Thursday, September 29, 2011

Washington, DC

Nothing ever gets settled in this town.
Attributed to Secretary of State George P Schultz.  He continued:
A seething debating society in which the debate never stops, in which people never give up, including me.  And so that's the atmosphere in which you administer.
And it won't be improved by the suggestion of former Obama Administration Budget Director Peter Orszag, who said:
To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions.  In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.
I will translate that for you:
If you wish to see the Tea Parties grow, just give more control to the bureaucrats.
And, yes, I am putting North Carolina Govern Bev Perdue's comment in the joke category:
I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover.  I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.
This give rise to another quote:
Tain't funny McGee.
And, it's not.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For a little color, the comment was made when he testified at the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987.  My source remembered "watching him say it, and seeing the weariness and sigh that he had on his face when he did say it."

"White Democrats...Overperformed..."

Over at the blog of Law Professor Ann Althouse we have this critique of Political Science Professor Melissa Harris-Perry's article in The Nation, where Professor Harris-Perry says:
Not only did white Democratic voters prove willing to support a black candidate [in 2004]; they overperformed in their repudiation of naked electoral racism, electing Obama with a higher percentage of white votes than either Kerry or Gore earned.
Then Professor Harris-Perry goes on to postulate new forms of racism on the part of White Democrats.  One can only imagine what she thinks of the rest of us.

The critique by Ms Althouse make interesting reading.

I would add a question.  Is Ms Harris-Perry is so young she forgets the sign in the War Room of the Clinton Campaign in 1992—"It's the Economy, Stupid".  Corporal Cue Ball was no dummy then and is no dummy now and thus his current apparent lack of enthusiasm for President Obama.

Regards  —  Cliff


As in not causation.  I am thinking it is just correlation.  "Gun crime continues to decrease, despite increase in gun sales".  That is the report from The Daily Caller.
The FBI recently released its Crime in The United States statistics for 2010.  Overall, murders in the U.S. have decreased steadily since 2006, dropping from 15,087 to 12,996.  Firearms murders — which made up 67 percent of all murders in the U.S. in 2010 — have followed this trend, decreasing by 14 percent.

At the same time that firearms murders were dropping, gun sales were surging.  In 2009, FBI background checks for guns increased by 30 percent over the previous year, while firearms sales in large retail outlets increased by almost 40 percent.  The number of applications for concealed carry permits jumped across the country as well.
OK, I did the math and 14% of 15,087 is 2112, which taken from 15,087, is 12,975.  That is pretty close to 12,996.

So, the conclusion is that notwithstanding an increase in the number of guns in the US, gun crime is going down. Thus, there seems to be no current correlation between the number of gun owners and crime, unless one wishes to argue that there is causation—that the more folks who own guns the less folks are willing to use guns in the commission of crimes.  I would not so argue.  I am closer to Herman Cain's position.

Then there is this:
The top three states for gun murders in 2010 were, in order, California, Texas and New York. While Texas has lax gun control laws, California and New York are among the strictest gun-control states in the country.
What do we make of that?

With regard to social statistics there is still a whole lot we don't understand.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Sign of the Beast

My Youngest Brother writes to ask (several of us):
Should we be worried that S. 1253, the Senate version of the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, is 666 pages long?

Are they totally culturally clueless on that side of the Capitol Building?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Constitution is the Rules; Politics is the Game"

Law Professor Ann Althouse
Richard Brookhiser speaks in one aphorism after another in this dialogue with Kathryn Jean Lopez about his new book about James Madison, "James Madison."
So many books, so little time.

As for the article in National Review, we have this exchange about the place of politics in our civic life, speaking to author Brookhiser's designation of President James Madison as the "father of politics":
LOPEZ:  Why is the “father of politics” more fitting?

BROOKHISER:  Equally fitting.  The Constitution is the rules; politics is the game.  The alternatives to organized political contention are anarchy or sheep-like passivity.
And that is the question for those who despise political parties.  What is the alternative scenario, or scenarios, you envision?

Regards  —  Cliff

Para-Military Groups in Mexico

This is a report from the Blog Borderlands Beat.  It provides a translation of a video released by the Mata Zeta organization. Babel Fish tells me that "mata" translates into "it kills".  So this is an organization opposed to the Zeta Cartel.

The background is ugly.
This is the latest evidence of the rising influence of paramilitary groups, as drug cartels increasingly resemble insurgent armies in response to the militarization of the drug war, and the role of drug cartels in society increasingly resembles that of a parallel state.

And maybe with this video communiqué we are beginning to see an attempt by a criminal organization to legitimize itself into a “movement”.

Is there a rising danger that militarized drug cartels will attempt to influence the outcome of Mexico’s 2012 presidential elections by targeting the civilian population with violence?

Only time will tell, but what does not bode well for Mexico is that what the attack on civilians in Monterrey’s Casino Royale that resulted in 52 deaths and the terrorizing of the people of Veracruz with this past week’s bloodbath or the murder of up to 200 innocent victims pulled from buses in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, tells us is that drug cartels have lost all respect for Mexican society.

In a video staged with spartan yet powerful theatrics the Mata Zetas/CJNG issued a new communiqué to the people of Veracruz, and more than likely a national audience.

An obviously educated and effective orator uses themes of patriotism, nationalism, morality, and respect for families and institutions to explain their role as protectors of the Mexican people.
You can read the statement itself at the link.

If this is of some interest, there is a Free 75 page booklet out of the Army's Strategic Studies Institute this month, that talks to Mexico's problem.
Until the 1980s, Mexico enjoyed relative freedom from violence. Ruthless drug cartels existed, but they usually abided by informal rules of conduct hammered out between several capos and representatives of the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled the country until the 1990s. Relying on bribes, the desperados pursued their illicit activities with the connivance of authorities. In return for the legal authorities turning a blind eye, drug dealers behaved discretely, shunned high-tech weapons, deferred to public figures, spurned kidnapping, and even appeared with governors at their children’s weddings. Unlike their Colombian counterparts, Mexico’s barons did not seek elective office. In addition, they did not sell drugs within the country, corrupt children, target innocent people, engage in kidnapping, or invade the turf or product-line (marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc.) of competitors. The situation was sufficiently fluid so that should a local police or military unit refuse to cooperate with a cartel, the latter would simply transfer its operations to a nearby municipality where they could clinch the desired arrangement. Three key events in the 1980s and 1990s changed the “live and let live” ethos that enveloped illegal activities. Mexico became the new avenue for Andean cocaine shipped to the United States after the U.S. military and law-enforcement authorities sharply reduced its flow into Florida and other South Atlantic states. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which took effect on January 1, 1994, greatly increased economic activities throughout the continent. Dealers often hid cocaine and other drugs among the merchandise that moved northward through Nuevo Laredo, El Paso, Tijuana, and other portals. The change in routes gave rise to Croesus-like profits for cocaine traffickers--a phenomenon that coincided with an upsurge of electoral victories. Largely unexamined amid this narco-mayhem are vigilante activities. With federal resources aimed at drug traffickers and local police more often a part of the problem than a part of the solution, vigilantes are stepping into the void. Suspected criminals who run afoul of these vigilantes endure the brunt of a skewed version of justice that enjoys a groundswell of support.
If anyone does not see the fact that the problems in Mexico are influenced by our own problems and actions here in the United States, they are not paying attention.

I will admit that one of the reasons I voted for George Bush (aside from his opponent being Al Gore) was that I had high hopes that he would begin to address the problems south of the border, so long ignored by other Presidents, distracted by this or that issue in foreign policy.  One of the reasons I have held a stubborn grudge against Osama bin Laden (in addition to his managing the murder of nearly 3,000 US and other citizens on 9/11) is that he distracted the nation from the important issues south of the border.

I will be looking to see what the Presidential Candidates have to say about Mexico and Latin American in general—and it isn't all about illegal immigration.

