Monday, November 30, 2009

Saluting by Civilians

This being The Lowell Sun and this being a short letter, I take the liberty to post it in full.
A salute is always welcome

The Lowell Sun
Updated: 11/30/2009 07:11:32 AM EST

In answer to Allan P. Small's letter regarding military salutes:  I have lived through the last five great wars, worn our country's uniform for 26 years, and am a past commander of Lowell Post 87, the American Legion, and served on active duty in the Korean conflict and the Vietnam conflict.  I agree, technically, one should be in uniform to salute our servicemen.  But with that, any time, anybody, "rendering honors" to my comrade brothers and sisters, do so with my personal thanks, as should you also thank them.


Well said, Bill Rawnsley!

And having spent a few years working just a few desks and filing cabinets away from Bill Rawnsley, I attest that he is the real deal.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  I believe Mimi at Left in Lowell also addressed this issue.

Afghanistan:— What to Do?

Per John McCreary:
U.S. forces will be out of Afghanistan by 2017, the White House announced today, Reuters reported. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it is important for people to understand that "our time there will be limited." U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to explain to the U.S. public next week his reasoning for expanding the war effort.
OK, so now we have an end-date. It is convenient in that it definitely falls into the time of the next Administration (or the one after next).

Thus, we have a signal that the Obama Administration is going to commit to continue the war in Afghanistan, but we don't know if there were be more forces, and if so, how many.

Let's review the bidding here.

Why are we in Afghanistan?  Unlike what some have suggested, this is not a rerun of Viet-nam.  We went to Afghanistan because that was were Osama bin Laden was and that was from where he was running his terrorist group, al Qaeda.  The American People wanted action after the 9/11 attacks.

In Viet-nam we moved in because the French had to pull out.  It was about the world Communist threat.  We had just recently stopping fighting in Korea (1950 to 1953) and we were building up our forces in Europe.  We were into collective defense. In early 1954 we signed the treated that created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), to help fight the spread of Communism.  But, whatever this defensive bulwark against Communism, US soil was not being directly attacked.

9/11 was definitely different.  The President laid down some firm lines for Afghanistan and the Afghan government, seeing things in their own light, elected to ignore the President.  The result was Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, conducted by the US and the British.

The Viet-nam analogy doesn't work here.  It might work for Iraq, but that is a different question.

Why should we continue to be in Afghanistan?  This is the harder question.  There are several issues that should attract us to staying in Afghanistan:
  1. The first is the Pakistani nuclear capability.  The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is not sealed, but rather amorphous.  Terrorists groups glide back and forth across it.  The Pakistani ISI, their version of the CIA, has had close relations with the Taliban.  Frankly, the instability and potential instability should give us all pause.  Bringing an end to the ongoing insurgency, or at least tamping it down, would go a long toward making us safer in the near to mid-term.
  2. There is India and the fact that that nation, which should be a close ally of the United States, is dealing with its own terrorist threats, both internal and external.  Helping Pakistan deal with terrorism is helping India deal with terrorism.
  3. There is China, which has its own Islamic terrorism threat on its western border.  We would not wish to see China try to solve its internal problems by expanding into Afghanistan.  Remember Tibet?  Remember the Uygurs (or Uigurs) we picked up in Afghanistan and moved to Gitmo and didn't know what to do with?
As someone point out:
To be coldly calculating, I would suggest that an even more profound mistake would be for policymakers to assume 1) Managing affairs in Afghanistan really should matter to us; and, 2) Afghanistan should matter to us.
Yes, the idea of young women being warned off from going to school by having acid thrown in their face is disgusting to me, but unless we are willing to sit on the Afghan people for another generation, we are not going to change that.

Here is one authority:
I agree with but go further than X in decrying our continued involvement in Afghanistan.  We really blew it when nation-building became a priority, particularly for the military. In addition to placing the military outside its Peter Principal level, it advertises the US' naïveté stemming from not understanding the culture. There's a country in the real estate sense but no Afghan nation outside a 20km radius of major cities/villages. And after eight years we've more than worn out our welcome because damn little has been accomplished in terms the people truly value. And they've come to see us as an occupying force albeit less malevolent than the Soviets. I hear this from most all Afghans and Pashtun families I visit toned down a bit because I'm their 'Mailmastia guest'.
But, if we are going to pull out, we will need more troops.  As one expert, with little interest in staying, put it:
If we awaken to realize we have no vested interests in Afghanistan and begin to look objectively at our extrication, we need to examine what in '02-'03 was termed 'demonstration effect'.  That is, how to partially mitigate the impact of our departure by hitting the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban organization sufficiently hard to establish a deterrence effect that leaves the message that great hurt will befall any who threaten us or the Afghan people.  Note that I'm addressing disentanglement from Afghanistan and not abandoning our pursuit of OBL and AQ and related organizations including Islamic Salvation Foundation, Islamic Army for the Liberation of Holy Places, World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.
And remember, when you say Taliban you should be saying which Taliban group.  And this is not a solution that decreases casualties, but probably increases them, on both sides.

This theory points toward what we should be interested in.
What is it that we desire to see in Afghanistan?  A reasonably friendly modestly empowered government that hunts the more extreme elements of the Taliban more actively than our Pakistani allies do might be one definition of a desirable outcome.  How can we exercise the resources we have available to put that possibility in motion?
My own conclusion is that the President should pick a strategy (and it is the President's to pick, and not DoD or the Theater Commander—which has been our way for over 200 years) which looks to propping up the Afghan Government, which isn't perfect, but hasn't done anything egregious, such as destroying Buddhist monuments or executing people in soccer stadiums.  In addition we need to work to stem the movement of arms, drugs and bad guys across the border and continue to go after al Qaeda and those Taliban that we find to be real problems.  We should focus on securing the cities and eschew trying to bring the 20th Century to the whole of Afghanistan.  There would be nation building to the extent of working with the government, but realizing that what we are looking for is not model democracy, but "good enough" government—say something that is somewhat better than Puritan Massachusetts in terms of services and rights for minorities.

My strategy would involve a lot more emphasis on our Department of State and its Agency for International Development.  And other Cabinet Departments.  It is time to stop throwing some more money at DoD and everyone else going out for a long lunch.

Yes, the President should increase the US troop level.  The British are upping their force and so should we.  A thing to remember when we hear the term "US and NATO troops" is that a lot of those "NATO" troops are US troops fighting under a NATO appointed command structure.  The total NATO force is 71,030 and of that 34,800 are from the US.

This article describes some of the kind of things we should be doing—facilitating the process (and providing development money).  And this quote, while directed toward the Arabs during World War I, describes how we should be acting in Afghanistan:
Do not try to do too much with your own hands.  Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly.  It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them.
- T.E. Lawrence, Twenty Seven Articles, Article 15
And the rest of the quotation:
Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.
I do leave you with this thought by William Rees-Mogg:  "War on the cheap is always a rotten policy."

Being specific, I am for us continuing our efforts and for the US to increase troop levels, but with an eye to getting out if we find that things have turned sour.  We should not, however, try to do this on the cheap, but we should include civilians agencies of the US Government much more in this effort.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There IS a "Special Relationship".
  Things like electricity and schools and health care, things that weren't available in Massachusetts 350 years ago and still aren't available in Afghanistan today, in many regions.

Unemployment since January 2007

Here is a graphic that shows how unemployment has progressed from January 2007 to September of this year.  One thing that caught my eye was that the Great Plains states are doing better than the others.

But, on the coasts and in the Midwest there is no good new.

The question is, do we go with Keynesian economics one more time (another stimulus package) or just extend unemployment benefits?  Which is the path out?

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I found this to be a new term for me.  Up until this point we have been circumspect in talking about the tragedy at the bridge and while we are happy to make fun of the late Richard M Nixon, we have not been so willing with regard to the late Edward M Kennedy, at least during his lifetime.  Bringing up the Watergate breakin has been OK.  Bringing up the other issue has not been OK.

Now comes Mark Steyn with this group of words, "Climategate/ Climaquiddick scandal".  The comment is quickly absorbed and that forbidden topic is now out in the open.

The article itself talks to the question of the value of peer reviews, especially in light of indications from the CRU EMails that the "climate change" folks were doing all they could to suppress opposition—junk science, I am sure they would say.

