Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

This new year may well be a challenge, but let us embrace it—since we have no other place to run to.

Regards  —  Cliff

From 70,000 Feet

My friend, Charlie Spika, sent along this 10 minute video of a Brit TV personality, James May, getting a ride in a U-2 DRAGON LADY spy plane.  This was, of course, the family model.
The civilian getting the ride in the second seat is the Host of the car show "Top Gear" on BBC (James May) shown through Europe at 9:00 PM Sunday night in Belgium . The views are spectacular as the U-2 flies at altitudes which constitute "SPACE."
Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meanwhile, over at CERN

Someone at Samizdata was musing:
I just noticed an interesting set of musing[s] about Professor Shahriar Afshar, wondering fearfully what theorist[s] will do if the Large Hadron Collider fails to find the mysterious Higgs Boson
That kind of musing needs to be stamped out.  I don't think we can afford to admit that science might be wrong.  Next people will be questioning Anthropomorphic Global Warming, or at least the quality of the science behind it.

But, the post is a good read and an interesting one.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

Someone sent along this political knowledge quiz from the Pew Trust.  I thought it was interesting, including the statistics when one gets to the end.  Having done OK, I feel free to pass it along.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Worst.  Decade.  Ever.

Reason TV Editor tells it like it is.

UPDATE:  The purists would say the decade doesn't end for another year—the whole "there is no year zero" thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Public's Right to Know

Information is classified CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET or TOP SECRET for a reason.  For example, we have this definition:
"Top Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.
My experience from forty some years ago is that what was TOP SECRET in the morning may be unclassified by the evening.  On the other hand, some things are held as TOP SECRET for a very long time.

The Obama Administration becomes the latest to make an effort to cut through the mountain of previously classified information that should be declassified and released to the general public, to include release to interested researchers in the areas of history and political science (and given the age of some of this, maybe even archeology).

The President issued, as of 29 December 2009, two Executive Orders with regard to Classified National Security Information.

There is the "Executive Order - Classified National Security Information".  This is the big picture EO.

And here is the Executive Order - Original Classification Authority, which states who has "original authority" to classify something.  For example, the Secretary of the Treasury can classify something as TOP SECRET.  The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may only classify information up to SECRET (which is lower than TOP SECRET). 

The President also issued a Memorandum giving some direction regarding how to get ahead of this backlog of material that should have been declassified by now.
Under the direction of the National Declassification Center (NDC), and utilizing recommendations of an ongoing Business Process Review in support of the NDC, referrals and quality assurance problems within a backlog of more than 400 million pages of accessioned Federal records previously subject to automatic declassification shall be addressed in a manner that will permit public access to all declassified records from this backlog no later than December 31, 2013.
This Memorandum, "Presidential Memorandum - Implementation of the Executive Order, 'Classified National Security Information'", can be found here.

While it took a long time for the Administration to get these directives out, they are now heading in the proper direction.  And, 31 December 2013 isn't far off and 400 million pages is a lot to review and release.  At two minutes a page, that is 13 million hours of reading, or 1.6 million man-days, more if you allow for breaks.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For instance, his Income Tax Returns.
  On the other hand, avoiding a FOIA Request works just as well.  For example, all those FOIA requests with regard to Climate Change data to NASA or the British CRU.

Register to Vote

I just now received an EMail from "The Greater Lowell Tea Party", with the subject line "Register to Vote".  Frankly, I wondered what that was about—but it is absolutely correct.
This Wednesday is the deadline to register to vote in the January Special Election!  Anyone not yet registered, should go to your town/city clerk and fill out a small card.  It takes two minutes.
Whatever your flavor of party, or distain for parties, voting in the Special Election in January is important.

Whether you like Scott Brown or Martha Coakley or Joseph L Kennedy (no relation), or none of them, you should be voting on Tuesday, 19 January.

Replacing the Teddy Seat Warmer with a REAL US Senator is important enough business that it has its own Wikipedia page.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Sometimes you just have to picked the least bad of several bad options.  While I don't feel that way for this election, I have felt that way about others.  If one stays away it says to whoever wins that things are fine.  If you don't believe things are fine you need to send the signal by showing up and voting for your least bad choice or for your favorite high school teacher or someone, so that the Parties, and Capitol Hill, get the message that you are not happy with the options.

Blogging Through It

The Washington Post today has an article on an Army wife who began a blog the day she learned that her husband had been seriously wounded by an IED while in Afghanistan.
Fourteen months later, more than 160,000 people -- the vast majority of them strangers -- have visited the site, http://yllescasfamily.blogspot.com.
The name is pronounced YESCAS.

Brought tears to my eyes.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back Home in Indiana

I was probably a bit over-dramatic in a Comment at The New Englander when I talked about a fiscal crisis in 2010 for Lowell.  However, we do need to keep an eye on situation.  Look at what is happening in Gary, Indiana.  Even one of the Casinos they rely on for revenue is going bankrupt.  Now that is a bad sign, and one we need to consider here in the Commonwealth before we head out and authorize four for this state.

The Chicago Boyz talk about this at their blog post.  And, they provide a link to the financial report here.

I have connections to Gary, remote though they may be.  My paternal grandfather built the brick furnaces for one of the steel mills, a long time ago.  My father-in-law worked his way through Purdue working in those steel mills.  My wife was born in Gary.

One commenter at the Chicago Boyz post was surprised that there is a problem with the property tax.  Where he is from in down-state Indiana the process is to figure the need and then use the limit of the property tax to set the assessed value of the property.  The writer did provide this overview of the property tax law in the State of Indiana.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Warning, this is a big file.  A 265 page PDF.

Feast of the Holy Innocents

A very small part of Christmas is about the Wise Men and part of that is the decision by Herod to slaughter the small boys living in Bethlehem.  This is about trying to kill a potential challenger to his throne.  The Feast of the Holy Innocents is observed on 28 December, unless that is a Sunday, in which case it is observed along with the Feast of the Holy Family.
Matthew 2:16-18 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
16  Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

17  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying:

18  A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Perhaps we should reflect on the very young and how their innocence is tampered with by those who forget how young and defenseless they are.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scotland Yard Mentions Possible Terror Attack

I have to stop and do my time card for last week, but just one more item.  This is something I missed earlier and so am playing catch up.

The Times (or, if you live in New York City and need a clue, The Times of London) had a story a week ago (20 December 2009) on a possible Mumbai like attack in London.
Scotland Yard has warned businesses in London to expect a Mumbai-style attack on the capital.

In a briefing in the City of London 12 days ago, a senior detective from SO15, the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, said:  "Mumbai is coming to London."

The detective said companies should anticipate a shooting and hostage-taking raid "involving a small number of gunmen with handguns and improvised explosive devices".
In the November 2008 Mumbai attack 174 people were killed and some 300 injured.  While most of the killing occurred in the first half hour, tracking down the perps took three days.  As most of the terrorists were prepared to die, the police ended up with only one suspect in custody.

Wouldn't this be a good reason for Parliament to bring back individual weapons and to allow concealed carry?

Regards  —  Cliff

Added Blog I Am Following

I just added a new blog to my list of our of town blogs. This blog is by Matt M Mathews, who is someone I know from working at DRC.  Matt lives in Kansas and works at Fort Leavenworth, where he is a contract historian.  I had to post this quickly, so I can get ahead of his Business Unit Manager in putting this up as a blog post.  Being a fighter pilot, even in retirement, is about competition and being on the other person's six.

The blog can be found here.  The name of the blog and the blog's purpose is explained here:
Welcome to Scildweall:  The Online Journal of Military History.  Scildweall is Old English for Shield Wall, a defensive tactical formation commonly employed by Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian forces during the early medieval period. Scildweall will cover all facets of military history, both past and present. From Thermopylae to Fallujah, Scildweall will examine and analyze the latest works and information associated with the history of warfare.  It is my hope this journal will prove both timely and relevant and help broaden the study and the lessons of military history.
I commend this blog to those interested in military history.

