Monday, January 31, 2011

New Option

Over at the Instapundit this afternoon there was this link to rumors of a new candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2012, US Abassador to China (and former two term Governor of Utah) Jon Huntsman, Jr.

It is a long way to the Summer of 2013, and the options keep getting better, not that some of the current stock are all that bad.

Regards  —  Cliff

Move Lowell Forward Open Meeting

The local Political Action Committee, Move Lowell Forward, is hosting an Open Meeting on Thursday, 17 February, at 7:00 PM (1900 Hours).  Open House=everyone is invited.

Our theme might be "Enough Drama, Time to Get Down to Business".

It is a "Planning and Development Forum" and our guest speaker is Mr Adam Baacke, Assistant City Manager, Planning and Development.

Mr Baacke will talk about the many development projects in our City, from the Hamilton Canal District to the plans for Tanner Street and downtown.  We hope to learn more about the Master Plan, Sustainability Initiatives and Development Services.

For those of us who plan on being Lowellians for many more years, the economic progress of our Fair City is very important to us.

Please join us at the Market Mill/Lowell Art and Design Center, 256 Market Street (across from the Brush Gallery).  Parking is available at the National Historic Visitors lot off Dutton Street or via street parking on Market Street (or the parkhaus east of the venue).

A short note about "Move Lowell Forward".  We are a politically diverse group and our charter is such that we do not engage in partisan political activities or political activities above the local non-partisan level.  Because of our politically diversity we work on a strong consensus basis.  Our goal is to encourage all of our citizens to participate in our City's political life with the goal of making our city better.

And, we are looking for fellow Lowellians to join us in our efforts.

Oh, and at our Thursday, 17 February meeting at 7:00 PM, to which you are invited, we will serve light refreshments.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  For those who have heard that Move Lowell Forward sent a paper to City Councilor and Vice Mayor Kevin P. Broderick with a request that he present to the City Council for discussion (sort of like you calling Rita Mercier about the need for a street sign or a pot hole filled), you can find it on my "sandbox" webpage, at a link at the bottom.

The Esoterics

In the part of France near the Spanish border are the Bugarach Mountains.  Not impressive as mountains go, but beautiful and an attraction to hikers looking for a good walk and a chance to find rare species of orchids.

But, these days the area is picking up attention from those who think it would be a good place of refugee when time runs out on 21 December 2012.  At least that is what Reporter MAÏA de la BAUME says in an article in the International Herald Tribune.  And it is not just those concerned about the Mayan calendar.  This area has inspired authors Jules Verne and Dan Brown and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.  And in recent years it has attracted a collection of people the locals refer to as the Esoterics.

The Mayor of Bugarach, Jean-Pierre Delord, would rather avoid the opportunity to take economic advantage of this collection of Esoterics and the beliefs that bring people to the town and the area.  But, still, they come.
Bugarach is like California in the ’60s.  Things appear more clearly here; when you arrive, you feel that this is the beginning of a new life.
Didier Gromaire, a social worker from Chambéry
On the other hand, "The future isn't what it used to be", or so Yogi Beera tells us.

If you go to the article via the link, check out the photograph at the top of the article and note the front license plate on the VW Van.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Little Humility Would Help

With regard to climate change (sometimes called Global Warming), sometimes a certain lack of humility gets in the way of the message.

Now comes this report in The Telegraph about the cause of Glacial retreat in the Himalayan Mountains.  It turns out to be about, inter alia, debris:
Dr Bodo Bookhagen, Dirk Scherler and Manfred Strecker studied 286 glaciers between the Hindu Kush on the Afghan-Pakistan border to Bhutan, taking in six areas.

Their report, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found the key factor affecting their advance or retreat is the amount of debris – rocks and mud – strewn on their surface, not the general nature of climate change.

Glaciers surrounded by high mountains and covered with more than two centimetres of debris are protected from melting.
In fact, some of the glaciers are advancing.

This is not to rule out global warming.  But, the condemnation of the opposition has been unseemly and unsettling.
Dr Pachauri, head of the Nobel prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has remained silent on the matter since he was forced to admit his report's claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was an error and had not been sourced from a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  It came from a World Wildlife Fund report.

He angered India's environment minister and the country's leading glaciologist when he attacked those who questioned his claim as purveyors of "voodoo science".
I look forward to more discussion about this interesting topic.  I hope part of that discussion will be a look at serious economic tradeoffs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Other Problems in Africa

In the nation just south of Egypt, Sudan (capital Khartoum), there have been demonstrations.  The information is at this site.  OK, so it is democracy moving east bound and down.

It is complicated by the fact that the results are in on the referendum last weekend on secession by Southern Sudan.  99% for.  I am betting Khartoum won't like that.

Will there be war?  Will there be military intervention?  Will there be genocide?  Will the US intervene?

Regards  —  Cliff

What is Education About?

From the Instapundit I followed links to this exchange between Professor Larry Summers and Professor Amy Chau.  (For those avoiding the sensational, Professor Chau has been in the news recently about her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, where she says no sleep-overs, no play dates, nothing less than "A"s.)

It was at the World Economic Forum, at Davos (Switzerland).  It was a dinner debate between the former Obama Economic Advisor Summers and the author Amy Chau.  Dr Summers suggested:
“In a world where things that require discipline and steadiness can be done increasingly by computers, is the traditional educational emphasis on discipline, accuracy and successful performance and regularity really what we want?” he asked.  Creativity, he said, might be an even more valuable asset that educators and parents should emphasize.  At Harvard, he quipped, the A students tend to become professors and the C students become wealthy donors.

“It is not entirely clear that your veneration of traditional academic achievement is exactly well placed,” he said to Ms. Chua.  “Which two freshmen at Harvard have arguably been most transformative of the world in the last 25 years?” he asked.  “You can make a reasonable case for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, neither of whom graduated.”  Demanding tiger moms, he said, might not be very supportive of their kids dropping out of school.
Creativity?  Now there is a thought.  But, creativity needs a basis in facts and a certain amount of self-discipline.

How are we doing here in Lowell?

And do we agree more with Larry Summers or Amy Chau?

Regards  —  Cliff

Military Esprit de Corps

Over in another forum there is an ongoing discussion of Army Posts playing the traditional bugle calls over the loud speaker.  This grew up out of a Washington Post article on happenings at Fort Belvoir.

The issue generated comments on tradition and esprit de corps, and differences between the Army and the US Marine Corps in this regard.  Experiences were exchanged, including this comment by a retired Army Colonel about his unit, the 1st Battalion, 504 Infantry Regiment:
If you don't mind, I've re-posted this to the greater Loop—it says volumes about tradition and continuity.  We used to bring the old WWII guys back to 1-504 once a year (before the war started).  I remember one of the Old Originals asking a young trooper "What's your job, son?"  The kid replied that he was a rifleman in the second platoon of Charlie Company.  The old guy said "No kidding?  So was I!"  The young soldier almost broke down. It's worth a bugle call now and then.
One person, who had been to see the play Black Watch, about the fabled Scottish Regiment, being performed by the National Theatre of Scotland at the Washington Shakespeare Theater's Harman Center, provided this great line:
I fought for my regiment, my company, my platoon, my section, and my mates.
Traditions and a sense of continuity are important for military units, especially those which will face hardships.  Being in the military is just like any other job, except when it isn't.

Regards  —  Cliff

Another Challenge from the Middle East

Here is a quiz of your knowledge of the nations of what my Middle Brother characterized as "the Middle East".  In fact it is the Maghreb, the Near East, the Middle East and a little bit more.  Not easy.  I had trouble with the sub-Saharan nations west of Chad and only recognized Chad because it has been in the news from time to time and the fact that USAF C-5s flew French military forces there a few years ago in response to Libyan military incursions.  And, at the other end, I was confused about a couple of the 'Stans.

Have fun.

Regards  —  Cliff

Back to Events in Egypt

Over at Wired Magazine and its "Danger Room" is an editorial on President Obama's "Net Freedom Agenda".

When my friend Charlie sent the link to me via EMail I thought from the title it was some sort of net assessment of freedom in different parts of the world.  I was wrong.  It is about freedom on the Internet.

As we know, Egyptian Authorities shut down the Internet in Egypt and included things like Twitter and Facebook.

The piece in Wired Magazine, by Spencer Ackerman, is titled "Does Obama’s ‘Net Freedom Agenda’ Hurt The U.S.?".  Does it hit the mark?  Perhaps it does.

