, Minn., she was a nanny for a young girl named Gretchen Carlson. Today, Carlson, a Stanford honors graduate who studied at Oxford, is a host of "Fox & Friends," the morning show on -- wouldn't you know -- Fox News Channel. See how far ahead the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy plans?
Between the Tea Party folks and people like Representative Michele Bachmann, there is a chance the Republican Party can again find its way.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Alternate View on Afghanistan (and Our Involvement)

Here is a rather acerbic opinion piece from The Manchester Guardian, by Sir Simon Jenkins, on the US and British involvement in Afghanistan.  The title of the column gives you a clue as to its direction:  "Western export of the ballot box elixir is pure hubris."

The first paragraph of the column reads:
Why can't Afghanistan be more like Sweden? It is insufferable that this miserable statelet can reject liberal democracy despite the efforts of 70,000 Nato and NGO staff kicking their heels in Kabul's dust for eight years. We have blown $230bn of US and UK taxpayers' money and left 1,463 soldiers dead. Everything has been tried, from gender awareness courses to carpet-bombing Tora Bora. Thousands of Afghans have been massacred. Yet still the wretches won't co-operate. They even fiddle elections.
All very tongue in cheek.  His next line is:  "That sums up the west's response to the election staged last August by the Afghan ruler, Hamid Karzai."

Here is the last paragraph of Sir Simon's article (note:  I am not sure how he means the term liberalism; i.e., in its American form or its European form):
Western leaders seem unable to resist the seduction of military power. They think that, because they could defeat communism and fly to the moon, they can get any poverty-stricken, tin-pot country to do what the west decides is best for it. They grasp at nation-building, that make-work scheme of internationalism against which any people, however pathetic, are bound to fight. All is hubris. The arrogance of empire has mutated into the arrogance of liberalism.
Pretty strong words.

Commenting on this article, Chuck Spinney, says"
... Obama has landed himself a no-win situation that is completely absurd from a grand strategic point of view.  I would add that there is probably no hope for Mr. Obama, because extricating himself from the foreseeable trap he helped to set for himself with his short sighted election tactic of distinguishing Afghanistan as a good war ignored in opposition to a bad Iraq war pursued.  Extrication now requires a stark, sudden about face.  Such a shift would be completely alien to Obama's well-honed predisposition to compromise and shade differences as a means to find a middle, non-confrontational path forward.  Moreover, his national security team in the Pentagon has neither the wisdom nor the character to even suggest an escape option.
There is some truth to the fact that then Candidate Obama did talk up the Afghan war, as opposed to the Iraq war.  On the other hand, the blanket condemnation of the Pentagon underrates Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen.

I think the analysis is overwrought and the situation not quite so desperate, but the fact is, we are spending a lot of treasure and had better know what we are spending it on.

One of the things I think about when I read items such as that by Sir Simon is how it squares with our own Declaration of Independence.  From that founding document I get the idea that, at a basic level, people are all pretty much alike around the world.  We all long for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Sir Simon puts down the idea of democracy and voting for Afghanis.  I, on the other hand, believe that while Afghanistan may not be a perfect democracy, it is a nation struggling in that direction.

Further, the idea that Afghanistan is a made-up nation, foisted upon the locals by Europeans, is wrong. It has been an ancient kingdom and the crossroads of civilization for thousands of years.  The modern state of Afghanistan dates from 1747.

And, this is NOT "Obama's War."  This is our war.  We shouldn't let our representatives on Capitol Hill duck their responsibility for this war.  If they were not mired down in Health Care, they might be calling for a renewed Congressional authorization for the commitment of US forces to this UN sanctioned NATO operation in Afghanistan.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tony Blair on Faith and Politics

Here is part of an interview by Sally Quinn, of former "New Labor" Prime Minister Tony Blair.  It being Sally Quinn and The Washington Post, the video is about faith, and in this case, about faith and politics.

Nothing startling, but I like Tony Blair and he might well be the first permanent President of the European Council, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified this year.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What to Make of This

Law Professor Ann Althouse focuses on the line that talks about religion being on the decline, and the implications for accurate predictions from the US House of Representatives.

I rather focused on the founding Fathers thinking a militia is important vis-a-via a standing army.

We have a militia in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and it has not exemption for religious scruples.  And it doesn't include women.  I need to write to the Three Musketeers and see what they think of that.

Regards  —  Cliff

Afghanistan—It Isn't Just About Us

From a newspaper article we have these figures on those who have died in Afghanistan since 2001,
Usually a number is mentioned: the 221 British troops who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, the roughly 850 Americans, 131 Canadians, 36 French soldiers, 34 Germans, 21 Dutch, 22 Italians, 26 Spaniards, 15 Poles and others.
Yes, the largest number is for US war dead, but the overall number is over 1350 and includes 352 from the British Commonwealth.

The expression "US and NATO forces" bugs me.  The US is part of NATO.  Remember the three purposes of NATO?  Keep the Russians out, the Germans down and the Americans in.  No one wanted a repeat of the 1920s and 30s, when the US withdrew back into splendid isolationism.  And remember the dust-up about General Stanley A McChrystal talking in London a couple of weeks ago?  He had his NATO hat on and was talking in a forum in a NATO nation.  He not only has to keep President Obama happy, he has to keep Gordon Brown and Nikolas Sarkosy and Angela Merkel and a host of others happy.

The author of the piece, in The Washington Post, Ms Anne Applebaum, asks important questions.  Here is her summation:
There is almost no sense anywhere that the war in Afghanistan is an international operation, or that the stakes and goals are international, or that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national armed forces: Most of the war's European critics want to know why their boys are fighting "for the Americans," not for NATO. Most of the American critics dismiss the European contribution as useless or ignore it altogether. As Jackson Diehl pointed out Monday, the central debate about future Afghanistan policy is taking place in Washington without any obvious contributions from anybody else. I'm not going to blame the U.S. administration alone for this: It's not as if Europe has put forward a different plan -- and there was certainly a moment, back at the beginning of this administration, when that would have been very welcome.

