Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

There has been much talk about the President not being at Arlington Cemetery on this Memorial Day.  This commentary misses the mark.  President Lincoln captured the point:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
There is much hallowed ground, from American cemeteries in Europe to American cemeteries in the Pacific.  My wife's late husband, Lieutenant Robert Harlan, lies in the waters off the coast of Okinawa, swallowed by the Pacific in a peacetime training accident—but a peacetime accident on the 179th day of a 90 day deployment of his F-4 squadron to Okinawa to replace an F-102 squadron that had deployed to Southeast Asia, as part of our commitment to the Republic of Viet-nam.  Hallowed water, hallowed ground.

There is my roommate from my first year at the Air Force Academy, Alan Trent, who died in an F-4D crash in Southeast Asia.  His body was never recovered.  Funnily enough, I drove past his childhood home town, Wadsworth, Ohio, on the way out to the Dayton area to visit my daughter.

There are so many opportunities to honor those who have given the last full measure, from Valley Forge to Arlington—any Arlington, in any State—and a hundred thousand other places.  I lived for seven years in Dumfries, Virginia.  During the run-up to the Battle of Gettysburg, Union Cavalry were stationed there.  The Union forces then moved west and north, as General Lee's Confederate forces moved west and then north from Fredericksburg, a little ways south, on the other side of the Rappahannock River.  I expect that Union troops may have traversed the area of my home from time to time.

There is much hallowed ground.

Regards  —  Cliff

Al Haig Reprise.

Saying you are in charge can get you in trouble.  Think of the late Secretary of State Al Haig saying that he was in charge after President Reagan was shot.  He was doing the right thing.  The Vice President was out of town and Secretary Haig wanted to send a signal around the world that US Government had not broken down as a result of the assassination attempt.

Now we have The New York Times saying "White House Struggles as Criticism on Leak Mounts.

The dollar quote is from Ms Carol M. Browner, the Administrations energy adviser (and President Clinton's head of the EPA):
“This is obviously a difficult situation,” Ms. Browner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “but it’s important for people to understand that from the beginning, the government has been in charge.”
Being "in charge" is not the solution to anything.

Going back to my days at a lieutenant, flying in the Pit of the Old F-4, I remember when I wrote up the radar fire control system of a particular aircraft three times in a row—twice on one day and again the next morning.  The maintenance crews were as frustrated as I was.  After the second write-up I asked the Master Sergeant to call me at the the building we were staying (we were on a deployment) if he got another CND—Can Not Duplicate.  He didn't.  He later said that they had been told not to bother the aircrews during "crew rest".  (Actually, this is a good rule.)

After the third session we cut a deal.  I got in the front seat and the technician got in the back seat and I cranked up the airplane and put it on internal power.  Sure enough, after he turned on the radar and starting doing the BIT Checks (Built in Test) he saw the same errors I had.  Turned out that the Dash 60 External Power Unit they were using for electrical power while doing maintenance was the problem piece of equipment.  It was out of calibration.

Problem solved by cooperation between the operators and the maintainers.  I would be looking for Ms Browner to tell me how the Government and BP are cooperating, not to tell me who is in charge.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Religion is a strange thing.  It gives us a sense of reality about an otherwise senseless universe.  But, it can come in all sorts of versions, from the simplicity of the followers of Menno Simons to the Thuggee followers of the Goddess Kali.  In its own way, Atheism is a religion, a way of understanding existence.

Recently I have seen a number of discussions of the narcotics traffickers and their own brand of religion.  Some of this might well be the echo chamber effect, but I have no doubt about it being a real cultural factor in the criminal organizations that are involved in narcotics smuggling.  The Small Wars Journal had a recent article on this issue, titled "The Spiritual Significance of ¿Plato O Plomo?".
Conventional wisdom holds that narco gang and drug cartel violence in Mexico is primarily secular in nature.  This viewpoint has been recently challenged by the activities of the La Familia cartel and some Los Zetas, Gulfo, and other cartel adherents of the cult of Santa Muerte (Saint Death) by means of religious tenets of ‘divine justice’ and instances of tortured victims and ritual human sacrifice offered up to a dark deity, respectively.  Severed heads thrown onto a disco floor in Michoacan in 2005 and burnt skull imprints in a clearing in a ranch in the Yucatán Peninsula in 2008 only serve to highlight the number of such incidents which have now taken place.  Whereas the infamous ‘black cauldron’ incident in Matamoros in 1989, where American college student Mark Kilroy’s brain was found in a ritual nganga belonging to a local narco gang, was the rare exception, such spiritual-like activities have now become far more frequent.
In hearing this we should not panic.  Neither should we assume that it is not a big deal.  Change is sweeping Latin America and some of it is good, but some of it is bad.  We are paying for our focus on Europe (and Asia) and for our neglect of Latin America.  Part of this neglect I do attribute to the actions of Osama bin Laden, who did grab our attention on 9/11.

But, having quickly reviewed our past neglect, I hasten to suggest we need present action.  Further, given that the survival of the narco-gangs is in large measure the result of our desire for and, at the same time, criminalization of drugs, the problem is in our hands.  If we don't fix this we will both strengthen the criminal gangs and decrease, over the longer run, our own civil liberties.  Thus, the first step in my plan to deal with illegal immigration is to bring illegal drugs into the free market.  Such drugs should be regulated, as we regulate tobacco and alcohol, and there should be rules about use of such drugs and conducting business that impacts the public.

The short article finishes up with this paragraph:
Honest men are increasingly accepting bribes and embracing criminality over certain death, in some instances, along with the threat of the infliction of torture.  Such is the reality of day-to-day life in many of the sovereign free and cartel controlled zones that now exist in Mexico and Central America.  Who can say if those who are willing to compromise their values—and in a sense have already darkened their souls—are not willing to complete the transformational process taking place and accept criminally derived forms of spirituality and religion into their hearts?  In the war over social and political organization now raging in the Americas, we must expect and prepare for these and other such contingencies.
The authors advocate that we need to be thinking about "the war over social and political organization now raging in the Americas."  Darn tootin'.

Hat tip to Chicago Boyz.

Regards  —  Cliff

An Army at Dawn

Driving cross country, from Lowell to Beaver Creek, Ohio, I listened to the CD (Abridged) version of Rick Atkinson's for of three books on the US Army in World War II, An Army at Dawn:  The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, Volume One of the Liberation Trilogy. (This is available not just in CD, but in paperback and on the Kindle.)

The next in the series, and available in CD, and in my hands, is The Day of Battle:  The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (Liberation Trilogy).  The third book in the trilogy has not been mentioned, at least not in Wikipedia.

Like most audio books, it doesn't have all the words of the original.  On the other hand, the story hung together. One of the things I expect was missing was more detail and the air and naval war that was required to be fought and won if the ground forces were to succeed.  Neither then Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Tedder nor Admiral Andrew Cunningham got much time in the story.  Both commanded resources critical to success.  Further, we missed the important quote from Admiral Cunningham when he was told he was risking his ships to rescue British troops from Crete:  "It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition."  I believe this omission is partly because Americans don't understand the Mediterranean Command Relations before TORCH and Eisenhower.  Before the arrival of the Americans, Tedder, Cunningham and Claude Auchinleck/Harold Alexander were all "Commanders-in-Chief", reporting separately and directly to the War Cabinet in London.

I thought the book told the story as I understood it, and provided those nice parts that help us to understand that battle is about men growing into their places.  A number of the passages helped me to understand individuals in terms of where they came from, what they did, and in some cases, where they went from North Africa.  My oldest son, John,, when we discussed the book on the phone this Friday last, mentioned that he thought the scholarship was as good as (Carlo) d'Este's.  Mr Atkinson did pick up a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for An Army at Dawn.

I especially liked the detailed description of General Mark Clark sneaking ashore in Algeria to meet with Vichy General Charles Emmanuel Mast—Operation FLAGPOLE.  US Consul General (and OSS Agent) Robert Murphy was on the shore, making the arrangements.  The meeting was at the Villa Teyssier, some 60 miles west of Algiers.

