Thursday, June 30, 2011

Protests in Greece

My Youngest Brother wrote to me:
Washington Post covered the riots in Athens, including burning of vendor vehicles, just across the street from where [my wife] stayed two weeks ago.  The protestors told her they didn’t want to lose their entitlements, like retirement at age 55, even though there was no money to pay for them, and they couldn’t even create the debt to pay for them.  It’s a shame that they burned the trucks, since those are peoples’ livelihoods, and an actually productive part of the economy.
Not getting debt under control can lead to bad outcomes.  Worse, it can lead to the election of demagogues who promise to spin gold out of straw.

On the other hand, cuts in the Federal Budget, while fundamental, are not sufficient in the short run.  That means tax increases.  There are two problems with tax increases.  The first is that tax increases are often an excuse to not cut the federal budget, and thus are self-defeating, in that the problem doesn't go away.  The second is that we are not going to be able to tax our way out of our problem.  Someone asserted to me that 20% of the GDP in taxes is the knee of the curve and above 20% the economy starts to bog down.  We are above 20%.  I don't know why 20% would be magical, although it has been the traditional ratio from the beginning of the nation, but it is the historic number, or so this person says.

I worry about what happens in this nation when some of our programs, such as social security, run out of money in ten or twenty years.  Will we be burning vendors' trucks?

As for the President's News Conference yesterday, the idea that Defense needs to be included in the round of cuts is both true and also not news.  The call for defense cuts began earlier ($400 Billion over ten years by the President since the submission of the 2012 budget) and will continue and will impact our national security strategy.  Such cuts will not be the end of the Republic as we know it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Some Places The Ballot Box is Not the Final Answer

From the LA Times is this article on the situation in Egypt.  Reporter Jeffrey Fleishman, in Cairo, says:
Sensing the revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak is slipping from their grasp, activists and opposition groups are pressuring the ruling military council to postpone Egypt's elections in September amid fears that Islamists and members of the former regime will gain too much power.
The term "Islamists" would refer to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Here is a comment from Law Professor Glenn Reynolds:
Wait, I thought they were misunderstood moderates?  But this is how it goes:  Kerensky could replace the Czar, but Lenin could replace Kerensky — and there was no one around who could replace Lenin, because Lenin made sure of that right off.  The liberal democrats should have killed him when they had the chance, but they hesitated, and he didn’t.
Does anyone remember Alexander Kerensky?  And, Lenin then joined the Great Majority and bequeathed us Stalin, who had a better PR Machine, but a worse record, than Adolf Hitler.

I think this fits in with the situation in Venezuela, where the Chávez regime and the Bolivarian Revolution is thinking past the ballot box.  The Miami Herald had a Sunday article on the situation in Venezuela, with President Hugo Chávez in serious condition in a Cuban Hospital.  The bother of President Chávez is quoted:
"As authentic revolutionaries, we cannot forget other forms of fighting," Adán Chávez said at a prayer meeting in Barinas, Venezuela, that was devoted to the health of his 56-year-old brother, who grew up there.

Quoting Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he added: “It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle.”
Or, it could be Wisconsin we are talking about.

In politics it is never over.  The limit on action is our willingness to attribute humanity and good intentions to the other person and to believe that there is always "next year".

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I need to dig out my copy of Mileposts and read it again, this time finishing it.
  I am beginning to wonder if I need to add a tag (label) for Wisconsin.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Comment on BBC Mentality

At Samizdata we have this comment on the Geert Wilders Affair in the Netherlands.
And the fact the BBC calls him 'far right' tells you nothing useful about Geert Wilders' views but speaks volumes about the BBC.
The labels Left and Right are having less and less value as ways of accurately describing political ideas and ideals.

Regards  —  Cliff

Grey Lady Update

At The New York Times the "Week in Review" has been recast and is now the "Sunday Review".

Frankly, I don't like it.  And what is MoDo doing on Page 5?  Even on Page 5 she still had an interesting take on President Obama trying to be on both sides of every issue.  The article is titled "Why Is He Bi? (Sigh)".  Her last paragraph is:
On some of the most important issues facing this nation, it is time for the President to come out of the closet.
Is MoDo a closet Libertarian?  We know she didn't like Dubya.  It is sounding like she doesn't like the incumbent.  Maybe she just doesn't like presidents, or is pining for the return of "Bill", in some form.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  I originally started with "Over at".  My editor told me it would be poor form to start out with two prepositions, so I revised my work.

The Free Press Reporting

Out in Wisconsin the is a kerfuffle over a possible tussle between two State Supreme Court Justices.  Law Professor Ann Althouse says:
This is an object of study for the little journalism class of the internet that is this blog post.
Wisconsin is a case study of what our Commonwealth would be like if the Press were in the pocket of the Republican minority.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Check the Wall Clock

Who knew?  time,at least as many of our clocks communicate it, may be changing come 1 July.

Here is the report.

What are the Boffins up to and why didn't they conduct an informative campaign across the nation?  Or, is this a case of being afraid of the answer?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Korean War 61 Years Ago Today

Today is the 61st Anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, a conflict that lingers in the background even today.  Here is the view of one person who was in uniform at the time:
61 years ago this evening on 24 June 1950, the ROK Army Officers Club held its grand opening in Seoul with most of the ROK senior military personnel attending, including commanders from the frontline units.  All seemed well with the threat to the north. The north had ceased propaganda some weeks before and had called for talks at Kaesong to discuss reducing tensions.  Of course we know what happened at 4 am on 25 June 1950.  We should not forget that all warfare is based on deception.
The Korean War was not a nice clean operation.  The US Army's first unit shipped over, Task Force Smith, did very poorly, and has been a lesson in preparedness ever since.  Although TF Smith performed poorly, did buy the time needed to establish a new defensive position further south.

At one point Five Star General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of duty.  This flap led to a larger discussions of if we should attack targets in China.  This problem lingered on into the Viet-nam War and will pop up again if there is war in the South China Sea over the Spratley Islands.  And, it include the famous MacArthur shibboleth, "There is no substitute for victory."

Finally, President Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons and an armistice was agreed, with a prisoner exchange.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Future in Afghanistan

The President, Wednesday last, announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.  One question going with a reduction in troops is how that will change the way we fight and the forces we will be using.

One option is to put more emphasis on Special Operations Forces (and airpower).  That would push conventional forces into a support role.  This suggests that the idea of Counter-Insurgency (COIN) will fall toward the background.  This might well be a victory of sorts for Vice President Joe Biden. 

Someone, humbly claiming status as "a lowly, lowly ink-stained wretch" put it this way:
As for P4, I take the fact that he was not chosen as CJCS and that they want to acclerate the transfer of command from September to July as indicators that Obama believes Petraeus is too heavily invested in COIN, but I could be wrong.
This view would explain the personnel moves that have taken place recently, driven by Secretary Robert Gates retiring and CIA Director Leon Panetta moving to Defense, with Army General Martin Dempsey to Chairman and General Ray Odierno as Army Chief of Staff, with General David Petraeus going to CIA. 

Afghanistan is not going away any time soon, although it might well slide back out of sight, which is what the Administration probably hopes for in 2012.  Sort of like Richard Nixon and the Viet-nam War in 1972.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Have I mentioned recently that I think it is a bad idea, from a Constitutional point of view, for the Vice President to be too closely identified with the policy making of the Administration (of which he is not actually a member) or be seen as an advocate for policies within that Administration?

  Here is a thought on this lash-up from blogger Thomas Ricks, over at Foreign Policy:
The smart money says this is a short-term play—putting an Army guy in as chairman signals that the Obama administration is very focused on dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Iraq, over the next couple of years.  The long-term play would have been guys more focussed on the Pacific and China.  I would bet that might be the next round—Dempsey's successor in four years.

Geert Acquitted

I am a little late blogging this, but it is interesting in terms of where the "PC" state is going.  In the Netherlands, MP Geert Wilders, who has been on trial for inciting hatred of Muslims, has been acquitted of same.