The fact is that the idea of "the West" has been fading for a long time on both sides of the Atlantic, as countless "whither-the-Alliance" seminars have been ritually observing for the past decade. But the consequences are now with us: NATO, though fighting its first war since its foundation, inspires nobody. The members of NATO feel no allegiance to the alliance, or to one another. On its home continent, NATO does precious little military contingency planning, preferring to hold summits. Above all, there is no recognizable alliance leader who is willing or able to engage in the national debates of the various member countries, to argue in favor of the Afghan mission or any other. President Obama could in theory do this, but I'm guessing the idea doesn't fill him with inspiration.

None of this might matter much in Afghanistan, since the outcome of current deliberations may well be some version of the status quo. But the next time NATO is needed, I doubt whether it will be there at all.
Frankly, Afghanistan is too important for President Obama to rush to a conclusion about troop strength.

One thing I would hate to see is a lot of our service members pour out time, sweat and blood and then have Congress, six or eight years down the road, tell us that this was, in fact, a bad idea, and then have them cut off all the money for Afghanistan, including money to help the central government and the people of Afghanistan.  We have done it before.  Ask one in five people in Lowell.  To paraphrase our (senior) Senator, John Kerry, how do you ask some man or woman to be the last person out for a mistake of many years ago?  How do you ask them to be the last person out and then not apologize to them with all the humility possible, from the well of the US Senate, with all the other Senators (and other members of Congress) present?  In a very important way this is not about President Obama, this is about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FOX News and Ms Dunn

I am going straight to the quoting here:
Well, it's not the first time the Grande Liberal Dame of the press corps has had words for the Obama White House, but today Helen Thomas is voicing more unlikely sentiments by telling the White House attack dogs to heel in the Fox News fight.
In an interview with MSNBC, the columnist -- who is promoting her new book on presidents and their campaigns -- also stressed the White House ought to "stay out of these fights."

"They can only take you down. You can't kill the messenger," said Thomas, who has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.
This is from a Mary Katherine Ham blog post at National Review.

Here is Ms Ham quoting something from the New York Times:
Even though almost all the critiques contained a kernel of truth, in each instance the folks who had the barrels of ink, and now pixels, seemed to come out ahead. So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be Fox News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year, and the network basked for a week in the antagonism of a sitting president. ...
I think the White House is missing the fact that there are a lot of uncommitted and Democrats who watch FOX and it is a good way to get the message out.  Candidate Obama did well by going on the Bill O'Reilly Show.

One of the things I liked about the Obama Administration was the promise of "transparency" and "accountability."  I figured it would be very hard—remember the Bismarck comment about making legislation and making sausage?  But still, any steps in the direction of transparency and accountability would be good for the Republic.  Perhaps it is not to be.

As someone said, "Are we Dunn yet?"

Regards  —  Cliff

  Someone I had never heard of.
 "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Hearty Thanks to the French

This is the 228th anniversary of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.

Buy a French person a drink.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to an anonymous follower of history.

This ISN'T Obama's War

Notwithstanding PBS and "Frontline" titling a show that way.

It is our war and it is about our security and our goals and ideals.  I am happy with the pace at which the President is working this problem.  He seems to be following the rules for a crisis—"Don't just do something, stand there."

Or, in the rules of the pilot handbook:
  1. Maintain Aircraft Control
  2. Analyze the Situation
  3. Take Appropriate Action.
If you look at the way that airliner ended up in the Hudson River a year ago you will realize that the first thing Captain Sullenburger did was maintain aircraft control.  That approach kept them in the air long enough to get to a good point for ditching. Rough handling would have cost airspeed and altitude.

Then, he, and Air Traffic Control, analyzed the situation.  A couple of courses of action were considered and rejected.  Then the hard decision was taken and everyone survived.

In an OpEd in The Washington Post Mr Ed Ruggero talks about the President and the Generals.  What Mr Ruggero says makes sense to me.
There are some rumblings in the media, the the blogosphere and around the water cooler about a rift between the president and the generals responsible for fighting the war in Afghanistan. I don't think that's what's happening; what's more, I believe that reducing the on-going strategy discussions to some simple rubric like, "It's Obama vs. McChrystal" can be dangerous. What we can see, if we look closely, is a lesson for leaders on developing strategy and educating their constituencies.
A line I used to use with my children was "I can give you an answer you won't like now or a good answer after I think about it."

The last three paragraphs of the OpEd:
This administration has gone to great lengths to make the discussions with the top generals as transparent as possible. The White House has been taking pains to remind people that the war is not necessarily about the stability of Afghanistan or the longevity of its corrupt government, or even the eradication of the Taliban (who, by any measure, are the among the world's worst bad guys). The big question is about the security of the United States, and how instability elsewhere affects us at home. The issues are complex, which is why the administration is, in my opinion, taking the time to educate the public on the issues.

Obama might still get it wrong; in Afghanistan, there may be many more ways to fail than to succeed. But here's what's most interesting to me: Complex issues such as this make Americans more, not less, likely to reduce everything to simple and even simple-minded sound bites and catch-phrases.

Yet so far in this debate, the White House, the political opposition, the generals themselves and even the media have--for the most part--resisted the urge to "dumb down" this complex problem. The optimist in me thinks that if we can continue to engage in an intelligent national conversation about this important and complex issue, well, we might be catching just a glimpse of how our democracy is supposed to work.
Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week—Answer

Straight Forward.  In two parts.