The Clark party was delivered off shore by HMS SERAPH, a RN submarine commanded by LT Norman Limbury Auchinleck Jewell.  Using collapsible boats, the team quickly rowed ashore and were met by Consul General Murphy.  The landing was on 20 October 1942 and the meetings with the French started the 23rd and continued until a tip was received saying the French Police were enroute.  The first effort to get the party off shore was frustrated by high surf, but eventually the wind died down and the party made it back to HMS SERAPH on 25 October.

One of the nice things about the book is how the author helps us see the US Army growing, and the rejection it received after its initial efforts showed that it still had a lot to learn.  The story also tells us how General Dwight David Eisenhower grew into the position of Joint Force Commander.  This is not to say he lacked the background, but to say that running an alliance and keeping it working militarily, without pinching the toes of subordinates, is a very exacting task, and that is just with the British and the Americans.  Throw in the French and it becomes a major challenge.

On a side note, Blogger has suggested I ease my research by signing up for Amazon as an advertiser.  This notice came after my last book report.  Here is their pitch.  Does anyone have an opinion about whether a simple Lowell blogger should be associating with the likes of Amazon on his blog, and even risk earning pennies if some blog reader actually bought a book off the blog?

Regards  —  Cliff

  My oldest, John, is a graduate of James Madison, with a history major.  On the other hand, my youngest son, the lawyer, is a graduate of George Mason, also in Virginia, with a degree in Computer Science.  I have to be careful not to confuse the two schools when I am talking to either of my two sons.  The fact that my Daughter also has a Masters Degree in Computational Sciences and Informatics, Computational Statistics track, from George Mason helps me keep it straight.
  I expect to hear about HMS SERAPH in the next volume, as the submarine participated in Operation MINCEMEAT.

This Could Be Bad News

From The Wall Street Journal comes this appreciation of the situation on Wall Street.

This is the kind of news that could get people selling.

Hat tip to Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

Different Parish, Some Same Problems

I went to Mass Saturday evening at St Henry Parish, in Dayton, Ohio.

I asked an Usher about St Henry and he said he was an Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, a long ways back.  (Not quite as exciting as if he had been Saint Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, who is much honored in Finland.)

At the beginning of Mass I was a bit concerned that I had stumbled into some High Church Episcopal service or some Eastern Right Church.  The reason for my concern was that they sang all THREE versus of the Processional Hymn.  But, things went along according to the rubrics and later the organist assured me that it was a real Roman Catholic Mass.

Just before beginning the Consecration, Father Tom Shearer invited some parishioners to move to other seats. It seemed a ceiling light was acting funny.  During the previous choir practice a light had burned out and exploded and the remnants had burned a hole in the rug.  So, like the Immaculate in Lowell, St Henry's is having problems with its ceiling.

A fairly modern church, the lighting is 30 years old and the bulbs burn hot.  More interesting, replacement bulbs are now made in Viet-nam.  More important, the quality control is not consistent.  So, the parish is going to undertake a repair of its ceiling.  At least they are not also dealing with a leaky roof.

My take was that there were about 250 people at the Mass.  Holy Communion was served under both species.

The homily was about two things.  The first was that the Holy Trinity (this being Trinity Sunday) is a mystery and that trying to explain a mystery is near on impossible.  The second part was the changes to the mass coming with the new Roman Missile.  This new Order of the Mass will be implement in late 2011, but Fr Shearer is beginning the introduction of the new order early.  One of his points was that while this is "change" it is an opportunity to increase one's own spiritual devotion.  He noted that he had initially resisted the idea of more changes, but then decided that he could grow in holiness by using this as an opportunity for such growth.

If you clicked on the first link you saw that the Parish has a great web page, including each Sunday Bulletin provided in Adobe Acrobat format.  The web mater is also the music leader.

I like visiting new Parishes, but I promise, Jimmy, that I will be back in Lowell to be able to help count money on the 6th of June, the 62nd Anniversary of D-Day for OVERLORD.  I will not, however, be there at H-Hour for the landing, but will be there for H-Hour for counting.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Troublesome Young Men

Writer Lynne Olson tells us about British Government during the 1930s and in particular the period 1938 and 1939, when Tory rebels were trying to bring down the Tory Prime Minister, Mr Neville Chamberlain.  The book, Troublesome Young Men:  The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England can be found on Amazon.

Here it is, the British upper crust in all its glory, with all its foibles and sensibilities and understanding of what it means to be free and English Speaking—and with the sexual morals of ally cats.

The focus of the book is the greatest drama of the last Century, when the appeasement oriented Neville Chamberlain ruled the Tory Party and British Government will a tighter rein that Mr Hitler ruled Germany.
In early 1939, Leslie Hore-Belisha, the secretary of war, told a Times correspondent that the "Conservative party machine is even stronger than the Nazi party machine.  It may have a different aim, but is similarly callous and ruthless.  It suppresses anyone who does not toe the line."  (Page 160)
With a blind eye to what was going on in Africa and Europe, Mr Chamberlain blundered ahead, thinking that he could see into Mr Hitler's soul and come to an understanding with him.  In so thinking he missed the little corner that thought that the Germans, to get the grain and living space they needed, might have to kill or force into exile some 42 million people to the East.

Opposed to the Neville Chamberlain juggernaut was Winston Churchill and a small band of Tories who thought that war was coming and that England was not ready.  This was discussed by then college student John F Kennedy, in his book Why England Slept.  The future president's father was the US Ambassador to the Court of St James and was frankly on the side of the appeasers.  The future president was not.

The critical vote, the one that caused Prime Minister Chamberlain to tender his resignation, was taken on 8 May 1940 because the Labor Party was encouraged by the Tory rebels to put the question regarding confidence in the Prime Minister.  This was the "Norway Debate" or "Narvik Debate", and it took place before Germany moved on the Low Countries and France.  Mr Chamberlain's government won that vote, but he was wounded. While he should have had a majority of 241 votes, he lost 41 to the other side and 60 abstained.  Mr Chamberlain then asked Labor and the Liberals to join in a "national unity government", but they declined.  There was some talk of putting Lord Halifax in as Prime Minister, but he was an appeaser and knew that Churchill would be still in the Government, and running the war.

Before he left office, Mr Chamberlain had imposed rules on the British people that we would, today, find ridiculous.
Precious British liberties like habeas corpus were swept away for the duration.  The government was given the authority to jail indefinitely without trial any person judged to be a danger to public safety.  It could prevent the holding of demonstration or putting out of flags; requisition without payment any building or other property, from a horse to a railway; tell farmers what to plant and what to do with their crops; enter anyone's home without warning or a warrant.  (Page 231)
It is interesting that they Tory "rebels" did not fair well in the new Government.  There were a number of reasons for that, including Mr Churchill's belief that his grip on Parliament was not as strong as he would have liked.  After all, he had ratted twice.

The author sums it up:
The rebels' cause certainly had seemed impossible at the time.  They were defying a seemingly omnipotent prime minister and political establishment, whose success at shutting down dissent and dispute within the government and the press had been unparalleled.  In the course of the two-year struggle the dissidents, with a rare exception like Ronald Cartland, were not untarnished heroes.  They were timid and cautious on occasion, susceptible to intimidation and appeals to loyalty made by Chamberlain and his men, worried about their careers and being branded as parliamentary pariahs.  But when their country's future hung in the balance in May 1940, they put all those considerations aside.  In the end, they did what Leo Amery had urged Arthur Greenwood to do eight months before.

They spoke for England.  (Page 364)
Thank God they did.

Regards  —  Cliff

Chris Matthews on the Obama Administration and the Gulf

This link is to the Lowell Republican City Committee Blog, a site hardly ever visited, because, I suspect, it doesn't allow comments by one and all.

At any rate, this is about a Chris Matthews comment about the Obama Administration and the Gulf Oil leak.  It is a link to a link to a link.

Regards  —  Cliff

One Word, Gone

The tradition at All Souls College, Oxford, of the essay, based upon a single word, is no more.

It seems a little sad.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Law Professor Ann Althouse.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Chemical and Biological Weapons

I have long argued that Chemical and Biological Weapons sound a lot more scary than they are.  Here is someone who sort of agrees.