This issue sits at the edge of what free speech means.  Is it acceptable to say hurtful things about other people?  That, in turn, needs to be divided into what is socially acceptable and is it legally acceptable.  My take is that socially it is abhorrent, but legally, it is perfectly acceptable.  For a third view, politically it is what the traffic will bear.

Those citizens of the Netherlands who were offended apparently have options:
"The acquittal means that the right of minorities to remain free of hate speech has been breached. We are going to claim our rights at the U.N.," said Mohamed Rabbae of the National Council for Moroccans.
The thing I question is if there is such a freedom as to "remain free of hate speech".  If there is, politics as we know it is dead.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Gaza Flotilla

The Gaza Flotilla is gearing up for another run.  The last time this happened, about 13 months ago, there was a lot of international controversy.

With the new flotilla forming up, blog writers, like David Harris, who is also the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, are "going to press".  Over at Powerline we have a blog post by Mr Harris that was apparently too controversial for The Huffington Post.

Maybe this line is what caused the censors at The Huffington Post to pause:
As has been said, if Hamas laid down its weapons, there would be peace.  If Israel laid down its weapons, there would be no Israel.
I think the statement is a bit hyperbolic, but there is a kernel of truth in it.  Hamas does think the nation of Israel should go (where too I am not sure).  On the other hand, it is my impression that Israel would be happy if the citizens of Gaza became flourishing capitalists, where they are.  Hamas thinks they should become good subjects of Hamas in what is now Israel.

Frankly, I have thought for a long while that if Israel were to disappear in the twinkling of an eye it would be bad news for Arab governments throughout the region.  Who would they then have to blame?

As for the flotilla, it will be political theater and political theater is always good for moving the ball down the field—unless it is your field.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I think Hamas doesn't care.  My assessment is that if the People of Israel go anywhere it will be to these United States.  It wouldn't be easy, but seven million immigrants with technical skills and a sense of democracy mightwould be of value to this nation.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Twist on Gay Marriage

Law Professor Ann Althouse, blogging on the article discussed below uses the headline "Winning the right to marry is one thing; being forced to marry is quite another".

Columbia University Law Professor Katherine M. Franke gives us this Opinion Piece in The New York Times.  The thrust of this column is that homosexuals who are in relationships in states without same-sex marriage have been getting things like medical benefits for their partners, but if those states pass same-sex marriage laws the rules that apply to heterosexual couples will apply equally to homosexual couples—without marriage, no benefits.

I think this is the core of her thoughts:
Of course, this means we’ll be treated just as straight people are now.  But this moment provides an opportunity to reconsider whether we ought to force people to marry — whether they be gay or straight — to have their committed relationships recognized and valued.
This is asking for a whole new definition of relationships.

What is interesting is the argument that Civil Unions are not adequate is directly opposed to this idea of having other forms of relationships recognized and valued.

In my own mind the decision to change the relationships rules needs to be part of a serious debate about what families bring to the community.  Chief Justice Maggie Marshall was pretty flip about the sociology of this in the Goodwood decision.  If we make changes without actually looking at the whole issue, painful as it might be, including the implications of out-of-wedlock births for the children and their future, and the future of the children's children, we will repent for a long time, as our civil society slides downhill.

NB:  As I type Fox Network announces that the New York Senate has approved same-sex marriage.

Here is her over the top punchline:
As strangers to marriage for so long, we’ve created loving and committed forms of family, care and attachment that far exceed, and often improve on, the narrow legal definition of marriage.  Many of us are not ready to abandon those nonmarital ways of loving once we can legally marry.
The problem is, equal rights should mean equal rights.

I didn't give a link to the Althouse blog because while the Professor's comments were quite reasonable, most of the commenters, up to where I stopped reading, were pretty dismissive of the OpEd.  Put another way, a surprising lack of debate.

Regards  —  Cliff

Blame it on Bill Gates and PowerPoint

Is it the Evil Bill Gate and PowerPoint, or is it the Evil PowerPoint and Bill Gates?

Here is an input from Doctrine Man, who is sometimes found on Facebook.

UPDATE:  Here is the Wired article that goes with the YouTube from Doctrine Man.  Incidentally, the "slide" from DAU that is held up as an example of bad PowerPoint is really a "horse blanket".  That is to say, it is a wall chart about 3 feet by 4 feet and could keep a horse warm if spread over its back.  Death by PowerPoint is a serious problem.  Let us not make it worse than it is.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gun Control

People who are concerned about erosion of Second Amendment Rights have been concerned about the ATF Operation FAST AND FURIOUS, in which, with ATF concurrence and encouragement Gun Deals were making guns available to Mexican purchasers.  On the one hand, they story that the US was the source of guns for the cartels is not true.  On the other hand, we have been sending weapons south with Federal concurrence in order to track the trail of weapons in Mexico.

Now the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, under Rep Darrell Issa, has issued a report on the Department of Justice operation and it is not getting the kind of attention it deserves.

Here is a blog post that says that neither The Washington Post nor The New York Times is reporting this on the level.  It is from Pajamas Media, so some may see it as anti-Administration by nature.

My only comment at this point is "Thank God for the US Supreme Court".

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Horse Meat

The GAO, the stylized General Accountability Office, has issued a report on horse meat, and in particular on the slaughter of horses for horse meat.  The report can be found here.

The United States Congress banned the use of federal monies to provide inspection of horse meat transportation and slaughter back in 2006, but slaughter went on, because the plants paid for it themselves, as part of the cost of doing business.  Then the Texas and Illinois State Legislatures (the two states which then had slaughter houses) banned such activity.  Thus, the work went to Canada and Mexico and the meat goes to Europe and Asia.

As with most things, there are two views.  One is that we should not be slaughtering our domestic horses, which we love.  The other view is that lots of people like horse meat and horses are livestock.

Here is the "Highlight Sheet".
Since domestic horse slaughter ceased in 2007, the slaughter horse market has shifted to Canada and Mexico.  From 2006 through 2010, U.S. horse exports for slaughter increased by 148 and 660 percent to Canada and Mexico, respectively.  As a result, nearly the same number of U.S. horses was transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010—nearly 138,000—as was slaughtered before domestic slaughter ceased.  Available data show that horse prices declined since 2007, mainly for the lower-priced horses that are more likely to be bought for slaughter.  GAO analysis of horse sale data estimates that closing domestic horse slaughtering facilities significantly and negatively affected lower-to-medium priced horses by 8 to 21 percent; higher- priced horses appear not to have lost value for that reason.  Also, GAO estimates the economic downturn reduced prices for all horses by 4 to 5 percent.
It appears that the slaughter of horses has not ceased, although the continuing slaughter of American jobs has.

One of the things I liked about this report is that the GAO owned up to Unintended Consequences.  The title of the report was "Horse Welfare:  Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter".

One wonders, if as a consequence of future Congressional or State action to stop the export of horses, we will find the horse population mushrooming and giving us new "Unintended Consequences".  I expect.  And, it will result in new legislation to fix the problem.  Does anyone remember the little old lady who swallowed a fly?

Oh.  Yes.  Something we CAN fix.  Everyone should contact their Congresspersons and point out that they, the US Congress, is THE Government Accountability Office.  The GAO needs to go back to being the Government Accounting Office.  And the US Congress needs to get to work on being the Government Accountability Office.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tea Party in Space

Here is a comment on the Tea Party in Space.  Yes, a Tea Party themed approach to space exploration, which is fitting, as the Shuttle comes to an end and we have no alternative for getting to the International Space Station, except the Russians.

Here is the full platform, plank by plank.

Please remember that there is not a single "Tea Party" but rather a loose collection of Local Tea Parties.  And, if anyone reading this blog knows anyone who has received money from the Koch Brothers, please contact me.  I know no one.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Thieu for one deal in Afghanistan"

Here is the best comment so far on the President's decision re Afghanistan, articulated last evening.

For those who are interested, I didn't listen live, as I was at the Kristin Ross-Sitcawich fund raiser at Heritage Farms.  As they say down in Boston, all politics is local.