Regards  —  Cliff

Are There Dots to Connect?

WASHINGTON—A Nigerian passenger on board the same Northwest Airlines route that was attacked on Christmas Day was taken into custody in Detroit on Sunday after locking himself in the bathroom for an hour and becoming verbally disruptive upon landing, officials said.
From a news article posted just a little while ago.

As we review,
  • Both chaps flew out of Amsterdam on the same Northwest Airlines flight number (different days).
  • Both are from Nigeria
  • Both locked themselves into the bathroom for an exceptionally long period (20' and 60' respectively)
  • Nigeria, where the north has been Sufi Muslim for hundreds of years (and the south Christian), is finding that Wahhabis are making inroads, although most Muslim Nigerians reject this approach to Islam.
What is it with this second person?  I am thinking the options are:
  1. He was a follow-up bomber
  2. He was a probe to see if security really had tightened (perhaps it had not)
  3. He was an innocent person who got sick and needed the toilet and then panicked
  4. He is someone who is just clueless
  5. He doesn't exist and this is just all a big misunderstanding.
I am doing with "4".

In its own way, "5" is as scary as "1" or "2".

The most important thing is to not panic.  The purpose of terrorism is to cause terror, which then results in the breakdown of economic and governmental services.  Then-President George Bush had some wisdom in his words when he told us all to go shopping after 9/11.  If we panic the other side wins.  If we scream "What can we do to make this stop?" we are helping the other side—a very small minority of Wahhabi Muslims, who are a very small minority of all Muslims—think they are winning.

UPDATE:

I guessed wrong. It was "3", according to an anonymous source.  I am often dubious of anonymous sources, and when not dubious, I am irritated that a Government official would speak out of turn, for his or her own aggrandizement.
The official says the passenger was taken into custody after becoming verbally disruptive on landing.  Subsequent interviews by investigators determined he was a businessman who became ill during the flight.

The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and therefore spoke on condition of anonymity.
The source is the AP and the Detroit Free Press.

Regards  —  Cliff

Drug Wars

This news story from last week should shock each of us and all of us collectively.
Assailants on Tuesday gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a marine killed in a raid that took out one of Mexico's most powerful cartel leaders—sending a chilling message to troops battling the drug war:  You go after us, we wipe out your families.
This is just the next nation over.  And it is our drug habit that is fueling this.

Without great intelligence, it would be hard to fight this kind of thing.  We need to get a handle on the "war on drugs" now or risk falling into a 1920s like lawlessness akin to Prohibition, or worse.  I would describe Mexico as worse than Prohibition, where President Felipe "Calderon's crackdown against organized crime ... has seen more than 15,000 people killed by drug violence since it began in 2006...".

As one person with some knowledge commented:
It's worth considering that these same cartels are now deeply and directly involved in controlling the drug trade inside the U.S. as well.
I wonder what our Senators are doing to prevent the spread of this killing spree to the United States.  This is not something we can opt out of.  In Mexico the drug cartel soldiers even go into gated communities.


Regards  —  Cliff

The People Come Through, Again

Via Instapundit we have this Mark Steyn comment on the recent attempt to bring down an airliner.
On September 11th 2001, the government’s (1970s) security procedures all failed, and the only good news of the day came from self-reliant citizens (on Flight 93) using their own wits and a willingness to act.

On December 25th 2009, the government’s (post-9/11) security procedures all failed, and the only good news came once again from alert individuals.
Let us hear it for "The People".  We all need to be alert citizens, without becoming East German informers on our own parents and spouses.

As Canadian Columnist (living in exile in New Hampshire) Mark Steyn notes, we all owe thanks to "Jasper Schuringa, a film director who was traveling to the US to visit friends."  Mr Schuringa is the one who acted and helped get the pyrotechnic device under control before it could turn the cabin into the Towering Inferno.

As for the alleged terrorist, he was a middle class young man from a nice middle class upbringing, attending college in London.  When one is looking for who is going to make the revolution, one should be looking at the middle class, and the upper middle class at that.  Your average shepherd is too busy tending the sheep and goats, and dreaming of joining the middle class, to go off and make revolution.

In forwarding Mr Steyn's comments I do not mean to belittle the work of TSA.  They filter out a lot of problems and deter others.  But, at the end of the day their net will not catch all the problems and it is up to individual citizens to be alert and to act.  We remain a democratic republic not because of the Government, but because of the citizens, even citizens from other countries, like Mr Schuringa, who joined the flight in Amsterdam and joined the fight on approach to Detroit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Indian Spirit

One of the readers of this Blog sent me an EMail, with the subject line "Indian Spirit"
We were in Priya Indian Cuisine (used to be Kebab Indian Cuisine).  I got chatting with our waiter and found out that he was from India and Pakistan and South Africa, and a few other places.  He speaks 9 languages.  He said he arrived in America a few months ago and found his job quickly.  He said it was easy -- just talk to people (in their language).
I had a terrible time in school learning French and as a result I have been afraid of foreign languages ever since.  However, it is obvious, or should be, to one and all that learning foreign languages is of great benefit.

This is not to say that those who come to this nation should not be learning English, in all its strange accents and variations here in the States (my current question to myself is if it is scaffolding or "staging"), but if the United States is going to grow economically in a very competitive world, we should be encouraging our children to learn other languages in school.

And, chatting with the waitstaff, as long as one is not delaying another customer's meal, is a good way to learn new things (See Above).  I am not a shrink, so I don't claim to know the psychology of being a waiter or waitress, but I suspect some of them appreciate being seen as more than robots taking orders and delivering food.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I have never been to Priya Indian Cuisine, but did note it is up by Drum Hill.  And apparently there were two satisfied customers.

Chris Matthews and the US Senate

Via Instapundit, via Jammie Wearing Fool, we have an item in The New York Post about President Barak Obama commenting on the slow process of legislating in the United States Congress:
"If this pattern continues, you're going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us.
This is from Columnist Charles Hunt, with a headline "O Rips the American Way"

I don't know Mr Hunt from Adam's Odd Ox, but he is on to something here.  He notes:
What he is saying is that other governments around the world -- those tyrannical states that do not share our respect for the minority -- are better forms of government, better equipped to compete in this modern world.
But what does this have to do with MSNBC Commentator Chris Matthews?

I noted this most recent trend to condemn the procedures of the world's greatest deliberative body first while watching Hardball, the Chris Matthews political commentary show.  About a week ago he had on a member of the House of Representatives and he put to that Member of Congress that the Senate rules, and thus the US Senate, should be changed.  As I recall, the Representative didn't bite.

Changing the US Senate was a dumb idea when Chris Matthews suggested it and it is a dumb idea today. The straight of the United States is not in the fact that the US Senate can act quickly, but in the fact that the US Senate is the saucer in which the hot political ideas of the day can be cooled before the US public drinks of them.
“Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” George Washington supposedly asked Thomas Jefferson one day in trying to explain the new Constitution to him. “To cool it,” said Jefferson. “Even so,” said Washington, “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” 
It isn't like Democratic Party Senators, in years gone by, have not used the threat of a filibuster to slow down or block legislation.  Why else was the final reconciliation from the Civil War so long delayed?

It seems to me the idea of Representative Government is that we have majority rule with minority rights and when the People of the United States who are interested in voting give us a 60/40 split in the US Senate those voters are saying "move forward, but take your time about it".  The votes are there to pass the legislation, but the Senate Leadership needs to pass through all the wickets.

On the other hand, I don't mind Mr Matthews trying to change the rules, but I will be working against him, assiduously.  I would like to note that Mr Matthews' experience on Capital Hill is as a Capital Hill Policeman (don't snicker, Maureen Dowd's Father as a Capital Hill Policeman) and as an aide to the Speaker of the House, Mr Tip O'Neill.