Arms Control Wonk is arguing that we have spent way to much money on the Biological threat.

In the Comments Section are some numbers about the number of Iraqis who died due to our sanctions over these issues.  I would like to disassociate myself from these numbers, which appear inflated.  This is not to say that sanctions are not a problem, in that they kill those further down the food chain and leave the leadership unharmed, unless they are so drastic as to cause a revolution.  That would be VERY drastic.  As we can see in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK or "North Korea") terrible conditions are not enough to generate a revolution.

However, also in the Comments is a discussion of earth quakes.  That is an area that we don't often discuss. A serious earth quake in our region (Eastern Massachusetts) would likely kill a lot of people directly and another large slug in the weeks following, as services fail to bounce back to pre-earthquake levels.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, May 27, 2010

MSNBC Poll on Arizona Law

Here is the question:
In July, Arizona will begin enforcing a new law that requires law enforcement officers to check someone’s immigration status if they have reason to suspect that he or she is in the country illegally. Do you think this is a good idea?
I think they left out the part about the law enforcement officer having to have had immediate previous reason to have stopped the person for some possible offense.  That is to say, if you do something that attracts the attention of the police, and the police then think you are a possible illegal immigrant, they could ask you to provide proof of citizenship.

Frankly, I hate the whole thing, but given that the US economy is still attractive to millions of people, we need to do something, and until the US Congress passes my recommended solution, we will continue to have problems that call, nay, scream for this kind of action.

The poll can be found here.  Note that you only get to vote once from any one computer.

After I voted the results were 23,705 in favor of the Arizona law and 3,129 against.

Remember, the Arizona Law is just a symptom of a problem that needs to be treated in Washington, DC, and in Mexico CIty, Mexico.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

School Reform from Washington

The American Spectator isn't sanguine about the long term effectiveness of President Obama's "Race to the Top" school reform package, but does see if having a short term impact.

I think that while this may not represent a long term path to success it has at least gotten things off of top dead center and moving.  I had hoped that "Leave No Child Behind" would achieve that kind of progress, but it didn't.  Some movement, but not a big leap forward.  I believe the President, his Secretary of Education and the US Congress should be congratulated on at least getting this far.  Fixing education is going to take a lot of changes—including some changes that are not amenable to fixing by Washington, but this is progress.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Move Lowell Forward Open Meeting

The board of the local Political Action Committee (PAC), Move Lowell Forward, is having an open meeting this June.  Everyone, regardless of political persuasion or opinion is invited to attend.

The meeting will be on Monday, June 14th, at 7:00 PM, in the meeting room of the Pollard Memorial Library (downstairs).  Since the Library closes at 9:30, the meeting will not run on for ever.

As part of our meeting we will provide a short overview of who we are and what we hope to achieve in the long run.  In a nutshell, we hope to see professional government providing professional services to the Citizens of Lowell, Massachusetts.

Being a local PAC, Move Lowell Forward (MLF) is non-partisan.  That is to say, membership is not based upon political affiliation or party registration.  The chairman is a registered Republican.  The Vice-Chairman, Lynne Lupien, is a registered Democrat.  Do we agree on much about Beacon Hill or even Capital Hill, down in DC?  Not likely.  But we are united in seeking better local government, where the politics is non-partisan.  So, we avoid issue above the City level and focus on Lowell and where our locally raised money goes.

For those interested in the important question—will there be snacks, I don't yet know.  Details, including an agenda to follow.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In the interest of full disclosure, I am the chairman of Move Lowell Forward.

Sex in the City II Issues

I hadn't been planning on going to see the new movie SATC-2, but perhaps it will be interesting from a sociological point of view.

Here is Dr Helen Smith talking about the political (or politically correct) conflicts engendered by the script.

It appears that the movie, in supporting feminism, takes a swipe at some of the more anti-feminist stances of some Muslims.  There are certain issues, which will live in tension if our vision of Democracy and Freedom are to survive.  At the end of the day, the right to free speech is the right to offend.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Dr Helen is the wife of the Instapundit, Law Professor Glenn Reynolds.

Monday, May 24, 2010

USS OLYMPIA Threatened

Here is more bad news for those seeking to save our historic past. The USS OLYMPIA, which has been birthed in Philadelphia for the last 50 years, may be sold for scrap.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The old warship has been part of Philadelphia's waterfront for 50 years and left lasting impressions on thousands of visitors who heard gripping stories of its role in the Spanish-American War.

Now the Olympia - the last surviving vessel from that 1898 conflict - could face an ignoble end as an artificial reef off Cape May if a new benefactor cannot be found.

The Independence Seaport Museum and the Navy have already checked with officials of New Jersey's Artificial Reef Program on the possibility of sinking the ship, once a source of national pride.
The OLYMPIA was the Flag Ship of Commodore George Dewey when he lead the US fleet into Manila Bay on 1 May 1898 and uttered the famous words:  "You may fire when ready, Gridley".

If you have a spare $20 million you can be the benefactor who spares the USS OLYMPIA.

Regards  —  Cliff

James Carroll Hits the Mark

I think Columnist James Carroll gets it right about Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who falsified his Service Record during the Viet-nam war period (and also the record of former Harvard student Adam Wheeler).  Often I find Mr Carroll to be way off course, but here he nails it.

Thank you Mr Carroll.

Regards  —  Cliff

Can Our Elites Still Read?

Perhaps not.  We have all those cabinet officials saying they had not yet read the Arizona immigration law they were criticizing, and incorrectly characterizing.

Now we have Law Professor Ann Althouse all over The Washington Post for mischaracterizing the Texas School Board curriculum changes.

The reason these kinds of thing are important is that we count on our officials for truthful information, unslanted—or at least I think we do.  Well, at least I hope we do.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Liberals and Progressives are not the Same

The author of "Is There a Culture War, or What?", S T Karnick, suggests that there is a culture war and it is between the Liberals and the Progressives, and he provides a bit of a definition for each.  Put another way, there are Progressives (Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Woodrow Wilson), Conservatives (Senator Robert Byrd or the late Rep John Murtha) and Liberals (Maggie Thatcher, for instance).  Until we get these distinctions straight, our politics will always be confused.  Our political history will be distorted, wedded as it is to a French indoor Tennis Court outside Paris.  We won't be able to really explain the Democratic Party majority in the US Congress from 1933 through to Newt Gingrich.  Do we really believe Senator Hubert H Humphrey and Governor Huey P Long were in the same party?

But, to the article in The American Culture:
There is a culture war, and we need it, argues Carol Iannone on NRO’s The Corner.

I don’t like martial metaphors, but I strongly agree with Carol Iannone that there are basically two worldviews competing irreconcilably in the United States today.

One, called progressivism, derives from the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and tends to blame all human problems on imperfect social institutions. Individuals devoted to this worldview concentrate great effort on the perfecting of institutions according to their idea of social justice, which evolves as new problems are created by their efforts to transform society and its institutions.

Their opponents refer to this fundamental problem of progressivism as the Law of Unintended Consequences.

In addition, progressives of all stripes require the development of an aristocracy consisting of political, economic, social, and cultural elites who can implement the proper management of society.

The other worldview, best described as classical liberalism, acknowledges that social conditions circumscribe individuals’ choices, but they nonetheless argue that people have freedom of choice within the conditions under which they live. Such classical liberals argue for political liberty and allowance of social mobility, an essential element of which is the acceptance of the concept of personal responsibility, the willingness of society to allow people to reap the consequences of their actions, both good and bad.
We need to take a new look at our political culture and regroup the characters.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Look to Economics for the Answer

While Andrew Howe is talking about evolution over at the Richard Howe Blog, I thought I would add this little item someone sent me from The Wall Street Journal. "Humans:  Why They Triumphed (How did one ape 45,000 years ago happen to turn into a planet dominator?  The answer lies in an epochal collision of creativity.)"  The author is Matt Ridley.

Here are the first two paragraphics:
Human evolution presents a puzzle.  Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years—the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies.  Once "progress" started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest.  Yet all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened.  Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal.  Then suddenly—bang!—culture exploded, starting in Africa.  Why then, why there?