When is the election upcoming?—Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Are you registered to vote?—I can't answer this one, only you can.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  If you are not registered, or you don't vote in the election, please consider not making any comments on how things go on the City Council or the School Committee until sometime in the Summer of 2011, when, if'n the Lord tarries and the creek don't rise, we will have another local election campaign in progress.

PPS:  There is a chance for redemption.
  • November 18th is the last day to register to vote for the State Primary (to replace the Teddy Seat Warmer (TSW)).
  • December 8th is the State Primary itself (important for Democrats, who have a gaggle of candidates for the Junior Senator seat).
  • December 30th is the last day to register to vote for the State Election to replace the TSW.
  • January 19th, 2010, is the election to give us a new Junior Senator down in Washington.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Huffington Forgets Where She Is

Over at the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington is suggesting that Vice President Biden should consider resigning.


The basic fact is that Vice President Joe Biden is opposed to escalating our commitment in Afghanistan.  He might have some good insight in holding that position.  Our now Senior Senator, John Kerry, once asked:  "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"  Of course it is a nonsense question, but it captures an idea.

I ask, how could you ask Aado Kommandant to die in an F-4C in the second half of 1966 for a cause that Senator Ted Kennedy and others would abandon in the mid-1970s, when they voted to not fund the Government of South Viet-nam when it was under conventional attack by North Viet-nam?

That brings us back to Afghanistan.  I am very glad that the President is taking his time about this.  If we are just in this for a few more years because the Democratic platform last year was that Iraq = bad = "W" and Afghanistan = good = Obama, then we are in it for the wrong reason.  I don't care if you say the Democrats lied or were stupid.  If there is no intention to follow through on Afghanistan, then let us spare everyone any more grief than is needed to withdraw our forces.

However, let us be VERY CLEAR here.  The idea that we can then reach out and kill small groups of al Qaeda members via cruise missiles and stealth bomber attacks or Special Forces and do it with impunity is false.  If we try that, al Qaeda will get back at us.  That said, al Qaeda will be trying to get us anyway and going after them makes some sense.  It is just that pulling out will not make us safe within our ocean moat.  Remember, al Qaeda, and Iran, are already in this hemisphere.

But, the big problem with the blog post is the idea that Vice President Joe Biden is part of the President's Cabinet.  He is NOT.  It is like her mind reverted to her Greek upbringing and she conceptualized the US Federal Government in terms of Parliamentary Responsibility.  In the American system there is not a collective responsibility, as one might find in a parliamentary system.  Even if there was such collective responsibility in our system, the Vice President stands outside the President and his Cabinet, per the US Constitution.

Mr Biden is the President of the Senate and President in Waiting.  As Law Professor Glenn Reynolds and others have suggested, the Vice President should work to not associate himself too closely with the policies of the President, so in case the US Congress elects to impeach and convict the President, the Vice President is not tainted by the same sins.

The idea that a Vice President would resign because he disagrees with the President is ludicrous.  Would Ms Huffington have been advocating this 200 years ago, when the Vice President was from the other party?  Little has changed since then.  The change that has come has been to bring the Vice President further and further inside the tent and that has been a bad idea.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One of the reasons it is nonsense is because men don't die for the mistake of some Washington bureaucrat, but rather for his or her buddies.  Unit integrity and esprit de corps is why men and women fight and kill and die.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Straight Forward.  In two parts.

When is the election upcoming?

Are you registered to vote?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  If you are not registered, or you don't vote in the election, please consider not making any comments on how things go on the City Council or the School Committee until sometime in the Summer of 2011, when, if'n the Lord tarries and the creek don't rise, we will have another election campaign in process.

"The most terrifying words in the English language..."

A little while ago I blogged about the FTC and bloggers (HERE).  I drew little response, although Kad Barma suggested I was being a little paranoid.

Now comes Blogger Ann Althouse commenting on an item in The Blog of LegalTimes.  The good Law Professor titles her item with a claim from Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection—"We are not planning on investigating individual bloggers."

As one Commenter noted:  "Trust us. We're from the government, and we're here to help."

Regards  —  Cliff

  I think this is a lift from President Reagan.

DOMA and Ms Goodman

My middle brother, the trouble maker, sent me an EMail and asked me to blog about this OpEd column, written by Ms Ellen Goodman.  The subject is gay divorce and the impact of differences in laws across the fruited plain.

Of course the first issue to be dealt with is my personal opinion on the issue, so people are not trying to winkle it out as they read.  I guess it might be easy to misunderstand my stance, as Rep Kevin Murphy did the other night when we were talking at Regina's Fund Raiser.  Incidentally, this is the position I took years ago, when I was running against Rep David Nangle for the 17th Middlesex seat.  Do you think this is the reason I lost?

I believe marriage should be considered a religious issue.  I believe that the state should be interested in legal contracts.  If the Roman Catholic Church is against same-sex marriage, then the Roman Catholic Church ought not to perform same-sex ceremonies and should not be coerced into doing so.

On the other hand, if a same-sex couple wants to execute a contract that seals them together, the City Hall should be free to issue them a license.  Now, here is where I am maybe ahead of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court—with its gutless Goodridge decision.  Why we think it is discrimination to say that homosexuals can't be joined together but it isn't discrimination when we say Muslims can't be in a relationship with two wives is beyond me.  In both cases we are talking about actions that would have "violated the federal right to equal protection," in the words of Ms Goodman.

And, we need a new vocabulary.  A vocabulary that separates marriage from civil unions.  I suggest that everyone can have a civil union.  Marriage is a more private matter.

OK.  Having said that, what do I think about what is going on in Texas?  I think it is just the normal working out of the differences we should be celebrating in our great and broad nation.  Why should what the people in Massachusetts think about everything be what the people in Texas think?