Going back to the Politico item by Roger Simon, he quotes former US Senate Parliamentarian, Mr Bob Dove:
The Senate reflects the problems of the country.  During the Vietnam War and the civil rights revolution that were tearing the country apart, there was not a lot of civility on either issue. Actually, the Senate is more civil today than in the 1960s, because the issues are not as wrenching.
Mr Dove has twin daughters, who served as Senate Pages, one as a Democrat and one as a Republican.  The Republican daughter, Laura, is today the Assistant Secretary for the Senate Minority Party.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  I noticed that The New York Post has found a way to attach a URL when one copies a paragraph out of their story. Below are two of them:

ULR ONE:
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/rips_the_american_way_8Ns44nIAGjDwfD7BNSCQFJ#ixzz0aooHnOSe
URL TWO:
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/rips_the_american_way_8Ns44nIAGjDwfD7BNSCQFJ#ixzz0aonRxBPN
  From a Politico post by Roger Simon on 9 October 2009.

Mark My Footsteps

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Stephen, who was the first martyr, or the protomartyr. In the United Kingdom, and some Commonwealth nations, it is also known as Boxing Day, a day when gifts are distributed to people outside the family.

Per Wikipedia:
Acts of the Apostles tells the story of how Stephen was tried by the Sanhedrin (high priests) for blasphemy against Moses and God (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law (Acts 6:13-14) (see also Antinomianism).  He was stoned to death (c. A.D. 34–35) by an infuriated mob encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, the future Saint Paul: "And Saul entirely approved of putting him to death" (8:1). [3].  Stephen's final speech was presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting prophets who spoke out against their sins:

'"Which one of the Prophets did your fathers not persecute, and they killed the ones who prophesied the coming of the Just One, of whom now, too, you have become betrayers and murderers." (7:52)
One of my Father's favorite Christmas Carols was Good King Wenceslas, which starts out "Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen".

A website with all the words (and the music, after a very quick advert) can be found here.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Wikipedia tells us that the lyrics are in the public domain—no longer copyrighted.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

A Merry Christmas to one and all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thrifty families accused of prolonging the recession

It is too late to do anything about it tonight, but come Saturday, you better be out there spending, otherwise you are validating this headline.

Thanks to Samizdata for this blog post.

This came from The Times and had this lede:
Anxious families are repaying debts instead of spending in the shops, amid concern over the uncertain economic outlook.  The share of income saved in banks and building societies has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, heightening fears that faltering consumer demand could prolong the recession.
Thank God it is the UK where this sort of bad behavior is happening.

Or is it?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Some argue that saving is important in a recession and that there is no "paradox of thrift".

President Wishes Military Members Merry Christmas

"The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Express their Gratitude to America's Servicemen and Women"

The video can be found here.
PRESIDENT:  Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas.  As you and your families gather to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to take a moment to send greetings from our family—from me, from Michelle, from Malia and Sasha—and from Bo.
I think that our President has found his place as Commander in Chief in terms of reaching out to our Service men and women. Even for those who are "quartered safe out here", it is time away from friends and family.  Just the fact that the President remembered is important to those in uniform, and their families.
So to all our men and women in uniform spending the holidays far from home—whether it's at a base here in the states, a mess hall in Iraq or a remote outpost in Afghanistan, know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers.  And this holiday season—and every Holiday season—know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure you can succeed in your missions and come home safe to your families.

FIRST LADY: And to all Americans, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody.
Regards  —  Cliff

  From Gunga Din, by Rudyard Kipling.

New NSS?

Federal Law requires the incoming President to issue a National Security Strategy (NSS) within 150 days of taking office.  This has not yet happened.  In other words, the President is late.  Now comes news that the NSS is about to appear.

Inside Defense, for which I have neither a user ID nor a password, has a little blurb out on their website.  Here is the lede:
The Obama administration next month will unveil its first National Security Strategy (NSS), according to Pentagon officials. Draft versions of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review refer to a January 2010 rollout of the new NSS, a keystone strategic planning document, these officials say.
The Pentagon is pushing for the NSS to include discussions on the following:
In September, the Joint Staff -- according to the [previously cited] briefing -- offered its view that the new strategy should consider six strategic challenges:  transnational violent extremism; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; rising power and regional instability; cyber and space vulnerability; competition for natural resources; and natural disasters and pandemics.
This will be an interesting document to read.  We should hope that it provides some insight as to where the Obama Administration is going with regard to climate change and international institutions and maybe even world peace.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Law Professor Ann Althouse today blogged about a New York Times story, "Plan to Move Guantánamo Detainees Faces New Delay".

What surprised me was Ms Althouse's lead line:
So the Guantanamo detainees won't be moved to Illinois after all?  I am so not surprised.
That is pretty harsh from someone who voted for Mr Obama.

And, it looks like Emily Bazelon has lost the bet to Ann Althouse on this one.

I guess I am not as cynical as the Law Professor.  I thought maybe we would get the transfer.  Apparently, the Democrats in the US Congress don't feel as strongly as some about ending the symbolism of Guantanamo.  On the other hand, if you were being held as a terrorist, would you rather be in GITMO or in a Super Max in Illinois?

So, this is a two part question:
  1. Was the President serious about closing GITMO or just being cynical in making a gesture, but not believing the US Congress would actually support it?
  2. If you were a terrorist, would you rather be at Club GITMO or at the Super Max in Illinois?
Regards  —  Cliff

  Frankly, I feel sorry for the residents of Thomson, Illinois, who may well have been looking forward to the jobs inherent in having a couple of hundred prisoners in the local Correctional Center.

Senator Galluccio, Again

Way back last week the Out Back Question of the Week pertained to how the judiciary handled a hit and run accident by one of our State Senators from here in Middlesex County.  Let it be noted this is NOT our State Senator.

Well, the gentleman in question, State Senator Anthony D Galluccio, flunked his alcohol screening.  He is claiming it is his tooth paste.

Here is the key paragraph from The Lowell Sun:
Cambridge District Court Judge Matthew Nestor ordered Sen. Anthony Galluccio to stay in his house at all times until a Jan. 4 hearing to determine whether he has violated the terms of his probation.  For now, he cannot attend Senate sessions, which he had been allowed to do under previous terms of his home confinement.
I am willing to believe it was his "Colgate Total Whitening and Sensodyne toothpastes" that caused the problem with the breathalyzer tests.  But, what comes to mind is the quotation I have heard attributed to Curtis LeMay—"I can not distinguish between the unfortunate and the incompetent and therefore will not try."  This seems to fall into that category.

We will see what transpired on 4 January.

UPDATE:  One of our readers thinks that the comment "... one of our State Senators..." is a bit ambiguious.  He is correct.  One might thing that I was writing about one of our two Federal Senators.  I was not.  I was talking about one of the forty Senators elected to the Great and General Court, on Beacon Hill, and not one of those 100 men and women down in DC.

Regards  —  Cliff

  As many of us know, The Lowell Sun archives its stories after 30 days and one has to hunt them down and relink.  As that is unlikely to happen for this blog, here is the same story in The Boston Globe, a local newspaper way down in Suffolk County.
  My first indication of this story was when I got a Text Message from The New Englander, who also sees the humor in this very sad situation, although not in this blog post.  The good news for the State Senator, as both Greg and I know from our past associations with the Armed Forces is that he is not an up and coming O-3 (Captain or Navy Lieutenant) or O-4 (Major or Navy Lieutenant Commander).  If he were, his career would be finished.  As a State Senator he has the chance to pull it out before it craters.  All he has to do is stop brushing his teeth, or switch to baking soda.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Mass Venue for Christmas Eve (Only)

Due to falling plaster (didn't see that in the weather report), the upper church at the Immaculate Conception is closed for Masses.  Thus, Masses are down stairs, in what I like to call the Crypt Church, which is the term used at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, DC (NE).

