Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Release the Kagan

It is becoming a mantra over at the Ann Althouse blog.

This post from Professor Althouse captures my question.  Where is the transcript?

I wanted to read about Ms Kagan's response to the question from Senator Cronyn about the Tenth Amendment.  I had seen a reference to it and then nothing.

On the other hand, there is the case of Senator Hatch asking the nominee if she had written a specific memo and apparently after several follow-ups she gave him:  "The document is certainly in my handwriting."  At least that is what one commenter reports.

So, where is the transcript.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thoughts on the Second Amendment

Over at Richard Howe's blog we have a Blog Post on the SCOTUS opinion on the Second Amendment.  I would describe Dick as luke warm.

Then we have a comment via Instapundit from the Reverend Al Sharpton.  I thought the comment from Professor Reynolds (Instapundit) was interesting.  You don't have to go to the link if you don't wish to (bashing of current day Progressives there).  Professor Reynolds has the key 90% of the point, while the linked blog has the quotes and time.

And, in an earlier post, Professor Reynolds notes:  "Third, it really is interesting how much emphasis the majority, and Justice Thomas’s concurrence, put on the racist roots of gun control."  This on the day the last known (former) Klansman still in the US Congress passed away.

But, one wonders about the outcome if the SCOTUS decided that the Second Amendment wasn't about individual rights, what are we left with?
  • Something like Transubstantiation, where we believe it is real, but agree that we don't understand it
  • The realization that the Second Amendment was a terrible mistake and a secret admission that we don't have what it takes to change it
  • A large argument for states rights, at least in the area of the militia, which would invalidate parts of the US Constitution.
Looking at the last first, we have this view:
In trying to determine the purposes of a state right under the Second Amendment, the obvious place to look first is in the writings of those who champion such an interpretation.[13] Unfortunately, (p.1742)they provide little help. The states' right interpretation appears to be employed against the individual right interpretation in much the same fashion as a chain of garlic against a vampire, pulled out and brandished at need but then hastily tossed back into the cellar lest its odor offend.

However, even in this commentary there is some guidance. For example, gun-control activist Dennis Henigan writes that "[t]he purpose of the [Second] Amendment was to affirm the people's right to keep and bear arms as a state militia, against the possibility of the federal government's hostility, or apathy, toward the militia." He describes his interpretation of the Second Amendment as providing "that the Second Amendment guarantees a right of the people to be armed only in service to an organized militia" and argues that James Madison interpreted the Amendment as ensuring
that the Constitution does not strip the states of their militia, while conceding that a strong, armed militia is necessary as a military counterpoint to the power of the regular standing army.... Madison saw the militia as the military instrument of state government, not simply as a collection of unorganized, privately armed citizens. Madison saw the armed citizen as important to liberty to the extent that the citizen was part of a military force organized by state governments, which possesses the people's "confidence and affections" and "to which the people are attached." This is hardly an argument for the right of people to be armed against government per se.
So in Henigan's view, which it seems safe to regard as representative of the "states' rights" camp, the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee the existence of state military forces that can serve as a counterweight to a standing federal army. Thus, it seems fair to say, the scope of any rights enjoyed by the states under the Second Amendment would be determined by the goal of preserving an independent military force not under direct federal control.

The consequences of such a right are likely to be rather radical. In short, if the Second Amendment protects only a state right to maintain an independent military force, it creates no purely individual right to keep and bear arms, exactly as gun-control proponents argue (although it is possible that courts might derive some individual rights by way of inference). However, the consequences go far beyond that particular result. If the Second Amendment creates a right on the part of the states, rather than individuals, then by necessity it works a pro tanto repeal of certain limitations on state military power found in the Constitution proper, renders the National Guard unconstitutional, at least as currently constituted, and creates a power on the part of state legislatures to nullify federal gun-control laws, if such laws are inconsistent with that state's scheme for organizing its militia. Although these results may seem far-fetched, closer examination will reveal that they are inevitable results of a states' right formulation.
The second bullet it just plain embarrassing.  We think the Second Amendment is bad (for reasons other than suppression of former slaves), but we are not willing to go on the record, let alone propose a Constitutional Amendment.  We repealed prohibition.  Why couldn't a big majority repeal the Second Amendment, aside from the fact that such a big majority doesn't exist?

As for the first option, we already have such a belief and it is called Keynesian Economics.  We shouldn't add another theological belief while we are still digesting the one about the best way to get out of a Depression.

All that said, I like the McDonald v Chicago decision.  I agree with Dick Howe about there being legitimate limitations on gun ownership, including not authorizing those who might commit suicide to own a gun or those who have used a gun in a felony.  What about those who persist in driving without a license.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Are We Seeing a Pattern Here?

Mr Alejandro E. Serra, a resident of Framingham, seems to have caused some mayhem therein, in addition to precipitating a high speed chance down the I-90.  And, he was driving without a license.  And he has been accused of being involved with illegal drugs.

So, is it possible that he developed this general disrespect for the law based upon his experience with our immigration laws?

See the article in The Boston Globe on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, either Reporters John M. Guilfoil and John R. Ellement were not willing to be explicit about Mr Serra's immigration status, or their editors were squeamish about mentioning it, or the Globe Stylebook is very, very PC.

The fourth paragraph from the end of a relatively long article says:
Serra is a foreign national.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a detainer on him and is investigating, an agency spokesman said last night.
What exactly does this paragraph mean?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill

An "Avertible catastrophe"?

Instapundit seems to think so.

Regards  —  Cliff

Senator Robert Byrd, RIP

I would like to think that Senator Robert Byrd, who passed away at 3:00 AM today, represented, in some way, the movement of our nation from deeply embedded and publicly displayed racism to an acceptance of all peoples as equal human beings, marked by their talents and their moral fiber, rather than their race or nationality.

Regards  —  Cliff

Peace in the Near East

I was reading through Sunday's New York Times Book Review and came across a review of a new Bernard Lewis book, Faith and Power:&nbps; Religion and Politics in the Middle East and of Muhammad and the Believers:  At the Origins of Islam, by Fred M Donner.  Professor Donner I have never heard of, but Mr Lewis is more widely known.

The reviewer, Reporter Max Rodenbech, didn't much like the Bernard Lewis book, but he did extract for us this little quote:
If the conflict is about the size of Israel, then long and difficult negotiations can eventually resolve the problem.  But if the conflict is about the existence of Israel, then serious negotiation is impossible.
That about sums it up.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Death of a Terrorist

Over at Ann Althouse we have a blog post on the death of Dwight Armstrong.  Why this matters to me is Mr Armstrong's involvement in the death of Bob Fassnacht:
Dead at the age of 33, in 1970, in Madison, Wisconsin, was Robert Fassnacht.
Mr Fassnacht was killed when some domestic terrorists blew up the Math Lab at the University of Wisconsin.  Mr Fassnacht was a post-doc working on a project that night, which placed him in the place where he was killed.

Regards  —  Cliff

The End of Life

A couple of days ago my friend, Dick Edwards, died, at the age of 72.  A Norwich University graduate, he had a full career in the US Army, and then worked for DRC.  Dick and I were Division Chiefs on the Joint Staff in 1989/90 —he in EurDiv and myself in StratDiv.  We had offices next to each other at the DRC "Mothership" in Andover.

Dick's wife found him on the floor and called 911.  After an hour of resuscitation efforts she asked the rescue team to stop.  Dick had been in the hospital a few months ago with heart and breathing problems.

I was saddened, but not surprised, and Dick's wife made what I see as an informed and ethical decision to let Dick go—to accept that he had died.

On Sunday last The New York Times had an article by Ms Katy Butler, a woman whose Father had had a stroke and then needed an operation for an unrelated problem.  The surgeon, after some pre-operation examination, required a pacemaker be installed before he would operate.