Reporter Carl Prine lays out five points for us:
  1. So what?
  2. Obama’s cuts do nothing to really address pacification.
  3. It does nothing to really address our Karzai kleptocracy problem.
  4. Over the next two years (Thieu years?), expect to see continuation of our 21st century Accelerated Pacification Program.
  5. Despite Obama’s latest waffling, he still hasn’t squared the domestic political problem with reality in Afghanistan, and that might ruin his legacy.
And, we get part of Poet Robert Penn Warren's Masts at Dawn Reporter Prine ends:
Expect today’s generals and Obama to continue to echo Ellsworth Bunker, the ambassador who kept insisting to Lyndon Johnson throughout 1968 that he was “optimistic” about the “steady, though not spectacular progress I have previously noted has continued and accelerated,” to the point that the “tide of history now seems to be moving with us and not against us.”

Well, tides ebb and they flow.  They wash great men and small, lift all boats and sink some, run shallow and deep into every harbor and sound, depending on the hour.

So also wash the forces of history.  Obama is not so rocky a jetty to withstand the relentless tides of the oceans of war he has cast us, a nation of driftwood deaf to the speeches presidents say.

As befell Johnson, Obama’s legacy shall drown in these vast seas of blood, a reputation knocking against the shoals of history like a dead cat caught in the surf, gulls wheeling and cackling at our folly, the fish of the bottoms feeding on it.
Due to not fully understanding Facebook I "liked" this article at Carl Prine's blog and someone then commented on my Facebook page and I had to track it all down.  So, I quote the comment:
It's always bothered me to see Johnson held ultimately accountable for JFK's war-mongering, as with the parting shot here. Nothing is ever that simple, and this mess not least.  This is not to excuse Johnson for holding the bag with the cat in it for so long, nor Obama for being one of the worst abusers of martial power in the history of this country, but to lament that JFK and Dubya will likely never carry as much blame as they deserve for designing the policy that undid their successor.  (Though Dubya will undoubtedly get more than the teflon JFK).  Ah, the cult of personality...
Just the other day I was thinking about how JFK gets the teflon treatment.  It is, however, a cultural elite tick we have to deal with.  The "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" was LBJ's.  There are those who argue that after the 1964 election JFK would have wound it down.  Frankly, I doubt it.  I will say, in Dubya's defense, that he did take the time to check in with the people on Capitol Hill.

But, yes, those who have to clean up the mess, and in Obama's case he volunteered for the job, have that clean up as part of their job description.  It happens in industry also—one manager leaves and another comes in and has to actually finish the project and ship it.

That said, LBJ is a tragic figure in that he did so much and hoped to do so much, but yet was associated with bad decisions while trying to do good.  Viet-nam was one of them and the Great Society was the other.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Afghanistan Withdrawal

From Politico we have this, which just popped up:
NEWS FLASH: This just in from the office of White House press secretary Jay Carney: "At 8pm EDT on Wednesday, June 22nd, the President will address the nation from the White House to lay out his plan for implementing his strategy -- first unveiled in December 2009 -- to draw down American troops from Afghanistan."

POLITICO's Glenn Thrush and Josh Gerstein report that Obama will announce plans to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, with 5,000 returning by the end of this year.
What this means to me is that the President is not going to conduct an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan, thus giving more time for reforms to take hold in that land-locked nation.

Regards  —  Cliff

Jon Huntsman In

Just in case you didn't know it, former Utah Governor and former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Jr, is in the Republican Primary, or so says Reporter Ben Smith.

Does this mean "seven dwarfs" jokes are out for a while?

Yes, I do think this is a good thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Bloggers Quoting News Reports

Shock and Awe!

Over at Wired we have an article that talks to another Righthaven lawsuit gone awry.

I thought the Federal Judge might have gone a little over the top, but with Righthaven pressing the envelope, they should have understood that things could get out of control.  The judge ruled the full lifting of an editorial for a blog was OK.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Speaking of the Living Dead

It is back, per The Hill.  Reporter Kevin Bogardus gives us "White House donor order becomes flashpoint in Congress".

I am just not sure what this is all about unless it is some sort of intimidation.  The Administration wants federal contractors to reveal their political donations.  OK.  What about unions in firms that have federal contracts?  Shouldn't they also have to disclose political donations?  Do members of Congress not respond to the pleas of union members?

And, there is the question of how this will be implemented.  Will this be a once a year or twice a year revelation or will it be a report submitted with every proposals submitted?

How will it influence the contracting itself?  Perhaps at first it will just be information to the public, but will it have to be, at some point, taken into consideration by the Procuring Contracting Officer, the Procurement Committee Review or the Legal Review?  Will we create a whole new organization to do the "Political" Review?

But, here is the key thing.  Mr Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, says:
But broadly speaking, the president is committed to improving our federal contracting system, making it more transparent and more accountable.  He believes that American taxpayers deserve that, and that is why he has asked Congress to pass a full disclosure law.
The first step to improving federal contracting is to go "power down" (as we used to say).  That is, give more authority closer to the action.  Part of doing that would be to cut the Gordian Knot of regulation.

I have seen some strange decisions by Government Acquisition personnel in the name of fairness, including squeezing out a bidder because of the fact that being the incumbent gives them an unfair advantage over the competition.  Does this make sense? We wouldn't shun Shredded Wheat just because that was the cereal we last purchased.

Finally, if this is really about political clout, then the place to deal with it is in Congress itself.  Members of Congress putting in "earmarks" distorts the contracting effort.  On the other hand, sometimes the US Congress uses an earmark to move the military along when there is reluctance to do so on the part of the military bureaucrats.  My recollection is that the Light Weight Fighter Competition, which led to the F-16 and F-17, was because of Congressional pressures.

I am sure there are those who think that federal procurement is corrupt, but I would like it noted that when I was involved in Air Force R&D Procurement my work was NOT corrupt.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 18, 2011

WPA and the NYT

Has the President lost The New York Times or just the liberals?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse

I recently posted on longevity in the US and the fact that it varies fairly widely by County.  At the time I made my source anonymous, since the reflector we are both on has a non-attribution rule.  My source, Dr Tracey Lynn Koehlmoos, subsequently told me that
as an academic, I live to actually see my name acknowledged in everyone else's work.  Bad enough to live under the gun of needing to participate in whopping twelve publications per year, but the true measure of success is not the number of publications but rather how many times others cite my work.  I could go on for hours about the perversity of the Hirsch Index and my almost absolute sense of powerlessness to increase my Hirsch Index.  So, thank you for the call out as someone in South East Asia, but next time you have my blatant encouragement to please, please mention my name.
I had never heard of the Hirsch Index.
The "h-index" was introduced in 2005 as a metric for estimating "the importance, significance and broad impact of a scientist's cumulative contributions."  It takes into account both the number of an individual's publications and their impact on peers, as indicated by citation counts.  Its creator, Jorge Hirsch (UC-San Diego) asserts that a "successful scientist" will have an h-index of 20 after 20 years; an "outstanding scientist" will have an index of 40 after 20 years; and a "truly unique individual" will have an index of 60 after 20 years or 90 after 30 years.
Ah, the academic life.  Publish or perish.

Regarding the earlier post, linked above, Dr Koehlmoos noted the following:
You asked specifically about the loss of life skills due to single parent families.  I think that the single parent families versus life skills are an entirely different issues.  Years ago did research on the benefits and harms of single v. dual parent families—and of course, the take home message of this research that is highly available says to STAY MARRIED FOR THE SAKE OF THE KIDS—as long as no one is being beaten or otherwise abused.  It primarily has to do with the financial stability that the entire family gets from living in a single household.  Divorce is a financial and emotional drain from which the participant family members rarely emerge unscathed.  Apparently, single parent households are very much the same (although like everyone else who reads this, I can point to widely successful examples of one parent raising her child/children alone and with great success—but it is the look at national statistics that speaks in favor of outcomes from two parent families.  I am liberal enough also to acknowledge that the make up of two parent households does not necessarily have to be one man/one woman—but I cannot spout statistics on the children of same sex couples, except to say that they are more likely to experiment with same sex partners than children of heterosexual couples regardless of the child's sexual orientation.)

