Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tom Friedman on Moderate Republicans

My Brother Lance, in a comment on another post, referenced this OpEd from New York Times Columnist Thomas L Friedman.  I ran across it again at Hot Air, with the headline "Where have all the RINOs gone."

In it Mr Friedman holds up President George H W Bush (Bush 41) as the model of a level headed and clear thinking Republican, the kind of Republican (or Democrat, one would presume) we need now.  But, Mr Friedman's comments leave something to be desired, such as this comment about Bush 41:
George H.W. Bush also believed that to be a conservative was to act with “prudence,” one of his favorite words and a philosophy he demonstrated in foreign policy by deciding, once he defeated Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, not to follow him to Baghdad.
The only problem with this, and at the time I too thought it was a great decision, is that President Saddam Hussein took it as a sign that he, Saddam, had won.  The result of the fact that we stopped when we did, out of a concern for the wholesale slaughter of Iraqis is that we got the Second Gulf War.  Put aside your dislike for George W Bush for a moment and think about the fact that for a decade President Saddam Hussein claimed to have weapons of mass destruction and threatened to use them and in the mean time committed depredations against his own People, especially the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs.  He and his sons were terrible people.

So, we have Standard and Poors threatening to downgrade our credit rating, not because of a default but because we can't get our national debt under control.  So, in a way, the Tea Party folks are the ones looking down the road a couple of months and saying there is going to be a problem, there is going to be a train wreck, when the size of our debt is such that the rating agencies downgrade our ratings.  And, those Tea Party folks think that the debt is a drag on economic recovery, which isn't going to well right now.

And, here is a comment from an unnamed Health Care Professional and PhD on another forum:
I have to come down in support of Jim and the discussion on the impact of unfettered healthcare cost in the US as being the single biggest threat to long term fiscal health of our nation.  As I have written over and over again, when we are spending 25% of our GDP on healthcare what won't we be spending money on?  Education?  Defense?  Think about this in terms of the increasing number of obese, overweight or otherwise compromised youth cohort as well as the impact of obesity and overweight on health spending within the military population.  These are national security threats best taken in tandem.
We have to get the entitlements under control.

Yes, cut National Defense.  Bring the troops home early from our far flung wars if needs be, but get control of our debt and our spending.

And, for those Democrats who say we have to increase Federal Taxes, I say that there are a lot of folks who believe that if there is a tax increase there will be no real spending reductions.  How do we square that circle?  How do we provide confidence that we will reduce spending?  This is a problem that has been with us since the time of President Jefferson.  Again from The New York Times.

Hat tip to Hot Air.

Regards  —  Cliff

ABC Says there is a Deal

Well, it does look like Wimpy put it together, but ABC New's Jonathan Karl is saying it is out there.  It appears to give the President what he wants, cover through the 2012 Elections.

Hat tip to the Hot Air.

Regards  —  Cliff

  J. Wellington Wimpy, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Saving the World From Capitol Hill

What we’re trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget.  We’re trying to save life on this planet as we know it today.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
This via Greta Van Susteren and Greta Wire.

Yes, the title is ambiguous.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Hobbits Are Taking Over

Law Professor Ann Althouse points us to New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd's Tempest in a Tea Party.  The Althouse blog post expands upon the Dowd column, which examines the state of the Democratic Party in DC.  For example, she explains the source of the Hobbit reference.

Bottom Line:
What if the people who hate government are good at it and the people who love government are bad at it?
Tuesday will tell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Peace is Defined

Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.
The person who sent it to me attributed it to President Thomas Jefferson, but that doesn't sound right and the InterTubes attributes it to no one.  That said, given the wording, it is likely from President Jefferson's time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Best and Worst Presidents / Last 100 Years

Speech Writer Michael Cohen, writing in The Atlantic picks up on Blogger Tom Rick's list of the worst Presidents in the Twentieth Century and lays out the best and worst Presidents of the last 100 years, from a foreign policy point of view.  Actually the Tom Ricks list was a set of votes (mine for was Woodrow Wilson, who I thought was wonderful when I was very young, but have come to see as very flawed).

But, back to Michael Cohen (who you can follow on twitter (

#5  John F Kennedy (The Incomplete)
#4  Ronald Reagan (A Tale of Two Terms)
#3  George H W Bush (The Underrated)
#2  Dwight D Eisenhower (The Runner-Up)
#1  Franklin D Roosevelt (The Gold Standard)

#5  Richard Nixon (When He Was Good, He Was Good; When He Was Bad, Whoa)
#4  Harry S Truman (The Overrated)
#3  Woodrow Wilson (Judge Me Not For What I Did; But What I Said)
#2  Jimmy Carter (Speaking of Hopeful Idealists)
#1  Lyndon Baines Johnson (The Worst)

George W Bush

Do you sense some animus toward President George W Bush?

As you think about this you may find that your mileage may vary.  Mine did.  But, thanks for playing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Do We Have a Deal?

The InstaPundit linked to this item by Ms Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post on the outline of a deal.


Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dixiecrats Ride Again

This little kurfuffle has been brewing for a couple of days.  Apparently Democratic Officials in South Carolina are questioning the fact that Governor Nikki Haley checked the "White" block on her voting enrollment form.  What should she have checked?  Black or African-American?  I don't think so.  Asian?  We think of Cambodians as Asian, but should they be grouped with folks from the sub-continent and besides, as this link suggests, today many Asians just blend in with the "Whites".  Even back during the Watts Riots Korean shopkeepers suffered at the hands of the rioters, thus not being seen as people of Color, but as part of the "White" crowd.  And, I doubt she is Hispanic.

Yesterday Law Professor Ann Althouse posted on this and gave us Ms Haley's options:
Her options were "white, black/African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or other."
Well, actually, that was a quote from The Post and Courier, out of Charleston.

As this subsequent blog post from Law Professor Ann Althouse shows, even the courts have gone back and forth.

In a comment on one of the Althouse blog posts Mrs Whatsit said:
A century from now, our descendants will think we were all completely insane on the subject of race—and they'll be right.
I think she is about right.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rolling Blackouts In Our Future?

Over at ChicagoBoyz is a discussion of electrical power in our future.  The author, "Carl from Chicago", talks about bad deregulation in the US and uses Pakistan as an example of how bad it could be if we don't get our act together.  In Pakistan demand for electricity exceeds supply by a factor of 3 to 1.  Electrical power is a system, consisting of Generation, Transmission and (local) Distribution.  All three have to be in good working order for the kitchen light to come on.

If one thinks AGW is here and hot and humid days are it's herald, then a solid and stable electricity supply should be of interest.

Regards  —  Cliff

Just the Facts Ma'am

Law Professor Tom Smith, out at the University of San Diego, is somewhat disappointed in a recent column by Nobel Laureat Paul Krugman.  Professor Smith thinks that Columnist Krugman is trying to fool us with current, but not relevant, data in responding "to claims by Stanford economists Boskin and Taylor that (I paraphrase) the Reagan years ushered in good economic times".  What can I say.  How the mighty have fallen.

Regards  —  Cliff

Say It Ain't So, Joe

We busted the debt ceiling in 2009?  Who realized?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Senate Says No

I was not expecting such a swift rejection by the U S Senate, but reject they did, as I learned scrolling through the InstaPundit blog.  One of Professor Reynolds' readers made this suggestion:
UPDATE: Reader Gary Tranbarger emails:  “I have a new idea.  Republicans immediately pass a clean, no conditions, debt ceiling addition of 100 billion dollars.  They also announce their willingness to vote for additional 100 billion dollars additions, as needed, one at a time, up to November 2012.  Finally, they announce their willingness to engage in negotiations for a two-year addition to the debt ceiling once the CBO scores a 10-year financial plan for the country that is publicly endorsed by (a) the President; (b) a majority of Senate Democrats; and (c) a majority of House Democrats.”
I like it, although I would go for $250 Billion.  That would be about five votes between now and the new Congress.