The kernel of the article is that while her Father was going down hill physically and mentally, that pacemaker was preventing nature from taking its course.  The Father suffered and his wife, the caretaker, also suffered.  The author wanted it to be easier to turn off her Father's pace maker.  This is a borderline issue.  It is artificial sustainment of life, but once hooked up, who has the right to turn it off?

My own Mother, who suffered from cancer for over a decade, had a "do not resuscitate" order.  The last time I saw her was on a long weekend in 1983.  I left her on Sunday, flying back to Virginia, from California.  That night her hip broke.  The next day it was reset and the next day she passed away in the hospital.  I remember her telling me that when she passed away that her ashes would have been spread over the desert before I could get back to Palm Desert.  She had a plan and it was executed just as she had explained it to me.  Her network of friends made it happen.

My Mother did not go for euthanasia, but rather went with a conscious decision to avoid heroic measures to maintain her life—a "do not resuscitate" order. 

In various locations people, through their government or by direct vote, have elected to allow euthanasia.  One such place is the Netherlands.  Last week The Daily Telegraph has an article on Euthanasia in the Netherlands.  In 2009 there were 2636 cases of Euthanasia reported in the Netherlands.  This is a definite increase from 2003.
In 2003, the year after Holland became the first country in the world to legalise the practice since the fall of Nazi Germany, there were 1,815 reported cases.
The gist of the overly short article is that while the resort to Euthanasia is increasing in the Dutch nation, palliative care is diminishing.

This is not a good sign:
Anti-euthanasia groups say, however, that the sharp increase is probably [be] linked to the collapse of the palliative care system in the Netherlands following the legalisation of euthanasia eight years ago.
Phyllis Bowman, the executive officer of Right to Life, said: "I am sure that the increase in numbers of people opting for euthanasia is largely a result of inadequate pain control."
People forced by "circumstances" to opt for Euthanasia is not a good thing.  One wonders to what extent a state of mind on the part of the medical profession has resulted in people finding that Euthanasia is their only option.

Those who say we should have a national conversation on "end of life" actions are correct.  But, it needs to be a very wide ranging conversation and it needs to allow for many different points of view—both within the conversation and as legislation is drafted in states and at the national level.  A variety of options need to be available.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reconnaissance Mission

I was given a mission by my youngest son.  It was to do a recce of The Boston Fire Museum.  The Fire Museum is also on Facebook.

The hours of the Museum are somewhat restricted, so I picked late Saturday morning to make the run.  I left Lowell about 1000 and returned by 1400.

Going down I-93 I had a target area map, but not a smaller scale map that would have shown the Boston area from Cambridge south toward the Kennedy Library.  I had not looked at the map sufficiently and thought the Museum was up in the area of the Garden.  As the map clearly showed, the Museum was down South Station.  As a result, I got off the Interstate right after coming across the bridge and drove down Purchase Street (and past a large Boston Fire Station with a number of vehicle bays) until I came to Congress Street and hung a left.  Across the bridge and past the Children's Museum of Boston and there it was on the left.  There was a parking lot on the right and another on the left ($12).  The spots are pretty narrow and getting out required the help of the chap taking the money (the car to my left pulled in too close).

Here is the outside of the Museum, as seen from the parking lot I picked.  It is a long, two bay fire house.  Notice the Rescue Vehicle out in front of the building.

The second photo is of an older machine, as you can see by the models with their older uniforms.  Notice the steam powerplant on the back of the vehicle.  It is front wheel drive, as indicated by a notice on the front right wheel.

To the left, partly obscured, is an older, horse drawn machine.

Then to the front right is a model of the firehouse.

Since the Museum is free, it survives on donations.  I donated by purchasing a small size t-shirt and a small book on Firefighting in Lowell.

After visiting the Fire Museum I walked down Farnsworth Street to, first, the Fort Point Artist Store.  I did find something to purchase, but note that they don't take American Express.

From there I walked next door, back toward the parking lot and at "flour baker + cafe" and purchased a cinnamon molasses cookie and an excellent brownie and headed home.  There were several couples with small children in the cafe.

The Museum has a nice collection of vehicles, although not large and a nice collection of badges and helmuts.  Worth a visit, but it should be combined with another activity to round out the day.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Although the two docents were talking about visitors on Friday, so I think there is some flexibility in hours.
  For any Farnsworths reading this blog.

I Was Wrong

A few posts back I identified Curtis LeMay as a Mayor of Lowell and Ms Marie Sweeney pointed out in a Comment that I had misidentified the Mayor, who was actually Armand LeMay.  I had remembered being up on the second floor of City Hall and seeing the photo of a Fonz like visage on the wall and had thought it say Curtis LeMay.  So, I went back to confirm what I had seen and sure enough, Marie was correct and I was wrong.  I am a mere amateur, compared to Marie, in the area of local history.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 25, 2010

On the Road Cafe Moves On

On the Road Cafe is on the block.  I found that out about a week ago when I proposed that Tom O'Brien, the LRCC Chairman, and I rendezvous there for coffee—well, not coffee for me.  I am a tea drinker.  On the fly, on the cell phone, we updated our rendezvous and opted for IHOP, down the road.

I have liked the On the Road Cafe, but I always wondered how it supported itself with such a small area for people to sit and talk and sip coffee and eat pasteries.  But, it hung in there for several years before the economy brought it down.  When I got there that day I noted the parking lot was empty and then saw this sign.  Thus the change in rendezvous.  The IHOP is the right price and the food is good and there was decent sized tables at which to hold a conversation.

I assumed that it was just a one day or one week closing for some reason and so then cruised back, but then noticed that there was a "for sale" sign.  The "For Sale" sign is not visible in the large picture of the whole building, a picture provided in case you are interested in a little coffee shop on Route 38 in Lowell.

















I am sorry to see it go.

Regards  —  Cliff

Helping the US Congress

Around the dinner table this evening we talked about the US Congress Conference Committee hammering out the "sweeping financial overhaul" bill.

The Washington Post reported "Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee led the effort in the Senate," said "No one will know until this is actually in place how it works."

That statement is, at one level scary, but at another level not unexpected.  I have heard that sometimes staffers are still updating bills after the final vote and the bill is on the way to the President for his signature.

But, one would have thought that Senator Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, or at least their staffers, would have had some idea of how the bill would work.

Then my daughter came up with an excellent idea.  By, I assume, a Constitutional Amendment, we require the Vice President and the Speaker of the House to administer a 25 question tests, before any votes, to all members of their individual Houses.  The test would cover the bill under consideration and those who passed the test would get to vote and the others would not.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Lower House on Beacon Hill

From The Boston Globe we have this article " Officials give up on cutting health perks".  The sub-headline is "Public employee unions defeat legislative effort".
The state’s public employee unions won a major victory this week when the Legislature abandoned efforts to allow cities and towns to trim generous health care benefits enjoyed by thousands of municipal employees, retirees, and elected officials.
What is it about our Commonwealth that our State Government has to "allow" our cities and towns to manage their own affairs?

Here is an Editorial from The Lowell Sun on the failure of the Great and General Court to include authority for local governments to get control of medical costs for local government employees.
City and town managers have long been requesting that the Legislature give them the same right the state has regarding employee health insurance.  If lawmakers would simply vote to take health insurance out of the negotiation process, many municipalities would be able to resolve their budgets problems without reducing services, school programs or jobs. And public-sector employees would still have excellent health-insurance options.
Now we have Blue Mass Group unhappy with the Great and General Court for the same reason.

Regards  —  Cliff

Provincetown School System

Yesterday's issue of The Boston Globe had an article by Reporter Jack Nicas on the goings-on at the Provincetown School System:  "Condoms, secrecy for Provincetown pupils."
Students in Provincetown — from elementary school to high school — will be able to get free condoms at school under a recently approved policy that takes effect this fall.  The rule also requires school officials to keep student requests secret, and ignore parents’ objections.
At one level I just shrug and say it was bound to happen somewhere.  At another level I am very upset for this violation of the principal of subsidiarity.