The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence:  the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals.  Even as it explains very old patterns in prehistory, this idea holds out hope that the human race will prosper mightily in the years ahead—because ideas are having sex with each other as never before.
I logged this under "Science" but wonder if that is really the proper category.

Regards  —  Cliff

Ending Qualified Immunity

Randy Balko, bogging at Instapundit while the professor is away, says this:
In the past, Professor Reynolds has mentioned his support for ending qualified immunity, the special protection from liability afforded to government employees.  I agree with him.  If anything, public employees should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us.

The story of Michelle Ortiz is an unfortunate example of qualified immunity in action.  Ortiz was molested by a prison guard while serving a one-year sentence at a correctional facility in Ohio.  When she reported the assault, prison officials did nothing.  Later the same evening, the same guard raped her.  When Ortiz reported the rape, prison officials ordered her to solitary confinement, and did nothing to punish the guard.  A jury awarded Ortiz $625,000. But a panel for the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the verdict, finding that as state employees, the prison officials were protected by qualified immunity.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in the fall.  The argument for qualified immunity is that we don’t want state employees hampered by fear of lawsuits when they’re making important decisions–be they policy decisions, or in the case of law enforcement, split-second decisions in emergency situations.  The flip side of that, and what I find to be the more compelling argument, is that removing the possibility of liability (or at least making it very difficult for victims to win a lawsuit) is going to affect those decisions too.  People tend to act differently when there’s less chance that they’ll be held accountable for their actions.  That’s not a knock on government employees.  It’s human nature.

Prison rape is another issue Instapundit has spoken out about.  The current corrections culture that accepts prison rape as an inevitable part of hard time would change pretty quickly if we were to start holding prison guards, administrators, and wardens financially accountable for their negligence in allowing these rapes to continue.
I am with Randy Balko on this.

I wonder where Attorney General Martha Coakley stands?

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New National Security Strategy in Offing

President Obama addressed the cadets at West Point at the graduation of the Class of 2010.  Here is a report from The Washington Post.  I tried to find the speech itself at the White House website, but it wasn't yet posted.

The trust of the speech, as reported by The WashPost is that things are going to be different when the new National Security Strategy (NSS) is issued shortly.  Here is the key paragraph:
The administration is set to officially release the president's first national security strategy next week, and Obama's preview on Saturday suggests it will be far different than the first one offered by his predecessor in 2002.  In that prior document, President George W. Bush formally called for a policy of preemptive war and a "distinctly American internationalism."
One of the things I liked was that the President is calling for civilians to do more—ordinary citizens of these United States:
But he said civilians must answer the call of service as well, by securing America's economic future, educating its children and confronting the challenges of poverty and climate change.  He said the country must always pursue what he called the "universal rights" rooted in the Constitution.

"We will promote these values above all by living them—through our fidelity to the rule of law and our Constitution, even when it's hard; and through our commitment to forever pursue a more perfect union," he said.
I am looking forward to looking at the speech and at the new NSS.

Regards  —  Cliff

Looking for Crime

I picked up what I thought was the Saturday Lowell Sun, hoping to read the "Chat", but found I had Friday's edition.  I wondered why Kendall Wallace had the headline "AG Coakley's hanky-jpanky probe is the real crime".  Then I saw Columnist Peter Lucas' picture and by-line.  I read it anyway.

So, at the end, I see where the board at Beth Israel Medical Center has "fined" its Chief Executive Officer, Paul Levy, $50,000 for improper conduct.  Reading between the lines, conduct that would get me fired under the sexual harassment rules.  But, folks at higher levels tend to not face the same rules as those of us in the trenches.

So why did they then pass it over to the AG?  Did she pressure them, saying that if they didn't pass it over she would make life miserable for everyone?  And, don't you think $50,000 would have made up for any accounting problems?  Bringing in the AG seems like using a sledge hammer when a tack hammer would have done nicely.  I guess I will be paying attention to see how this develops.

Regards  —  Cliff

  You want an example?  Aside from Paul Levy, what about W J Clinton and the "blue dress".  Along with too big to fail, we have too big to fire.  OK, I admit that I thought it was not a firing offense for Mr Clinton, but I did think that the rest of the country should have said shame until he hung his head and promised never to do it again (or never to get caught, your choice).  And, there is the whole John 8:7 issue down in DC.  The Eliot Spitzer thing doesn't work here, since the woman didn't work for him.  I am not sure why he resigned, unless his wife told him it was resign or else.  Maybe the Feds had him on money laundering and cut him a private deal.  I wonder if I would get a "private" deal?

Getting Our Federal Debt Under Control

In yesterday's Boston Globe Columnist Scot Lehigh told us about a simulation that allows one to take a whack at the Federal Budget and the Federal Deficit.  Granted, it is a very limited tool, but it does give us a chance to consider alternatives.  I would like to see something along these lines for the Commonwealth's budget.

Here is the budget simulator for you to play with.

I have played with it and the fact is that serious cuts need to be made.  Big, serious cuts.  And people need to work longer.  And Social Security tax needs to extend further into the work year for higher earning employees.

Give it a try and then post your comments.

And thank you to Scot Lehigh. (His EMail is

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, May 21, 2010

World Cup Soccer Tournament Problem

I am posting this as a service to Kad Barma, who likes Soccer, and also Ron Smits, who also likes Soccer.

Alex Beam, in an item in the "G Section" of The Boston Globe today writes "Is the World Cup bad for you?.

Since it was in the "G Section" one would expect to find it on line in the same location.  One forgets that this is The Boston Globe.  It was filed under:

But, to the article:
Where were you in January 2008?  I know where I was; pawing through the New England Journal of Medicine’s disturbing overview “Cardiovascular Events During World Cup Soccer.’’  A team of no fewer than 11 German health professionals — the same number as on a soccer side — analyzed acute cardiac events in Munich during the five weeks of the 2006 World Cup, held in Germany.

Their conclusion:  World Cup bad for you!  “Viewing a stressful soccer match more than doubles the risk of an acute cardiovascular event,’’ Ute, Helmut, Christoph, Gerhard & Co. wrote.  “In view of this excess risk, particularly in men with known coronary heart disease, preventive measures are urgently needed.’’
Sure, Mr Beam does provide a different view from Italian doctors, but still, when the Germans are concerned we should all be concerned.  For example, the German's are concerned about Greek financial stability, and thus so should we be concerned.  Same for soccer and health.  Or football, if you are a European.

Regards  —  Cliff

Execution of US Citizens

I wrote about this a little while ago, and then someone I know sent along this little blurb:
Washington, May 19 - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced today that he will introduce legislation that would end the practice of targeting U.S. citizens for extrajudicial killing.  Earlier this year, The Washington Post and The New York Times revealed that the Obama Administration was continuing the Bush-era policy of including U.S. citizens on lists of people to be assassinated without a trial.  Kucinich has spoken out forcefully against revoking the basic constitutional rights of American citizens for simply being suspected of involvement with terrorism, and he is currently recruiting cosponsors for his bill.
If Dennis Kucinich gets it, why don't the rest of them down there?

This whole issues suggests that the Obama Administration has misplaced its moral compass.  And, now, Dennis Kucinich is coming to the rescue.  The odds are, he won't be wrong all the time.

When he is right, he is right.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to Jack Mitchell.

Government Brownies

I love brownies and if they don't have walnuts they are not the real thing.  With an attitude like that I have not had real brownies at home in decades.

From time to time a comment on the DoD Military Specification (Mil Spec) for brownies comes around.  Here is the latest version.  And here is the actual Mil Spec in PDF format (all 26 pages).  You will note right away that it is in the archaic Inch-Pound format. 

The hat tip goes to Instapundit who linked to this with a comment about not being confident in Gov't managed health care (insurance) with this kind of thing running around.