It is all about the debt ceiling, isn't it?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 29, 2011


A friend of mine, who I think is a Democrat, sent me an EMail saying
I asked Scott Brown to vote for the Harry Reid proposal to extend the debt ceiling.  How about you?
I said how about if we also ask John F Kerry to vote for what emerges from the House of Representatives?

Article I, Section 7, Clause 1, reads "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."  Does this require the debt limit bill must originate in the House of Representatives?  I have dispatched an EMail, asking just that question.

But, even if the debt ceiling bill must originate in the Lower House (as our Founders wanted it), should not all the "Adults" in DC band together with a solution?  I use the term "Adults" because that is the term coming out of the MSM to distinguish everyone else from the Tea Party Caucus members in the House of Representatives.  At Wikipedia they list the 60 members of the Tea Party Caucus in the Lower House.

Given that the Tea Part Caucus has only 60 members and the House of Representatives, not counting Rep David Wu, has 434 members, and there are only 218 votes needed to pass legislation, couldn't it be that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are dragging their heels in getting this done?

Just saying.

Regards  —  Cliff

Prof Warren and DINKs and Other Arrangements

From Law Professor Ann Althouse is a link to another site and an explanation of the implications of two income families.  Professor Althouse quotes "Todd Zywicki, correcting Christopher Caldwell, who was explaining Elizabeth Warren":
In fact, based on their data once the math is done the real conclusions of Warren and Tyagi are inescapable and in fact (as Caldwell will be pleased to know) extremely conservative: the financial problems of the middle class are caused by an astonishing rise in the tax burden on middle class families over the past three decades.   Nowhere, however, will one read Professor Warren advocating income and property tax cuts as the obvious policy implication of their book–although that is unambiguously the logical inference.
Professor Warren's book is The Two-Income Trap.  I guess it goes onto the list of must reads.

Regards  —  Cliff

Non-Debt Financial Numbers for This Morning

At the time of this posting, The Financial Times web page has conflicting headlines.  One has US unemployment up to 418,000 (21 July) and one has it below 400,000 (29 July).  This is amid news that our GDP has not grown very much, although exports are up and imports are down, which is a good trend or us.

The REAL GDP grew by an annualized rate of 1.3%.  The Current GDP grew by an annualized rate of 3.7%.  Maybe living in the Current world is better than living in the real world.

Speaking of "world", I don't think this is the end of the world.  However, you can see sign posts up ahead.  They may be pointing to the end of the world.

And, with unemployment filings going down we may find that when we get to those sign posts they are saying this way to a future recover.  In fact, given that markets sometimes pick up the more subtle indications, this current crisis may be giving markets confidence that the United States Government has finally recognized that it has some long term problems and is preparing to tackle them.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This does not look like a permanent URL.

Now What?

Over at The Washington Post Reporters Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, writing in the column "The Fix", say that the time is fast approaching for Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader, to move to cut a deal with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV).  The article can be found here.  The lede is:
House Speaker John Boehner’s failure to wrangle 217 votes for his debt ceiling compromise bill on Thursday shocked the political world and left everyone wondering what might come next as the Aug. 2 deadline draws ever closer.
Why is this on the Republicans?  The Democrats own the US Senate.  Has anyone actually SEEN the plan from the Senate Majority Leader?  The President is a Democrat.  Is there a URL where I can find the details of his plan?  Or is his plan the Fourteenth Amendment?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Public Pension Future

Pensions across the economy are a looming problem.  The ones we have to fund out of tax money are those public pensions.  You remember, like President William Bulger's pension.

Here is a jaundiced look at California's public pensions, which are looking to be expensive in the out years.

In the back of my mind, I am figuring that given how long we are living, and the fact that the older you are, the longer the actuaries expect you to live, that our cost liability for every public employee may be twice the cost of that working employee, given that in Massachusetts retirement is running up to 80% of all pay and allowances.  And if the position is for 24/7 coverage that would be 4 folks (or 5) and double that with the retirement tail.

Employees who work for us the citizens need to be treated fairly and equitably and taken care of into retirement.  When Government makes a hiring decision it is a decision that could impact the taxpayers for five or six decades.  "Hey, let's be careful out there."

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Desk Sergeant Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues.

What to Make of Oslo Terrorism?

Frankly, it is easier to just think that Norweigan mass murderer Anders Breivik is deranged and forget about him, but if you wish to analyze him and his terroristic actions, here is a good place to start.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

All Over But the Shouting?

It’s All Over but the Face-Saving?", or so asks New York Times writer Nate Silver.

Hat tip to the Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

The More Things Change...

From ¡No Pasaran! we have this.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dueling Speeches

Law Professor Ann Althouse blogs on last evenings dueling speeches.

My early morning take is like my late evening take:
  1. It is too early for a real deal.
  2. The outcome of last evening's dueling speeches is painful for me as a citizen.
That said, I think the Speaker is on the best path.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tenth Amendment Republicans

Is Jennifer Rubin correct in asserting that the way forward for Republicans is via the Tenth Amendment? Or is she just shilling for Margaret Hoover and her new book, American Individualism:  How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party?

Reporting on a comment by Texas Governor Rick Perry during a telephone interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader she noted he was quoted as follows:
But while Texas has written into its constitution that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman, he said New York’s recent decision to implement same-sex marriage “is New York’s prerogative.”
She then goes on to analyze the Governor's position:
As I have suggested before, a 10th Amendment approach to gay marriage and abortion is both in keeping with the party’s defense of federalism and smart politics.  As gay rights moves from the courts to state legislatures and referendums, it will, I would suggest, become increasing difficult for conservatives to decry democratically approved gay marriage laws.  Social conservatives certainly have every right to try to influence the process and convince others that gay marriage is a bad idea, but it’s dicey for conservatives to argue with the results of votes on public policy by popularly elected state officials.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
What could our Founding Fathers been thinking, back in 1791?

Are we soon going to be adding a new category of Republicans, TARs (Tenth Amendment Republicans), like we now have RINOs?  I sure hope so?

Hat tip to Hot Air.

UPDATE:  Incidentally, over at the Instapundit there is an informal poll ongoing since yesterday and Gov Rick Perry is running 40% as of this morning.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Jennifer Rubin writes the "Right Turn" blog for The WashingtonPost, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

Monday, July 25, 2011

How We Spend Our Time

I found this in a Blog post by the Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., who is the archbishop of Denver, but enroute to thePhiladelphia.
None of us lives forever.  Or rather, all of us live forever, but only for a very short time in this world.   If we lose our money, we can often earn it back.  But if we misuse our time, we can never get it back.   Where we put our time shows the world what we really value and believe.  What we really believe shapes our choices.   And our choices shape our eternity.
"Burning Daylight"

Hat tip to The Lady in the Pew.

Regards  —  Cliff

Civil War Leg Lost and Found

My youngest Brother has been concerned about "the leg", now that Walter Reed Medical Center, as it exists in Northwest Washington, DC, is shutting down.  We can now say it has found a home.  This from a press release:
USAMRMC to exhibit amputated leg of Union major general

(Fort Detrick, Md.) –The amputated leg of Union Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles will go on display May 17 at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command headquarters building here at Fort Detrick, Md. The Command will host a ceremony at 10 a.m. with a presentation and installation of the artifact, followed by remarks from the museum staff.

On July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg in western Pennsylvania, Sickles was astride his horse, marching Third Corps along a ridge, without approval, when a cannonball shattered his right leg. As medics carted Sickles from the field, he puffed a cigar and waved to bolster morale among troops already devastated by the losses in the Confederate attack. The Union held its line that day, but Sickles lost his leg. He returned to private life with a carefully preserved personal reminder of the sacrifices made in war.

"The National Museum of Health and Medicine has graciously loaned us this historic treasure. It’s amazing to see how far military medicine has advanced," said Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick. "This is a great opportunity to highlight one of the National Museum of Health and Medicine’s many artifacts and to welcome the museum to the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command."