Is this authority without responsibility?

There sits my real concern.  What happens if something goes wrong, and something always goes wrong.  Just ask Mr Tony Hayward of BP.

If Dick and Jane decide to "protect themselves" via the School Nurse and for some reason, in the heat of passion either fail to use the condom or improperly install it or it breaks and then Jane gets preggers, will the School Nurse clean up the problem or will the problem be dropped in the lap of the parents?  Can Jane go to the School Nurse to get help on an abortion, but with the same secrecy as with the condom?  If she has emotional problems, will the School Nurse handle those problems, discretely?

I don't think so.  I think that at the end of the day the ball will be in the parents' court.

What if Charles and David decide to go to the School Nurse and get a condom so they can experiment with same sex sex and there is a mishap and it turns out the condom user had HIV and infects the other participant?  Who pays the medical bills?  The School District or the parents of the unfortunate partner?

Authority without responsibility.

The Governor, Deval Patrick, weighed in on this, here, and he thought the policy a little too much.
"Obviously, this is a local issue, but I expressed my concern about the counseling and access being age-appropriate, and, for young kids, that parents ought to be involved," Patrick said in a call to The Associated Press.
WCVB TV, in Boston, quotes my friend and classmate from college, Kris Mineau, as saying "the policy is absurd".

Regards  —  Cliff

  Massachusetts Family Institute.

Climate Change Risk Issues

My younger, but not youngest, Brother sent along this item regarding climate change.

From The New Repbulic, we have "Why the Decision to Tackle Climate Change Isn’t as Simple as Al Gore Says", by a Mr Jim Manzi.

It is about the calculation of risk and comparing risk.  It is just a lick and a promise, but it does help put the arguments in some sort of relationship.

Longish but interesting.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Princess Leia Trashes the Tea Party

Princess Leia Organa is against the Tea Party movement.  Well, at least Actress Carrie Fisher.

Here she is being interviewed and at the end she is asked about the Tea Party Movement.  She responds that she doesn't like it and thinks it is wrong and racist (that was a prompted error).

What is Star Wars if it is not the Tea Party Movement, in the future, writ large and gone to war?  And who is leading the whole thing in Episode I?  Prince Leia Organa.

And what is it with various Tea Parties supporting "minority" candidates, and in all places, in South Carolina?

Oh Lord, shelter our paradigms under your wing, lest we be force to confront the truth.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  The Tea Party Movement does not have to go to war, unlike Princes Leia, since Rahm Emanual is no Darth Vader.

  The interview was to sell her new book Wishful Drinking

Peak Oil Postponed, Again

Per The Daily Telegraph, out of the UK, we have this article, "Peak Oil Postponed Again".

Is this good news or bad news?

I take it to be very bad news, because it will be an excuse to again postpone getting organized to fix our overall energy problem, which means a lot of importation of energy—remember the bumper sticker that says "Energy is a National Security Issue".  We should have started in 1973, or when then President Jimmy Carter gave us his "Malaise Speech" or when then President Bush acted to drive Iraq back out of Kuwait, or ...

Regards  —  Cliff

General McCrystal

I have avoided commenting on this imbroglio because I have strong views, but I also felt I wanted to see how President Obama handled this situation rather than stir the waters even more.

Frankly, from seeing the headlines and without reading any of the stories it seemed to me that General Stanely McCrystal had to go.  He is not the first and he won't be the last, assuming this Republic lasts another 200 years.

The late H Normal Campbell, who I first met in 1960, got into hot water over his remarks about the then President on May 24 1993 as part of an awards program at a US Air Force unit on a Dutch base in the Netherlands.  As a Washington Post article at the time noted, "Military law prohibits contemptuous comments by officers about their civil leaders."  It was the end of the General's career in the Air Force.

That is not to say his firing wasn't unfortunate.  The war in Afghanistan is important business, but General McCrystal is not the ultimate authority, President Obama is.  While I think Secretary of Defense Donal Rumsfeld was a little childish in telling the military chain of command, back around 2002, that they should stop using the term Commander-in-Chief, in a way he is correct, in that in the US System, the Constitution calls out that the President is the Commander-in-Chief.

And what about General Petraeus?  He did the job in Iraq and got promoted to the Command of US Central Command out of it.  Now he is taking a positional demotion (but not a rank demotion) and will be working for the new Commander of US Central Command, the person who replaces him.  I assume he gives up the nice house on MacDill AFB, (on Staff Drive) and he and his wife will have to move into new quarters, while his successor moves into his house.

That said, I expect he will do as good a job as can be done.  Here is the view of Analyst Tom Ricks, published in The Washington Post.  It seems like a good assessment.

For those who say this was a move to get him out of the way in 2012, I think that General Petraeus has been plain about not wishing to run.

Here is a comment on Freelance Correspondent Michael Yon's view on the situation.  I tend to trust Mr Yon.  Also please note that he is supported by us, his readers, and not by some newspaper or magazine or other manifestation of the MSM.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The use of the term, I believe, we picked up from the British during WWII.  They used it liberally.  We adopted it, along with Supreme Allied Commander.

I Blame Glenn Reynolds

And, the Instapundit agreed with this blog post.

I remember a chap in at Bitburg AB, in the late 1960s, who used to complain that they told him if he voted for Barry Goldwater there would be war, and he did, and there was.

Regards  —  Cliff

Good Communists

Columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote yesterday, in The Boston Globe that There is no ‘good’ communist.

I think Mr Jacoby is a bit over the top here, but I will grant you that there are few who have been deeply involved in running "communist" governments, or providing them with support, who are worthy of praise.  Those who stood by Joseph Stalin through all he did, or who stood with Mao through the loss of 100 million people, who who said that Pol Pot was a good leader have shamed themselves.  They stand with those who stood by Adolph Hitler as he killed 12 million people in death camps.

There are many sincere socialists out there.  The idea of the Government working to set prices and terms of exchange is unattractive to me, but it is a way to organize an economy.  I think Tony Benn is wrong, but I respect him.  There are even sincere communists, albeit people who have not thought through the implications of communism over the long run for their fellow human beings.

What we should all distain are the Walter Duranty's of the world.  They either allow themselves to be deceived on a massive scale or are so innured to human suffering and the denial of basic freedoms that they are prepared to lie and cover up with no boundaries.  But, worse, through the written word, or film or some other medium they try to convince us that communism is good.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea...
So, Mr Jacoby gets it partly right.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Here is an article that talks to whether a British Museum should present Air Commodore Spencer with, or without, his cigar.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  An Air Commodore is an RAF rank equivalent to Brigadier General in the USAF.

Illegal Immigration on Dick Howe Blog

I wanted to blog about the editorial in The Boston Globe about the Harvard student who lost his passport and thus was stranded down in San Antonio.  The chap is a Mexican citizen and in this nation illegally.

But, Marjorie Arons-Barron got around to it first and had this blog post.  I posted a comment, which, at this moment, is awaiting "approval".

That is all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Chimps of War

I came across this article, "Chimps, Too, Wage War and Annex Rival Territory", while looking for a different article in The New York Times.
The objective of the 10-year campaign was clearly to capture territory, the researchers concluded. The Ngogo males could control more fruit trees, their females would have more to eat and so would reproduce faster, and the group would grow larger, stronger and more likely to survive. The chimps’ waging of war is thus “adaptive,” Dr. Mitani and his colleagues concluded, meaning that natural selection has wired the behavior into the chimps’ neural circuitry because it promotes their survival.
I am not sure this is good news for the Family of Hominidae (I wonder how you pronounce that word?).