A question in my mind is what can we do to restore the Internet in a area where it has been hit with a "kill switch"?  The supplemental question is what is our own FCC up to in regard to this "kill switch" idea?

Regards  —  Cliff

Why "Natural Selection" Sometimes Scares Me

I accept that Darwin was correct about natural selection.  It is what a study of the situation shows.  I accept that there is DNA and that the DNA has an impact on who we are.  It is what a study of the situation shows.

What worries me is what people do with this information, from the eugenics types here in the US 100 years ago, to Anton Drexler in Germany in the 1920s, to people who will look at this item noted over at Renee Astee's End of Nihilism blog site and decide that something "needs to be done" to protect humanity, civilization, whatever.

Regards  —  Cliff

  See Buck v Bell for the US Supreme Court sanctioning forced sterilization.  This ruling, written by Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr, stands as a blot on his reputation.  This should be right up there with Dred Scott, if not higher.
  Leading to some of the principles behind the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) in Germany at the end of WWI.

Things Aren't So Bad With School System

Well, that is a comparison comment.

Out in Wayne Township, in Indiana, they gave their beloved Superintendent a $1 million retirement package.
In 2007, the Wayne Township School Board and then-Superintendent Terry Thompson agreed to a renegotiated contract that provided a generous retirement package for whenever Thompson decided to step down.

But it wasn't until this month that board members realized just how lucrative that deal was, to the tune of more than $1 million.

Thompson, 64, who retired in December after 15 years with the district, already has received more than $800,000 of his retirement deal, which included a year's base pay at more than $225,000, as well as contract provisions that kicked in hundreds of thousands more.
Lack of due diligence, it would seem to me.

I don't think we can say that about our own Lowell School Committee.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hunts Falls Bridge Closures

From Pawtuckettville Neighborhood Group I got this notice from Mass Highway Dep't.
For Immediate

January 28, 2011


Northbound traffic travelling over the Route 38/110 (Hunts Falls) bridge over the Merrimack River in Lowell will be detoured nightly between 8:00 PM and 5:00 AM beginning on Monday evening, January 31st and continuing until Friday morning, February 4th, to allow construction crews to install several new water mains. The work is weather dependant and is subject to modification or cancellation.

Northbound drivers should follow the posted detour route from Route 38/110 (Nesmith Street), left at East Merrimack Street, right at Bridge Street, over the Central Bridge and onto the VFW Highway (Route 38), and continue to their destinations as indicated below.

*To Route 110 Eastbound:* Turn right on Route 38 and continue along the VFW Highway as it becomes Route 110.

*To Route 38 Northbound:* Turn left on Route 38.

Appropriate signs, channelizing devices and traffic control measures will be used to guide drivers through the work zone and the detour routes.

MassDOT encourages drivers to reduce speed and use caution when travelling through the work zone and along the associated detour route.

The work is part of a $12.1 million project to rehabilitate three bridges in Lowell and is funded through the Patrick-Murray Administration’s historic Accelerated Bridge Program, a $3 billion recovery effort to reduce the Commonwealth’s backlog of structurally-deficient bridges.
Good luck to all of us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Here is what I had planned on saying to the Lowell School Committee last night.
Picking a New Superintendent

Looking to the future and the hiring of a new Superintendent, the first thing the School Committee owes the Parents of our Students, and the Voters (and taxpayers) of Lowell, is a solid appraisal of where our students stand, both in terms of standardized tests and in terms of critical thinking and creativity.  Not generalities, but hard data.

Then we can ask ourselves if our students are (1) world class, ready for the 21st Century; or (2) doing quite well by Commonwealth standards, and while not destined to be leaders in the 21st Century as least prepared to succeed; or (3) falling behind others and destined to struggle for jobs throughout their lifetimes.

If the first, then we need someone as School Superintendent who will maintain our situation without driving up the cost of education to the point we can't afford to continue our current success.

If the second, then we need someone as School Superintendent who can tweak the system and bring it up to the point where our students will be ready to go forth and discover, lead and produce with the best of them.

If the third, then we need a School Superintendent who will come in and further empower our teachers, parents and students.  Someone to give us a new approach to education, an approach that will, without bankrupting the City and the rate payers, start moving our students toward what they are capable of.

Three different situations; three different Superintendents.

With that assessment in hand the School Committee can then go forward and hire the School Superintendent we need and deserve.

Thank You.
I didn't get to give that short synopsis of my views on this subject.  Things were flowing the wrong way.  I did mail it off to all the members of the School Committee.

Regards  —  Cliff

What Was It All About?

I think that Commenter Jack Mitchell, over at Left-in-Lowell captured it in this comment, posted on 19 January 2011.

The School Committee seems to have felt that the School Superintendent was operating outside of her charter from them.  She was free-lancing and not doing a credible job of reporting back.  It seems to me, at this point that she violated the concept of "It is easier to get forgiveness than permission" by being careless with the facts.  This has emerged only recently, and it gave the School Committee pause.  Then it gave the School Committee purpose.  My sense of that purpose was embodied in Mayor Milinazzo last evening, who was very serious and all business.  It seemed to me that he and most of his fellow School Committee members were there to accomplish one thing and one thing only.  To start the search for a new Superintendent.

Has this been a case of a failure to communicate?  It may well have been and the solution might have been an all cards face up meeting behind closed doors.  That did not happen and now we are left with this situation.

I am not of a mind to blame the School Committee for this.  I believe, like in most things, there is some blame to share, but the majority belongs with Dr Chris Scott.  At the end of the day it is her job to keep her boss(es) informed and to make them look good.  That did not happen.

This is, frankly a vote of "No Confidence".  If the School Committee loses confidence in the Superintendent, it is time to move on.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday School Committee Meeting

It was an extraordinary event and great Kabuki. 

Last evening the Lowell School Committee met to look at the issue of hiring a new School Superintendent.
I went, hoping to speak, but the Chairman of the School Committee, Mayor James Milinazzo, told me before the meeting started that one had to register before 1400 of the day in order to speak.  As it was, only one person had so registered, the very savvy Teachers Union President, Paul Georges.

I will publish in a subsequent post what I had written up to say.

I would note that Mayuor Milinazzo ran the meeting like it was on rails.  As Union President Paul Georges started to speak, the Mayor ruled him out of order, for straying from the topic of the evening, but he then allowed School Committee Member Alison Laraba to enter a motion to (1) allow Mr Georges to speak to a larger issue and to allow others to also so speak, waiving the 1400 deadline for signing up.

The Laraba Motion was seconded and approved by all members of the School Committee.  There followed a short and tight presentation by Mr Georges.  Very well done.  That was followed by a number of people, mostly, I would judge, teachers. 

Following all the presentations School Committee Member Laraba moved that the Committee reconsider engaging School Superintendent over renewing her contract.  Ms Laraba could not get a Second to her motion.  Then School Committee Member Connie A Martin moved to begin the search process.  This was seconded by School Committee Member David J. Conway.  At this point many of the some 100 people in the chamber departed.  What I didn't notice as I was recording the vote on my iPad was that Ms Laraba had left with the Teachers Union claque.  I did think it strange that I had only three "L" people in my notes until the results were read and it was six in favor of starting a search and one "Absent".  After that there was a quick discussion as to when the next meeting could be held (Wednesday is the first opportunity) and then Mr Conway moved for adjournment.

The Millanizzo performance as Chairman was exceptionally good.

The best account of the meeting can be found here, written by reporter Jenn Myers of The Lowell Sun.  Of course that will turn into pixie dust in about 30 days.  I will not be searching the World Wide Web for it after that, unless there is really a lot more snow and I have nowhere to go and nothing to do.

My own notes follow (if your name is misspelled, I apologize (poor schooling when I was young) and if you contact me I will correct it and so note).

Lowell School Committee Meeting--110128

Ms Laraba moved to have the outside speaker(s) brought forward in the Agenda to the beginning of the meeting, which is approved.

Paul Georges--(the Mayor provides the limits--five minutes and on topic)--starts to talk about going back and reengaging with Dr Chris Scott.  The Mayor rules him out of order.  Ms Laraba asks about what is related and there is a consultation with the Committee's (City's) lawyer, Christine O'Conner.  The lawyer notes that it is things like hiring a head hunter, time period, etc.

Then there is a motion by Ms Laraba to expand the limits (both in terms of content and who might speak).  The motion passes unanimously.