You might object that this is about civil rights, but that is yet to be determined.  That former Representative Bob Barr is not against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which he wrote may just mean that he has become more libertarian in his views.  He may still think that homosexual sex, like adultery, is wrong.  That former President Bill Clinton changed his mind should not be a shock to anyone.  I am surprised he hasn't worn off his fingerprint from licking his finger and holding it up to see which way the wind is blowing.

And what is with the use of the initials JB and HB to identify the same-sex couple seeking divorce in Texas?  That seems a little strange.  If my wife and I sue for divorce, will we get the same courtesy from the MSM?

As for Ms Goodman's comments on DADT, I think she read Mr James Carroll's Column the day before and got led down the primrose path.
What we’re seeing are all sorts of potholes on the uneven road to equality. Remember the so-called compromise on gays in the military: “Don’t ask, don’t tell’’? Now, military researchers call it a “costly failure.’’
Is she referring to Colonel Om Prakash's article, "The Efficacy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" in the current issue of Joint Forces Quarterly?

This is the article that Mr James Carroll so badly mischaracterized in his column a week and a couple of days ago.
NOW THEY tell us. Sixteen years after institutionalizing a denigration of gay people, the Pentagon is discovering that its “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy has been a moral catastrophe. Undermining the morale it was supposed to protect, it has been “wholly inconsistent with a core military value - integrity.’’ That’s the conclusion of an upcoming article in the Joint Force Quarterly, from the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - reported on last week by the Globe’s Bryan Bender. The journal article, based on a study conducted at the National Defense University, issues a forthright call for a repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military.

That the Pentagon itself is the source of compelling criticism of the military’s own policy, just at the time when the Obama administration is trying to find a politically savvy way of undoing it, brings this immorality tale full circle. The immorality, of course, belongs not to gays, but to the government. How was this absurd and cruel structure of deceit erected in the first place - and what hidden purpose did it actually serve?
Mr Carroll takes the large paper of a student at the National War College and blows it up into a major study conducted by the National Defense University.  This essay most likely happened like all of them.  A student has an idea and proposes it and gets a yes or no.  That is how my 110 page paper on the strategic significance of the Republic of the Philippines came to be written, along with my co-author, Navy Captain Rob Webb.  I would provide a link except the faculty read it and then stamped it classified.

That is how the National War College price winning "Coup of 2012" came to be written.  The author, then Colonel Dunlap, came to me and said that this is what he wanted to write about and I said fine.  Sometimes the essay was hard work.  I remember being in the basement of a War College student at nine o'clock at night, helping him write his paper.  This was not one of my students, but he happened to be my younger brother's next door neighbor and I was enlisted to help out.

I very much doubt that this was an NDU study.  When NDU does the research it comes out under the logo of one of the NDU research agencies.  This was the research work of one of the students at National War College.  And, the fact that it was published doesn't mean that it was endorsed by the Pentagon, by the Secretary of Defense or by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

There must be a strong conspiratorial streak in the media.  The Joint Forces Quarterly editor confided to me that he had one reporter that just wouldn't accept "student essay" for an answer.

So, in summary, Ms Goodman should be into celebrating the diversity that is this nation, the legislators across the fruited plain should separate marriage from the legal obligations individuals should be able to sign up for based upon close intimate relations as adults (civil unions) and Mr Carroll needs to throttle back his belief in the evil of the US military.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Did I mention that it was gutless?
  While you are there, check out my article, co-authored with Dr Janet Breslin-Smith, "Strategic Drift:  The Future of the National War College."
  When I was a student at Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
  When I was on the faculty at National War College.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I put this cartoon up for my lawyer son.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meanwhile, in Canada...

Over at Law Professor Ann Althouse's blog, we have this post.  "Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant testify about the completely out-of-control pursuit of hate speech in Canada."

A Mark Steyn quote:
As Canadians have discovered, liberty is lost very quietly and quickly. And trying to get it back is slow and painful — particularly at a time when artists, universities, publishers, and others who congratulate themselves incessantly on their truth-telling courage find increasingly pre-emptive self-censorship the better part of valor.
Down in the comments section I found this from a Mr John Lynch:
I think the root problem is the gradual redefinition of rights from things government can't do to you over to things government must do for you.
John Lynch has a shack there.  Right on target.

Regards  —  Cliff

Doing Right in Oxford, Mississippi

Sometimes the right thing gets done.  See this New York Times Article.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bicycles in Cities

Here is an article in Scientific American about bicycles in cities.  Titled "How to Get More Bicyclists on the Road," the second headline is "To boost urban bicycling, figure out what women want."

Are we doing this in Lowell?  I guess I have to ask someone.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  And Hat Tip to Law Professor Ann Althouse.

Out Back Question of the Week—Answer

This is an essay question, of sorts.

What is your definition of sexual harassment and does the actions of Comedian David Letterman fall into this category?  Why or why not?

My response is that in any position I have held since Sexual Harassment came to the fore, several decades ago, I would have been in deep trouble for doing what Mr Letterman did, if it had surfaced.  And, the problem is not just favors to the woman (or man) of one's attraction, but also that those not so favored might feel they were being slighted for advancement or other appropriate perks and bennies.  But that is just me.  Your mileage may vary.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why Climate Change is Hard

Auntie Beeb has an item out on climate change. The BBC Web article can be found here.

The headline is "What happened to global warming?"
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.
Before anyone jumps on me for being a criminal "global warming denier," let us read the article together.

There is information on both sides of this discussion.

When I think about scientific truth I recall a quip I heard on a TV morning news show about 30 years ago. The speaker basically said that 85% of what we knew to be scientifically true in 1900 we now knew to be wrong. In my uneducated mind science is not a series of rocks of truth in a river, but the river itself, always flowing around those rocks, which are what we know about nature.

