Monday, October 31, 2011

Kudos for Hillary

At The Washington Post is an article by Mr Joby Warrick that says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held the NATO alliance against Libya and Moammar Gaddafi together in the early hours, when a conflict between Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and France's Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to pull it apart.

Did anyone notice that in a recent poll Ms Clinton beats all the known Republican Candidates for President?

The Conventions are a long ways off.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Falsely Accused" Herman Cain

I am listening to Herman Cain live on TV saying the accusations of Sexual Harassment are false.

Is that good enough?  I hope so.

On the other hand, if there is an accusation of sexual harassment against another candidate, will it have less impact?  What if it is a Democratic Candidate?

Regards  —  Cliff

The Individual Mandate

We have seen discussion of "The Individual Mandate" as part of the slowly implementing "Obama Care".

It was bound to happen, and may have happened elsewhere as well, but here is a letter to the editor in Syracuse, New York.  Mandate gun ownership.

I got the link from this web site, from a link from the Instapundit.

Nothing tests an idea like taking it to an extreme to see how it feels.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Republican Congress?

The Hill has an article titled "Dems increasingly call it a ‘Republican Congress’".  A Divided Congress makes sense, but to call it a Republican Congress seems a little strange.  Here is an example from the article:
“Over 240 days and this Republican Congress has not put forth one jobs plan,” [Cornell] Belcher told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper last month. Democratic operatives defend Belcher’s choice of words, even though Democrats control the Senate.
House of Representatives192242

The two Senate Independents are Bernie Sanders (more of a Socialist) and Joe Lieberman (more of a Connecticut Democratic Party Reject).  Both caucus with the Democrats.

There is one seat in the House of Representatives that is currently unfilled.

If this is a "Republican Congress", what would it take to make it a Democratic Congress.  Was the 111th Congress a Democratic Congress?

House of Representatives258177

Well, the numbers actually vary during the two years of a Congress, but these are the Democratic Party high water marks for the 111th Congress.

Maybe it is only a "Democratic Congress" when it is like the General Court of Massachusetts.

House of Representatives12832

Regards  —  Cliff

  Ms Cornell Belcher is a Democratic strategist, who served as a pollster for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

The Population Bomb

There has been some information out there about the world population going over 7 billion.  It brings up Thomas Malthus and his predictions of disaster due to population growth.

Here is a short article on the current status and the future project of population.  The writer says that the population will peak and then begin a descent toward....  The article author, Fred Pearce is a London-based environment journalist, whose most recent book is The Coming Population Crash.

Yes, a population crash will have its own problems, including major economic problems.

But, back to the coming peak, the author attributes the decrease in the increase of global population to women around the world, who have been having less children, now that children are likely to survive childhood, a recent situation.
The reason, I believe, is very simple. Women are having smaller families because for the first time in history they can.  In the 20th century, the world largely eradicated the diseases that used to kill off most children.  Today, most kids get to grow up.  Mothers no longer need to have five or six children to ensure the next generation.  Two or three is enough, and that is what they are choosing to have.
On the other hand, this change means that those children who are born are more highly valued.  We can see this in discussions with those who were born 70 years ago and can talk about walking along railroads and being allowed out in the woods by themselves or with other children.

And a hat tip to Tracey Perez Koehlmoos, PhD, MHA, for the link to this article.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Brits vs the Declaration of Independence

Over at the Beeb is an article on a debate between British and US lawyers about the "legality" of the US Declaration of Independence.

Fluff, but a chance to raise our Declaration of Independence for reexamination.  It is an important document.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 30, 2011

At the Outer Edge

At the outer edge of our Solar System, the Planet Uranus has experienced a large explosion.  For us to notice it, it must have been pretty spectacular.

Regards  —  Cliff

Women's Rights in the Wake of the Arab Spring

At The Philadelphia Inquirer is a column by Trudy Rubin on the question of the future of women's right in the wake of the Arab Spring and the new government's coming to power.  The recent elections in Tunisia puts an emphasis on this issue.
I'm not talking of women in Saudi Arabia, where they are still fighting for the right to drive and are relegated to segregated workplaces, but of countries where working women have long been the norm.

Thousands of women took part in Egypt's Tahrir Square demonstrations, and young Tunisian women played a major role in their revolution.  In Egypt, middle-class women have long held professional jobs.
The focus is on Tunisia and Egypt and the Ennahda Party and the Freedom and Justice Party (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood):
Yet now that the Islamist party Ennahda has won a plurality in Tunisia, and the Freedom and Justice Party (a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot) is set to do likewise in Egypt, many active women in both countries are nervous.