In health, we look at health outcomes among single v. dual parent households—or actually, in the census term: female head of household.  Again, the indicators come out in favor of dual parent households.
I think we thought the opposite for a while, but this agrees with what I have heard for the last ten or so years.

Incidently, Professor Keohlmoos blogs in the medical arena, including this entry today, "Can developing country health systems prepare for complex disasters (the “zombie apocalypse”)?".  At this time she is living in Indonesia.

Regards  —  Cliff

Individual Rights Strengthened

Law Professor Ann Althouse has blogged about yesterday's US Supreme Court ruling in Bond v. United States .

Yesterday the US Supreme Court ruled that individuals have "standing to challenge the constitutionality of the federal crime" with which they are charged.  Professor Althouse likes this quote from the ruling:
"State sovereignty is not just an end in itself: 'Rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.'"
"Diffusion of sovereign power."

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top Energy Consumers

Here is a quick rundown on energy use, noting that China, having already surpassed the US in CO2 emissions, has now passed us in energy consumption.  Another interesting point is that coal will soon pass oil in terms of energy production.  We may find coal-fired power plants shutting down in the United States, due to new regulations, but the coal industry should continue doing well, selling to China.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear that just as Long Beach, CA, had once been the top port for shipping cotton, it is now the top port for shipping coal.

The first comment at the top link, while snarky, is interesting.

Back to US coal-fired plants, there is this from the Chicago Tribune.
Pending environmental regulations will make coal-fired generating plants, which produce about half the nation's electricity, more expensive to operate.  Many are expected to be shuttered.
That means higher electricity prices in 2014 or so—significantly higher.

As the Instapundit noted a couple of days ago it is all going according to plan.

Regards  —  Cliff

No Change on Beacon Hill

Per The Boston Herald.

Change comes from the voters.

Regards  —  Cliff

Longevity Varies by County

This according to an article in The Washington Post yesterday.  The story, by reporter David Brown, is here.  One would think that if longevity varies by county, it probably varies by city and town.

The article contains an interactive map, from which I drew this data:
For Men Middlesex County Ranked 36th
For Women Middlesex County Ranked 53rd
That would be 77.3 years for men and 81.4 years for women.

Overall, the top US county for men was Fairfax County, Virginia (81.1 years).  For women it was "Collier County , Fla., which includes Naples (86 years)".  The lowest numbers were for Holmes County, Mississippi, which was 65.9 years for men and 73.5 years for women.

The depressing part of the article is the lede and the second paragraph:
Large swaths of the United States are showing decreasing or stagnating life expectancy even as the nation’s overall longevity trend has continued upwards, according to a county-by-county study of life expectancy over two decades.

In one-quarter of the country, girls born today may live shorter lives than their mothers, and the country as a whole is falling behind other industrialized nations in the march toward longer life, according to the study.
My question is to what extent this is due to the increasing number of single parent families and other impediments to passing on successful life skills?

As this Congressional Budget Office Graphic shows, in 2020 Federal health care spending will be chewing up more than a quarter of the Federal budget.  With interest it will be 41% of the budget.  That is a big chunk.

As a side note, one of the research team leaders is a Dr Christopher J. L. Murray.  He used to be at Harvard University, but was lured to the University of Washington in Seattle by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

I found this on a tip from someone living in Southeast Asia.  The Internet is a wonderful thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I skipped the Monday Rally and Meeting

Yes, rather than go to Lawrence for the hearing by the State Redistricting Committee I took my wife to dinner at the Long Horn, where I ran into fellow Lowellians who were also not at the hearings.

Why this dereliction of duty?  The hearings are not going to fix what is an obvious perversion of the process.

We can look at the Massachusetts' Fourth Congressional District and see that the DNA of Governor Elbridge Thomas Gerry lives on, 200 years later this next year.
This image is from Wikipedia, which notes it belongs to the Federal Government and is available for publication.

But, we don't have to go south and west of Boston to see this problem.  We can look at Chelmsford, which was broken up like a soda cracker by the General Court a decade ago.  A town right next door to Lowell used to have its own Representative in the General Court, Republican Carol C. Cleven.  As I recall, the coverup about forcing her out by destroying her district in 2002 resulted in one more of several recent House Speakers to be forced to leave office. 

We need a better way.  One option is a computer program.  The program needs to have some goals and the two that are reasonable are the ones given to the new California Redistricting Commission:
... the goal was to maintain reasonably compact districts and keep communities of interest together.
That quote is from a Real Clear Politics article on the new redistricting process in California, after the Voters took the process out of the hands of the Legislature.  Yes, those pesky voters.

Here is a comment from the Real Clear Politics article that sums up a good aspect of the redistricting plan:
The relatively close nature of these district lines all but ensures that slight demographic changes could result in big shifts in elections over the course of the decade.
I like the idea of using a computer program, such as the one shown here.

Not everyone likes that idea, as this article shows.

But, I would be happy with the California system.  I would even be willing to see the 5th District go away IF I thought that we have a fair system of compact districts that were built around communities of interest.  On the other hand, such a system would probably create the current 5th, but make the current 4th go away.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Note for Reporter Chris Camire, or his editors.  It may not be the new way, but I think State Redistricting Committee, being the one and only such Committee in the Commonwealth, deserves capitalization.  We all need to work to stop spreading kad barmaism.
  And, it looks like former Speaker Salvatore F. DeMasi is also going down.  It is kind of sad.  The tide turns and you find yourself stranded on a sandbar that you didn't realize was there.

Sexual Discrimination

A blog post by Ms Susannah Breslin reminded me of something Blogger Lynne Lupien (Left in Lowell) said to me today about being in an office with a bunch of older white guys who were overly courteous and courtly.  She wasn't being treated like one of the guys, which was its own form of sexual discrimination.

Ms Breslin takes a quick shot at the issue of "How to Get Out of the Pink Ghetto".  My suggestion is register for the draft.  That would go a long ways, in my mind, to making men and women equal.

Then there is this from over at the Althouse blog:
Remember it's okay to say one sex is superior to the other as long as you're saying women are better.
Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Short Timer Speaks Truth to Power

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was speaking truth to power this week:
"Most governments lie to each other," Gates said, in response to grilling by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy at a hearing.  "That's the way business gets done," he added.

Leahy fired back, "Do they also arrest the people that help us, when they say they're allies?"

"Sometimes," replied Gates, "and sometimes they send people to spy on us, and they're our close allies.  That's the real world that we deal with."
This from an AP Article by Reporter Kimberly Dozier, which can be found here.

The idea that folks who helped us hunt down Osama bin Laden were arrested is interesting, given that the Pakistani ISI has a range of actions, from murder to serious torture to beatings to warnings.  My understanding is that in 2007 as many as 4000 people were detained without outside contact, contributing to the lawyer's revolt.

Someone suggested the recent arrest of those who helped the US CIA was because people inside the Government were looking for a cut of the reward money from the CIA.

It is a strange world out there and it is important to keep some of that strangeness away from our own borders.  Not all multi-culturalism is good.  On the other hand, I had a nice lunch at the (Iraqi food) Babylon Restaurant (25 Merrimack) at noon today.  That is the good multi-culturalism.

Regards  —  Cliff

Righthaven LLC Loses a Round

A Federal Judge has turned the tables on the moneymaking scheme known as Righthaven LLC.

A blog post on the ruling is here.

This is about newspapers frivolously suing bloggers for copyright infringement over what is really fair use.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sun Spots

Is there any relationship between sun spots and the climate here on earth?  That is a question that well be put to the test in the next few years, since there seems to be an anticipated long term reduction in sun spots, as reported at Watts Up With That, here.  For a news article on same I went to Australia.