I gave this the second label of culture, but I have my doubts.  On the other hand, it being biology isn't good news.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Engine War

I like Rep Barney Frank's tie in his photo in today's lead editorial in The Boston Globe.  I have one just like it.

The Boston Globe is using Mr Frank's position on the GE produced F-136 alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to talk about Pork.  The paper notes that Mr Frank says he will vote for the engine, but would vote to kill the aircraft, if that vote came up.  The Globe makes Mr Frank's position sound like a Senator Kerry "I voted for it before I voted against it" stand.  This is, I believe a wrong characterization.

Sure, the F-136 is made in Lynn.  Yes, it could well be pork.  On the other hand, it could well be a case of short term needs vs long term benefits.  The Department of Defense would like to save the money being spent on the alternative engine and divert it to other things.  At the same time, it is giving up long term benefits, including possible money savings and increased contractor performance.  This isn't contracting theory out of some university.  For the short version, see this Congressional Research Service report and for the longer version, read this book.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have flow aircraft with both the Pratt Whitney F-100 engine and the GE F-110 engine, the products of "The Great Engine War".

If the DoD doesn't have the money, or we need to cut the budget, then we should cut the second engine and take the risks associated with one design and one production line.  If we think we should invest in long term savings and effectiveness we should keep the funding for the second engine.  The alternative, which, Rep Frank alludes to, is to cut the whole Joint Strike Fighter program.  But, if we do we need to keep the F-22 line open and offer it to all those allies who have invested in the F-35 JSF, as well as buy a few more for ourselves, as a hedge against emerging threats and possible future problems with our current stable of fighters.

Representative Barney Frank isn't wrong all the time.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Law is Complex

My youngest brother sent me a link to a court decision in which his name appeared (he was the contracting officer who denied a claim for money by a company). However, as my middle brother noted, in an EMail, and which I picked up from its several mentions in the court decision, there was a reference to "Rick’s Mushroom Service v. United States,".  This, in turn, lead to "spent mushroom substrate".  It makes you never want to again have your steak smothered in mushrooms.

I have a PDF copy of the 14 June 2010 decision in PARADIGM LEARNING, INC., v THE UNITED STATES, which I would be happy to EMail to anyone who asks (crk at theworld.com), but I don't yet know how to attach a PDF to a blog post.  Advice would be appreciated.

In a twelve page decision, Judge Margaret M. Sweeney, of the United States Court of Federal Claims, dismissed the defendent's, request that the case by Paradigm Learning, Inc, be dismissed.  The Paradigm folks are claiming that having seen their product the Government created a like one of its own and didn't pay up for violating the proprietary rights of Paradigm.

I am looking forward to seeing how this plays out, as the fondest dream of my 20s was not to make Ace, although I would have loved it, but to hold a patent and to be able to say to the Government, no, we will use my Terms and Conditions.

Regards  —  Cliff

  That would be us taxpayers, represented by Joseph A. Pixley, United States Department of Justice.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Washington Awash in Money

I don't have guest bloggers, but here is a comment from one of my reader's, one of our readers:
Our houses of Congress are supposed to represent us, but they don’t.  Why?

Their incentive is to get their hefty benefits including a generous retirement. So they have to get reelected.  To get reelected, they need to pass out favors.  Money works well but doing wise things doesn’t.

Thus, Jefferson’s idea of a volunteer government is truly great.  It eliminates monetary favors and leaves only doing a good job as the duty of office.

Of course we will have to listen to all the wailing about how hard it is to get people to volunteer for the offices without offering significant compensation. NH does not seem to have this problem, however.
Sure, you can write this off as the ravings of someone from Chelmsford, but I believe that would be short sighted.

The fact is that getting elected is expensive, if you have an opponent of any worth.  K Street in Washington is awash in lobbyist money.  That money is not just staying in the banks of the lobbyists.

This article, from The Wall Street Journal tells us about the problem and tells us about a possible solution.  (In reading the article, forget about what party Mr Murtha had tacked next to his name.)

Regards  —  Cliff

This is Interesting

Apparently the sale of fuel efficient cars has slumped.  With the Gulf Oil Spill nearing 60 days, one would think that the May sales of fuel efficient cars would be UP rather than down.

Down is what Mark Tapscott, of The Examiner, sees in the stats for May.

Is this trend, which is not just for May, but for 2010, a sign that people are short sighted or is it that our public conversation has failed to capture what is going on with oil?  I offer one more possibility.  The people are distrustful of what "authority" is telling them.  Remember that old Abe Lincoln saw, "You may deceive all the people part of the time, and part of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time."  But, he also said:  "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

I wonder if that means that the People want the nuances as well as the main bullet points?

Regards  —  Cliff

Afghanistan's (and America's) Future

The war in Afghanistan is not going well.  It is like Iraq in some phases.  We can see the concern in today's James Carroll column in The Boston Globe.

So, I found this blog post at Chicago Boyz interesting:
Voices from many quarters are saying dire things about the American-led campaign in Afghanistan. The prospect of defeat, whatever that may mean in practice, is real. But we are so close to the events, it is hard to know what is and is not critical. And the facts which trickle out allow people who are not insiders to only have a sketchy, pointillist impression of the state of play. There is a lot of noise around a weak signal.
The blog is proposing to have a roundtable on what the results of an American defeat in Afghanistan might be in 2050.

This is not to say that I believe that the US backed Afghani government will fail and that we will be forces to withdraw, as were the Soviets, some 21 years ago.  But, war is an uncertain enterprise.  Mr James Carroll says "the Taliban has refused to cooperate with America’s Afghan strategy".  Well then, it is a bad strategy.  Strategy is about putting the other person in a corner and encouraging him to give up.  Mr Carroll is correct in noting that we are currently not doing well in that area.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The New York Times says...

Today The New York Times had an article debunking the theory that crime is increasing in Arizona, based upon a report it obtained from the FBI.  The article, "On Border Violence, Truth Pales Compared to Ideas", is here.  Here is the table linked to in the article.  I do wonder about why Tucson has more crime than Phoenix.

Well, there is always someone to spoil the story. Here comes the blog Just One Minute with the idea that the should consider not just big cities (Population over 100,000), but other areas.  The blog post is here.  And, the statistics tell a different story.  Is this what we call "Fisking"?

Hat tip Instapundit.

NB:  I am not against immigration.  I do think that the queue jumpers should not be allowed to get ahead of my Granddaughter's husband and others who have come here the regular way, with papers and permission.  I have also proposed my own solution to the illegal immigration problem, which includes an available path to citizenship for those who desire it.

Then there is the story that some National Parks in Arizona are closed for safety.  I went to the US National Park Website. Then I picked "Find a Park by State" and picked Arizona and got a blank screen.  But then I got the same thing clicking on Massachusetts.  Most other states seem to be functioning properly on the NPS web site.  Closed parks or bad software—you decide.

Regards  —  Cliff

  With the implication being that the increase in crime is due to illegal immigration.

The Near East Comes to Oakland

Goings on in Oakland and some strong statements, via Instapundit, who directs us to this Pajamas Media Blog Post.

I have labeled this "Near East" because Middle East is too broad a term to capture the Eastern Mediterranean as a focus.  Near East is an old British Term.

Bottom line here is that Yasser Kashlak, a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization” says:
Gilad Schalit should go back to Paris and those murderers go back to Poland, and after that we will chase them until the ends of the earth to bring them to justice for their acts of slaughter from Deir Yassin until today.” Kashlak, a fervent Hizbullah supporter, called Israel a “rabid dog sent to the region to frighten the Arabs. He said he had a message for Israelis: ‘Get on the ships we are sending you and go back to your lands. Don’t let the moderate Arab leaders delude you, [you] cannot make peace with us. Our children will return to Palestine, you have no reason for coexistence. Even if our leaders will sign a peace agreement, we will not sign.’
This is a Helen Thomas like view.