Since 1862 the museum has documented the history and practice of American and military medicine. Its collection now numbers in excess of 25 million objects. Exhibits are closed to the public until September, when the museum is set to complete its move from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to its new state-of-the art facility at the Fort Detrick–Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring, Md.

"We are thrilled to become an element of MRMC," says Adrianne Noe, NMHM director. "It’s very fitting for us and our mission to be embedded in a global enterprise committed to advancing and innovating in the realm of military medical research. And it’s certainly fitting that Sickles’ leg can be on display at the headquarters, just that much closer to Gettysburg, for a time, until the museum reopens."
Frankly, I don't think of Gettysburg as being in "Western Pennsylvania", as stated in the press release.  I think of it as more South Central.

And, I too am relieved to know that Dan Sickles' leg will live on.  The full Dan Sickles was memorialized in a recent biography by Thomas Michael Keneally, American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles.

Incidentally, Mr Keneally, an Australian novelist, also wrote Schindler's Ark, which was adapted by Steven Spielberg as the movie Schindler's List.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Looking to the Long Term

Sometimes one's attention can become so focused that larger issues are just ignored.  This is always a potential problem in the flying dodge.  Quoting from Wikipedia:
United Airlines Flight 173, registration N8082U,[1] was a Douglas DC-8-61 en route from Stapleton International Airport in Denver to Portland International Airport on December 28, 1978.  When the landing gear was lowered, only two of the green landing gear indicator lights came on.  The plane circled in the vicinity of Portland while the crew investigated the problem.  After about one hour the plane ran out of fuel and crashed in a sparsely populated area near 158th and East Burnside Street, killing 10 and seriously injuring 24 of the 189 on board.
I am sure this fable can be read a number of different ways.  I think of it in terms of focusing on a short term issue while ignoring a long term issue.

The reason it resonates with me is that I see the debt crisis in the same way.  The Administration doesn't have "three green" for 2 August regarding the debt ceiling.  At the same time the long term issue of overwhelming debt, generated from deficit spending, is looking large out there.

That is the point of a Representative Ron Paul OpEd from last week:  "Default Now, or Suffer a More Expensive Crisis Later".

Here is his point in a nutshell, after he discusses the Austrian School of Economics vs the Keynesian School:
Everyone wants to kick the can down the road and believe that deficit spending can continue unabated.

Unless major changes are made today, the U.S. will default on its debt sooner or later, and it is certainly preferable that it be sooner rather than later.
On the issue of taxes, Representative Ryan doesn't really get into it, but I would argue that there are those who think that if taxes are raised it will just go to fuel more spending, which won't help solve the debt issue.

And, the numbers being thrown around are ten year numbers, which reminds one of J. Wellington Wimpy's line, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today". 

Regards  —  Cliff

  A character from the Popeye Cartoon.

A Different Reflection on the Oslo Event

Here is a take on the Oslo bombing and shooting from a direction different from most others.  The blogger (Brutally Honest) compares it to the Columbine (Colorado) shooting and in both examples the Police come out looking bad.

Regards  —  Cliff

Best Wishes

Dr Chris Augusta Scott, our former School Superintendent, is getting married.  No surprise there and this Blogger wishes her and her fiancé, Michael Houston, the very best.

My question is, who from Lowell is traveling all the way to Halifax for the nuptials, besides the couple?  Canada is our neighbor, and Halifax is a friend of Eastern Massachusetts, but it is 700 miles away.  So, who from here is going to travel that distance to help celebrate this union of two people?

The Editor of the Lowell Newspaper of Record.

UPDATE:  I am now in DEEP trouble with the Editor, and may never get a newspaper job, since I extrapolated the fact that he got an invitation into the non-fact that he might be going, which he is not.  And be it noted that she has NEVER made cookies for the Editor.  I am hanging my head in shame, although it is not, I am sure, my first Blogging error.  My apologies to the Editor.

Regards  — 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gen. John Shalikashvili RIP

US Army Four Star General John Shalikashvili has passed away at the age of 75.  General Shali, as he was known, was born in Warsaw, Poland, of Georgian parents.  He is one of only three foreign born US Army officers to reach four star rank.  (And of of those, George Kenney was one of only two in the US Air Force, the other being General Bernard A (Bernie) Schriever.

General Shali rose to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and after retiring, and even after suffering a stroke, remained actively engaged in national security affairs.  General Shalikashvili represents what is best about these United States.

God's speed General Shali.

Regards  —  Cliff

Greek Crisis Hits the US

There is an article in The Wall Street Journal, which can be reached via this URL and read in full by subscribers.  For the rest of us there is this:
Dozens of U.S. cities and towns are being bruised by the deepening Greek debt crisis even though they are thousands of miles away and don't own any of the country's bonds.

From a skating rink in Everett, Wash., to New York City's schools to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, interest rates on some bonds have soared since late May and could rise even further because money-market investors are less willing to buy some of the $17 billion in municipal bond deals backed by Dexia SA, a Belgian-French bank shaken by its exposure to government debts in Greece.
It is a very complicated financial world out there.

Interest rates are why sovereign debt matters.  For the US on 2 August we may not have an increase in our debt ceiling, in which case the question is who gets paid.  If we don't pay the interest on our debt our interest rates will go up as lenders protect themselves against our perfidy.  If Social Security doesn't get paid we will learn that the idea that the Social Security Payroll Tax was anything but a tax was not true.  Also, the voters will punish our elected leaders, based on how they view the actions of those elected leaders (the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans will be punished and the Democrats rewarded).  If we elect to not pay those who have provided goods and services there will be a lot of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but if we make it up a month or so later it will all calm down, but contracting for those goods and services will become more expensive as the interest rates those firms pay for money to tide them over until Uncle Sam pays will go up.  The first and third options will, of course, increase our national debt or force us to further cut services or to raise taxes.  On the other hand, just increasing the debt ceiling will cause us to eventually end up like Greece.  We should be thankful to Greece for breaking trail for us in this international financial tundra.

Regards  —  Cliff

Nguyen Cao Ky RIP

Again from The International Herald Tribune, we have news of the death of Former Republic of Viet-nam Vice President and one time Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky.  While I never met the gentleman, he and I were residents of the same county in Southern California for many years.  Mr Ky passed away at 80, from "a respiratory complication".

The article says:
One of his nation’s most colorful leaders, Mr. Ky served as prime minister of South Vietnam, which was backed by the United States, in the mid-1960s. He had been commander of South Vietnam’s air force when he assumed the post in 1965, the same year American involvement in the war escalated.

He was known as a playboy partial to purple scarves, upscale nightclubs and beautiful women. In power during some of the war’s most tumultuous times, he was a low-key but sometimes ruthless leader.
When I think of Nguyen Cao Ky it is of him standing on the wing of an A-1H SKYRAIDER of the Viet-namese Air Force.  And, of course he was colorful—he was a fighter pilot!

May he rest in peace.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He actually lived there, I just voted in Orange County.

The Oslo Event

From The International Herald Tribune we have this lede:
The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.
That pretty much pins it on those of the "Christian Right" ilk.  That said, there may still be more to the story.

Assuming that this report is correct, how was it that al Qaeda like groups were able to to quickly claim responsibility for these actions.  The gunsmoke had barely dispersed when they were on the line claiming that this was retaliation for Norwegian participation in the war in Afghanistan and for Norwegian newspapers publishing cartoons about Mohammed.  This suggests an enemy that is very nimble and perhaps operating well inside our own reaction times.  It also raises the question of how often Western Governments have pointed the finger at al Qaeda and al Qaeda like groups when they actually had done nothing and some other group had been the culprit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Debt Debate

Is it just me who thinks that it is way too early to be in a panic over the debt ceiling?

The day of doom (if there is a day of doom), is about ten days away.  We are just in the posturing stage.  The serious discussions are perhaps a week away.

