Friday, April 30, 2010

The Sun Here on Earth

From the blog of Law Professor Ann Althouse we have this CNN clip on nuclear fusion experiments.

I am doing this just to show that (1) I can link to a link to CNN and (2) because I think nuclear fusion will be very interesting if the folks at Lawrence Livermore can actually create a nuclear fusion event some time this year.  Up until now, here on earth, we have done nuclear fusion only with a nuclear reaction driving it, or so I understand.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Major Hasan and his Possible Punishment

The report is that the US Army will seek the death penalty for Major Nidal Hasan, the accused killer at Fort Hood, in Texas.  My understanding is that the Military uses lethal injection.

For the record, I am against the death penalty, except if we think some enemy agent has actionable intelligence that he or she might be able to pass to a confederate.  That position applies here.

On the other hand, a life sentence or series of life sentences will not be much comfort for Major Hasan, as he is, reportedly, paralyzed.  I say let him wait to meet his maker, allowing him time to consider his crimes, repent of his crimes and perhaps experience a form of metanoia.

And, there is always the possibility that he is criminally (or actually) insane, in which case the death penalty seems to represent an uncivilized reaction to his internal contradictions and distractions.

Some might think he should get the death penalty soon after a trial and conviction.  I would advise, given all the "Nazi" state talk WRT Arizona, that such an approach should be eschewed, as being too much like the trial and execution of the White Rose defendants and the 20 July conspirators.

Regards  —  Cliff

Strategy vs Regulation vs the Market

Strategy is about finding a way around constraints.  In military terms those constraints have to do with the political objectives chosen, the enemy and logistical constraints of all sorts.  The strategist is looking for ways to exploit opportunities to get around those constraints.  In the economic world and the world of finance it is still about looking for the edge.

Regulations are designed to prevent people from unfairly exploiting opportunities.  The thing about regulations is that there is always going to be someone looking for a way around them.  That is, right up to the point that regulations bring the market to a standstill.  In the mean time, the regulators will always be behind the smart men and women who are the strategists, the ones trying to find the holes in the regulations and the markets that they can squeeze through.

And, I think that is what Mr Paul Atkins is trying to say in today's Wall Street Journal.

As an aside, I am wondering if anyone has done any serious examination of the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Being down in the corporate trenches, my experiencer is that it has created a great big bureaucracy, but has not really increased transparency or honesty.  But, it has irritated the little folks who make the corporation run and made their life worse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Since this is in the context of the US economic system, I am going to assume that the US Congress is not going to be producing regulations that will distort the market to unduly favor one side over another or introduce corrupt practices.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Abuse of Illegal Immigrants

Yes, abuse of illegal immigrants and the denial of their rights is a hot issue these days.  It has even made the pages of The Washington Post.  Here is an article by AP reporter Mark Stevenson, Mexico acknowledges migrant abuse, pledges changes.

Of particular interest to me is this part of the article, talking to "Article 67 of Mexico's Population Law"
Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal ... are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues.
The article goes on to say the Interior Department acknowledges the problems and notes that the legislature is working to repeal what is obviously a law offensive to ....

What is not clear is whose Interior Department was being quoted, although I am guessing it is the Mexican Interior Department, under Mr Fernando Gómez-Mont.

IMHO there is a lot of misinformation about the new Arizona Immigration Law.  Now it appears that some who are throwing stones live in glass houses.  Others are just not getting their own work done.

I would like to note that the US Congress has failed in its responsibility to the Citizens of this nation with regard to immigration.&nbp; Not the Democrats or the Republicans, but the US Congress.  It is a single entity and has responsibilities as a single agency.  Laying the blame off on this party or that is a sign of leadership failure on the part of the US Congress.  Further, this is not about the President.  We have a powerful Congress and I think we should expect more out of them than we are getting.  Let us not hear that the 535 members of the US Congress are whinging about the President not leading.  I am betting that deep down inside most of those 535 men and women think they can do as good a job, if not better, than the President.  Always have and always will.  OK then, lets see some of that attitude in action.