As I am sure the new PBS Ken Burns series on Prohibition will show, trafficking in illegal substances leads to corruption and corruption leads to not only abuse of law abiding citizens, but to mayhem and murder.  If poor peasants can make it across that border, so can the crime wave sweeping Mexico.  With things like Operation FAST AND FURIOUS, the deeply flawed ATF sting operation, the current Administration is showing doubtful ability to deal with what is going on at the border.  And, murdered Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, shot with a gun involved in the larger Project GUNRUNNER, is becoming a cause célèbre in certain circles in the US.

Regards  —  Cliff


A lot of people like to jump on the military about the plethora of acronyms, but I like to point out that the military picked up this nasty habit from baseball and the source of this contamination is Major General Abner Doubleday, who was at Fort Sumpter and fought at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He brought the contagion with him.  That said, here is a particularly viral form of the disease.

This chart is product of the war in Iraq, about two years ago.  Apparently an analyst in the TOC was bored one night and went to the on-line vocabulary list and came up with this assessment.  That is what analysts do.  They sort through reams of data to look for correlations and sometimes even causations.

Having put up this chart, I will note that acronyms are very helpful in shortening discussions of technical terms that can be quite long.  But, that means the talk is all "inside baseball".

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Signage

I like the edginess of this new sign up at the intersection of East Merrimack Street and Nesmith Avenue.  This is about the construction on the Hunts Falls Bridge, originally built in 1959 and now being rebuilt as part of our deficit reduction efforts.  This isn't the first post about this bridge.  See here for my posting about closures at night earlier in the year.  It is all part of a $12.1 million dollar effort to renovate three bridges here in Lowell.  And, it is taking on the appearance of a trip to our nearest neighboring solar system.

First, the background photo:
Now, the sign, which is the white square in the center right side of the previous photo:
Those of us who drive the road understand the feelings expressed by the sign maker.

Good on you.

And the hat tip goes to my neighbor, Marie.

Regards  —  Cliff

We Are In So Much Trouble

A theater professor, James Miller, over at the University of Wisconsin—Stout is in trouble, and thus so are we.  Our link comes from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
On September 12, 2011, Professor Miller posted on his office door an image of Nathan Fillion in Firefly and a line from an episode:  "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once:  If I ever kill you, you'll be awake.  You'll be facing me.  And you'll be armed."  On September 16, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter emailed Miller, notifying him that she had removed the poster and that "it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing."
She EMailed him?  You have to be kidding.  Important enough to rip down the poster but not important enough to stop by for a chat, maybe bringing in two coffees and a couple of donuts to make it a friendly gathering? 

The bureaucratic side of academia is out of control.

You don't think Marty could countenance such actions, would he?

Regards  —  Cliff

When the US Walks Away

The Seoul, Korea, based Korean Herald, an English language newspaper, has a piece on South Korean nuclear ambitions.  Here is a little insight into what we do and don't know about the nuclear programs of others:
Global Asia, a publication of the East Asia Foundation in Seoul, said the previously secret U.S. documents show that South Korea continued to develop nuclear weapons at least two years after Washington thought it had ceased during the 1970s.
And South Korea is an ally.

For me the nutgraf is here:
Chung, Global Asia’s editor-in-chief and a professor at Yonsei University, and Hayes, director of the Nautilus Institute and a member of Global Asia’s editorial board, claimed Seoul’s former nuclear ambition was “largely triggered by eroding or ambiguous security assurances from Washington.”
When the US umbrella is being pulled away you look for other ways to secure your sovereignty.  It is as simple as that.

As a counterbalance, the scholar who looked at this issue noted that
as demonstrated by the crisis in 1976 involving perceptions of a threat from North Korea, it was not nuclear deterrence but rather conventional deterrence that managed to contain the crisis by convincing the North that conventional weapons possessed by the U.S. and South Korea, not nuclear weapons, posed the greatest threat to the North.
I think that it was conventional forces, backed by a known nuclear capability.  The two work together.

So, as we consider withdrawing from this or that corner of the world we have to realize we are changing some basic structures and nations local to the area will re-prioritize, and that might include a desire for nuclear weapons.

There is no free lunch and once having ventured out into the world we have disturbed it and how it settles down as we wander home is something we need to think about.  As al Qaeda has shown us, there are some bad guys out there and they know where we life.

This is not to argue that we shouldn't pull back, but to make the point that we need to do such retrenchment intelligently and with hedges here and there to help keep the peace.  We aren't going to be able to pull back completely without some corresponding huge increase in our military expenditures, or our risk, one.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I picked that term up from something Michael Yon wrote over the weekend.

Scientific Humor

From my youngest son:
Bartender: "We don't serve neutrinos in here!"

A neutrino walks into a bar . . .

Did you hear the one about the faster than light neutrino?
Regards  —  Cliff

"There is always hierarchy"

And thus concludes a CNN news story on a series of studies that show a correlation between "high power/low status" and abuse of those with whom who such people come in contact.

The headline is "Study:  Power without status can lead to to rudeness, even abuse".  This makes sense to me in that I have seen a correlation between those comfortable in their power and their ability to accept the ideas of others, compared to those not comfortable in their power and being on a control binge.

I commend the article to you.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Death Penalty

Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse picks up on Ross Douthat's OpEd in today's edition of The New York Times, "Justice After Troy Davis".  I read the article in the "dead tree" version.

Ms Althouse picks the last para of the OpEd to quote:
Abolishing capital punishment in a kind of despair over its fallibility would send a very different message. It would tell the public that our laws and courts and juries are fundamentally incapable of delivering what most Americans consider genuine justice. It could encourage a more cynical and utilitarian view of why police forces and prisons exist, and what moral standards we should hold them to. And while it would put an end to wrongful executions, it might well lead to more overall injustice.
And, it is a reminder that every decision has secondary and tertiary consequences.  Collateral Damage is not limited to bombs.

The quote from Professor Althouse herself:
I've never understood why people who don't trust convictions agonize over the death penalty but blandly accept life imprisonment.
My thinking is that if folks were serious about ending the death penalty they would have taken on the hard case and not the one that appeared easier.  The same night Troy Davis was executed, out in Texas, Lawrence Brewer was executed for the heinous crime of dragging to death behind a vehicle a man based upon that man's race (he was Black).

And, Professor Althouse's point about life imprisonment is an important one.  Given our prisons, is life imprisonment a just response?  Flipping that around, is the European approach of releasing from prison murdering terrorists just, when they have been away for only 20 years or so?

My reason for being against the death penalty is that we should not be cutting short someone's opportunity to turn their life around and move toward eternal life.

Regards  —  Cliff

  My exception is for spies who have vital information that if available to an enemy could cause irreversible harm to our nation or its peoples.  In this case I care a heck of a lot more about the life of your Aunt Sadie (or her PFC Daughter in Afghanistan) than I do about some spy.  And I don't even know your Aunt Sadie or her daughter.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Your State University Doesn't Want You"

Headline on Slashdot.

At UMass Lowell Vets and those over 60 can take continuing ed classes for $30 per semester, plus the books.  There is an exception.  As our State Senator has confirmed to us, there is a "color of money" issue wherein "on line" courses go at full freight.  My wife and I have noticed that there are more and more courses going on line, well over half in some departments.  In essence, this privilege for those in their golden years (I can't yet write elderly) and Vets is going away.

Is it just bureaucratic mismanagement by the school administration?  Has the General Court of Massachusetts failed to turn its eyes to this issue?  Is there some other reason?

