Friday, December 31, 2010

World Peace

As we enter the New Year it is good to think about World Peace and Good Will Toward Men.  The owner of the car with this bumper sticker (seen in the parking lot of Burlington Mall, about two rows back and opposite Pizza Uno Chicago Grill) obviously does think about such things.
And on that note, a Happy New Year to all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Short Film

I am not much into films and am not a connoisseur of short films, but when Angel Connell, of Westford, invited me to the premiere of his new production, BENEATH THE VENEER OF A MURDER:  Believe Your Lying Eyes, I took him up on the opportunity.  After all, it was free food, and interesting people.

Fortunately, during the this last Fall Semester at UMass Lowell Continuing Education, I took Professor Madeline F Sherlock's Short Story Course.  Professor Sherlock, a graduate of Villanova University and Simmons College, taught us about short stories, novellas, graphic novels AND, "sudden fiction".  That was the trick for me.  Instead of asking myself what this very short story was about, I allowed my brain to explore all the areas that were not filled in and to do so for myself, and I found it worked for me.

There were quirky little things that I liked, such as the producer being listed thusly, "Angel Connell (as the voice of Bartlesby)".  But, Bartlesby, while an important character, never speaks, is not even seen.  On the floor at the murder scene is the combination to the company safe, but the first time you see it it looks like an equation.  Fortunately, for my curious mind, the movie was run twice for us and the second time I confirmed what I had suspected—the equation was really the combination.

This short film is an affirmation, for me, of my suspicion that we don't always know the truth behind the events laid out for us by some prosecutor and relayed to us by a newspaper or television news program.  And it did it in a quick and clever way.

I got my monies worth and more from going to see BENEATH THE VENEER OF A MURDER.  I comment it to you for your viewing pleasure, when it makes its way out to the Internet.  Look for information at the IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.

A note of caution.  This short movie has some violence (it is after all, a murder story) and some strong language.  Not recommended for those in their tender years.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This would be a great course to take for fun or credit.  If you are over 60 or a vet it is $30 plus the cost of the textbook (about $100) and a dictionary and a grammar book.  My choice was The Complete Plain Words, by Sir Ernest Gowers.  There is a mid-term and a final, plus a quiz every session, but after three semester of Mechanics in Professor Archie Higdon's department I am used to that.  Good, clean fun and even arch conservatives can get a good grade out of the course, if they participate.

Our Inheritance

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels—men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.  As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
Dwight D Eisenhower
These are great words and I wish I had stumbled across them sooner.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Lowell Business Woman and City Council Member Franky D. Descoteaux is on "City Life" as I type and is talking about breaking the cycle of teenage pregnancy and poverty by having a system that better coordinates individual as they are moved from one silo to another, each silo taking care of one particular aspect of this individuals problem.  As she notes, a pregnant teeenager in poverty, if she has a daughter, is likely to see that daughter pregnant and in poverty a few years into the future.

Councilwoman Franky Descoteaux acknowledges that there will always be poverty.  But, she cites as an example of success the Harlem Children's Zone program, which works to try and break the cycle of poverty and help more children, as they grow up, move up and out of poverty.  Break the cycle and avoid having to pay different governmental bills later on, as those children grow into adulthood.

Ms Descoteaux is right to be asking about how we can move from a silo like approach and move on to a more "whole of person" approach.  Notwithstanding Host George Anthes' skepticism about the possibility of progress, these questions need to be asked again and again, until the walls come tumbling down.  I am glad to see Ms Descoteaux asking those questions and I hope she keeps it up, until some of those walls crack and then fall.

Regards  —  Cliff

Diplomacy

Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock.
Will Rogers
I'm on a roll, what can I say?

And, I like Will Rogers and always have.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blogging in a Nutshell

This pretty well sums up blogging.

Regards  —  Cliff

Civics Lessons

Renee Astee, famous Lowell blogger, popped up with this Civics Course, full of games, from retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, which she floated to the membership of Move Lowell Forward. 

I did the first game, on being President and couldn't make 15,000 points.  Try your hand and let me know how you do?

Thanks

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, as Local TV Producer John McDonough likes to point out (and again today), the website needs updating.  We are working on it.  A new engine to allow more folks to work on the content is in the works.  In the meantime, we are on Facebook and we are working on another open meeting, early in the new year, details to follow.

Carrying Knives

Since this issue came up at a City Council Meeting a while past, I put it forward as an interesting quote for a Tuesday.

From Albert Einstein:
What would you think about a town council which is concerned because an increasing number of people are knifed to death each night in drunken brawls, and which proceeds to discuss just how long and how sharp shall be the knife that the inhabitants of the city may be permittted to carry?
Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Mouse

I asked a number of my relatives for a new mouse for Christmas.  I was pretty specific.  Someone in the family came through.  Here are a couple of pictures.
You think it is just another Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet sitting next to the computer, but I know it as a "USB Optical Mouse with Scroll Wheel".
Neat!

Nothing can beat a Butterscotch Krimpet.  And, from time to time I see them up here in Eastern Massachusetts.

Regards  —  Cliff

Another Messiah with Flash Cards

Someone sent me along another one of those You Tube Messiah clips, but this one was sufficiently different that I thought it would be worth sharing.  The comment with the URL said that "You have to work with what you have", and this filmographer did.  This is a takeoff on the monks with a vow of silence doing the Messiah, but in this case it is (really cute) kids from Quinhagak, Alaska, out on the coast of the Bering Sea, and part of the Bethal Census area.

Here is the clip in all its glory.

Thanks to Neal for this.

Regards  —  Cliff

  You remember the Bering Sea, don't you?  That was the body of water Comedian Tina Fey was thinking she was looking across when she said you could see Russia from Alaska.  The US is the small island on the right, Little Diomede.  The big thing on the left is Tina FeyRussian Big Diomede.

Statistics

Out somewhere on a List Serve I am on an exchange of quotations is ongoing.  I liked this one:
The Government are very keen on amassing statistics.  They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power; take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams.  But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who puts down what he damn well pleases.

             -  Attributed to Sir Josiah Stamp, Head of the Inland Revenue Department of the UK
"Inland Revenue" is the UK Government version of the IRS, their tax agency.  And, you know it is a Brit speaking just from the fact that the speaker says "The Government are".

Regards  —  Cliff

City Offices Closed Until 1100 Monday

Over at this blog Gerry Nutter asks about why the Snow Emergency Parking Ban is not enforced.  Renee Astee comments from the user point of view.
Keeping the cars on the street ends up being less of a hassle then coordinating two cars being parked in the garage, and getting back with children. Eventually we dig ourselves out, only after an hour or two of my husband chit chatting with the neighbors outside. Shoveling out becomes community bonding at that point.
I added a comment that it is hard to know when it is declard.

But, we can get notifications from the City sent to our home or office EMails (or both, perhaps).  You can sign up for a notification from the city here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Meanwhile, up in Wisconsin

While I am not sure I buy all the conclusions, I thought this was an interesting post on gun ownership in these United States.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Medicare Regulation

In the AM my Middle Brother sent me an article from The San Jose Mercury on a Medicare Health Regulation "to encourage end-of-life planning".  This under-the-radar bureaucratic switch was bound to cause some comment when it finally surfaced.  And it did.  Both the Instapundit and Ann Althouse posted on it.  The report from Professor Reynolds is quick, but the discussion from Professor Althouse is long and deprecating and insightful and a good read.

Earlier today I wrote back to my Brother with my own thoughts.  (Why, yes, I did take the opportunity to correct some of my more egregious mistakes.)
I am not in the least worried about this item, except for two small points.  The first is that it is terrible that we need a regulation for a physician to consult with his or her patient about something so important, especially considering the suspicion on the part of some of us that physicians have been helping folks slip across the bar for many, many years.  This regulation mentality means that there are so many rules out there that the physicians either don't know them all or are spending too much time on them and thus neglecting their patients.

My second concern is that the Executive Branch is using regulations to achieve what cannot be achieved in the legislative process.  How does that play to separation of powers? Not well, I would think.  Does this mean that we, like the Europeans, think that bureaucrats in the capitol are smarter than the legislators?  That would be a bad path to go down.