I have recently been pretty busy and haven't been able to scan all the local blogs.  Has anyone talked about the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 10 - 3 WRT the new Arizona Law?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yard Sales

At last week's City Council meeting, one of the items entered, from the City Manager, was to add a new Ordinance, Section 185-10, on Yard Sales.  The idea was to deal with a problem of some people abusing their neighbors by having, instead of a periodic attic cleaning yard sale, almost weekly yard sales, turning it into an enterprise.  There have been complaints from neighbors who believe things have gone too far.

The idea was to limit Yard Sales to three a year and to charge a $5 fee for a permit, which would have to be obtained three days before the Yard Sale, from City Hall, during the normal work week.

Councillor Rita Mercier immediately reacted to this idea, noting that for an informal activity in one's own driveway this was a pretty formal regulation and an inconvenience to the householder, who normally works during the time City Offices are open so a permit can be obtained.  And, after a $5 fee for a yard sale the profit will go down and maybe bring into question the value of time invested in a yard sale, thus leading to treasures being put out on the curb as trash.  Then, she noted, there is the question of the "slippery slope", wherein this fee for doing something in your own yard leads to other permits and other fees.  If some doesn't like outdoor BBQ, are we going to see permits for these also?

I believe Ms Mercier is on the money with this one.  We do need to prevent people from abusing their neighbors by having a weekly flea market in their driveway, causing traffic problems weekend after weekend.  An ordnance that does limit the number of Yard Sales, or things of that ilk, per year, is a good idea.  Enforcing it by having the police pay attention seems reasonable to me.  The police helped along by interested neighbors.  But, let us not impose extra burdens on the citizenry as a whole in order to easy the job of those who might be enforcing this rule.

Regards  —  Cliff

Splitting the Tab

Ah, generalizations about groups are rampant.  This blog post is from Dr Helen, talking about splitting the bill when out for dinner, drinks or both.  Actually, she is linking to another location, The Advice Goddess, found here.

Note that Dr Helen is the wife of the Instapundit, law professor Glenn Reynolds.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why I Still Work

I am officially retired and at 68 should be enjoying the good life.  On the other hand, I miss the folks from work and the challenges of doing new things.  So, I work part time. Unfortunately, some at my age have to work to keep body and soul together.

Now comes the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, telling us we all need to work longer.  In the words of The Washington Post, the IMF has tough words for Western nations.
To keep the global economy on track, people in the United States and the rest of the developed world need to work longer before retiring, pay higher taxes and expect less from government.  And the cheap imports lining the shelves of mega-chains such as Wal-Mart and Target?  They need to be more expensive.
So, I am working part time, trying to do my bit.

But, the issue is, each of the Western nations is heading toward the kind of crisis Greece finds itself in right now.  The solution to Greece's problem seems to require the support of the other EU nations and it is not an easy answer.

So, still working seems to be the patriotic thing to do.

Regards  —  Cliff

  To get a sense of where Greece fits in the jigsaw puzzle, it has a population of around 11.3 million (Massachusetts has 6.6 million).  The Greek GDP is about $333.5 billion ($29,881 per capita).  In contrast, Massachusetts had an 2007 estimated GDP of $351 billion ($47,702 per capita).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona's New (Illegal) Immigration Law

It is official.  The Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, signed an immigration bill for her state.  The WashPost lede is:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed an immigration bill Friday that had been criticized hours earlier by President Obama as "misguided."
Well, we have been slow rolling this issue for a long time and it was bound to happen that one or another of the sovereign states would step up and take action to clean up our immigration mess, or more specifically our illegal immigration situation.

