Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If You Are Careless With Language

If you are careless with language you get into absurd situations.

Once upon a time there was no such thing as "Weapons of Mass Destruction".  There were, for sure, nuclear and thermonuclear weapons.  Then along came the Soviets and suggested we call them "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and we throw in Chemical and Biological weapons as well.

When we think of such weapons we think in terms of thousand or tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Now, the criminal organization up in Michigan, which has been branded a "militia" is being charged with preparing to use a "weapon of mass destruction".  This weapon would kill tens of people, perhaps even a hundred or so.  This is not Hiroshima.  Law Professor Ann Althouse comments on this in her Blog.

Is this IED really a "Weapon of Mass Destruction"?  If it is, what is a B-61 Mod 7

Or turned the other way, as Ms Althouse does:
That blows a big hole in the notion that there weren't weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Maybe Congress can change the law and we can go back to our old understanding.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, actually there is some question as to the effectiveness of chemical and biological weapons, but based upon the fear in the heart of the public, lets go with this.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Another Person Leaves Us Too Soon.

Dave Perry had a good article in today's Sun about a woman, Sophy Suon, who was cut down way too young in life.  I commend the article to you.

Even when silent, she said more than most

If you liked the article, write Dave Perry an EMail at dperry AT lowellsun.com.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to my wife, Martha.

Lets Be Honest About Our Claques

On Friday Derrick Z Jackson had a column "Hatred as a Political Strategy".  I think it was over the top.  As I expect Mr Jackson can tell you, I have written him to complement him when I have liked his columns, but this time I was disappointed.

On Sunday Frank Rich had a column (The New York Times) "The Rage Is Not About Health Care".  Frankly, Mr Frank Rich doesn't do it for me.  My middle Brother seems to like him, or maybe he likes to needle me with Mr Rich.  This was a particularly obnoxious column, impugning the motives of broad swaths of US Citizens.

Both Columnist were banging on about Republicans using bad imagery when talking about Democrats. Both were banging on about how Republicans (and Republican fellow travellers (and others opposed to health insurance reform or the Obama Administration)) were using bad language and threats against Democratic Party members.

Like it was a one way street.

It is not.  Otherwise I would not have received the letter I did from Vice President Joe Biden (well, actually, I think, from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee—but Vice President Biden is part of the US Senate, as long as he is Vice President and it was over his signature).

He says "The GOP is guided by the Tea Partier crowd..." (His bold, not mine.)  How I wish it was that the GOP was guided by the Tea Party movement, but it isn't.  That is why there are all those Tea Party organizations.

But, that said, it is a fair enough comment on the other side.  And, the "Stop Sign" in red with the word NO and an Elephant in the background.  All fair enough.

But, what about the bookmark sized insert with the dead elephant (that is to say, an elephant upside down with its legs in the air—Tango Uniform, as we would say in the fighter pilot dodge).

This is a death threat, is it not?  And worse, it is a death threat using the image of an endangered species.

And what about the man arrested for a death threat against Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA)?  The accused made two contributions to the Obama Campaign per the FEC.  And, he apparently use of anti-Semitic comments about the Minority Whip.

Can we move away from this "your bullying is worse than my bullying" and get back to the issues of the day, including the size of the federal (and personal) debt, the question of how to deal with Iran, the question of how we get enough Primary Care Physicians in the proper places to meet the needs of the nation, the question of peace between Israel and its neighbors, the question of how we get a lot more jobs for people to work here in the US and on and on.

And let us keep in mind two things.
  1. No minority ever got credit for helping the majority pass some legislation, and,
  2. The duty of an opposition is to oppose. 
UPDATE:  Well, this is embarrassing. I misspelled Mr Jackson's first name.  I just assumed I knew how to spell it, which, in my case, is ignoring a long history of not being able to spell words, including my OWN name.  My apologies to Mr Jackson.  I have since updated it.