Of course, the question is, who is my "peer" and do I accept this person or not?

Or, as Mark Steyn says in his column
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”  wondered Juvenal:  Who watches the watchmen?
In this case we could be talking about people stealing billions of dollars and continuing the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people.  Or saving hundreds of millions of lives.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  The other fun word out of the article is "ecopalypse".

Friday, November 27, 2009

Commas and Quotes

You makes your pick and you takes your chances.

This, apparently from someone in DoJ, writing to Eugene Volokh, asking about the use of punctuation when doing quotations.  At least 77 comments so far.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Experiment in "Linking."

I know neither the site I am linking from (as in, I am nor familiar with the site over a long period of time, not am I experienced with this approach to cross posting.  I wonder if this is how Law Professor Ann Althouse does it.  Here we go—Sources And Methods: Sunday Funnies: Spy Pigeon! (YouTube).

The video at the link is funny without being offensive.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

What is the difference between a "Pilgram" and a "Puritan"?

Going to elementary school in South Jersey in the late 40s and early 50s I never learned the distinction.  They just sort of ran together in my mind.

Regards  —  Cliff

Happy Thanksgiving

And, everything considered, we have a lot to be thankful for here in our household and as the City of Lowell and as a nation.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should Heads Roll?

That Canadian living in Vermont, commentator Mark Steyn, has some thoughts on the ongoing kerfuffle over the leaked EMails and Data from the CRU in East Anglia, UK.  Here are his words from National Review.

He quotes an Opinion piece in The Manchester Guardian:
I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign.
That seems pretty straight forward.  And, mind you, The Guardian makes The Boston Globe look like part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

I am one of those climate knowledge skeptics.  I am not sure who to believe, but I don't believe we are yet at the point where we need to grab our parachute and jump into the great unknown.

I think this release of EMails, etc, is just going to harden positions.  I doubt we will be any smarter in December than we are now, but politics may allow us to kick the can down the road a bit.  Regarding the attempt about a dozen years ago, at Kyoto, it doesn't look to me like we are ever going to get Senate ratification, although Cap and Trade is out there now, awaiting Senate approval.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Saturday Chat, This Saturday

A friend of mine EMailed a quote he thought appropriate
"The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates."
- Tacitus
I found the "Saturday Chat," by Kendall Wallace, in The Lowell Sun this last Saturday to be interesting.  It talked about our legislative team up on Beacon Hill.

The "Chat" talked about those four gentlemen in terms that suggested they were irreplaceable.  As one Sun personality said to me on Sunday, they are the ones who bring home the beacon, or words to that effect.  In Mr Wallace's word, "Delegation has moved mountains."

Here is the line of reasoning:
But places like Lowell can never forget that old cities are fragile and need lots of shoring up that often can only happen when you have some tough political clout that can often move mountains.

Hopefully the city can continue to make progress, be better run, more efficient and become less dependent on help from state and federal agencies.

But until that time, it still needs all the help it can get.
There you have it.  We dare not run someone else for Beacon Hill, because we need all the clout the current four folks bring to the job—unless, of course, there is a revolution and the Republicans sweep into office, in which case we are had.  But, that is unlikely to happen.  That will never happen.

And those who think Democracy survives best when there is competition and those who keep quoting that ancient Brit about power corrupting are just behind the times.  It is a new world and Beacon Hill will lead us out of the wasteland and into the new promised land.

I am, however, nervous about Pennsylvania US Rep John Murtha being in Boston to raise money recently.  I hope none of our four were at the event, getting tips on how to legislate.  That would not be good.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  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.

Afghanistan and the President

We are told that next week will be the week that President Barak Obama makes his decision regarding a troop increase for Afghanistan.

At this location is an article on the options being considered by the President (and his staff).  The reporter is Elisabeth Bumiller and the paper is The New York Times.

This article in print has several graphics and you can see all of them by clicking on the two graphics presented on line.

The article on line is nicely linked—I wish that reporters' bios were as well linked.

The final paragraph is
Despite the attention to the troop number, Anthony H. Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cautioned that it would be about as helpful to understanding the president’s war strategy as counting the number of parts in a Ferrari to determine how it would handle the road.
Strategy, at the end of the day is complex, "matching objectives, threats and opportunities in a resource constrained environment."

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, November 23, 2009

For Rent

There has been some grousing about Senator Mary Landrieux getting some $300 million in pet projects in exchange for her vote on the Health Care Insurance Reform.  (Or, as someone put it, "Mary sold her integrity for $300 million.")  I saw this rejoinder:
If one goes back 20 plus years, Sen. Landrieux's predecessor, John Breaux was in a similar situation. At the time, Breaux was a young Congressman (he took over his old boss' seat, the great Edwin Edwards), and he was being strong armed by Reagan during his first budget.

After getting a bunch of concessions from the President to sign on, he was asked by a reporter if his vote was for sale and he said: "No, but it is for rent."
Now that shows integrity, given that in Louisiana politics is very French and so are their political virtues.

Sorry Chris and Ellen, that is just how I see it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Social Networking and the Armed Forces

I was reading some EMails being exchanged amongst a group of us when one of the writers admitted to being angry about what is going on with Iraq and Afghanistan.  Maybe blogging about this will give me one more excuse to put off talking about my own views on Afghanistan. This extract is from an EMail by Pittsburgh Tribune star reporter Carl Prine.  I checked with Carl and he gave me permission to put his words out on my blog.

There are two points to doing this.  The first is that what Mr Prine says about social networking is important,

But, secondly because this social networking will impact how our Service members interact long after they put away their uniforms and put on mufti.  I hope we all realize that former Service Members have been a factor in our politics since right after the beginning of our Nation.  There was the Society of the Cincinnati.  There was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), followed later by the United Confederate Veterans.  There is the VFW, coming out of the Spanish American War (I am a member) and following World War One the American Legion, along with those who associate with the "40 and 8" society.

Just as veterans of Viet-nam had grievances, so the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will bring back grievances.  And, if it was all for naught and the veterans think it was all due to incompetence, they will be disaffected.

Not that I expect extreme disaffection, but if you want to know what that looks like and how it impacts civil-military relations, read what Jean Larteguy wrote, first in The Centurians and then in The Praetorians.

But, here is how Marine Rifleman Carl Prine (one a Marine, always a Marine, but also a tour in the Army) explains it:
Why is Carl Prine so danged angry?

While this is an all-volunteer force fighting two endemic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might need to begin to fathom the depths of anger percolating from the bottom, where I served, much as one eventually had to come to terms with the feelings of those who fought in Southeast Asia.

It's a different sort of rage, but it nevertheless exists.  Not with everyone, but with enough of them.  Ironically, I'm one of the tamer sorts because I mix my anger with heavier dollops of pride in having served.  But because of social communication networks, we remain connected as never before, both with those still in the military overseas and with those back in the States, in uniform and out, and so we continuously talk about what we see.  The bottom, in other words, talks incessantly to the rest of the bottom in ways impossible to earlier generations.

Part of how Pharaoh controlled his armies stemmed from his monopoly not only on information but on his control over the ability to share it.  What happens when technology allows Pharaoh's army to speak amongst themselves and with those back home, indeed even with the enemy if they so choose?

A soldier in the legion in Gaul could speak to those on his left and right, but his perspective on what was happening in Rome or even 500 meters away on the battlefield was arbitrated through the control of the Centurion and his superiors.

A literate fighting force in the major industrial democracies many centuries later altered that—an English captain could receive missives and mittens mailed to him from London that morning, along with the Times—but the officer still had trouble knowing exactly what the company only a few hundred meters down the trench line was doing, or why, except as communicated through their superiors.

Because it's not a conscripted army serving Pharaoh but one bepopulated solely with professional volunteers, the anger at the bottom takes on that of the professional.  Instead of bleating like sheep on our way to the slaughter—as the drafted French screamed through the communication trenches during WWI—we typically attack the competence, character, bravery, intelligence and morality of those who led us into bad campaigns on the rosiest of assumptions for little apparent foreign policy gain.

We often do so with a satire cribbed from unhealthy doses of "South Park" and the detritus of Generation X and Y pop culture.

The ramifications of this anger won't be so severe as that of the Vietnam generations because we are so small.  But it will nevertheless long exist, and it likely will be articulated, as I have explained.