This goes to the fact that what is great about federalism is that it accommodates the idea that we are not all alike.  What is seen as good social policy in Oregon is not necessarily seen as good social policy in Indiana.  Sure, the folks in Indiana may be idiots, but that is the beauty of democracy.  You are allowed to be an idiot, and to vote that way.

But, my concern focused on this regulation itself is not this regulation, but rather the one that comes after it.  What will that one say?  The drift from considering the idea of useless eaters to doing something about it is not a sure thing and it can take a couple of decades, but do you think the folks who accepted, in 1920, the idea of "Life Unworthy of Life" (as the book was titled), by 1943 or 1944 or 1945, wished that they had stood up and said "bad idea"?

When I became a member of the Cadet Wing at the Air Force Academy, in the summer of 1960, the Honor Code was pretty straight forward..."We Will Not Lie, Steal Or Cheat, Nor Tolerate Among Us Anyone Who Does".  In the day there were no exceptions.  Break the code and you were expected to resign and go home, as did one of my roommates.  Enforcement was not administrative but by the Cadet Wing, through silencing.  That meant none of your classmates would talk to you, except in the performance of official business.  It could be endured, but it would be tough.

But, by 1963 we were more enlightened and understood that people make mistakes and that someone who turns himself in for breaking the Honor Code might be more honorable than someone who doesn't and just stays out of trouble.  Plus, there were young men coming in from environments where lying, cheating and stealing were a way of life—kids in off the streets.  Thus, we introduced "discretion".  It only existed for the first semester and we were promised by those who proposed this—the Honor Committee—that this would be a one time thing and would not be taken any further.  But, within a couple of years it was taken further and now "discretion" extends further into the four years and the sanctions have changed from silencing by one's fellow cadets to disenrollment approved by the Superintendent of the Academy.  Things drift.

And there is the real danger.  To me, the term "progressive" is sometimes like the term termite.  It is an inevitable eating away.  Not always, but who knows which cases?

But, I have no strong feelings on this particular regulation, aside from asking why it is needed in the first place.
Regards  —  Cliff

The Feast of Stephen

Today is the Feast of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr.  And in some places it is "Boxing Day".  But, back to St Stephen, we don't celebrate his Feast Day this year because it falls on a Sunday when we celebrate the "Holy Family".

But, one of the things about the Feast of Stephen is its connection to King Wenceslas, of Bohemia, who lived in the 10th century, and was himself a martyr.  This was, I believe, my Father's favorite hymn.
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

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

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

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

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing
As the carol was written in 1853 I am assuming it is now in the public domain, Mickey Mouse and the US Congress notwithstanding.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Before We Leave Today

Over at the carton Frazz, on 22 December, was this exchange between the eight year old Caulfield, one of the students at Bryson Elementary School, and Mr Spaetzle, the Principle of Bryson.
FRAME 1
Caulfield—"Have a Nice Christmas break!"
Mr. Spaetzle—"Can we call it "Holiday" Break, please?
FRAME 2
Caulfield—"Which holiday would that be?"
FRAME 3
Caulfield—"Hanukkah, which ended two weeks ago?  Eid al-Adha, five weeks ago?  Yesterday's solstice?  Or the first one after "Holiday" Break begins?
FRAME 4
Frazz—"Holidays stressing you out?
Mr. Spaetzle—"Which Holidays would that be?  (As he pops two aspirin.)
I would like to nominate CRD, or Chinese Restaurant Day, for the official holiday on 25 December.  This is ethnically inclusive in that it brings in the Chinese, those who are Jewish and those other folks who are challenged by cooking or are to frazzled to cook.

Otherwise we either don't know what holiday the person is really talking about or we are thinking we do know and that everyone is just being too coy.

Regards  —  Cliff

  To quote from the link, "In fact, Justice Elena Kagan mentioned this in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings:  when a senator asked her where she was on Christmas, she said, 'You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.'"
  Like my oldest grandchild this Christmas.  Her Mother was over for dinner and Jennifer and her husband Marco did the Chinese Dinner thing to make it easier as they are both in college and working.

Christmas in the Holy Land

Here is a news article on Christmas in Bethlehem this year.  The AP reporters, Dalia Nammari and Tia Goldenberg, are Arab and Jewish (not my assumption, but the comment of another AP reporter).
The traditional birthplace of Jesus is celebrating its merriest Christmas in years, as tens of thousands of tourists thronged Bethlehem on Friday for the annual holiday festivities in this biblical West Bank town.

Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000.  Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the holiday cheer.

By nightfall, a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights.
This is a good news story.  Not a perfect story, but a good news story.

The EMail that forwarded this article included this:
So maybe this happy Christmas in Bethlehem is a byproduct of the latest peace process "misfire." Or maybe it's the noose around Gaza.

Or maybe the surge of pilgrims is due to the fact that this story has so little resonance on the world media stage, replaced by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, and oh, remember that place called Iraq... so, unable to churn forth the once steady stream of scary headlines, that would-be pilgrims are unaware of the risks.
Yes, the world is a scary place.  My twenty-something granddaughter texted me last week about Korea and if it was a real threat to world peace.  That shows there is some value to the contentions in the world—I get contact with my granddaughter.

But, it shouldn't be so and the promise of Advent is that the King of Peace not only came, but that there is the hope of the Parousia, that He will return and bring final, lasting peace.  That is something to be happily anticipated.  And that is what Christmas is really about.

Regards  —  Cliff

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Regards  —  Cliff

Just for Christmas

Here is a discussion of the one-child rules in China.  One of the things China has done is go after those who are having more than one child.

It brings to mind the Slaughter of the Innocents.  Their Feast Day is 28 December (27 December in some Eastern Rite Churches)

A forced abortion or a coerced abortion is not a pretty thing from a human rights point of view and is definitely not "pro choice".

And, world population is going to peak soon and then we can listen to people telling us about the tragedy of a falling global population.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 24, 2010

Battle of Lone Jack

Over on Facebook, Matt Matthews posted about the remake of "True Grit", which is just out. I liked the original, with John Wayne and am looking forward to seeing the new version.  I expect the new Rooster Cogburn to be as good as the previous.

At any rate, in the story Rooster Cogburn lost his eye at the Battle of Lone Jack, in Missouri, during the Civil War.  Turns out it was quite a fight.  Matt Matthews and Kip Lindberg wrote about the Battle of Lone Jack here, in North and South Magazine.  Note the reference to future President Harry S Truman in the end notes.

Regards  —  Cliff

Yes, the 2012 Election is Here

From Law Professor Ann Althouse we have this link to an article on the 24 non-trivial contenders for the Republican nomination for the Presidential race in 2012.
Jonah Goldberg identifies "24 people who are beneficiaries of nontrivial presidential buzz."
"Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, David Petraeus, Ron Paul, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, Bob McDonnell, Jim DeMint, Chris Christie, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Judd Gregg, Marco Rubio, and Rick Perry."
Each one of these, except for one or two, are names that are out there and have been on my political, although not necessarily my presidential radar screen these last several months.  That said, I don't think that General David Petraeus is a player this go-around.  He is working at denying it and he already has a day job.

My choices, at this time, are Chris Christie and Herman Cain.

I know.

But, about a week ago, The Daily Caller had a report that Mr Cain, former head of Godfather Pizza, was going to soon form an exploratory committee.

At least he has run something larger than his classroom.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Taxes Create Mobility

When I go to the Tax Prof Blog I always think that Professor Paul L Caron should give up his attempt at a beard.

On the other hand, his mind is sharp, as sharp as an IRS audit.

Today he is talking about Oregon and their extra tax on millionaires.  The good news for Oregonians is that two-thirds of their millionaires stayed put this year, after the legislature and the voters passed this extra tax on the well to do.

It is hard for the poor to move, either to avoid taxes or find new jobs.  For millionaires it is not so hard.  I know someone who was once a middle class working stiff, but who took a chance with his career, did well and now has a home in Orange County, California, and a Condo in Seattle, Washington, and a healthy sized boat that he and his wife have taken as far north as Alaska.  Money produces mobility, and so do taxes.