Mr Paul Georges—Take a step back.  The Superintendent is supported by many in the system.  Sheovercome many obstacles, including loss of money, and gave us improved stats.  We have suffered two years w/o a contract, because of the Superintendent's support.  Please reset the clock.  Do what you have to do to get beyond this.  Never seen a more dedicated School Superintendent.  Why can't we stay together on this. Asking on behalf of God and everybody.  Speaking from my heart and my head.

Patty Shepherd—21 years in the district, a parent (and a teacher).  I have to say she deserves the respect that has not been shown to her by the School Committee.  Things are going better.  In your eyes it may be different.

Mark Goldman—We have a partnership w/UML and MCC.  It is Innovative.  We have been recognized by the New York Times.  We need to keep her.

A lady about to retire noted that this is an exciting time and it is due to [Chris Scott].  We are inspired by his lady before us.

Joan Rawels.—When Dr Scott arrived she was told Dr Scott all for the teachers.  And, it turned out to be true and "Thank God".  She really cares.  The Lowell system is the best place to work—the kids are unbelievable.

Another woman spoke and said that she got really nervous this week there might not be a chance.  What we need.  Thank you Dr Scott for being our leader.  For not being top down.  She meant the end of the "Learning Walk".  A fiasco.  She gave power back to the teachers.  Before our self-esteem and morale was low.  She is supportive, kind and ... You believe in us like we believe in our students.  Your departure would truly be a judgmental loss to us.

Henry Lucene—from a family of educators.  The best thing in Lowell system is right here.  Think of the students.  You hired her.  She fulfilled what you asked her to do.  She brought back the human nurtue us.

Susan Smith President Lowell administrators union We have lost 40 administrators in the last year.  She has never failed to meet w/ us.

Elizabeth Cook—Here as teacher and 4th Generation Lowellian.  Dr Scott has brought an energy to our schools.  Students benefit.

Anita Downs—daughter a senior.  Dr Scott has brought energy.  I have been involved in several Superintendent searches and it is hard.  Keep Dr Scott.

Genevieve Parasole—I have never felt so sad.  The children need her, even us clerks need her.

Then it was over.  The Mayor then said:  "Thank you very much...Ms Larabia."

Very impressive reports from those presenting.  We don't take this lightly.  Things have been said and done that are unfortunate.  I move we meet with the Superintendent, the City Counsel, [etc] to get a solution to giving Dr Scott a new contract.

The motion didn't get a second.

Ms Martin moves to begin the search process.  Seconded by Mr Conway.

Many people depart the area.

Six yeas, 1 Absent.  Approved.

Ms Martin.  It is in our best interest to set a very strict timeline.

Ms Doherty...Monday?

Ms Martin, Wed the first Opportunity.

Mr Conway motion to adjourn.


Regards  —  Cliff

  Citizen Jack Mitchell was the first to characterize this meeting as political theater.  At least in the US Air Force, Kabuki is a common term used to refer to events that seem to fit a standard script.
  The "Learning Walk", as described, was a Dr Karla Brooks Baehr action wherein a small group of experienced personnel would talk into a classroom and observe the teacher and the students.  Having been an instructor for several years, I would say it is something I would not like either, but it is an accepted technique in some areas.  It is to be noted that Dr Karla Brooks Baehr is now Massachusetts Deputy Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Accountability, Partnerships and Assistance

"Mabarak No Dictator"

Over at The Other McCain is a repeat of an interesting question, "‘Whose Bright Idea Was It to Send Joe Biden Out to Talk About Egypt?’".  As you recall, Vice President Biden responded to a Reporter with an extended comment that included this item:
I would not refer to him as a dictator.
Ooooh Kay.  So, in what way would we describe Mr Hosni Mubarak?

Over at Night Watch the analyst is saying that this unrest in Egypt is being sanctioned by elements of the Army, as a way of ensuring we don't have a North Korean like family succession, with son Gamal Mubarak succeeding his 82 year old father.

The real problem is if certain factions come to power and those factions decide that what the People really want and need is the elimination of Israel.  That would be a problem.

The paths this situation can take are like branches of a tree.  One branch could be an immediate departure of President Mubarak.  Another could be his departure in six months, sort of like President de Gaulle after May of 1968.  A third could be President Mubarak as a figurehead for the next few years, with someone else manipulating the levers.

Then there is the next branch.  Will it be government reform?  Will it be confrontation with Israel?  Will it be a move toward true democracy?  Will it be a return to Sharia after all these decades of a secular society?

Then there are the questions about the impact of the broader events on the south side of the Mediterranean on populations on the north side.  How will North Africans in Spain, France and Italy react to the events in their homelands?

It is an interesting set of possibilities out there.

Hat tip to the Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 28, 2011

Clearly on Notice from Washington

Thus, CNN New Reader Anderson Cooper describes the situation in Egypt.

This is treating Egypt like it was a client of the United States rather than a sovereign nation.

Don't get me wrong.  I think the Egyptian Government is corrupt, dictatorial and should go.  On the other, I fear what come after Mubarak.  As France's Louis XV said, "Après moi, le déluge" (After me the deluge).

But, "Clearly on notice" suggests a relationship that does not exist and should not exist.  We give Egypt Billions, but we do it to maintain peace in the Near East.  Egypt is not our "client".

My question is, was this just Mr Cooper or was this the Administration?  If Mr Cooper, shame on him and CNN, if the Administration, shame on us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Egypt News

What will happen in Egypt in the next few days or weeks may or may not be a mirror of Tunisia, but it is possible.  The difference is that President Mubarak has the Army behind him—but that could change.

Someone I know and respect just noted:
Friday's planned protest will reveal a lot.  El Baradei supports it, and the Muslim Brotherhood has announced it will participate.  Mubarak has put his most elite force on the streets and has cut off access to internet, twitter, etc.
If President Mubarak is overthrown his replacement might not be as friendly to the US.  What it might mean for peace in the Near East is up for grabs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Linking Blame Games

This opinion piece by reporter Caroline B Glick of The Jerusalem Post, writing in The Jewish Press, talks to a comparison of the demonization of Governor Sarah Palin after the Tucson shooting to the demonization of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabi.

It is an interesting comparison.

Then along comes Blogger Richard Fernandez and his take on Professor Francis Fox Piven, who, you may recall, feels threatened because TV Personality Glenn Beck has called her out for her views, including her encouraging of violent demonstrations by "the poor".

"Mother Knows Best" is a long article and brings in Thomas Sowell in contrast to Ms Piven.
Liberation under the Piven doctrine effectively becomes a choice by the serfs of which aristocracy they believe will do best by them, since worth is determined by the political process anyway.  Which side do we back by our “mass actions”?  Liberation becomes the process of putting the “right” people in charge of the masses.  It is not — it is never — putting the masses in charge of themselves.

Why not put the masses in charge of their own lives? Because that would require facilitating innumerable transactions and contracts between individuals.  That would require self-interest and economic calculation to propel the system.  That would mean a market, whose job it would be for the state to keep fair, and that were too little a role for such as Piven thinks should rule the roost.  Besides, we all know that markets don’t anything but swindle the poor.  Markets are the reign of greed and society does so much better under the rule of enlightenment.

So put on your marching shoes and head for Washington, to put the right people in charge, and if Piven is correct, enough banging on the doors of the Capital will inevitably produce the keys to the hidden gold, which will be spent of course, in the manner Piven knows everybody would want it to be spent.
The death of an American Federal Judge and a Jewish Prime Minister are not just sad, but are detrimental to democratic discourse.  But, separate from those deaths is the desire to place blame for them on the clash of ideas.

What connects these two articles is the fact that ideas that are losing support in the marketplace of ideas are being bolstered by those who claim that their opponents are violent people, attempting to put down those ideas with violence, based upon violent rhetoric.  I find that especially laughable in the case of Professor Piven, whose proposals tend to lend support to the idea of emulating the violent riots in Europe.

A hat tip to the Instapundit for the first link and to The Chicago Boyz for the second.

Regards  —  Cliff

Water Out

Over here on Mansur St the water is out, due to a main break on Stackpole.

But, we are of good cheer, so far.

UPDATE:  Water is back on and we have run our faucet for the recommended 30 minutes.  We did eat out during the "crisis" as did our neighbors behind us.  We ran into them at Chili's.  As an aside, did you know that Applebees has free WiFi?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Colourful News

Today is Republic Day in India and this is an article on it.

And here are the photos in all their colour.

Hat tip to JMC.

Regards  —  Cliff

Looking For Cheery News

I was looking for some good news, but the best I could find is that things aren't so bad.

My youngest son, living in Centreville, VA, and working in DC, was on the road (and subway) 4 hours and 45 minutes.