Whether that ultimately is good or bad for civil-military relations remains to be seen.
A lot of folks in this country are after the President to make a decision on Afghanistan.  I, for one, want him to take the time to make a reasoned decision, since he is playing with peoples' lives, and their hearts.  Service members fight wars with their hearts as well as their minds and muscles.  It is not just a job, it is a vocation.

In the Summer of 1973 I took leave and went home, rather than fly the "last combat mission" into Cambodia, because I didn't want to be associated with that symbolic abandonment of those people we had been supporting against the Khmer Rouge.  In our home in Florida I watched on TV someone else taxi back into the parking spot at Korat Air Base, in Thailand.  The gentleman was playing my role as Instructor Pilot, flying with the Wing Commander, and I was glad I was not there.  Less than a week later I was back flying sorties, but none in support of the Cambodian Army, as it slugged it out with the Khmer Rouge, an Army that included at least one gentleman I have talked to since moving to Lowell, where we are both now residents.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is a group that exchanges EMails on topics related to national security affairs and the membership has, aside from me, the credentials to make such discussions interesting and informative.
  Mufti—plain clothes worn by a person who wears a uniform for their job, such as a soldier or police officer:   I was a flying officer in mufti.
  In fact, France, during World War One, experienced a revolt in the Army following the disaster of the 1917 Nivelle Offensive.  By this time 1,000,000 men out of 20,000,000 men total had died in the war.  During the mutiny some 49 Army divisions were to some degree impacted.

How Close to the Actual Story?

I am at home, waiting for Dave Murphy or one of his chaps to come by and fix the thermostat that we have been nursing along for years, including the use of Hundred Mile an Hour Tape for the last ten years.

So, I have been cleaning up EMails and found this thoughtful item:
I've become very unhappy with the quality of the reporting we are getting in the media.  In fact what we see is people repeating what others have written or told them.  So there is no original reporting.  In legal circles this would be inadmissible in a court because it is hearsay.

Can you or your wise readers have a way to put a quality factor on each news item.  Maybe the number of times it has been repeated.  "This is Brian Willliams reporting the shooting.  This is a level 5 repeat because it was level 4 in the newsroom where this was written."
I confess to having nothing original to say, which is why I chose the quote I did for the top of the blog.

But, I think that the writer has a point.  Where is the thread back to the original source?  Regarding the Patches Kennedy item earlier, I found differences in the story between the Providence newspaper and the Boston newspaper.  Who knows how Howie Carr will spin it?

Then we have, reportedly, The New York Times saying that it will not print information released from/stolen from the CRU in the UK, over Climate Change studies.  The reason is that the information was not meant for public release.  Is this the same NYT that published the Pentagon Papers, and was proud of it?  Is this the same NYT that bravely publishes US national secrets?  I checked the Sunday paper a few minutes ago and found that Mr Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr, was still the publisher.  Maybe it is the same paper, but with a new conscience.

I think the mystery writer is on to something and I declare this a level 2 report, although level 1 to the extent it is quoted, although if he got the idea from his wife, those numbers go to 3 and 2.

Regards  —  Cliff

What is it with Patches?

As if there wasn't enough chaff in the wind about the Health Care issue, now we have US Representative Patrick Kennedy picking a fight with his Bishop.  Here is the take of Providence Journal.

It looks to me like the Bishop was saying to the Representative that if he was out of step with Roman Catholic teachings he might avoid giving scandal by not taking Communion.  Seems reasonable.

But, the real problem here is fixing our health care problem in the United States.  Frankly, the bill making its way through Congress doesn't look to be likely to survive in its current form.  And, in its current form it leaves millions not covered by health insurance.

Worse, the problem is lack of health care providers and especially lack of health care providers in certain parts of our nation, like inner cities and the great unpopulated expanses, along with the money to allow those in those areas to pay for that health care coverage.  I am seeing this problem pop up in the news from time to time, which is heartening, but it doesn't seem to be at the heart of the current efforts on Capitol Hill.  And, didn't the US Congress contribute to this problem by working to curtail the production of physicians some time back in the Carter Administration?

If I were a cynic I would say that the Democrats don't see their current efforts as solving the problem.  They just want to throw something up on the wall and then play with it year to year to get to where they think they are going.

In the mean time, we are going to distort the health care market by giving money to more people, to spend on a fixed amount of health care production.  And, in the process perhaps kill the goose that laid the medical golden egg, the American pharmaceutical and medical device industry.  And scare people like Margery Eagen, over at The Boston Herald.''

Whatever you do, don't read this Ann Althouse post on health care and health care reform.  The woman has become sarcastic and cruel toward the Democrats Big Government people in the US Congress.
Come on, be honest. Don't you want the federal government to have a complete overview of health care? The potential rationality is stunning. And one thing in this emerging rationality is clear: Although women tend to love the notion of government control more than men do, it is women who will be told they'll have to cut back. On treatments. And years. You know we've been taking more than our share.
Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to my friend Dollar Bill, over in Chelmsford, who got this started with a reference to a post by some 96.9 talk show person.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oil Reserves


Just as we were getting the feel of environmentalism George Will comes along in a WashPost OpEd and says there is lots of oil and natural gas out there.

What was he thinking?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Lets All Get in Line—or Else

Here is Law Professor Ann Althouse talking about the recent kerfuffle in the UK over EMails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England.  While some are marking this leaking of EMails and other date to hacking, others suspect an inside job by a dissatisfied member of the staff.
In another [EMail], Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," Mann writes.

"I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Jones replies.
A literary or historical illusion.  Brings to mind Henry II of England, referring to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket:
What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord.  Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest.
We know how Becket ended up.

But, back to climate change.  I am looking forward to seeing what comes out of Copenhagen next month.  We have two issues to reconcile.  One is climate change.  The other is the disparity in wealth between the West and the rest.  As long we were able to expand the world economy the second seemed to be taking care of itself.  Now, with climate change a serious problem, we may not be able to expand the global economy to meet the needs of all.

If climate change is a serious problem and we are going over the edge in a few years, then this is no time for half measures.  On the other hand, if it is not time for desperate measures, let us not talk like it is.

Regards  —  Cliff

  OK, so we don't all know.  Inspired by their King, four knights took off for Canterbury and there slew Becket on the steps up to the Altar, while Vespers was in progress.

Big Nate in Lowell

Here is the cartoon, Big Nate.

For those of you who read this on Monday or later, in this cartoon Big Nate and the boys (there are four) are playing football and Big Nate is trying to work with his sole teammate, who is an ESL type of person.

The essence of the strip is Nate trying to explain a foodball play.  While it is possible that The Lowell Sun dropped the 22 November strip because they thought it was offensive, they also substituted last Sunday, and the Sunday before.

Here is the strip we got today, in The Lowell Sun.  Note that it was the strip for 21 November and is about basketball, not football.

I like Big Nate, but this random cartoon, once a week, is another thing driving me to going on-line rather than checking the newspaper.  That said, I like reading Crankshaft in the paper, and The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee.

As for The Boston Globe, they run Heart of the City six days a week and then drop her for Sundays.  What do I do?  Naturally, I go on line.

On the other hand, I do get three Sunday papers that I read in hard copy, The Lowell Sun, The Boston Globe and The New York Times.  If we could still get The Washington Post, I would get that also.  I love the feel of the paper and the ease of reading, but this is not the same as the love I have for my wife. My love for newspapers could fade and die.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Not Every Middle East Problem involves Israel

Iran is routing weapons to Yemen Rebels via Eritrea.  Saudi Arabia is opposed to this kind of thing.

My source, the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran website, is not The New York Times, but it is a source   They are opposed to the current Iranian government.

The reason this is interesting is two-fold.

First there is the fact that a Saudi Arabian engagement in open warfare with Iran would not be good for the world oil markets.  Thus, it would not be good for the rest of us if they get into a dustup.

Secondly, some argue that we will only get into long term trouble if we neglect Yemen and its problems, like Andrew Exum and Richard Fontaine, from the Center for a New American Security.

But, should we really care?  Is this in America's vital interest?