Regards  —  Cliff

She Said, He Said

Over at the Ann Althouse blog is a post on a Forbes article on a New York Times article.

The catch here is that the NYT had a "Style Section" like article on two divorced people who got married.  Seems the families were best friends, at least before the divorce.  The disposed spouses were not featured in the NYT article, but one, the disposed husband, fired back today.

If you like Professor Althouse's commentary, consider bookmarking her blog and canceling your subscription to the NYT.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Unless you are a Maureen Dowd fan, in which case almost anything can be forgiven, even Reporter Walter Duranty.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Almost Getting One More Seat in Congress

Over at The Washington Examiner is a little insight into the redistricting issue, writ large, and how one state is always the one to next get a Member of the US House of Representatives, if there was one more seat.  Last time it was Utah and this time it was North Carolina.

Also of interest is how the District of Columbia almost got a real seat, with voting rights, but the brokered deal fell apart.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Current limit is 435, voted such by the US Congress.  It could be 500, if the Congress wanted it to be 500.  Or, it could be 250.  I'm torn.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"O’Malley apology elicits a rebuke"

That is what the headline in The Boston Globe said today.

However, that isn't exactly what happened.  The point is that the Cardinal was called out by a victim of pedophilia for not doing more, not for his apology as such.  So much for the media understanding what is happening in religion today.  And this from The Boston Globe, which prides itself on breaking the pedophilia story in the Archdiocese of Boston story.

Good on Cardinal O'Malley for calling out Monsignor Stanislaw Kempa, of the local Lowell Roman Catholic Polish Church, on High Street, Holy Trinity.  The Monsignor was wrong to condemn the victim from the pulpit, or anywhere else.  The priest who molested the three young men in the story, the Rev. Czeslaw Szymanski, did wrong.  But, he did wrong in a big way.  His sin reminds me of Mark 9:42—"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."

Yes, more needs to be done, but when progress is being made we should not get in the way, but rather stand to the side and shout encouragement.

Regards  —  Cliff

Its Official, Mass Down 1

We are down one seat in the US House of Representatives.

The article in The Boston Globe was pretty straight forward, except for this from our Governor:
"My role in it is to make sure the plan is fair and open and produces a result that we can be confident in," Patrick said at press conference. "It’s a political process, right? So there is some give-and-take. But there are rules. There are constitutional rules."
I am very dubious about the impact of the Governor, who is, after all, renting property on Beacon Hill from the General Court of Massachusetts.  A Governor without his own executive mansion.  Have I mentioned in the past that even the Mayor of New York has his own official residence.

Columnist John Keller has an interview with Massachusetts Secretary of State Galvin on reapportionment.  Hot air.  The only hammer is the courts and they are reluctant to do much.  On the other hand, Former Speaker Tom Finneran did give up his law license over how he messed up Chelmsford.

UPDATE:  And for those who care, here is how the number of US House seats is calculated.

Regards  —  Cliff

Census Today

Today we find out if Massachusetts loses a US House Seat.

The odds are against us.

Then the really interesting stuff starts and we will hold our breath for the 5th as it exists today.  My heart says it will stay, but my head tells me that for those folks on Beacon Hill who will decide our fate we are almost as far away as North Adam.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 20, 2010

The FCC Oversteps

And maybe they will shut me down for saying so.

Here is the WSJ Link and here is the lede:
Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government's reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.
I am still not sure what is broken that they need to fix it.

Overreach.

Regards  —  Cliff

Joe Sullivan, RIP

Blogger Gerry Nutter put it all down for us, here.

When we moved to Lowell we bought our home from one of Joe Sullivan's children, when they moved, and it was a square deal.

Joe Sullivan was never anything but friendly and generous.  A lot of people will miss him, including Martha and myself.

Regards  —  Cliff

Climate Change and Scientific Candor

Over at the Dick Howe blog, Andrew is talking about "the Carbon Cyle".

This is an issue of interest, in as much as carbon in the atmosphere is increasing.  A friend of mine, getting her PhD out at Berkeley, wrote this to me the other day:  (Talking about the IPCC)
A decade ago, they were pretty conservative about assigning certainty to things, and they continue to be, but better models and more evidence have lead them, and most of the scientific community to accept that man-induced climate change is real.  Now, it is acceptable to think about quantifying future climate changes.  With the earth being a complex system and computer power not being quite good enough to run more complex models, the goal is to find as much consensus as possible.

What I usually say to people is that no matter what someone thinks about what is going on from year to year in climate currently, just have them think about what happens when you put a blanket on.  It is harder for heat to escape from around your body, so you warm up.  There is no question that the amount of Carbon Dioxide that we have put, and most likely will continue to put, into the atmosphere serves as an additional blanket.  Take pretty much any physical model of the earth, add some carbon dioxide, and it will heat up.  Tens of complex global models also agree with this.  Another simple effect of warming is that the ocean, if warmed, will thermally expand.  This alone will raise sea level.  So, taking this as something we do know, we then have to answer the question, how does this extra warming affect the world and by what magnitude.
.....

So to answer your questions, of course, for some areas, climate change could be good.  I heard that people are starting to think about expanding vineyards in the north of England, for example, in anticipation of shifting climate.  And, I think any reduction in carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases will help increase certainty in the future.  It's just something we've let run a little too wild in my opinion.  But, no, I don't think the answers can really be quantified yet.  I think we can count on some more extreme climate that may need to be dealt with.
Nicole is one of those people whose opinions I would take to the bank.  As she notes, climate change is still a great big mystery.  In my mind, to borrow from Sir Winston Churchill, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; ...."

Over at Powerline is this posting, "A Scientific Theory is Judged by its Predictive Power".  As Nicole noted, folks were thinking about expanding vineyards in England.  In fact, ten years ago there was this prediction:
However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers.  According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said
Note the pedigree of Dr Viner.  CRU (Climatic Research Unit) at the University of East Anglia.  These are the chaps who were revealed to have so arrogantly tried to shut up their backsliding colleagues last year in "Climategate".

These days England is experiencing have record low temperatures and Europe itself is having a hard time with the cold weather.

This cold weather could indicate that the "Atlantic Conveyor Belt" has broken down, or maybe the "Gulf Stream" isn't as powerful as it once was.  However, in March, NASA said that if anything, the Atlantic Conveyor Belt had sped up a bit.

I remember from back when I was young, in 1980, while stationed at Clark Air Base, the 26th Aggressor Squadron had as its theme song "Oh Lord It's Hard to be Humble."  Since the job of the pilots of that squadron was to teach other fighter pilots how to kill them (the Aggressors), and they were very good in air-to-air combat, they had to check and make sure their "humble" was OK, so they didn't let their egos get in the way of their mission, teaching others how to kill them.

Would that some of those scientists who talk about climate change were humble and thus helpful.

What would also be helpful is the opening of a discussion on what would be the best climate for humans.  Or better put, why is this the best of all possible worlds, climate wise?

Things I know:
  1. Carbon Dioxide is building in the atmosphere.
  2. We are too dependent on foreign oil
  3. The climate is likely to change.
  4. Lots of developing nations (e.g., China) want to get theirs before we destroy the world economy in order to prevent heavy snowfall in Europe.
What I don't know:
  1. Where climate change is going.
And, given the record on many who have held forth on this, including then Senator Gore and his book Earth in the Balance, I am not in a hurry to come down on any one side.

I am, however, willing to look at reasonable global solutions that will muster the agreement of 200 nations and will result in economic development for those in the world looking for economic development.  We still have folks out there who deserve an opportunity for meaningful work and a decent diet.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gov Blanco Goes Blank

I haven't read the book, so I am depending on Tiger Hawk for this comment on President George W Bush's book.
"Who's in charge of security in New Orleans?" I asked.

My question silenced the raucous discussion in the Air Force One conference room on Friday, September 2, 2005. "The governor is in charge," Mayor Ray Nagin said, pointing across the dark wood table at Governor Kathleen Blanco.