As for the Maunder Minimum, it was at a time of cool weather on earth.  But, correlation does not mean causation.  Maybe it is just bad luck.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Happy Birthday US Army

236 Years.
On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress decided to proceed with the establishment of a Continental Army for purposes of common defense, adopting the forces already in place outside Boston (22,000 troops) and New York (5,000).  It also raised the first ten companies of Continental troops on a one-year enlistment, riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to be used as light infantry, who later became the 1st Continental Regiment in 1776.  On June 15, the Congress elected George Washington as commander in chief by unanimous vote.  He accepted and served throughout the war without any compensation except for reimbursement of expenses.
Regards  —  Cliff

The Debate Last Night

I think that Analyst Michael Barone is telling us that former Federal Tax Lawyer and US Rep Michele Bachmann (R-MN) did well last night.
She defended the tea parties as part of the three-legged stool of national security, cultural conservative and free market economic conservatives—the definition of the conservative movement pioneered by William F. Buckley many years ago.
I thought that was a very nice complement.

The other thing he said was that it isn't over.
I think Bachmann emerged from this debate a more serious competitor and Pawlenty not a stronger one than he was before. You could extrapolate much from Pawlenty’s performance in support of the proposition that he is a serious candidate for the nomination. But you could extrapolate much from Bachmann’s performance that she is a serious competitor in the Ames straw poll. And if she could come out ahead of him, that would certainly shake up the race, and leave the way open for another competitor. Perhaps for Jon Huntsman, who wasn’t there tonight and who has indicated that he won’t compete in Iowa. Or perhaps for Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose 2010 race top advisers were part of the mass resignation last week from Newt Gingrich’s campaign, but who may not turn out to be a wine that will travel. Or perhaps for a draft for Paul Ryan, who it might be argued could enter late and be a substitute for Pawlenty as the competitor for Romney which Pawlenty did not succeed in being at St. Anselm’s flashy auditorium.
And not once did he mention She Who Shall Not Be Named.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

We Survived the Debate in NH

So, now it can be told, Gov Palin can't beat Pres Obama in 2012.  Straight from Hot Air.

That doesn't mean we won't be following the Sarah Show for a while, just like Kad, back in his younger days, was following a certain TV Reporter.

Regards  —  Cliff

Choice and Supply

No, this is not a commentary on the Republican Debate.  If you want a quick rundown, go to the Althouse blog, where the debate was live-blogged.

This is about going to Market Basket in Stadium Plaza and trying to buy some 12oz bottles of Caffeine Free Diet Coke.  They were out.  They had the short cans and the 12oz cans and the taller bottles.  They had a variety of regular Coke options and Diet Coke options and, I think Caffeine Free (regular) Coke.  But, not the specific item, in the specific form I was looking for.  Today I purchased what I wanted at Hanaford's, in the same general location.

Frankly, I think that at the time I made my purchase today I could have found what I wanted at Market Basket.  The thing is we have such a variety of options that the shelf space won't support a large stock of each item, or at least won't support the wide variety in a store smaller than a large aircraft hanger.  The solution is the use of Supply Change Management to ensure the arrival of what is next to be sold just before it is sold, thus reducing inventory in the stores to a manageable level.  Some might call this "Just in Time" delivery of product to the stores, which was an earlier articulation of this concept.  However, sometimes "just in time" is just a little late.

The problem with this approach is the danger of a disruption in the logistics pipeline.  A rail or trucker strike, or bad weather in the Pacific Ocean can cause a delay that impacts what is delivered.  Thus forecasting becomes very important.

We have seen small snippets in the news about problems with the delivery of parts for auto manufacturing due to the earthquake in Japan.

Variety, while desirable, brings with it problems.  Every solution has within it some future problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 13, 2011

Freedom Survey II

From the Althouse blog we have this Blog Post Title:
New Hampshire — ranked #1 in freedom — ranks 50th in the level of education of its legislators.
As you may recall, we addressed this here.

I commend the Althouse blog post to you.

There is the question of the difference between correlation and causation.  Then there is the question of if this might be telling us something about the people we elect to our legislatures.  Looking at our four here in Lowell, The one with the least education is perhaps the most conservative.  If we assume that the George Mason analysis suggests a relationship between "conservative" values (whatever that means) and freedom, as they define it, then we can see how more "conservative" (I would call them "classical liberals") are correlated with more freedom.

That, in turn, might lead us to ask if there is a correlation in terms of type of education.  How many of our legislators have a liberal arts degree and how many have engineering degrees.  That might be interesting to know.  Not that it would be definitive for each individual legislator, but because it might help us to think about the impact of education on individuals.

The initial report is usually not the definitive answer, but could well be the start of an interesting discussion.

Regards  —  Cliff

School Administrators

You don't just hire School Administrators and then leave them on their own.  As this Stars and Stripes article shows, they can wander off the proper path.
Investigation finds former DODEA director abused her authority
As a parent who has had three children in DoD Schools as well as local public schools, I would say DoD Schools stack up quite well, overall.

File this under sad.  At least she wasn't texting.

Regards  —  Cliff

The War in Libya

It is a war in Libya and we are supporting the insurgent side of it.  Here is the good news from Reporters Hadeel al-Shalchi and Maggie Michael:
Libyan rebels Monday broke out toward Tripoli from the opposition-held port of Misrata 140 miles to the east, cracking a government siege as fighters across the country mounted a resurgence in their four-month-old revolt against Moammar Gadhafi.
The source is The Herald but not our Herald.

Here is the link to the article in The Lowell Sun.  I wonder if it will persist, given that it is an AP site and not a Sun site?

Given that Rasmussen is reporting today that the war has only a 26% favorability rating with likely US voters, it would be good to wrap up this adventure.  Given where we are, I am hoping the Obama Administration can see its way clear to be clear with Congress on this and to conform with the War Powers Resolution, even if not acknowledging its Constitutionality.  Given where we are means that we have managed to tick off Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi, but the rebels seem to have a chance to oust him from office.

Regards  —  Cliff

Why We Pay For A Big Navy

Over at The New York Times is this article on the USS McCAMPBELL intercepting a Belize flagged North Korean ship taking missile parts from North Korea to Myanmar.  Myanmar is what we used to call Burma.  It is also a nation that wants to go the nuclear route.  Nuclear as in nuclear weapons.  Or not.  Maybe they are just a conduit for North Korea.

The interception of the M/V LIGHT was all legal in accord with international law and UN Resolutions.

The last time we figured out what was happening we were not in position to conduct an intercept and the parts were delivered.  On the other hand, we pay a hefty hunk of change for the ability to do this sort of thing.  So, is non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile technology more or less important than some other programs?  Where does the marginal $10,000,000 go?  Does it go to pay and train the crew of the USS McCAMPBELL and allow them to be forward deployed or does it go for federally funded local firefighters and policemen?  Or does it go for a tax cut?

Regards  —  Cliff

Things Are Looking Up

Well, if we don't all blow it.

I liked this video that talks to health and wealth over the last 200 years.

I wonder how much of this change, this growth, is due to democracy, to capitalism, to science, to the printing press, to industrialization, to coal or to oil?
Which of the following made the greatest contribution to the advancement of human health and wealth in the last 200 years?
The Printing Press
Other free polls
My Brother Lance will be pleased to note that I found the switch that allows multiple answers and turned it on.  I wonder how that will work out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Elections in Turkey

Yesterday there were national elections in Turkey and the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development Party (the AKP) won 50% of the votes.  This sustains Mr Erdogan's hold on power since his party gained power in 2002.

Turkey is important in international affairs, given its position on the hinge between Europe and Asia and close to Africa.  It is a booming economy, growing at 8.9% last year, and it is an example of democratic elections working in a Muslim nation.  The Government does tend to be authoritarian and in the past the military has stepped in based on its concept of itself as the guarantor of the Constitution.  Europe, which had a chance to embrace Turkey as a European nation (Istanbul is on the European side of the Bosphorus), has muffed that opportunity, perhaps to the detriment of all of us.

Not all nations see government the same way.  There is the French motto of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, or Liberty , Equality , Fraternity (brotherhood).  For Turkey's AKP the phrasing is slightly different, as an article in today's International Harold Tribune shows:
“Our nation delivered to us a call for consensus and dialogue in making this new constitution,” Mr. Erdogan said. “This constitution will be established upon brotherhood, support, sharing, unity and togetherness.”
I didn't see "Liberty" in there, nor did I see "Equality", although "Sharing" may well be the same thing.  I do wonder if in some parts of the world the working out of democracy may mean emphasises different from those in the Western model of government.