My oldest son, living in Warrenton, VA, and at the Expo Center near Dulles today, was still on the road when we checked and had made 400 yards feet in the last hour.  Left work at 3:45 and is just now passing the NRO building.  That means miles to go.  He has already called one hotel, but they were already booked.

So, things here aren't so bad.  Mr Snow is doing a relatively good job vis-a-via the snow, at least compared with our nation's capital.

UPDATE:  An EMail from my oldest son a little while ago:  "Got home at 0145. It took 10 hours."

He has a Prius, so he didn't have the higher risk of running out of case trapped between exits on some Freeway.  That was a comforting thought last night.

Regards  —  Cliff

Drug Gang Challenge Coins

Here is an interesting item, from Police Magazine, about "Challenge Coins" being used by drug gangs.  This report is dated 11 January 2011.

A "Challenge Coin" is a form of unity building often used by US military units.  These Coins, bearing some indication of the unit—the one closest at hand for me is actually from US Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine, with a map of the US and the crest of the organization—are also given to people outside the unit as a token of appreciation.  Senior officers often use such coins to show thanks to troops for particular actions of significance.

Today we find that drug cartels are adopting this practice.
A challenge coin with an emblem and crest of a drug trafficking organization has been recovered by law enforcement officers in Mexico, reliable sources tell POLICE Magazine.

American and Mexican law enforcement agencies have recovered similar badges, patches, coins, flags and other items produced by the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs).  The items act as a way to build unity within cartels, according to Gary "Rusty" Fleming, an expert on the cartels who produced the documentary "Drug Wars:  Silver or Lead."

The items solidify military cohesion among cartel soldiers.  Other cartels, especially Los Zetas, also use these items, according to Fleming, who said he wasn't surprised by the find.
What is going on South of our Border should be disturbing to all of us.  The situation is not getting better and between illegal drugs and illegal immigrants, the drug problem is the more threatening to our Democracy.  And in the view of some, legalization of drugs, beneficial as that might be, will not make the cartels go away.  They have broadened out their criminal activities and sources of income.

Regards  —  Cliff

Are Our High School Graduates Fit to Serve?

This is old news, but my excuse is I was out of town...

Here is an AP report from 21 December of last year, published in the (San Jose) Mercury News, that one-fourth of high school students who try to join the military don't make the grade in terms of ability to pass the enlistment written test or physical tests (often due to obesity).  But, it is bigger than just the military, at least according to the US Education Secretary:
"Too many of our high school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career -- and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the AP. "I am deeply troubled by the national security burden created by America's underperforming education system."
How are we doing here in Lowell?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Feminisms?

I realize that the title of this article, "Sarah Palin and the Battle for Feminism", by Ms Kay S. Hymowitz leaves one thinking this is another post on Governor Sarah Palin, but it isn't.  It is really an article on feminism and the Tea Party.  I think there are some pretty interesting observations.

Hat tip to the Instapundit

Regards  —  Cliff

  Do you ever think that "Ms" should be spelled "Mz", given the way it is sounded out?

Rahm Back on the Ballot

Via the Instapundit we have this.  Stay from the Illinois Supreme Court.

You can always count on the Captain (Ed Morrissey) to know what is happening.

As noted by Mr Morrissey, good thing, because ballots are being printed today.

Regards  —  Cliff

Intellectuals Unhinged

I hope my next professor at UMass Lowell is not a supporter of Professor Francis Fox Piven.  If she is, I could be in trouble, because I think Law Professor and Blogger Ann Althouse does a good job of explaining why Professor Piven is in the wrong and her supporters are even more in the wrong and why TV Commentator Glenn Beck is on solid ground.

This issue revolves around Mr Beck pointing out that Professor Piven's call for demonstrations in the streets of the US like those in Greece are calls for violence, including destruction of property and resulting death.  Mr Beck calls her the ninth most dangerous person in America.  I quibble with his ranking her as ninth, but I think he makes a point that her call demonstrations, based on those that recently lead to the destruction of property and death, shows a clear lack of responsibility.

The latest group to get involved in this are the officers of the American Sociology Association.

This latest dust-up is not my first acquaintance with Professor Piven.  Several years ago I took a history course from Professor Steve Russell where there were several textbooks, but only one I remember, the one by Professor Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward—Regulating the Poor:  The Functions of Public Welfare.  Incidentally, a great course.

Professor Piven and her backers are in the wrong here and this time Mr Beck is on the side of the angels.

Regards  —  Cliff

  When I was looking for a second concentration, to go with my history concentration, my wife advised me that I would not enjoy sociology.  I thought she was wrong, but had a chance to pick economics and did.  Score another one for the wife.

You May Be a Terrorist

This item from the Public Intelligence blog site, an Open Source Intelligence (OSINT, pronounced Oz Int) site, gives us an idea of what anti-terrorism forces are looking for as indicators of people who might be involved in terrorism.

My source is noted:  "I recently had to update my anti-terrorism/force protection certification (to travel overseas) and noticed that a few of these "indicators" are also "recommended" force protection measures."

I would think that a number of you out there should be turning yourselves in to our Chief of Police as possible terrorist suspects.  Especially some of you over at the Dick Howe blog, with all those photographs.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 24, 2011

Doings and Undoings on Beacon Hill

Over at Gerry Nutter's Lowell we these comments on the General Court of Massachusetts doing its rule making.

They had a chance but they muffed it.  On the other hand, there will be no consequences.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rahm Out of the Running

This seems like the wrong decision.  According to The Washington Post an appeals court has said that he didn't make the one year residency requirement.

What this really says is that if you go to Washington to serve the People, once you return home you are going to have to idle around for some time before you can again participate in local politics.  One wonders how US Reps and US Senators can even run for re-election?

Mr Rahm Emanuel is not my hero, but I think this is a bad decision.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lowell Was Right to Ban Knives of a Certain Length

At least that would appear to be the case based on an assassination attempt in Kansas City, Missouri, where in September of 2010 a student planned to kill the Governor, Jay Nixon, but only succeeded in slashing the throat of a dean, Al Dimmit, Jr (who will recover).  Mr Casey Brezik, a student at Metropolitan Community College—Penn Vally, also managed to injure his school's chancellor, Mark James.  Credit to Mr Brezik, he did wear a bullet proof vest for this mayhem.

From this news report it appears that local school administrators managed to wrestle Mr Brezik to the ground.

Mr Brezik had been previously diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic.  Interestingly, this manifested itself, in part, in his adherence to a more Che Guevara like view of the world.  The American Thinker has connected him to environmental extremism, radical Islam, anti-capitalism, anti-Zionism and Christophobia.

Health care is a tricky issue.  In the recent ancient past we fairly promiscuously locked people up and kept them locked up.  We realized the error of our ways and then closed down many mental hospitals, putting people out on the streets, where today many of them are homeless.  One of the problems with not keeping people under close surveillance is that they don't take their prescribed medicines.  And there is a reason for that, or multiple reasons, one of which is that the medicines make they feel foggy.

As this assassination attempt and the assassination attempt against Congresswoman Gifford show, getting people the help they need when they are having emotional problems is important.

I am guessing that the cost of medical care for congresswoman Gifford and the other survivors has already run over several million dollars.  I wonder what proper medicines, for a lifetime, for Jared Loughner would have cost us?  Not as much, I am betting.  Maybe not one-one hundredth.

And, as for the Title of this blog post, it was not serious.  Just as guns are not the real issue, so too knives are not the real issue.  Mental Health is the real issue.  Neither Mr Brezik nor Mr Loughner were making political statements.  They were and are mentally ill.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quote, Updated

A few days ago I posted a link to some quotations on national security issues.

Now, one of the quotations by retired Air Force Colonel John Craig was updated.  Colonel Craig's quote was attributed to US Marine Corps General Al Gray.  However, someone noted, after publication of the list of quotations, that it was shortened from a quote by the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791).

Wesley’s full quotation is:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Even better.

Regards  —  Cliff

Cutting the Budget, Smartly

Reporter Max Boot, over at Commentary Magazine has a comment on a plan by House Republicans to slash the budget of USAID.

I agree with Mr Boot that we should not be slashing $1.39 billion out of an overall budget of $1.65 billion.  I also agree with those who think USAID needs to be "fixed".

One of Mr Boots points does fail.  His argument that USAID is only 0.04% of the Federal Budget doesn't wash with me.  As the late Senator Everett Dirksen once said, "A billion here and a billion there, it pretty soon adds up to real money."