Over at Slashdot we have this blurb:
theodp writes
"According to a new survey of college admissions directors by Inside Higher Ed, the admissions strategy judged most important is the recruitment of more out-of-state and international students, who can pay significantly more at public institutions. Ten percent of those surveyed also reported admitting full-pay students with lower grades and test scores than other admitted applicants, and a majority of schools either use or plan to use controversial commission-paid agents to recruit foreign students (commission-based recruitment is barred in the U.S.). 'This isn't about globalization or increased educational diversity,' asserts USC's Jerome A. Lucido. 'They need the money.' So, should employees of a public university where the President's annual compensation exceeds $1 million receive a full state-funded pension for educating 16,000+ out-of-state students?"
Is it possible we have found the reason?

You betch'um!

It looks like the Administration is trying to make this benefit go away and go away without a lot of fuss.

How does this fit with the fact that half of University employees are now on the administrative side rather than the education side?

Regards  —  Cliff

  And, if they followed my advice and sunset each and every law every ten years and then brought them back at the lowest possible level of abstraction, then they would see these kinds of things.

Class Warfare and Taxes

I received an EMail from a reader who suggested I was over the top in my post on Elizabeth Warren and her statement about getting a chunk of the earnings of factories for Government.  This person then went on to say that Republicans are waging Class Warfare against the poor and middle classes, in response to my saying Ms Warren's statement sounded like Class Warfare.

Perhaps the reason I received an EMail instead of a "comment" was that I had accidently dropped comments from the Blog Posts.  I apologize.  And, since an apology without restitution is questionable, I have fixed the problem.  Comments are back.

But, back to Ms Elizabeth Warren, when I listened to her on the news show it sounded to me as though she was putting a lot of emotion into what she was saying and she conveyed that it was time to go to the factory gates and take "our fare share".  She may not have meant it to sound that way, but to my ear it did.  As I said in the blog post in question:
She may not have meant to make it sound like class warfare, but it sort of did.
Now, to lay out how I feel about it:
  1. All taxes shape social policy.  This is inherent in taxes and it is why the US Congress needs to not be out giving exceptions to this or that special interest—and remember that there are over 300 million special interests out there, not counting when two or more of those 300 million individuals agree to form together as an additional special interest.
  2. The People should not elect to Congress folks who will give us programs that cannot be financed, in the short and the long term, out of revenues.
  3. There might be an exception for Rule 1, but for me war is the exception.  There are those who believe in Keynesian Economics, which requires deficit spending, and if we elect to go that way there needs to be a plan to run big government surpluses in the good times to balance out the deficit spending.
  4. When we agreed to an income tax, almost 100 years ago, we agreed to go by income brackets and that is fine with me.  At their highest it was 41% if you were making $10,001 pa, and 94% if you were making $250,001 pa.  (That was 1944, as we were hitting our stride during WWII.)  Of course, inflation has changed those base numbers, but I can remember thinking that $10,000 was a comfortable lower middle class number.
  5. Everyone should give something, but no one should give all.
Now, this brings us to that factory Ms Warren spoke about and a point I did not make well in my previous post.

As, for example, Kad Barma, tells us, corporations are not People.  I think they are, but when we get to the recent SCOTUS decision for Citizens United, many decry the decision to treat corporations as People.  While I recognize that the law sees corporations as People, there is one way in which I do not.

When I think of commerce I think of individuals exchanging items, as in the early days, before civilization.  Corporations (and here I include partnerships and the local corner convenience store and the guy with one truck and a grass cutting service) exist in a moment in time to facilitate those transactions.  Corporations come and go, but the People remain.  Thus, the job of Corporations is to facilitate interchange, either by moving something from person A to person B or by helping person B by taking bits and pieces from Persons C, D and E and forming a product that person B wishes to purchase.

Do People make fortunes as Corporations work as the middle persons in these transactions?  Absolutely.  So tax those fortunes, but not the Corporations, which are merely social constructs to facilitate commerce.  And, as previously noted, they come and go.  Look at the Fortune 500 list from 1955 and then compare with the list for 2011.  Walmart is top this year, but not even in the top 100 in 1955.  Actually, didn't even make the list.  Today it is Number 1.  In 30 years it could be well down the list.  We don't know.  That is the "risk" that come with free enterprise.

My point in my previous post was that not one dollar comes to a corporation except that someone invests it or gives it to them in return for goods or services.  If you tax a corporation you are either taxing me (as they will raise prices to compensate for the taxes) or they will take it out of profits, which will drive away investors, which will result in the company eventually losing market share due to lack of experimentation or expansion.

Is the Corporation a monopoly?  Break it up.  That is what we have laws for.  Sometimes breaking up a monopoly is good.  Isn't that why we now have all those cell phones?  Sometimes it is not good.  Isn't that why there is always confusion about who is provides us our electrical power?

As for that bugaboo, General Electric, the reason they paid no taxes last year is because the US Congress structured the tax laws to allow them to not pay taxes.  Not paying taxes when nothing is due is not a moral failing.  On the other hand, bribing Congress Critters to twist the laws in your favor may be.

The solution, from my point of view, is a radical simplification of the tax code.

Regards  —  Cliff

  If you don't think Corporations come and go, almost in the twinkling of an eye, look at Restaurants in downtown Lowell.  Cobblestones has been around for a while, but many others form, go away and then reform as a slightly different variety.

Elizabeth Warren, Fisked

As most of us know, Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren gave a campaign talk in which she said the owners of factors need to be "paying forward" a hunk of their profits for the next person who comes along.  (I am not sure who that next kid is and what he is going to come along to do.  Build the next factory?)
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.  Nobody.  You built a factory out there — good for you!

But I want to be clear.  You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.  You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.  You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.  Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
She may not have meant to make it sound like class warfare, but it sort of did.  You factory owner, sitting out there in your factory, should give us money because we protect you and keep you safe and allow your goods to go to market.

I am sure this formulation of why companies pay taxes makes sense to many, but to me it was just plain tone deaf.  And so it was to the InstapunditHere is what the Instapundit put up.  A slightly different view of the situation.

As for me, I see companies, and really, their owners, paying corporate taxes out of one or more of four big pots of money:
  1. Money inherited from one's parents.  This money may well have been taxed already, but one has put it back to work, like the good servant, and it has shown additional profit.
  2. Money given to you by investors, who would like to have profit on their money, like any good servant.
  3. Money you have taken from me through the prices you have put on your goods or services.  It was my decision to purchase your Brand X rather than Brand Y.
  4. Pixie Dust.
I think Ms Warren believes that there is Pixie Dust out there to pay the additional taxes she seems to be proposing.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From The National Review On Line.
  Mt 25:14-28.

AP and NYT Turn on Obama?

That is the question that Law Professor and Blogger Ann Althouse asks, here.  Enjoy her analysis, or not.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Everyone should have skin in the game"

The title of this post is the "bottom line" for Law Professor Glenn Reynolds on his post on an article in The Washington Post.  He highlights this item from the article "Five Myths About Millionaires".  Did I mention this was The Washington Post?
"In a speech on Monday, Obama said raising taxes on millionaires isn’t class warfare, but ‘math.’ His math may be off: According to the IRS, those with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million paid an average of 23.3 percent in federal income taxes in 2008; those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 paid 12.7 percent; and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 paid 8.9 percent. Half of American families don’t make enough money to pay income taxes at all.” And that’s the real problem. Everyone should have skin in the game.
One of the problems with economics is that somethings we confuse correlation with causation, which isn't the problem.  The problem is, I think, that we often don't have enough information to distinguish between the two.

That said, it suggests we should be careful about going after the rich to pay more.  We should be especially care when not everyone has skin in the game.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Implications Are Unlimited

A Vanderbilt University Law Professor has an OpEd up on the new Vanderbilt policy on certifying student organizations on Campus. 
Groups affected included the Christian Legal Society, InterVarsity and the graduate chapter of Campus Crusade.  These organizations face an uncertain future because of a new policy that prohibits religious organizations from requiring that their leaders share the same beliefs and goals of the organizations they seek to lead.  The policy goes one step further by hamstringing Bible studies.