And, here is a contrarian view, from an independent reporter:
The Yemeni rebels are not Shiite, they are Zaidi and the Yemeni government is not Sunni, in fact the president himself is Zaidi.  Zaidis are an offshoot of Shiism but are very far removed from them and in some ways have more in common with sunnis than they do with Shiites the conflict in Yemen is not between Sunnis and Shiites at all, and there is no Iranian role, but the Yemeni government is blaming al Qaeda, Iran and anybody else they can find for what is an internal conflict, but that blame helps them get support from the Americans and the Saudis
This reporter forgot to mention that they are often Fivers, rather than Twelver Muslims.

And we don't have forces to spare for this problem, other than Air and Naval forces.  If we did have ground forces to apply to this problem there are a whole bunch of other requirements out there.

But, if it comes to a Saudi-Iranian dustup, there is the oil to worry about.

This is why doing foreign policy is so hard.

Regards  —  Cliff


My previous post on the new President of the EU, "Who?" didn't get to the question of what.

With the new President, Herman Van Rompuy, we have someone who seems to be a riddle of contradictions, right out of the chute.  The new President takes office on 1 January 2010 and will serve a full 30 month term, rather than being slotted into the former six month rotation.  The official title will be President of the European Council.

Here is an extract from an article in Al Jazeera on the new President, Belgian Prime Minister Van Rompuy:
The appointment of Van Rompuy, who has previously said that he viewed the EU as a Christian club with no room for Turkey and its mainly Muslim population has raised concern from the country.

Onur Oymen, a Turkish MP, his country was "not very optimistic about the future of our relations during his presidency".
While that attitude may sit well with some of the EU nations, it is not likely to sit well with the many gastarbeiter (guest workers) in Europe or ease relations with neighbors across the Mediterranean.

Then we have Australian newsman Andrew Bolt's blog, with this little snippet from Mr Van Rompuy's acceptance speech:
Sure, this talk of the warmists at Copenhagen planning a new “world government” is crazy. I just wish the warmists wouldn’t talk of it themselves. Take the new and first president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy:
The Climate Conference in Copenhagen is another step forward towards the global management of our planet…
OK, so maybe that isn't exactly what Mr Van Rompuy meant, but then again, it might be exactly what he meant.

One wonders how much power this new EU President will have.  Will he be a creature of the Bureaucrats in Brussels?  Will he be someone extracting consensus out of the leadership of the different EU nations?  Will he be someone who strikes out on his own to lead the EU into the land flowing with milk and honey?  If we go to Wikipedia we are told there are no formal duties specified in the Treaty of Lisbon.
It is unclear what practical relationship the post would have with other major posts, but the influence and role of the new post are likely to be shaped by the persona of the inaugural President.
The year 2010 may prove to be interesting in international affairs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, November 20, 2009


Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian Prime Minister, is to be the new President of the European Union.  At least that is what The Times is telling us.

I would have liked to see former British Prime Minister (and good friend of the United States) Tony Blair in the chair, but the Europeans weren't having it and current British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, abandoned him, getting a payoff when
The centre-left Socialist leaders backed Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Britain’s Trade Commissioner, to be the first High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, as well as vice-president for external affairs.
Lady who?
She has been a commissioner for 13 months, since Lord Mandelson was brought back to the Cabinet.  She has been Leader of the House of Lords but has no experience as a foreign minister and has never been elected.  Mr Brown said the appointment showed Britain was “at the heart of the future of Europe” and was leading the way in extending women’s representation.
Regards  —  Cliff

  Do you think it is because they fear he may actually believe in God?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Trial of the Decade in NYC

We have been hearing a lot about the decision of the Obama Administration Justice Department to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others in a civilian court rather than via a military commission for the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Mr Steve Simon, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in The New York Times, gives us a good argument for going the way of a civil trial.  In fact, he does a better job than Attorney General Eric Holder has.

The main argument for this approach is that imams in the Middle East are turning against Osama bin Ladan.  These trials will likely reinforce the split between OBL and mainline Islam, including some fairly radical clerics.

And, Mr Simon's bottom line:
... a judgment in New York, where the greatest suffering was inflicted, will remind us both of the narrow viciousness of the terrorists’ cause and of the enduring strength of our own values.
And that "remind us" includes the rest of the world.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Co-author of The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America, available here.

Root Causes re Fort Hood

The shooting (13 dead) down at Fort Hood has caused us to look at a number of issues.  Was it terrorism or was it mental disorder?  Could it have been prevented, or was it such a rare event that Major Nidal Malik Hasan was just going to slip through the cracks?

The facts are that Major Hasan, a Muslim, shot and killed 13 fellow Service members at Fort Hood.  It is also a fact that he was one of the weaker students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

Someone noted that Major Hasan may not be about terrorism, may not be about a too PC Army, but may just be about bureaucratic inertia:
  1. Unwillingness to get rid of an officer in which a lot of training time and money had been invested;
  2. The unwillingness of doctors to sanction other doctors; and
  3. Some political correctness about Hasan being a Muslim-but the latter will not turn out to have been the primary cause.
While this is no excuse (repeat, no excuse) for what happened or in any way mitigation for what Major Hasan did, it does speak to the problem of preventing such things from happening, or other problems, such as Service members not getting proper treatment for PTSD.

This also has serious implications for the Health Care Reform effort.  As it is there is insufficient competition in the Health Care providing industry, thus allowing the less competent to carry on.  Once it becomes part of a larger Federal bureaucracy, the tendencies for problem health care providers to slip through will increase.

Regards  —  Cliff

If True it is Appalling

There is this suggestion that the Department of Justice (DoJ) has decided that there is two tier justice in the US.

Here is how Attorney General Eric Holder is quoted:
The 9/11 attacks were both an act of war and a violation of our federal criminal law, and they could have been prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions.
The writer, Eric Posner, goes on to say:
It is surely this: the Obama administration has decided to offer a two-tiered system of justice. We might call them the “high-quality” (civilian) tier and “low-quality” (military) tier. ... The Obama administration will use the high-quality system against people when it has a strong case, and the low-quality system against people when it has a weak case.
If this is true it is outrageous.

If this is so, then it is time to eliminate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  The other option is to apply the UCMJ to everyone.

I wonder what George Anthes thinks about this.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Chicago Boyz, but I originally saw it at Instapundit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Weekly Posner-Becker Debate

Not every thought out of Chicago is corrupt or even just bad.  Here are two great minds (The Becker-Posner Blog) having at it on the issue of "Will We Go the Way of Japan?"

The background is that about 20 years ago Japan had a housing bubble burst and their economy was in trouble.  They are still climbing out of that hole two decades later.

Professor Gary S Becker (The University of Chicago) got the short straw and went second.  Judge Richard A Posner, US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (and University of Chicago Law School lecturer) got the long straw and went first.  I have provided only their concluding paragraphs.  Their full blog posts are not that long and informative, if you read them.

Judge Posner
Should the U.S. economy grow more rapidly than the public debt, we'll be okay.  But the government's focus appears to be not on economic growth, but on redistribution (the major goal of health reform) and on creating at least an aura of prosperity, at whatever cost in deficit spending and future inflation, in time for the November 2010 congressional elections.
Professor Becker
Sizable advances in productivity and the resulting sharp economic growth can ease the burden of growing government spending, and prevent anything like the expanding debt to GDP ratio and stagnation of the Japanese economy.  Can the US do it?  Certainly!  Will the US do it?  Not with the present composition of Congress, and with the tendency of the President to allow some of the more destructive members of his political party to get their way.
Something to think about.  Maybe even something to write our US Rep and our two US Senators about.

Be quick writing our Junior Senator. The TSW isn't going to be there long.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Dick Howe has an opinion on that.

Out Back Question of the Week

Law Professor Ann Althouse gives us our Out Back Question of the Week.

This is a question without a simple "right answer" that I will be provide you on Sunday after dinner.  It is more of an essay question and how quickly you answer may be driven by the number of different perspectives you bring to the problem.  The more facets you find, the longer you will take.

So, the question is, is Senator Lindsey Graham, in this video clip, correct in his assertion to the Attorney General, Eric Holder, or is the Senator wrong?

For extra points, explain what you think the US Government (that is to say, "we") should do if KSM is found innocent.

Good luck to all of us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Health Care Thumbs Down from Cambridge

Roger L Simon is cranky today, and cranky about "Health Care Reform."  Hat tip to Instapundit.