As someone noted, the problem is not saving the organization, USAID, the problem is having an effective foreign assistance program that can and does serve the common interest of the American People.

I would argue that helping other nations move forward is in the common interest of the American People, both in terms of reducing the need for Defense spending and in terms of aquitting our moral obligation to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In his vote for cloture during the debate on the Civil Rights Act, Senator Dirksen said:  "Victor Hugo wrote in his diary substantially this sentiment, 'Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.'  The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment.  It must not be stayed or denied."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lowell School Superintendent Going

Is some local drama club doing a production of Casablanca and searching for someone to play the role of Captain Louis Renault?  It sure seems that members of the School Committee are auditioning.
I'm shocked, shocked to find [that gambling is going on in here]!
One of the most important tasks of our School Committee is the hiring and retaining (or firing) of a School Superintendent.  That members of the School Committee didn't realize they were burning daylight in negotiations with our current Superintendent, Dr Chris Augusta Scott, is a surprise to me.  Doesn't the School Committee have its own lawyer, Mr James P. Hall, Esq, to help them with this kind of thing?  I have always been impressed by Mr Hall.  One would have thought he would be advising the School Committee on how to proceed with this most important of negotiations.

It would appear that either the School Committee knew what they were doing and are just covering it up or they lack the competence to do their job.  That second option seems a little thin to me.

And, the comment in Thursday's Lowell Sun from Mayor James Milanazzo (who serves as the Chairman of the School Committee by virtue of being Mayor) suggests that the School Committee is actually ready to move on.
I wish her well, and I enjoyed my year as mayor working with her...
What is the reason behind the School Committee's decision to decide by not deciding?  One option presented is a loss of confidence, based upon Ms Scott free lancing in some areas.  This was suggested by a commenter at the blog Left in Lowell, which comment can be found here.  Another option is that this goes all the way back to the Fatacanti Imbroglio, in the Summer of 2009, about which I blogged here.  At the time I suggested that
The appointed School Superintendent will gain in power vis-a-via the School Committee, but that may, in the long run, create a backlash, which will then make the School Committee so powerful that the next School Superintendent will not be able to do his or her job properly. And, there will be a knock-on effect for the City Council.
Have the chickens come home to roost?

But, to the issue of the day.  While this move by Dr Scott may be a negotiating tactic, one senses that the School Committee is just meeting in Executive Session to put a good face on a decision already taken.

So, to the future.  The first thing the School Committee owes the Parents and the Rate Payers (or the Voters, if you prefer) is a solid appraisal of where our students stand, both in terms of standardized tests and in terms of creativity and critical thinking.  Not hand waving, but hard data.
When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge of it is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced it to the stage of science.
Sir William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
Then we can ask ourselves if our students are (1) world class, ready for the 21st Century; or (2) doing quite well by Commonwealth standards, and while not destined to be leaders in the 21st Century as least prepared to succeed; or (3) falling behind others and destined to struggle for jobs throughout their lifetimes.

If the first, then we need someone as School Superintendent who will maintain our situation without driving up the cost of education to the point we can't afford to continue our current success.

If the second, then we need someone as School Superintendent who can tweak the system and bring it up to the point where our students will be ready to go forth and discover, lead and produce with the best of them.

If the third, then we need a School Superintendent who will come in and break the current paradigm and give us a new approach to education, an approach that will, without bankrupting the City and the rate payers, start moving our students toward what they are capable of.

With that assessment in hand the School Committee can then go forward and hire the School Superintendent we need and deserve.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And again on Monday, the 24th.

White House Review of Strategy for Afghanistan

It happened, and I missed it.  The over view can be found here.
While the strategy is showing progress across all three assessed areas of al-Qa’ida, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the challenge remains to make our gains durable and sustainable. With regard to al-Qa’ida’s Pakistan-based leadership and cadre, we must remain focused on making further progress toward our ultimate end state, the eventual strategic defeat of al-Qa’ida in the region, which will require the sustained denial of the group’s safe haven in the tribal areas of western Pakistan, among other factors.  And in Afghanistan, we are confronting the inherent challenges of a war-torn nation working to restore basic stability and security in the face of a resilient insurgency that finds shelter in a neighboring sanctuary. More broadly, we must continue to place the Afghanistan and Pakistan challenges in larger and better integrated political and regional contexts.

The accelerated deployment of U.S. and international military and civilian resources to the region that began in July 2009 and continued after the President’s policy review last fall has enabled progress and heightened the sense of purpose within the United States Government, among our coalition partners, and in the region.  As a result, our strategy in Afghanistan is setting the conditions to begin the responsible reduction of U.S. forces in July 2011.  This review also underscores the importance of a sustained long-term commitment to the region – in Pakistan, by way of our growing strategic partnership; and in Afghanistan, as reflected by our own long-term commitment, as well as the NATO Lisbon Summit’s two outcomes: the goal for Afghans to assume the lead for security across the country by 2014, and NATO’s enduring commitment beyond 2014.
Did this even cause a ripple?

I must have been lost down in Philly at the time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mosques and Cathedrals

Earlier, under the title "Good Grief" I blogged about Seymour Hersh and his fantasy that senior people in our national security establishment are members of both the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei, and are scheming to turn Mosques into Cathedrals.  I dismissed this as over-the-top paranoia.  And, so it is.

But, it is not without historic precedent, on either side.  Over at the blog site Chicago Boyz is a post that looks at the history of the back and forth of church property on the borderlands between Islam and Christianity.  The poster, Charles Cameron, talks to both the Mezquita-Catedral, in Córdoba, Spain, and Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, Turkey.

In this arena it is sort of a "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone".

Regards  —  Cliff

Just Say No

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has this item on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich exploring a run for President in 2012.

Speaker Gingrich, whose brilliance puts him in a class with former President Bill Clinton, should not run.  Based upon some of his actions over the years it appears he does not have the self-discipline to be President.  Being President is not about him, it is about us.  Better than President Obama?  Yes.  As good as we deserve?  No, that self-discipline thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

The End of Life

In today's Boston Globe is an OpEd by a Mike Stopa, Harvard physicist and Republican activist, on end of life planning and decisions.

I liked the OpEd because it got into some of the ramifications of the subtle changes in our medical care that could come about by the 111th Congress' Health Insurance Reform bill, sometimes referred to as "ObamaCare".  And, we get a G K Chesterton reference, a bonus.

The book I am currently reading, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, makes the point that with any government controlled segment of the economy, when you get central planning you get decisions based upon "experts" attempting to predict the market, rather than market forces.  At the end of the day that means that bureaucrats make decisions for individuals that those individual might not have made for themselves.

Where this might lead we don't know.  For those who have derided the use of the term "death panels" there is the example of Germany, where such panels actually existed in the late 1930s, and operating in a way that meant it was hard for relatives to realize what was happening.  For those who say that was those bad old Nazis, I cite the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which ran from 1932 to 1972, where the patients had no idea what was going on and they were denied proper medical care without consent.  Read the book Bad Blood.  Lest you think this is just your typical racist action from Alabama, remember it was our US Public Health Service, a part of the Federal Government.

End of life planning is important for each of us and it should be part of our interaction with our Primary Care Physician, and our Clergyman and our Family and Friends.  But, it should be out in the open, for all to see.

And, we should all realize that from time to time advances in medical care come drugs or procedures tried on those who are beyond hope.  If the drug or procedure is successful, the definition of "beyond hope" changes.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Like when George W Bush was in office, the current President gets blamed for everything.

Who Knew?

The opening line of someone else's blog post is
I was discussing with a Harvard colleague and fellow Tea Partier the other day...
I must confess my lack of charity in the past toward all things Harvard has been rash and unseemly.

The Blogger, Mike Stopa, is a Physicist specializing in computation and nanoscience in the Physics Department at Harvard University.  All you nanoscience folks who read this blog will recognize him, I am sure.  On his blog home page he describes himself as "a life-long, fiscally conservative Republican".  And, he recently ran for the Republican nomination to contest the seat held by Democrat Jim McGovern.

But, this introduction is to lead us to this blog post handicapping possible Democrats who might run against Senator Scott Brown in 2012.

And, notwithstanding a Boston Globe article saying Ms Victoria Reggie Kennedy won't run, I would not rule that out, a year from now.  For sure, 2012 is a long ways from now, at least in political terms.

And, besides, this is an intro to a following post on a OpEd in today's Boston Globe by the same Mike Stopa.