According to a letter from the acting director of the Office of Religious Life, Bible studies are suspect because they "would seem to indicate that officers are expected to hold certain beliefs."  The letter goes on to explain:  "Vanderbilt policies do not allow this expectation/qualification for officers."
One wonders about the focus of the Office of Religious Life.  One wonders if we are moving to the point where insisting on a Catholic Priest to say the Roman Catholic Mass on Sunday might not be an affront to the rules?  I expect that Professors are still guaranteed to be allowed to teach their courses.

In the comments to the OpEd is this item.
Well, an enterprising group of Vandy Christians could reverse this policy in a heartbeat.  Get 200 of your closest Christian friends, and have them join the Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic Students (or other identity group).  Then have everyone show up at the annual elections meeting and vote in an entire slate of conservative Christian non-Hispanic officers.
One wonders if the University would extent its sway to off-campus organizations if the students abandoned University sanctioned organizations and became GDIs?

Regards  &mash;  Cliff

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pakistan—A Re-look

Over at Night Watch is a discussion of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen's testimony to Congress about Pakistan.  In sum, the Admiral admitted that Pakistan, and specifically Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is an exporter of "violent extremism to Afghanistan:
Pakistan-US:  US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mullen said on 22 September that Pakistan is exporting violent extremism to Afghanistan by allowing the Haqqani network to act as an "arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Mullen told a US Senate panel that Haqqani operatives executed attacks with ISI support, including the 28 June Kabul hotel attack; an 11 September truck bombing; and the 13 September attack on the US Embassy in Kabul.  Mullen said using violent extremism as a policy tool jeopardizes US-Pakistani relations and Pakistan's opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence.

Special Comment:  Mullen's testimony is important because it signifies the US Defense Department, not just intelligence agencies, now accepts what Mullen has denied in public before.  It is unusual because this kind of disclosure should have been made by the head of DIA or the US Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, not the Chairman, JCS.

For six years or longer Intelligence agencies and NightWatch open source analyses have reported that Pakistan is a state sponsor and active supporter of terrorism in South Asia—Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh—as an arm of national security policy.

For four years Mullen, on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has advanced the notion that a person-to-person relationship with Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff General [Ashfaq Parvez] Kayani could change Pakistani hostility to the Karzai government, promote peace on the sub-continent and end Pakistani support for terrorism and for nuclear proliferation.

Today's testimony indicates that such a misguided, well intentioned peculiarly American approach has failed in every category, once again, and is now no longer US policy.  Mullen was the architect of this policy and so he is the spokesman for its failure.  It has taken four years for this epiphany to take place. [Cliff notes that four years is the normal term for a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—two two-year terms.]

Some might argue that the personal approach helped secure US supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan. The counter argument is that in building a logistics system that relied on Pakistan the US taxpayers financed and supported both sides of the insurgency for ten years plus Pakistani trucking concerns.

The hard lesson for some American seniors is the realization that Kayani and his cohorts have never been free agents in the Pakistan system.  They are superb representatives and defenders of a system of strategic precepts that India is the enemy; Islamic fundamentalists are Pakistani patriots; the US is an inconstant ally that should never be trusted and that Afghanistan is the battlefield for proxy war to protect Pakistan's western flank from a two-front war by India.  That summarizes Pakistani strategic doctrine, minus the Pakistani nuclear doctrine of shooting India before India shoots Pakistan.

Kayani was [Pervez] Musharraf's hand-picked successor and Musharraf despised the US.  Kayani has never said anything officially nor made any significant changes to Pakistan security policy that the US wanted during the past four years.

A policy of personal relationship crafted to change the security policy of a so-called ally is manipulative, transparent and never works.  Everybody knows this and this was not an intelligence failure.  It was a policy choice.  Today's testimony indicates the US Defense Department might finally understand that policy towards Pakistan must be based on national interests, not personal relationships. That is how the Pakistanis have manipulated the US for years.

Pakistan is not a US ally, partner, or friend, despite $ billions in arms aid. The US is Pakistan's customer. The US has paid top dollar for what little begrudging assistance it received from Pakistan. Pakistan spent every US dollar to enable it to fight India.

With luck, a new, more pragmatic, clear sighted US policy towards Pakistan should start to emerge under Secretary Panetta.
"It was a policy choice."  We do not just react to a static world in our foreign affairs.  We also make choices as to how to view people and respond to events.  Pakistan is just trying to protect its interests as it sees them.  On the other hand, we have a clash of interests with Pakistan and we need to be looking out for our own interests.  Taking the path of least resistance makes sense, as long as our interests are met.  A lot of times it looks like our interests are not being met.  Perhaps Night Watch is correct and we will see a change in approach under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  But, that is not a decision that can be taken unilaterally by the SecDef, unless he is looking for a fight with the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Part of our interests include close ties with India, Pakistan's enemy.  India is our natural ally in the area and in the world at large.  India is the worlds largest democracy and in terms of cultural values very closely allied with us.  Pakistan, not so much.

NB:  If these kinds of reports interest you, you can receive these (mostly) daily reports via EMail.  Go to the bottom of this linked web page and subscribe.

The Chicken Tax

The "Chicken Tax", from the "Chicken Wars".

All this from researching the Ford Transit.

And, in the comments, a discussion of how all this links together.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Settled Science

I am expecting this is flat out wrong, but some scientists in Europe claim to have clocked particles exceeding the speed of light.
But University of Bern's Antonio Ereditato—spokesperson for the 160-member OPERA team—says that the experiment is "a straightforward time-of-flight measurement." It was repeatable, so they couldn't ignore it because that would be dishonest: "[T]he consequences can be very serious [...] We are forced to say something [...] We have high confidence in our results. But we need other colleagues to do their tests and confirm them."
What I love about science is that it has all these Easter Eggs, just waiting to be found.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

Good News From City Government

At the City Manager's Blog we have a post titled "We’re Here to Help Your Business Stand Out – Best Retail Practices Program".  Here is our City Government trying to help Small Businesses do better by providing information and techniques, but not by dictating to them.

Yes, there is tax money involved, and some grants..  Grants are our taxes packaged and handed to local Governments, or in some cases, private funds made available.  The economic response to "free" money is to make sure it comes to Lowell and not Lawrence.  There is no way it is going back to the taxpayers, so there is competition for the best way to use it and helping local Lowell retailers is the best way to dispose of that money.

Good going DPD and City Mananger.

Regards  —  Cliff

It is Way to Early to Think it is Over

The is a Suffolk University Poll out about opinions in New Hampshire over the Republican Candidates for President.
Romney (41 percent) gained 5 points since June, followed by Ron Paul (14 percent), and Jon Huntsman (10 percent).  Huntsman and Paul gained 6 percent each since the last poll.

The single-digit tier consisted of Perry (8 percent), Sarah Palin (6 percent), Michele Bachmann (5 percent), and Newt Gingrich (4 percent), while Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer each received 1 percent.  Eleven percent of likely New Hampshire GOP primary voters were undecided.
But, the half life of a political memory or idea is 90 days, at the best.  Yes, primaries will start in the Spring, but that is months away.

I am still waiting for Governor Mitch Daniels to throw his hat in the ring.

Hat tip to Hot Air.

Regards  —  Cliff

Home Meetings

I wonder if this would apply to Move Lowell Forward.  Down in San Juan Capistrano, the City is fining a couple for holding Bible Study meetings in their own home.  But, the point made by the City is, apparently, that where four or more are gathered one needs a permit from the City.
Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called “a regular gathering of more than three people”.
Here is the timeline, from the point of view of the Fromms.

I am sure the City needs the tax money, since that is what it is, one way or the other.  Maybe this is a variant on the old Army saw, "If it moves tax it and if it doesn't, paint it."

I wonder if Father Junipero Serra had to pay a tax for his first Mass in San Juan Capistrano?