Leaders of both these Islamist parties insist they won't reverse women's progress. Whether they keep their promises will be the litmus test of whether they are as moderate as they claim.

The pledge to respect women's rights appears much more credible in Tunisia. Ennahda party leaders insist they support the family status law that bans polygamy and gives women the right to divorce, get child custody, hold property, work, and travel. Indeed, Ennahda's top leader Rashid Ghannouchi told me in an interview that he would try to expand the law to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work.
I would hope that the United States would not greet new governments in Tunisia and Egypt and elsewhere with approval if those governments were slipping away from freedom for women.

Regards  —  Cliff

Bloated Nuclear Arsenal

So asserts The New York Times in an editorial in yesterday's edition, updated today.

The problem with reducing the number of nuclear weapons is that as one slides down the scale of nuclear weapons it soon gets to the point where someone might say to them self, the other side doesn't have enough weapons to destroy us and a first strike will cripple part of what they do have, so lets have at them.  When we attacked Japan with nuclear weapons we had three and they had none. Thus, they were impressive.

Today 2,600 is an impressive number because it is large.  Bigger than the Hiroshima bomb, but smaller than some other bombs we have had in our inventory in the past.

Here is where I wonder about the thinking of the author of the Editorial:
A war with Russia is now unthinkable, conventional weapons are increasingly capable, and the main nuclear threat comes from Iran and North Korea.
While a war with Russia might now be unthinkable, I can remember when the phrase meant something different, at least when Professor Herman Kahn (no, not the Pizza guy, running for the Republican Nomination) published On Thermonuclear War—thinking about the unthinkable was confronting what could go wrong.

Here is a recommendation:
Don’t modernize the B61 tactical nuclear bombs in Europe.  No one can imagine that the United States would ever use a nuclear weapon on a European battlefield, and Washington is in discussions with NATO to bring them home to be dismantled.  If the Europeans want to keep them for political reasons, let them pick up the tab.  Savings:  $1.6 billion.
OK, but can we project forward twenty years, say like a period from 1919 to 1939.  If Turkey and Iran team up and decide to make Israel go away, might not Europe think it is a bad thing and offer a nuclear deterrent?  Is this beyond imagination?

What are they thinking in the NYT editorial offices?  They have put a dot on the left side of their blackboard and then drawn a horizontal line to the right edge and said, "Look, no change."  This shows a certain lack of inquisitiveness about the possible futures out there.  This is the kind of thinking they accused President George W Bushing of.

I am sure there is money to be saved, but let us not be penny wise and pound foolish.

Regards  —  Cliff

Peggy Noonan on Paul Ryan

Opinion Writer Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal about the problems we face and someone she thinks is facing up to them, Congressman Paul Ryan:
Which gets us to Rep. Paul Ryan.  Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized.  He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies.  He reads.  Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true.  He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week he spoke on "The American Idea" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.  He scored the president as too small for the moment, as "petty" in his arguments and avoidant of the decisions entailed in leadership.  At times like this, he said, "the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns."  Politicians divide in order to "evade responsibility for their failures" and to advance their interests.

The president, he said, has made a shift in his appeal to the electorate.  "Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."

But Republicans, in their desire to defend free economic activity, shouldn't be snookered by unthinking fealty to big business.  They should never defend—they should actively oppose—the kind of economic activity that has contributed so heavily to the crisis.  Here Mr. Ryan slammed "corporate welfare and crony capitalism."

"Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?" Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically connected solar energy firms like Solyndra? "Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?"

Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are "corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society."

If more Republicans thought—and spoke—like this, the party would flourish.  People would be less fearful for the future.  And Mr. Obama wouldn't be seeing his numbers go up.
I am all for the idea that "we should 'lower the amount of government sending the wealthy now receive'".

I don't like the concept of too big to fail.  An organization too big to fail should be too big to continue without being broken up.  The New York Times OpEd writer, Thomas Freidman, today talked about this.  He laid down four rules we should be following:
We need to focus on four reforms that don’t require new bureaucracies to implement.
  1. If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big and needs to be broken up. We can’t risk another trillion-dollar bailout.
  2. If your bank’s deposits are federally insured by U.S. taxpayers, you can’t do any proprietary trading with those deposits — period.
  3. Derivatives have to be traded on transparent exchanges where we can see if another A.I.G. is building up enormous risk.
  4. Finally, an idea from the blogosphere:  U.S. congressmen should have to dress like Nascar drivers and wear the logos of all the banks, investment banks, insurance companies and real estate firms that they’re taking money from.  The public needs to know.
I especially like the "don’t require new bureaucracies to implement".  As I have expressed here before, if the government gets into an escalation of rule making with Wall Street (and Main Street) it will always be behind the smart thinkers out there in Capitalism or it will choke capitalism to death.