So, back to the article.  Per the BBC, solar scientist Piers Corbyn, from Weatheraction, a company specialising in long range weather forecasting, sees the sun as more of a factor than previously considered.

He claims that solar charged particles impact us far more than is currently accepted, so much so he says that they are almost entirely responsible for what happens to global temperatures.
Then, there is the oceans, and in particular, the Pacific Ocean.
According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.

The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).

For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.

But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.

These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.

So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles.
Professor Easterbrook says: "The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling."
But, meanwhile, back at the UK MET office:
The UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new.
. . .

In addition, say Met Office scientists, temperatures have never increased in a straight line, and there will always be periods of slower warming, or even temporary cooling.

What is crucial, they say, is the long-term trend in global temperatures. And that, according to the Met office data, is clearly up.
I say the jury is still out on this.

On the other hand, that is no reason not to be thinking about it. We do, however, need some priorities in our concerns, with food and water for everyone being first, then meaningful work for those who are not in the food producing network and then improving health care.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Meaningful in the sense the people doing it don't see it as just digging holes and then filling them back in.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The FTC What!?!?

Hat tip to Instapundit for this item in Slate.

It seems the Federal Trade Commission has issued some rules regarding Bloggers (and folks who Twitter, etc) who endorse items.  You can read the eighty-one (81) page ruling here.  I guess we should be thankful it is only 81 pages.  To quote from Slate:
If you're a blogger and you write about goods or services—and what blogger doesn't write about books, movies, music, theater, restaurants, home theaters, laptops, manicures, clothing, tutoring, bicycles, cars, boats, cameras, strollers, watches, lawn care, pharmaceuticals, gourmet food, maid service, hair care, concerts, banking, shipping, or septic tank service from time to time?—then you've just made yourself vulnerable to an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission.
And, beside the investigation, there is the punishment.  In addition to the need to hire a lawyer at some unknown cost, there is the chance of a fine.  Not having had a chance to read the 81 pages in detail, I don't know if they also get to seize your computer for a while, or for ever.

Here is more from Slate:
In new guidelines released Oct. 5, the FTC put bloggers on notice that they could incur an $11,000 fine if they receive free goods, free services, or money and write about the goods or services without conspicuously disclosing their "material connection" to the provider. The FTC guidelines extend even to Facebook and Twitter posters. If you received a gratis novel from the publicity department of a publisher and posted a tweet about it without disclosing that the book was a freebie, you become an "endorser" in the FTC's view. It could—in the name of consumer protection—hit you with a fine. The 81-page guidelines, which also mandate stringent celebrity endorsements rules, will take effect Dec. 1.
Is there anyone who doesn't think that federal investigators are like test pilots, always pushing the edge of the envelope, trying to see just what kind of performance they can get out of a given law or ruling?

I know the odds are with us.  There are a lot of folks who blog and twitter and are on Facebook.  There is, at this point, a limited number of FTC Investigators.  I guess the law of averages are with us.  Still...

Good luck to us.

Regards  —  Cliff

  To go into effect 1 December of this year.
  On the other hand, I am not a Member of Congress, so I expect to get to a thorough review quickly and well before 1 December.

Award of Nobel Prize for Peace

I am a little slow off the mark this AM and missed this Washington Post article when it came out.

I am voting Present.


A friend of mine observed:
The nomination period closed on February 1, for this year's award.  Senator Obama became President Obama on January 20, 2009.

Just an observation.
Then, there is this from a woman working in DC with experience in the area of international affairs, commenting in an EMail just before 11:00 AM:
Yes, indeed... After my initial bewilderment, I also came to the conclusion that it has to do with utilizing political influence.

But I don't see it as an attempt to constrain U.S. action. (Obama's emphasis on coalition building is not an innovation. It was after all under Bush that DOD began to emphasize building partnership capacity.)

Rather, I see it as an amazing endorsement of, even a plea for, U.S. leadership under Obama. If I were Obama, I'd cast my acceptance speech around the extraordinary challenge that this prize represents for him personally, for the United States, and for our allies and partners around the world.... I'll be interested in seeing what he says...
Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

This is an essay question, of sorts.

What is your definition of sexual harassment and does the actions of Comedian David Letterman fall into this category?  Why or why not?

Regards  —  Cliff

New Ways of Conducting Terrorism

Here is some cheerful news, from the International version of Der Spiegel.

The subject is airport security. Check the article and then read this scenario.
Here is a possible scenario for getting bomb parts aboard an aircraft.  Explosives would be carried internally—a couple of pounds will more than do it since you can pick a seat at the wing root.  Smugglers have carried that much cocaine internally.  Electric blasting cap is carried inside an expensive metal pen and sent through Xray.  Power is supplied by cell phone, IPOD or laptop batteries.  Assemble bomb in bathroom, return to seat, place it on floor next to wing root, detonate.  Back up team releases video tapes of how you prepared and executed the attack.
Maybe.  Maybe not.

The fact is, there is a group of clever people out there working on new ways to conduct a campaign to break down not just governments in Muslim nations they don't like, but also "Western" governments.

I don't yet have any solutions to this problem.  Do you?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lets Change Our Energy Philosophy

Am I the only one who thinks that this news report on Arab States working with France, China, Japan, etc, to replace the US Dollar as the currency for trading oil is a very strong signal that we need to change our energy philosophy.

I originally typed energy policies, but then thought to myself, it is deeper than that.  It is about what all of us believe, or at least a vast majority.

The report is in the UK Independent, one of the larger UK dailies.
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.
Nine years?  That is plenty of time for us to do some serious work on our part.

I assert that after several decades of talking about getting serious, we now have a deadline of sorts and we need to actually get serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil. As a bumper sticker I have seen in Lowell says, it is a national security issue.