Hat tip to the Instapundit

Regardss  —  Cliff

This Can't Be Right!

Over at The Washington Examiner we have this report on Ocean Levels.  Well, a link and then another link or so.

I thought they were supposed to be rising.  Now the Europeans say it isn't so.  Actually, I don't think, from the charts, this decline is totally obvious, or even global, but still, there are trends and trends can turn dangerous.

I am blaming NealCroz, who comments here.  He sent this Washington Examiner trash along.  Just imagine the damage of dropping ocean levels.  Former Vice President Al Gore's yacht could be grounded on some mud flat some day.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Republican State Committee Meeting

This is a cross-post from the Lowell Republican City Committee's (LRCC) Blog.  The subject is this evening's Republican State Committee Meeting, down in Newton.  Thus, the topic, Republican State Committee Meeting.  To comment on the LRCC Blog you have to be registered with the Blog.  Here comments are free, as long as they are not in really poor taste.  I am not saying I am more open than Toni; just that I am more willing to put up with a certain degree of insanity.  But, there are limits beyond which I stall out.

Regards  —  Cliff

American Jobs Act Text

A nice chap over at Representative Tsongas' office gave me this URL for the proposed act.

A lot of reading involved.

Regards  —  Cliff

Maybe 2012 is Not Obama's Year

There is a new McClatchy-Marist poll that shows President Obama losing support vis-a-via Republican challengers, particularly amongst independents.  Here is a report on the poll in The Miami Herald.
The biggest gain came for Palin, the former Alaska governor who hasn't yet announced whether she'll jump into the fast-changing race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

After trailing Obama by more than 20 percentage points in polls all year, the new national survey, taken Sept. 13-14, found Palin trailing the president by just 5 points, 49-44 percent. The key reason: She now leads Obama among independents, a sharp turnaround.
If we accept the view of the Democrats and their Media supporters that Ms Sarah Palin is a joke, then what does that say about President Barack Obama?

And things aren't going to get any better with the upcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood.

For those who care, I am still holding out for Governor Mitch Daniels.

Regards  —  Cliff

Repeal of DADT

Being somewhat lazy, I have not gotten up to change the channel on the TV, after watching "City Life".  On "Democracy Now" the newsreader talked about the Pentagon ending its Don't Ask, Dn't Tell policy.  Is the newsreader (Ms Amy Goodman) so ignorant, or the person preparing her copy so ignorant, as to not realize that it was a policy imposed by the US Congress, and ended by the US Congress?  Once more the US Congress skates away from being responsible for its actions.

Another interesting point about this transition is that the US Marine Corps is apparently the most aggressive of the Services in terms of moving out to recruit homosexual and bisexual members.  For the Marines every mission is to be executed with élan.  Law Professor Ann Althouse blogs on this, here.

Semper Fidelis

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Science and all that

It is hard enough selling AGW, but then something like this comes along and it gets harder.  This is about the latest edition of the Times Atlas of the World.

Quoting from The Mail (London):
Accompanying publicity material declared the change reflected ‘concrete evidence’ that 15 per cent of the ice sheet around the island – an area the size of the United Kingdom – had melted since 1999.

But last night the atlas’s publishers admitted that the ‘ice-free’ areas could in fact still be covered by sheets of more than a quarter of a mile thick. It came after a group of leading polar scientists from Cambridge University wrote to them saying their changes were ‘incorrect and misleading’ and that the true rate of melting has been far slower.
Who are you going to believe these days?  The publisher of the World Famous (and world class prices at 150 Pounds) or some scientists at Cambridge?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Taiwan and the Future

The Obama Administration is wrestling with the issue of arms sales to Taiwan.

Here is a CBS analysis of the situation, with some good information.

Beyond the arms sale issue is the question of US long term support for the independence of Taiwan, which [Mainline] China claims as one of its own provinces.  For instance Professor Charles Glaser, a theorist in the area of International Relations, thinks we should abandon Taiwan rather than let the island become a problem between us and China.  From an article in Foreign Policy we have this item:
To Glaser, Taiwan is different. China's belief that Taiwan is part of it is non-negotiable, and Beijing and Washington have very different views of what constitutes the status quo across the Strait. The Taiwan dispute has no diplomatic solution and the risks of nuclear war are getting too high, particularly with China's advancing second strike capability. His answer is for the United States to make the necessary "adjustments" and abandon Taiwan.
The problem is, what will Japan and South Korea think?  Will they accept that it is just the US making a small adjustment with a China that is not expansionist or will they see it as the US accommodating a China which wishes to to reassert its former domination of the area surrounding the "Middle Kingdom".

I think that Taiwan would only whet the appetite of China.  Just like the conquest of Austria or the Sudeten German portion of Czechoslovakia only encouraged the desire of Germany for expansion.  Even now China asserts its desire for the South China sea and to assert that it should be the patron of the Philippines.

We abandon Taiwan at the risk of a Japan that acquires nuclear weapons.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bumper Stickers

Normal people worry me.
Seen on the bumper of a white Chevy convertable going North on Bridge Street this afternoon.  No, not a New Hampshire license plate.

Regards  —  Cliff

Is THIS the Bill?

Is this the "American Jobs Act" from the President?

Maybe I can call the Lowell Office of US Rep Niki Tsongas tomorrow and ask her.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.

- Doug Larson
Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Momentous Day

Someone sent along this item...
The Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of the document waged a hard-won battle to win ratification by the necessary nine out of 13 U.S. states.
This is, indeed, a momentous day.

Regards  —  Cliff

Reducing Prejudice

Following on to my previous post, on a discussion in another forum as to how Servicemen and women, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the end of their tour there tend to be less Islamophobic than your American average citizen.

In that other forum someone mentioned this Mark Twain thought:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, September 16, 2011


This is an unfortunate sign.  A BBC reporter in Egypt gets shoved and the apology is that they thought he was Jewish.  So?

If Egypt has this kind of anti-Semitism, what do we think is going on in the Gaza Strip?  With this kind of an attitude, how are we going to get peace in the Near East?

In another forum there has been a discussion, in the last few days, about anti-Islamic attitudes and how a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan can tend to moderate those attitudes and allow the holders to refine their views and learn to discriminate between those who are Muslim, but not a threat and those who are Islamic extremists.  The first are people that military personnel know and work with or at least interact with.  The second are the enemy, trying to kill them.  This is an important distinction.  The mature can make it.  The immature can not.

But, discrimination is an approach to others that has a millennia long history.  It is rife in our time.  But, how can I find time and energy trying to refute anti-Islamic attitudes when I am still trying to clean up anti-Semitsm, and once in a while, anti-Catholicism, or racism, or prejudice against the homeless or the rich?

It is easy to vent one's anger at one's own condition by lashing out at others, but it is unhelpful.  And, it is lacking in insight.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 15, 2011

AstroTurfing to be a Felony?

Over at the Althouse blog we learn that Democrats are trying to make Astroturfing, AOT, a felony.

I think this is just wrong, at many levels.  If Joe Klein can publish Primary Colors anonymously, why can't Nino Baldacci register a Facebook page as Jack Mitchell?

Like many "good ideas" this could come back to bite Democrats.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes War Is About the Psychological

The 1994 edition of Air Force Basic Doctrine, authored by Major Dick Frishkorn, had a line in it about the importance of the psychological effects of airpower.  It is the same with an insurgency.

Yesterday there was a Taliban attack on the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

One reporter said he was sitting down between missions out in the field with units with which he is embedded and he got an EMail from the Taliban spokesman.  Nothing on the news, so he contacted some sources in Kabul and they confirmed the attack had just started.

Do you think this was about killing folks and doing damage or was it about making noise and creating a stir?  To quote the reporter "This was IO only.  Lady Gaga Taliban style."  