Regards  —  Cliff

  William Safire attributes this to Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill.  I have seen other attributions.

A Feel Good Story Gone Bad

Someone out there passed along this URL about the use of the board game Monopoly during World War II.  World War II is that big war that your Grandfather talks about and actor and producer Tom Hanks thinks involved a lot of racism against the Japanese.  (He may well be correct, and it went both ways, or in the case of the Japan of the day, several ways.)

During World War II, at the behest of the British Government, selected Monopoly sets were "modified" to include a compass and a silk map and local currency, and then made part of Red Cross packages being sent to Allied Prisoners of War in Axis controlled Europe.  Prisoners were instructed to look for a special mark on the special sets, which were produced in a separate part of the toy maker's facilities.  All very hush hush during and even for long after the war.  The concern for secrecy was that there might be another big war and the Government wanted to be able to play the same game, so to speak.  As we now know, no such war broke out, and thank God it didn't.

But, someone commented on this and asked the 2010 question.
Would this constitute an improper use of Red Cross facilities and agreements by the Allies?  Did it endanger the continued ability of the Red Cross to function?
That is bad enough, this violation of the rules of war and all that.  But, the person mused:
Would this constitute something that would deserve prosecution, if it were publicized then (or now)?  Were government officials who knowingly participated in this program operating in violation of international law and agreements?
I guess the answer is yes.

Sadly yours  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Today's "Saturday Chat" in The Lowell Sun has a long discussion of a family leaving Florida for Ohio, for economic reasons.  Chairman Kendall Wallace spends some time talking about the Okies and Arkies of The Grapes of Wrath era.  Having gone to high school with the children of those people who moved to California for a better life, I can tell you that while there was nostalgia for back East (every summer there were hugh picnics as people from each of the Midwestern states gathered to talk about old times), but folks were very happy to be in California.

But, the end of the column was what caught my eye.  It was a discussion of a column by New York Times columnist and recovering Democrat, David Brooks.  The subject was British writer Phillip Blond's idea that we need to downscale Government and get it closer to the people.  Mr Blond's web site is here.

As encapsulated by Mr Brooks, the problem statement is:
Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations.  First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners.  Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away.  Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.
And, the solution is:
Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor.  This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government.  He would funnel more services through charities.  He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs.  He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.
But, to get the full flavor, you have to buy the book.

Alas, the book, Red Tory:  How Left and Right Have Broken Britain and How We Can Fix it, is not yet available in the United States, at least not on Amazon.


Regards  —  Cliff

  You would think The Sun would spring for a link to the URL in The New York Times, if not to Mr Blond's own web site.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Out Back Question of the Week

I have an EMail from Eileen Donoghue, inviting me to "become a fan of Eileen Donoghue for State Senate".

Smart move on her part.  I bet she is now glad she "friended" me a while back.

Social media is a big deal in politics these days and it looks like Ms Donoghue is pretty up to date or is getting some good advice.

So, the Out Back Question of the Week is, should I become a fan of Ms Donoghue?


Regards  —  Cliff

At the Train Station

At the train station I ran into Austin Ridgely, a Student at Temple University, where he is studying History.  Well, he was, until he ran out of money.  Now he is earning the needed money by being a paid solicitor at the Philly Train Station for the ACLU.  He was appropriately badged by AMTRAK to do this work.

Nice chap. If you are through the station and are not yet a member of the ACLU, go up and greet him and join up.  If you are a member, just say hello.

We are, as US citizens, dependent on different lobbying groups to help us protect our rights under the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution itself.  I am a member of the ACLU because of certain clauses in the Bill of Rights.  I am a member of the NRA because of the Second Amendment.  And, because of the Tenth Amendment, I am a member of the Greater Lowell Tea Party Movement,

Protect your rights.