Every head pivoted in her direction. The Louisiana governor froze. She looked agitated and exhausted. "I think it's the mayor," she said non-committally.
The Lesson Learned here is that if you are a local governmental agency you have to ASK for help.  Even if the Feds are on your doorstep, with the help, they have to be ASKED to help.  It is the way the Federal Government works, and the way the Federal Government should work.  The individual states are fairly sovereign and that is a good thing.  Remember "Mother may I?" Governor Kathleen Blanco asking for 24 hours to think about it is unconscionable.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One Consequence of DADT Debate

One of the things about the discussion of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, and the larger issue of homosexual marriage, is that we are now in a phase in our culture where we are asking if many or all same-sex relations are about sexual activity.  I first thought of this while we were discussing author Willa Cather's longer short story, "Tom Oatland's Story".  The question was raised by one of my fellow students as to if the two prime characters were having a homosexual relationship, up on the mesa all winter long, while they were doing exploring and cataloging at a previously lost early American Indian site.  I never would have thought of it.  My experience tells me no, and I found nothing in the story to suggest otherwise.  But, then I read this analysis of the charter of Captain Louis Renault and wondered if now we might see the relationship between the bar owner, Rick Blaine and Captain Renault as being more "intimate" than otherwise thought.  I would think not, but each generation gets to interpret past events and previous works of art as it sees fit, or maybe even as it feels necessary.  But, then, that means I get to have my own view, however out of step it might be with contemporary views.

UPDATE:  Over at The New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd speculates about a "Gay Commander-in-Chief", now that DADT has been voted out.  Do I now have to wonder about Ms Dowd's "orientation" or can I still think of her as I have, as part of the majority, just not married?  (I was tempted to type "great majority", but she is still alive and kicking, so she is not in that group.)

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Great Books Foundation Short Story Omnibus. Selected and Edited by Daniel Born, Judith McCue and Donald H Whitfield. (Chicago: The Great Books Foundation, 2009).

Wikileaks and the Internet

Over at The Lowell Sun we have an OpEd by Syndicated Columnist Eugene Robinson on the impact of Wikileaks, titled "A Wiki hornets' nest".  His point about abuse of the internet by governments is a good one.

Mr Robinson comments:
So who gives executives of private companies the right to decide that some unapproved speech will be encouraged and some will be suppressed?  Do we want the people who run Amazon, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter or perhaps even - shudder - Microsoft, Apple or Google making political decisions on our behalf?

For my part, I don't think I do.  It seems to me that especially as Internet firms reach near-monopoly status, we should be increasingly uncomfortable with them making political decisions of any kind - even those with which we might agree.
I think that Mr Robinson is off track a bit in that the First Amendment protects us from private organizations, but from government actions.  But, he is correct to worry about private organizations having too much power.  However, they are not making "political" decisions for us, but protecting their own interests.  If we don't like decisions they make we vote with our dollars.  But, we also sometimes compromise.  Google bothers me, but I am using a Google program to do this blog post.

But, at the same time, we have the United Nations stepping forward to regulate the Internet.  Here is the Instapundit's post, with a further link, from Australia.  As Professor Glenn Reynolds asks, "WHAT COULD GO WRONG?".

Then there is the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wanting to regulate the Internet.

At this time, the vast majority of people across the globe, but not governments or mega-businesses, benefit from an internet that is not regulated by the UN or the FCC.  Lets keep it that way.

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.  Here is a longer lasting link.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DADT Repeal—A Caution

Someone sent along this information:
... here is the text of the repeal language (absent a minor techincal fix, that does not affect the key elements of the legislation):  The text link is here.

It is important to note that the EFFECTIVE DATE of the repeal is 60 days AFTER specific actions by the Secretary of Defense, and the President have occurred, including such things as having the necessary regulations prepared to bring the repeal into force.

So, in short, passage of this repeal legislation today does NOT automatically repeal DADT.  There are still administrative steps to be taken in the future.  Even when those steps are taken, there is still the additional 60 days period AFTER that before this repeal is complete.
So, the law has been passed, but it is not yet time for people in the military to let down their guard about their sexual orientation.  But soon the repeal will go into effect.

Regards  —  Cliff

Christmas Banned by UK Red Cross?

Not exactly.

But, no Christmas Tree, no Nativity scene, no "Merry Christmas" greetings.

Here, from The Daily Mail is the story.  The "not exactly" part comes here:
British Red Cross leaders have, however, not extended the ban to their own profitable products. Items currently on sale include Christmas cards featuring angels and wise men and Advent calendars with nativity scenes.

The spokesman said: 'The Red Cross is trying to be inclusive and we recognise there are lots of people who want to buy Christmas cards which they know will benefit us.'
A hat tip to my friend Charlie Spika for forwarding me the link.

And a Merry Christmas to all.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Two Koreas

Meanwhile, over on the Korean Peninsula, we have the ROK (South Korea) standing up to the DPRK (North Korea).  This is a change in the way things have happened in the past and the bully (DPRK) is not taking kindly to it.

Today's focus is on a planned artillery drill from the island of Yeonpyeong. North Korea is promising dire consequences if this goes on.  China and Russia have been counseling moderation and the avoidance of confrontation.

Here is the view from Night Watch.

I realize it is wrong for me to think this way, but if North Korea were to again shell Yeonpyeongdo, as they did on 23 November of this year, killing several South Koreans, I would like to see the US support South Korea by conducting an exercise using the USS PUEBLO (AGER-2) as a target ship, sending it to the bottom and allowing it to be decommissioned and stricken from roster.  It is currently located in Wonsan Harbor, in North Korea.  But, maybe there is some secret protocol that prevents such a thing.

But, that won't happen and North Korea will continue to try and bully the rest of the world into helping it meet its economic, including energy and food, requirements.  And, we will continue to help them out, but given their government and its hermit kingdom approach, it will never get up on the step and speed forward.  And the cycle will repeat until North Korea does something really stupid to get attention, or implodes, or our side does something really stupid in response to some provocation.  Let us, as citizens, encourage our government not to overreact, like taking out the USS PUEBLO.

Regards  —  Cliff

What if California Goes Bust?

Here is a good think piece, and not too long.  What does the US Constitution allow the US Congress to do when a state goes bankrupt?
Incoming California Governor Jerry Brown has gotten a look at the state budget and concluded that "We've been living in fantasy land. It is much worse than I thought. I'm shocked."
Jerry Brown and Captain Louis Renault.

The question is, is the kind of action a state might take with regard to a municipality, say Lowell, or Lawrence or Springfield, allowable under the US Constitution's Guarantee Clause:
"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."
So, can the US Congress force California (or New York), in return for a bailout, into a kind of receivership, with someone or some board in charge of the State and its actions?  And even if it can, should it?

Regards  —  Cliff

Henry the K

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is, in some circles, a controversial person.  This blogger, from The Right Coast is obviously not a fan.  The posting raises, again, some questions about how we should be conducting our foreign policy.

I am in the middle ground.  There is no "war to end all wars", nor, as President Woodrow Wilson put it to the US Congress, should we be going to war thinking, "The world must be made safe for democracy", and it is our job to do it.  On the other hand, there are situations that cannot be allowed to fester and that call out for intervention.  And some things are not going to be solved in our lifetime, because they are too hard and the conflicting equities involved are not at this time reconcilable.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Like, where we better off with that murderer Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq?  And even if we were, what are the limits of cooperating with dictators who abuse the civil rights of their citizens.  If Germany had not declared war on us on 8 December 1941, should we just have ignored Germany and dealt with the Japanese?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Battle of the Bulge + 66

As someone pointed out to me in an EMail, today is the 66th Anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.  It showed the Germans at their best and worst, especially with the murder of captures US soldiers at Malmandy, in Belgium.  It definitely showed the Americans at their best, from 101st U.S. Airborne Division Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe's "Nuts" to the German demand to surrender to General Patton's administratively excellent pivot and drive north—something he couldn't have done without excellent staff work.  For this battle, General Eisenhower had the coup d'oeil needed to make the proper choices.