Because the "Lower Church" only holds about 400 people and more are expected for the 4 and 6 PM Christmas Eve Masses, those two Masses will be held in the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, courtsey of said Auditorium.  However, the 10 PM Christmas Eve mass will be back in the "Lower Church".

If you are looking for beautiful music for your Christmas Eve Mass, then I recommend the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.  Children's Choir at the 4 PM Mass and the enhanced Adult Choir at the 6 PM Mass.

That is all.  (As the sound of the Bosun's pipe fades.)

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Myers-Briggs and the Officer Corps

In today's New York Times is an opinion piece by Professor Mark Moyar, from the Marine Corps University.  In the piece, "An Officer and a Creative Man", Professor Moyar argues that the personality traits of senior officers, particularly in the US Army, are getting in the way of more junior officers effectively doing their job in Afghanistan.

The basis for Professor Moyar's view is two fold.

First, he did a survey of "...131 Army and Marine officers who had served in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq or Afghanistan or both...". This gave him a basis for seeing how junior officers felt about more senior officers.

Second, he combined the results of his survey with the 16 different personality types as generated by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Professor Moyar, in his column makes the point that we are a more careful society than we used to be:
The climate of risk aversion begins in American society at large, which puts a higher premium on minimizing casualties than on defeating the enemy. It continues with American politicians and other elites who focus on the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Haditha in Iraq, but rarely point out the far more numerous instances of American valor.
There should be no doubt that he is correct.

He then goes on to tell us that when flexibility and adaptability are required, certain MBTI types are not there:
Researchers have found that the leadership ranks of big organizations are dominated by either “sensing-judging” or “intuitive thinking” personality types. Those in the former category rely primarily on the five senses to tell them about the world; they prefer structure and standardization, doing things by the book and maintaining tight control.

In the late 20th century, the Army gravitated toward standardization, as peacetime militaries often do, and consequently rewarded the sensing-judging officers who are now the Army’s generals and colonels. But this personality type functions less well in activities that change frequently or demand regular risk-taking, like technological development or counterinsurgency. Organizations that thrive under such conditions are most often led by people with intuitive-thinking personalities. These people are quick to identify the need for change and to solve problems by venturing outside the box.
OK, so the Army has more "sensor judgers" in the upper ranks.  I suspect it has always been thus.  My wife recalls that when we went to Army War College in 1983-4 and we all took the MBTI test that we were told that 78% of Army Officers were "sensor-judgers", or SJs.  That compares with 46.4 percent of the US population as a whole.  (I am NOT an SJ, but rather an INTP, which explains everything.)

While Professor Moyar's analysis seems correct, his solution is terrible:
The military should incorporate personality test results into military personnel files, and promotion boards should be required to select higher percentages of those who fall into the intuitive-thinking group. Many highly successful businesses factor personality testing into promotion decisions; the military, with far more at stake, should be no less savvy.
Precisely because so much is at stake we should not be selecting people for promotion based upon what they scored on a personality test.  We are not hiring people to work in banks.  And, it isn't just which of the 16 categories one falls in, but how far one is in that category.  For example, I am a "P", but close to a "J". The upshot is that, as a supervisor, I tend to be laid back, right up until the deadline comes into sight, at which point I become very goal oriented.  I expect that this personality tick can be annoying to someone working hard to meet a deadline.

At the end of the day, MBTI is not universally known as being reliable.  As the Wikipedia article states, not everyone thinks it works.  As one person commented on line:
If we started making personality tests part of screening criteria, how soon would it be before people started gaming the tests?   Probably a day or two.  I know enough about the MBTI that I could be any personality type I wanted it to reflect.  And what exactly is the right mix? Do we want (or need) a General Officer corps completely filled with George S. Pattons?
In answer to that question re General Patton, the answer is "Of course not".

Not everything that appears in the "Week in Review" is of equal value.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Giving the MBTI test is standard procedure at War Colleges in the United States.
  Someone I know from the web made this comment with regard to the article:  "...that the young Soldiers and lieutenants they are getting from society have been largely developed in a public school system and society that has become more and more risk averse. You pass a note in class about a girl, you are suspended.  Play tag, no more, it is too violent.  Fighting, hell no, you are kicked out.  Then, there is all the Leave No Child Behind BS, where everyone is teaching what to think, training for the test!"

Keeping Christ in Christmas

There is the annual debate as to if we are pushing Christ out of Christmas.  I wonder if it is just part of the Season of Advent and if we should have a special candle for it.

When I look around I see we still have our Manger by City Hall.  That is good.  The White House has a Christmas Tree.  I was able to buy stamps at the Post Office with the Madonna and Child and angels.  When someone says "Happy Holidays" and I respond with "Merry Christmas" they respond again with "Merry Christmas."

The one place I worry about is Christmas Cards.  On Thursday I was in Chelmsford for a medical appointment and my wife asked me to drop by the Paper Store in Drum Hill.  I checked all the boxes of cards and found only one with a "Birth of Jesus" theme and that one was dubious.  When I got home I was informed that it was, indeed, dubious.  Next day I hit the book store at the St Joseph the Worker Shrine and the Barnes and Nobel bookstore downtown and one other store on Merrimack Street.  No joy.  So, since I had to go to a store in Billerica, I tried the three stores in the shopping mall.  Out of luck.  Finally, I went across the street to the big Barnes and Noble on Middlesex Turnpike and scored two excellent boxes of cards.  I was again a hero at home.

So, my sense is that the story of the birth of Jesus is safe in our culture for another year and that the only folks trying to take Christ out of Christmas are the greeting card manufacturers, or maybe the local greeting card retailers.

Merry Christmas to all

Regards  —  Cliff

Tadeusz Edmund Rurak (RIP)

On Wednesay last, our last day of the World War I history course at Umass Lowell, we took a leap into the future and saw a video on the Katyń Forest massacre, which occured in 1940.  This is one of those tragic events that is also interesting in how it plays out on the stage of history.  The Germans discovered the mass graves in 1943 and claimed it was a Soviet Action.  When the Soviet offensive pushed the Germans back, the Soviets uncovered the mass graves and claimed it was a German massacre.  It wasn't until 1990 that the Soviet Union admitted that the NKVD was responsible for the execution of some 22,000 Poles who composed part of the leadership of that land.  This action was the idea of Lavrentiy Beria.

The video was well done, and very powerful.

Then, today I was reading The Lowell Sun and saw an obituary for Tadeusz Edmund Rurak, who barely escaped being another statistic at the Katyń Forest.  Mr Rurak's 96 year sojourn here on earth was rich in history.

Born here in Lowell in 1913, he moved to Poland with his parents in 1922.  In 1935 he joined the Polish Army and was swept up by the Soviets when they and the Germans divided up Poland in September of 1939, thus kicking off what we think of as the beginning of World War II.  He managed to escape captivity immediately after capture and then served in the Polish Underground.  He was picked up in a roundup of non-Russian ethnic populations and sent to a labor camp in Siberia.  Released when Russia and the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement he he rejoined the Polish Army and fought at the Battle of Monte Cassino, in Italy, where Polish forces took disproportionate losses in capturing that roadblock to the Allied advance up the spine of Italy.  At right is a photo of the Polish War Cemetery at Monte Cassino, as seen from the Abby of Monti Cassino.  After the war then Captain Rurak, and his wife, Wanda, were able to return to the United States, where he attended evening classes at Lowell Technological Institute.  He was employed by Raytheon, where he was a supervisor. There is a lot of history in Mr Rurak's life story.