And, protect democracy by signing each and every petition for someone to get on the ballot you come across.  It is just a month to go before all those signatures have to be turned in.  It doesn't cost anything to sign a petition and it definitely does not (repeat NOT) commit you to vote for that person in either the Primary or the General Election come November.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tea Party Membership

George Anthes is on "City Life" asked who is in the Tea Party.

Ann Althouse points us to a poll on Tea Party Membership.

Here is the Quinnipiac Poll, which is the basis of the Ann Althouse post.

Ann Althouse distills it down to:

74 percent are Republicans or independent voters leaning Republican;
16 percent are Democrats or independent voters leaning Democratic;
5 percent are solidly independent;
45 percent are men;
55 percent are women;
88 percent are white;
77 percent voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008;
15 percent voted for President Barack Obama

I hope this helps George.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

State Sen Panagiotakos to Stand Down in Fall

My wife just checked in after class and she told me that one of our classmates, Will, said that State Senator Steve Panagiotakos is not running for re-election this fall.  So, I nipped over to Dick Howe's blog and sure enough, there was a link to The Lowell Sun, with the article, "Sen. Panagiotakos will not seek re-election".

This is an interesting development, especially since even the Republicans in Lowell see the State Senator has holding a secure seat.  We are looking for candidates for State Rep, but State Senator was seen as a bridge too far.

The big question is, how will the dominos fall, and with just about a month left to collect signatures.

Regards  —  Cliff

Did the VP really use THAT Word?

That is what I hear.  Vice President Joe Biden, in a moment of enthusiasm, used a word that he shouldn't have.  He apparently didn't think about the fact that there was a live mike there.  One needs to always be careful around a hot mike.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rental Car Keys

My experience, and yours may differ, is that when I pick up a rental car I get a key ring that is crimped at both ends and contains two keys.  The crimping means that I can't take one of the two keys and give it to my wife or store it in my briefcase, in case I lock the other in the car.  That second key is, to me, less than worthless.  The reason it is less than worthless is that it makes for a bigger bulge in my pocket and a harder time finding change or whatever in said pocket.

So, why do the car rental companies do it?

I expect that there is no point in them keeping the key at the desk, due to the fact that rental cars are sometimes dropped off somewhere else.  I am renting from Philly and this car is from Tennessee and the last one had New York tags.

Maybe they worry that a key will wear out or get bent.  Possible, but cars are sold before they get a lot of mileage on them.  The fear of a key wearing out should be small.

But, as for selling, maybe this is the only way for them to come up with two keys at sales time.

That said, I would appreciate it if they would just have a process to cut a new key and let me travel in a little more comfort.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two Mistakes

I made two mistakes on the Blog recently.

First, I did have to show an ID for Amtrak, when I picked up my tickets. But, aside from that I have not had to show an ID, but announcements suggest I might be asked for one.

Second, John McEnroe works for National Care Rental and not Hertz.

Speaking of car rentals, notwithstanding the guy on the phone, Avis was open when I hit Philly.

Also, my Hertz had a feature I had not seen before, a warning about low tire pressure. The front right tire was low. Looking closely it looks like someone banged the wheel and there might be a slow leak. That shows the inspection after the last rental was not that thorough. Nor did the lone sock in the back seat, mostly under the driver's seat.

Regards  —  Cliff

Meanwhile, over in Chelmsford

A retired friend of mine over in Chelmsford has proposed the following Warrant Article:

Pursuant to Chelmsford Laws Section 2-11 (C) the undersigned persons request the Spring, 2010 Town Meeting warrant include the following item:
Property tax paid in a calendar year shall be no larger than the amount paid in the year of the resident’s Social Security Administration retirement. No refunds will be given to those who retired in prior years.
Short and simple and the author has some points in support of his Warrant Article:
  1. Property tax is a tax on inflation.
  2. The cost of running the Town does not directly relate to inflation.
  3. Retirees have paid property taxes through their lives.  Tax has been paid directly by owners and indirectly as a rent component for rented property.
  4. The largest part of the Town budget is people-related:  salaries and benefits for both current employees and also for retired Town employees(!).
  5. Retirees must pay for their benefits using already taxed money.
  6. Social Security Administration has frozen the retirement benefit for two years.
  7. Town budgets continue to increase.
  8. Retirees need to know how much they have to live on and it cannot be dependent on the whims of the SSA or Town budget.
For this citizen the bottom line is "Either freeze the Town budget by freezing all salaries and benefits, or cap the amount paid by retirees toward property tax."