Regards  —  Cliff

  You laugh, but the Shuttle replacement is being built in the old Imperial system (which I favor, since it makes sense), because the cost of converting the old drawings is estimated to be $370 million dollars.  And we have also lost space craft; per New Scientist:
Indeed, NASA lost an unmanned mission owing to a mix-up between metric and imperial units.  In September 1999, its $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter probe was destroyed because its attitude-control system used imperial units but its navigation software used metric units.  As a result, it was 100 kilometres too close to Mars when it tried to enter orbit around the planet.
I blame Congress.

DNI Resigns

The Director of National Intelligence, retired Admiral Dennis C Blair, has resigned and is out the door on 28 May 2010.

One person commented:
I would hope in weeks to come he would comment on the limited value of the DNI position and that its creation is more an admission of executive (and congressional) mismanagement than meaningful IC restructuring.
That is spot on.

Admiral Blair, and his two predecessors, lack the authority to really make the other Intelligence Heads toe the line.  Until the DNI gets that authority it is a sham job.

Does anyone remember the comment after the Times Square Bombing Attempt that there were 14 points at which we could have connected the dots, and didn't.  It would seem the IC is not working together and not working well.

Regards  —  Cliff

  IC = Intelligence Community.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our Future in Afghanistan

Here is a fairly long article from The New York Times.

It is about the war in Afghanistan, the good war.  We have now gone over 1,000 deaths for US Service personnel serving there—plus Foreign Service Offices (FSOs), Civil Servants and Contractor Personnel.  Then there are the other NATO troops who have died there. And al Qaeda. And the Taliban. And, of course those who are non-combatants, although some, at least, are aiding one side or the other.

Then there is the article by Ms Ann Marlowe, who has been to Afghanistan as a reporter a number of times.  Here lede is:
Our strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, both of which make sense in theory, no longer apply.
It is this second article that caused a retired flag officer to put forward the question:
This is getting more and more similar to another COIN enterprise thirty-five years ago, with corruption at the highest levels, crumbling defense forces, inability to stand alone…. We have a Wall dedicated to Americans who gave their lives for that adventure.  Was it worth it?  How long can Congress and the American People endure?

Maybe containment is the fall-back position, like we “contain” North Korea (more or less).  It’s a strategy some think we should have taken with Iraq.  It worked with the USSR (more or less).

At what point does Congress refuse funding?
For the record, I think we are not yet at the "breaking point".

However, we are at the point that someone in DoD needs to get together with someone in DOS and talk about the possible futures that might unfold.  This would be a series of branches off of today, looking at how external factors as well as internal factors might cause players to change directions.  For example, if Korea goes from 46 dead sailors to a conventional war, the US might give up on the soft approach of counterinsurgency and go to a mailed fist. On the other hand, if Korea goes hot China might try to turn up the heat in Afghanistan and we might say, great, YOUR problem.

Does anyone out there have a view on the next ten years in Afghanistan?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dustup in Korea

Today's Washington Post has this article:  "South Korea to officially blame North Korea for March torpedo attack on warship".
SEOUL -- South Korea's foreign minister said Wednesday the sinking of one of its warships in March was the result of a North Korean attack, adding that his country now has enough evidence to seek action by the U.N. Security Council against the North.

"It's obvious," Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said. His remarks were the first by a South Korean official to pin definitive blame on North Korea for an attack that killed 46 sailors and sharply escalated tension on the Korean Peninsula.
That seems pretty straight forward.

And, 46 dead seems pretty straight forward.  I bet that was headlined in big type in Republic of Korea (ROK) newspapers.

So, here we have South Korea, a non-nuclear state, asking the UN to sanction the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), a nuclear state.  This will be an interesting case study and an indication of what might happen if we ever got around to trying to apply sanctions against a nuclear armed Iran.

Here is one person's view, after talking about taking this to the UN:
For some of the other responses it is doubtful there will be a direct militry response.  However, we will likely see a reinforcement of the P-Y Do and Y-P Do island garrisons as well as a larger Naval presence especially in preparation for the Crab Wars next month.  Also we might now see aggresive ROK support of the Proliferation Security Initiative.  I think we might also see more international support for sanctions.

But the question on whether there will be a direct ROK military response and more than a pin prick I would be interested in what targets someone might propose that would acheieve any kind of effect and then I would be curious to know what the proposed response would be when the north responds to the ROK strike.

I think we are going to see some positive leadership by President Lee, and despite likely pressure from political opposition and of course the families and even senior ROK military leaders, he will not conduct any kind of direct military attack against the north in response the sinking.  A strike will feel good emotionally for a little while but the escalation that likely will occur should be considered.  Think about when the north revokes it's pledge to not threaten ROK airspace—what happens to the ROK economy when the world's number one airport in the world—Inchon no longer has commercial airliners willing to fly into it due to potential north Korean threats.  And that is just one possible response.

The most important thing for the alliance and the international community is to ensure that the North Korean strategy of conducting provocations to gain political and economic concessions is thwarted.  Thus the most important response is to do everything possible to ensure the North in no way benefits from this provocation.

And of course, the regime may very well attempt to diffuse this by blaming Vice Marshall Kim Il chol for conducting a rogue operation (even though no such action could have occurred without regime sanction).
So, is it to be war, or sanctions, or another small victory for the DPRK?

Stake your claim as a strategic thinker in the Comments Section.

As for me, I am stating that (1) the UN will do nothing, (2) South Korea will take it out on the DPRK during Crab Season, and (3) the United States will stand by in support of South Korea re policing the Crab Season, but otherwise do nothing.

Regards  —  Cliff

House Race in 5th Middlesex

The 5th Middlesex race is in The New York Times.  Actually, it was in The New York Times on Friday, the 14th.  Slow news day?

Nice photo of Ms Barbara Klain, cofounder of the Greater Lowell Tea Party.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Problem in Connecticut

Eugene Robinson, of The Washington Post, has it right.

I was going to be cutesy and write about poor Attorney General Richard Blumenthal being "Swift-Boated", but in fact he was just stupid.  Even those of us who actually went to Viet-nam are careful to recognize that there are degrees of involvement.  One hundred missions over North Viet-nam in 1966 was not the same as 13 months on the ground in the mud and heat and humidity, patrolling for the Viet Cong.  Even with two tours, flying was not as tough as walking.

Mr Blumenthal did not see the importance of honoring those who gave some, or all, for that lost cause.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  And if you blog for Dick Howe you should consider mounting a raucous campaign to get The Washington Post once more delivered in Lowell on Sundays.

Who Do You Trust Most?

As we may all know by now, Google has accidently collected reams of data in Germany while doing its street level photography.  It turns out that they were picking up data from unsecured Wireless Networks.  The latest state of play is to be found in this article, from The New York Times

The question is, who do you trust more on this issue regarding destroying the data?
  1. Google
  2. The German Government 
This is a hard choice.  Given how Google has been playing footsie with China, I don't much trust them, notwithstanding their motto. On the other hand, nin the article the Germans come across as just a bit too self-righteous.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am one of those, counting on the fact that, as my neighbor behind me says, my technology is too old and too slow to bother paying attention to.
  For those of you under the age of about 55, bear in mind that before the Wall came down there was the Stasi, and before that there was the Gestapo, and all those folks peered into all sorts of private information sources.  It might be genetic.

I Missed This Point

Law Professor Ann Althouse blogs about the implications of the The Supreme Court's New Federalism Decision.

The case is United States v. Comstock.

Thomas and Scalia dissenting.
Not long ago, this Court described the Necessary and Proper Clause as “the last, best hope of those who defend ultra vires congressional action.”  ... Regrettably, today’s opinion breathes new life into that Clause, and... comes perilously close to transforming the Necessary and Proper Clause into a basis for the federal police power that “we always have rejected"...  In so doing, the Court endorses the precise abuse of power Article I is designed to prevent—the use of a limited grant of authority as a “pretext . . . for the accomplishment of objects not intrusted to the government.”
This is something that might be disturbing to the Tea Party folks.

Regards  —  Cliff

Change in Saudi Arabia?

"Saudi Woman Beats Up Virtue Cop".

Is this just a quirk event or is this a sign of change?