This will not be a painless experience, but if we don't accept a little pain now a lot of pain will be imposed on us a decade from now.

My own opinion is that we need to get serious about wind and nuclear energy and about rebuilding our electrical transmission infrastructure.  We have to be serious about coal and how we can exploit our vast quantities of that resource for cleaner energy.

One of the secrets about the environment is that we here in the US are not going to be able to turn the whole world around, notwithstanding large chunk of global energy consumption.  Not even with the Europeans, Canada, Japan and Australia and New Zealand.  The so called BRIC states are going to be big players over the long run.

Sure, we can aspire to be like Canada and not be out meddling in the affairs of others, but part of the reason Canada can be Canada is the United States is the United States. The world will change is we roll over, or we get rolled.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Actually the car of one of the bloggers at Left in Lowell (one of the three bloggers, not one of the many named and unnamed commenters).
  Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Concern For Next Three Years

Professor Victor Davis Hanson raises concerns for the next three and a half years if the President stumbles badly on a couple of key issues.

Professor Hanson's issue is that the future is likely to be rocky and we are better off having a strong and successful President rather than one badly wounded.
Health care reform is stalled. Our Afghan generals are exasperated with the administration’s politicking of the war.  Cap-and-trade as written is unworkable and will implode.  Most think we wasted the stimulus, not need more of it. Higher taxes haven’t hit, but they are going to sting his elite supporters.  Promises will be broken as all sorts of additional taxes will fall on the middle class to stop the $2 trillion deficits before the Big Inflation comes, and it is coming.  Immigration reform will be a disaster since it will be framed as quasi-open borders in political concessions to La Raza identity groups.  Yet these are all unpopular issues that would require a President with 60% approval ratings to push them through.  But when health care reform crashes, and it will as envisioned, then the rest of the agenda will line up as falling dominoes.
Having looked out over the terrain, Professor Hanson then looks at the options:
Obama needs a Morris to mentor him in the arts of triangulating: distancing himself from Reid and Pelosi (rather than outsourcing to them the 1000 page health care bill); talking tough about deficits; balancing budgets; pro-American themes abroad; symbolic personal responsibility issues; the whole nine yards of Clinton reinvention.  But I assume he will go instead the Carter cardigan sweater, pound the table in “you are not up to my moral standards” sanctimonious mode.
Then Professor Hanson wraps it up here:
I am not a fan of the Obama agenda.  But I am don’t want an impotent Commander in Chief abroad for three very dangerous years to come.  So I am worried that the U.S. will be crippled with a weak, unpopular executive, as happened to Bush (35% approvals) in 2007-8. Our currency is tanking. Our debts are climbing. Our energy needs are breaking us.  Our borrowing is out of control.  The country is divided in a 1859/1968 mode. And the world is smiling as Obama, now hesitant and without the old messianic confidence, presides over our accepted inevitable decline.  The country needs to buck up and meet these challenges head on, since the world smells blood, whether in Iran, Russia, the Mideast, North Korea, or South America, and in a mere 9 months of the reset button.
What do you think?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Remember the Punch Line, "A good start"?

Shamelessly ripped from the blog of Law Professor Ann Althouse:
You're a smart kid. Do you really want to be a lawyer?
I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that....

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.
Scalia wonders why you aren't out "inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?"
I am hoping this provokes an argument between my two sons, one of whom is a lawyer.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  This issue came up indirect during the City Life Program this morning.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sexual Harassment, Again

Law Professor Ann Althouse had these paragraphs on Funnyman David Letterman in her blog (this extract starts with an anonymous quote from another staffer):
"The creepy relationship that Letterman maintained with Stephanie was obvious and not normal," an insider said.  "She was able to do anything and everything ... It was pretty well known that Stephanie was the one that Letterman was having fun with."
And there you see why we speak of "sexual harassment" even when the employee getting the sex is eager to receive it.  It hurts the rest of the employees.  It skews the work assignments in a way that feels unfair.

But perhaps an exception should be made for a great late night talk show host.  The funnyman's mood and ego need boosting.  Just as he must have an office full of people who can write jokes and comic routines — who must share a lot of not-that-businesslike comraderie — he needs pretty ladies to keep his senses well-honed.  It's part of the structure of a business that revolves around a performer.  The funnyman needs his supply of sex, and the paying career positions on the staff can be used to create a pool of potential sexual partners who will keep the old man bolstered up.

Perhaps, I said.  Perhaps.  Please discuss.  And take into account the other examples we've seen lately of great men to whom the rules arguably do not apply:  Roman Polanski (movie director might be allowed to rape), Harvard students (elite collegians might be allowed to stalk), Richard Prince (important artist might be allowed to display child pornography), Brian David Mitchell (man of God might be allowed to rape).  And not so recently:  Bill Clinton (Presidents of the United States might be allowed to have sex with subordinate employees).
You have to go to the link to get all the links for some of the folks she mentions in the last paragraph.

You pretty much know where I stand.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week—Answer

How does Columnist Joan Vennochi fall into a small mental error in her Thursday column in this paragraph?
Some Kennedy family members seem comfortable with Capuano. But it’s up to the voters to decide what they are looking for in Ted Kennedy’s successor.
The answer is that Ms Vennochi forgot that whoever wins will not be Senator Edward Kennedy's successor. That title fell to the TSW, Senator Paul Kirk.

Greg Page, The NewEnglander was the first in with the correct answer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Finally, Some Good News

Finally, some good news.  The Dental Hygienist gave me a "Good Sticker" at my last teeth cleaning because I had no cavities (I didn't need a new toothbrush at the time).

For those of you with no cavities at your checkup you say "What is the big deal?"