One man's view and since it is Town Meeting Government he gets to put forward this Warrant, if he can get the signatures.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, March 22, 2010

Next By-Election

Here is an item (Hat Tip to Instapundit) on the race to replace the late John Murtha as the Representative from the Pennsylvania 12th District, centered on Johnstown.

I love the title, "Voters in 'Bitter' Western Pennsylvania Center Stage".

As the late Diana Wagner, our Admin Person at work, used to say about the area, Pennsyltuckey.  But, I like the area and the people; people like Diana.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Do We Believe This?

Bernard Finel suggests that we relook Candidate George W Bush's view on Foreign Policy.  The blogger titles his piece "Bush Once Made Sense".

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Amtrak Adventures

On Thursday I came back from Philly on Amtrak, taking the regional train.

A few comments.

First, I thought that overall Amtrak is very good, but I am not sure they are doing the periodic maintenance to their capital infrastructure needed to keep up with airports.  By this I mean the buildings at railroad stations. In Philly at the 30th Street Station both the escalator and the elevator from the rental car return were broken and I had to carry my three bags up the stairs on my own.  Of course I made it, but it was an irritant.  I think it was the Route 128 station that I noted that the lights on the buttons on the elevator were not working.  The elevator worked, but the lights to help you know where you were in the process were out.  Attention to detail is important in a service oriented business.  I am taking the train these days because of service—the fact that the train ride means less hassle.  Don't mess it up by neglect.

Second, I found queues varied by location.  At Route 128, here in Eastern Massachusetts, the train was announced and we all sort of filtered out onto the platform.  Granted it was Monday last and bad rain and few passengers.  Even so, it was very orderly and genteel.  Thursday afternoon, leaving Philly we all formed up in one line and patiently awaited the checking of our ticket and the chance to go down to the platform.  The kind of British queuing I like.  One woman cut the line, in front of me.  I let her go.  I had to change trains in New York City.  There the announcement resulted in more of an Italian queue.  That is to say people came at the escalator from all over, merging at the last minute.  Chaos organizing into a single line down the escalator to the platform.  On the other hand, it worked.

To be noted.  The Acela has free wifi.  The regional does not.

Another thing.  In Philly Avis shuts down its auto rental operation early on Friday, or so a chap on the phone (India?) told me.  "You can not be serious!"  I cancelled the reservation and went with Hertz.  If it is good enough for a curmudgeon like John McEnroe, it is good enough for me.

Regards  —  Cliff

Human Rights Adventures

I think that one of the things the United States has to offer the world is our halting, struggling, effort to ensure human rights for our own citizens and to encourage others to respect human rights.

Thus, this should prove very interesting.  Our Department of State is submitting us, this fall, to the scrutiny of the "universal periodic review" process, run by the U.N. Human Rights Council.  This is the UN Human Rights Council that former President Bush refused to join because it was dominated by nations judged to have bad human rights records.

So, it will be interesting to see how this all turns out this fall.

Regards  —  Cliff

Controversial Propositions

From the Power Line Blog, we have this list of "CONTROVERSIAL PROPOSITIONS".