If it is a sign of change it may mean that terrorism will increase, but then it will go down as the Wahhabism loses power and influence.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From my computer's dictionary.  Wahhabi—a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–92).  It advocates a return to the early Islam of the Koran and Sunna, rejecting later innovations; the sect is still the predominant religious force in Saudi Arabia.

The Mexican President and Arizona

In today's Boston Globe we have an article on the visit of the Mexican President to the United States—"Calderón could address Arizona law—US visit affords Mexico’s leader a chance to vent".
MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderón arrives in Washington this week for a two-day state visit that was supposed to be a celebration of US-Mexican cooperation in his drug war.  Instead, it is likely to showcase Mexico’s frustration over Arizona’s tough new immigration law, which Calderón has described as anti-Mexican.
This is pure hutzpa.  Given Mexico's own laws with regard to illegal immigrants, the Arizona law is mild in comparison.

I would love to learn that our President had said to President Felipe Calderón during his upcoming visit that while he (Obama) deplores the Arizona law, it is not as bad as Mexico's own law, and if President Calderón is looking for Washington to play a role in the situation in Arizona, then he (Calderón) should butt out of this ongoing US internal discussion.

Even better, our President could point out that polling indicates that 64% of US Citizens favor the Arizona law.  That is a bigger percentage than elected Senator Obama President.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One assumes illegals duck polls.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doolittle Raiders, 68th Anniversary

Yes, I have not been blogging.  My brother-in-law and his wife were in for the weekend and we were off seeing things and people.

Today, in the EMail, I received this link to a five and a half minute video of this years reunion of the Doolittle Raiders.  This video is about the still surviving B-25's that gathered as part of the event.

Only eight of Doolittle's raiders are still alive. Last month, four of them—retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, 94; Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, 92; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, 90; and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher, 88—traveled to Wright-Patterson AFB, in Ohio, to mark the 68th anniversary of the raid.  So did 17 still-flying B-25 Mitchell bombers.  Those bombers sounded very cool.

I was looking at the video to see if I could see my daughter's house or my granddaughter's but they were just outside the view of the camera in the B-25 PACIFIC PRINCESS.

The raid was more than a stunt.  It boosted morale back in the US and it caught the attention of the Japanese and caused them to change some of the things they were doing, including curtailing an aggressive move into the Indian Ocean.  It also encouraged Admiral Yamamoto in his plan to attack US forces on Midway Island, a move that resulted in the loss of four Japanese aircraft carries (to one for the US) and marked the turning point in the war in the Pacific.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, May 14, 2010

We Are Going to do What?

Reporter Scott Shane has this item, "U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease" in Thursday's issue of The New York TimesUNEASE?

The Cleric in question is Anwar al-Awlaki and he is in Yemen.  He is also a US Citizen.

Let us be clear about this.  The decision is attributed to the Central Intelligence Agency, but it had the approval of the National Security Council.  The lede:
The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.
So, you step beyond the reach of US law enforcement and you become a target for assassination?

Let's look at a hypothetical.  Let us take the case of Dr Hatfield, who the FBI (yes, those guys who protected Whitey Bulger for so long and maybe longer) was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt had not only planned but had actually launched a terror attack against Americans (anthrax,) but, they did not think they could nail him within our judicial system.  Should they have waited until Dr Hatfield went on vacation to Jamaica and had the CIA get rid of him?

I know that the protections of the US Constitution do not hold for non-US Citizens beyond the three-mile limit, but shouldn't it hold for US citizens overseas?  Sure, it is war and if he were on a battlefield it would be reasonable to go after him, but he is in Yemen, spreading propaganda (albeit powerful propaganda).

We are trying folks who are our enemies in civilian courts, rather than by military tribunals, but yet those not within the area of the battle—Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines and Pakistan.  Perhaps we are going to make Yemen part of the battle zone.  If so, please tell us.

Some days you just wish George W Bush was still the President.  Then we might find the proper amount of outrage along the coasts of this great nation over this kind of abuse of the Constitution.  My wife is outraged over this.  I am outraged over this.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Chairman of the National Security Council (NSC) is the President of the United States.
  But, I disagree with that view, what with my Neo-Con view that the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are universal in their language and their affirmations of who we are as human beings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lena Horne, RIP

You learn about things in the oddest places.  National Security Reporter Tom Ricks, in an item on the Indirect Approach in warfare, notes the passing of Lena Horne.  Ms Horne was born in 1917, making her near 93 when she passed away on 9 May.

I need to cruise over to Kad Barma's site to see if Ms Horne is his kind of vocalist.

Regards  —  Cliff


This nine minute video from YouTube says that Sweden cut taxes and regulations so it could afford its social welfare system.  For example, in terms of deregulation, a Swedish child can take their "business" to any school, public or private, and that school would then get paid by the Government for that student.  Seems radical to me.

Do we believe this about Sweden?  They cut taxes and regulations in order to grow the economy?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Does the College Matter

With a hat tip to Instapundit here is a comment on US higher education and a reason for concern.  The source of the concern is the lack of diversity on the Supreme Court of the United States.  The good news in that regard is that the current nominee, Ms Kagan, is not a total cookie cutter version of the current members.

As some of you may have already guessed, this post from Chicago Boyz is one that I find I agree with.

Regards  —  Cliff

After Greece, LA

Columnist George Will thinks that Los Angeles is heading toward the kind of problem Greece is now facing.  But, the column is in Newsweek which might collapse before Greece.

I wonder where Lawrence is in this race, given that even with a $35 million infusion from the Commonwealth's taxpayers it is laying off about 30 each firefighters and police.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

After Greece?

Here is a column by economist Robert Samuelson, "The Welfare State's Death Spiral".

The author's basic point is that Western Democracies cannot afford some of the welfare states they are operating and Greece is a prime example.  The other European (Euro) nations bailed out Greece, but who bails out the next one, and the one after that?  The lede reads:
What we're seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn't Greece's problem alone, and that's why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven't fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.
The author goes on to note that here in these United States we dislike the term welfare state, so we use the term entitlements.  Same difference.

The proposed pay raise for Boston Firemen is an example of a welfare state out of control.  At some point we are going to have to say no to pay raises for people in the military Services and to civil servants, federal and local, even if they do have unions.  Even now the Department of Defense is asking Congress to hold back on generous pay raises for Service Members.  For those of you who wish to ask me about forgoing my pay raise, as a part time worker at DRC I am on the same hourly rate that I was on when I retired over a year ago—so no raise in 2.25 years.  And, there was no Social Security Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for 2010.

Hat tip to the Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, May 10, 2010

Neandertals Live

Sunday's Boston Globe had a number of Letters to the Editor about the recent fracas at Harvard Law School over a student who wrote some fellow students and suggested that she was prepared to accept that one race, on average, might not be as intelligent as another.  This sort of reminds us of the dust up over then Harvard President Larry Summers suggesting that, in fact, women might not be as good at math and science as men, at least at the higher levels.  That was a firing offense, as well as being in impolitic comment.

Now comes some blogger, reporting on results out of the Max Plank Society on sequencing the gnome for Neanderthals (or Neandertals, as the blog post quoted says).  At this point I should add a word of caution, given the emphasis on race that was pervasive in Germany in the first half of the last century, and not just during the years of National Socialist rule.

So, at the blog John Hawks Weblog, there is this report that researchers now believe that non-African humans have up to 4% Neandertal genes, or like having a Neandertal as one of one's Great-Great-Great-Grandparents.  Actually, for me that is pretty far back.  Taking my youngest grandchild, Ben, and going to the Grandfather who died when I was about 4, I am one shy of knowing his Father, who would be Ben's Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.  But, still here is the DNA, which suggests that Neanderthals are, in fact, part of our species.

The author of the Blog, talking about scientist R E Green, says:
Green and colleagues show that the Neandertal genome is closer to some humans than others.  People whose ancestry lies outside Africa are significantly more like Neandertals than are people who live in Africa today.  In this study, the authors include whole genomes from people in France, China and Papua New Guinea outside Africa, and Yoruba and San inside Africa.  The Africans are not as close to the Neandertal as any of the non-Africans.
So, for all of you who thought that Larry Summers or this Harvard Law School student were Neanderthals, you are probably correct.  Well, Neanderthals in part.