In the mean time, Columnist E J Dionne seemed a bit over the top with his OpEd in The Sun this week.
The House Republican strategy to link a normally routine increase in the nation's debt limit with a crusade to slash spending already has had a high cost, threatening the nation's credit rating and making the United States look dysfunctional and incompetent to the rest of the world.

But that's not the most awful thing about it.

What's even worse is this entirely artificial, politician-created crisis has kept government from doing what taxpayers expect it to do, which is to solve problems that citizens care about.
One would think that Mr Dionne, seasoned veteran that he is, would understand that the Democrats in the Senate have not been willing to cut a deal with those Republicans and the only way the Republicans can get a discussion started is to create a situation where folks might be willing to talk.  If the Republicans agree to the debt ceiling increase and agree to not cut any programs sacred to the Democrats, then there will be no discussion.  What if the Democrats want to raise taxes to help cover the debt?  Would Mr Dionne say the Republicans needed to go along so as to not make "the United States look dysfunctional and incompetent to the rest of the world"?  What if it makes us look like Greece?  Is that OK?

And, don't you think the Quants have already factored into their formulas the possible outcomes and hedged their funds in all directions?  In fact, Federal (and State) regulation of markets and businesses have become so complicated that only the Quants know what is really going on and they live in the folds of the epidermis of those bloated regulations, taking advantage of them to reap extreme profits.  How else do we explain GE paying no taxes last year?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.  So, here is an alternative link to the E J Dionne OpEd.

DADT Becoming a Dot

As in a dot on the horizon, going away.

Here is a link to the statement from the Department of Defense.

Here is a link to the statement from the White House.

The first paragraph of the White House statement is:
Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality.  In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days—on September 20, 2011.
Given where our society is, this is a good move.  I don't believe that it will be all smooth sailing, but I do believe it will work in the Armed Forces.

Given the history of the world, I think that the "once and for all" may be a little optimistic.  But, it is good to go for my lifetime.

20 September 2011.

Folks should tread carefully for the next 60 days.  There is no point in tripping on some technicality between now and then.

Regards -- Cliff


If the lawsuit in Wisconsin works to overthrow the proposed redistricting plan coming from the State Legislature, would it work here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?

From the lawsuit:
Under the legislation, Democrats have little chance of attaining and retaining a majority in either the Senate or the Assembly, or in the congressional delegation, giving them little ability to overcome minority status at any point over the next decade...
I think it might, since it would end up in Federal Court.  Just change "Democrats" to "Republicans" and file away.

Watching Wisconsin is so much fun this year.  The redistricting story even has a Chelmsford like sub-story in the form of Beloit, Wisconsin, which is about the same size as Chelmsford, population wise.  It used to be unitary in terms of seats, but now it has been broken up.  (In the interest of full disclosure, my wife's late aunt used to teach physics at Beloit College.)

All that said, the original blog post from Ann Althouse cites Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner as saying, back in 1986, "there is good reason to think that political gerrymandering is a self-limiting enterprise".  Maybe in Arizona.

The article is from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and carries the byline of Patrick Marley.

UPDATE:  Oh, this is embarrassing.  Aunt Mildred taught at Rockford College, which is in Rockford, IL, just across the border.  I wonder how I got this wrong?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Staying Cool in the Heat

Our City Manager here in Lowell, Professor Bernie Lynch, offers some advice on staying cool in these hot days, including for Seniors.

Regards  —  Cliff

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I sure hope Chicago has some form of "School Choice", given this statement:
“Mary Ann, let me break the news to you.  My children are not in a public position,” he said, curtly.  “I am.   You’re asking me a value statement and not a policy.  … No, no, you have to appreciate this.  My children are not an instrument of me being mayor.   My children are my children, and that may be news to you, and that may be new to you, Mary Ann, but you have to understand that I’m making this decision as a father.”
So, does he or doesn't he?

Incidentally, that would be Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.

It was all reported by TV Reporter Mary Ann Ahern, of WMAQ Channel 5 in Chicago.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Shuttle is Back

The Space Shuttle ATLANTIS is back, safe and sound, and this phase of our exploration of space is over.  The Chinese gave us rockets, a long time ago.  The Germans gave us the tools to go to space, in their A-4 (V-2) program.  The Soviets were the first in space, Sputnik.  We Americans were the first to the Moon.  Many nations joined in the International Space Station.  But, with the return of ATLANTIS our ability to put someone in space is now zero, and our plan to rebuild that capability is in limbo.

You may ask, so what?  One so what is that some other nation, like China, may be the first back to the Moon.  A friend of mine, someone who is a student of China (The People's Republic of China or the PRC), made these comments, which he agreed I could share:
The psychological impact of China's landing a man on the Moon will be enormous in three audiences:
  1. In China.  It will show that they have truly achieved what the CCP has implicitly sought, to move China back to center stage. The past 200 years or so will be shown to be an aberration, and it will be the Chinese Communist Party that will have righted that wrong.
  2. The rest of the world.  American exceptionalism, often pooh-poohed here, is something very real.  There is a reason why people CHOOSE to emigrate here.  Should the PRC be able to put a man on the Moon while the US is still years away from being able to do so, we can assuage ourselves w/ the litany of "we did it decades ago," but there will be the perception, per bin Laden, of who is the winning horse and who is the losing horse.
  3. The United States.  Some people think the Chinese will land at Tranquility Base, roll up the US flag, and plant the Chinese flag.  Would that they did! But they're hardly likely to be so provocative. And what will that end of American exceptionalism do here? What will be the impact on the American President who "lost" the Moon, or on the constant refrain, "we put a man on the Moon, why can't we solve X"? I suspect it will raise real doubts, in a way that not even Sputnik did.  (And we now have the new history of the space race which argues that Ike wanted the Soviets to fly Sputnik first, to avoid all those annoying legal issues of overflight rights.)
It will be a rather different world, the morning after.  And it will be in the mind, not the physicality, that it will be different.
The United States doesn't have to lead the world.  The problem is, our own view of freedom and the rights and responsibilities of citizens is not the same as the views of all other nations. Our view is preserved by our system of checks and balances, but also by the fact that others, with a few exceptions, are willing to let us peacefully go about our business.  If we begin to appear weak, we will find that others will not respect us and that eventually they will try to push us around.  History is filled with examples.

Peaceful competition in space is better than military competition here on earth.  Let us get back in the space race.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The author of the remarks is Dean Cheng, who recently served as CNA Corporation’s Senior Asia Analyst.  He now is a Research Fellow on Chinese military and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

TMI in Police Hands?

Over at The Boston Herald is an article about Lawyer Harvey Silvergate saying that creating a central database of scanned license plates (with times and locations) is putting "too much information" in the hand of a government agency.  See, there is a reason to support the ACLU, notwithstanding the stupid calls it sometimes makes.

Look at the Bill of Rights.  Is it not about the fear our forefathers had for the power of Government and prosecutors in particular?

Regards  —  Cliff

Traffic Advisory for Northern Virginia

My youngest Brother sent this along:
Alert from Fairfax County - Civil War Re-enactment

The four-day observance of the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas [First Battle of Bull Run for all us "Yankees"] begins Thursday morning, July 21, at the Manassas National Battlefield Park.

Although the event takes place in Prince William County, thousands of actors are expected to participate in the reenactment as well as countless visitors in attendance.

Drivers in the area of Lee Highway/Route 29, Sudley Road/Route 234 and throughout Manassas National Battlefield Park area can expect major congestion and delays due to the event and are encouraged to avoid the area if possible. Those driving in these areas need to drive with care, follow police direction and remain alert for pedestrians traversing and crossing roadways.

It is also anticipated that the observance may cause traffic related back-ups and delays in Fairfax County along portions of Lee Highway, Lee Jackson Highway and I-66.

Please allow plenty of time if traveling to or near the observance.

More information on the event can be found online at [this URL].
I am hoping it starts AFTER the morning rush hour.  If Fairfax County expects problems, Prince William County will have even more problems and so will all the folks who live out the I-66 Freeway.