Regards  —  Cliff

State of the Union Response

The Republicans in Congress has selected the experience Wisconsin Representative, Paul Ryan, to respond to President's Constitutionally mandated annual report to Congress, the State of the Union Address.  In the interest of "civility", why don't the Republicans just skip that action this year?

Maybe it will start a trend.

Regards  —  Cliff

Comparison of Military and Civil Service Compensation

The Congressional Budget Office has done such a comparison and forwarded it, on 20 January 2011, to the Honorable Steny H. Hoyer, Democratic Whip in the House of Representatives.  Copies went to a lot of other folks.

If you are interested in this eight page document (plus cover letter), it can be found here.

I didn't find any smoking guns or any blinding insights, but it was informative.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 21, 2011

"We need help."

With those words, Washington Post OpEd Writer Dana Millbank, admits that the Sarah Palin thing has gotten out of control.  He wrings a whole column out of it, here.

He admits to mentioning her 42 times since Senator McCain picked her to be his running mate.

So, he is declaring February a "Palin Free" month.
Let's take it one step further. I call on Douthat (who has mentioned Palin in 21 of his Times columns since 2008, according to a Lexis-Nexis search, and in scores of blog posts) to join my moratorium - thereby forming a bipartisan coalition of The Post and the Times. I challenge columnists Eugene Robinson (33 Palin mentions), Paul Krugman (14), Kathleen Parker (30) and Maureen Dowd (45) to do the same.

I also call on Keith Olbermann (345 shows mentioning Palin) and Rachel Maddow (183 shows) of MSNBC, as well as Sean Hannity (411 Palin segments) and Bill O'Reilly (664 segments) of Fox News, to take the pledge. Will Politico - with 96 Palin items in the past month alone - join this cause? Will the Huffington Post, which had 19 Palin mentions on a single day last week - stand with me?
I have my doubts about this project.  My post, "Please Stop Fixating", elicited this comment from Jack Mitchell:
I don't see Democratic operatives and the media letting Palin go.

For Dems, Palin makes the perfect arguement to left leaning Independents. Palin brackets pretty much all that is wrong with GOP politics.

The media sells whatever is selling. Palin, and the political spin around her, sells. She is the queen of pop politics.

Palin, of course, happily plays along. And she smirks her sassy self, all the way to the bank.
And there you have it.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Of course you wonder if he had had the insight to mention her before the GOP Convention in 2008.

Hu's Human Rights Remarks

The interesting thing about President Hu Jintao's remarks here in the United States on human rights is that they were censored in China, at least according to Washington Post Reporter Keith B. Richburg.  The article, "Hu's remarks censored back home", is to be found here.
The BBC television report was airing a clip from Wednesday's Obama-Hu news conference at the White House, on the touchy topic of human rights.  "A lot still needs to be done . . . ," Chinese President Hu Jintao started to say.

And then the television report went black.
Calling Senator Reid.

Regards  —  Cliff

Evening Reading

Over at Reporter Tom Rick's Blog at Foreign Policy is a short blurb, reproduced below, and a link to a list of national security related quotations.  As to the source,
For your weekend reading, here is a link to a great compilation of favorite national security quotations, courtesy of retired Army Col. John Collins, chief of the Warlord Loop, a rollicking, on-going, e-mail discussion of national security issues. The link will take you to a fun, wide-ranging list, in which you will see some things you've never seen before, and some familiar ones attributed finally to the right source.

Well worth your time, especially as the winter wind howls outside.
And, of course, the nod to Clausewitz.  Notice that he is holding a copy of On War.

There are several good quotes in there, quotes I like, including the two by Ollie Fritz (quotes are by contributor in alphabetical order).

Interestingly, this item got picked by at least three people:
Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
Benjamin Franklin
Regards  —  Cliff

NPR vs Gun Owners

From the Instapundit I got a link to this blog post—"How NPR Shuts Out Our Voice".

This is about NPR's "On Point" program trolling via EMail, with this Subject:  "NPR show On Point needing progressive gun guest".  This was from a Mr Matthew Baskin to various gun blogs.
My name is Matthew Baskin and I work for the NPR program On Point with Tom Ashbrook. I’m writing to ask if you’d be able to speak as a guest on Monday, January 17. We’re looking for a gun owner and 2nd Amendment supporter who is not opposed to the forthcoming McCarthy bill re: limiting magazine capacity. I’d be very grateful if you could put me in touch with any gun owner who is not opposed to regulation. Let me know if anyone comes to mind. Thanks very much.
Do you think there was another EMail looking for folks who ARE opposed to the forthcoming McCarthy bill?  It should be noted, and not in condemnation, that Representative McCarthy has a personal involvement in this issue, in that her husband was shot and killed during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train in 1993.  It became her mission to fight what she sees as an "epidemic of senseless gun tragedies in America."

I think that limiting gun magazines seems to be an encroachment on gun rights.  But that is not my real issue.  I am concerned that "On Point" is abusing the NPR brand by pushing an agenda rather than providing a fair and balanced review of the issue.  You, on the other hand, may think that there is no other, legitimate, side.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The bill, the The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Devices Act would limit magazines to ten bullets.  In the linked article it says the bill "would put into place commonsense restrictions on large capacity ammunition magazines".  Whatever "common sense" restrictions are.

Senator Harry Reid, a Different Spin

At that site that lives to mock the French, ¡No Pasaran!, we have a post on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recent comment on Chinese President Hu Jintao.  The title of the Blog Post is "Not Only Was Reid Not Condemning Dictatorships; He Seemed to be Musing Wistfully About Them".

Is that really fair to Senator Reid?  Is Eric Svane being fair in suggesting that Senator Reid is a little wistful about the ability of President Hu Jintao to make things happen without all the problems encountered in trying to pass legislation in the US Senate.

For the record, I like the idea that the US Senate is a body that cools the heat and passion of the US House of Representatives.  Working as designed.

Regards  —  Cliff

North Korea and China

Here is welcome news.  Over at the International Herald Tribune was this article on the US pressuring China over North Korea.  Simple description is that the Obama Administration said the US would have to redeploy forces in Asia if China wasn't able to convince North Korea to tone it down.

China wouldn't be keen on us sending more forces to the Korean Peninsula, or anywhere close to China.

Regards  —  Cliff

ENEL Flood Problems

I was called this AM and reminded that Senator Scott Brown's State Director, Jerry P McDermott, would be at the Elks Club today at 1130, to listen to involved citizens talk about ENEL's proposal to install a bladder dam on the Merrimack River.

Mr Jerry P McDermott operates out of Boston.  He was a good listener, which may partly have come from six years on the Boston City Council. He also spent time with Habitat for Humanity.

Frankly, going into the meeting I didn't really have a strong opinion on this issue.  It turned out I didn't have the facts.  I now have a strong opinion.  But first to the meeting.

State Rep Tom Golden hosted the meeting, but had to run to Beacon Hill for a meeting.  Leadership passed to Mayor James L. Milinazzo, who gave us an equally quick introduction and passed it to the Citizens.

Present from the Government side, besides the Mayor, were Representatives Joseph M. Mendonça, Franky D. Descoteaux and Rita M. Mercier.  From Rep Golden's office we had Ms Doreen Burges, from Rep Tsongas's office we had Mr Brian Martin and from Senator Kerry's office Ms Ashley O'Neill.  Councilor Rita Mercier represented the City Council Flood Issues Sub-Committee, whose other members are Councilor Rodney Elliott (Chair) and Councilor Patrick Murphy.

Others I recognized included Jack Mitchell and Tom Wirtanen.  Also present were John Nappi and Sam Polten, of WCAP.

There were—I didn't count, so my guestimate—more than 30 and less than 50 people present. The crowd is calm, collected, but with strong views.

I would say the watchword amongst the Citizens giving their stories the watchword was "Private profit, public risk".

Before the meeting started I heard one chap saying that the extra foot added to the dam flashboards by ENEL caused his basement to flood.  Somehow the flashboards went from 4 foot to 5, year round.  I also saw a three page letter that Tom Wirtanen had, dated 28 May 2008 and signed by William Guey-Lee, Chief, Engineering and Jurisdiction Branch, Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance.

The meeting started with Rep Golden introducing Mr McDermott and bidding farewell and Mr McDermott pleading, in a jocular manner, "Don't leave me, Tom."

Then the Citizens began commenting, starting with Danellia, who lives in the River Front Apartments (off VFW Highway) and has experiencing flooding.  Heard that there are upstream factors involved, including areas being paved over for parking lots, meaning that the soil is not absorbing rain upstream.  Her insurance is up.  She believes we need smart mitigation, including working State-to-State issues.  How utility holds back the water is an issue, including saturating land, leading to more flooding.