On the other hand, reading, this evening, my wife's Term Paper for the Nazi Germany course at UMass Lowell Continuing Ed, I found that the Nazi "coordination of culture" included children's' books talking about how the Jews should go back to their area "down south".  So, where are they to go?  I am thinking that Israel is right where it is supposed to be.  If Yasser Kashlak is promising to track them down wherever they are, they might as well stay where they are.

On the other hand, the Gaza Strip needs economic development, but that requires peace.  Cue Jimmy Carter.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday's Paper

I am not sure "The Saturday Chat" meant what it said when it said of the Ken Burns presentation:
Burns spun a 30-minute speech, prosaic and powerful,...
My dictionary says:
having the style or diction of prose; lacking poetic beauty
I have never taken it as a complement.

The full "Saturday Chat" can be found here.

In the mean time, Columnist E J Dionne wrote about a "Different kind of malaise puts Dems on Defensive".  Mr Dionne seems to think that the Democrats in DC should go on the offensive, touting their success with the stimulus and the health insurance reform bill and they have just the right bill to fix Wall Street on the front burner and.  Per Mr Dionne the Democrats have identified big oil, normally aligned with the Republicans, as the enemy.  I guess there is also Afghanistan, the right war.

He then admits the recent NPR poll does show the Democratic incumbents in trouble.  Mr Dionne's advice is that it is so bad the Democrats might as well come out of the bunker and go on the offensive.  Hunkering down is not going to do it.  One Democrat who is following this advice is our own Rep Niki Tsongas.  It will be interesting to see if that works.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, not really.  It is always patch-up work.  No matter how smart Rep Barney Frank is, he is never going to keep ahead of the creativity of Wall Street.  Wall Street is, these days, about creativity.  Is Mr Frank going to kill that creativity?
  I guess.  However BP did give a lot of money to the Obama campaign.

Breaking Up?

Out on The Right Coast one of the bloggers picked up on this piece in the London Review of Books.

Mr David Runciman asks "Is this the end of the UK?".  We have been through this before.  There was the Welsh nationalism, the Plaid Cymru.  Then there was Cornwall wanting to be free.  The British Government gave the Scots and the Irish and the Welsh their own Parliaments, leaving the English the only members of the Union without their own parliament.

Then there were the French with the people out in Brittany wanting to be free.  ("Il est interdit de parler breton et de cracher par terre".)

Over in Belgium the recent elections suggests there may be a divide between the Flemish (Dutch) and the Walloons (French).  The Kingdom of Belgium is not that old.  Catholics have had the right to hold office in Massachusetts longer than Belgium has been a nation.

And, regarding the post on Belgium, I thought the one comment was pretty drool:  "Charles Johnson bans Belgium in 5, 4, 3 ...".

It all seemed to be patched up, until now.  Greece and Spain and other nations with debt problems are not helping.

Which leads us to this International Herald Tribune article on France and Germany.  This is not good news.  But, Europe breaking up is unthinkable...isn't it?

If you think Washington is having trouble managing an out of control oil well a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico, think about the Administration dealing with a breakup of Europe.  The good news is that SecState Hillary Clinton would be in charge, if she was given a free rein.  If she has managed to keep Bill under some sort of control and stay married to him for lo these last 35 years, Europe should be a piece of cake.

Regards  —  Cliff

What drove Melanie Phillips to the right?

I will review this book—The World Turned Upside Down:  The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power— on my blog if someone sends me a review copy. 

In the mean time, here is a review from The Guardian.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I will take a Kindle download.

Snakebit, Peggy?

Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says that "President Obama is Snakebit".  Peggy Noonan is an informed observer and there is that saying attributed to Curtis LeMay:  "I can not distinguish between the unfortunate and the incompetent and therefore will not try".

On the other hand, the President did manage to lead the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to pass a whopping big stimulus package and a major overhaul of health care insurance.  So he isn't doing that bad.  The Gulf Oil Spill, like Katrina, is a "Black Swan" event.  While the knock on George Bush was that the Federal Government did not respond soon enough to the inability of local and state authorities to do what was needed, the problem now seems to be that the Federal Government keeps getting in the way of state government trying to do its duty.

Then there is the view of Joy McCann, from Whittier, Little Miss Atilla, posted here.

I think this is all a tempest in a tea pot.  While I am not a big fan of the President and his way of doing business, now is not the time to pile on.  We have a number of major problems we are facing, including the oil spill.  We need a heck of a lot of constructive criticism at this point.  Calling the President "snakebit" isn't helpful.  On the other hand, this Gulf Oil Spill problem is, in a way, a problem of our own making.  We should have been working on this from the oil embargo in the early 1970s.  And I don't mean "cap and trade".  I mean alternative sources of energy, like wind and nuclear.  I mean smart efficiency in a lot of areas, including automobiles.  And, drilling for oil in places that make more sense than a mile down in the Gulf of Mexico.  And working on our electric transmission infrastructure.  All are to blame.  Now we are just reaping what we previously sowed.

UPDATE:  I provided a link to "Black Swan Events" on Wikipedia.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The General, not the Mayor.

PS:  Hat tip to Instapundit

Primary Elections and the Parties

Kad Barma is dead set against political parties.  My view is that even if we made them go away at the polls, they would still be self-generating in the legislature, as sides, over time, maneuvered for power.

Here is a blog post that suggests a problem with too pure a democratic system.  The subject is Afghan elections, but I thought this part was interesting:
In 2005 there were so many people running for parliament in many districts that the winner may only have obtained a small percentage of the vote. In Kabul, for instance, 30 of the 33 winning parliamentary candidates won with less than 3 percent of the vote. Nationally, 64 percent of Afghan voters cast their votes for candidates who lost. (These figures are drawn from Thomas Johnson’s brilliant paper analyzing the 2005 Afghan elections in the March–June 2006 Central Asian Survey, readily downloadable on the Web.)
Once could say "hold a primary" but that seems to narrow democracy.

And if one holds a primary, what is the cut off? Narrow it to two?  So, then the one elected is one of two who got less than 3% if the primary?  And at what point would the primary be needed?  More than two candidates, more than five candidates, more than ten candidates?

I would agree with a plan to hand primaries back to the political parties and not put the expense on the taxpayers.  And, even if we don't, I would favor a process that said that those not registered party members do not get to vote in the Primary Election.  I would mechanize that as current voters need to be registered with the party at least 90 days in advance and new voters may declare their party affiliation when they register, right up to the day of voting, including the day of voting.

Regards  —  Cliff

  As the Solid South of my youth did with cross filing.  But, my memory may be failing me.  The Wikipedia entry talks to California having cross-filing and even mentions Richard Nixon running unopposed in the 1948 Republican primary and also running in the Democratic Party primary and winning that nomination also.  Interestingly, California just voted to essentially do away with parties in primaries, with Proposition 14.  My personal view is that this is a step in the wrong direction.
  And, how solid would that be?  I would hope it wouldn't be like Lowell elections, where the City Council takes an Abrahamic like approach and keeps saying, well, let's cancel the primary, even though there is one more candidate than twice the number of seats, but let's cancel because there is one more than one candidate, but what if there was one more than one more ... lets cancel.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cutting the Federal Budget

In today's issue of The Boston Globe there is an OpEd by Joshua Green on Defense spending.  Mr Green is billed as Senior Editor of The Atlantic.

Mr Green makes the point about the need to cut spending and notes that Defense spending is discretionary spending, discretionary being as opposed to "entitlements".  On the other hand, entitlements are just creatures of the US Congress and can go away with the vote of both houses (and the signature of the President).  But, that is not the point.  Mr Green takes the Obama/Biden Administration to task for excluding Defense spending from his proposed three-year freeze on discretionary spending.