He got spun up by this OpEd in The Wall Street Journal, from the Dean of the Harvard Medical School, Dr Jeffrey S Flier.

The problem Dr Flier sees is that the current thousand page "Health Care Reform" bill is just setting the wedge.  It will then take a series of blows, over the years, with the legislative mallet, to actually "fix" health care.

In the mean time, our ability to innovate and improve will be impaired.
This will make an eventual solution even more difficult. Ultimately, our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all.
It isn't like I haven't noted this problem in this blog before.

I will miss the ability of the US Health Care System to innovate.  I wonder if this means the inginuity and innovation that has characterized the medical community in Boston will migrate to some other location?

That is the prolem with evolution.  It has wired us to seek places that allow us to move up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sarah Palin 24/7

Howard Kurtz, who writes a pretty good column, today gave us "The age of Palintology."  A pretty catchy title.  The article can be found here, in The Washington Post.  I thought Howard Kurtz was a WashPost person, but at the end of his column it says he works for CNN.  Maybe he will be the last man standing at that cable station.

Local blogger Renee Aste weighed in on the Newsweek cover on former Governor Palin, at this blog post.

Then David Perry, reporter with The Lowell Sun has an article today, titled "Palin in Print."  I thought that was a catchy title. 

If her 15 minutes are over, her 15 minutes are over, but there are a couple of things driving this.  First off, there are a lot of Americans across the fruited plain who think the nation is going in the wrong direction and think the former Governor from Alaska agrees with them.  Throw in that there are a measurable group of Americans who think that the country is being run by pointy headed liberals from the two coasts and that those pointy headed liberals look down on the rest of America.  Remember, this isn't about truth, but about perception.  You may not believe it, but there are folks out there who tell jokes about people who go to Harvard and others who laugh at such jokes.

Second, if you are a Democrat or Democratic Party operative, Sarah Palin is a good way to stir up your base.  While you may secretly think that Joe Biden is a disaster, in public you point out that we dodged a bullet by not having HER a heart beat away from the oval office.

As for me, I am an American and I love rooting for the underdog.  I think that Sarah Palin is the underdog these days and I like her spunk.  Is that enough for her to get my vote?  Tell me who else is running.  I voted for Dick Nixon the second time he ran—and I knew I was voting for a crook.  But then in 1972 I was heading back to Southeast Asia, for my second tour, and I thought we were doing something important.  Voter's remorse is not uncommon in this great nation.

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.
  I think that is a great line.
  Or maybe that is left over from the days when my childhood heros were Harry S Truman, Adlai E Stevenson, C Estes Kefauver, Hubert H Humphry and Edmund G Brown.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So Little Time

So much to blog about and so little time.

Last night a fairly unorganized book club met at a local Dunkin' Donuts to discuss Uncivil War:  Five New Orleans Street Battles and the Rise and Fall of of Radical Reconstruction.  In that book are discussions of both Whites and Blacks arming themselves during the period of Reconstruction, in order to protect themselves and their families and homes.  Frankly, the book made me angry all over again about how the Union failed to properly secure the rights of Freedmen and how by the end of the 19th Century we had slipped into segregation across the South, but enough of that for now.

Thanks to a link on Instapundit I found myself at The Volokh Conspiracy, where David Kopel talked about a brief that was filed in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, "the case that will decide whether the 14th Amendment makes the 2d Amendment applicable to state and local governments."  Looked at another way, this is the natural outcome of the Heller case.  Since Heller was about the District of Columbia, a Federal entity, it did not automatically slide over to include other cities. Now the US Supreme Court may help us understand if it does or if the citizen's rights under the Second Amendment can be denied by State or local governments.

The brief, to be found here, goes after the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873 and suggests that based upon the right and the need of Blacks, following the Civil War, to keep and bear arms, the Slaughter-House Cases was, in fact, decided too narrowly.  So, in 2009 we are talking about how rights in the Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction era, following the Civil War, are still of interest today.

This is all great stuff!  But, then I am not a lawyer.  I will send the URL out to a lawyer who has been a card carrying member of both the ACLU and the NRA and see if that person has any thoughts.

Regards  —  Cliff

Justice Served

I had jury duty today and justice was served, or at least I think so. I was juror number 18.

Fourteen of us showed up at Framingham District Courthouse at 0830 today and at 1130 we were dismissed.  It would seem that those who were guilty admitted to it and accepted their just punishment or the defense attorneys were able to convince the prosecutors that they were wrong, wrong, wrong.  The other option was that the defendants opted for a trial by the judge alone, as is their right.

Either way, our job was to be there as a threat of a trial, in case.  That is a very important thing.  Us showing up meant that justice was available and that a long, drawn out proceedings was not necessary.

I think that serving on a jury is one of the two most important things one can do to keep our democracy.  Not every nation has trial by jury.  Some, such as Germany, have a panel of judges.

The other important act by a citizen is to vote.  Both are a tapping on the nail that secures the door behind which lurks tyranny.

While I much prefer our system of criminal justice to that on the European mainland, I would think that there are other systems for dealing with criminal offenders that would work, provided the incentives were properly placed (e.g., reduction of crime vs number of convictions).

The real importance is that the jury, petite or grand, is a defense against the tyranny of the state.  We don't see much tyranny by the state these days, but that is because our system of justice is working for us.  If you look at justice in parts of this nation after the Civil War you would know it is not always such.  The fact that citizens do their job and serve on juries and vote is critical to the proper maintenance of civil society and our democracy.

Speaking of Framingham District Courthouse, I would like to say that from my perspective it is a smooth operation, from initial security screening to final release.

When we were all seated in our jury pool room, the Court Officer, Mr David Forte, gave us a quick rundown.  Monday had been civil cases (12 people to a jury) and today was criminal cases (seven people to hear the trial and then one picked at random to go home and six to do the deliberations and render a verdict).

After that we saw a video by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Maggie Marshall.  After the Chief Justice gave us a pep-talk we got a good rundown on our duties and what would happen from a judge and some lawyers, all on video.  One of the points they emphasized was that it was one day waiting or one trial and that trials normally lasted only one day and our chances of having to show up was such that it was about once every three years.

Since everything was settled by plea bargain or trial by a judge, Mr Forte came in at 1130 and thanked us for our time and trouble and released us to be on our way.  Mr Forte and the Framingham District Courthouse were fine exemplars of how the Commonwealth should run.

The way it should be.  Justice was done and tyranny was held down.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our US Army

This is a rather long post on our US Army and how it has evolved over the decades.  When all is said and done, we are a pretty open crowd in the US Military these days.  We have had our problems in the past, but I think that the military is usually leading society as a whole in bringing new people into the community.

This story is told by Major General Bob Scales and the time is when he was the Commandant of the Army War College, at Carlisle Barracks, PA.  He wrote up this little note on Sunday, 15 November 2009.  What prompted this memoir was the recent death of Colonel Lew Millett, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for action in Korea.  The first lesson is about the diversity of the Army and the second is about asking the right questions

MG Scales:
I was commandant of the Army War College during the 50th anniversary of
 the Korean War.  Every year each class did a painting of a particular
 event.  This was pre 9/11 so most paintings depicted Civil War battles.

So I thought we could really sell some paintings if we did one of a
 Korean War battle.  One student suggested we do Lew Millett's famous
 bayonet charge. It was the last unit bayonet charge in American history. 
 I knew we would make money on this one:  mustachioed Lew leading the
 charge with a beautiful Korean winter scene in the background.  So we
 commissioned Don Stivers and got the painting by Christmas.

Then the African American officers on the faculty and in the class
 reminded me rightfully that Korea was the first truly "integrated war"
 and that the painting should reflect that fact.  I knew that by 1951
 black units were broken up to fill the depleted ranks of all white
 infantry units.  Millett was in the Wolfhounds, the 27th Infantry, and
 they were heavily depleted so it was logical that black soldiers were in
 the charge.

So what followed was a serious disagreement between my purist historians
 in the Military History Institute and my black officers.  The historians
 adamantly refused to budge.  The Wolfhounds were an all white unit, no
 blacks.  My African American officers pushed back...

One day in the office while moderating a heated discussion I asked the
 contesting sides if any of them had talked to Millett. Well, no...