Turkey has worked well with the US in the past.  What is to be seen is how Turkey will work with the US, and with Europe, in the future.  The sailing, once again of the Mavi Marmara, a ship with Turkish ownership, as part of the flotilla that will challenge the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, is an indication of a change in Turkish foreign policy direction.  In the past Turkey worked well with Israel.  Now not so much.  Is this an indication of other changes in direction or just a closer alignment with Europe?

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Whose End Times?

The One-Donkey Solution: A Satire
Richard Bulliet
Paperback:  328 pages
Publisher: (April 18, 2011)
Language:  English
ISBN-10:  1462000126
ISBN-13:  978-1462000128
Paperback for $19.95
Kindle for $9.99

Terms like Apocalypse, Eschaton, Parousia, Rapture, and Second Coming are part of our vocabulary. With the publication of The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970 the question of what the end times would be like again surfaced.  And resurfaced.  Reverend Harold Camping was predicting the Second Coming for 21 May 2011.  Best I can tell, he was off on his prediction.

The book at hand takes a look at some aspects of the question of the end of times, weaving in the traditions of Jews, Christians and Muslims, including the Shi'a belief in the 12th Imam, who is believed to be occulted at this time.  Not only the beliefs, but also a couple of the players, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is believed to be a Twelver or someone who believes that the 12th Imam will soon return.  The book also talks to the question of whether President Ahmadinejad is actually Jewish.

The author, Columbia History Professor Richard Bulliet, knows his subject.  Further, he knows the territory, including being the man who extended the invitation to President Ahmadinejad to talk to Columbia University on 24 September 2007.

This book covers the territory in a light hearted manner.  It advertises itself as a Satire and it is.  The book is a spy novel, but it is in the style of Eric Amber more than that of Ian Fleming.  While we meet the professional spies along the way, it is the amateurs who prove the most interesting and resourceful.

The book ranges from Cambridge, MA (of course there is a Harvard Professor) to Germany to Israel to Morocco to Iran to Scotland, back to Virginia and then up to New York City.  Oops, I left out Venice, Italy.

The book ranges from Christian Evangelicals (to include a TV Preacher) to the Episcopal (Anglican) Church, to the Catholic Church, to Judaism, to Islam and to Shi'a Islam, and throws in a Mormon and a Seventh Day Adventist to boot, as well as some skeptics along the way.  The book's characters indulge in sex, but like an older writing model, the steamy scenes are left to one's imagination.

The MacGuffin is a donkey, by the name of Ya'fur, the donkey of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad, and of others of a prophetic bent.  People from several faiths are searching for this donkey in that he is the donkey upon which the Mashiach, the Messiah, and the Islamic Mahdi, who the Shi'a see as the Twelfth Imam, will ride into Jerusalem upon his arrival at or return to earth.  There are those, of course, who believe the Messiah will descend to earth, catching up the faithful to meet him.  Such are probably not impressed by the donkey solution.

The key, however is the donkey, Ya'fur.  It is through this donkey that we examine the views of all the other participants, including the CIA, which comes in for a lot of satire, as a clueless and bureaucratic organization, bogged down in paperwork and the filling out of forms.  And sometimes those forms actually result in progress being made, but one is left to ponder the cost for the benefit.

A quick read, unless you stop to check on all the side bar activities noted and go to the trouble to trace them down on the Internet.

Regards  —  Cliff

Taking the Long View

Nothing ruins a good fish story like someone who was there.

Thus we come to the famous quote of Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, back in 1971.  The US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, asked Foreign Minister Zhou what he thought of the French Revolution.  The response was a classic:
Too early to say.
This has ever since been taken as evidence of the ability of the Chinese to take the long view of world events.

The problem is, while US Secretary of State Kissinger, speaking in 1971, might have meant the French Revolution of 1789, the Chinese Premier was referring to the student uprising in France in May of 1968.

However, at a recent seminar in DC, based on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's new book, On China, former State Department Diplomat Chas Freeman sought to set the record straight.  From an article in The Financial Times we have this:
“I distinctly remember the exchange.  There was a misunderstanding that was too delicious to invite correction,” said Mr Freeman.

He said Zhou had been confused when asked about the French Revolution and the Paris Commune.  “But these were exactly the kinds of terms used by the students to describe what they were up to in 1968 and that is how Zhou understood them.”
In the same article is a comment that the Chinese expression (or curse) "May you live in interesting times" isn't found in China.  Makes one think of that famous Russian proverb, "Trust, but verify".

Regards  —  Cliff

  This assumption is not unreasonable.  UMass Lowell History Professor Steve Russell, in his course on French History from Napoleon Bonaparte has asked as a test question, "When Did the French Revolution End".  I think I argued for 1968, when the new revolution began.
  Registration is free for a limited number of articles per month.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ring Length

I decided, after a while, that the time my iPhone rings before it dumps to Voice Mail is not quite long enough.  If my phone is in my front pocket and I am sitting in the car with my seatbelt on it is a near run thing to get it out and turn it on in time to answer the call.

So, I went to the Apple Store and talked to a very helpful technician, who said that she didn't think there was an available adjustment.  Then, a couple of days later, after getting my hair cut I nipped into the Verizon store, where a very nice young clerk gave me basically the same answer.

Is there anyone out there who knows how to add a few seconds to the ring on my iPhone?


Regards  — 

Are All States Equal in Freedom?

Not according to the Mercatus Center of George Mason University.  The Center believes you can rack them and stack them, one through 50.  In the interest of full disclosure I have two children with degrees from George Mason University.

The survey is to be found here.

Where do we rank here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?  Number 46.  By comparison, New Hampshire is Number 1.

Hat tip to the Instapunidt.

Regards  —  Cliff

Chris Matthews vs Sarah Palin

Over at News Busters we have this item on News Commentator Chris Matthews suggesting that Govenor Sarah Palin gets in wrong when she links the Ride of Paul Revere to gun rights.  Their guess, and mine, is that yes, General Gage was out to take away the guns of the Citizenry of Massachusetts.  Apparently Chris Matthews not so much.

Maybe someone should "bookmark" Wikipedia for Mr Matthews on his computer.  He does have a computer, doesn't he?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 10, 2011

Human Rights in Norway

Trying to catch up, I have this link to a 13:42 minute interview with Ms Hege Stornhaug, a Norwegian Women's Rights activist.

From the video one can conclude that Ms Stornhaug sees the collapse of the Norwegian Welfare State and, more importantly, personal rights, in a little over a decade.  If true, this would be a bad thing.  Of course, each of us has to judge for himself or herself.  Are we on the road to a "Reichstag Fire" or are these just little bumps on the road to full integration of immigrants into Norwegian society?

Whichever outcome emerges, Norway, and other smaller European nations, are like the Canary in the Mine.

Hat tip to The Gates of Vienna.

Regards  —  Cliff

Chili's Restrooms

Well, just the Men's Room at the local Chili's.  Today I finally resolved to write about it.

It is my judgement that the end of the faucets is too close to the back side of the wash basins.  I would judge they extend about two inches.  I am guessing the holes on the counter top for the fixtures were miss-drilled during installation and no one thought to buy different hardware.

On the other hand, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch and the service was excellent.

Regards  —  Cliff

Bean Sprouts Can Kill You

Over at Small Dead Animals / The Roadkill Diaries is this interesting insight:
One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined. Crickets.
The clue here is "organic farm".  Basically there is no free lunch out there.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 9, 2011

If You Think Sarah is an Idiot

If you think Governor Sarah Palin was, and is, an idiot, here is your change to prove itThe Washington Post is looking for 100 folks to help them analyze some 24,000 EMails sent to or sent by Governor Palin while she was in office.

Act now.  This offer is limited.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gingrich Campaign Staff Leaves?