One of the assertions is:
The title of world's greatest man has bounced back and forth between England and the U.S. for a while now:  last half of the 18th century, George Washington; first half of the 19th century, the Duke of Wellington; second half of the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln; first half of the 20th century, Winston Churchill; second half of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan. But I very much doubt that the pattern will continue.
Yes, exactly.  The Duke of Wellington was greater than Napoleon Bonaparte.  He not only beat Bonaparte's minions on the Iberian Peninsula and Bonaparte at Waterloo, he was also elected Prime Minister—rather than seizing the job like some usurper.  And, he preserved English Common Law, rather than going with the Napoleonic Code.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Friday, March 19, 2010

Teaching History

The Middle Brother sent along an OpEd from the San Jose Mercury, a fairly lively local newspaper.

The thrust of the piece, by Professor Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches history and education at New York University, talks to the ongoing discussions down in Texas about what should be in—in this case—public school history text books.  As the professor points out, these issues can be about our fundamental understanding of who we are as Americans.
What if we gave our kids multiple points of view instead? Recent history gives us a perfect opportunity to do precisely that.  After the arch-liberal author Howard Zinn died in January, his A People's History of the United States shot to No. 12 on The New York Times paperback nonfiction list.  Just behind — at No. 15 — was Larry Schweikart's and Michael Allen's conservative A Patriot's History of the United States, which received a big boost when Glenn Beck pumped it on his radio and TV shows.

So here's a modest proposal:  Instead of bickering about the "correct" version of the past, the Texas school board should decree that every high school history class use both of these texts.
When I was growing up my home environment told me that President Eisenhower was seen as just holding things in place and Governor Adlai E Stevenson was seen as a forward thinking chap who should have been President.  Later I came to see that President Eisenhower did take action, as when he federalized the National Guard down in Little Rock, Arkansas (School Desegregation).  And, President Eisenhower managed to not get us entangled too much in the Viet-nam war, while giving the South a chance to stand up on its own.

Views change over time and the job of education is to give us the tools to sort through all we see and hear to come to our own, independent, views.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  This OpEd Originally appear in The L A Times.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


As we move to the climax on the Health Insurance Reform bill we see ever increasingly creative ways to move this puppy along.  No longer are we talking about the "Louisiana Purchase" or the "Corn Husker Kickback".

The most creative is the proposed rule coming out of the House Rules Committee, the so called Slaughter Rule, that will allow the House to vote on amendments to the Senate Bill (passed already by the US Senate) and to then "deem" the underlying bill to have been passed—but without the yeas and nays (see the US Constitution, Article I, Section 7).

Here is a discussion at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Cited several times was Clinton v City of New York, which is about the Line Item Veto, passed as part of the "Contract with America" program of Congressman Newt Gingrich.  The past is always with us.

Since I am not a lawyer I could be charged with practicing law without a license by offering my opinion, but what the heck, maybe the fact that I am in Pennsylvania will protect me.  That said, I think the Slaughter Rule is terrible.  On the other hand, "Campaign Carl" Cameron said on Fox News that both parties have done this before.  Shame!  Shame, I say.  Shame on both parties if that is the case.

But, I am dubious about the US Supreme Court ruling this illegal.  The US Supreme Court tends to avoid getting involved in activities internal to the US Congress.

I know that the Democrats in DC think of this as Caster Oil.  They are doing this for our own good, even if we don't want it.  The poll numbers are against this and being tricky is even worse.

If it happens we will see how this plays out in November.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Monday, March 15, 2010

Penn Station

I am in Penn Station, in New York City, aboard an Amtrak train, using WiFi.

I think that is pretty cool.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Linking to Kad Barma

Kad Barma, has a post which references me making a comment on a post by Greg Page, which is found here. It is all about the Greater Lowell Tea Party.  (I wonder who is responsible for them getting their own Web Page?)  At any rate, here is Kad's post:  "top down vs bottom up?"

This is a stub, but I will fill it out after I finish leaving a comment at Kad's site.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Billiard Balls of Foreign Policy

Ripped from the pages of Instapundit, where I found this link to an article on foreign policy, and Israel, by Walter Russell Mead.  Here is the case he puts, and timely it is, given that Vice President Biden is just back from a visit to, amongst other nations, Israel.
The American relationship with Israel is both a political and an intellectual challenge for some students of foreign affairs.  Convinced that US national interests would be best served by distancing ourselves from the Jewish state, scholars try to figure out why our country behaves in this seemingly self-defeating way.