Illegal immigrants, maybe 12 million in all, are a part of our economy.  My buddy in Woodbridge recently built his vineyard with immigrant labor he picked up at the local 7/11 or some such hiring hall.  Like the legal immigrants in our nation, that are part of the warp and woof of our economy.  But, there are some issues we need to ask ourselves about:
  1. What do we owe to those people who have been waiting in their home nations for their number to come up so they can come to this nation and become a citizen?  The man who replaced me at DRC when I retired is now a US citizen with a Top Secret clearance, but I remember when he was sworn in (at Lowell Memorial Auditorium) as a US Citizen, having retired from the Dutch Air Force and settled in this country, legally.  I was the one who floated his resume when he joined us,  The job was for doing a terminology study and I was asked how a Dutch person could do something about English terminology.  I remember saying that since he was Dutch his English was probably better than ours.  This chap has done well for himself, for his company and for his adopted nation.  What if he hadn't gotten an invite to come to this nation.  I remember the problems my Granddaughter's boyfriend (now Husband) had getting his Green Card.  Also from the Netherlands.
  2. Are these "undocumented" immigrants here as economic visitors, earning money to send home or are they interested in joining us in our political process, a process that used to be seen as exceptional —American exceptionalism—although that is not a term much in favor these days.  This is an important point, and one that our citizenry has worried about since Ben Franklin expressed concern that with all the German immigrants we would end up switching from speaking English to speaking German.
  3. Closely allied with the second question is one about what cultural changes our 12 million illegal immigrants will bring to this nation.  Will we get the kind of political process that is closer to what is happening in Venezuela and Nicaragua?  What about Chile and Argentina?  Will the macho culture for which Latin America is famed impact our striving for equal rights for women (or what about our immigrant Muslim population and the view of the role and place of women in the minds of some from that culture).
  4. Do we know that all undocumented immigrants are coming here for the money?  How many are coming here because of the drug violence in their old neighborhood?  That raises the question as to what responsibility we have, as a nation and a citizenry, for encouraging that drug trade.  And we shouldn't fool ourselves by thinking that all that drug use is in the urban ghetto.  A lot of it is in middle class suburbia.
  5. Has anyone really done the sums on what it would take to deport 12 million people?  And, if they have thought about it, have they included the disruption that would occur when the children, fully US citizens (we are not like some other nations—here if you are born here you are one of us), while the parents are not?  And, who will do the jobs made vacant by sending illegal immigrants home?
  6. What are the long term consequences of actions such as amnesty?  If we wave a magic wand and make those 12 million illegal immigrants US citizens, will that just encourage millions more to slip across the border?
So, in the illegal immigrants we have the fact that we are dealing with real human beings, some of whom are parents of US citizens.  On the other hand we want this nation to continue to be a beacon of hope for those who believe in freedom and the opportunity to strike out and try something new.  In that belief, we don't wish to prevent those who wish to join us from coming here because someone else jumped the queue and we don't want to see the nation change so it is no longer the "city on the hill" that we have talked about in the past.  What to do?

There are no easy answers out there.  People might think there are easy answers (a) send them all home or (b) give everyone amnesty.  Both remind me of the comment by Reporter H.L. Mencken that:  "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple—and wrong.

Sadly, I don't think either party in the US Congress, or Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist, are going to come up with a good solution to this problem and so we can expect more Southern Border States to take action to deal with the costs and consequences of illegal immigration.  The President agrees, having noted today that if the US Congress fails to act other states besides Arizona will act.

But, so I don't sign off without any suggestions, let me propose that part of the solution could be helping the United Mexican States become more prosperous and better governed.  Part of that solution might be a new "Marshall Plan", focused on Mexico.  Another part might be to change the game with regard to drugs, making them no longer a path to easy money and the perversion of law enforcement and justice.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I just heard the President, on Television, say 11 million, but I am sticking with an even dozen.
  Frankly, fixing the drug issue, moving to become the drug wars, would be good for this nation if there were no illegal immigrants.

Getting Into College

Law Professor Paul L Caron has a short review on the book The Price of Admission.  The book basically says that the odds are stacked against you for admission to an "elite" college or university if you aren't a legacy, have money or participate in a "patrician" sport.

I used to think that "elite" schools were overrated.  Neither of my brother went to an elite college and neither did I.  I was just glad to get in somewhere.  My wife graduated from Purdue, as did her brother and both parents.  I admit that I was impressed by that.  With the recent presidential campaign and the way former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin got kicked around for having gone to a couple of no-name schools, I am now not so sure.

Interesting little note.  OxBridge no longer gives special consideration to legacy applicants.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit.  Since this is Law Professor to Law Professor, do you think there is fee splitting going on here? :-)

  I am borrowing this term from radio personality George Anthes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

River Road

Having been working out of State for some time, trying to take River Road to the DRC Mothership in Andover was a renewed adventure for me.  On Tuesday morning I wasn't even sure it was open.  I was very pleasantly surprised by the reconstruction and resurfacing after the torrential rains had washed away part of the road.  A quick response and a good one, it seems to me.