That is the word on The Atlantic, Newt Gingrich's Senior Staff Resign En Masse.  Several are denying that it has anything to do with Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Regards  —  Cliff

Teaching Strategy

Well, actually, doing strategy.

Over at Tom Ricks' blog, The Best Defense is a parody of a Strategic Planning Checklist, with a few comments.  Funny, but it hit a lot of the key points.

Hat tip to Reporter Carl Prine.

Regards  —  Cliff

Scalia Dissents—Excoriates Congress

Justice A Scalia again dissented, as we see here.  The case is MARCUS SYKES, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES and the decision was handed down today.  The upshot of the case is that if you drive away from a Law Enforcement Officer it is a violent felony, at least if that is the way the Federal Government wants to charge you.  This falls into the category of the law known as the "residual clause".

At the end of Justice Scalia's dissent is this paragraph:
We face a Congress that puts forth an ever-increasing volume of laws in general, and of criminal laws in particular. It should be no surprise that as the volume increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. And no surprise that our indulgence of imprecisions that violate the Constitution encourages imprecisions that violate the Constitution. Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty. In the field of criminal law, at least, it is time to call a halt. I do not think it would be a radical step—indeed, I think it would be highly responsible—to limit ACCA to the named violent crimes. Congress can quickly add what it wishes. Because the majority prefers to let vagueness reign, I respectfully dissent.
And, again, Justice Scalia is correct.  The Congress writes too many laws, and most of those poorly.  Worse, they can't get a budget out.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Our Future in Afghanistan

I link to this "blog post" from Chuck Spinney with some reluctance.  The site, Battleland, is a combination of Time Magazine and CNN and it has the subtitle "Where military intelligence is not a contradiction in terms".  That is so blatantly over the top that it should need no condemnation.  The comments for the linked below blog post are also mostly over the top.

But, the issue of the post is important and thus should be given distribution.

The question of staying in Afghanistan, how long we stay, how many troops we keep there and how much money we spend on development/reconstruction should all be the subject of a lively debate within our nation.  There are a lot of reasons for staying in Afghanistan and there are lots of reasons for getting out.  These are not issue that should only be discussed in the recesses of the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the National Security Council.  While a City Council voting against a war seems a little much, a discussion on local blogs and in local newspapers seems entirely in order.

So, discuss.

Regards  —  Cliff

Libel Laws in the UK

Here is a commentary on the outrageous libel laws in the United Kingdom.

I am all for respecting the privacy of individuals, but to the extent those individuals allow themselves to become public (to include political) personalities they make themselves more the subject to public scrutiny.  The fact that the man down the street is having an affair should be of little interest.  The fact that some high ranking politician is using his position to seduce our wives and daughters (or husbands and sons) should be of interest to us, given that their power comes from us.  We, via our adulation, are part of the problem and should thus be part of the solution.

I give you the Profumo Affair, to distance ourselves in time and space. But, there is also Representative Anthony Weiner or, for balance, Senator John Ensign (R-NV).

A free press, a freedom of speech, are important in helping us police our political life.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Build the Building Faster

When I drive the VFW Highway I see the new construction on the UMass Lowell North Campus.  I hope there is no slowing down on that project.  We need it and what it promises us.

Today the Department of Defense released its list of the "FY 2011 Competition Under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program".
The Department of Defense (DoD) today announced plans to award $37.8 million to academic institutions to support the purchase of research instrumentation. The 165 awards to 83 academic institutions are being made under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP). The awards are expected to range from $50,000 to $990,000 and average approximately $230,000.
Of the six and a half pages, there were 21 projects with the word "nano" in it, but none with the word Massachusetts in it.  There was Massachusetts overall, for MIT, for "Optical-transition squeezed clock below the standard quantum limit".  I am hoping next year we have several research topics that attract the interest of the Department of Defense.

Regards  —  Cliff

New President for Peru

Peru has a new President Election Ollanta Humala.  Mr Humala was the "left wing" candidate, against the "right wing" Ms Keiko Fujimori.  With Ms Fujimori's concession speech the local stock market stumbled, but then started to climb back upward.  Mr Humala has said that he wants good relations with the United States.

One observer noted
Is Humala Lula[Recent President of Brazil] or Hugo[Chávez of Venezuela]?  Or somebody else?  My view is that we should treat him normally as an elected leader of a key country in the Hemisphere, invite him to the White House, and try to work with him.  A brief tour of Latin America will reveal a revival of leftist governments.  "Leftist" is broad term, however, and we should carefully gauge our reaction.  Policy makers, if they exist, have to come to grips with the political, social, economic, and environmental changes that mark the 21st century.  If not, the train will pull out of the station and we will be left standing.
I hope that we accept and welcome President Humala and give him an invitation to the White House.  Isn't there something about "the law of conservation of enemies".  We need the help of Peru in dealing with the drug trade.  Let us help them help us.  Presently Peru's economic growth of around 8%.  If President Humala can't sustain that growth rate and achieve a more equitable distribution of the wealth he may well be replaced at the next election.  From our perspective, a strong Peru means less illegal immigration to the United States.

Regards  —  Cliff

Smooth Operator

Amongst our local politicians, one of the smoothest is Councilor Rita Mercier.

I say that because sometime over the weekend I accidentally called her on the phone.  I didn't realize I had called her, but I heard my phone beep in my pocket and pulled it out to see Rita's name showing.  I thought for some reason she had called me, and since it was a City Councilor calling me, I immediately called back.

What I didn't realize was that I had called her in the first place.  I was sitting at the kitchen table, with my iPhone in a front trouser pocket.  My wife told me to look at something under the kitchen sink and I twisted around 180 degrees in my seat and it appears I went through about five interlocks to turn my phone on and call Ms Mercier.  I have her name in my address book, although I call her home about once every two years.

It turns out she missed the first call and had stepped into the house just as the second call came in.  In my ignorance, I asked if she had called me and she said she had not; that she had been outside working.  But, she made me feel like she was glad to talk with me none-the-less.

It was a nice conversation and then we rang off.

This reminded me of a city council meeting several weeks ago.  I think it was when Move Lowell Forward was presenting a paper to the City Council, which the Council passed on to the City Manager for review.  As I recall, Councilor Mercier is the one who moved that the paper be accepted and passed on to the City Manager.

At the end of the meeting Councilor Rita Mercier came up to me and handed me a magazine.  This was an aviation magazine that I had handed to a someone else several weeks before.  It had an article on how the P-51 had been given field modifications in England to improve its value as a fighter aircraft, including the addition of the Malcolm Hood (or canopy), to improve pilot visibility.  The magazine had gone from this person to Ms Mercier and then back to me.  And, she was aware of and knowledgeable about the article in question, as she showed in talking to me as she passed me the magazine.

Rita is a natural politician.

Regards  —  Cliff

John Alison, RIP

This AM my youngest Brother, John, sent along this obituary from The Wall Street Journal.

It would seem that Mr John Alison lead a full and exciting life.  As an former Air Force fighter pilot I was impressed by his daring and accomplishments.  Both being with the follow-on to the Flying Tigers and with the 1st Air Commando are impressive, and commanding both is even more impressive.

The story is also told over at Wikipedia.

Rest in Peace, John Alison.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Paul Ryan is an Optimist

That is the impression I got from this blog post, over at Pileus Blog.  The author, Dr Sven Wilson,
is a health economist who studies the demographic correlates of health over the life cycle in both modern and historical populations and the impact of development assistance on health outcomes in developing countries.
Basically, Professor Wilson says that Insurance markets find it difficult to compete, despite Flo in the white uniform and the Gecko.  He also says that government regulation may not fix the problem.  Further, he notes, the policies are so complicated neither the provider nor the patient really knows the cost of anything.

Maybe it is time to open up the spigot for Doctors, Nurses, Physicians Assistances and Nurse Practitioners.  Maybe even pick up part of the education bill.  That would increase supply, which might will increase demand some, but should also lower some of the price.

Of course, this issue of Paul Ryan and the House Budget also causes us to ask if it is true that the US Senate has not been able to table a Federal Budget in 769 days, at least per Cap't Ed Morrissey.