I agree that President Obama should not have excluded Defense spending.  However, I find this statement to be tactical and not strategic.  Referring to the F-35, the EFV (USMC amphibious armored personnel carrier) and the V-22, Mr Green says:
That we continue paying for these weapons makes even less sense now that terrorists, not communists, are the enemy.
The sense lacks all sense of the fact that future threats materialize because the enemy is looking for our current weakness and our political leadership sometimes decides to engage even when it previously said it wouldn't (see, for example, the Korean War).  The day before yesterday it was the Warsaw Pact armies on the German Plains, yesterday it was Iraq's Republican Guards, today it is terrorists/insurgents, but tomorrow it could be anything.

Not only could tomorrow be anything, but recruiting and training the force and buying the weapons could be a multi-year process.  Remember, not a single US "big deck" carrier fought in World War II that had not be ordered before the war.

And then there is that Jet Engine the author pilloried Rep Barney Frank for voting for.  A few decades ago having a jet engine competition was considered a major success and it save hundreds of millions of dollars, as competition drove the price down.  Tactical vs strategic.  More expensive in the short run, but less expensive in the long run.

Unmentioned is personnel costs.  I am not saying bring back the draft, which would be a terrible and inequitable decision.  I am suggesting that pay raises do not need to be going up as quickly as they are, especially in a time of economic turbulence.  We are out of the pit where young Service members were paid a terribly small amount of money.

What we are doing is not hedging our bets against a future war that does not look like Iraq or Afghanistan.  We are saying we have enough C-17s and F-22s.  But, once we shut down the production line it will be near impossible to procure more—and at this point they are cheap.

For a couple of years when I was teaching at the National War College I ran the NWC Defense Budget exercise.  It was a terrible thing to do to the students.  At the end of the day they had to cut, and they had to get agreement across their seminars.  They did better when they developed both a current and a long range strategy before they reached for the ax.  That is a real bummer.

Here is a plug for one defense reform organization:
The group, The Sustainable Defense Task Force, encompasses the political spectrum — from Barney Frank, on the left, to Ron Paul, on the right — along with a host of military reformers. They share a belief that unrestrained military spending is a danger to the budget, and to the country. And they make a persuasive case that we can spend less without sacrificing security.
Barney Frank and Ron Paul together.  They may be on the right track.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Actually, I think the Vice President is not really part of the Administration, except to the extent that he is invited to sit in or even given some task.  The Vice President is part of the US Senate, just like Vice President Cheney said.  However, I find folks using the phrase Bush/Cheney Administration and there should be some form of legitimate reprisal against such people.

Tea Party and Social Justice

I am blaming this on Instaundit

This link is to a long discussion of the Tea Party Movement and the concept of Social Justice.  I am posting this especially for my middle brother, Lance.

The author, Timothy Dalrymple, talks about traveling from Harvard Square to the Tea Party on the Boston Common and thinking about a number of issues.  This is a long posting, and it gets into arcane facts about the idea of Social Justice.  It talks about Father Charles Coughlin (who I never knew) and the Reverend Jim Wallis (who I have met).

The question Mr Dalrymple raises is, does the Tea Party Movement represent a form of the Social Justice Movement.  He claims to not know the answer, but in thinking about it he helps us all to better think about Social Justice and about the Tea Party Movement.

I think I come down on the side that says that the Tea Party Movement, in its concerns for where the government is going, is a movement concerned about the poor and the oppressed and about whether the present direction of the Federal Government will not lead away from an ever increasing pie for all and toward greater government regulation of the lives of all, thus limiting the freedom of all to capture for themselves a new deal.  The Tea Party Movement tends toward Rerum Novarum and eschews The Communist Manifesto, and probably knows almost nothing of the former and probably hasn't read the latter, but is against it.

Mr Dalrymple finishes up this first part of a promised three part series thusly:
First:  the great majority of those who participate in the Tea Party movement do so because they believe it represents ideals, principles, and policies that would serve the greater good of the American people, and not only their own pocketbooks. What separates religious progressives from the religious conservatives that participate in Tea Party rallies is not compassion but ideology.

Second:  my trust in the moral intuitions and pragmatic instincts of the thousands who attended the rally that morning is just as strong, if not stronger, than my trust in the insight and expertise of the two thousand intellectuals who sit atop the academic food chain at Harvard University.

And third:  I am less concerned with the anger and bigotry I had been warned to expect in the Tea Partiers than I am with the anger and bigotry I have seen directed against them.  The former, to my eyes, appeared the stronger by far.
But, as I say, it is a long post and only the first of three.

Regards  —  Cliff

  A reference to a William F Buckley quip that "he would rather be governed by the first two thousand people listed in the Boston phone directory than the two thousand who comprise the faculty at Harvard University."

City Budget Forecasts

Well, financial forecasts.

Here City Manager Bernie Lynch talks about forecasting WRT the City's budgets:
We do project challenging budgets over the next five years based upon realistic and conservative projections. There are no rosy scenarios. These forecasts should and will be the basis of our strategy moving forward to achieve the goals of controlling costs and maintaining fiscal stability.  The FY11 budget in its entirety, the Budget presentation and the Five Year Forecast can be found at the click.
This was in response to an editorial in The Lowell Sun on Tuesday.

I loved the line, "It Wasn’t Raining when Noah Built the Ark".  So true and it captures the point about forecasting.  If Noah had waited for it to start to rain he would have been too late.

This is a think for yourself kind of issue.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Remember, Lowell Sun items go away after about a month and I am unlikely to update the link.  You will be on your own.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trends?

Well, that terrible man up in New Hampshire, Mark Steyn, is writing about life in Europe and Canada again, here.  It is about people living with death threats and physical abuse.

I think that death threats, especially those against the late Senator Edward Kennedy, are an especially bad thing and not conducive to a flourishing democracy.  And people in DC were well aware of the danger of an assassination attempt, at this paragraph from today Boston Globe article shows:
“Please make sure that Ted Kennedy gets all the protection he needs. We are down to one Kennedy. . .’’ an urgent FBI communication under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s name said on June 6, 1968, the day Robert F. Kennedy died... .
Fortunately, Senator Edward Kennedy did not let such threats slow him down.

We should be aware that death threats were not limited to Senator Kennedy and the President.  They become a way of life for some people.  What the article in The Boston Globe fails to tell us is who else gets death threats.  Until we know those numbers we won't understand the scope of the problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I like him, but I acknowledge that he sometimes substitutes for Rush Limbaugh and he may have been at Rush's recent wedding, along with Sir Elton John and others.

The Electoral College

I saw this issue mentioned on Gerry Nutter's Blog.  I commented here.

Then I read the report by Reporter Matt Murphy, here.  This line got my attention and caused me to put something down on my own blog:
Supporters, however, point out that Massachusetts voters would gain clout because their votes would be just as important as those of people in Ohio, Florida or Pennsylvania.
How do they figure that?  Look at the breakout of Electoral College votes.

We in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have 12 electoral votes  On the other hand, Ohio has 27 electoral votes, Florida 20, and Pennsylvania 21.  Four states, California (55), Texas (34), New York (31) and Florida (27) provide 27% of the votes needed to win.  So, we here in the Commonwealth are going to be even with number four Florida?  It will only get worse in a popular election.

One could argue that by eliminating the Electoral College, or making it no longer relevant, the vote of one person in the Commonwealth is the same as one vote in Florida, but that was pretty much the same as before.  The question is, are there enough votes up here to attract the attention of the candidates.  Under the current system, and with the current political divides in the nation, the Electoral College encourages candidates to go a little further afield in the hunt for voters.  Given today's situation, Florida is going to draw more attention than Massachusetts.  Florida can be in play and has 27 votes and Massachusetts is likely not in play and has only 12 votes.