On the other hand, to reenact the First Battle of Manassas 150 years on is a wonderful thing and may well help school age children and adults better understand what a terrible and important thing the US Civil War was.

And, in a way, this traffic jam will be part of the reenactment, since many civilians went out from Washington in their carriages to see the first battle, only to flee back as it didn't go well for the Union.

Also, a balloon was used by the Union to observe Confederate dispositions post battle, which is another story.

Regards  —  Cliff

Using Computers

I am making reservations on Jet Blue for a trip to DC and back.  I am using their (Jet Blue's) rental car lashup, Hertz.  The irritation is that Hertz can't accept my phone number with the bow-legs and the dash.  Is their software that bad, their programmers that weak, that they can't take it one of several different ways?  Why am I, the customer, being forced to fit a specific mold when the software, properly written, can do the work?

And, it is Hertz and not Jet Blue that is causing this problem.

Just asking?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Debt Numbers

This is just me, but I would like for politicians and news analysts to not talk in terms of trillions of the dollars that will be taxed, cut or otherwise spindled or mutilated in the out years.  Rather, I would like them to give me three quick shots; numbers in terms of what is happening in 2011 dollars (this year), in 2012 dollars (next year, or next fiscal year, which begins 1 October of 2011) and then the ten year projections.  The use of "trillions" is just meant to obscure what is being done at the coal face.  It is basically maskirovka, and thus meant to mislead the average voter.  In two words, somewhat dishonest.

Regards  —  Cliff

Censorship at CERN?

Over at Pajamas Media Tatler is a question about scientific integrity.  They don't quite call it that, but that is what it seems to be.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Clilff

Debt per John Adams

A friend of mine sent this along.
There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation.  One is by the sword. The other is by debt.
President John Adams
I think this is a good point.  President John Adams may have drawn this conclusion from the French Revolution.  In fighting the British, which including helping us in our own fight for freedom and independence, France ran up a big debt.  It all started to unravel from there, as the French King had to convene the Estates-General in May of 1789, to raise additional revenue with which to carry on.  It was all down hill from there.  Over at UMass Lowell one of the Professors has a test question—When did the French Revolution End.  I suspect with a little effort one could argue that it has yet to end.

Regards  —  Cliff

Asking Questions

A long time ago I learned that one should never ask a question to which one did not know the answer.  The other thing I learned, via our British Cousins, was that the first question doesn't count—it is the Supplemental Question that should hold the zinger.  Just listen to Prime Minister's Question Time some evening.

So, this brings us to MSNBC's Contessa Brewer, noted here.

Ms Brewer was interviewing Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL).  Already you know he is not someone to have sound opinions on things, being a Republican, from Alabama, and you have never heard of him.

Ms Brewer noted that "if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the country would be "reverting into a depression."  The Congressman disagreed.

Ms Brewer responded by asking him if he had a degree in economics.  Ever polite, Rep Brooks responded:
"Yes ma'am, I do. Highest honors".
It is worse.  His Mother taught econ to high school students (his Father was an Electrical Engineer).  Rep Brooks graduated from Duke with a double major, one of which was economics, and he did it in three years.  The 'gene is here.

Frustrated with Congress to the degree that I am, I still have to give it the edge over the MSM.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Map of the Recession

One of my long time friends sent me this link, which is a month by month mapping of the recession across the United States.  The conclusion is Nebraska is the state to live in for low unemployment.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Borders are Falling

Well, the book store.  A couple of folks have posted on this and when historian and sometime Mayor Matt Matthews, out in a small town in Kansas, posted the news on his Facebook Page I posted a comment.  First, someone wrote:
So I can drive 30 miles to Borders to look through their slim history section and not find anything? Or I can order on-line and get the books I want delivered to my house cheaper than the gas to drive. Hmm....
Then I wrote:
Ah...I think that is right.  Order on line.  And, it is sad in a way.  Shouldn't there be some social contact at the local book store?  But, all three of them are at least 30 minutes away and two are in another state.  Our local bookstore folded, but we are told a new proprietor will emerge soon.  That was a week ago.  I miss the walking and browsing and the taking my time.  Fortunately there is still Barnes and Noble.  And, if there is a real market, someone will fill it.
Regards  —  Cliff

Move Lowell Forward Open Meeting

MLF PAC Open Meeting and Membership Drive
Thursday, 21 July, at 7:00 PM
Lowell Art and Design Center
256 Market St, Lowell
(Across from the Brush Gallery)

Please join us.  We will be having free snacks.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lebanon Never Sleeps

I missed this:
A U.N. Special Tribunal has indicted four Hiz'B'Allah members in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  Nasrallah had desperately tried to prevent this from happening.  That’s because the indictment rips the veneer off Hiz'B'Allah's claim to work only for the protection of Lebanon.  Most Lebanese know his militia was created by Iran, armed by Tehran and Damascus, and worked at the behest of the Iranian and Syrian regimes.  Hariri’s killers sought to protect Syrian control of Lebanon by eliminating its most effective critic.
I picked this up at the blog site of Great Satan's Girlfriend.  For sure, Hizballah has been fighting this for some time.  Of course Lebanon is a nation with several civil wars going at any one time and the late Rafik Hariri represented one of the factions.  Then there are the outside players, including Syria and Israel.

The next blog post down at the Great Satan's Girlfriend is a derision of the 2011 National Military Strategy.

I do have some sympathy for the writers of an UNCLASSIFIED National Military Strategy.  In my mind, strategy should tend to be secret, at the military level.  Not so much so a National Security Strategy, but even so, the Famous George Kennan "Mr X" paper, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct", published in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs, was classified when it came out of the National Security Council as NSC 68.

Folks will try to tell you that strategy is matching "Ends, Way and Means".  That is too simple.  A better version would be "Strategy is matching objectives, threats and opportunities in the light of risk in a resource constrained environment".  Resources do matter and taking advantage of opportunities is important, but having the right objectives (Ends in the "classic" formulation) is also very important.  And, there has to be a threat—a threat properly evaluated.

Regards  —  Cliff

If Only...

I count on Former Harvard President Larry Summers for a lot of material.  This I cribbed from the blog of Harvard Econ Professor Greg Mankiw.  President Summers:
Never forget, never forget, and I think it’s very important for Democrats especially to remember this, that if Hitler had not come along, Franklin Roosevelt would have left office in 1941 with an unemployment rate in excess of 15 percent and an economic recovery strategy that had basically failed.
It is an interesting thought, but then if there had not been Herr Hitler, would Il Duce have loomed larger in our lives and perhaps have sparked a European War that would have led to the outcome we had?

Alternative history can be fun, but if played truthfully, can begin to go in many weird directions all at once.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lost in Space

Under the title "Heavy Lift Limbo" Space Reporter Jeff Foust Monday told us that our space program is not moving forward, at least in public.  Here is the lede:
The situation involving the Space Launch System (SLS)—the heavy-lift launch vehicle Congress directed NASA to develop in last year’s NASA authorization act—is curious, to say the least.  In the eyes of supporters of the SLS, particularly on Capitol Hill, NASA has been dragging its heels on making a formal decision for months, raising the ire of some members, who have even threatened subpoenas and investigations for the delay.  And yet, there’s little doubt about exactly what that design, a not-so-distant relative of the now-cancelled Ares 5, will be—the only question is when exactly that design will become official.
As you read the original article you will see that the US Congress, the ones with the checkbook (at least so far with the checkbook) are a little frustrated.

He ends with:
...the future of a heavy-lift rocket proposed by Congress and accepted by NASA last year is still far from certain.
I was young when we started going into space.  The Soviet Union launched Sputnik and late on 31 January 1958 we put the thirty pound EXPLORER 1 into orbit.  On 20 July 1969, about 11 and 1/2 years later, we had Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon.  Now the last shuttle mission has been launched and I don't have much hope of the United States putting someone back into space on a US government or private launch vehicle in my lifetime.  It makes me sad.