Regards  —  Cliff

RMV Works

I just registered one of our cars on line and it was a snap.  Some parts of Government seem to be working pretty well.  Kudos to the Web Master at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Globe Doesn't Get It

Yesterday, several days after the Republican Party State Convention in Worcester, The Boston Globe published an ill-informed and slanted editorial about the event.  In the interest of full disclosure, I was an elected delegate to that convention but could not attend in as much as I was out of state on business.
A LITTLE bit of democracy died at Saturday’s state Republican convention in Worcester, right alongside the gubernatorial hopes of businessman Christy Mihos. GOP insiders snuffed out both, when they made sure that Mihos fell short of the 15 percent needed to make the primary ballot.
Not likely.

So, my understanding of what the Globe editorial writer was trying to say was that the rank and file wanted Christy Mihos, but some Party Apparatchiks snuffed out his chances.

This shows a terrible lack of understanding of the State Republican Party on the part of the staff at The Globe.  And, what might be called willful ignorance about businessman Christy Mihos.  Mr Mihos left the Republican Party for the last Gubernatorial Race.  Why should he be welcomed back with open arms?  Quick answer is there is no reason and he thus needs to spend some more time doing penance for his action back then.

But, more strange is the fact that The Globe actually thinks that there is this strong center in the Republican Party, making the delegates toe the line. For my part, while I find our own State Committee Woman, Susan Slade, interested in educating us about what the Party wants, I also don't find her driving the agenda of the Lowell Republican City Committee or Ward 1.  I checked with my boss at work, who lives in a different county and has a different State Committee Woman.  He too believes that the views of the local people outweighed the opinions of the Party Apparatchiks.

The other thing that interested me was the last paragraph.
Perhaps, but [Democratic Party State Chairman John] Walsh and his Republican counterparts should make that sentiment the rule, and do away with the requirement that candidates need 15 percent to make the ballot.
So, it is to be a free-for-all and there will be no criteria for putting people on the ballot?  That seems to be the Globe way.

I offer a different approach.  Let us get the State Government out of primaries and have the parties pay for primary elections.  Primaries are about the parties.  Allowing others to vote in the Party Primary dilutes the value of being part of the Party.  If they can't afford it, and I suspect that the Republican Party cannot, then we can go with caucuses and conventions.

Maybe, if The Globe actually knew something about the Republican Party in the Commonwealth, and not just the State Committee, it could write better editorials.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Following Threads

There is the theory out there that Former President Bill Clinton was warning the Tea Party folks that they could be creating the next Tim McVeigh, which capitalized on the fact that yesterday was the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  Here is a hot debate on the topic of Oklahoma City and its cause from the Ann Althouse blog.  Frankly, I was surprised that this showed up on the Law Professor's blog, but she links to Law Professor Eugene Volokh's blog, Kenneth Anderson being the author of this particular post.

This is a real knock down drag out take no prisoners battle on the Althouse Blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Wild Life

I thought that this was an interesting advertisement.  I think this is the nut company—that is the company that stocks nuts on the shelves at Hannaford's store on Route 38.  It is, of course, a play on words and a good use of a fancy paint job.

For those whose eyesight is declining, the words on the door say "Health's Angel".

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Blog Too Long

A recent post on the Tea Party Movement was meant to elicit some discussion of how the central core of the Tea Party Movement seemed to be like the basic thrust of Rerum Novarum, published 15 May 1891.  For me, one of the big takeaways of Rerum Novarum is the idea of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the idea that no higher or larger level organization should take action or make decisions when some smaller unit of organization is perfectly capable of doing the job itself.

I will try to be briefer in the future.