The current system means that smaller states have some modicum of clout.  Every state gets at least three (3) electoral votes.  If we go for a national popular vote the number of smaller states perpetually frozen out will increase, as their popular vote total will be proportionately smaller than their electoral vote.  Today the New England states are 12.6% of the vote needed to win.  The same as Texas.  Frankly, I think we need to keep the Electoral College, which gives smaller states a little more clout, because that 12.6% will get smaller if we go with strictly the population and the popular vote.

The current system has its flaws, but we know how it works.  We have no idea of about the long term impact of a different system.  There are enough moving parts as it is.  I don't wish to see more at this time.  And for those who bring up the 2000 election, remember that if we had had a popular vote election it would have changed how the candidates campaigned, and thus might have changed the outcome, and might well have changed who the candidates were, thus potentially changing the outcome.

If people want to really clean up the election messiness they should work to eliminate what are essentially open primaries in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  I would be happy to go as far as having the state and the cities step out of the primary election business, leaving it to the parties to find a way to nominate candidates (and letting independents get on the ballot by collecting enough signatures).

Regards  —  Cliff

  Likely to go to 11 after the current US Census is done.

Women and Math

This can't be right.  Otherwise the professors at Harvard stupidly pilloried then Harvard President Larry Summers:
They find consistent evidence for biological differences in math aptitude, particularly in males’ advantage in spatial ability and in their disproportionate presence at the extreme ends of the distribution curve on math tests
Go to Instapudit to find his take.

Or go to the original article, in The New York Times.  Columnist John Tierney writes "Legislation Won’t Close Gender Gap in Sciences".

I am on the other side here.  I have a daughter who is ABD in Math and two sons who are not even in the running, although one does have a JD and the other manages a big software program based on an Oracle product.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I would like to pillory Larry Summers, but it involves the US economy and not a suggestion that we look in all the dark corners of the question as to why women are not as present in Math and Science as men.

Showing Compassion

"Australian 'angel' saves lives at suicide spot".

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Archdiocese of Washington and Same-Sex Marriage

Here is a commentary on how the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and its Archbishop, the Most Reverand Donald W. Wuerl, is handling a recent City Ordinance change involving extending health benefits to other than spouses.  The source is the Sojourners Community website blog, God's Politics.

The gist of the story is that DC passed an ordinance recognizing same sex marriage and requiring anyone with a contract with the District "... to provide equal spousal benefits to employees regardless of a spouse’s gender".  Of course, DC Catholic Charities had such contracts, which made life easier for everyone.  Standing on principals, DC Catholic Charities cut benefits to all employees.

The author of the post, Bryan Cones, is managing editor of U.S. Catholic, out of Chicago.  Mr Cones recommends the solution of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
That city’s board of supervisors began requiring groups with city contracts to provide equal benefits in 1997. Rather than take the easy way out, then-Archbishop William Levada expanded employee benefits, allowing employees to cover any other legally domiciled adult member of a household—a sibling, parent, or domestic partner.
That is a solution.  But what if some area changes the law to allow multiple partners?

Absurd, you say.  Of course it is.

However, given that our Chief Justice here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Margaret Marshall, blew the call on Goodridge vs Department of Public Health, I would not be surprised at anything.  And, given the rising number of Muslims in the United States, why would there not eventually be an outcry from that minority for such equity?

Where I think Chief Justice Marshall missed the boat is in not pointing out that state recognition of marriage was a violation of the separation of church and state.  In my humble and non-law school graduate opinion, Ms Marshall should have said that the state is interested in the contracts people make and tying themselves to others is a contract, to be registered with the state.  Marriage is something that happens in a religious context.  If she was going to accept that marriage was in the realm of the state she should have left it with the Great and General Court.  She did, in fact, leave it to the Great and General Court to regulate all other aspects of marriage, having taken same-sex marriage out of their hands.  She apparently believed they were not to be trusted with such a decision.

That and her sociological analysis in the decision left a lot to be desired.

But, back to the issue at hand, I think I have to go with Mr Cones on this.  It seems to me that Archbishop Donald Wuerl and The DC Archdiocese missed the mark on this one.

Regards  —  Cliff

GLTHS Success

When I moved to Lowell back in 1994, it was from a community background which had not included Technical High Schools.  When I graduated from High School the technical side was part of Long Beach City College, Business Technology Division (BTD).  Thus, when I heard about Greater Lowell Technical High School (GLTHS) I assumed it was for people not on a college track.  As I learned more I learned that I was wrong in my understanding.  In fact, a very high percentage of GLTHS graduates go on to college. 

In yesterday's The Washington Post there was an article on college graduates and college students switching from an academic track to a track in the trades.  Reporter Carol Morello wrote "More college-educated jump tracks to become skilled manual laborers".  It goes against the conventional wisdom:
"It's hard to get high school counselors to point anyone but their not-very-good students, or the ones in trouble, toward construction," said Dale Belman, a labor economist at Michigan State University. "Counselors want everyone to go to college. So now we're getting more of the college-educated going into the trades."
As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

I liked the comment from Ms Rateeluck Puvapiromquan, 30, who immigrated to Baltimore from Thailand.
She decided to become an electrician when the only jobs she found after graduating from St. Mary's College in 2001 with a degree in the philosophy of religion were in coffee shops and hotels. Her friends, who have gone on to get master's degrees or doctorates, are proud of her.

"They tell me they're intrigued, amazed and proud they know a woman electrician," she said. "I don't understand the idea that if you go to college, manual labor is beneath you. The critical thinking and communication skills I learned in college are absolutely crucial to getting our work done. It's critical thinking, not just, 'I lift heavy objects.' "
The Greater Lowell Technical High School is a jewel and we should be both proud of it and supportive of it.  And, we should encourage it to continue to grow.  In its way, GLTHS occupies a position that not only covers high school but also reaches up toward the Community College level were it sits just where I remember Long Beach City College BTD sitting.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I believe the web page needs to be updated to show David C. Laferriere, of Lowell, as the chairman, vice David E. Tully, of Dunstable.
  And do very well on the MCAS.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nominee General Kagan

Here is a view on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be a Justice on the US Supreme Court.

I share the view expressed.

Hat tip to Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

Trade Deficit Up

From the Department of Commerce:
The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that total April exports of $148.8 billion and imports of $189.1 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $40.3 billion, up from $40.0 billion in March, revised. April exports were $1.0 billion less than March exports of $149.8 billion. April imports were $0.8 billion less than March imports of $189.9 billion.
Up is not always good news.

The salvation of the nation is to turn items over before putting them in the basket.  Then look for where the item was manufactured.  Compare.  If the US item is obviously inferior, don't buy it.  If it is competitive, purchase it.  Think of it as a tax to save the economy.  Think of it as a way to bring back to Lowell those jobs that John McDonough is always talking about.

Regards  —  Cliff

Productivity Up

From DOL:
Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 2.8 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, with output rising 4.0 percent and hours rising 1.1 percent.
Up is good.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Gaza Strip and Peace

There are many views about the Gaza Strip, about the Palestinians and about Israel.

Here is Powerline looking at the question.

Before anyone suggests that I think this is the "right" view of the situation, there is no right view.  That said, in one way Helen Thomas was right.  Many of the people in Israel are from Germany or descendants of people from Germany.  They left after 1932, when they were shoved out.  Some lucky ones came to the US—Billy Wilder or Bruno Walter or Otto Klemperer, for instance.  (See Richard J Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich).

Others German Jews went to Palestine.  Frankly, there were not a lot of nations taking in Jewish immigrants during the 1930s.  The Jews in Poland didn't find themselves being pushed out by their Government during the 1930s, not until after Germany and Russia invaded Poland in 1939, and then in 1941 Germany invaded the rest of Poland.

So, why would people want to go back to a place from which they had been thrown out, or where most of their family had been murdered by direction of the Government?  And if millions return to Germany and Poland and other places, who is going to guarantee that anti-Semitism won't join them there?  And what will that guarantee look like?