Regards  —  Cliff

  "Air Force Manual (AFM) 1-1, Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force, 16 March 1984, urges the exploitation of bombardment's psychological impact on an enemy's armed forces, people, and allies (page 2-17)."  From the first footnote an article by then Major Martin Fracker.
  IO is Information Operations.  do you think it is fair to the Taliban to compare them to Lady Gaga?

Time for Debbie to Go?

"It’s a very difficult district for Democrats,” said Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, noting its Democratic margins there tend to be the second lowest of all the districts in New York City.
This is a quote that Blogger Ed Morrissey embedded in a blog post on the New York Ninth.

Well, it has been an admirable streak of improvisation by the Democrats, going back to the Presidency of Warren G Harding.  On the other hand, per the blog post by Captain Ed, the Democrats wanted to send a message to President Obama, one that neither Ms Wasserman Schultz nor Mayor Bloomberg wish to hear.
“It’s not the end of the Obama administration and the Republican resurgence,” the mayor said. “These tend to be local races.”
And the Mayor is correct.  But, all those local races add up to national consequences in even-numbered years.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.  (I got to the Althouse blog before I got to Hot Air.)

Regards  —  Cliff

It is Time for Gov Rick Perry to Abandon "Ponzi Scheme"

It is time, and maybe past time for Governor Rick Perry to abandon the term "Ponzi Scheme" for describing Social Security.  For one thing, it isn't, in as much as the Government can always tax its way out of the hole being dug.  For another, it scares older Democrats, who think that Republicans are cruel, heartless people, who just want to create "death panels" to eliminate the elderly.  But, the most important reason is that Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman used the term first.  One should never wish to be associated with the ideas of New York Times Columnist Krugman.

It is Zero Hedge that provides the blog post on this, but they also provide a link to the original source.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

New York Ninth

Back on Saturday I asked a question about how the Jewish Vote might break in the New York Ninth District, which yesterday voted on a replacement for disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner.  A Democratic seat since 1923 and it flipped.

Mickey Kaus thinks it is all about Social Security and the fact that President Obama has put it on the table.  In suggesting this he abandons other factors, like the fact that some believe President Obama has put Israel on the table.  The issue of Israel was front and center in an article in Slate, by David Weigel.  Along with the issue of gay marriage, per Mr Weigel.  But, Mr Weigel also thinks that social programs were a factor.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (a Democrat and an Orthodox Jew) endorsed the Republican candidate.  He is quoted by Slate's Columnist Weigel:
The president of the United States is now a member of the Tea Party!  He said, in his own words, that there won’t be Medicare and Social Security for my children and your children and my grandchildren unless we address Medicare!
It is getting ugly out there.

And, our congratulations to Mr Bob Turner for his victory.  Our condolences to State Assemblyman David Weprin on his defeat.

And congratulations to Republican Mark Amodei, out in Reno, Nevada, where he won a US House Seat (NV-2) agains Democrat Kate Marshall—by 20 points.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Science Is Settled

And Law Proessor Glenn Reynolds tells us that Hillary is wrong.  Don't you just hate that about science?  In a lot of cases it is never "Settled".  Professor Reynolds was referencing a recent study.
In the African villages that I study in Mali, children fare as well in nuclear families as they do in extended families,” said U-M researcher Beverly Strassmann, professor of anthropology and faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). “There’s a naïve belief that villages raise children communally, when in reality children are raised by their own families and their survival depends critically on the survival of their mothers.
The study can be found here.

All that said, when I was growing up, in the 1940s and 50s, there were lots of Mothers in the neighborhood and we pretty much felt free to wander into their homes, and kitchens, as the thought struck us.  Abduction didn't seem to be a concern, but then we travelled in packs.  A different world, not to be seen again in my lifetime in these United States.

Regards  —  Cliff

DGZ for Conservatives

It seems that Madison, Wisconsin has become designated ground zero for conservative/libertarian/Republican attacks on what might be called the liberal/progress approach to government.

Now we have an organization called the Center for Equal Opportunity filing a law suit against the University of Wisconsin at Madison, alleging discrimination against "whites" and Asians.  The lede from an article in the University newspaper, The Badger Herald, reads:
Two reports released today allege the University of Wisconsin discriminates against whites and Asian applicants and have electrified both UW administration and some student leaders.
I thought the next post and comment from Law Professor Ann Althouse was even more interesting.  Noting her participation in a 1970 protest at the University of Michigan she then goes on to say about the protest today in Madison:
And I'm a blogger observing the protests.  One observation I have about student protests is that the applicants who don't get in are not around to march and chant.  They went somewhere else — perhaps Eau Claire or Whitewater.  The university officials last night stressed that every student who is here should feel good about being here, that he or she deserves to be here. Of course, we want everyone who is here to feel great about it.  The officials don't see much need to speak to the individuals who were rejected.  They're not part of the campus climate.  Back in 1970 when we protested at Michigan, we were protesting against our own interest, being altruistic, saying, essentially, maybe we don't deserve to be here.  It is important to visualize the effect of a policy on persons who are not present to assert their interests.
Who does speak for the person not represented?

Regards  —  Cliff

  For those of you not immediately enroute to the link, it is a "Conservative" think tank, whose Chairman is Linda Chavez.

Short Wording (and Long Exceptions)

Someone sent along this little item, which captures a certain idea about government and the idea that if you give a bureaucrat a pencil and some paper you are in danger of him or her writing well into the night.
Pythagorean Theorem: 24 words
Lord's Prayer:  66 words
Archimedes' Principle:  67 words
Ten Commandments:  179 words
Gettysburg Address:  286 words
US Declaration of Independence:  1,300 words
US Constitution with all 27 Amendments:  7,818 words
EU regulations on the sale of cabbage:  26,911 words

—  Europe's problems in a nutshell
But, the idea misses something, as my Brother John has been pointing out to me in missives for the last several days.  For example:
Consider just the 179 words of the Ten Commandments.  The implementing manual (i.e., The Holy Bible, Douay-Rheims version) is 1891 pages long.  And, apparently, so subject to misinterpretation that God had to come to earth himself to straighten things out.  Based on what I can see (e.g., Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Islamic Fundamentalists) he didn't get the word out.
And another example:
And, had the drafters of that short Constitution given us more than these 10 words, "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes . . ." we might not now have the 14,872 pages of the tax code.  If they had just added six words and a number, "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect flat rate income Taxes at 15 per centum . . ." we could have saved an incredible amount of hassle.  But, nooooo . . .
Actually, we could have also fixed it by using more that 30 words in the Sixteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, again making the point about a flat tax.

And then, for those of you who have always thought that the US Army's contract with the Wright Brothers for the first airplane represented simplicity in Government action, we have this fisking by Mr Vernon J Edwards.  Complete with quotations and footnotes—76 footnotes.  But, it is a good read.

I think it is the people wanting the exceptions to the rule that are the cause of the problem.  For Pythagoras of Samos and Archimedes of Syracuse there are not exceptions to their rules and thus the rules are pretty straight forward, although, as I recall from school, some author made some money off of writing about the Pythagorean Theorem and then inventing problems on which students could practice until they got their understanding in line with that of Pythagoras himself, or at least in line with their contemporary teacher.

There is a whole class of people who make a living trying to get exceptions to the rules.  We call them lobbyists, but in fact, they include, to some degree, most of us.  We write letters and be join groups (like AARP), looking to get an exception to the rule.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Our other Brother then noted:  "And then he had to also come talk to Joseph Smith to further straighten things out."  Said Brother might have also added that then the enlightened people of the Northeast ran Mr Smith clean out of the region.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Majority believes we are over-regulated.
Three quarters — 74 percent — of voters throughout the country believe that businesses and consumers are over-regulated, according to a Public Notice poll released today. And they strongly suspect that much of that over-regulation has been implemented recently: 67 percent believe that regulations have increased over the past few years.
Of course you mileage may vary.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The President's Jobs Bill

Over at the Althouse blog we get the title "Text at last:  The American Jobs Act", but the reality is not so much.