That still leaves us trying to understand how to cope with high tech automation.  How do we generate the jobs that will allow the working men and women of the US (and of the world) to buy the things that are being producing so well and so cheaply?

Regards  —  Cliff

The Economy—The Middle is the Trouble

The Occupy Wall Street gang is complaining about the economy.  As are the Tea Parties.  The major differences between the two are:
  • Tea Partiers tend to be older, several decades older.
  • The Tea Party ralliers tend to clean up after themselves better.
  • The OWS crowd wants the Government to fix the problem and the Tea Parties think the Government is the problem.
The real problem may be that the economy is going through a major change and we don't know how to keep people employed during this transition.  Judging from what the Federal Government is doing, I don't think the Administration has a clue.

This Yahoo interview with an MIT Sloan School of Management Professor, Andrew McAfee, talks to the impact of technology on overall employment.  Professor McAfee and Professor Erik Brynjolfsson have written a new book, available only on the Kindle, titled Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy.  Here is the last paragraph in the linked interview:
But I believe that we're heading into the next chapter of our economic history, where for a lot of people who don't have exactly the right skills or have been left behind in this race against the machine, there might not be a job waiting for you, at least in the classic sense that we're used to thinking about a job.  And we had better start thinking long and hard about how we react to that as a society and an economy.
More on that later.

Here are some comments on the views of the other writing partner:
—  Brynjolfsson asserts, "there's been this social contract, where if you are willing to work, there will be a job available to you."  In fact, America has offered work to so many people over the years because our economy has been relatively competitive and open, not because of a politically negotiated "social contract."  At times when our economy was less open (e.g., when depression-era Smoot-Hawley tariffs were in effect) or when aggregate demand was diminished, unemployment rose and wages suffered.

—  Brynjolfsson acknowledges the value of of a competitive economy when he says, "there is this kind of thicket of regulation and red tape that you have to go through if you want to start something up and employ some people."  Uncertainty whether EPA might regulate CO2 emissions through the Clean Air Act, absent cap and trade legislation, is an example of the thicket, even if this step in the view of some might serve other worthy purposes.  An income tax system in which tax expenditures (subsidies through the tax code) are now greater than tax collections likewise inhibits economic dynamism and depresses per capita income.

—  Brynjolfsson is silent on a key reason for rising income inequality in America -- increased competition from abroad in tradable skills.  Home health aides still have work in the U.S. not just because technology has not automated their work, but also because workers in places like China cannot do the work.  It can be done only on-site.  Thus, home health aides have non-tradable skills.  In general, however, lower-end workers have more tradable skills and thus are more displaced by competition from China and other competitive economies than are higher-end workers, and this tends to increase income inequality in the U.S.  These pressures were less potent several decades ago when the economies of China and other developing countries were less competitive internationally than they are today.

—  Brynjolfsson is right to highlight the importance of a better educated workforce for success in tomorrow's jobs, but certain fields will be better than others.  The IT and telecommunications revolutions has turned a lot more labor into "tradable work," e.g., radiologists in India who can read and interpret U.S. medical imagery.
A Canadian chap I am acquainted with offered this observation:
Between 1870 and 1915, the US shifted to a manufacturing economy.  After WW II, say 1945-1965, it shifted to a services economy (including retail), while 1980 - 2000 saw a shift to an information economy (we're just starting the second phase of that shift now).  Each of these shifts dislocated large numbers of people, changed settlement, kinship and marriage patterns, and restructured educational requirements and expectations.  At the same time, the cost of raising a child to be in the middle class increased while the social structural supports to enter / maintain middle class status have decreased (e.g. cost of education, healthcare, clothing, food, governmental red tape, etc.).  What social structural changes do you believe could counter this trend?
I think it is spot on.

It may add to this discussion to look at Professor Niall Ferguson's Civilization: The West and the Rest.  Professor Ferguson maintains that six "killer apps" made the difference.  His apps were (and are):
  1. competition,
  2. the growth of science,
  3. property rights defined by law,
  4. the triumph of Western medicine,
  5. development of a consumer society,
  6. and the West's work ethic
So, we have Professor Niall Furguson telling us that we need to retain those "middle class values" if folks are to continue working and we are to stay ahead of the competition—and it is a competition for those jobs that float around the world like it was all one big economy.