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  When I say lucky I mean that (1) this is a wonderful place for artists and (2) they got a visa when visas were not that easy to get.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Its the Tea Parties

I was watching The O'Reilly Factor, to hear Dennis Miller talk about Helen Thomas (turns out not to have been that insightful).  Earlier in the show, before my son called to talk to me, Mr O'Reilly had Time Magazine Columnist Mark Halperin on, talking about a Matt Drudge headline about the President.

The thing that I noted was that Mr Halperin was saying that as he travels the nation he finds that there is racial prejudice driven dislike for the President.  To make his point, he pointed to the Tea Party movement.

At the last Greater Lowell Tea Party meeting there was a lot of talk about deficits and about Congress being out of control in terms of spending and the upcoming elections.  There was concern that the Obama Administration will not stand behind Israel—in light of the "Flotilla" imbroglio.  There were a fair number who are supporting Sam Meas for the Republican Nomination for the 5th Middlesex House seat.  For those who don't know, Sam Meas came here from Cambodia, so he is not your local WASP.  There was no talk of Obama the Black Man.  Obama the President, yes, but not Obama the Black Man.

Are there Tea Party people who hate Blacks?  I am sure there are, somewhere.  I just haven't met them.  Are there Blacks who hate Tea Party people?  I would expect there are.  I just haven't met any yet.

On the other hand, since I was watching O'Reilly, I rate Mr Halperin a PINHEAD.

Regards  —  Cliff

Leaking Diplomatic Cables?

This blog post raises, in my mind, the additional question, why don't we get the MSM releasing classified information from State?  Why is it usually Defense?  Why the Pentagon Papers and secret NSA programs, but not the views of Ambassador Smith about some foreign dignitary or foreign crisis?

In this case it is someone working for DoD who may, at some point, release a quarter of a million cables from within the Department of State.

To be fair to the MSM, this person's release of a video of a Helicopter Attack that killed 12 people was to Wikileaks, not the MSM.  The video was put up by Wikileaks and then moved to a "mirror" site, here. Wikileaks is supposedly operated out of Sweden.

The Blog Post above, from the LA Times, references a post at The Daily Beast.  At the "DB" there is quite a bit more detail, but not greater insight.

And, here is a blogger from MIT on Wikileaks.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

It is important to note that the release of 250,000 Diplomatic Cables could do a tremendous amount of damage.  And, it is not just between the US and the nation in question.  If a cable says that Ambassador Smith of the UK and Ambassador Schmidt of Germany both agree that Prime Minister Whoever of Wherever is a schnook, then it is not just the US and Wherever that are going to fall out, but also the UK and Germany.  And people won't talk freely to us in the future.

There is a lot of information that needs to have the whistle blown on it.  There is a lot of information that should be released just because it is decades old and historians need to look at it.  There is also a lot of information that needs to be classified, to save lives.  The expression, "Loose lips sink ships" is still valid today.

In the mean time, so much for conducting diplomacy.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Budget Passed

And Jackie Doherty has the time—12:18 AM.

She also has some comments on how it all went down.

And, Jenn Myers wrote the article for The Sun

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.

Federal Acquisition is Going Down Hill

Here is a blog post on the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), as it was and as it has become.  One man's opinion.

I would like to start by saying that I know nothing about the NRO.

The thrust of the Blog Post is that we had an excellent system for building reconnaissance satellites and then messed it up because folks in DC thought that the Project Managers had too much freedom.

This brings up the question.  Do we get, overall, better Government Acquisition when we empower managers (think the Navy Polaris Missile System) or do we get better Government Acquisition when we make sure the managers are guided by a large number of specific rules to guide decision making and the application of many reviews (think most recent projects within DoD).

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to my Brother, Lance.

Lowell City Budget for 2011

I have been listening to the City Council debate the Lowell City Budget for FY 2011, submitted by City Manager Bernie Lynch.  I was at City Hall from 5 PM, but then, when the City Council went into Executive Session, I came home to watch it on Channel 10 of LTC.

I would like to start out by saying that back in the mid-1980s I ran the budget committee for United States Air Forces in Europe.  I learned a lot and was very happy to move on to a flying job after one year.  My number one lesson from that experience is that "Anyone with an initiative and without an offset is a liar and a thief".  Yes, that is a harsh attitude, but I learned the obvious—everyone has a need and very few are turning back in excess money.  Doing a budget is a chance to make everyone angry.  This is the point that Councillor Rita Mercier just made.  She pointed out that every time she goes to the supermarket she gets button holed by voters who think the taxes are going up to fast and the City Council is spending money recklessly.

The proposed budget is $336 million and half of it goes to the school.  On Monday, on "City Life" George Anthes and John McDonough argued that half doesn't go to the school, since Chapter 70 money from the school is from the state.

People, it is time to admit that money from the State (and money from the Federal Government) is NOT free money.  It is our money, either what we paid in taxes, directly or indirectly, or it is borrowing, which we have to pay interest on while we are paying it back—with our taxes.  I am not against paying taxes.  It is a necessary part of having a Government.  However, I believe we should all acknowledge the fact that we are paying taxes.

On page 17 of the Budget we find that Chapter 70 funds (for the schools) is $114,495,103.  This is from the total state aid of $139,544,487.

The good news about Chapter 70 funds is that we are almost certainly getting more from the State than we give the state in terms of taxes.  That is part of the state-wide school reform project.  So, Carlisle, Concord and Lexington send more tax money to Beacon Hill than we do.  But we do send our fair share to the State Government, which we get back in State Aid, amongst other things. 

During the discussion in the early hours a number of citizens talked to the shortfall in the school budget, which has taken a hit of not just $1.7 million, but several million more.  This has resulted in a lot of folks being eliminated, like school librarians and other people who make the learning process more effective.  A number of people pointed out that as the quality of our schools go down, people who can may well move to other communities.  It is my understanding that the people who sold their house to us sold the house so they could move to Harvard for a better educational experience for their children.

During the debate it was noted that Stimulus Money is drying up.

Citizen Mark Goldman, speaking to the Council, said that the budget should goals and objectives for each department.  I believe Mr Goldman is correct.

Teachers' Union President Paul Georges brought up the fact that the top 25 Hedge Fund managers on Wall Street made 25 millionbillion dollars for themselves.  Given that none live in Lowell, I am not sure of the relevance of that fact.  It was, however, part of his plea for getting the $4 million back for the School Department, by raising taxes.

A motion to send the budget back to the City Manager was just defeated 3 to 6.

Now the motion is on the floor to accept the budget and Councillor Caulfield is speaking.  He is quoting State Senator Steve Panagiotakos saying:  "The private sector can no longer afford the public sector".

City Councillor Rita Mercier just reports an error on page 58.  It is agreed that there is an error in the City Auditor (135) salary.  I am with Rita on this one.  The numbers should all work.

Rita also brings up the question of if we should have money in the budget for a "certain" Councillor who is not taking his salary.  The Manager, correctly, pointed out that if said Councillor were to leave we would need the money for the person who fleeted up to replace him.

The Motion to accept the budget is defeated at 10:38 PM.

We are now doing this line by line.

At 11:05 a motion to adjourn was defeated, 5 to 4.

It is midnight and I am giving up.

Our City Budget is controlled to some extent by decisions taken years ago.  There are union agreements, negotiated and agreed.  There are consent decrees entered into with the Federal Government.  In some cases departments that are paid for by fees, like Waste Water, are not being carried by the fees.  The debt service on the rebuilding of 30 year old facility is 38%.  That is a big slug.

The big lesson to take away from this is that in good times the City Council should not be letting the budget creep up, since we won't have the money to pay that for it when times are not so good.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And, when we get our tax money back from the State or the Federal Government it is usually with strings attached.
  And he is correct.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This Speaks for Itself























Regards  —  Cliff