Regards  —  Cliff

German Army Contraction

From Night Watch we have this item, which talks to European militaries:
Germany:  The government agreed to end military conscription on 1 July 2011 and to reduce the size of the army from 240,000 to 185,000 troops.  This would be the biggest contraction in the German Bundeswehr in 53 years, DPA reported 15 December.

Comment:  Since the collapse of communist East Germany, the Germans have sought to reduce defense expenditures.  Intelligence services have been consolidated and other military functions have been merged.  The process has been in progress for more than 20 years.  In short, the absence of a clear, conventional military threat to Germany undermines the defense establishment.  The German involvement in Afghanistan is overwhelmingly unpopular; the Germans will not stay beyond 2011.

The Germans, French and most European Union states treat Islamic terrorist attacks as law and order problems.  The significance is that the Europeans and most Asian states judge that police forces are more effective in dealing with terrorist threats than military forces.
Do we, as Americans, think that terrorism is a police issue or a military issue (or do we really think there is some very secret organization, for which the CIA is only a cover, that is working this problem)?

Regards  —  Cliff

  DPA?

The Fog of War

THE FOG OF WAR

Or

Robert Strange McNamara’s Walk Through History

My English Professor this semester asked me what I thought of the interview of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, in the video, The Fog of War.  This is what I told her.

The thing that struck me about this video was that the on-screen narrator, Robert S McNamara, kept referencing Curtis LeMay.  General Curtis LeMay was the Air Force Chief of Staff during part of Secretary of Defense McNamara’s time in office.  He was also Airman McNamara’s boss during World War II, in both the UK and China, as well as out in the Marianas.  Surely they had a stormy period in the Pentagon, but yet McNamara kept going back to LeMay.  There is a fascination there, a sort of respect.

Looking at signs of respect we see McNamara saying of LeMay “He was the finest combat commander of any service I came across in war.”  That is no small praise, especially given that it was spoken in McNamara’s old age, when he had a chance to reflect on these things.  He could have done the easy thing and gone with Patton or some Navy Admiral, but he didn’t.  McNamara also credits him with the Berlin Airlift.  Fair enough in that LeMay kicked it off as Commander of US Air Forces in Europe, but he then passed it off to the person who made it work over time, General Tunney.  LeMay at the time was enroute to make Strategic Air Command what it should have been.

I thought the Eleven McNamara Rules all made good sense and were well illustrated:
  1. Empathize with your enemy.
  2. Rationality will not save us.
  3. There's something beyond one's self.
  4. Maximize efficiency.
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
  6. Get the data.
  7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
  8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.
  9. In oder to do good you may have to engage in evil.
  10. Never say never.
  11. YOu can't change human nature.
That all said, I thought his view of the concept of the “Fog of War” to be too mechanical.  The quote from the Great One, Carl von Clausewitz, is:
The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently—like the effect of a fog or moonshine—gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.
I see Robert McNamara as a tragic figure.  He is a renaissance man in some respects.  While he looked studious, he was athletic.  Notwithstanding his bout with polio, he continued as a mountain climber well into later life.  He studied philosophy in college, although his major was in statistical analysis, the same tools that became the basis for defense policy analysis, as Charles Hitch and Roland McKean, of RAND Corporation, wrote in The Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age.  In fact, Charlie Hitch was the man McNamara brought into the Pentagon to create the office that still exists, PA&E, or Policy Analysis and Evaluation. The creation of this office forced each of the Services to follow suite and lead to better statistical analysis of defense decisions.  This idea is not new.  This is what McNamara did for LeMay in World War II.  Montgomery C Meigs, III, wrote a book, Slide Rules and Submarines about another application of “operations research” in World War II and how it helped defeat the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic.

For me personally, McNamara was a less than honest person.  I formed this opinion back when I understood government, but not politics.  One of my two examples is the famous TFX contract that birthed the F-111.  The story on the street was that Boeing had the better design but General Dynamics had the factory in Fort Worth (and LBJ was in office).  The assumption has always been that the F-111 contract went to GD for political reasons.  The Source Selection Board went with Boeing, but McNamara picked GD, arguing that there was greater commonality between the Air Force and Navy versions.  The Navy hated the thing and after Test Pilot “Bash” Nash crashed one on the runway at Point Mugu it was dropped and the F-14 emerged from the dust.  Frankly, if, in the 1980s I had had to deliver a nuclear weapon into Eastern Europe, I think the F-111 would have been the best aircraft for the job, but its birth left a lot to be desired, and a bad taste in a lot of mouths.

My second example is the great bomb shortage of 1966.  The press reported a shortage of bombs for aircraft flying in Viet-nam.  SecDef McNamara denied there was a bomb shortage.  As I recall he said there was a misallocation problem.  There sure was.  I was stationed at Da Nang, in Viet-nam. For a while we were flying with four Mk-81 250 pound bombs (lady fingers, as well called them), when we had been flying with six Mk-82 500 pound bombs.  The B-57s on the base were flying missions guns only, with “ball” ammunition (training rounds, rather than high explosive (HE) or armor piercing incendiary (API) and with no bombs in their bomb bays.  On the other hand, the US Marine Corps A-6s were flying with 12 Mk-82s per mission.  The DoD was so short of bombs that we were buying them back from the Germans, to whom we had sold them as they ramped up the Luftwaffe.

One more story illustrates the situation with the SecDef.  Someone I was flying with at Eglin AFB, in Florida, in 1972, had been a staff officer in the Pentagon on a previous tour.  He was responsible for the “flying hour” program.  The Air Force budgets for fuel and purchases fuel based upon expected flying hours.  The performance of the Air Force, and for each of the Services, was briefed to Secretary of Defense McNamara each month.  Each month each of the officers from each of the Services would be thrown out of the Secretary’s office for doing a poor job.  One day this person, Kras, was down in the basement of the Pentagon, where the Air Force was beginning to use computers to track things.  He ran into a friend from earlier times and was telling his tale.  His friend said, give me the data and let me put it in the computer and print it out.  That is what Kras did.  He got his data back on one of those 11 x 17 inch green and white stacks of computer paper.  The next time he walked in to see SecDef McNamara it was all sweetness and light.  On the other hand, his fellow flying hour monitors were still getting thrown out of the office.  I see that as form over function.  It reminds one of 2 Timothy 3:5—“Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof.  Now these avoid.” (Douay Rheims 1899 American Edition)

After he found that his vision regarding Viet-nam had drifted to the point that it strongly differed from that of President Johnson, SecDef McNamara left the Pentagon and went to be President of the World Bank.  It was, as the Peter Principle says, a “lateral arabesque”.  Of the move, McNamara says, “I didn’t know if I quit or was fired”.  His friend, Katherine Graham, told him that he had been fired.  That was the kind of person LBJ was.

In a way, it was probably a good thing for Robert McNamara and for the nation.  The SecDef has to be loyal to his master, the President.  For him to stay would have torn him apart and it would have made President Johnson very frustrated, at a time when he did not need additional frustrations.  At the same time, the move to the World Bank allowed Robert McNamara to try to do good in the world.  While at the World Bank Mr McNamara worked no miracles, but he did manage to avoid any spectacular failures and probably, on balance, he did more good than harm.

It was an interesting and insightful movie.  As someone who had “been there” I found some footage that I thought of as bogus.  One example was a clip of A-7s taking off from a Navy carrier to conduct a raid in response to the attacks on the USS TURNER JOY and MADDOX.  The A-7 had its first flight in 1965, but the Gulf of Tonkin incident was in 1964.

There was, relatively speaking, a lot of focus in the film on the buildup of napalm canisters (BLU-1/B), but not mentioning that that was what it was.  I know that many people are scandalized by napalm.  It is a frightening weapon.  But, it is like the firebombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities, which was touched on in the movie.  Would using high explosives to kill that many people have been more humane?  And, with napalm, the weapon was more frightening than murderous.  In 1972 I was the Contracts Officer on an R&D contract for a replacement for the current napalm.  The development work was being done by Lockheed Corporation, at a facility outside LA.