So I got on the phone and called Millett, then living in Arizona, and
 asked if he had any black soldiers in the charge.

"Oh, you mean Private Green?"

"Tell me about Green" I said.

Lew choked up on the phone a bit and recalled that Green had been
 transferred to the Wolfhounds from a logistical unit and was immediately
 wounded.  Later he sent me a photo of Green sitting next to him on a
 frozen dike with a bandage on his head.  Green was killed about two weeks
 after the charge.  Millett put him in for a DSC.  Lew recalled with some
 anger that the request was "lost in the mail."

So next was a call to Stivers to "take out the turpentine."

Later GEN Tom Schwartz, then the commander in Korea, called to
 congratulate me on the painting and told me that Korean Army veterans
 were very interested in the painting and wanted to know if by chance the
 Wolfhounds had any KATUSAs in the charge.

Back to the phone...

Millett answered:  "Oh, you mean Private Chae.  He was right behind

Back to Stivers and more turpentine.

As many of you know the painting was a huge success.  And it taught me a
 lesson about our Army fifty years ago and something about asking the
 right questions.

Now that is a great story. And thanks to MG Scales for allowing me to share it on this blog.

The painting in question can be found at the 27th Infantry Regimental Historical Society, Inc. website.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Medal of Honor Citation reads:
G.O. No.:  69, August 2, 1951.


Capt. Millett, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action.  While personally leading his company in an attack against a strongly held position he noted that the 1st Platoon was pinned down by small-arms, automatic, and antitank fire. Capt. Millett ordered the 3d Platoon forward, placed himself at the head of the 2 platoons, and, with fixed bayonet, led the assault up the fire-swept hill. In the fierce charge Capt. Millett bayoneted 2 enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder.  During this fierce onslaught Capt. Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured. The superb leadership, conspicuous courage, and consummate devotion to duty demonstrated by Capt. Millett were directly responsible for the successful accomplishment of a hazardous mission and reflect the highest credit on himself and the heroic traditions of the military service.
  The DSC—Distinguished Service Cross—is the second highest US Army award for bravery.
  The KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army) program is one where Korean nationals serve their time of military service with a US unit, rather than a Korean Army unit.  A Wikipedia article can be found here.  The program originated in July 1950 through an informal agreement between Korean President Synghman Rhee and US General Douglas MacArthur.
  When I asked him for permission I mentioned that I was a graduate of the Army War College, Class of 1983—Civil War Painting.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Terrorism and Crime

I just read an EMail from someone I respect, who said he had been at a conference where the experts on terrorism and the experts on global crime agree that the two have merged.

This suggests to me that we should be moving from "The Long War" to "Fighting Global Non-State Actors."

That also means that like the Austrians in 1914, the choice should always be to try the guilty parties in a court of law and then punish them, one way or another.

This doesn't mean that I am against Special Forces tracking down terrorists and having it out in a gunfight.  Or the odd drone attack.  But, we must be careful that we do not substitute non-judicial killing for the rule of law.  The US Congress should not be in the background here, but up front and taking responsibility for providing what the US Constitution demands.

It does mean that if we capture them, since we are not willing to treat them like combatants (and put them away for the duration, which is for ever) and we find the German approach in dealing with illegal combatants in 1870/71 and 1914 (hang them from the lamp posts) repugnant, we should try them in a court of law.  That includes the five that the Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced on Friday.

I am not afraid of trying them in a court of law.  If we don't have the evidence to convict them they should go free.  Some CIA agent behind a screen saying:  "He is the one" is not good enough for me.

If in the end they are found innocent and they are US citizens, turn them lose (but continue to pay attention).  If they are found innocent and they are not US citizens, deport them or offer them internment if they are unwilling to go home.

It is my opinion that for terrorists of the al Qaeda strain, life in prison may be worse for the guilty party than a death sentence.  Your mileage may differ.

But, at the end of the day the best metric for knowing you have gotten a hand on terrorism is when the civil police are handling it on their own.

As for trans-national narco thugs, that may be a different story.  We will have to see how that evolves.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For example, "To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."

Remembering the Filibuster in the Old Days

On the OpED page of The Boston Globe former Editorial Page Editor, Ms Renee Loth, provides her opinion on the way the US Senate deals with the filibusterThe article can be found here.

Ms Loth writes:
Indelibly associated with Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’’ - or, less profoundly, with Louisiana’s Huey Long reciting recipes for fried oysters and potlikker in 1935 - the filibuster was designed to be a marathon test of wills, with the truly committed undergoing punishing conditions to prevent odious schemes from becoming law.
As my youngest son would point out, that would be Huey P Long.

I am probably a lot older than Ms Loth, so I get my "indelible association" not from movies and books, but from Democratic Party Senators blocking Civil Rights legislation in the 1950s and especially the 1960s.

I agree that there are too many filibusters, as this chart from Wikipedia shows.

But, in working to fix this problem, let us not pretend that the filibuster is about Jimmy Stewart and a man from Louisiana who served less than a full term, and that in the 1930s.  On the other hand, we may be able to give a nod to the late Senator Mike Mansfield for ending the then approach to the filibuster and getting Civil Rights legislation through the US Senate.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The late Senator has a background that should provide motivation and inspiration for many a youth struggling with school.

Margery Eagan on Sarah Palin

Much as I would like to see Sarah Palin emerge as a strong candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, I don't think it is going to happen.  After four years of President Barak Obama, the voters of this great nation are not going to be up for another ingénue.

I know that I, for one, have sent her a letter suggesting how she can improve her understanding of national and international issues—a course of study if you will.  No direct response, but time will tell if she paid attention.

In the mean time, I am wondering about the insight of Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan, in this article on former Governor Palin.  Ms Eagan votes this way on Governor Palin:   "Totally wacked, for my money."

But, the line that really caught my attention was this one:  "Moderates may admit Palin helped sink John McCain’s ship."

What?  Maybe moderates do think that way, but the rest of us think that Governor Palin was the one keeping that campaign afloat.  I think that Ms Eagan misremembers what happened in 2008.

In her moderate concern, Ms Eagan is now talking about a “Palin-Bachmann for 2012” ticket.  I doubt it, but it does take Ms Eagan's paranoia and puts it in one punchbowl.

Regards  —  Cliff

Homeless Shelter Cuts

I am a bit late in making this post, but this is an important issue.

The same day that Lowell was hosting a conference, one of four, on steps toward ending homelessness in ten years (Friday, 6 November 2009), The Patrick Administration announced cuts in support to homelessness programs.  It was covered the next day in The Boston Globe.

The cut was $2.7 million, out of a total Commonwealth budget gap of $600 million.  But, that $2.7 million might well cost us a lot more in the long run.  The fact is, having people in shelters and in beds saves us money in terms of the overall cost of dealing with the fallout from homelessness.  Remember, taking people off the streets and putting them in their own apartments cuts ER costs in half.

If you want a practical reason to be concerned, think about the fact that we are in an economic downturn, which means more people heading for the streets, and we need to have a cost-effective way of dealing with this problem. Some of our current approaches to the homeless problem are not cost-effective.

Here is Joe Finn talking about this cut from the Patrick Administration
“The money is spread so thinly already; I don’t know how they can expect us to keep the amount of shelters we have now,’’ said Joe Finn, executive director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, which represents 85 homeless programs around the state.

Finn predicted that about 500 beds, 17 percent of the 3,000 state-subsidized beds for homeless individuals in the state, will be eliminated.

“This is a tremendous setback to our plans to end homelessness in the state,’’ Finn said. “We hope the state restores the money.’’
Joe Finn is a hard working person.  He attends our monthly Executive Committee meetings here in Lowell on the issue of homelessness.  He is always a positive contributor.

Think of this as either a moral issue or an economic issue, but it is an issue and one we need to be addressing.

As a friend of mine suggests, our goal should be that every homeless person becomes a taxpayer.  Something to shoot for.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week—Answer

Today is Veterans Day.

But, the question is, what was it before it was Veterans Day?

ANSWER—From 1919 until 1954 it was known as Armistice Day, honoring those who fought in the Great War (World War I).

For bonus points, how does the number 11 play in this?

ANSWER—The Armistice that stopped the fighting in World War One went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  The war itself officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which then paved the way for World War Two.