The other thing is that the number of people it takes to do many of the jobs that need doing is shrinking.  This stands athwart economic history, shouting at Henry Ford, you are wrong.  Henry Ford gave us Fordism..  Fordism can be summed up with this quote from Mr Ford:
There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.
But then Mr Ford also said this:
It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.
We do need a way to give people rewarding work and to funnel money to them, so that the masses of good being produced can be sold.  Our experience tells us that just giving things to people doesn't work.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Legal Secretaries and Attorneys

When Chicago-Kent law professor Felice Batlan surveyed 142 legal secretaries at larger law firms in 2009, not one expressed a preference for working with a female partner.
This is the lede in a recent article in the ABA Journal.

While the mismatch in pay between men and women is smoothing out, other things, apparently, are not.  With the economy in the condition it is, problems like this are going to be smothered under the larger issue of employment.  I understand lawyers have one of the lowest unemployment rates—2.1%, but there is quibbling.

Regards  —  Cliff

Republican Presidential Nominee

Here is an input from The Washinton Examiner
Had Daniels run, he'd be the frontrunner now.
I blame Indiana First Lady Cheri Herman Daniels.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, October 28, 2011

Redistricting for the US House (of Reps)

Reporter Chris Camire has an article in today's edition of The [Lowell] Sun, on redistricting of the Massachusetts delegation to the US House of Representatives.

It seems that everyone is breathing a big sigh of relief now that current First District incumbent John Olver, with 11 terms in the House, is going to retire.
Lawmakers in charge of drawing a new congressional map are breathing easier today, after U.S. Rep. John Olver's decision to retire took the politically messy process of eliminating a sitting congressman's district out of their hands.
Notwithstanding, Lawmakers could still shoot themselves in the foot.  For example, in the adjustments they could put Rep Stephen Lynch and Rep William Keating in the same district.  On the other hand, I thought the person running didn't actually have to live in his or her district.

The real question has to do with if our legislators on Beacon Hill will be able to provide us with nice, smooth, compact districts or if the map will once again look like a plate of spaghetti, with lines running all over the place, trying to protect this or that incumbent.

I am going with the spaghetti vision.  This won't just be politics—it will be hyper-politics.

Regards  —  Cliff

Help Me Here!

What am I supposed to do?  The MSM, or at least MSNBC, thinks I like Herman Cain because I am a Racist and that I think that he "knows his place".  Are they serious?  Here is the headline from National Review:
MSNBC Analyst:  GOP Sees Herman Cain as a 'Black Man Who Knows His Place'
So, does this mean that to excise my sin I should support some other person?  Who would that be?  If you say Barack Obama you have totally lost me.

Is there any reason to believe anything the MSM says about Mr Herman Cain?

Regards  —  Cliff

The Beeb Writes about Catch-22

Is that a Catch-22 kind of thing, what with the BBC writing about the 50th anniversary of the novel by Joseph Heller, a WWII B-25 Bombadier, Catch-22?

I read the novel quite a while ago and enjoyed it.  Yes, life in the service is often absurd.  Weird things do happen.  I remember that a member of the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the Blue Boars, was friends with Navy Lieutenant Roger Staubuck, and for several bottles of whiskey we got a skid of plywood, a bunch of 2 by 4s and a lot of nails.  With those we rebuilt the inside of our Squadron Operations building (and had lumber left over for a pool table).  The ramrod for that building operations was "The Real Arch", Archie Lorenzen, who did a great job of making it all work out.

The book is great.  The movie has lots of footage of airplanes flying.  What more could you ask?

Regards  —  Cliff

More Immigration From Mexico?

There is a new booklet (50 pages) out from the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute.  The subject is the potential for a major influx of political refugees from Mexico.  Even as the number of illegal immigrants (economic emigrants) decreases the potential for refugees from political violence goes up.  Here is a brief synopsis of the booklet, Mexico's "Narco-Refugees": The Looming Challenge for U.S. National Security
Since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, there has been a rise in the number of Mexican nationals seeking political asylum in the United States to escape the ongoing drug cartel violence in their home country.  Political asylum cases in general are claimed by those who are targeted for their political beliefs or ethnicity in countries that are repressive or are failing.  Mexico is neither.  Nonetheless, if the health of the Mexican state declines because criminal violence continues, increases, or spreads, U.S. communities will feel an even greater burden on their systems of public safety and public health from "narco-refugees."  Given the ever increasing cruelty of the cartels, the question is whether and how the U.S. Government should begin to prepare for what could be a new wave of migrants coming from Mexico.  Allowing Mexicans to claim asylum could potentially open a flood gate of migrants to the United States during a time when there is a very contentious national debate over U.S. immigration laws pertaining to illegal immigrants.  On the other hand, to deny the claims of asylum seekers and return them to Mexico where they might very well be killed, strikes at the heart of American values of justice and humanitarianism.  This monograph focuses on the asylum claims of Mexicans who unwillingly leave Mexico rather than those who willingly enter the United States legally or illegally.  To successfully navigate through this complex issue will require a greater level of understanding and vigilance at all levels of the U.S. Government.
The War on Drugs has been a failure.  Does the Chattering Class have any alternative ideas?