He is one of the people in our area who I would have liked to have listen to.  He must have had wonderful stories.  I hope his family was able to capture some of them to pass on to his great-grandchildren.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One can argue that Japan kicked off World War II with its seizure of Chinese territory earlier in the 1930s.
  This photo is from the Wiki Commons and the author is Ludmiła Pilecka.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"More Marks"

When I was an indentured servant down at Raytheon in Sudbury I worked with a chap, Matt the Elder, who was always extolling the virtues of NPR and pointing that it was wrong to listen and not contribute.

I, on the other hand, was a little dubious about the whole thing, noting that there was the Federal contribution and then there was the advertising revenue—the "underwriters".

So, when I read the Alex Beam commentary. on the 18th I took it to heart.  Thank you Mr Beam.  The key paragraph was:
Yes, I hear you saying, but it’s only public radio.  Only public radio, my eye.  WBUR is the second-most listened to morning station in Boston, after WBZ, and ranks fourth in evening drive time. WGBH, which until recently combined news and classical music programming, ranks below 20 in both categories.  Public radio types don’t like to crow about share points, but more listeners means more marks come pledge drive time.  And advertisers - sorry, underwriters - pay more for placement on shows with big audiences. Numbers matter, a lot.
I was a little disturbed by the line "more listeners means more marks", but in the end, it is true that the listeners are the marks, and when it is pledge time there is a lot of programing time devoted to getting the marks to forward money.

Sorry, Matt, but I am with Alex Beam here.  That said, we should admit that Public Broadcasting in Eastern Massachusetts does a pretty good job of bringing us the issues.  Not perfect, but the depth of coverage puts most other branches of the MSM to shame.  Go ahead; make my day.  Ask me who is better.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 18, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

This is a multiple guess question.

BACKGROUND

Here we have State Senator Anthony D. Galluccio, of Cambridge, getting a six month home confinement and a $1,000 fine for leaving the scene of an accident and injuring two people in that accident.

Herald columnist Howie Carr was not very charitable:
I don’t so much blame the judge - Galluccio has been pardoned for two OUIs, and the clerk/magistrate in Boston broomed his demolition derby caper in the Back Bay.  And of course, he ran away from his latest crash and hid long enough to make a Breathalyzer immaterial.
And, I didn't see where there was much need for Mr Carr to show charity.  It appears that members of the Massachusetts judicial establishment have already shown way too much charity to Mr Galluccio.

QUESTION

So, the question is, How would you characterize the status of the Commonwealth's judicial system:
  1. Totally corrupt.
  2. Corrupt when it comes to people with political pull or people related to people with political pull.
  3. About average
  4. Actually, pretty good, everything considered.
  5. None of the above.
BONUS POINTS

Answer why, at midnight on Friday, was the issue of State Senator Anthony D. Galluccio top billed at The Boston Herald website, but not obvious on the web page of The Boston Globe.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I can't speak for the other Services, but in the Air Force a DWI (or OUI) is a career killer. In one case I know, a promising Major on his way up received a fitness report that killed any chance he had of promotion and command.

Radio-thon

Warren Shaw, again this year, is using his Saturday morning radio program on 980 AM WCAP to support the church around the corner, the Salvation Army, in its annual fund raising drive.  The Salvation Army, like St Vincent de Paul, is an important arm in the fight to help those who are less fortunate.

At any rate, Host Warren Shaw invited me to drop by while the show is on the air.  He is probably hoping I will bid on something.  Having, earlier this AM, accidentally let my soda run down my MacBook Air, I am a in hock to Steve Jobs for a IRAN on the machine, so I will not be bidding high, having to save my pennies.  But, I will be bidding on something, or maybe just making a donation.

Also, I will be offering up to Mr Shaw, for possible bidding, a chance to be a guest poster on my blog—any subject and any point of view, as long as some proprieties are maintained.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Besides its presence in several Lowell Parishes, the Society Of St Vincent De Paul operates a thrift shop at 701 Merrimack St here in Lowell. Their phone number is (978) 453-7750.
  Inspect and Repair as Necessary.
  No bad language, no personal scathing attacks; that kind of thing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Job Stimulus Program

Tuesday The Lowell Sun ran an article on the Federal Stimulus effort, by Reporter Dennis Shaughnessey. The article was "Tsongas, Patrick tout stimulus impact at Lowell forum".

For me, the key paragraph was:
The event took place in the third-floor offices of the Career Center of Lowell, where just one floor below more than 4,700 job seekers have received training for new jobs and employment has been found for 593 people.  Stimulus funds coming into the 5th District have totaled more than $350 million and more than 1,600 jobs have been retained or created, Tsongas said.
So, I opened up my Microsquish Excel Spreadsheet and ran the numbers.  I wasn't so sure about the outcome.  So, today I call the Office of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and talked to a nice young woman who explained to me that these numbers were approximations and one could not draw specific conclusions from them.  That sounded like some Tea Party accusation that the Obama Administration numbers were fuzzy, so I thought I would press on with my analysis.

First thing I did was take 1% off the top for "profit" for the firms involved in this stimulus spending.  One percent isn't really very much, but it is a Government program and firms should not be making a killing off this.  My two Brothers might correct me, but I think that something like 5% might be equitable for this kind of work.  The 1% is to be on the conservative side and to account for the fact that some of this money may be going to governments to finance existing or expanded services to the public.  Let it be noted that profit is a good thing.  It is from profit that entrepreneurs create new jobs, which means new salaries being paid to new workers.

That leaves me with $346,400,000 to play with.  I took the amount and divided it by the 1,600 jobs.  But, that is the money to the organization.  To account for salary I factored in a burden rate to account for things like office space and the security guard and health insurance and all the other things that go into making a company work.  In a way, the money that goes into the "burden" is money that goes to hire additional people.  The rate I picked for "burden" is 120% of the value of the salary of the employee.  A ball park number that is surely wrong, but probably close.  In some firms it is less and in some it is more.

At any rate, that gets us down to a salary of $98,438 for each of the 1,600 jobs listed.  That is a pretty good salary, but well above what I was expecting the analysis to show.  So, the good news is that this stimulus money is probably for more than a year and that these 1,600 jobs will run into 2011.  And, with the jobs paid for by the burden that means maybe 3,200 people actually benefiting from the original $350 million.

And, then those 3,200 people are going to spend money in the local economy, keeping more people employed.  Maybe Keynes was right.  I don't think so, but it at least puts some flesh on those numbers.

The long range problem is that we cannot sustain that rate of public subsidy of jobs over a long term.  We can't sustain it with the Federal debt that we currently have.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Really?

When we were living in England we went in to London to see a number of plays, one of which was "No Sex Please, We're British".  It was a comedy and while panned by the critics, it was well received by theater goers.

The play title immediately popped into my mind when I read this BBC article, Noisy sex woman admits Asbo breach. The term ASBO stands for Anti-Social Behavior Order.  This is when you get told by the Government to stop doing that awful thing you are doing, which is so disturbing to your neighbors.  Do we have such a thing in the US?  Maybe not yet.

At any rate, the woman, 50, disturbs her neighbors when she and her husband are going at it.  The ABSO bans her from making loud noises when enjoying her marital duties.

I have no thoughts to offer on this issue at this time.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS: Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Quote of the Day

Here is a comment by someone who thinks and writes about this kind of stuff:
How well have our wars against nouns been going? OK, now al Qaeda is a notion, an idea. So was the object of the global war on "terror."

I hereby take up shield and lance and charge at other vague nouns, such as "fear" or "poverty" or, even, "drugs." How have those wars gone?
I think this anonymous writer has captured something.  I think that in particular, the "war on drugs" is going to come around and bite us, and bite us hard, here in the US in the next decade.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 14, 2009

Polling on Health Insurance Reform

I thought this was an interesting presentation of the data on public opinion regarding the Health CareInsurance Reform, currently making its way through the US Congress.

If you roll your mouse over one of the dots it will tell you the name of the poll and the "favor/oppose" percentages.

I tried to embed the chart, but (1) it was too big and (2) the lines and dots did not come up.  So, follow the link.