The Air Force Headquarters project supervisor was Colonel Brooks Morris, whose father was Chester Morris, who starred in the movies as “Boston Blackie”.  Colonel Morris observed that the tests didn’t give us anything better and soon thereafter the Air Force dropped napalm from its inventory.  For me, the direct benefit of the whole thing was that while attending tests I got to have dinner with my father, who lived in Orange County, California, while I was in the Fort Walton Beach, Florida, area.  The world is quirky that way.  We would have dinner and then he would drive me to LAX, where I would grab the “Red Eye” and sleep from LA to Atlanta, take a puddle jumper to Fort Walton Beach, go home, change cloths and go to work.

Regards  —  Cliff

  von Clausewitz, Carl. On War. Book 2, Chapter 2, Para 24. (It should be noted that the book was a disorganized manuscript at the author’s death and his wife pulled it all together and got it published.)
  New editions seem to have dropped Roland McKean’s name as a co-author.
  I know of the book because my youngest son, Randy, fixed Monty Meigs’ computer when it crashed, with the manuscript locked up on the hard drive. At the time, Monty worked for me, before going on to be a four star general. The other thing to note is that Monty is named after his distant relative, the one who put Arlington Cemetery in Bobby Lee’s back yard, so when he looked out in the morning he (Lee) would see all the Union soldiers he had killed. As it was, General Lee never returned to the Custis-Lee Mansion.
  Flying hours are driven by fuel consumption and maintenance hours. When I had a squadron of O-2As (basically a militarized Cessna Skymaster) we would fly our hours and then borrow one or two hours from the F 4s as Elmendorf AFB, in Anchorage. The trade-off was one of theirs gave us forty of ours. When I was flying F-16s in Germany we would take hours from the F-111s, who couldn’t fly all their hours in a given year. But, that is another whole story.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Speaks for Itself

A friend of mine sent along this link by a group that normally does political satire, but in this case takes a serious look at a Nobel Prize winner.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Age Discrimination

Yesterday's Lowell Sun had a front page article, with the headline just above the fold, about a new Veterans Group in the greater Lowell area.  The reporter was the very capable Jennifer Myers.  "Fledgling group eyes new generation of vets".

Up front, I admit to knowing about 40% of the people mentioned in the story, as well as the reporter.  All of them are just young whipper snappers.  For lack of respect to returning Vets you have to back to Viet-nam and Korea.  Korea was even classified as a "Police Action" and not even a war, almost 40,000 US dead notwithstanding.

On the other hand, the fact is that each war, and each set of returning Veterans, needs its own place to gather and talk.  While on the one hand, all wars are alike in being terrible experiences, on the other, each has its own place names and vocabularies.  When I am at the VFW, of which I am a member, I am supportive of and interested in the World War II Veterans, but their war and their post-war experience is different from mine.  We are comrades in arms, but we are also of different generations.

But still, this paragraph caught my attention:
The goal of the group is to provide support and to advocate for veterans in the 30- to 45-year-old range -- those who served in Grenada and Operation Desert Storm and at bases throughout the world in times of war and peace, as well as the younger men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jack Mitchell, featured at the beginning of the article is almost too old, being 45 himself.  I hope Greg page, who represents the 30 year old bracket, has pointed that out to him.

And what of those of us who planned and plotted Operation DESERT STORM?  We are too old, it seems.  My role in that fracus was as the Chief of the Strategy Division on the Joint Staff.  One of my Section Heads, then Colonel Montgomery C Meigs, III, rewrote the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to change the focus of US Central Command from the Soviet Union going into the Middle East to a focus on Iraq going into the oil fields of the Arabian Peninsula, back in 1989.  By incompetence, I was in the room when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, told the Central Command Commander, General (Storm'en) Norman Schwartzkopf, that his XXXX Plan for war with the Soviet Union was fine, but he should put it on the shelf and focus on an Iraqi attack south into the Arabian Peninsula.

Being the first in a line of about a dozen to approve the wording of the change of strategic focus was my contribution to that war.  Shouldn't that get me a seat?  Well, maybe not.  Perhaps the younger generation is actually not all that hot about the change of focus—although I'd bet my bottom dollar they are very proud of their service to the nation and of their fellow Service men and women, even if they do poke fun at each other.
Army veteran Jack Mitchell can't resist a playful jab at his friend, former Navy intelligence officer Greg Page.

"When the guys from the Navy work with real men, they join the Army," quips Mitchell, 45, of Lowell.

Page, 30, enlisted in the Army National Guard after a post-Sept. 11 stint in the Navy.  The Lowell resident, will be mobilized again in February.  He is expected to be in Afghanistan by April.

He shakes his head and laughs at Mitchell's dig.
And having friends back home can be helpful to a Nation Guard or Reserve Service Member who is deployed.  It is an additional network of support for the Service member and his or her family.

I would like to especially commend the new Global War Veterans Council for providing a place for the proper disposal of soiled and tattered US Flags.  That is something that is needed in every community in our nation.  And the stone at Veteran's Square, shown on page 6 of the article, has the symbol of each of the five military services, which is only fitting and proper.

Welcome to the Community, Global War Veterans.

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.
  It reminds me of a line from a World War II song, "Bless Them All".  "Bless them all, the long the short and the tall.  Bless the instructor who taught me to fly, sent me up solo, and left to die."
  Colonel Meigs later commanded a Brigade (2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division) in Operation DESERT STORM.
  That and escorting my youngest son behind the controlled gate so he could show the Middle East Africa Division staff officers how to use a newfangled Apple program for making briefing slides, so those staff officers could provide those briefing slide to the Pentagon Command Center.  Before there was the "Powerpoint Ranger" there were folks struggling with the transition from Harvard Graphics to the new Apple vision of presentation graphics, MacDraw.

"Stop This War!"

The Drudge Headline, set beneath side by side pictures of SecState Clinton and the late Ambassador Holbrooke, is "HOLBROOKE LAST WORDS:  STOP THIS WAR!".  I would assume from that positioning that Ambassador Holbrooke was speaking to SecState and the US President.

However, it turns out that he was talking to his Pakistani born surgeon.  For me that puts a totally different spin on the story.  He was talking to a person whose nation of birth is quietly sponsoring the Taliban and harboring their fighters and their planners.

We are now with Prince Metternick, wondering to ourselves, "I wonder what he meant by that?"

Here is what we should know.  The United States cannot "end this war".  It can only make one possible outcome more likely.  If we withdraw and Hamid Karzai decides to soldier on, the war will continue, at least for a while, and supported, perhaps, by Iran or India or Russia.  If Pakistan withdraws its support from the Taliban the war will continue, although at a reduced intensity, perhaps supported by China or Saudi Arabia.

If you are a young teenage woman in Kabul and you like going to school, will you be happy for the Taliban to take over and shut down your school, and maybe punish you?  If you are a Tabiban man will you willingly put down your assault rifle to serve under this "western oriented" government?

War is easy to get into and hard to get out of and while it is easy to say "Stop this war", the actual execution of such an idea is much harder.  Just ask President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  When you are at war you are riding a tiger. 

Regards  —  Cliff

  At this point, when I am cleaning up the blog post, the headline remains, but it has moved and the juxtapositioning has changed.  It still links to this Washington Post article.
  Daniel Finkelstein, writing in sports section of The Times, 23 April 2005, said:  "ON HEARING of the death of a Turkish ambassador, the great French revolutionary diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, is supposed to have said: “I wonder what he meant by that.” Others argue that this was a response by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, the Austrian diplomat, to the death of Talleyrand."

Monday, December 13, 2010

As We Wrestle DADT

Someone I know, respect and trust sent out this little tidbit during a lengthy exchange of EMails on repeal of DADT and the problems of implementation for DoD.
[A Certain Professor] used to give a lecture at the Naval War College on the battle of Thermopile.  He'd say "I know all you Marines out there are thinking like you and the Spartans were alike.  Well, you know what they did the night before the last battle?  They sat around braiding each other's hair!  What does that tell you about the Spartans?"  I don't know how [he] knew about the night before the battle -- though his scholarship was formidable -- but it was always fun to watch the audience reaction.
Actually, I am not sure it tells us anything about the Spartans.