Regards  —  Cliff

Anniversary of Borking

Some archeologist has looked at the current political nastiness and traced it back to the nomination of Federal Judge Robert Bork to the US Supreme Court. This is from New York Times columnist Joe Nocera.
The character assassination began the day Bork was nominated, when Ted Kennedy gave a fiery speech describing “Robert Bork’s America” as a place “in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,” and so on. It continued until the day the nomination was voted down; one ad, for instance, claimed, absurdly, that Bork wanted to give “women workers the choice between sterilization and their job.”
On the other hand, the court has shifted notwithstanding the rejection of Judge Bork.  The Law of Unintended Consequences came into play.  The column goes on to say:
Today, of course, the court has a conservative majority, and liberal victories are, indeed, being overturned. Interestingly, [Clint] Bolick says Bork’s beliefs would have made him a restraining force. Theodore Olson, who served as solicitor general under George W. Bush, also pointed out that after Bork, nominees would scarcely acknowledge that they had rich and nuanced judicial philosophies for fear of giving ammunition to the other side. Those philosophies would be unveiled only after they were on the court.
We shouldn't fool ourselves.  Two hundred years ago politics was nasty in these United States.  Then we had one political party collapse.  Then we had a new political party emerge and then several of the states not only walked away, but fired on the Union.  We know how that came out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Limits to First Amendment?

If you go to Catholic University, a private school, should you be allowed redress against having to see symbols of Catholicism?  Complain?  OK, everyone complains.  It is part of being an American.  But protection from those Catholic symbols?  Of course not.

And should you, as a Muslim, be allowed redress when Christians are being persecuted in nations in the Middle East and churches are being closed (not to mention that in some nations are not allowed to exist in the first place)?  Can we not impute a lack of sincerity to those seeking redress?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lowell Homelessness Conference Number 5

Today (Friday) at the Holiday Inn at the junction of Route 133 and Interstate 495 we will have the Fifth Lowell Homelessness Conference.  The theme for this conference is "Criminal Justice Reentry Strategies".

You can still register at the Conference, which runs from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM (0800 to 1400).

Panels include:
A-1. Development of Permanent Housing for Ex-offenders: Hampden County Sheriff’s Office & Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) Rutledge House and Bowdoin Street Projects
  • Jim Cuddy, Executive Director, SMOC
  • Allison Maynard, Director of Open Pantry Community Services, SMOC
  • Darlene Assencos Mazurek, Director of Housing and Supportive Services Division, SMOC
  • Sonia Medine, Manager After Incarceration Support, Hampden County Sheriff’s Office
A-2. Veteran Ex-offenders: Panel Discussion and Overview
  • Paul Carew, Veterans Officer, Town of Natick, MA Former Veterans Specialist, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office
  • Kevin Casey, Regional Director, U. S. Veterans Administration
  • Kevin Lambert, MA Department of Veterans’ Services
  • Jerry Pinsky, Director, Self Employment Services, Bedford, VA & SBA Champion
A-3. Reentry 101:
  • Susan Rourke, Reintegration Manager, Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jen Sordi, Director of Reentry, Hampden County Sheriff’s Office
  • Carol O’Brien, Assistant Superintendent, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office
A-4. Sex Offenders:
  • Moderator: James M. Byrne, PhD, Professor Criminal Justice and Criminology University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • William H. Fisher, PhD, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at University of Massachusetts Lowell and Professor Psychiatry University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Charles McDonald, Director of Communications MA Sex Offender Registry Board
  • Carlos Mercado, Detective, Lowell Police Department
B-1. Transitioning Ex-offender Medical, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment, Medication and Documentation
  • Moderator: Mark Hemenway. New England Prison Ministries
  • Andrew Kohlhofer, Forensic Transition Team, MA Department of Mental Health
  • Laura King, Director of Mental Health Services, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office
  • Ken Powers, Former Executive Director Lowell House, Inc.
B-2. New CORI Legislation and Related Housing & Employment Issues
  • Moderator: Lee Gartenberg, Director, Inmate Legal Services, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office
  • Leslie Rivera, Transitional Coach Supervisor, UTEC
  • Bill Norris, Career Advisor/Disability Specialist Certified Offender Employment Specialist, Career Center of Lowell
B-3. Reentry 101:
  • Susan Rourke, Reintegration Manager, Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jen Sordi, Director of Reentry, Hampden County Sheriff’s Office
  • Carol O’Brien, Assistant Superintendent, Middlesex Sheriff’s Office
B-4. Ex-offender Housing Providers:
  • Beth Kidd, Executive Director, Place of Promise, Lowell, MA
  • Kevin Waterman, Pathways House/GAAMHA, Gardner, MA
  • Fred Smith, Director of Program Development, St. Francis House, Boston, MA
Please feel free to join us.  We will be welcoming late registrations.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, October 27, 2011