And for even more points, why is the poppy the symbol of this day in so many places?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)
And take up the quarrel others did. This poem was penned 3 May 1915 by a Canadian Army Surgeon, who had just seen a good friend die. Later in 1915 Professor Moina Michael (University of Georgia) published a response to "In Flanders Field," called "We Shall Keep the Faith." After the war she returned to University Teaching, but seeing the needs of returning veterans, initiated the idea in the US of selling red poppies to raise funds to help veterans.

You can find more on the poem here. You can find more on Professor Michael here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PTSD as a Limit on Afghanistan Response

I found this an interesting comment.  I haven't seen the original source, but I trust my source.  He says:
Prior experience in combat fatigue/shell shock/PTSD is that there is a very distinct elbow is the psych casualty rate that occurs around 250 days in combat.  After that, the rate goes way up. It never hits 100% but it accelerates tremendously.  And it's a lifetime limit, there is only a modest effect from R & R.  A lot of these guys are probably hitting that their first tour.  The guys who are on their second, third, even fourth tours, 250 days is a flyspeck in the rear view mirror. Not a good sign.
Note that this is days in actually combat, not the time on a tour.  If you spend 270 days on the FOB  and 90 days out patrolling, in contact with the enemy, you only have 90 days toward the 250 my friend mentions.

When people talk about the Army being stretched, this is one of the kinds of thing that needs to be considered.  Another is that there are only so many Army Combat Brigades and we need to give the troops time home with their loved ones and some have to go off to school and some are just getting out—their commitment is up. 

The 250 number is just one more item for the Department of Defense to considering in making its recommendations to President Obama re what we do in and about Afghanistan.

I am not saying don't send the 40,000 troops, I am saying we need to think this through.  A prayer for President Obama might be in order.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Rest and Recreation, a short time off in the middle of a combat tour.
  FOB stands for Forward Operating Base.

Reform in Washington re Transitions

I was off at another location and the question of Administration Transitions came up. We have, most of us, heard that the Obama Administration got off to a somewhat rocky start in terms of exchanging gifts with our British friends, and they are very special friends.

Part of the problem is that under Federal Regulations, everything in the old White House gets boxed up and shipped out.

Thus, there are no standard operating procedures, etc, for the Executive Office of the President, passed on from the previous Administration.  The simple explanation for this state of affairs is that by law (Presidential Records Act), every scrap of paper, every document, every hard drive engaged in a President's tenure gets archived and taken away at the end of an Administration.  The new team literally starts with nothing.  It happened at the start of Bush 43's term as well—it's actually cited in the 9/11 report.  An analogy might be if the new Lowell City mayor, in January, found that the City Manager and the City Council officers all turned over and the new Mayor had to figure out everything he or she had to do from scratch.

I have sent EMails to Representative Niki Tsongas and Senator John Kerry, asking if anything is happening in Congress to resolve this recurring problem.  We will see what we will see, although Senator Kerry did say it would take a few weeks.  I did not send an EMail to the TSW, Mr Kirk.  I expect it would just drop through the crack during the transition.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Contrary to rumors, the President gave the Queen an iPod with Broadway shows loaded.  The Queen is quite keen on Broadway shows.  I think she has excellent taste in music.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Afghanistan Debate

This article from a web-based news source, The Washington Independent, suggests that there really is a debate and strategy seminar going on at the White House these days regarding our future policy in Afghanistan.

This debate is a good thing, in that we need to get it right in Afghanistan, so we don't have a repeat of Viet-nam.

To add authenticity to this report, a more senior Special Operations chap who I know from on line thought enough of this article to forward it to a small group of people interested in the Afghan issue.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who to Believe?

I read the shorter version of this story in today's Lowell Sun and it seemed straight forward.

Now, with this longer version it still seems straight forward, but it has a "he said, she said" flavor to it.

We know it happened in downtown Tampa.  We know that Jasen Bruce claims that someone with a beard and dressed in a robe yelled "Allahu Akbar."  We know the person in the robe was a Greek Orthodox priest, Father Alexios Marakis.

Not everyone in a robe and with a beard is a Muslim, let alone a terrorist.

Heck, while many people who think of themselves as experts think they know what happened at Fort Hood, the fact is they don't and we don't.  I hope some day we do.  In the mean time we should be keeping an open mind.

I think we can all be pretty clear on the fact that Major Hasan was the shooter at Fort Hood, although that has to be proven at his court martial.  Maybe the officers trying him will be convinced he is completely psychotic—there is some evidence his supervisors at Walter Reed thought that was a possibility.  If, however, he is judged sane, but doesn't get the death penalty, then I would like to see his sentence include his being assigned to the US Navy and placed aboard a US Navy ship outbound to some location and from that ship, upon its return, to be passed to another US Navy ship, such that now Private Nidal Malik Hasan never again enters the six mile limit of these United States.  He would spend the rest of his life in exile at sea.

If he is found guilty.

In the mean time, let us be careful of who we think is a terrorists. Greek Orthodox Priests studying in Massachusetts are probably not terrorists.  And lets be careful of believing what the media tells us happened at Fort Hood.  I am betting against Major Hasan shouting "Allahu Akbar," or some version thereof, as he started shooting.

Regards  —  Cliff

This Veterans Day

At 11 o'clock today the Lowell VFW Post 662 (Walker Rogers) held a short, but dignified ceremony to celebrate this holiday, including a short introduction, a short presentation by the Vice-Mayor, Rita Mercier, taps and the firing squad, giving us three volleys.

Short and to the point and well done.  Thank you to the 662 Honor Guard, several of whom were World War 2 Veterans.

Consider it for a stop next Veterans Day.  Plain Street.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

Today is Veterans Day.

But, the question is, what was it before it was Veterans Day?

For bonus points, how does the number 11 play in this?

And for even more points, why is the poppy the symbol of this day in so many places?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The President Speaks for Us All

At this link are the remarks made by President Barak Obama at Fort Hood today, honoring the 13 Service men and women who were shot and killed at that post a few short days ago.

Regards  —  Cliff

Quote of the Day

This is cribbed from an EMail written by a senior Command Sergeant Major in the US Army—a Special Forces type of guy.
Egos stifle progress:  maturity, vision, and relevance bridge gaps
If a Special Forces Command Sergeant Major can think this way, we all can.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, November 9, 2009

Good Grief

Is there no end to the number of people who are offended, one way or the other?

Frankly, I am offended they shut the thing down.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Back to DADT

Rand Corporation, an FFRDC out in LA, with offices in other locations, has just announced a new study of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell), based upon interviews with military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The study surveyed military personnel who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that having a gay or lesbian colleagues in their unit had no significant impact on their unit's cohesion or readiness. The study, by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of Florida, was published online by the journal Armed Forces and Society.
Just great.  I think I only have a paper subscription to that journal.

Those of you who are interested in sociology and interested in the US military might consider joining IUS and reading their journal.

* * * * *

But, back to DADT, someone came up with an interesting idea.  I put it out here, confident that the idea will die before it gets a fair hearing.  But, the author is thinking and innovating and I like that.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell or Serve Openly: Let the Tribe Speak

It has been my feeling that for a while now the biggest issue with homosexual personnel hasn't been so much that they were homosexual but that "Change" in policy around this issue was always being pushed from the outside by civilians.

As we know, the armed forces are largely an enclosed society, part of, but distinctly separate from civilian society as a whole.

It has very unique social and moral parameters and bottom lines that differ from the rest of the nation. No one at Citibank, Wal-Mart, ACE Hardware or TGI Fridays is being asked to risk death by blast injury and dismemberment, accidental or deliberate, by just coming to work. (Police and Fire, etc. excepted)

Essentially, from a sociology standpoint, the military thus represents a very special sub-tribe within the national social tapestry.

Thus, this Sub-Tribe can (and should) get a little touchy when those who do not share the same burdens of responsibility, experiences and hailing from another tribe, push in and try to tell them what to do and how they should view the world on an issue that is not specifically mission or national security related.

We practice this sort of sensitivity in our dealings with other minorities in our country, why should the same realizations and mores not apply to the Warrior Tribe?

During the Clinton years, the issue of social engineering from above by outsiders touched off a firestorm and a lot of guys hung up their soldier suits for good. This wasn't because they didn't like gay people or hugely resented things like "Sensitivity" training, IMO.