For those of us with a mouth full of amalgam, it is a very big deal indeed.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Unemployment in September 2009

The rate was 9.8% and can be found here.

That said, they didn't make it easy for the common man to just grab the trend.  About half way down I found the August number, 9.7%.

But, the interesting thing, and the problem, is the way this is spread across the population.

All workers   August = 9.7 and Sept = 9.8 (Difference = 0.1)

Adult men   August = 10.1 and Sept = 10.3 (Difference = 0.2)
Adult women   August = 7.6 and Sept = 7.8 (Difference = 0.2)
Teenagers   August = 25.5 and Sept = 25.9 (Difference = 0.4)

White   August = 8.9 and Sept = 9.0 (Difference = 0.1)
Black   August = 15.1 and Sept = 15.4 (Difference = 0.3)
Hispanic   August = 13.0 and Sept = 12.7 (Difference = -0.3)

If you are a man or Black you are not doing as well as if you are a woman or White (or Asian).  If you are a teenager you need to be going back to school until this thing blows over.  But, if you are Hispanic you see a favorable trend in September.

The Employment Situation for October is scheduled to be released on Friday, November 6, 2009, at 8:30 AM (EST).

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  If I had my act together I would make an actual table.  Maybe, if there is a high demand for this data, I will do that next month.

CBS Hiding the Clips

From Law Professor Ann Althouse's blog we find this link to My Way.

Somewhere down in the article we have this interesting tidbit:
On the Web, videos of Letterman's confession were hard to find.  CBS, which has an agreement with YouTube, hadn't posted any clips of the segment as of late Friday. It also didn't have the episode available on

The demand was clearly there.  Throughout Friday, videos of his revelation were posted on YouTube without CBS' permission. Whenever they gained thousands of views, CBS had them removed.
Little by little the Main Stream Media erode their own credibility.

Regards  —  Cliff

Back of the Napkin—Health Care

Fran Sansalone, who blogs at Loose Threads passed along this discussion on Health Care Legislation being debated in Congress.  Go check out her post and then, after looking at the napkins, leave her a comment.  Fran lives in Reading and works in the internet communications field.

Her URL did work for me until I went to Opera as my web browser. Maybe this link will work for you.

I think he has captured it.  Current legislation pending is not about changing how we do health care, except indirectly.  It is about how it is paid for.

Regards  —  Cliff

Book Review—Fighter Pilot's Heaven

As a Fighter Pilot myself, I enjoyed reading Fighter Pilot's Heaven, which I picked up at the store at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an Annex of the National Air and Space Museum.  I was visiting the museum with one of my sons and his two sons.  It was a great trip for me.

The book, by Donald Lopez, a retired Air Force Colonel, was a great read for me. Colonel Lopez looks at a few short years, between his time flying combat in the China during World War II and his departure for a Pentagon assignment.  Those few short years were actually a quite long assignment by Air Force standards, some five years.  During that time Colonel Lopez helped to usher in the jet age. His stories of the P-80 and the F-84 and F-86 were great.  I learned a little about the T-33, which I flew in pilot training, which was a modification of the P-80, our first successful jet fighter.

Having been station at Eglin and having flown off the runways at Eglin I enjoyed the stories about the flying and the ranges.

Even if you realize the truth about Fighter Pilots, that they have to work at being humble and rarely succeed (how do you know there is a Fighter Pilot in the room—don't worry, he will tell you), this book was be a good read.  The author tells it like it is, with all the events and mistakes that go into making flying an exciting adventure.

At 218 pages it is a fast read and a good one.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, October 2, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

How does Columnist Joan Vennochi fall into a small mental error in her Thursday column in this paragraph?
Some Kennedy family members seem comfortable with Capuano. But it’s up to the voters to decide what they are looking for in Ted Kennedy’s successor.
Regards  —  Cliff

Isn't This Wrong?

Comedian David Letter apparently admitted to having sex with subordinates, at least per The Boston Globe.

This would be the David Letterman who called Rush Limbaugh a "bonehead."

Today Mr Limbaugh summed up Mr Letterman's boneheaded actions by noting the difference in power between Mr Letterman and members of his staff.

In my current employment and in my past profession Mr Letterman's actions would be known as sexual harassment.  While Mr Letterman's audience might have laughed at Mr Letterman's revelations, I hope that the men in the audience, in the small recesses of their minds, recalled their annual sexual harassment training.

Regards  —  Cliff

It Makes You Want to Cry

And it makes you worry about all big institutions and their ability to reform themselves.

This article in Popular Mechanics on why the Saturn died was short, but interesting.  I wonder if Harvard Business Review will do a study?
What Went Wrong With Saturn?:  Analysis.  GM pulls the plug on Saturn, ending nearly 20 tumultuous years with this bold, creative automotive experiment.
I had hoped that Roger Penske would pull this off and save Saturn, but in the end there wasn't enough interest to make it happen.  Here is the story in a local Tennessee newspaper.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to the Instapundit

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Yesterday The Boston Globe had an article on the front page, top of the fold, with the headline "Pentagon airs criticism of ‘don’t ask’."

The sub-headline is "Journal article backs gay troops; May signal brass open to debate." Well, maybe.

This seven page article was written while the author was a student at the National War College.  The paper won this year's 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition.

The author, Air Force Colonel Om Prakash graduated this summer from National War College and is now serving as a Military Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary for Policy, Office of Industrial Policy ODUSD(IP).

The conclusion is here:
Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather, it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.
Probably so.

I like that the author did address the issue of if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is really an avenue for people to get out of a long term commitment to military service, something I have wondered about.
Before the inception of DADT, the rates of discharge for homosexuality had been steadily falling since 1982.  Once the law was passed, rates climbed, more than doubling by 2001 before beginning to fall again.  Since 1994, the Services have discharged nearly 12,500 Servicemembers under the law.