IEDs in Mexico

The level of violence in Mexico, our next door neighbor, nation wise, has continued to escalate to the point that a cartel recently used an IED to attack the police in Monterrey.  Here is a report on same.

This is not a good situation.  And, it is unlikely we can withdraw from our own country if the violence spreads northward.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review:  A Woman in Berlin

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City
Hardback:  261 Pages
Publisher:  Metropolitan Books (Henry Hold and Company)
Language:  English
ISBN-10:  0-8050-7540-3
ISBN-13:  978-0-8050-7540-3
Copyright:  2000

This book is a diary of a woman who was in Berlin when the Soviet forces arrived in April of 1945.  It is her story, and the story of others, as the final weeks of the war and the first weeks of the peace worked themselves out—worked their themselves out in an orgy of mass rapes.

Soldiers rape for a number of reasons.  Sometimes it is seen as part of the spoils of war.  Sometimes the result of the pent-up emotions of men who had been in combat for long periods and with no relief.  Sometimes it was just a way of humiliating and subjugating an enemy population, as in Bosnia.  Then there is rape as genocide, as in Darfur.  In the case of the Soviet Army and the occupation of Germany, it might well have been part vengeance.  A way of making up for the terrible things done by German and German led troops as those troops advanced toward Moscow and Stalingrad.  It may be easy for someone like Joseph Stalin to brush it off by saying that "people" should
understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle.
The anonymous author actually does seem to understand, saying
"the sum total of tears always stays the same"—i.e., that in every nation, no matter what flag or system of government, no matter which gods are worshiped or what the average income is, the sum total of tears, pain, and fear that every person must pay for his existence is a constant.  And so the balance is maintained:  well-fed nations wallow in neurosis and excesses, while people plaqgued with suffering, as we are now, may rely on numbness and apathy to help see them through—if not for that I'd be weeping morning, non, and night.  But I'm not crying and neither is anyone else, and the fact that we aren't is all part of a natural law.  Of course if you believe that the earthly sum of tear is fixed and immutable, then you're not very well cut out to improve the world or to act on any kind of grand scale.
This is a pretty bleak view of the world, but her eight weeks were pretty bleak.

One of the things of interest to me, was the ongoing discussion of the impact of these mass rapes on the men she knew.
It's the first time I've heard of one of our men responding with that kind of red-eyed wrath.  Most of them are reasonable—they react with their heads, they're worried about saving their own skins, and their wives fully support them in this.  No man loses face for relinquishing a woman to the victors, be it his wife or his neighbor's.  On the contrary, they would be censured if they provoked the Russians by resisting.  But that still leaves something unresolved.  I'm convinced that this particular woman will never forget her husband's fit of courage, or perhaps you could say it was love.  And you can hear the respect in the way the men tell the story, too.
A little later she reflects on this again.
"Well—life goes on.  The best part was over anyway.  I'm just glad by husband didn't have to live through this."

Again I have to reflect on the consequences of being alone in the world in the midst of fear and adversity.  In some ways it's easier, not having to endure the torment of someone else's suffering.  What must a mother feel, seeing her girl so devastated?  Probably the same as any one who truly loves another but either cannot help them or doesn't dare to.  The men who've been married for many years seem to hold up best.  They don't look back.  Sooner or later their wives will call them to account, though.  But it must be bad for parents—I can understand why whole families would cling together in death.
In the last few pages the diarist's boyfriend, Gerd, comes back from the war.  It does not go well and eventually he leaves.  He can not accept the rapes.  She ends the book with a question about the future:
Maybe we'll find our way back to each other yet
One can't help but wonder if the troubles of 1968 did not have at least part of their background in 1945.

The book is not lascivious, going with the minimal facts and not the details of a sexual nature.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rapid Rehousing

One of the issues in dealing with homelessness is the concept of rapid rehousing.  A family finds itself, due to circumstances (like being laid off) with no housing.  This solution could provide the shelter, if only there was land upon which to put the structure.  Not ideal, but still, workable.