It felt at the time more like they were angered that someone who was not a member of their tribe, had no perceived understanding of their tribe and apparently no inclination to do so, came in and tried to tell them how they should think.

We may be seeing that dynamic again. If not yet, then we're going to.

I think I might have a remedy...Let The Warrior Tribe Decide For Itself.

It's pretty simple: Everyone has a .mil e-mail account (ako, etc).

Because this requires individual log in, you can set up an online vote. It's very similar to how AOL runs their little online polls. Once you hit that vote button, your account remembers that you did and you cannot vote twice.

So, with that tool in hand, you let the troops vote on it. Make it a requirement if nescessary.

You can keep it up for several weeks, this ensures that troops in even the most remote outposts will be able to log on by the end date. (and you have to be pretty remote not to have some access these days)

If the troops, by a 2/3rds vote say OK, it's a done deal. gays can serve in the open. If not, the troops have spoken and that is that...everyone in Washington is off the hook.

The Tribe Has Spoken.

It will be the Tribe who decides, not outsiders. It's the only way to get this addressed without resentment. If the vote is "Yay" then everyone is happy, all branches are open for service along present lines (and the various rules on fraternization still apply, for everyone, as they do now).

If the vote is "Nay," it will just have to be a question of, "Dear gay community, it's not that we don't like you, but this is our tribe and we get shot at and blown up here. It's a bit different world we live in and we're just not comfortable with this yet. Our living arrangements are different from everyone elses. So for now, we're going to politely decline. Thank you for your understanding."

We more than have the computing power to do this and do it ligitimately. (a sub-contract to AOL could probably have this up and running in a few weeks)

"Yes, No, here."
No, we will not be holding the vote at this blog site.  But, I would be interested in thoughts about the idea.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Berlin Wall Falls

On the evening on the 9th of November 1989 East Germans were able to freely move into West Berlin and it was all over but the shouting.  But, like many things in life, it was largely by happenstance. That is the theory in Mary Elise Sarotte's article in The Washington Post.

The good news is that the Cold War came in for a soft landing.

It did, however, catch most people by surprise.  Something about a lot of intelligence work, in many nations, being done by a people with a straight edge and two dots.  Doing intelligence and reporting what is happening today can be hard. Doing intelligence and peering around the corner, and getting it right, is a very hard business indeed.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Being partially of Welsh extraction, I was pleased to see this expression attributed to a Welsh sportswriter from back in 1842.

New Recycling Bins

I got an EMail from Gunther about new green recycling bins being available for taking care of newspapers.  Since mine is turning silver from the hundred-mile-an-hour tape holding it together, I got a new bin.

I drove down to the DPW office at 1365 Merrimack Street and walked in the front door.  A nice lady by the name of Diane gave me a new bin and I was on my way.  Thanks, Diane.

For those wondering, this operation is just beyond Marginal Street and just before Merrimack Street and Pawtucket Street merge.

Other locations include City Hall and the Board of Health.

Do I care that they were stamped out in Canada?  Maybe a little bit, but Canada has been our partner through thick and thin for a while now and they are part of NAFTA.  But, that is a question for another day.  Today I am pleased with the way Lowell City Government supports the Citizens.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Muslims are US Citizens

F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have remarked “the true test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time”.  That is what is required of us in the wake of the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas.

We need to keep in mind that Muslims who are US citizens are just that, US citizens, and are loyal to the United States.  Your Muslim neighbor is just as interested in keeping the US free of terrorist attacks as you are.  He or she is, like you, a believer in truth, justice and the American Way.

On the other hand, we realize that out there around the world are people who see Communism, Fascism and Democracy as contrary to their religious belief.  Chief amongst those people is Osama bin Laden.  However, we suspicion there are some amongst us who think that way.

Further complicating the picture are those who think that United States (or the West) is waging a war against Islam.  Major Hasan would appear to at least belong to this group.

Then there are our fellow citizens who think that we just shouldn't be over in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of religion or political belief.

But, against them are people like Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, who worries about the loss of women's rights if we back peddle in Afghanistan.

This is a big package of thoughts to keep straight.

And remember that 2.5 million to 9 million of our fellow citizens are Muslim.  Compared to a total population over 300 million, it is a small number, but in terms of fellow human beings it is a large number.  And where are they from?  The Pew Trust has a report.
A relatively large proportion of Muslim immigrants are from Arab countries (24%), but many also come from Pakistan (10%) and other South Asian countries (8%).  Among native-born Muslims, slightly more than half are African American (20% of U.S. Muslims overall), many of whom are converts to Islam. It is naive to draw broad generalizations about this diverse population.
Complicating it is the fact that organizations like the US military has up to 10,000 Muslims in its ranks.  That is half the number of people that makes up a division (18,000 to 22,000 depending on make, model and year of the division).  As Jack Mitchell points out in a comment on this blog post on this blog site, unit cohesion depends upon us accepting everyone.  Dr Alan Gropman, in his history of Air Force integration during World War II, points out that you have to all be heading in the same direction.  Treating members of the force as second class citizens means unit failure.

I can't make it any plainer than that.  If we start suspecting every Muslim service member of disloyalty, we will seriously damage our military.

On the other hand, the fact is that Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been, in the words of the Nuns when I was young, placing himself in the near occasion of sin.

But, how serious is listening to other views?  Someone who is in a position to know, both from supervising Muslims in the Army and from brushing up against academic types said that he had heard anti-American thoughts
expressed almost everyday of my 8 years in the Middle East by so called friends of the US... and I could have added I have heard the same sentiments at MESA meetings, and in the halls of academia, so I guess we should start rounding up the snotty, left wing, Islamic apologist profs who dominate what passes Middle East studies in the US.
Gee, I hope he doesn't mean my wife's cousin, the professor.

And, Muslims come in all sorts of religious tints.  Like Jews and Amish, who wish isolation from the larger society, so do some Muslims, as per this article.

And then there is Major Hasan.  In this Telegraph article talks about the Dar al-Hijrah mosque he attended in Great Falls, Virginia, in 2001, and the Imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar. 
Hasan's eyes "lit up" when he mentioned his deep respect for al-Awlaki's teachings, according to a fellow Muslim officer at the Fort Hood base in Texas, the scene of Thursday's horrific shooting spree.

As investigators look at Hasan's motives and mindset, his attendance at the mosque could be an important piece of the jigsaw.  Al-Awlaki moved to Dar al-Hijrah as imam in January, 2001, from the west coast, and three months later the September 11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour began attending his services.  A third hijacker attended his services in California.

Hasan was praying at Dar al-Hijrah at about the same time, and the FBI will now want to investigate whether he met the two terrorists.

Charles Allen, a former under-secretary for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, has described al-Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen, as an "al-Qaeda supporter, and former spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers... who targets US Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen".
I have a lot of respect for Charlie Allen.  If we were in a group and he came in and said that a flying saucer had just landed outside, I would go look, because I have never seen a flying saucer and I would expect to see one, on Mr Allen's say-so.

Someone noted to me:  "I hope we all agree that American Muslims could be a powerful counter-terrorism asset.  We should do everything we can to avoid the "us vs. them" debate from surfacing again."  Good point.

So, pick your poison.  We have several million Muslim fellow citizens and we need to make sure we don't push them away.  There are probably dozens of terrorists in our midst—terrorists who would as soon kill a Muslim as a non-Muslim, as they have demonstrated so well in the Middle East.

As for me, I am saying, all Muslims citizens of this Great Nation are innocent until proven guilty.

On the other hand, one wonders if Major Hasan hadn't been giving off signals for a long time.  But, these signals might have been as much about his mental state as his particular beliefs in Islam.  This raises serious questions about any Army Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) efforts.  Not that Major Hasan dealt with nuclear or chemical weapons, but he did deal with people who might have dealt with such weapons in his role as psychiatrist.

In the end, I still lean to Major Hasan being mentally disturbed and bringing his religion into that disturbance.  I also believe that his association with more extremist views within Islam added to his mental disturbance.  I don't believe he was a terrorist in the sense that he made a rational decision to act to achieve objectives for al Qaeda in a global Wahhabist war against the West.

Regards — Cliff