Regards  —  Cliff

Herman Wouk on Mathematics

I have always liked Herman Wouk's work as a novelist.  Here is an extract from his latest work, The Language God Talks: On science and religion.  I liked the discussion of meeting with Richard Feynman and the issue of the development of nuclear weapons.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hit tip to Instapundit.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Conventional Arms Control

A friend of mine sent me a link to an interview with Mr Dudley Brown, Executive Director of the National Association for Gun Rights.  In the video Mr Brown was discussing the threat of a United Nations gun ban and its implication for the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.  Mr Brown is concerned that a UN treaty will impact US gun rights.

Yesterday I was at a Conference where a group of historians talked about the consequences for and reactions of nations experiencing existential defeat in war.  I had lunch with two people I had met at the conference, one of whom is a Government Civil Servant working for the Department of State in the area of conventional arms control.

Even before seeing the clip with Mr Brown I knew that there were concerns about UN agreements and so I asked my lunch parter about this, given that he is working on a treaty on conventional arms control.  He said to me that part of his job is to make sure no treaty treads on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.  He described it as a "Red Line" issue.  This gentleman left no doubt in my mind that the treaty he is working on in Foggy Bottom is not seen as, nor in fact is, an end run on our Gun Rights.

I felt a lot better about this issue after lunch.

Regards  —  Cliff

  A section of NW Washington, including the Department of State.

Roots of the Tea Party

Over at Reason Blog site we have this post that ends up with a video clip of President Bill Clinton talking to Reporter Wolfe Blitzer about people out there who are "less stable".  In the clip the former President draws attention to the Oklahoma City bombing, apparently suggesting that the "Tea Party" movement could stir up another such action.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are people on the fringes of the Tea Party movement who are kookie and even one or two who might be prone to violence, but in fact we have not seen such people in action.  And, they are on the fringes of every movemkent.  Yesterday I was at an academic conference on the consequences of military defeat for the loser and one of the attendees was a person who works at a law firm as a clerk and hopes to one day be a lawyer.  His hobby horse was that the way to bring peace is to put a stop to state owned enterprises, which are a source of conflict in the world (his focus being mainland China).

Yes, there is the fringe and always has been.  Heck, back in 1970 a PhD researcher I had previously met was killed when some people, still walking the streets (and advising the president), stirred up four students at the University of Wisconsin, who then planted a bomb that blew up a building at the University.  The bomb killed the person I knew person and injured another.  But, that is not a reason to end political discourse.

Back to the Tea Party itself, if we wish to talk about the focus, the centroid of the Tea Party movement, we could do no better than go back and read Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, which also touches on the role of the individual and the state (government).  It is a very short little pamphlet, which I just skimmed through, again, this morning.

I will grant you the language is a little dated, but the author, Count Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, was actually born 200 years ago this last month.  In the pamphlet the Count makes the point for the principle of subsidiarity, which is the basic point being made by the majority of the people who turn out for Tea Party rallies.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Are vests back?
  Granted, the EU, which is cited in the Wikipedia article, doesn't come across as really embodying the principle of subsidiarity.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tea Baggers Advert

If I were as smart as Law Professor Ann Althouse I would embed this YouTube Video, rather than linking to her blog.  I am not.

Remember, there is a Tea Party rally tomorrow down by Lowell City Hall.

Regards  —  Cliff

"You're doing a heck of a job..."

Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on a coming physician deficiet:  "Diagnosis for the doctor deficit".

Then, yesterday, The Wall Street Journal had an article with a map of physicians per 1,000 people, by state.  For the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the number is pretty good.  More than 1.5.

But, looking to the south and west, it is not so good.  Further, in some of those states the population is spread out and thinner, so there is more travel for the person or the physician.  For Massachusetts there are 809.2 people per square mile.  For Idaho there are 15.64 people per square mile.  While Maine has the same number of doctors per 1,000 people, they have only 14.3 people per square mile.

The question we should all be asking ourselves is why this is all of a sudden news?  Why did our Representatives and Senators not recognize and talk about this before they voted for the Health Insurance Reform Bill that President Obama signed?  This should not have been a surprise to those who were at least reasonably well informed.  On the one hand we have been having a bit of a shortage of Primary Care Providers (PCP) for a while now.  My PCP told me that Lowell is below the recommended number.  And this is not just about Democrats.  Where were the Republicans to warn us about this?