Regards  —  Cliff

Francis Ouellette, RIP

Rev Francis Ouellette, OMI, Assisting Priest at the Immaculate Conception Parish in Lowell, passed away over the weekend.  His was a long life of service, including as a pastor and as an educator.  I, for one, will miss Father Ouellette.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tax Cuts or Gov't Spending

Those of you who know me know that I am leery of anything that comes out of Harvard.  So, you can imagine the cognitive dissonance I am experiencing from this blog post.

Tax Law Professor Paul Caron cites a New York Times op-ed, "Tax Cuts Might Accomplish What Spending Hasn’t", by N. Gregory Mankiw (Harvard University, Department of Economics).

It is the eternal struggle between the supporters of John Maynard Keynes and the supporters of tax cuts:
Keynesian theory says that government spending is more potent than tax policy for jump-starting a stalled economy. The report in January put numbers to this conclusion. It says that an extra dollar of government spending raises GDP by $1.57, while a dollar of tax cuts raises GDP by only 99 cents. The implication is that if we are going to increase the budget deficit to promote growth and jobs, it is better to spend more than tax less.

But various recent studies suggest that conventional wisdom is backward.

One piece of evidence comes from Christina D. Romer, the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. In work with her husband, David H. Romer, written at the University of California, Berkeley, just months before she took her current job, Ms. Romer found that tax policy has a powerful influence on economic activity. According to the Romers, each dollar of tax cuts has historically raised G.D.P. by about $3 — three times the figure used in the administration report. That is also far greater than most estimates of the effects of government spending.
I am probably pushing fair use here, so I will leave it at that and leave the blog post and the article to you to read and to think about and to draw conclusions from.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hit tip to Instapundit

Air National Guard Humor (PG)

I dedicate this to The NewEnglander and his new career in the Mass National Guard.

Regards  —  Cliff

Women in the Military

On Saturday, The Washington Post had an opinion piece by Donna McAleer and Erin Solaro.

Donna McAleer, a West Point graduate and former Army officer, is the author of the forthcoming book Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point's Long Gray Line. Erin Solaro is the author of Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know About Women in the Military, based on her research during embedded tours with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article is "Full participation for our 'sisters-in-arms'".  The first paragraph is:
By this time next year, U.S. troops will have been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets were.  The United States has been engaged in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq longer than in any previous war.  Not factoring in the increase in soldiers going to Afghanistan that President Obama announced last week, some 220,000 American women have engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The number 220,000 American women engaged in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is pretty stunning.  That is a lot of people—twice the official population of the City of Lowell.  Some women won medals for heroism and some died.  But, as the two authors point out, women have performed well and the problems expected have not materialized.
In the past eight years, more than 2 million U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have served together in situations and for durations that have never existed in previous conflicts.  Whatever issues remain to be resolved, the feared "disasters" did not materialize.  There have been no epidemics of rape, no waves of "get me out of here" pregnancies, no orgies and no combat failures.  In short, our men and women in uniform have behaved as military professionals.
I attribute a good part of that success to the fact that we have an all volunteer force.  Kudos to our professionals in uniform.

The authors, however, are not writing to celebrate the past, but rather to suggests paths for the future.  They believe that it is time for the Services to end all restrictions on women and homosexuals.
Our century will become only more violent.  American women and gays have a stake in the survival of our republic, and the military will continue to need to draw on their strength, intelligence and courage.  It is time the military acknowledged them and welcomed them into the profession of arms, rather than using, ignoring or discarding them.
To follow through their argument, read the whole article.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to someone anonymous.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Today in History

I found a (not very well typed) extract of something written by Winston Churchill on the Battle of the River Plate.  This is the battle between the German Pocket Battleship ADMIRAL GRAF SPEE and a small British Task Force consisting of the Heavy Cruiser (EXETER, joined after the initial engagement by CUMBERLAND) and two Light Cruisers (AJAX and ACHILLES).

This extract was provided by J Bradford DeLong, an economics professor at UC Berkley.  However, notwithstanding the typos, you get a sense of the action.  Risks were taken on both sides and there was payout.  If one reads a little more, one can see how International Law played a part in how it all came to a denouement.

This episode also raises the question as to what Germany was doing building a Navy, both at the beginning of the 20th Century and in the 1930s.  And it shows the value of a naval tradition, a concept somewhat disparaged by the author of this "live blog" from 1939.  Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, KT, GCB, OM, DSO and two Bars, summed up the value of tradition when asked about the cost in ships of evacuating the British Army from Crete in May of 1941.
It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition.
Regards  —  Cliff

  Winston Churchill's view of the traditions of the Navy Can be found here.  This was attributed to him when he was the First Lord of the Admiralty.  This was supposedly addressed to the Sea Lords when they expressed concern that he was damaging the "traditions of the Navy".

Spirituality in America

It is Sunday and tomorrow is the feast day of St John of the Cross, one of my favorite Carmelites, so a discussion of spirituality seems appropriate.

In my view, the United States is a fairly religious nation, especially when compared to the European Union.  Now comes New York Times columnist Charles M Blow with a report on a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report, "Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths".

As this Venn Diagram to the right shows, there is some overlap as to what some people believe.  But, believe they do.

The one thing that did surprise me was belief in something supernatural and political leanings.  I would have thought that those who self-identify as Republicans would be more likely to believe in ghosts and to consult fortune-tellers.  Turns out I was wrong.
For those keeping political score, Democrats were almost twice as likely to believe in ghosts and to consult fortune-tellers than were Republicans, and the Democrats were 71 percent more likely to believe that they were in touch with the dead. Please hold the Barack-Obama-as-the-ghost-of-Jimmy-Carter jokes. Heard them all.
Gee, I haven't heard any.  I think he should have shared some of the jokes, although I recognize it is the NYT.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS: Hat tip to Law Professor Ann Althouse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blogging

So, Martha and I were out to a ChristmasHoliday Party last evening—and enjoyed ourselves very much—and the very nice young woman next to me asked me lots of questions about blogging.

After saying that I try to blog once a day and sometimes more, and having her husband confirm that assertion, I missed Friday.  So, I have to make up for it.  And, there is a lot to blog about, but I am going to talk about how good we have it.

In today's Snail Mail I got a newsletter from KNOM, a radio station in Nome, Alaska.  (Tom Wirtanen should be thrilled.)  In the newsletter it talked about the February-March time frame this last year.
It's 22 days to be remembered, during which a string of 13 consecutive brutal blizzards hammer Nome and the region.  Several days, except for police and KNOM, everything just about shuts down.  The region affected is the size of Maine to Alabama, and west as far as Chicago. Some of Nome's plowed streets have sheer walls of snow ten feet high.
Not everywhere in Alaska has ten feet high snow walls.  Fairbanks, being in a desert plain, has snow, but not nearly as much.

Elsewhere the newsletter mentions a University of Alaska report that shows that food in Nome is 218% the cost in Portland, Oregon.  Heating oil is much more reasonable, being 190% of the Portland cost.

Life in Lowell is not nearly as rigorous, and at my age that is a good thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Actually, this person is not a total stranger to me.  She was, some 20 years ago, the roommate of my middle brother's now sister-in-law.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Obama Doctrine

Reporter Jake Tapper (ABC) reports that an "Obama Doctrine" has emerged.  The four key points are:
  1. that the US must hold itself to a higher code of conduct, hence his invocation of his ban on torture and his order of the closure of the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay;
  2. that the international community, if it is truly serious about trying to avoid war, must fully engage tough diplomacy against rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran that would keep crises surrounding those nations from becoming wars;
  3. that the world must engage with governments of ill-repute, and try to bring them back into the fold; and
  4. that a nation's hostility towards human rights and economic injustice cannot be allowed to thrive, for those conditions lead to war in the long term.
The test is who supports it and who doesn't.  Former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, doesn't.  Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin does.