As a side note, the original US entry for space launch during the International Geophysical Year (1957/58), Project VANGUARD, was a spectacular failure its first time out.  After two successful Sputnik launches, the first VANGUARD blew up on the launch pad, on television.  However, after the successful launch of the US EXPLORER 1, the VANGUARD system managed to put a three pound satellite in orbit 17 March 1958.  Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev dismissed it as, "The grapefruit satellite."  To its credit, while those first satellites have decayed and fallen back to earth, VANGUARD 1 is still in orbit, and expected to be there for quote some time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 18, 2011

UMass Lowell Continuing Education Options

I just fired an EMail off to my State Senator and my State Representative, asking about the erosion of one of the benefits seniors have at UMass Lowell.  As it stands now, those 60 and over may take Continuing Education course for $30 plus the books, as long as the course is being taught in a classroom and there is room.

This is a great deal for Seniors, especially married seniors who want to both test their brains and also do something together.  Martha and I have been doing this for several years and greatly enjoy it.

The fly in the ointment is that this only applies to courses in the classroom.  If the course is "online" it is full freight.  For undergraduate courses that is $355 per credit hour or $1,515 for your typical 3 credit hour course.  A big difference.

For the last several years the balance has been shifting from almost all courses in a classroom to more and more courses online.  Thus, the options for classes has been diminishing.  Take English.  There are six classes in a classroom and 22 listed as "Online Course".  History is four in the classroom and eight online.  Languages (French and Spanish) are all "Online Courses".  On the other hand, Mathematics is 22 in the classroom and four online.

I am not against online education.  I think it is great.  I would just like to see the benefit of $30 classes extended to online courses.

We will see what we hear from our legislators.

If anyone is interested, I will conduct a pool on when we get responses.

Regards  —  Cliff

Don't Let The Votes Confuse You

Here is a blog post at Weasel Zippers, via Instapundit, about how in 2006 AD all the US Senators who were members of the Democratic Party voted AGAINST raising the debt limit.

Of course they did.  In 2006 the Republicans were in firm control of the US Senate, although not with enough votes to override a Presidential Veto.  The Democratic Party and the Democratic Party Senators on Capitol Hill looked down on President Bush and viewed him as a mere shrub.  Their vote against raising the debt ceiling, including the votes of Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Dodd (D-CN), Biden (D-DE) and Clinton (D-NY), were just protest votes.  The Republicans, by themselves, had the votes to pass the increase in the debt ceiling.  If it had been a real contest and ten Republican had voted Nay, then some Democrats would have had to "break ranks" and vote Yea.

This year is different.  This year the Democrats in the US Senate have the votes to pass the increase in the debt ceiling.  They even have the "tie breaking" vote, President of the Senate Joseph Biden.  However, they don't have the votes in the House of Representatives, so thus they have to cut a deal.  Apparently they don't know how.

Over at Keith Hennessey's Blog we have one man's breakdown of the factions at work.  I am not sure of all the dealing myself, but this seems reasonable.

I also suspect that the clock is ticking and only when it gets close to 2 August will the various factions cut a deal—and Washington being Washington, the clerks on Capital Hill will be tweaking the wording of the legislation after the Congress has voted and maybe after the President has signed.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is both an embarrassment and a step down the road to strong man government.  To characterize it, worse that Senator Mitch McConnell's suggestion to give the President power to raise the debt ceiling at will, subject to a legislative veto, but not much worse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One is reminded of Senator Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it."

Sunday, July 17, 2011


An old expression is you can pick your friends, but not your relatives.  On this small blue marble, there really is not a lot of choice regarding friends.

Our Government is often criticized for the nations with which we maintain diplomatic relations.  An example is Libya.  It has been an on and off again thing, going back to King Idris in the 1950s, after Libya became independent of Italy.  Now we are helping rebels overthrow the man who overthrew King Idris.

Here is a comment by Reporter Michael Yon that puts diplomacy, and our relationship with Libya, in perspective:
In about 2006, I met with Deputy Sec State Paula DeSutter in her big office in Washington.  We must have talked for a couple of hours about Libya.  She and others were apparently key in the 'warming' of relations with Libya.  The biggest part of our conversation revolved around things like mustard gas in Libya.  We wanted him to give it up, and also in the post 9/11 days when Bush had credibility that he'd use the military, Qaddafi saw that threatening us was a bad idea.  I didn't walk away from the conversation with the idea that relations were really warm, but that we were trading chips and being pragmatic, as was Qaddafi.
Diplomacy may be garden parties and black tie dinners, but behind all that surface glitz it is about "trading chips and being pragmatic".  And a lot of pragmatic exchange of information and agreements.  Asset forfiture in criminal cases, for example, doesn't happen just in the Department of Justice offices in Washington, DC.  Crime is becoming transnational and thus asset forfiture also happens because of actions in US Embassies and Consulates overseas.  Another example is the Agricultural Attaché who helps arrange the buying and selling of agricultural products and their clearance across borders.

And military power helps support diplomatic activity.  It is unlikely Libya would have given up its nuclear weapons program without US Military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our Diplomats represent us well overseas.  I know some of them and am proud of them.  Are there some who are just there for the parties?  I am sure there are, but the vast majority are hardworking and insightful.

And, it is an interesting career field.  I know one person who went from being an IBM sales representative in Texas to important posts as a Junior Foreign Service Officer in the Middle East and Latin America.  Then she was sent to attend one of the US Military's Senior Service Schools, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF).  She has been having a very interesting and challenging career.  And, has married and raised a family along the way.

Regards  —  Cliff

Political Parties For Everything

Here is a Swiss Political Party for the abolition of Microsoft Powerpoint.
Switzerland's Anti-PowerPoint Party (APPP) thinks so. The group was formed to "influence the public to put a stop to the phenomenon of idle time in the economy, industry, research, and educational institutions," according to its website, and identifies PowerPoint presentations as the chief culprit.
The source is Business Insider.

Another source for information on the APPP is CNET, here.

If you have every been through a really bad PowerPoint briefing (death by PowerPoint) you can understand the sentiment.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Use of Drones to Attack

Campaigners seek arrest of former CIA legal chief over Pakistan drone attacks
UK human rights lawyer leads bid to have John Rizzo arrested over claims he approved attacks that killed hundreds of people
So reads the headline in the Manchester Guardian on Friday.

This is British Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith stirring up these troubles.  The Guardian Calls Mr Stafford Smith a "human rights" lawyer, but then that raises the question of whose human rights he is trying to protect.  He has worked on the rights of people detained at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for being terrorists or for being unprivileged combatants against US forces in Afghanistan.  Now he is working on behalf of those who would wage terrorism against the United States and its People, but who apparently object to they themselves being attacked in an asymmetrical fashion via drones.

The Guardian article concludes with this paragraph:
The use of drones has been sharply criticised both by Pakistani officials as well as international investigators including the UN's special rapporteur Philip Alston who demanded in late 2009 that the US demonstrate that it was not simply running a programme with no accountability that is killing innocent people.
(Shouldn't there be a comma before who?) First off, if Pakistan really objected to the drone attacks, they could demand that the US not give it some $2 Billion a year.  Thus, the protests of Pakistani officials rings hollow.  As for Mr Philip Alston, there is the question of who is innocent.  If your husband is knowing harboring people engaged in terrorism, and you know they are engaged in terrorism, are you innocent?

Where this is really taking us is that people like former CIA top lawyer John Rizzo may no longer feel free to vacation in Europe (or elsewhere abroad), for fear of being arrested and tried because someone has brought them to the attention of some authority that is hostile to the way the US does business.

One the one hand, this may be the case of a zealous human rights lawyer.  On the other hand, it may be the case of a zealous practitioner of Lawfare.  Then what do you do?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 15, 2011

THAT Was Embarrassing

I totally forgot that Thursday was Bastille Day.  Happy Bastille Day all my French readers.

And my apologies to Sarko and the rest of the French Government.

And, we do owe the French for our victory at Yorktown, in our own Revolution.  Their support was in their supposed self-interest, although it cost them money and helped lead to the French Revolution.  A military operation costing money?  There may be a lesson there.