Thanks to Charlie Spika for this video link.

Regards  —  Cliff


I have adjusted my "Blog Lists", both Lowell and outside Lowell.

For Lowell I moved Gerry Nutter and Corey Sciuto up. (I should probably have killed Mr Mill City, but maybe some day he will reemerge.)

For Outside of Lowell I added Dapper District.  The Dapper District blog is about the sartorial side of life.  Given Mr McDonough's efforts to keep "City Life" at a high sartorial level, I thought it might help.  I am of the old school and appreciate the comments that appear on the blog from time to time.  However, the Blogger is (1) a lawyer and (2) dating, so his posts are "from time to time".

The two blogs at the bottom of the out of towners probably need to retire, but they are friends of mine and I am being patient.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From the Dictionary:
sartorial |särˈtôrēəl|
adjective [ attrib. ]
of or relating to tailoring, clothes, or style of dress : sartorial elegance.

Lowell City Treasurer

Doing my homework for class, rather than watching the City Council meeting, I apparently missed a real dustup between the City Manager and Councilor Elliot.  That is if you believe Gerry Nutter, here, and also here, and also here.  In the first linked post is a statement by the City Manager himself that is a reprimand of Councilor Elliott:
I believe that tonight’s actions by Councilor Elliott crossed a clear line set forth in Section 107 of the City’s Charter.  Section 107 prohibits Council interference with the City Manager’s municipal appointments and is designed to keep politics out of the hiring process.
I am all for keeping politics out of the hiring process.

But, speaking to the new Treasurer, my former boss, who just two weeks ago this coming Friday left the firm where I am an intermittent worker, had nothing but positive things to say about Mr Greg Labrecque.  So, I welcome Mr Labrecque.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

iPad vs Magazine

A magazine is an iPad that does not work.

Makes sense to me.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, October 24, 2011

Running Scared?

So, on Sunday I was painting my front door. While waiting for the first coat to dry, I heard a loud knock. Fortunately, my unexpected visitor knocked on the frame. It turned out to be my Commonwealth Senator, Dave Marsden (he called himself a "State" Senator, but then again, we have "State" Troopers down this way.) As he introduced himself, he handed me a flyer and explained that he was looking for my vote on November 8. Standing there talking to him, I noticed that his flyer did not mention his party affiliation. Unlike the Real Cliff™, I do not follow local politics, so I did not know this information off the top of my head. When my turn came to talk, I asked his party and his position on abortion and taxes.

After running on for a minute about transportation taxes (he wants to raise the gas tax to pay for transportation), he said that he is a democrat and that he is "pro choice". I put that in quotes not because I object to the term (I do, but that is for another post), but because that is ALL he said. I got the distinct feeling that he was putting off the painful stuff until the end.

By way of background, I live in Fairfax County, Virginia. Virginia went for Obama in 2008, and has two Democratic U.S. Senators. Fairfax is just about as blue as Virginia gets, second only to Alexandria. Why would this man feel the need to hide his party affiliation or his position on abortion? I went to his website, and found the same problem. No mention on the front page of his party, and no mention of abortion on the issues page. Virginia just began requiring that abortion providers meet the same requirements as other outpatient medical providers, effectively shutting most down, so this is a very current issue in the Commonwealth.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the Democrats are running scared, at least down here.

Regards — the Other cliff

Open Letter to POTUS and SECDEF/Yon

Michael Yon has written an open letter to the President of the United States and the US Secretary of Defense.  In it he calls into question the US Army's current practice in conducting medical evacuations in combat—"DUSTOFF" missions.

Michael Yon is pretty hard on the Army in this letter.

Regards  —  Cliff


Some have suggested that the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party movement are really the same thing.  Over at the Althouse blog we have this Venn Diagram, showing the overlap and the differences.

The source for this diagram is Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic.  But then that source links to this source, Mr James Sinclair, at How Conservatives Drove Me Away.  Note that Mr Sinclair is a lawyer.

Regards  —  Cliff

ID to Vote

A number of our fellow citizens here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are pushing a requirement to show an ID to vote.  The United States being a Republic, there are various approaches to this issues, as this web site shows.

I don't see the problem with asking for ID to vote.  I do see a problem with people getting to vote who are not registered to vote for the location where they are voting.  On the other hand, I do see a problem with people who register by mail not getting to vote.  How do we ensure that is not going to happen?  I do like the idea of "provisional ballots".

Regards  —  Cliff

Bobby Who?