The problem is particularly tough for hard core realists who believe that the behavior of every state is determined by the nature of the international system. For these thinkers, domestic politics don’t matter; states do what they must.  States are like billiard balls; they move when struck.  It doesn’t matter what the billiard ball thinks; it rolls where it’s pushed.
I like the billiard ball analogy.  Foreign affairs is about national interests.  "The strong do what they want and the weak do what they must." (Thucydides)

Some people put down the US support of Israel to the Jewish Lobby.  It looks logical, but it fails to see the whole picture.  The thing is that we are a Republic, but we are also a Republic that responds to the will of the People.

...the power of the Israel lobby in American politics stems from its relationship to gentile public opinion.  The lobby facilitates a foreign policy that public opinion broadly supports; it has no special powers of its own and if gentile opinion about Israel were to change, policy would change whatever the lobby did.
Put another way, there are a lot more non-Jews in the US supporting Israel than there are Jews, just because there are a lot more gentiles than there are Jews in this nation.  And a lot of those gentiles supporting Israel are from the various Christian faiths in this nation.

At the same time, there are some people who think there is some sinister Jewish plot out there to drag us into the problems of Israel.  That would be to overestimate the political power of the Jewish segment of our society.  Here is your test.  Which way do Jews tend to vote in national politics?  (Hint:  Not for the likes of Ronald Reagan or George W Bush.)  Now ask yourself if Republicans in office are significantly less supportive of Israel than Democrats.  I am assuming you don't need a hint here, but if you do, EMail me. In the mean time, ask yourself how the Arab nations would feel if we suddenly switched from support of Israel to rejection of Israel?  They might like the outcome, but would they then cosy up to us; or would they ask themselves what kind of fair weather friend we would make?

When you read the article and come to the first picture and wonder who the guy is behind the counter, talking to President Harry Truman, that is Eddie Jacobson, President Truman's partner in the haberdashery business after World War One.

This statement from the article sums up some of the thinking abroad in the land today:
Rule to live by, folks:  when your theory of how the world works starts sounding like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, it’s time to recheck those assumptions.
And a good rule it is.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Sure, the author and I have the same middle name, and thus I favor his opinions.
  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

PS:  To file under Lessons Learned. If you are trying to use the playing card symbol of "SPADE" for a footnote and you enter the code "& spades ;" (without the spaces), do not put the word "SPADES" in caps or what you get is the word "SPADES".

PPS:  As I was checking the links after publishing the post I noted the title is a play on words.  "Is This Lobby Different From All Others?"  It brings to mind the first question of the Passover Seder, "Why is this night different from all other nights?"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Out Back Question of the Week

Today, US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman, Ike Skelton, released a statement following the announcement by the House Appropriations Committee that it will not approve requests for earmarks that are directed to non-profit entities:
The House Armed Services Committee is committed to transparency and competition. As we enter the early stages of crafting the FY11 defense authorization bill, we will adjust our processes to reflect the earmark changes adopted by this Congress.
The question is fairly straight forward.  What does Chairman Skelton mean when he says this?

If you are looking for someone to call for a little help, try Ms Lara Battles or Ms Jennifer Kohl, down in DC, at (202) 225-2539.  (Initiative is usually rewarded.)


The HASC has sent out an update to their message, changing from non-profit to for-profit entities.  But we still wonder what Chairman Skelton actually meant by his announcement.

The new House intro statement:
Washington, D.C.— Today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) released the statement below following the announcement by the House Appropriations Committee that it will not approve requests for earmarks that are directed to for-profit entities:
Regards  —  Cliff

  (D-Mo), not that it makes a hill of beans of difference.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Climate Change

My Middle Brother, who comments here some times, sent along this item on Climate Change, which he had received from a friend. The source is the National Review.  The basic thrust of the article is that Climate Change has peaked in public interest and is now going to go down hill.