But, anyway, thanks.

Regards  —  Cliff

Afghanistan Without Sex

At least if you are in the Canadian Forces, as this article in The Toronto Sun tells us.
The disgraced former commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan will stand trial next week for allegedly having a sexual affair with a subordinate while stationed in the war-torn country.
It is against the rules while "in country" (in theater).  Even if it is your spouse.

Hat tip to Michael Yon.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Social Security is Bankrupt?

The idea that Social Security is Bankrupt today is one way to look at President Obama's threat that Social Security Checks might not go out on 3 August, if the Debt Ceiling is not raised.  That is the take of an editorial in Investor's Business Daily.  In the interest of full disclosure, both my wife and I are on Social Security.

A lot of doomsday Republicans have been saying that Social Security would be going broke some time in the future.  Democrats have been dismissing that as just scare tactics and that Social Security was sound as a dollar.  As recently as February of this year CNBC was telling us that it isn't until 2017 that Social Security is expected to be paying out more than it is receiving.  A little over a year ago, while celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Social Security, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "blasted Republicans for trying to privatize the fund", according to The Hill.
At an event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted Republicans for trying to privatize the fund, saying the change would have resulted in the trust fund incurring a massive loss because of the recent downturn in the stock market.

“Just five years ago, President Bush and his Republican allies pushed a risky plan to privatize and cut Social Security,” she said. “If they had succeeded, seniors would have lost trillions more in the financial crisis. At the time, Democrats and the American people said ‘no.’ And no one lost a penny in Social Security, even as America’s households lost more than $17 trillion in wealth.”
And now it looks like Social Security has run out of money in 2011 and a partial privatization might have been a good hedge against the vagaries of the Federal Budget Crisis.

Maybe the President didn't really mean what he said and the checks are going to go out regardless, because the money is coming out of the Social Security Trust Fund.

I think we are still watching Debt Limit Kubuki.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Down Town Lowell

I am late to blogging this, but it needs to be done.  Our bookstore on Merrimack Street (a Barnes and Noble) has shut down.  Their contract with UMass was not renewed.

What comes next?  I have a couple of phone calls into the University.

In the mean time, I am concerned about what this means for our City's downtown.  Henry's calls to City Life in the morning show that he too is concerned—notwithstanding his being unwilling to give George Anthes, Esq, credit for going to Mass at the Immaculate.  Someone else suggested to me a couple of businesses are just hanging on through the Folk Festival.  I sure hope that is not the case.

There is variety in Downtown Lowell.  But, no Pottery Barn or Williams Sonoma.  Alas.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pakistan:  Another View

This AM I blogged on Pakistan here.

But, Pundita did a more thorough job at this blog post, under the title "He ain't heavy, he's my genocidal, hallucinatory, two-faced 'ally'".

Hat tip to the Chicago Boyz.

Regards  —  Cliff

Democracy Dripping Away

Over at Talking Points Memo is a report that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is proposing to allow the President to raise the debt limit on his own, after notification of Congress.  Sort of a Fiscal War Powers Resolution.

While this may make good tactical sense, it is bad strategy.  In the long run this is the job of the US Congress.  The more the Congress skips its own responsibilities, the more we inch away from representative government and inch toward tyranny.  Not today, or next year or next decade, but eventually.

Hat tip to the Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pakistan to Pitch Out of the Fight?

That is the gist of the headline at Drudge mid-morning.  He linked to this item.

This is, of course, in response to the US saying it might withhold some $800 million out of $2 billion in military aid.  That, in turn, is a response to the Government of Pakistan cutting our training programs in Pakistan and our footprint on the ground there.  That, in turn was in response...

My first response would be to move closer to India, the real democracy in the region.  Yes, India can be cranky from time to time, and wants to go it's own way once in a while, but at least it isn't like living with New Hampshire.

I would also mention to the Pakstani Government that we still stand by one of those Bush Doctines.  I am not sure that was the particular one TV Reporter Charles Gibson had in mind, but who knows?

I am not a "Pakistani Hand", but common sense suggests that the Government of Pakistan sees seismic shifts coming to the region in the near future (and what we may see as a 3.6 on the Richter Scale they may feel as a 6.8).  Afghanistan is the center of the storm right now, but Pakistan, as an immediate neighbor feels the impact of shifts in governments and tribal fights. Afghanistan, in turn is a nation that has immediate and near neighbors that includes Pakistan, Iran, China, several 'Stans and India.

Surely as we withdraw from Afghanistan there will be changes and realignments, some of which we won't like.  I say we throw in with India as we move into the future.

Regards  —  Cliff

Key Assassination in Afghanistan

Reports are in that Ahmed Wali Karzai, Chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council and the younger half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, was assassinated today.  Both "STRATFOR" and the Financial Times are reporting this incident.  Quoting from the Financial Times:
One of his bodyguards shot him on Tuesday at his house, a heavily-fortified compound in Kandahar city, Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesperson for the governor of Kandahar province said.

“A guard of Ahmed Wali Karzai named Sardar Mohammad opened fire and killed him. The other guards shot and killed Sardar Mohammad,” Mr Ayoubi said. The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear.
Afghanistan is a tough neighborhood.

Ms Lyse Doucet, of the BBC, said:
There's an old Afghan saying "whoever controls Kandahar, controls Afghanistan". Ahmad Wali Karzai was the lynchpin in so many areas, his death now leaves a dangerous vaccum.
As a side note, Mr Karzai used to work in a restaurant near Wrigley Field, in Chicago, IL.  Maybe he learned his approach to politics there.

Regards  —   Cliff

PS:  This article brings up an interesting question for me.  The URL for the Financial Times article itself is:


However, when I copied out a portion of the article to peek your interest and perhaps get you to read more, they (the Financial Times) asked me to use this URL:


They are the same up until the hash mark (#).  Is the information past the hash mark used to track information in some way?

I have sent them an EMail.

China A World Power

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has declared that China is now a world power.  As reported by CNN he made those remarks Sunday while visiting Beijing, China.

Here is a commentary on those remarks by someone with some experience in Asia:
Some may disagree with the Chairman, either as a statement of fact or just with the idea that he would make such a statement.  Some may view this as the US abdicating its role as the global super power and some kind of admission of weakness.  It will be interesting to see if the pundits pan this statement.

However, I think if used correctly this statement can make an effective contribution to support diplomatic efforts.  China has long called itself a developing country and used this as an excuse to not act.  It wants all the respect of a global power (and overcome the 100 years of humiliation) yet it does not want the responsibility and hides behind the developing nation moniker.  I think the Chairman is calling China on its "hide and bide strategy" (hide one's capability and bide one's time and endeavor to achieve something).  He is attacking their strategy (as Sun Tzu would have us do) and in effect saying it is now time for China to "put up or shut up" and act responsibly as a global power.
As the spotlight shifts from Europe to Asia we will wish for China to become a more responsible partner in solving problems of mutual interest.  That we recognize AND China recognizes that they are a full player is important to smooth relationships in the future.  Issues, such as what is the nature of the South China Sea will need full partnership.  Claims to the resources in the South China Sea are causing tensions amongst the various nations bordering on the South China Sea.  Remember, we have a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Republic of the Philippines.  This Pact was recently reaffirmed by Secretary of State Clinton.

For too long we have looked East across the Atlantic.  In this Century we need to also look West across the Pacific.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I know about this Treaty because for a year I was the Assistant Deputy Commander for Operations at Thirteenth Air Force, at Clark Air Base, in the Philippines.  I attended one meeting of the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Board and for that meeting in Manila I had to buy an Air Force "White" uniform, a uniform I never wore again.