The fact we should face is that all cultures are a little different and that cultures change, absorbing points of other cultures and rejecting points of other cultures and points of their own cultures.  Part of that evolution includes fighting over what will be retained and what will be rejected.  At the end of the day you accept the choice of whatever constitutes the majority, even if only to live to fight another day (when, you think, the choice will be shown to have been obviously stupid) or you emigrate.

But, some things we think are natures way, are, in other cultures, not seen as natures way.

And, as your Mother told you, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you have to.  If they all jumped off a bridge, would you?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, I have an example for you.  EMail me and I will give it to you.  I got it from my wife's Cousin, a PhD Professor of Middle Eastern History at Columbia.  I am crk at theworld decimal com.

Frank Sinatra and Rap

I was looking at The International Herald Tribune over the weekend and found this item, "Straight Outta Hoboken".

Over in Europe the Herald Trib has been, for American Servicemen and their families, an important complement to The Stars and Stripes, and for some civilian expats the main source of "American" news in print in English.  While the Mother paper foundered in New York, the IHT has soldiered on.  In the Short Story course I am taking this semester at UMass Lowell one of the graphic stories we read had a pane showing an American Soldier in a gast haus, reading the IHT while his wife is drinking a beer.  The scene looks over their table and on into the German town.

At any rate, the article on "The Chairman of the Board" caught my attention.  It raised the level at which I now view Rap.  The author of the article, Mr James Kaplan, makes the point that there are Rap artists out there who are the same kinds of professions Frank Sinatra was in all that he did, from singing to acting.  What can I say?  I like the quality sounds that I associate with Frank Sinatra.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Francis Albert Sinatra has been gone from us for a dozen years now, but his music lives on.

LCS and Jobs

Today's Boston Globe headlines an article on Senator Kerry trying to spend more of our tax dollars on the Navy's LCS effort.  That would be the Littoral Combat Ship.  "Kerry pushes a late deal on ships:  Prospects uncertain for plan giving Pittsfield 500 jobs".

Senator Kerry, based upon, one presumes, his Swift Boat experience, is pushing these two turkeys.  It would be much better if he was with Senator John McCain, saying that these two designs are overpriced and underperforming.  What ever happened to that 55 knot Aussie design that was actually cut to metal and tested, here in the US?  That would be a real LCS.

Not having those 500 jobs in Pittsfield, about 120 nautical miles west out the Mass Pike from the USS CONSTITUTION, will be a sad thing. Not spending $5 Billion for less than satisfactory ships may be a long term blessing to our sailors, our national defense and our taxpayers.

Or, is this really about The Boston Globe setting up our Senior Senator with this article?  Front page, top of the fold.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today's Sun OpEd

Every time I begin to think that maybe The Lowell Sun really is the right wing machine some say it is, it goes and gives us another OpEd from Donna Brazille or some like person; but I don't include Nat Hentoff in this group.  Today's offering is "GOP's 'be-partisan' plan to kill America'.  When the post on The Lowell Sun's web site goes away, the OpEd can still be found here.

I was a little disappointed in Ms Brazille's contribution.  At a time when there actually is some small smidgen of bi-partisianism, this seemed to be an effort to spike it.  On the editorial page of The Lowell Sun Ms Brazille has often been a keen observer of the political scene, but not this time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Hitler's Last Will and Testament

In 1945 Arnold Weiss found Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler's Last Will and Testament, at the bottom of a dry well.  Mr Weiss with working with British Major Hugh Trevor-Roper, later to go on to be a noted historian.  While interrogating one of Adolf Hitler's close followers, SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) Wilhelm Zander, the military aide of Nazi Party secretary Martin Bormann, they were told where to find this important historic document.

Hugh Trevor-Roper, Lady Margaret Thatcher's first appointment to a life peerage, died in January 2003.  On Pearl Harbor day 2010 Arnold Weiss passed away in Rockville, Maryland.

Our connection with Mr Weiss, tenuous as it is, comes from his having lived his teenage years in Janesville, Wisconsin, my wife's home town, after he escaped from Germany in the early 1930s.

A fairly lengthy discussion of the tracking down of the Last Will and Testament and of Mr Weiss' life can be found in The Washington Post, here.

A hat tip to a friend in Northern Virginia, who wrote to several of us:
Every morning I scan obituaries to see if I'm still here. The
obit below is fascinating.
And so it is.  One more World War II Vet to acknowledge for what he did for us and our Republic.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pigford?

From The Daily Caller we have this item on the "Pigford" Imbroglio.

The current incarnation of this controversy started in the Summer, when Controversialist Andrew Breitbart published part of a video off an NAACP website, showing an NAACP Conference in which Shirley Sherrod, then of the Department of Agriculture, admitted that she had discriminated against a "White" farmer.  There was applause from the audience (and that was the point of the Breitbart clip).  Left out of the video clip was when Ms Sherrod said she was wrong and changed her mind and helped this particular farmer and that had been the right thing to do.  Kudos to Ms Sherrod.  A nick on Mr Breitbart for not putting the whole thing in its total context, since as an outcome, Ms Sherrod was forced to quit her Government job.

So far, so good.  Now comes some pushing back by Black farmer Jimmy Dismuke, one of the first to charge the Department of Agriculture with discrimination and by Mr Breitbart.  Throw in Representative Michelle Bachmann.

The story out there is that the discrimination suit started with 400 Black farmers, grew to a national total of 19,000 Black farmers, but now includes some 90,000 people in the settlement.

When I am confused and there is a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on something, I check it out.  One of the linked articles linked to the report, but at Wikileaks, which is currently subject to a denial of service attack.  So, I couldn't get it, but with little investment of time, I did find the report at an alternate location.

By doing some math on the numbers on page 5 of the CRS Report I came up with 15,640 people getting payments averaging $49,117.65, plus an average of $12,279.41 to cover IRS payments for the folks being settled with (a total of $61,397,06 per person, on average).  There is some more money in there, but this is the vast bulk of it.  While the number of people involved may be in question, the settlement doesn't seem excessive, especially after fees for lawyers are considered.

The Christian Science Monitor has talked about this, noting that Ms Sherrod is one of those charging the Department of Agriculture with discrimination in this case and asking why others have not been fired.  I can see her point.  She was fired without so much as a "stop by the office so we can talk" and those who had actually done wrong are skating.
USDA's failure to punish those responsible for bias against black farmers has drawn criticism from an unlikely alliance that includes black farmers, conservatives such as Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, Sherrod herself, and, bizarrely, conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, who posted the video that got Sherrod fired.
The discrimination is pretty apparent.

The money side of this is not so clear.  My conclusion is that there must be some sort of hidden factor that is not in evidence at this point, as it all seems fairly clean to me, if expensive.  Frankly $61,400 to each of almost 16,000 Black farmers for discrimination doesn't seem out of line.  The fact that no one at the Department of Agriculture was shown the door or otherwise disciplined is strange and a sign that Federal Government protections of employees, which has been a big improvement since the days of President Garfield may have gone too far.

Right now I am most fascinated by the name, Pigford.  On the other hand, a quick check of The New York Times and its step-child, The Boston Globe suggests that these added dimensions are not of interest.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember President James Garfield, who was assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker, Charles J. Guiteau.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pat McCarthy, RIP

At today's Funeral Mass for Pat McCarthy, who passed away this week, his nephew, T J McCarthy, did the eulogy.

The part that really caught my attention was when TJ said that Pat was a vegetarian, but that he didn't think chicken was meat.

I fully appreciate this view that Pat held.  Back when all Fridays were meatless unless you were Spanish or in the military or Protestant or Jewish, I always had a hard time with the concept that chicken was meat and not some other food category.  Even today, on a Day of Abstinence, I have to think it through, because that idea that fowl is not meat has stuck with me through all those decades.

Farewell Pat and we hope to see you on the other side.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What Makes a Statesman?