Councilor Mercier talked about the Flood Issues Subcommittee and about wanting to revert Lowell's flooding areas back to being God's Country.  Hundred year floods becoming annual.  ENEL has a right to make money, but not at the expense of residents and flooded basements.

The next person stated that Flashboards work to drop the water level when needed.  Based on the Lawrence experience, Inflatables (Bladder Dam) back up water 23 miles.  If the bladder bursts it could hurt people down stream.  Such a system killed a girl in Australia and caused 2,000 homes to be evacuated in Arizona.  Yes, area is a flood plain, but more so than before.

The next person noted that hydroelectric production changed when ENEL took over.  Changes caused water to be backed up and soil saturated and riverbank destroyed, even as far up stream as New Hampshire.  Tyngsboro has filed as an interventor.

The Chelmsford Emergency Management Director spoke and worried about flooding, especially the Williamsburg area.

Ray Pelletier, built his home in 1960.  Then the basement was dry, then later it became wet and he jacked up his home 44 inches and then later noted the brook by his home was going up, and noted an extra foot on the flash panels.  Then, with a big storm up stream, he found 10 inches in the cellar.  Year and a half later again the water and he feels the extra foot on the flashboard is a problem.  And, you can't trust them (ENEL), but why should we suffer.  Some folks had four or five feet of water in their homes.  He concluded that back in the 70s the flashboards were at only four feet, now five.  "I am going to move" was his conclusion.

Diane... I live at 102 New York (Rosemont) area.  City put up a berm. No flood in 30 years, until 2006.  Her basement now floods.  Diane notes that we need a $100,000 hydrological study for the Army Corps of Engineers to make changes to protect homes and there are more than a few homes.

Someone noted that the easy solution is to force ENEL to maintain the historic levels, rather than allowing the new levels.  They suggested we keep the water level down from March to June to drain out the land.

Tom Wirtennen, who lives on Brookside, read from the Guey-Lee letter.  In his words, the Alpha and the Omega of the problem.  His other point is that this power from our river is being sold to the Cape.

A woman representing Williamsburg Project One (Chelmsford) noted that in 2006 51 units were in the flood plain.  Then there was flooding and the town wanted them to evacuate those units, which they resisted, since residents are on fixed incomes and couldn't afford to evacuate.  They did have some problem with carp getting inside their berm, but they were thrown back into the river.  But, there is riverbank erosion, losing over 10 feet per storm of River Bank.  They may have to move sewer line, (more than $500,000).  Today they pay $50,000 in insurance.Her basement floods.  The latest map added 87 units and flood insurance went up about $223,000, PA.  That would be $44 per person per month.  If a foot is added, insurance will go to $500,000.

Tim said that he has been working this for the last four years.  There is no voice in Washington.Her basement floods.  Now they have talked to the Department of Education.  The FBI is involved.  Homeland Security involved.  EPA involved re raw sewage.  There are 400 hazardous waste sites in Lowell with 2 touching steams to the Merrimack.  ENEL does not recognize home elevations.  He notes that ENEL bought into Lowell 1983.  Further, he noted, the Lawrence dam is impacting South Lowell via the Concord River.

Jack Mitchell talked about raw sewage backing up in his basement.  He also noted that flood insurance is paid via escrow by banks, and with any control.  He then noted that then Senator Paul Tsongas made us a historic city, but the new dam would be a degradation of that template.

John Nappi--FERC is not an impartial party.  The game is not on the level.  ENAL committed to build in Sept.

A woman living on the Lowell/Tyngsboro line talked to soil erosion.  She notes you don't want to live in fear.  Further, she notes we didn't have this problem before.

At this point Mr McDermott had to terminated the meeting as he had another meeting.  He had had his ear for over an hour.

Later, in a smaller group, Joe Mendonça noted that when the dam was originally built (over 150 years ago) the owners got permission from the farmers upstream.  In some cases farmers were paid as compensation.  When the Mill owners added flash boards, they re-nogotiated with the farmers upstream.

I am not one who has much sympathy for those who move into the area under the approach or departure path of an airport, and then complain about it.  My take on ENEL and the Merrimack is that ENEL has come in and changed the conditions of the situation, upsetting a situation that has existed for decades.  ENEL should not be getting a free pass here.  As I started explaining this situation to my wife her sympathy was with ENEL, but quickly shifted to the home owners as I told their stories.  I am now in the corner of the home owners.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I wonder about how we are pronouncing the name of the Electric Company.  I hear E-nel.  From my time living outside Naples, Italy, (Parco Azzuro), where my electric company was ENEL—the ones who couldn't fix a hot ground that I was dealing with—the pronunciation was EN'L.  They stick in my mind for all the customers who never got an electric bill over three years, until they were ready to leave Italy and then they got the whole bill in one big slug, but I digress.
  His EMail is jerry_mcdermott AT
  The reason WCAP was interested, aside from its duty as a news agency, is the fact that WCAP transmitting antennas are in the area subject to being flooded.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Niki Tsongas Gets Good Sub-Committee Assignments

Some time ago I signed up to get EMail reports from the US House Armed Services Committee.

Today I received one such missive.  It informs me that our Representative, Nik Tsongas, got two key subcommittees, Military Personnel and Tactical Air and Land Forces, for the 112th Congress.

Congratulations to Representative Tsongas.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Civility in Action

One man's civility is another man's need to speak frankly.

Here is a quick take over at the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Land Mines?

In the past there has been some issues with land mines.  They are a wonderful defensive tool, and as CBU-49, an airfield denial weapons.  On the other hand, left over land mines have resulted in the death or maiming of large numbers of civilians.  Because of this danger to civilians, an effort, which included the late Princess Diana, has resulted in land mines being taken from the battlefield.

The question has come up again as a result of the Battle of Wanat, in Afghanistan.  Here is a comment of the possible benefit the emplanting of land mines might have provided to the US Soldier defending Wanat.  The person writing, who remains anonymous, is familiar with the issue.
One factor generally ignored in the whole Wanat situation is the unofficial land mine moratorium that has been imposed on US forces (except in Korea) since 1997.

In the olden days, by SOP an infantry platoon habitually implaced a hasty protective minefield on the enemy's most dangerous avenue of approach or deadspace that could not otherwise be covered by direct fire, or both.  If the Wanat defenders had been able to place such an obstacle in the ravine near the OP, the enemy would have been unable to approach the position without detonating the mines and the attack would have probably been halted before it started.  While this wouldn't have prevented the very stealthy enemy from occupying positions within the village, the fires from the village were far less deadly than the fires from close in near the OP and if the fight had started prematurely, perhaps, the village positions would not have be able to have been occupied yet.

The moratorium started as an international effort, most notably pushed by Princess Di, in response to the massive sowing of mines in the Balkans which were killing or maiming a lot of civilians after the fact.  These mines were old-style WW2 technology

However, ironically, by the time the US adopted the moratorium, American technology had minimized the possibility of mines maiming civilians. The modern mines could be both remotely emplaced and removed through either detonation or inactivation and were relatively easy to set up and take down.  Infantrymen could have easily emplaced a field big enough to hinder, if not completely stop, enemy encroachment and provide early warning at dusk and take it down at dawn. Additionally, field artillery has the capability to fire and emplace minefields as well, which can also be removed remotely.  However, such options are no longer available to US soldiers.

The only mine the infantry are allowed to still carry, the Claymore, also now has restrictions on its use.  It cannot be used in tripwire mode, only in command detonation mode, meaning someone has to actually trigger it from a fighting position to which the mine is connected by wire.  This pretty much means the Claymore has to be within line of sight of the firer, making it far less useful to cover deadspace.

Also ironically, supposedly there are a lot of mines throughout Afghanistan left over from the Soviet era, so the moratorium doesn't even protect civilians there.

The moratorium is obviously a political decision but, perhaps, there should have been some discussion about the sense of it given modern US technology, before sending troops into harm's way where the mines would have the potential to save lives.
Lots of otherwise good ideas have adverse consequences.  Nine killed and 31 wounded (including 4 Afghani soldiers) is a definite adverse consequence.