Hat tip to Law Professor Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Working Long Hours

From Harvard Business Review we have this short little bit about how productivity is up in the US, but that might be a bad sign.

I believe the author is dead set on.  And not just because I have been overly busy lately, but because of my experiences in the 1970s.  Working long hours does not mean increased creativity and therefore better thinking.  This is particularly important when thinking is the product.

Hat tip to Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 9, 2010

There is Good News Tonight

Per Blogger Ann Althouse reporter Pete Williams says that the US Solicitor General, Elena Kagan, will be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.  She would replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

As best I can tell she has been doing a good job as Solicitor General. In addition, several folks on the left side of the Blog-o-sphere have opposed her for being a little too tough on terrorism and other criminals.  While I still wish to close Gitmo, I do take this as a recommendation.

The fact that she is not a judge from the First Circuit and has never served as a judge means that we will be breaking a pattern in appointments that is not only monotonous, but also lacking in diversity.  This nation is a lot bigger than the First Circuit.

She was the Dean of Harvard Law School, but managed not to get involved in things like student EMails, which her replacement, Ms Martha Minow, has not been able to avoid.

Given what we know, and given that it is an election year, Ms Kagan looks to be an ideal candidate.  The Democrats will manage to support her and the Republicans, after some strong quizzing, will be able to let her nomination move ahead.  At least that is my hope for the way it works out.

UPDATE:  As someone politely pointed out, I had minnows on the brain and thus switched Ms Minow for Ms Kagan, since corrected.  And, since I was back here, I slipped another comma into one of the sentences.

Regards  —  Cliff

Illegal Immigration

In today's Boston Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby has at the Republicans over the new Arizona law on illegal immigrants.  He makes some good points, including noting that bad laws should not be supported by the populace.  I guess I agree with him in a way, but the fact is that the first act of the citizenry with regard to a bad law should be to get it changed.  He did have a nice touch, bringing in Rosa Parks and her arrest in Montgomery in 1955.

With regard to illegal immigration our number one problem is a "do nothing" Congress that has been doing nothing through several sittings.  They could have done something back during the Bush Administration, but they didn't.  They could have done something over the last year and a bit, but they didn't.  They are not likely to do anything this summer.

So, while we are waiting for Niki Tsongas and John Kerry and Scott Brown to do something, here is my proposal for dealing with the problem of illegal immigration and the problem that it is the poster child for, insecurity on our borders, and in particular on our southern border.
  1. Legalize drugs.  What, you ask?  In terms of border insecurity, the movement of illegal drugs up through Mexico or from Mexico into California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas is a major problem and it has not been getting better since we initiated the war on drugs, back in time to 1969, when President Nixon first used the word.  Not only is it soaking up law enforcement resources, it is depriving the Federal Government of needed revenue, which would come to us from a reasonable tax on things like marijuana.  I would agree that being high on drugs, like being drunk, should not be acceptable when driving or when at work.  But, those are different laws from the prohibition on drugs we now flaunt.
  2. A Marshall Plan for Mexico.  It is my suspicion that most Mexicans (they represent 65% of the illegal immigrants) and others come here not because we are the beacon of liberty but because they are either fleeing local violence (see item 1, above) or need work to support their families back home (or who came with them). We are talking economic migration.  If there were good paying jobs at home they would have stayed at home.  It is not skin off our nose or money out of our pocket, in the long run, if Mexico prospers, unless you are looking for a cheap place to retire.  If we help Mexico double their per capita GDP we will provide markets for US goods and will encourage Mexicans to remain Mexicans in Mexico.
  3. Legitimize the Illegal Immigrants.Well, most of them.  We should set up a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants in the United States.  It shouldn't be easy, but it also shouldn't be ridiculous.  In fact, we should offer three tracks—(a) Citizenship, (b) Guest Worker Status, and (c) Illegal Immigrant Status.
    1. Those who choose to become US Citizens should be assessed a $2,000 fee for the paperwork involved in legalizing their status (and the expunging from the records anything about their past illegal status).  They should be prioritized at the end of the queue for Citizenship.  I would take all the current people who are on the list legally and add 10% to that number and then place the illegal immigrants at behind all of those people.  Those who have been patiently standing in line should not suffer for doing it the right way.  Then I would give them a test, in English, and an interview, in English.  Finally, I would ask them to renounce all other allegiances.  (I know that this is different from the process for others becoming US Citizens, but it is so we separate out the economic migrants from those who really wish to be Citizens of these United States.)  Then I would swear them in and make sure their new Social Security Account Number is matched up with whatever bogus number they might have been using previously, so their past earnings are recognized.
    2. As for those who pick the status of Guest Worker Status, I would first assess a $2,000 free for the paperwork involved in legalizing their status (and the expunging from the records anything about their past illegal status).  Then I would give them a choice of status, for up to 50 years as a guest worker, but not past the age of 67.  If they request a status of more than ten years, then at the tenth year I would require that they pass a test in spoken English.  For more than 20 years, a test on reading English as well.  For those who would remain in this country for more than 30 years, I would expect them to demonstrate an understanding of our system of Government, by expecting them, by the 30 year point to pass a test similar to that for Citizenship.  All agreed on ahead of time.  And, I would allow a fast track process for conversion from Guest Worker Status to Citizenship after the ten year point and the payment of an additional fee for paperwork.  In the law I would state that this right of conversion is a solemn commitment on the part of the Government of the United States, not to be taken away.
    3. Finally, those who choose the status of illegal immigrant, I would arrest them and put them in jail and then deport them to their home nation.  I would bar them from reentry into the United States for ten years.  For twenty years if they were convicted of a felony while in the United States.
I think of this as a good solid Republican position.  It says that we should respect the law.  It recognizes the rights of all individuals.  It recognizes the twin economic realities that we need immigration for our economy and that our neighbors need to grow economically so we all benefit.

And, I think it might pass muster with my late Mother.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Archers

Sunday last, in the "Ideas Section" of The Boston Globe was an article on how soap operas could save the world.  The title was "Guiding Lights:  How Soap Operas Could Save the World".

Very believable thesis, but what about "The Archers"?  This vehicle has been around for ever—since the "Guiding Light" died, the longest running extant soap opera—with over 16,000 episodes.  The show takes place in the village of Ambridge, in the Midlands, south of the city of Birmingham.  But, Staff Writer Drake Bennett never mentioned it.  The closest he came was to use the word "researcher".

From my time in the UK (1974) I remember Dan and Doris Archer (farmers), Sid and Polly Perks (operated the local, The Bull), and Mr Grundy, village crank.  The show just moved right along.  And, it was entertaining for being a show about improving agriculture.  After I found the show on radio it took me to the National Live Stock Show and informed me about Swine Flu Vesicular Disease and educated me about life in a small village in the West Midlands.

Thursday's episode was "The Hammer."  You will note that the episode is timely, including reference to Thursday's national election.
Fallon jokingly chastises Kenton for stealing her staff, then tells him to get going while she serves a gorgeous customer – who turns out to be Harry the milkman.  Fallon tells Harry about the single wicket competition.  Harry’s keen to play but resentful Jazzer points out that the rules state he has to live in the village. Fallon asks Jazzer what his problem is.  Harry’s nothing like he described.

Joe’s at the village hall, but not to vote. He wants more bids for his lucky dip auction.  Everyone seems to have heard that he’s raising money for a new bench for the churchyard.

Kenton hopes to win some old car parts to use as wall art for Jaxx.  Jim is horrified but gets his revenge by successfully bidding on a garden gnome, to display as a mascot. Jazzer sneakily bids on behalf of Harry.

Oliver’s disappointed not to win the mangle. Joe explains he couldn’t bear to part with it.  To Jazzer’s dismay, Harry’s delighted to win a set of dumbbells and thanks Jazzer for entering on his behalf.