Maybe, maybe not.

Incidentally, this brother thinks that I am a climate change denier and that therefore I am morally corrupt.

My problem with the (non) debate so far has been over two items.  The first is that no one has had the vision to lay out what the future will be like, except to say it will be bad.  Bad like today, or bad like the partition of India or bad like 1946 or bad like 1918 or bad like 1350?  With all those models I would think that someone could put something up on the internet to help us get a sense of it.  Somewhere in the house I have a 1950s book and a simple circular slide rule to tell the effects of nuclear weapons.  Are we not at least that far along WRT climate change?

Second, I am nervous whenever there are dogmatic assertions of truth.  And maybe I am not alone.
Judith Curry, head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech and one of the few scientists convinced of the potential for catastrophic global warming who is willing to engage skeptics seriously, wrote February 24: “No one really believes that the ‘science is settled’ or that ‘the debate is over.’ Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda. There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements.”
Let me help out all those who think that a skeptic is the same as a denier.

I am open to the whole thing.  I am not convinced by former VP Al Gore. . I want some serious scientists and engineers to give me the puts and takes and to not just sum it up with a political agenda for taxing carbon.  I am better educated than that.  I don't want my science predigested for me.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Don't stare at the cartoon of former VP Al Gore.

Fox and Friends Error

Yesterday on "Fox and Friends", the weather guy, Steve Doocy, commenting on a story about an American al Qaeda member captured in Pakistan, said that it was good news that this person was captured in Pakistan, where they can use "enhanced" interrogation techniques.

I think Mr Doocy is wrong on a couple of counts, and sent him an EMail saying so.

First off, "enhanced" interrogation techniques are not as effective as straight interrogation, where questions are asked and answered checked.  This even works across cultures, as American interrogators learned in Viet-nam and Iraq.

Secondly, to have a national policy of eschewing enhanced interrogation and then to cheer someone being in the hands of those who use such techniques is hypocrisy (and this is even if you disagree with the current US rules). This hypocrisy is seen by others and is thus detrimental to our public diplomacy efforts.

That second point made, Pakistan is a sovereign nation and if they captured this person on their territory and kept him for themselves, then they get to use whatever technique they wish.  That is what sovereignty means.

But, we shouldn't be cheering it.  I expect better of Fox.

It was 24 hours ago that I sent Mr Doocy an EMail and I am still looking for an answer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, March 8, 2010

President Ahmadinejad Strikes Again

I expect we all known that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a denier of the Holocaust.

Now comes along the same President suggesting that 9/11 wasn't what it seemed to be.
The September 11 incident was a big fabrication as a pretext for the campaign against terrorism and a prelude for staging an invasion against Afghanistan.
The problem is, he might actually believe that, which will complicate developing international agreements with his nation over many issues.

And, he says this to Intelligence Ministry personnel during a meeting on Saturday last.  One wonders what the Iranian Intel types think of this.

But, our best bet still remains containment and evolution.  It worked, sort of, for the Soviet Union.  It should work in Iran also.  Which is a good reason for retaining nuclear weapons.  And a good reason for making efforts to help the Iranians understand the effects of nuclear weapons, even if we have to set up a nuclear weapons effects course for them in some obscure place, like Oberammergau.

Regards  —  Cliff

China Claims the Space Above

The world is always evolving, as people express their self-interests, and do so through their tribe or nation state.  Here is a comment from someone who follows Chinese affairs:
It is interesting to note that the Chinese are apparently at least exploring the idea of denying overflight rights by satellites.

This is not a formal declaration, at least not yet. On the other hand, it WOULD fit with Chinese writings about legal warfare. Thus, one could imagine them bandying and floating such ideas, and in event of a crisis, pushing the idea that one does NOT have the right to freely overfly (in space) another nation for the conduct of "unfriendly" acts such as espionage (i.e., intel-gathering).