Regards  —  Cliff

U Kentucky Settles Lawsuit

Over at the Instapundit is a post on Astronomer C. Martin Gaskell, of the University of Nebraska, suing the University of Kentucky because he was denied an appointment, apparently because of his Christianity.
After being snubbed for the directorship in 2007, Gaskell alleged that Kentucky officials had passed on him because of his Christian views -- a claim his lawyers say is supported by e-mails sent by members of the search committee, as well as sworn testimony given by the panel's members and other Kentucky faculty.  The university will pay the spurned astronomer $125,000 -- roughly the equivalent of the extra money Gaskell would have made if he had held the directorship for two years, according to Francis Marion, a senior trial lawyer for the National Center for Law & Justice, which worked the astronomer's case pro bono.  A district court judge had denied motions for summary judgment from both parties.

The bulk of Gaskell’s published work addresses the technical aspects of black holes. But he also made a hobby of criticizing the prima facie dismissal of Biblical assertions as irrelevant to scientific theory, while advocating for a view of natural history that rejects neither the Judeo-Christian creation story nor evolution. In a document published on his personal website -- which later became fodder for discussion among his would-be employers at Kentucky -- Gaskell criticized both creationists and evolutionary scientists for perpetuating bad science.
Instapundit Reader Matthias Shapiro opined:
It seems that the researchers at University of Kentucky weren’t even really that concerned about Mr. Gaskell’s Christian worldview. (Incidentally, Gaskell’s views are actually pretty mainstream. I’ll bet he and Francis Collins – a Christian geneticist appointed by President Obama as director of the NIH and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief- would probably have a grand old time talking science and religion.) Their biggest concern was that the media wouldn’t be able to understand the subtleties of Mr. Gaskell’s line of argumentation and would interpret any discussion about evolution coming from a Christian as “creationism”. These idiots looked at Gaskell’s views, and imagined that the media wouldn’t be able to comprehend a calm, intelligent discussion about science and religion.

Where ever would they have gotten that idea?
There is a range of views on this, as the article linked shows, toward the bottom.  For example, it would appear that Dr Paul Z. Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota at Morris, would not wish to see Mr Thomas L Friedman hired to teach journalism, given his popular book on the history of the 21st Century.

Regards  —  Cliff

Back on the Beach

My time working on a proposal for a possible Government Contract is over.  I am no longer a commuter to King of Prussia, PA.  A great adventure, but I think I am going to settle down for a while.

I did enjoy it and I met a lot of nice folks, both on the job and about town.  But, it is time to be home and spend some time with my wife.

And, given the weather Monday night, it was the day to get out of Dodge.  I got to work at about 0750 on Monday and there was one guy in the proposal room and we were clueless.  Then I opened my EMail and saw my boss's message, saying that Lockheed had pulled the plug with an EMail at about 0630 that morning—more about that later.

The Proposal Manager came in about 0815 and I asked him if it was true.  He said yes and it would all be explained at the 1000 Tag Up.  I went to the motel, packed up, went to Staples to ship a box of cloths I didn't want to shlep on the train, and made it back for the Tag Up at 0950.

At the Tag Up the Capture Manager really didn't tell us anything except that we had done a great job.  I said goodbye to everyone—a lot of great people and headed for Philly.  Well, I did return the jeweler's screwdrivers to Jeff Horoshak, to return to his wife, who had been our first Proposal Manager.  I used them on my glasses when a lens fell out.

Got to the 30th Street Train Station in Philly, turned in the rental car, walked to the ticket counter, picked a train and got the new ticket, took the escalator down to the platform and walked to my spot, just as the train came rumbling in.

The only untoward thing is that my cellphone, being small, slipped down between the seats and I couldn't see it.  It fit right into a small space and looked like part of the furniture.  While searching for it I managed to sit on my Kindle and break the glass.  That was even though five minutes earlier I had been very careful to put it out of harms way, but then moved it again while I checked my brief case, to see if the phone had fallen in there.  That will be $150 to replace, including tax.  Ugh.  So, yesterday was a net wash on pay (I didn't work the full day).

Regards  —  Cliff

Its Complicated

Over at the Ann Althouse Blog the question is about "what is government if words have no meaning".  The answer doesn't make me comfortable, so I take comfort in the First Amendment.  It has served us well.  Playwright Robert Bolt's Sir Thomas More has it right, even before there was a First Amendment.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Grief

From down at Foreign Policy, we have this article by Blake Hounshell, at their website, "Seymour Hersh unleashed".  Mr Hersh holds forth on US foreign policy and suggests that we are on a "crusade" to protect Christianity and that it all started in Vice President Chaney's office. And thus the quote begins.
"That's the attitude," he continued. "We're gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That's an attitude that pervades, I'm here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command."

He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, "are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta."

Hersh may have been referring to the Sovereign Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic organization commited to "defence of the Faith and assistance to the poor and the suffering," according to its website.

"Many of them are members of Opus Dei," Hersh continued. "They do see what they're doing -- and this is not an atypical attitude among some military -- it's a crusade, literally. They seem themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They're protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function."

"They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins," he continued. "They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community.”
The Knights of Malta and Opes Dei in cahoots?  Not usually.

And, General Stanley McCrystal is an unlikely member of either the Knights of Malta or Opes Dei, both Roman Catholic organizations.  Possible, but not likely.  His brother, retired Army Colonel and Chaplain, Scott McCrystal, is the endorsing agent for the Assemblies of God, a protestant Pentecostal denomination.

In the United States Knights of Malta are usually people who have helped the local Cardinal Archbishop with Charitable activities.  In Lowell, the late Joe Sullivan is an example.  A wonderful man, whose time in the Service was as a medic.  Not your typical Special Forces soldier, and from the World War II era anyway.

Insignia, coins?  Just about every military organization has a "challenge coin" that identifies members of that unit to one another.  Forget your coin and you buy the next round, if challenged.  The coin tends to have insignia associated with unit.  I have one given to me when I was in Oklahoma City, by a member of the National Air Training Center, Air and Marine, Customs and Border Patrol.  Nothing about crusades on the obverse or reverse.  The same with military "challenge coins" I have seen.

As for protecting Christians, if that is the mission of the Joint Special Operations Command, they are doing a very poor job of it, as can been seen by the current situation of Copts in Egypt and Christians across the Near and Middle East.  The status of religious freedom around the world, as assessed by the US Department of State can be found here.  A less secular view can be found here.  See especially Page 3.

I think Mr Seymour Hersh is off base here and is not speaking in the light of the new civility we have been encouraged to adopt.

But, since Mr Hersh is not ultramontane, he will likely avoid much criticism.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am looking for something besides "Right" to describe that crowd of Republicans, Tea Party people and perhaps even Libertarians.

Chinese Stealth Fighter and Quote of the Day

This preamble is so I can properly introduce the quotation to follow.  As we all know, the PRC  has recently test flown, for the first time, a new stealth fighter. 

There is a write-up about it in Air Power Australia, to be found here.  The view of the Air Power Australia analysts is that this is a superior machine, outmatching the F-18E/F and the upcoming F-35.
Any notion that an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be capable of competing against this Chengdu design in air combat, let alone penetrate airspace defended by this fighter, would be simply absurd.  The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet are both aerodynamically and kinematically quite inferior to the as presented J-XX/J-20 design, and even the shape based VLO capability in the J-XX/J-20, as presented, will effectively neutralise any sensor advantage either type might possess against earlier Russian and Chinese fighter designs.
Which leads to the quote of note.
I would take this perspective with a salt mine.  Air Power Australia's "analyses" tend to regard Middle Kingdom engineers as infallible and omnipotent, while F-35s and F-18s were, in their view, designed by children home for a sick day with a busted Etch-A-Sketch.  They pine for the return of the almighty F-111 and endless flows of F-22s.  Their intentions may not be all bad, but their anlyses lack methodology, rigor, transparency, and most importantly the occasional result contrary to their agenda that is evidence of objective minds.
No attribution due to a non-attribution policy
I liked two parts of this, the first being "designed by children home for a sick day with a busted Etch-A-Sketch" and the second being "and most importantly the occasional result contrary to their agenda that is evidence of objective minds". 

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Peoples Republic of China, the Mainland, as opposed to that crowd on Taiwan (Formosa).  In essence, Zhōngguó, the Middle Kingdom.
  NB: This file has a lot of pictures and a couple of videos and in its entirety it loads slowly.
  Australia operated the F-111C long past their retirement from the US Inventory.  The last retired last month, December 2010.  They have, in turn, been replaced by the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, to be replaced, in time, by the F-35.
  We all know which group that applies to; the Global Warming crowd that believes that anyone with a question is somewhere below the level of Holocaust Deniers.