Here is the link to the White House web Site for the American Jobs Act.  It says "Read All the Details", but what we don't have is the text of the proposed bill.

This is just one more example that confirms to me that when the Congress Critters vote that is not the real bill, for the staffers are still making changes to the "bill" as it goes to the President's Desk, and maybe beyond.  This morning I had to go into downtown Lowell with someone who has some insight into how the process works and this person remarked that the AAs (the Administrative Assistants) are the ones with the power on Capitol Hill.  If you are looking for why a lot of middle aged and older folks have been going to Tea Party rallies and meetings, it is because of this sort of thing.  Those sort of folks think that at least Members of the House of Representatives are still like John Quincy Adams and Davy Crocket—straight, honorable men.  And I bet most of the current stock of men and women in Congress are honorable, but one wonders if they are more than rubber stamps for their leadership.  This raises the question of if the reforms instituted under Speaker Newt Gingrich helped or hurt the institution.  Quoting from Wikipedia:
Shortly after the Republicans won the House majority, Gingrich promised that the House would be on the Internet by the opening day of the 104th United States Congress. In January 1995, Gingrich and the Library of Congress unveiled THOMAS, an Internet-accessible database of congressional information. THOMAS initially included text versions of bills of the 103rd United States Congress, directory information, and other legislative materials. Commenting on the new system, Gingrich said, "This will change the balance of power in America toward the citizens out of the Beltway. There will be a shift to talking about ideas, not personalities."

At the end of the day this is not about the President, a man with only a veto pen and a bully pulpit.  This is about the US Congress, which writes legislation.

Regards  —  Cliff

Where US military headstones come from...

Where US military headstones come from...

As my friend Jeff said, "Pretty neat".

Regards  —  Cliff

City Elections Management

Over at Gerry Nutter's blog, Gerry Nutter's Lowell, is some information on the job description emerging for the new City Clerk.  Mr Nutter's spin on this has to do with the idea that the job is being tailored for the temporary incumbent, and to exclude the current number two, Angela Gitschier, who Mr Nutter thinks should fleet up into the position of City Clerk as the most qualified (and, it seems, because she is a Lowellian).

As an aside, I thought the idea was that the Acting (temporary) City Clerk, Mr Brian Leahey, esq, would NOT seek the office when it was opened up for applications.  Isn't that what The [Lowell] Sun reported Mayor James L. Milinazzo said?  Yes, it did.

Be that as it may, there is another issue, which Mr Nutter makes a high side pass on, but which is, I think, of fundamental importance.  This is the suggestion that the Elections Office might be moved under the City Clerk, and thus directly under the City Council, and away from the City Mananger. While this does not seem to be his main issue, Mr Nutter's last line in his linked to blog post does get to the core of the problem:
It does appear to be an open Conflict of Interest to have City Councilors responsible for the Supervision of Elections doesn’t it?
I think the answer is yes.  Maybe not today or tomorrow or even next year.  However, the temptation would always be there and it might be acted upon at any time.

And a good city manager can be a bulwark against unnecessary meddling by a City Council that has forgotten who it is.

I have seen a legitimate resident not get to vote due to a mixup in the Elections Office.  I would hate to see that happen more than very infrequently.

When it comes to my vote I am dubious about fixing what might not be broken.

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.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tenth Anniversary

Today is the Tenth Anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

The selflessness of the First Responders in New York City is something to be admired.  If it is ever required again, we hope it will be there, but we also hope it will never be required again on such a scale.

However, for me, the most impressive response was that of the Passengers on United Airlines Flight 93.  As they learned about the other attacks from a telephone operator on the ground they realized that it was in their hands and they took action.  That was the most important American response to al Qaeda, even more important than our response in Tora Bora in December of 2001.  Even more important than the dispatch of Osama bin Laden.  We know we are our own "first responders" now.

Now is a time to honor the fallen dead, both of 9/11, but also of the ongoing fight since that fateful day.

It is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the idea that we will not allow any transnational group to intimidate us and to coerce us to do their bidding.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Evaluating a Plan

A long time ago, in a book written in Rhode Island, I found these three rules for evaluating a plan.  They were reprised in an EMail today from someone down in the Northern Virginia area, just north of Mount Vernon.
  1. Suitable:  Objectives are clearly stated; concepts are internally sound and simple; both are consistent with other plans.  [Will this plan get done the specific job in front of us?]
  2. Feasible:  Resources are sufficient to ensure successful implementation.
  3. Acceptable:  Anticipated outcomes are worth costs and risks in terms of money, manpower, materiel, time, and politico-military implications.  [And, can we live with this particular solution to the problem?]
The person sent along a fourth criteria:
  1. Flexible: Concepts and resources permit a range of options and facilitate smooth transitions when situations change.  [Since almost always the situation changes as the plan is implemented]
Truth in peace and war, in the most major undertaking and the humblest village.

Regards  —  Cliff

Trash Talk

In this case, about war.  Here is one person's list of "The 10 Greatest Uses of Trash Talk in the History of War".

The linked web page contains terms not normally used in polite company, and I am not merely referring to "the word of Cambronne".

There is an error, or at least some less than clear writing in the writeup for Quote #9, from French World War One General Robert Nivelle (and the Battle of Verdun).  The Germans did not pass, but when the phrase was adopted by units manning the Maginot line it did not quite work its magic, 24 years later, in the Spring of 1940, although the Germans were forced to circumvent the line of defenses.  Perhaps Sergeant Maginot fought at Verdun.

The author passed up two good quotes from WWII, "Nuts" and "These are my credentials."

Hat tip to Happy Catholic, who also gives a language warning.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Precautionary Principle

At Samizdata we have this comment on "the precautionary principle" and the drug industry.  The author of the post, Johnathan Pearce, mentions a talk by Mary Ruwart on development of drugs:
She argued that the cost to life in terms of drugs and treatments that never got approved runs to several million people, far outweighing the likely number of deaths from drugs that might have dangerous side-effects.
It brings to mind the requirement for bicycle helmets.  At what cost?

Regards  —  Cliff

It's In The Genes

Living in California, I want to hate the guy, but he has these moments of clarity. He doesn't seem to think that government operates for his benefit alone.  I disagree with his alignment with some traditional Democrat values, but I think he has his own kind of integrity.
So writes a Commenter on an Althouse blog post on Governor Jerry Brown's comment on the idea of a law mandating helmets for children skiing.  In vetoing such a helmet law the once and current Governor said:
While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state.  Not every human problem deserves a law.
Now there is a motto to govern by:
Not every human problem deserves a law.
When I say it is in the genes I am referring to the current Governor's father, Edmund G (Pat) Brown.  That seemed like a Golden Era.

Regards  —  Cliff

How Will Jewish Voters Break?

Down in Brooklyn there is a race for a US House Seat, vacated by Representative Anthony Weiner, who didn't quite understand the "new media" and felt it was better to resign than bring his party into disrepute.

The conventional wisdom is that this should be a walk over for the Democratic Party nominee, given a 3 to 1 Democratic Party registration edge in the district.  However, the Republican nominee has a 6 point lead going into Tuesday's election.  This is also the district that has more Jewish voters than any other.  The reason appears to be Jewish voters.  (Tsuris, as in the article's title, "Oy, Such Tsuris for Obama and the Democrats", is Yiddish for troubles.)  The author of the piece is John Podhoretz.

Note that this is a one off election where the incumbent resigned over a sex texting scandal, but the entrails of this election will be closely examined for other indicators.  I don't see a 6.8 on the Electoral Scale, but I do think we will see a little shifting of the tectonic plates in 2012.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Well, that's tacky"

I wrote earlier about the President misnaming the founder of the Republican Party.  It looks like an ad lib on the part of President Obama.  The reason we know this is the difference between the PBS transcript of the speech and that of The New York Times.  The latter has the line in and the former does not.  The American Thinker thought it was manipulation, but Byron York EMails The Instapundit and says that it is just that PBS posted the speech text as provided by the White House, while The New York Times gives us the actual transcript.