Oliver suggests Joe can put a plaque on the bench, to say it was donated by the Grundys – a fitting tribute to the oldest family in Ambridge…
Yes, the Brits have been using soap operas for some time to pass farm news and to help people think about issues.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dealing with Iran and Its Pretensions

Best Proposed Strategy, with rationale, seen to date:
Ignore Iran for the child that they are.  As someone once magnificently put it, Iran is like the youngster who has been used to sitting at "the kids table" during a major family get-together.  At the kid's table, if you stab your cousin Suzy with a fork and she cries, the grown-ups won't pay much attention.  They'll sush all of you and one of them might come over to see what is going on, but you'll usually get away with it.  But when you move up to "the grown-ups table" the rules most definitely change.  You cannot spit on Uncle Steve, or swear at Grandma, or stab your mom with a fork when you are sitting at the grown-ups table, because the grown-ups WILL notice, and one way or another, you will go down for that.  And you will go down hard.  The grown-up's table is the small group of nations with nuclear weapons.
Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"Denial Over the Bomb Plot"

Ms Joan Vennochi has an excellent OpEd in today's Boston Globe.  It is about how the People understand the bombing attempts as a plot, but how the Government, and the two political parties, don't yet get it.

The "link" is here.

Here are the last four paragraphs
Some of that political denial comes from troubling fact: Every terrorist plot launched by Muslim extremists cannot be foiled before it threatens human life. A combination of luck and vigilance has stopped a string of attempts, from Richard Reid’s attempted shoe-bombing in December 2001 to an attempted bombing of the New York subway system, from the bomb carried in the underwear of a passenger on a Northwest Airlines flight last December to the Times Square incident .

Denial also springs from the blood sport that is American politics. The fight against terrorism no longer unites the country. It divides it along partisan lines. It’s all about blame, not shared accountability.

Today, it’s a sign of political weakness to acknowledge an attempt by a Muslim extremist to attack in the United States.

Americans know the truth. It’s time for politicians — Republican and Democratic — to trust them to with the realities of the problem. It’s also time for politicians to stop using the reality as a reason to attack each other.
Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, May 3, 2010

Blame the Republicans

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was a Republican, after all.

Here is one take on how New Orleans is lagging behind in reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina.  Maybe they are allergic to the word "reconstruction".

My solution would have been to shift the population and shops inland, to higher ground, and connect them to the port by high speed rail. Something about Proverbs 29:18 comes to mind.

Hat tip to Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

 Just kidding.
  The AV has it: "Where there is no vision, the people perish".

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Statute of Limitation

There has been some talk in the past about the idea of prosecuting Roman Catholic clergy decades after an alleged sexual abuse incident.  The problems raised go to the question of memories and witnesses and factors such as that.

Now comes Queens (New York) Assemblywoman Margaret Markey with a modification to her perennial bill to provide a one year window to allow such cases to go back 40 years by making it broader than just religious institutions and would now include secular institutions.  The translation of that is that now rate payers would end up footing the damages, not just people in church pews.

Here is the article in The New York Times.  I would say that broadening Ms Markey's bill is only reasonable.

The $1.4 billion paid out by the Roman Catholic Church to date may give legislators (and rate payers) pause.  But, if we are going to look this problem over we need to really look it over.  Sexual abuse of young people is wrong.  That wrongness isn't moderated by the fact that it was your second grade public school teacher or your strange uncle, as opposed to your parish priest or your scout master.

Regards  —  Cliff

National Elections

The UK, the Netherlands, the Sudan and now Belgium.  The national elections in Belgium, probably in June, are being triggered by a dispute regarding a bilingual voting district near Brussels.  The likely new Prime Minister, Marianne Thyssen, laid out her view:
"We do not support the end of Belgium, but a reform of the country," she told reporters. "We are not for chaos, but for responsibility. Not for extremism but ... serenity."
Good luck with that.

Then there is Puerto Rico, which, if legislation passes the US Senate, will be allowed to vote on its future status.  The bill has passed the US House of Representatives.  This would be a two step process, with the first round of voting being to see if the residents wish to change their status. The second round would give the choice amongst four options:
  1. Statehood,
  2. Independence,
  3. The current commonwealth status, or
  4. Sovereignty in association with the United States.
Personally, I think the two round option seems a little much, but I like the idea of giving them an up or down vote on statehood or independence.  I am personally opposed to the current commonwealth status, as being a form of neo-colonialism for an island big enough to stand on its own two feet (population of 4 million).  If the residents vote for independence, we need to provide a path for those who wish to move to the US (or remain in the US) to solidify their US citizenship.

UPDATE:  Updated to include the interesting election in the UK this month, on 6 May.  Here is a report on the front runner in The Times.

Regards  —  Cliff

Leaders Mislead

I just don't know how the Archbishop of Boston, Seán Cardinal O'Malley, can get the Arizona law so wrong.  And from that wrong understanding flows wrong conclusions.  However, in fairness, the Cardinal is not all wrong when he talks about the larger issues of immigration.
As I am sure many of you heard in the news, this week the state of Arizona passed a law that makes it a crime under state law to be an undocumented immigrant. Perhaps most disturbingly, the new law allows police to stop anyone they suspect of being undocumented and to demand they show proof of citizenship.

It is disturbing to see such anti-immigrant prejudice being stirred up again in the United States. It was not long ago when we Irish (and other European Catholics) were the objects of this same nativism and there was a negative attitude towards us, our Church, and our culture. We have always been an immigrant Church in the United States, and we must have a special regard for those who are coming to our shores. Certainly, the United States has a right and an obligation to control its borders but, at the same time, we also need just and reasonable immigration laws. The fact that there are millions of undocumented people in the United States is an issue it behooves us to resolve. These people are paying taxes, are part of our work force, and are part of our community. It would be impractical, and indeed impossible, to deport all these people. The only way that we can really heal the situation is by coming up with a path towards legality, but that must be part of a comprehensive immigration program that has reasonable quotas. Sometimes, our quotas do not represent what the work force really needs in the United States.

Having spent my whole life working with immigrants I can say that the Europeans would love to have our problem. The children of immigrants who come to this country — whether they come documented or undocumented — will be Americans, and they will identify with this country, defend it and be part of this body politic.

Unfortunately, the proposals of President Bush and the Kennedy-McCain Bill did not pass. I realize that today’s economic climate makes it more challenging to deal with the issue, but it needs to be dealt with at a national level and with great regard for the social justice questions involved. This issue cannot be solved through the hysterical response of local communities that will cause a great human suffering, discrimination against our own Hispanic citizens and legal residents, and deeper divisions within an already polarized community.
Yes, the Arizona law, following US Federal law, makes it a crime to be in this country illegally, to be "an undocumented immigrant".

The law does not allow the police to stop people on the street because they, the police, suspect the person is undocumented.  The law does not allow the police to "demand they show proof of citizenship" unless that person has called attention to himself or herself by actions which cause the police to believe that person has committed some other, unrelated crime.

In sum, the new Arizona law parallels the US Federal law, but is much less intrusive and abusive than the parallel Mexican Federal law.  It is time for people, especially those who are community leaders, to get a grip on this and to present factual, reasoned and productive responses.  By productive I mean offering up plans for fixing this problem. For example, the Democrats in Congress apparently have the outline of a solution, which The Washington Post has filed here.  Named "REPAIR" (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform), it starts out by stating:
Proponents of immigration reform acknowledge that we need to meet clear and concrete benchmarks before we can finally ensure that America’s borders are secure and effectively deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States.  These benchmarks must be met before action can be taken to adjust the status of people already in the United States illegally and should include the following: (1) increased number of Border Patrol officers;  (2) increased number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to combat smuggling operations; 3) increased number of ICE worksite enforcement inspectors and increased inspection resources; 4) increased number of ICE document fraud detection officers and improved detection capability; 5) increased number of personnel to conduct inspections for drugs, contraband, and illegal immigrants at America’s ports of entry; 6) improved technology, infrastructure, and resources to assist the Border Patrol and ICE in their missions; 7) increased resources for prosecution of drug smugglers, human traffickers, and unauthorized border crossers; and 8) increased immigration court resources to expedite the removal of unlawfully present individuals.
Gee, is this not a response to the Arizona law?

Regards  —  Cliff