The problem is compounded by the fact that we don't all have the same common understanding about health.  Some of us don't understand about how the medical system works and what we should be doing about getting shots and visiting our physician from time to time for a checkup.  Some of us don't understand about taking medicine until the pills are gone, rather than until you start to feel better.  And going to a PCP when something first shows up, rather than going to the Emergency Room when it gets bad.  And, the common wisdom that you can catch things in a hospital, which you might not pick up in your PCP's office.

So, could we have done something about this by legislation?  I would think so.  What about providing education benefits via the US Public Health Service and having graduate Physicians, Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practioners pay back by working in areas where PCPs are in short supply?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 12, 2010

Virginia and the Past

Marie Sweeney, blogging over at the Dick Howe blog, had a post on Virginia trying to make April Confederate History Month.

I think it is a topic worth more comments, so I commend it to you.  Commenting over there is not dangerous.  I know of no one who has been permanently maimed by posting a comment.

I am not particularly impressed with the idea of "Confederate History Month".  On the other hand, we do need to come to some accommodation with our past—and not the one that existed as the old soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy passed on to their just reward.  In its way it was healing, but it had segregation as its background.  But, how do we understand the Civil War today?  And what do we think of the side that lost the war, but won the peace, twice; first after reconstruction and then again after segregation ended and more and more people moved to the Old South for work and the weather.

Regards  —  Cliff


This is just plan fun for some of us and stupid for the rest.  And, most of the talking is in German.  But, talking isn't necessary.

This is about using construction machines to do stunts.

And I can't remember who sent this to me.

Regards  —  Cliff

Driving in Other Places

Recently someone I know from the Internet was sent to the NATO Defense College, in Rome.  He had to go to see a physician and asked an Italian classmate to take him—the friend being an Italian fighter pilot.  They went by motorcycle and it was an interesting experience, which reminded me of a paper that a couple of Brits wrote while living in Naples, "Sex and the Italian Driver."  I mentioned this and a third party found it on line—soon everything will be on line.

This paper, from about 1977, can be found here.

Minus the sketches and with the location shifted from Naples to Rome (and a typo where chasm is spelled spasm) it is the very one. The reason for Chasm is that back in about 1976 the Domitiana, the road Paul walked from Pozzuoli (home of Sophia Loren) to Rome 2000 years ago (and not much improved since), had a deep hole open one day. It was in front of Michangelo's Pizza Parlor, the best pizza place in the world at the time. It seems that water running underground had leached out the earth on its way to the Med and there was a several hundred foot hole that opened in a rain storm. My wife actually came up on a stopped Italian Driver before the hole and whipped around him and saw that there was a hole in the lane toward Naples. When she came back from Naples the road was closed and stayed closed for months. People were diverted and some enterprising folks took it as an opportunity to rob some American wives on these more remote roads, until the police stepped in.

The best part of driving in Naples was "Chicken Corner.   This is where the Domitiana came up the hill out of Naples and carrying traffic from the NATO AFSOUTH Headquarters and turned left to go north to Rome or crested and went down hill to the US Naval Support Activity.  The fourth option was down hill to the right, toward a hotel.  No traffic control devices.  You came up the hill and backed off on the gas, but only a small fraction of a second and then gunned it. An American wife driving a station wagon could be stuck there for several minutes, since everyone else thought they could bluff her and were willing to try.  I know it sounds sexist, but remember, it is all about one's manhood, or at least it was in the day—before they put in traffic control devices and made it a wretched intersection.  On the other hand, I don't think anyone ever bluffed out my wife when she was driving the Morgan Plus 4.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

With the end of the cold war, some 20 years ago, retired Army Colonel and strategic thinker Harry Summers wrote an OpEd somewhere that struck me as putting forward the proposition that with the abolition of nuclear weapons the world would once again be safe for conventional warfare.

With the the signing of the latest US-Russian agreement on nuclear weapons, and President Obama's recent statement of US Policy toward nuclear use, we may be moving toward making the world safe for conventional warfare.

Now comes retired Army artillery officer and current Methodist Minister with a reminder of what the abolition of nuclear weapons might mean.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Author of On Strategy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spelling Test

The last post was based upon an EMail from my youngest son.  This post is based upon an EMail from my middle brother, Lance.  Lance knows that I am a terrible speller and that I am involved in my local Tea Party.  He disapproves of both, so he enjoyed sending me a URL that points out that (some) Tea Party members are terrible spellers.