I am with the Governor on this one.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Sawadee Mr Kazanjian II

Earlier I posted on Mr Kazanjian resigning from the City Council.

Now we get the rest of the story, or apparently so, from the Paper of Record. The Lowell Sun says it is so he can bid on the new towing contracts.

Frankly, it makes good sense from Mr Kazanjian's perspective.

And, in the same paper reporter Christopher Scott tells us "Mendonca expected to fill council seat left by Kazanjian".  This will be Joe's second time fleeting up to take the place of a departing City Counciler. Congratulations, Joe.

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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sawadee Mr Kazanjian

I have been working on my term paper and have not been hawking the news, but then I went to check on who won the primary races (when I went to vote I noted that the Libertarians had ballots, but no names printed).  I noticed The Lowell Sun website had a short article saying that City Councilor Alan Kazanjian had resigned during the City Council meeting, citing demands of family and business.

Frankly, I am sorry to see this.  With only a couple of meetings to go, it seemed unfortunate for Mr Kazanjian to have bailed out on us.  This statement doesn't mean that Mr Kazanjian was on my list of candidates.  But, IMHO, the city works because we all work together and accept that we don't always have the same views, but have the same overall goal, a better city.

I wish Mr Kazanjian the best.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa Claus

Today's Boston Globe, G-Section, has an article titled "Claus in crisis".

It reminded me of a conversation I overheard last night in a local restaurant, "Chili's".

In the booth across from us was a family of four (I am assuming they were a family). A Father, a Mother and two young ladies who looked to be about twelve.

The Father was explaining to the girls the theory that Santa's trip around the world on Christmas eve was an engineering or scientific impossibility.  Here is an example of the kind of calculation done to show that it is Mission Impossible.

However, noting that the gentleman was wearing a red sweatshirt with the letters HBS on it, I wondered it he might have missed something.  Here we were, sitting in a franchise restaurant, and he misses the idea that Santa is a franchise operation.  It isn't one person doing all the traveling, but rather it is a whole army of different people, all commissioned by Saint Nicholas of Myra.  Why just look at all the different names Santa Clause goes by across the (formerly?) Chrisitian world—Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, São Nicolau, etc.

Is it little wonder I am skeptical of Harvard Business School and its impact on the US economy.  I was not happy that then Texas Governor and Presidential Candidate George W Bush was a graduate of the Harvard Business School, but I took heart when all my friends who were registered Democrats told me that Bush was dumb as a rock and probably never learned anything there anyway.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Have you ever noticed that on the Globe web page they sometimes give articles titles different from what is used in the tree-based edition?  Fortunately they tend to stick with the author's name.

Guest Blogger—AGW

Now for some comments on global warming (that is, AGW or Anthropological Global Warming) by a guest blogger.

Regards  —  Cliff

GUEST BLOG POST

Let's try a thought experiment for a minute. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the software, data, charts, and implications of the EAU CRU research is 100% accurate. There are still two questions left unanswered:

   First, what is causing the change?

   Second, why are they telling us the change is bad?

I have yet to see convincing evidence that the change is anthropogenic.  Indeed, were I to see such proof, I'd be very skeptical since the nature of the scientific method is to eliminate theories, not to prove them.  Indeed, just last week I heard of a new theory that better fits the observed data than general relativity.

That is to say, a proper use of the scientific method would be to posit that X causes global warming and then attempt to disprove X.  You would do that by saying, "if X causes global warming, then we can predict that it also causes (or cannot cause) Y" and the go looking for Y.  For example, if COO emissions cause global warming on Earth, then we cannot expect that it is causing temperatures to rise on other planets.  Of course, the fact that other planets ARE getting warmer might make us want to change our assumption, or at least try to find another reason for the other planets getting warmer, and thereby explain a startling coincidence.

Also, why are people getting upset about rising temperatures?  A warmer earth would make most or all of Canada and Russia not just comfortable, but habitable.  Moreover, for every acre of land rendered inhospitable for agriculture (mostly around the sparsely arid equator), you will see places with one growing season extended to two, two to three, and more importantly, zero to one.  Sure, there MAY be some change in sea level, but that is life.  Either build a dyke or move to higher ground.

I would point out that it is the people who wanted to stop change that gave us the worst forest fires.  Fire in a forest is a natural and necessary part of the cycle of life for a forest.  When good-intentioned people said that fire is bad and we must put out all forest fires, we ended up with a decade of dead wood and debris on the forest floors.  Then when a fire did start, it was cataclysmic.  It turns out that smaller, lesser intensity, more frequent fires don't kill the forest, they are necessary for survival.  Nothing survives the really intense fires.

Before we make very expensive and disrupting changes based on scientific theory we should try very hard to disprove that theory.  Perhaps we should even give some grants to people who seek to do just that.  After that, we should think very carefully about the impact of the proposed changes, and maybe even try testing it in a small way first.

/GUEST BLOG POST

There is space here for other Guest Blog Posts.

Who is Mike Tidwell

Mike Tidwell is the executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  On Sunday he had an opinion piece, "To really save the planet, stop going green" in The Washington Post.  Here is the heart of it.
As America joins the rest of the world in finally fighting global warming, we need to bring our battle plan up to scale.  If you believe that astronauts have been to the moon and that the world is not flat, then you probably believe the satellite photos showing the Greenland ice sheet in full-on meltdown.  Much of Manhattan and the Eastern Shore of Maryland may join the Atlantic Ocean in our lifetimes.  Entire Pacific island nations will disappear.  Hurricanes will bring untold destruction.  Rising sea levels and crippling droughts will decimate crops and cause widespread famine.  People will go hungry, and people will die.
Maybe.

One of the things we see is that hurricanes are down this year.  The Greenland ice sheet is shrinking, as are most, but not all, glaciers.  But, if that is so, doesn't it mean that that Greenland will open up for farming, as it did from 800 to 1300 AD?  Would that be a bad thing or a good thing?  All we hear is the Hollywood disaster film version of the future.

But, this is Mr Tidwell's story.  He is tired of half measures.  Here is what he says:
We all got into this mess together. And now, with treaty talks underway internationally and Congress stalled at home, we need to act accordingly. Don't spend an hour changing your light bulbs. Don't take a day to caulk your windows. Instead, pick up a phone, open a laptop, or travel to a U.S. Senate office near you and turn the tables: "What are the 10 green statutes you're working on to save the planet, Senator?"
So, a Congress that can't get out of its way to pass Health Insurance Change is going to quickly pass legislation on climate change just when the public is coming to believe that the Scientists have been cooking the books?  I have faith, but not that much faith.

Worse, I have a suspicion that if the more extreme advocates of AGW (anthropological global warming) are correct, we will need radical change. And if they are wrong and we still go with radical change, hundreds of millions will suffer as a result.  Maybe billions.

This is one of those times when someone needs to call "Academic Situation" and everyone take a break until we sort this out.  Too often in the past we have trusted the experts and they have blown it.  As the skeptics say, Amateurs built the Ark, Professionals built the TITANIC.  The amateurs want a peek at what the professionals are building.

"Trust me" died with the internet, for which we thank Al Gore.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on O'ahu and specifically on the US Navy ships at Pearl Harbor.  It was the act that forced the United States into open participation in World War II.

In light of that, there was an article Sunday in The New York Times on the diplomatic interactions leading up to the attack and includes a discussion of how President Theodore Roosevelt played a big role in the evolution of Japanese diplomatic and policy thinking.  And there was an insight into how President Teddy Roosevelt earned his Nobel Peace Prize.

The author of the Opinion Piece is James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers.