A version of this is being pushed in Chinese actions towards ships like the USNS Impeccable and Victorious, which were operating in China's Exclusive Economic Zone but NOT their territorial waters.  According to the Chinese, such ships, engaging in espionage activities, are prohibited from operating in Chinese EEZ waters.  (This may also have been the basis for intercepting the EP-3, 9 years ago, leading to the aerial collision between a Chinese fighters and the US aircraft.  I don't recall off the top of my head.)
Since the US Senate hasn't ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, we don't have that forum in which to complain about China abusing its territorial limits.

Regarding space, physics being what it is, for Low Earth Orbit you eventually pass over every part of the earth.  I suspect that when the Chinese become more dependent on space their tune might change, but it is an interesting situation.  If China is going to claim that artificial space objects may not pass over China, and enforces it, space exploitation is basically over.  There goes everything but geosynchronous orbit items.  And geosynchronous is about communications and some weather watching.  Maybe some other systems is out there, but a quick Wikipedia search did not turn it up.

But, does this Chinese view conform with the Outer Space Treaty?  Probably not.

An interesting future is ahead for us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reconciliation and Filibuster

Here is Ezra Klein, of The Washington Post, explaining US Senate procedures for passing legislation, or at least part of the procedure.

Some of you will be happy to know that Mr Klein really stuck it to the Republicans over over-use of the Filibuster.

On the other hand, he also points out that the current limitations on "Reconciliation" are due to the Democratic members trying to get back at the Republicans for what they did during the Bush (44) Administration.

Regards  —  Cliff


It is blogged by the City Manager here and by Dick Howe here (nicer presentation of the slides).

To cut to the chase, in much of social science, including government, we lack the real data needed to make informed decisions.  But, we have to make decisions anyway, and often it is based upon our prejudices.  Getting more and better data is key to making better decisions and thus having more effective Government.  And maybe overcoming prejudices that misinform decisions.

Whether we cut taxes or redirect current revenues is a totally different issue.

My concern about CitiStat is that we will need someone with some initiative and intuition working the CitiStat program.  And, it will need to extend to cover all of City Government, including our schools.

That said, I support this initiative.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why Health Care is Important to Pres Obama

I used to live in Orange County, or rather, I was a registered voter in Orange County, as I travelled around the world.

Then I moved to Lowell, MA.  But, I still pay attention from time to time to what is happening in the Southland.

Here is an OpEd in the OC Register from Mark Steyn, on Health Care.  Mr Steyn lives in New Hampshire, but has a Canadian passport.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Europe and Libel

I am a big believer in free trade and free travel, a BIG believer.  I have lived in Europe for ten years, eleven if you include the UK as part of Europe, six and a half if you think Naples, Italy is not part of Europe.  But, I am moved to suggest we draw up the drawbridge.

Read this Blog Post on a libel suit in France.
On June 25, 2010, Professor Joseph Weiler, editor of the European Journal of International Law, will stand trial in a French criminal court for running a mildly negative book review on a journal-associated website.

The book in question is The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court by the Israeli law professor Dr. Karin N. Calvo-Goller.  According to the reviewer the main part of the book “simply restates the…relevant parts of the ICC Statute.”  This rehashing, he adds, is particularly unproductive since a large part of the volume consists of a reprint of the Statute itself.
You get a bad review and you sue for libel?  This is going too far.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Then we have an Italian Judge beating up on Google—not that I think Google is as ethical as it claims.  For those of you interested in the view from The New York Times, we have Ms Rachel Donadio's news report-cum-editorial.

While I think that Smoot Hawley gave us the "Great" in the Great Depression and that FDR only prolonged it, I am really prepared to entertain a suggestion for pulling up at least the electronic media draw bridge.  Trade barriers we can consider next.

Regards  —  Cliff