Here is a paragraph from an article in The Boston Globe by Reporters Farah Stockman and Matt Viser, looking at the impact of the Wikileaks imbroglio on Senator John Forbes Kerry:
While the cables do not differ dramatically from statements that Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made publicly, they portray him as a statesman who is constantly seeking a middle ground and appearing to hold out hope that longtime foes of the United States — such as Syria and Iran — might be prodded into friendlier relations with the United States.
The paragraph says "...portray him [Kerry] as a statesman...".

My dictionary on my computer says "a skilled, experienced, and respected political leader or figure."  I will grant you that Wikipedia says "The words statesman or stateswoman are applied loosely to any head of state, any senior political figure, or anyone who in a given moment exhibits a certain quality of statesmanship."

My point is that Senator John Forbes Kerry is no statesman.  I am assuming some editor stuck that in there and not the two reporters, who I think well of.

To make my point again, Senator Kerry is no S I Hayakawa, Professor, Senator and Statesman.
Language...is the indispensable mechanism of human life....  To be able to read and write...is to...learn to profit by and to take part in the greatest of human achievements—that which makes all other achievements possible—namely, the pooling of our experience in great cooperative stores of knowledge....  From the warning cry of primitive man to the latest scientific monograph or news bulletin, language is social.  Cultural and intellectual cooperation is, or should be, the great principle of human life.
He is not even, really, a George Lloyd Murphy, Performer, Director of Entertainment for the Inaugurations of both Eisenhower (both times) and Kennedy, Senator and Statesman.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From the month of August in my 2010 Rand Corporation Calendar.

Innocence in NYC?

Southwest by west of here The New York Times has an article on the signing of Short Stop Derek Jeter to a $51 million contract.  OK, Mr Jeter has some deficiencies in terms of being a role model for children, but he is an excellent short stop.

One thing in the story seemed a bit off. Quoting from the story,
Even with his eventual return considered a certainty, the public dispute over the terms of his new contract was unsettling, evocative of parents quarreling: Jeter and the Yankees were never headed for a divorce, but the innocence had faded.
The "innocence had faded"?  This is New York City we are talking about, and the Yankees to boot.  There is no innocence.  The two reporters, Mr Ben Shpigel and Mr Michael S Schmidt, were mistaken.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Europe's Weather

It is snowing in Paris.  The expat blog No-Pasaran has pictures to prove it

Regards$nbsp; —  Cliff

Pat McCarthy RIP

It wasn't just Elizabeth Edwards who passed away.  Not as well known nationally, but well known locally, Pat McCarthy passed away last evening.  I met Pat when I would sometimes show up on the WCAP Morning Program when it was George Anthes and Pat.

Pat was a very bright and insightful person and fun to talk too.  A young man in his early 50s, Pat will be missed.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sisters Under The Skin?

I was sorry to hear that mother, lawyer and one time political wife Elizabeth Edwards passed away.  May she rest in peace.

I am assuming from Boston, Ms Sissy Willis, writes about the MSM and politicians, using Ms Edwards and her husband, and Sarah Palin, and her husband, as examples.  I am not sure the title, "Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Edwards, Sisters under the Skin" works, but the point is a good one.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 6, 2010

Funny Side of new DNA Style

I had just recently posted on NASA finding life that is based on arsenic rather than phosphate as part of its DNA.  I thought it was very interesting.  Then there was this cartoon, by xkcd, which was linked to by Happy Catholic, down in the Dallas, Texas, area.


Warning  xkcd sometimes has humor that is not suitable for little children or mixed company.

Regards  —  Cliff

Back to Korea

Over at Night Watch there is good cheer about the new Republic of Korea (ROC) National Defense Minister, Kim Kwan Jin, who took office on Saturday, 4 December.  Mr Kim has already ordered increased defense preparations in the South and promised a response to North Korean provocations, such as the recent shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.  Further, there has been artillery firing by ROC forces, including naval vessels, beginning this morning, Korean time. (As I write this it is almost 9 PM in Seoul.)

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the leader, Kim Chong-il, has been out touring, including a steel mill and a mine.  Thus, we are seeing the peaceful face of North Korea.
However, real war preparations by North Korea, especially civil defense measures require careful attention, should they be reported.  Such measures involve real costs to the decision makers and the state, unlike propaganda statements, whose purpose is to achieve results with little cost.
I thought this was insightful.  Threatening is one thing, especially when you think your opponent will not do anything in response.  Threatening plays well at home and garners attention abroad and sometimes concessions.

On the other hand, to undertake preparations for war has costs that are economic as they disrupt the normal flow of events.  For the United States it is one thing to mobilize.  For an economy like North Korea it is another thing.

For more on this warning of war and the search for indicators, see this item by the Honorable Charles Allen.

Remember, it isn't so much what they say as what they do that counts.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Acting Governor?

In today's edition of The Lowell Sun the "Column" referred to then Governor Paul Celluci as Acting Governor.  I have gotten used to that sort of thing from The Boston Globe, but I expect better of papers in the hinterland.

Is there someone on the staff of The Sun who thought former Governor Bill Weld was coming back?

If Bill Weld had had to have an emergency appendectomy and had temporarily transferred the Governor's powers to the Lieutenant Governor, then the Lieutenant Governor would be "acting".  The expectation would be that the Governor would be back.  In the case of Bill Weld, and later Paul Celluci himself, the man was gone in the pursuit of other interests—in both cases an Ambassadorship.

What if Bill Weld had died?  Would we have been calling Paul Celluci "Acting Governor" in expectation that Bill Weld might rise from the dead and resume being Governor?

What if after Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold hearings on Bill Weld's nomination to be US Ambassador to Mexico Mr Weld had come back to Beacon Hill and said he wanted his old job back, since Paul Celluci was only "Acting".  Would the citizenry, and the punditry, have put up with that?  I doubt it.  Thus, the term acting does not apply.

This is just silly and it is the kind of silliness I expect from people down in Boston.  I expect better of people out away from "the hub of the universe".  For one thing, I expect a little more courtesy toward someone sitting in the corner office being rented from the General Court.

And, I have read the Commonwealth's Constitution and I never figured that the Governor was anything but the Governor.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And thank God he did not.

MoDo on DADT

Lance, in a comment on my previous blog post, on DADT, challenged me to read today's Maureen Dowd column.  I like MoDo.  She is good looking, she is bright and witty, and she is usually wrong in her conclusions.  But, I like her.

Today she thinks that Senator Scott Brown is "fuzzy" but is going to vote the "right way" (to repeal DADT).  Modo doesn't say it is because he listens to his wife, the famous Gail Huff.  But, when you see how she says "grumpy" old Senator McCain should listen to his wife, you kind of wonder.

The article is definitely downbeat.
Once again, the Democrats waited too long to close the deal, the president showed no leadership, and a campaign promise that was seen as a fait accompli now seems a casualty.

Even after a Pentagon report showing that most troops and their families think that allowing gays and lesbians to be themselves would not be a big deal, even after the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged the Senate to repeal the law that demands dishonesty, Democrats were still fending off a snarling John McCain and a few unreconstructed Southerners.
I can't dispute that the Senate leadership has put this vote off too long. But, if this thing fails in the Senate it won't be because of former Navy Captain John McCain and a few Southerners (unreconstructed was a term for Dixiecrats, not Republicans).  It will be because the Senate Majority Leader has ducked the fight.  Long before anyone knew who Mark Wahlberg or Micky Ward were, Harry Reid was a boxer.  But, he seems to not be going into the ring on this one.

If the US Congress repeals DADT it will be because Republicans joined with Democrats to make it happen.  If the US Congress fails to repeal DADT it will be because the Democrats couldn't must the votes from their own side to go along with supportive Republicans.

MoDo continues to be good looking and to write great columns, brilliant and witty, but, again drawing the wrong conclusions.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He also mentioned the singer Katy Perry, about whom I know nothing.  I did go to her official website and noted that she is doing a "Salute the Troops" item while I am typing this.
  I couldn't recall, but I thought maybe Gail Huff was one of the TV news readers that Kad Barma had a crush on, but as seen here, the center of his affection was Heather Unruh, and why not?
  No disrespect to the actor or the boxer, especially with their movie coming out and about to debut for $75 a ticket here in Lowell.  It is just that Senator Reid is a lot older than they are.