I guess I am right at home in the Tea Party, given my spelling skills.

And thank God for spell checkers.

Regards  —  Cliff

Did You Like Tetris?

Tetris Hell.

Note that the linked site may have content which could offend, as it clearly states.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tea Party Membership, Part II

Can you be Black and enjoy a Tea Party?

And tell me that this quote is wrong.  Clarence Page:  “President Barack Obama’s election has inspired a record number of African-American candidates to run for Congress this year.  What’s surprising is that they’re running as Republicans.”

Regards  —  Cliff

Hat tip to Instapundit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You Can't Legislate Morality

Yesterday My brother Lance referenced the NPOESS,, which has just been cancelled.  This is the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, and thus the acronym, although I am not sure NPOESS qualifies as a "word".  Maybe "N pose", as in a corrupt pronunciation of impose.

There are two lessons to be drawn here.

The first is that it isn't just the DoD that can't bring big programs in on time and under budget.  The rough rule of thumb is there are three things:  schedule, cost and performance and you can have any two, but not all three.

The second is more important as the US Congress promises to reform government acquisition.  You can't legislate morality.  I have been hearing that old saw for as long as I can remember.  If that is true, why do we think we can make government acquisition fair and pure by adding up laws?

In the article linked to above you can see one of my favorite bloggers cited.
According to University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, who blogs as “Instapundit”, there are more than 50,000 pages of federal laws and 161,117 pages of federal regulations.
My younger brother, John Krieger, and an associate, John Pritchard, two years ago, took a golf ball and started adding a Band Aid each time a new law was passed or a new rule added and within a year it was the size of a regulation hardball and now is approaching softball size.  There is an article in the National Contract Management Association magazine, but they lock their website down to paying members only.  If I find a no-cost access, I will post it.

If we want to reform government acquisition we need to reduce the number of rules, agree that people will make mistakes, find some reasonable sanctions short of firing for mistakes as opposed to fraud and provide more education for the workforce and more authority at lower levels.  Then sit back and see if this isn't better.  The system doesn't improve by tying the hands of college educated folks trying to do their job.  Sure, there will be the odd person who will abuse their position, but the current system isn't preventing that outcome.  It is time to try something new, like creating space for creativity and responsibility in the contracts writing and administrating work force.

In the mean time, better information for understanding our environment will be delayed.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Lance, embedded like this, where you see a word or a few words and the link is hidden underneath them.
  I remember an incident went I was working Research and Development (R&D) procurement at Eglin AFB.  I made a bone-headed mistake and, I am assuming, one of the two companies competing for the work (and it wasn't a lot of work) complained to the SES who watched over contracting efforts.  Mr Gartner called me into his office, told me I had done wrong and then sent me back upstairs to do better.  Back in the day one learned from one's mistakes and while the ASPR as it was known, was large, it wasn't what the FAR is today.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Climate Change

Here is an eight part discussion of Climate Change in the German Magazine Der Spiegel, translated into English.

This article looks at the current uproar over Climate Gate, from a European perspective, and talks about the future of the planet and uses places in Germany as examples.

I got this from my Middle Brother, Lance, who forwarded it in an EMail from a friend of his.  My Brother thinks that I am a climate Denier, and thus am guilty of not properly discerning the signs of the times.

Actually, I am a skeptic, based upon the fact that I have not seen a lot of data on the way various rates of change in the climate will impact the planet and because of the way climate scientists have acted in a very unscientific way, playing close hold with their data and resisting those with alternative views.  I guess it has been ever such—there is a prevailing scientific view and changing it is a lot of hard work.  Look at the simple issue of doctors washing their hands.  It took years for the prevailing wisdom to move to hand washing as the way to go.  Not accepted until after the death of its strong advocate, Ignaz Semmelweis.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jobs Returning from Overseas?

This is old news, but my excuse is that it took me a while to find it again, after I first saw it.

This report suggests that the economics of manufacturing AND delivery is causing some companies to rethink their decisions with regard to "off shoring".