The "tacky" part is that PBS has been deleting comments and not explaining why.  Should we expect better of PBS?

Regards  —  Cliff

Past Best Sellers

Over at Freakonomics is a short piece on a 1776 best seller, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine.

Law Professor Ann Althouse also asks if people were more literate in those days.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, September 9, 2011

Getting History Straight

Two Palin Posts in a row.  I apologize to Kad Barma.

Over at Legal Insurrection we have a post, "Palin knew Revere better than Obama knew Lincoln".

I say no more.

Regards  —  Cliff

NYT Alternative Take on Sarah Palin

Here is a report on a Sarah Palin speech that suggests that, just as when she was Governor of Alaska, she can reach over to segments of the other side and step away from sections of her own party.

Reporter (Columnist?) Anand Giridharadas, with a dateline of 9 September 2011, in Cambridge, Mass, writing in The New York Times, has a headline that says "Some of Sarah Palin's Ideas Cross the Political Divide".

Mr Giridharadas lists three points for Ms Palin:
  1. There is a permanent political class, and that is not good.
  2. Money plays, both Government spending and donations from big companies [I would assume we might lump big labor in there].
  3. There is good capitalism (small companies) and bad capitalism (big companies).
I would give you excerpts, but from The New York Times I can't make easy cut and paste actions.  I probably need to sign up.  Rather than sign up, I am going to leave it to you.

But, if Ms Palin pushes this line of argument a little more she could shake up the race, even if she never actually gets her hat in the ring.  Other candidates, concerned that she might be about to toss her hat in the ring might well move toward her way of thinking.  It has happened before and it will happen again.  Look at the 1968 Democratic Party nomination campaign.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gov Rick Perry and Executions

Over at the Althouse Blog we have a discussion of the Brian Williams question and supplemental to Governor Rick Perry re Texas and the Death Penalty.

Here is an interesting comment on the Althouse Blog post:
The Texas Constitution was amended in specific response to corruption scandals in the 1920s and 1930s in which Texas Governors Pa & Ma Ferguson reportedly sold pardons. (Yes, of course they were Democrats. Did you really wonder?)

In the decades since then, the Governor of Texas — be he Rick Perry, or George W. Bush, or be she Ann Richards — has had no more constitutional power than to grant one 30-day stay. The governor does appoint the members of the Pardons & Paroles Board, but those appointments are subject to senate confirmation, and the governor can't interfere in the Board's decisions, much less overturn the Board's decisions.

Lots and lots of lefties have been told this, and deliberately choose to ignore it. I would make a large wager that Sullivan has made similarly misinformed statements in the past and that he's been corrected. Because Andrew Sullivan is a liar who deliberately spreads lies. I regret that Prof. Althouse has given him even the attention of exposing another of his lies, because the only cure for the blogospheric disease that is Andrew Sullivan is to ignore him.
Because we are a federal system there is a chance that one state may not do it the same way as another, and that is the glory of the system.  So questions during "Presidential Debates" should be couched in terms that allow for those difference.  It appears Mr Brian Williams does not subscribe to that point of view.

Regards  —  Cliff

ObamaCare in Wisconsin

Why do we call it "ObamaCare"?  Isn't it "Reid/Pelosi" care?  Of course it is.  But, the official name is Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA).

But, more important than what to call it is how it will work and what it will cost.  Here is a a report from some folks in Massachusetts on how much it will cost in Wisconsin.

I got there from this short report.

One this is sure is that the current mix of Republican contenders for the 2012 Presidential nomination would like to see ACA go away.

Now that the the bill has been passed, it is time to read it, since Ms Nancy Pelosi said that it had to be passed so we could read it.  Frankly, that just confirms in my mind that Congressional Staffs often run amok, still writing at the bill is moving to the President's desk.  I sometimes wonder if they are still writing after the bill is signed.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Back Home

After holding for about an hour over New York, enroute to Reagan National Airport, in DC, we diverted to Atlantic City to refuel and refile.

There are two rules when refueling aircraft on the ground with passengers:
  1. We are refueling, so the passengers must disembark.
  2. We are refueling, so the passengers must remain on the aircraft.
Jet Blue applied Rule Number 2 in this case.

We got into Reagan late—3+30 late.  In fact, we got in about a half hour after I was supposed to be at the meeting I was to attend.  Fortunately, my buddy Juan was cruising the Reagan parking lot and swooped in just as I come out the door and we are off to the traffic jam that was the 14th Street Bridge.

Made it to Roosevelt Hall, made my comments and then a small reception and Juan passed me to my friend from the late 1980s, Dail Turner, who took me back to Reagan, where I found my flight was slipped from an 8:15 PM departure to about 10:25.  I checked in and two flight changes latter I was out at about 7:30 PM.

And thanks to Juan and Dail.

Home safe and glad for it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shoe Horn

TSA is still requiring one to remove one's shoes going through security screening.  However they seem to not have shoe horns "on the other side".

That, I learned after the first TSA person after the scanning machine responded that she had no idea what a shoe horn is.  Honest?

The second TSA Agent I asked checked with a supervisor and then gave me the bad news.

Should not TSA be working on helping the PAX?  Positive image and all that.

Regards  —  Cliff

Slow Drive

Driving from Lowell to the Logan Airport took 1+30.  Granted, it is raining, but this is longer than I remember it.  I left at 0701 and arrived at 0835.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Libyan SAMs Adrift

From Google we have "AFP" providing news, and in this case, about Libyan SAMs going adrift.  The report datelined Brussels has this item:
Al-Qaeda's north African branch has acquired a stockpile of weapons in Libya, including surface-to-air missiles that are threatening air travel, the EU's counter-terrorism coordinator said Monday.
Maybe it is too soon for them to be in the US and I am safe flying tomorrow.

On the other hand, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will be looking to use them to help themselves stay alive in its own operating area, so the threat is not here in North America.  On the other hand, if they need the cash AQIM could sell a few to Narco-Terrorists in Mexico.  On the other hand, an insightful Narco-Terrorist will have noticed that 9/11 got the Citizens of the US all excited and they went to war, which would be bad for business if it happened here and now.

In this kind of war there is no final victory, there is no "Mission Accomplished".  It just moves back into a situation where the last bit is handed back to the police.  That is the definition of victory.

Regards  —  Cliff

Is THIS The End of the Euro?

From Matt Drudge we have a link to The Zero Hedge Blog, with this headline"Bring Out Your Dead - UBS Quantifies Costs Of Euro Break Up, Warns Of Collapse Of Banking System And Civil War", by Mr Tyler Durden.

Do you think this is all due to those Tea Parties SOBs, or is it more the 68ers coming to power?
  • For American Democratic Party Members and Trade Unionists, pick the SOBs.
  • For European "realists", pick the 68ers.
  • All others continue to believe that Lord Keynes and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will save the day.
Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  I think we have a Monty Python reference in there somewhere.

Wind Farms

Up and over in Vermont there is some discussion regarding wind farms.  As we all remember, the late Senator EdwardKennedy seemed to be for "Green Energy", except near his property.

The folks in Vermont are raising some good questions about wind farms, as the linked article shows. What I didn't see was the trade-offs.  What do we do instead of wind farms or, alternatively, what do we give up?

Then there is California.  I remember many times driving out from the LA area to the Palm Springs area, to see my Mother, through the San Gorgonio Pass (I-10) and seeing all those majestic wind turbines—seeing them for decades.  Are they Now mostly defunct, as the July 2011 article says?

Where are we going with regard to electrical power in this nation.  I wonder if DoE has a master Plan?

Regards  —  Cliff