Working For A Boss

I found this quote in the 11/18 July 2011 issue of The New Yorker (Page 56, Column 3).  It is from former Harvard President Larry Summers and it is about a Ms Sheryl Sandberg:
If I was making a mistake, she told me.  She was totally loyal, but totally in my face.
Sounds like a wonderful subordinate.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Incidentally, the photo in the article in The New Yorker is much more flattering than the one at Wikipedia.  Kudos to Photographer Michele Asselin.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Andy Marshall

I always wonder about articles that start out "deep in the bowels of the Pentagon".  The phrase conveys, to me, the deep underground areas of the Pentagon, like where you go to find the Army's Map Storage, where you can find all sorts of maps.  Or, the Army's Operations Center, where Defense Support of Civil Authorities is conducted.

But to say
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pentagon — perhaps while you are reading this — Andrew Marshall is working.
misses the point that the Office of Net Assessment, the office of Andrew Marshall, is on the third or fourth floor and off the A Ring.  But, the Daily Caller article on Dr Marshall provides a nice quick introduction.

Andy Marshall has been not just a thinker, but also a mentor who has raised up a lot of thinkers on issues of national security.  In that way he has been like a Professor of National Security and Strategic Thinking.

A nice article about someone who is not only very bright, but also a very nice man.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tax Hikes

There seems to be word on the street that the White House is demanding big tax hikes from the Republicans as part of a budget deal.

I would like to put my case for increased taxes.  Let us increase the number of taxpayers.

As we know, the percentage of taxes paid by the top 1% and top 10% of taxpayers has been going up for the last two decades.  For those in the 25% to 50% grouping paying taxes the percentage paid has been going down.  At some level that is OK with me.  The outcome is that the top 10% of taxpayers pay about 70% of the taxes.  Given that we have a progressive income tax, that may not be unfair.

What I am worried about is that about half the potential taxpayers don't.  I would think that for our system to work, near everyone who votes should be paying some visible tax, even if it is just 1% or even 0.1% of income.  If you make $20,000 pa, could you not pay a tax of $200 or even $20 every year? That way you are a full participant in a system that decides how much money will be spent and in which ways.

One of the reasons I am strongly against a VAT (Value Added Tax) is its invisibility.  The value added tax too easily recedes into the background of the economic noise and people soon don't "feel it" the way they do paying their income tax by the 15 April deadline after filling out the appropriate paperwork.

I am not for dropping the Earned Income Tax Credit.  While it is extra paperwork for the taxpayer, the fact that they see at the bottom of their 1098 that they have paid an income tax to Uncle Sam is what I am looking for.  Such a move will not bring in a lot of money, but it will cause the 535 folks on Capitol Hill (536 including the VP) to think about the fact that even more voters now see themselves as taxpayers and that those new taxpayers will see the folks on Capitol Hill as guardians of their (the taxpayer's) money.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 9, 2011

South Sudan Independence Day

Here is an article from the International Herald Tribune on South Sudan gaining its independence from the regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, an indicted war criminal.

In the linked-to article, at least when I viewed it, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, is shown, wearing a black cowboy hat.  Where do you think he got that chapeau?

Regards  —  Cliff

Betty Ford RIP

The widow of Former President Gerald R Ford has passed away at Eisenhower Medical Center, in Palm Springs, at the age of 93.

My very thin connection is that my Mother used to be an RN at the Eisenhower Medical Center, back at the time Mrs Ford was serving as First Lady.

The linked article noted her support to her Husband, who served as our National Leader during a difficult time, what with the resignation in disgrace of President Richard Nixon.  Thank you, Gerald and Betty Ford.

Hat tip to the Althouse Blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 8, 2011

Unemployment Stats For June

Here are the Employment Statistics from the Federal Government. They mostly speak for themselves:
Nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in June (+18,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in most major private-sector industries changed little over the month. Government employment continued to trend down.

Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons (14.1 million) and the unemployment rate (9.2 percent) were essentially unchanged over the month. Since March, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 545,000, and the unemployment rate has risen by 0.4 percentage point. The labor force, at 153.4 million, changed little over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (9.1 percent), adult women (8.0 percent), teenagers (24.5 percent), whites (8.1 percent), blacks (16.2 percent), and Hispanics (11.6 percent) showed little or no change in June. The jobless rate for Asians was 6.8 percent, not seasonally adjusted.

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in June (+18,000). Following gains averaging 215,000 per month from February through April, employment has been essentially flat for the past 2 months. Employment in most major private-sector industries changed little in June, while government employment continued to trend down.

Health care employment continued to trend up in June (+14,000), with the largest gain in ambulatory health care services. Over the prior 12 months, health care had added an average of 24,000 jobs per month.

In June, employment in mining rose by 8,000, with most of the gain occurring in support activities for mining. Employment in mining has increased by 128,000 since a recent low in October 2009.

Employment in leisure and hospitality edged up (+34,000) in June and has grown by 279,000 since a recent low in January 2010.

Employment in government continued to trend down over the month (-39,000). Federal employment declined by 14,000 in June. Employment in both state government and local government continued to trend down over the month and has been falling since the second half of 2008.

Manufacturing employment changed little in June. Following gains totaling 164,000 between November 2010 and April 2011, employment in this industry has been flat for the past 2 months. In June, job gains in fabricated metal products (+8,000) were partially offset by a loss in wood products (-5,000).

Construction employment was essentially unchanged in June. After having fallen sharply during the 2007-09 period, employment in construction has shown little movement on net since early 2010.
A friend of mine, who is a "micro" businessman, says increasing Federal Regulations is one thing standing in the way of the recovery.

We can expect Stats for July to be released on Friday, 5 August 2011, at 0830 (EDT).

Regards  —  Cliff

Live Free But Give Up Your Camera

Has it always been this way and we are just now growing aware?  In "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire a local Judge banned cameras from the courthouse after someone had the temerity to ask him a question on the stairs to the second floor, and record the conversation. This incident not only resulted in a false arrest, but in the Judge issuing new rules for "his" courthouse.
No cameras or audio equipment may be used at any time in the court's lobby or anywhere in the public area of the court's leased premises.
I think it is time to consider Impeachment of said Judge.

The Instapundit, a law professor added this comment to his link to the story:
I just reread The Godfather, which I had previously read back in college.  It’s easier for me to understand Don Corleone’s contempt for constituted authority now than it was then.

Regards  —  Cliff

Coal Sulfur Prevented Global Warming For 10 Years?

Down I-93 a piece, Researcher Robert K. Kaufmann of Boston University is proposing that the doubling of coal consumption in China has produced enough Sulfur Aerosols to cancel out the impact of Carbon Dioxide regarding warming surface temperatures.  The Researcher says:
Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008.  We find that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings.  Declining solar insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations.
This theory is brought to us by Future Pundit, at this location.  Note, however, that it is science and the current theory is always liable to challenge by some upstart scientist, or even an older one, grinding away in obscurity. 

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Endangerment While Keeping Us Safe

Driving home from the Post Office this morning I stopped to talk with one of the neighbors, who was concerned about overreaching by OSHA—Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  I fear he is correct in his assertions.

But, before we get to that, there is the issue of our new light bulbs, the ones which curl up like a pig's tail.  Over at her eponymous blog, SIMCHA FISHER takes on said light bulbs and lays the blame at the feet of former Vice President Al Gore.

I wonder how many other folks think the light throw by the new light bulbs is less than desirable?  In my mind, Ms Fisher plus my wife represents a majority.

This new light bulb is a blunder by the Federal Government and will lead to an underground economy in incadescent light bulbs.  An untaxed underground economy.

Factoid:  Ms Fisher lives in New Hampshire.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Justice Getting Done

This blog post on the Casey Marie Anthony Case sums up my view of the outcome.

That said, this is not a unanimous view in my household.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards —  Cliff

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Old Days

The old school WASPs weren't perfect, but, God, I miss their sense of discretion and decorum.
This in a long series of comments at the Althouse Blog, recording the political kurfuffle over at the Wisconson Supreme Court.  The commenter goes by the name JohnBoy.

How does this apply on Independence Day?  They were, mostly, WASPs.

Regards  —  Cliff