Perhaps, if we want to bring jobs back to the US, the Federal and State Governments should be focusing on infrastructure and simplification of rules and regulations.

If we accept that the days of the UAW riding high may be over and scope down our expectations a tad (having grown up in the 1940s and 50s my goal was to some day earn $10,000 a year) we can again have good, solid manufacturing jobs.  That said, with jobs coming back, unions could again grow in size and responsibility and partner with management.  At the same time, manufacturing executives need to accept that they are not going to be the next Bill Gates, compensation wise.  Going along with that would be a recognition that not every smart manager is a smart manager.  If author Nassim Taleb is to be believed, a lot of times successful managers are just folks who have caught a long run of luck.

Put another way, if we are all willing to share and share alike we can have a bigger pie overall.


Regards  —  Cliff

  For example, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and Fooled by Randomness:  The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Parents and Education

I am one of those who believes parents are key to educating their children.  A few kids are self-starters, but I bet even young Abe Lincoln needed a little bit of encouragement from his parents.

So, I was in strong agreement with Derrick Z Jackson's OpEd in today's Boston Globe, "Bring in the Parents".
Last year, researchers at the Harvard School of Education said, “efforts to include family involvement in children’s learning and development at home have always been, at best, on the distant margins of educational policy.’’

This is true despite years of data — not to mention common sense — indicating that when parents reinforce high expectations, bug their kids about homework, take an interest in their school life and use family time for learning experiences, their children end up more engaged and more successful.  “It’s no one big thing,’’ Heather Weiss, the director of the Harvard Family Research Project, told me.  “It’s years of those little things from the parent that reinforce to the child that if you want to have a good life, this is what you must do.’’
And, I suspect we may be in a bit of a downward spiral in that young men and, especially, young women who leave school before getting that high school diploma may have not had good parental coaching and perpetuate that with their own children.

On the other hand, we don't need a nanny state sticking its nose into every household across the fruited plain.  We need to be creative about this, but we do need to take action to engage parents.

This is probably a long range program, and as Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Research Project says, it is the little things.  The other day my wife was in the Post Office and noted two immigrant mothers talking to their child.  One was using English and the other what one would assume was the native tongue.  The first mother was giving her child a small leg up in the competition to finish high school, go to college and move into the Middle Class.

Maybe local communities should be catching the ones who drop out of high school and placing them in alternate programs that include part time work and a focus on the basics of reading, writing and math, along with parenting skills.

We need to be doing research and experimentation.  For sure, we have taken the current education paradigm about as far as it will go and now we need a new paradigm.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, April 2, 2010

If Only

I just get in from Philly, but part of that is due to taking my wife out to dinner as thanks for her driving down to New Haven, CT, from Lowell, to pick me up at the train station.  The reason my wife picked me up in New Haven is that Amtrak is not going all the way to the Route 128 and Boston stations.  And, the reason for that is that Rhode Island is water logged and since Thursday Amtrak has not been pushing trains east towards Providence.  Actually, the track near Kingston, RI, is under water, per Amtrak.

On the other hand, the company lawyer noted:
Rhode Island would be OK if Buddy Cianci was still running the show!
I laughed out loud at that line when I read it in an EMail a minute ago.

The fact is, the train, like the airplane and the ship, is subject to the whims of weather.  Maybe not as sensitive as an airplane (for example, the theory amongst older pilots that there is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime), but still, when the water comes up it can be a problem.

On today's Acela, one passenger said her son had seen on the WWW that Amtrak doesn't expect to restore service until the 15th of April—a half a month.  But, having just checked the Amtrak webpage, all I can see is through Sunday, the fourth.  In the mean time some trains are being pushed through Springfield, MA, and then on down.

As an aside, when we showed up at the Route 128 station to retrieve my car, the person taking money for parking told me that some people had been paying $300.00 to get there by cab from New Haven.  That is a pretty nice piece of change for someone traveling for pleasure or business.  On the other hand, I got $60 knocked off my ticket by Amtrak as a refund for not getting me all the way to Route 128.

At least I am hope safe and sound and got to spend some time with my wife on the highway.

Regards  —  Cliff