There are various explanations for the rise in discharges for homosexuality after 1993. One is that the increase reflects how discharges are recorded rather than an underlying change in practices.  A senior Air Force Judge Advocate points out that prior to the change in the law, homosexual discharge actions during basic military training were classified as fraudulent enlistments because the person had denied being a homosexual when he or she enlisted and later changed position.  After the change in the law, the Air Force no longer collected the information during the enlistment process, so fraudulent enlistment was no longer an option, and the Air Force began characterizing the discharges as homosexual conduct.  Gay rights advocates argued that the increase was due to commanders conducting “witch hunts,” yet commanders also reported fear of being accused of discrimination and only processing discharges when a case of “telling” was dumped in their laps.  Another explanation is that given the law and recent reduction in stigma associated with homosexuality in society at large, simply declaring one is homosexual, whether true or not, is the fastest way to avoid further military commitment and receive an honorable discharge.  In support of this supposition, Charles Moskos, one of the original authors of DADT, points out that the number of discharges for voluntary statements by Servicemembers accounted for 80 percent of the total, while the number of discharges for homosexual acts actually declined over the years.
As the author, Colonel Prakash, tells us in his essay, there is not a lot of hard science here, but there is a lot of hardened opinions.

My personal view is that the time has come.  On the other hand, given the way society works, which is not always in a linear fashion, that time may also go away in 50 or 100 years.

Regarding the article in The Boston Globe, it has caused a lot of media people to contact the source, Joint Forces Quarterly.  A few have been incredulous that this is not a plant by senior Department of Defense leadership.  My guess is that it is not.  One year I was the essay sponsor for then Colonel Charlie Dunlap (now the Deputy Judge Advocate General and a two star general).  The title was "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012."  It was co-winner of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Strategy Essay Contest, a competition among students from all the US military's senior service schools, or "War Colleges."

To the best of my knowledge it was not a subject presented to Charlie Dunlap at the beginning of the year by the Air Force chain of command.

So, (1) an interesting essay, (2) probably not a trial balloon and (3) not the most controversial article in this issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly.  That would be "Strategic Drift:  The Future of the National War College," the article I co-authored with Dr Janet Smith, former faculty member at National War College and now in Saudi Arabia, with her husband, the new US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The late Charles Moskos, one of the leaders in the field of military sociology.  A fine gentleman.
  I can't find the paper at this time, but here is reporter Tom Ricks talking about it. Whoops, this may be it.

Looking at Iran's Nuclear Capability

Thomas C Reed, a former nuclear weapons designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Secretary of the Air Force under presidents Ford and Carter, and Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Policy, sent the following points for distribution to the media. I didn't get them from "the media," but from someone I know who is involved in publishing Mr Reed's book, The Nuclear Express:  A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation (co-authored with Danny Stillman).

As people talk about Iran and "the bomb," these are important points to keep in mind.
  1. It should come as no surprise that Iran has a second uranium enrichment facility. The very competent scientists at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna have suspected as much, while tracking the engineers involved, for over a year.
  2. There can be no doubt that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon capability. The Iranian leaders do so by dancing close to the edge - but staying within - the constraints of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty. By doing so, Iran can produce the fissile materials needed for a bomb. The rest is easy.
  3. The Iranians will fire a nuclear device when it is politically appropriate to do so. Enriched uranium bombs do not need to be tested.
    1. The U.S. did not pre-test the Hiroshima Little Boy bomb. (The Alamogordo test was of the more complicated plutonium bomb subsequently used at Nagasaki.)
    2. South Africa did not need to test her uranium-based A-bomb. Six were produced during the eighties without any full-scale nuclear test.
  4. Iran's missile launches confirm her interest in a small-diameter uranium-based weapon suitable for missile delivery, not the twenty-kiloton, plutonium-based, spherical Fat Man designs first tested by the U.S., Soviet Union, U.K., France and China.
    1. a) America's Little Boy was only two feet six inches in diameter. It weighed 8,900 pounds and gave 15 kilotons.
    2. South Africa's Melba, produced forty years later, was a similar two feet in diameter, but it weighed only 2,200 pounds. It was also estimated to produce 15 kilotons.
    3. Proceeding down this learning curve, it is reasonable to assume an Iranian design would also be two feet in diameter, but by now it should weigh well under 2,000 pounds. Iran's Shahab-3 missile has a payload capability of 2,000 pounds. A two-foot warhead diameter would be half the size of the Shahab-3 body - about right.
  5. With no scientific need to test, the Iranians may first demonstrate their nuclear capability with an integrated live warhead and missile shot over their desert test range. They may fire straight up, as the U.S. did at Johnson Island in 1962. (A 1.4 megaton detonation 248 miles overhead, lofted by a Thor intermediate range missile - lower-tech than Shahab-3.) Such a detonation would be visible throughout the Arab world - and would seriously disrupt U.S. intelligence-collection satellites.
  6. Or they may opt for a suicide attack on Tel Aviv. That has been Hezbollah's way of doing business.
I think this is a sobering assessment.  I expect to blog on this some more.

The issue of Iran getting a nuclear capability is a serious one.  It won't be the end of the world if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, but it could become a much more complicated world until Iran sorts out in its own mind what it has in its hands.

Mr Reed includes in his book title the term "Political History," it is apt.  There are politics in nuclear weapons issues.  I remember that when the US was deploying nuclear armed cruise missiles in Europe there was pressure from Washington to meet the ambitious schedule.  In particular, Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle was intent on matching Soviet progress on Intermediate Range Missiles and did not wish to hear about problems.  In a subsequent blog post I hope to talk about the different views on Iran's progress toward a nuclear capability and to speculate on the politics of it all.

Regards  —  Cliff