Once again, things are not as straight forward as they seem.  But, at the same time, there is no doubt, at least in my mind, that Japan took the step that caused the United States to engage in bitter and savage warfare across the Pacific, ending up with the use of nuclear weapons to bring that war to a close.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The more I read the more I wonder about the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is not a comment on President Obama, but the other winner, besides President Theodore Roosevelt.  That would be President Woodrow Wilson and we all know how his peace efforts turned out less than twenty years later.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Others See Us

The following reminded me of this post by The New Englander, where he scooped me on Ms Farah Stockman's article in The Boston Globe on Afghani perceptions of US corruption.

The New Englander and I were down in Cambridge Friday, having lunch with a Masters Degree student with time in Iraq under his belt—a tour of two years working for our Department of State.

He told us a story of sitting around with some Iraqis after a long meeting and one of them commenting about how long it took to end the US Civil War.  When the Americans said, it only ran from 1861 to 1865 an Iraqi said, but you didn't give voting rights to Blacks until 1964.  Ah, the moment of truth.

Just the week before, or maybe two weeks before I had commented that I thought it wasn't until 1960 or so that the Civil War actually ended, given that it took that long to move against segregation and the wrong-headed notion of "separate but equal".  We tend to think of wars ending when the shooting stops, but that is just the armistice.  The peace treaty has to be accepted by all sides, and all factions have to agree that it is time to move on.  World War One, the war to end all wars, didn't resolve everything and thus we have World War Two.  Some argue that it wasn't until 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, that World War One ended.  (I am working on my paper for the WWI history course Martha and I are taking and I am playing with kicking the end of World War One out even further.)

The conclusion I draw from the story is that the eagerness we display to end things and move on may be a-historical.  This idea that there should be a war termination plan, coming from the time of Fred Ikle and his book Every War Must End, suggests an orderliness that does not exist in the real world.

And the application for today is that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan may not end like our war with Germany and Japan did in 1945, with the other side accepting the end and moving on.  That doesn't mean that we will have to be engaged with combat troops for a long time.  It does suggest that we may be involved in helping out for quite a while.  And, in my humble opinion, it means that US Government Civil Servants should be involved in a big way, replacing military forces as the situation changes.

Of course, my middle Brother, who just yesterday sent me a link to an Ellen Goodman article in the San Jose Mercury"Goodman: Facts give way to something called 'truthiness'", might question the authenticity of this story.  Since I got it from the person who heard the telling of the tale, I think it is pretty good.  Her bottom line?
Well, I have "news" for you. When the reporters go, so do the facts. And their checkers.
And she singles out Right-Wing blogs for her contempt.

However, I am here to say that sometimes the blogs, even "right wing" blogs, do seek truth.  And do check facts.  It is just that we don't have a lot of recent female college graduates we can hire for little money to serve as our fact checkers.  I do have a wife of long standing, but that is it for "staff" and she doesn't see herself as staff anyway.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Let us be frank.  Female college graduates command a lot more money these days than they did when Ms Goodman was breaking into the business, and rightfully so.  And, if we are to judge by profits, blogs are even further down the food chain than newspapers.

NYT vs CRU and Leaked EMails.

I read the comments of the Public Editor (that would be Ombudsman to the rest of us) of The New York Times in his article, "Stolen E-Mail, Stoking the Climate Debate".  I think the Headline Writers for the NYT poison the well with the work "stolen", but it is their newspaper and not ours.

I thought it was OK.  I did think the failure of Mr Clark Hoyt to address the outrageous actions of CRU scientists in not only ignoring requests under the British Freedom of Information Act, but also destroying data showed that Mr Hoyt either isn't really engaged in the issue or is trying to soft-pedal what should be a three-alarm story.  I will send him an EMail.

Then I read (hat tip to Instapundit the Ann Althouse post on the same item.  She was upset, but tame compared to some of the commenters.  I will leave reading the comments to you.  Here is Professor Althouse's concluding paragraph:
They just interview scientists and don't actually try to understand the science?  Even when there is evidence of deceit, they don't pry themselves away from their dependence on interviews with scientists?  Drastic, mindboggingly expensive policy changes are proposed based on this science, making this potentially the biggest fraud in history.  Why isn't the NYT on fire trying to figure everything out and helping us readers see into the controversy?  The best we can do is to give our readers a sense of what the prevailing scientific view is...  Really?  That's the best you can do?  Just a "sense" of what "prevails" among scientists?  Then the best you can do is to be part of the very problem you ought to be studying:  The scientists' efforts to create an impression of consensus.
Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Comments on the President's Speech

How much can you say in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.  Not much.  But, notwithstanding that problem, Elliot Cohen has published this item in Sunday's Wash Post.  The title is "Obama's COIN toss:  In Afghanistan, we have a plan—but that's not the same as a strategy".  The "COIN toss" reference is to the acronym for Counter Insurgency—COIN.  It has been COIN at least back to the early 1960s.

One person, favorably mentioned in the article, is Dr David Kilkullen.  He is the author of The Accidental Guerrilla:  Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One , a book about his adventures in COIN as an Australian Infantry Officer and later as a civilian working for the United States.  (The book is available for your Kindle.)

Dr Eliot A. Cohen is no dummy.  He is a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the author of Supreme Command:  Soldiers, Statesmen and Wartime Leadership.  He was State Department counselor from 2007 to 2009, advising on counterinsurgency issues.  He also coauthored the Gulf War Airpower Survey, from the first Gulf War.

Dr Cohen picks on the President for not having a real strategy, just having a plan.  I think that while that may be technically correct, what he presented this last week at West Point is sufficient with which to proceed.

My own definition of strategy is "matching objectives, threats and opportunities in a resource constrained environment."

The proof will be in the eating, as they say.  In the mean time, someone commented on the article with this poem.  But, then, the poet is a retired Air Force pilot (and PhD in English).

I think the President did OK in laying out his plan.  There are things I wouldn't have said and things I would have said, but on balance, he did fine.

Regards  —  Cliff

Where America's Day Begins

I have not been paying attention, but is there a move afoot to change the status of Guam?  Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States, obtained from Spain in 1898, as part of the settlement of the Spanish American War.

Guam is not like Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth within the United States. Per the Wikipedia article linked above, there is talk of changing the status of the island, usually within the context of moving into a closer relationship with the US.

But, the Guamanian shadow Representative to the US Congress, has introduced legislation to:
... authorize the Secretary of the Interior to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program for the people of Guam.
If we change the status of Guam, will re readdress the status of Puerto Rico?  Other US territories?  Or is this all about job creation?

Just wondering.

I didn't know they weren't a Commonwealth.  Making them part of Hawaii seems a stretch (distance wise) so I would go for the Commonwealth option.

But, for sure, Guam is Good

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 4, 2009

Some Good News

From John McCreary, at Night Watch
US-Mexico:  The US Treasury Department has frozen the U.S.-based assets of 10 companies and 22 individuals believed to be linked to the Mexican drug cartel Beltran-Leyva Organization (BLO), which is accused of smuggling drugs into the United States and of murdering Mexican counter-narcotics agents, Reuters reported today.  The companies targeted have locations throughout Mexico, and are involved in businesses such as air and vehicle shipping, electronics retailing, hospitality services and health-products trade.

According to the news services from the Texas border, marijuana smuggling is way up but human smuggling is way down, to oversimplify a complex security problem.  The question for the Treasury is why does this process take so long and seems so scatter-shot?

Treasury and its Office of Intelligence and Analysis should be one of the best staffed and best backed intelligence operations in Washington. Despite a small staff, OIA does real work towards permanent solutions.  Doubters only need to ask the Banco Delta Asia and North Korea.

This is tonight’s good news—one Department that fights security problems with the tools that the US excels at:  brains and finance.
Hats off to the US Department of the Treasury.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 3, 2009

India Out at Copenhagen

"India will not sign binding emission cuts-minister", per Reuters.

The short article is here.

It isn't like India is Georgia.  We are talking about nearly a billion people with the Government bent on industrialization.

Regards  —  Cliff