Regards  —  Cliff


Does Yale cave in to certain forms of Anti-Semitism?

It would appear so, but it is The New York Post.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Chris Matthews Round the Bend

I used to like TV Commentator Chris Matthews.  Nice kid from Philly, with interesting thoughts.  Usually I didn't agree with him, but I enjoyed him.

Lately, however, he has earned the title of bizarro, as this article suggests.

Also, I think his interviewing technique, where he asks a question and as someone starts to answer he almost reflexively jumps in again, leaves something to be desired.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Celebrating Success

Success should be celebrated and thus yesterday I took two young ladies out to lunch, because of their success.

This is Dawn Grasso, on the left, and Lynn Casa, on the right.  They both worked for me a little while ago, when I was a full time employee of Dynamics Research Corporation.  I encouraged both of them to get a college degree.  I did it because I think education is both helpful in the marketplace and it is self-fulfilling.

Dawn went first and got a Bachelor's Degree from Phoenix.  (Here is where you education snobs can turn up your noses, but I think there is a lot to be said for distance learning.)  Then Lynn went to school and just this last Saturday got her AA Diploma from Phoenix.
Lynn has already started on the Bachelor's degree, and good on her.

I would like to note that there was support from the family side.  For Dawn, Louis, who used to work for me and now works for MACOM, and for Lynn, Toni, who does contracting, up in New Hampshire.  Even if there is not help with the homework, the support is important.  I know my wife's support was important while I was going to night school to get a Master's Degree while we were stationed in Germany (USC Extension at Bitburg AB).  These non-standard approaches to education are a lot of effort.

Also important is paying for the education and Dynamics Research Corporation, like all good companies, has a program to help employees pay for their education, which they did in both these cases, with my successor, Ron Smits, carrying on the effort after I left.  As I recall, Ron got his Master's Degree from Old Dominion University at night while stationed at Langley Air Force Base, in Hampton, Virginia.

Yes, a reason to Celebrate.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Sad Moment

“The picture was of me, and I sent it”.  Thus spoke Mr Anthony Weiner (R-NY).

Am I the only Republican who is sad about this?  I hope not.

Yes, Rep Weiner is a jerk.  Especially in the Well of the House, when he is trying to make some point.  He is a totally over the top politician.  But, still, it diminishes us all a little when one of those 535 men and women does something stupid, especially something stupid of a sexual nature.

Here is the take from The Washington Post.

There is an Ann Althouse take on the media-story, but, frankly, it is a totally different issue.

As for the Representative, he is now in the hands of his wife and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  The rest of us should give this a rest for a while and await the outcome of the House Ethics Committee Investigation.

Regards  —  Cliff

McDonald v Chicago—Who Pays?

The law can be complicated, as this ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit shows this mere citizen.

In the case of NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INC., et al. (Plaintiffs-Appellants) v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, and VILLAGE OF OAK PARK, ILLINOIS (Defendants-Appellees) it is more like a game official deciding if the ball is dead.  Chicago and Oak Park, IL, argued it was dead in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, 130 S. Ct. 3020 (2010) and the plaintiffs argued it was not and thus they deserved to receive legal fees from the defendants.  It turned on where the case was when the two local governments changed their gun control laws.  A US District Court ruled that since the two entities acted quickly to heal their Constitutional evilerror, the issue had died before it was decided in court, based upon a US Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment DID apply to the States, and cited precedent.

The Seventh Circuit saw it differently.  While the case never went to court, the power of the US Supreme Court was such that both municipalities threw in the towel.
This litigation was over except for the entry of an injunction by the district court. Chicago and Oak Park capitulated, which made the exercise unnecessary.  By the time defendants bowed to the inevitable, plaintiffs had in hand a judgment of the Supreme Court that gave them everything they needed.  If a favorable decision of the Supreme Court does not count as “the necessary judicial imprimatur” on the plaintiffs’ position (Buckhannon, 532 U.S. at 605), what would?
Then there was the appeal.  The Seventh Circuit ruled:
The district court’s decision is reversed, and the cases are remanded for awards of reasonable attorneys’ fees under §1988.
Is this the end?  Probably not, given that it is the courts, which is worse than a bickering couple.  There will always be work for accountants and lawyers.

A hat tip to the Instapundit, and my thanks to Reason:  Hit and Run.

Regards  —  Cliff

D-Day, 67 Years On.

There were a lot of landings conducted by US and British and Canadian forces in World War II.  However, Operation OVERLORD stands out in our minds.  If we had been forced to invade the Japanese homeland, Operation DOWNFALL, the landing on Kyūshū, Operation OLYMPIC, scheduled for 1 November 1945, would have been a greater undertaking.

As it was, Japan surrendered after we dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan, ending the War.

Thus, "D Day", which is a tautology, remains in our mind as the greatest undertaking of World War II.

The 6th of June 1944 was 67 years ago and the success of that landing impacted the map of Europe up until 9 November 1989.  It also created a path along which Dwight David Eisenhower trod to the US Presidency.  While many died on those Normandy beaches, many more survived and went on to live productive lives as America's Greatest Generation.

Thank you to those who went ashore on the 6th of June 1944 and all those others who fought in World War II.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mark Steyn on A Certain Representative

I used to be a registered voter in Orange County, California.  Here is an OpEd by Canadian observer of American Mark Steyn at Orange County Register on Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY).  Best quote:
After the tumult of the First World War, noted Winston Churchill, only the intractability of the Irish Question had emerged unscathed:
"Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed," he told the House of Commons.  "But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."
And so it is on Capitol Hill.

If this were a Republican, I would hope that the Republican leadership and rank and file would have told him to pack up and go home.  But, he is not, so I go with Luke 9:60.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gun Rights

It turns out you can have a constitutional right to bear arms, but if the Government Bureaucracy, which includes the Police, are against you having a gun, they can make it darned difficult for you to own a gun—and in some parts of the world defend yourself against violent criminals.

Remember, the Police do not have a duty to protect you.  Further, their guns are to protect themselves.  In these United States it all seems to work out OK.  In Mexico not so much.

The Mexican Constitution apparently has an Article (Article 10) on the right to keep and bear arms.  Wikipedia is a little confusing on this issue, with two different translations of the Article.  As I don't speak or read Spanish I have to rely on the kindness of translators, but here is the link to the Mexican Constitution, which seems to state:
Citizens of the republic may, for their protection, own guns and arms in their homes. Only arms sanctioned by the Army may be owned, and federal law will state the manner in which they can be used (Firearms are prohibited from importation into the Republic without proper licensing and documentation. Foreigners may not pass the border with unlicensed firearms; the commission of such act is a felony, punishable by prison term.).
Here is the quote from the Wikipedia article on gun ownership in Mexico:
The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have a right to arms in their homes, for security and legitimate defense, with the exception of arms prohibited by federal law and those reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard. Federal law will determine the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized to the inhabitants.
Notwithstanding this right, gun ownership in Mexico is limited, due to the legal impediments to gun ownership.  It ends up the usual thing, the criminals have the guns—and those guns are not all (or mostly) coming from the US.

This from Mr Robert Farago andThe Truth About Guns.  Mr Farago refers to an AP Article in the Denver Post with this quote from a Mexican State Police Chief:
Ramon Almonte, the Guerrero state police chief, said on Monday he will ask the federal congress to make it easier for common citizens to get permits for weapons to defend themselves.

Almonte's brother was killed on Jan. 1 in a rural town in Guerrero by unidentified gunmen. The state has been plagued by such executions.

"When you fight someone and at least you have a 'piece,' the person who is attacking you might think twice," Almonte said. "We cannot go on the way we are."
The drug violence in Mexico is out of control.  When thousands are being shot and killed each year, when individuals are being tortured as a warning to others, there is an indication that the old methods are not working.  It is time to try something new, or maybe something older.  Maybe even give full run to the Constitution.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, except in Arizona, where a SWAT raid on some home resulted in a guy getting shot 60 times.  That is bad Police interaction with a citizen.