Not that one would know it from reading The [Lowell] Sun or The Boston Globe or listening to "City Life", but Bobby Jindal has effectively won four more years as Governor of Louisiana.  The process in Louisiana is to have an open Primary (this year this last Saturday) and if someone wins the majority of the votes that is it.  Governor Jindal won 65.8%

From The Bloomberg Business Week we have this:
He was elected on promises to change the state’s reputation as a nest for corruption.  Within months of taking office, he won approval for laws prohibiting public officials from holding state contracts and requiring them to disclose information about their personal finances.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune endorsed Jindal for re-election this month for those efforts as well as for his management of hurricanes, including Ida in 2009 and Lee in 2011, and the 2010 BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jindal has cut taxes and supported outsourcing government services to private companies.  Louisiana’s jobless rate of 7.2 percent ranks below the national average of 9.1 percent.
Bobby who?

Congratulations, Governor Jindal.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fixing The Clerk's Office

Back on Tuesday The [Lowell] Sun had a top-of-the-fold article, "Clerk's office faces big fix:  Report:  Overhaul could take 'years'".

Is it just me who thinks the idea of an overhaul taking years is nonsense.  I realize the US Air Force is not Lowell, MA, but if some incoming Squadron, Group or Wing Commander said:  "Boss, this is going to take years to clean up," he would be directed to a new job and someone willing to take on the task and clean it up would be brought in, ASAP.

Either the problems are serious and need to be cleaned up now or they are minor and can be fixed over a long period of time, thus not disturbing the normal flow of the office or the people working there.

Which is it?

In the mean time, based on Reporter Lyle Moran's reporting, I agree with shortening public hours to gain some additional time for Clerk's Office employees to keep up with paperwork.  I also agree with bringing on a couple interns, but I suggest holding off on hiring new people to work through the problems until there is a new City Clerk and we have scoped the problem.  I would also like to know how the new personnel would work and when and how they would be terminated, when the Clerk's Office was back up to speed.  The rest of the listed recommendations in the article seem reasonable.  I also like Councilor Rita Mercier's motion for an ad hoc subcommittee for the Clerk's Office.

Building a great bureaucracy is not the way to solve this problem.

I know, I know, if I feel so strongly I should have applied for the job, but I am sure there is someone out there who can fix this without taking years to do it.  I hope the City Council finds that person and selects him or her.

Regards  —  Cliff

Some Animals are More Equal Than Others

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is spreading, even overseas.  Thus, it is attracting a lot of media attention.  As we all know, this is a movement of pure democracy, with no leaders, or so they themselves say.

Over at the Instapundit we have this note:
Michael Ubaldi emails: “The Occupation movement is doing for anarchist theory what the Obama administration has done for European-style socialism: put all the myths festering on college campuses over two decades to the test so the world can watch them falter utterly.”
Now that is interesting.

And couple it with the first President of modern Poland, Lech Walesa, electing not to go.  He apparently didn't like the people who seemed to be in charge of this grand organization that has no leadership.  In the words of Adam Andrzejewski of Andrew Breitbart's Big Government:
He is not comfortable with the “organizations” behind the movement.
Hat tip to the Althouseblog.

But, back at the Instapundit we have a link to this article New York Magazine, which talks about the OWS organization.

Early in my days in Catholic Charismatic Renewal I listened to a tape (cassette tapes were the blogs of the day, back in the 1960s and 1970s) in which the speaker noted that in any prayer group that claimed to be lead solely by the Holy Spirit, and not by man, to pay attention and the human leaders would soon stand out.  And so it has become with OWS.  Here is what Professor Glenn Reynolds quoted from the magazine article:
All occupiers are equal — but some occupiers are more equal than others.  In wind-whipped Zuccotti Park, new divisions and hierarchies are threatening to upend Occupy Wall Street and its leaderless collective. . . .

Facilitators spearheaded a General Assembly proposal to limit the drumming to two hours a day. “The drumming is a major issue which has the potential to get us kicked out,” said Lauren Digion, a leader on the sanitation working group.

But the drums were fun.  They brought in publicity and money.  Many non-facilitators were infuriated by the decision and claimed that it had been forced through the General Assembly.

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia.  “The GA decided to do it … they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to do introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

To Shane Engelerdt, a 19-year-old from Jersey City and self-described former “head drummer,” this amounted to a Jacobinic betrayal.  “They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest,” he said.  “They didn’t even give the drummers a say … Drumming is the heartbeat of this movement. Look around: This is dead, you need a pulse to keep something alive.”

The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips.  “Now they have over $500,000 from all sorts of places,” said Engelerdt.  “We’re like, what’s going on here? They’re like the banks we’re protesting.”

All belongings and money in the park are supposed to be held in common, but property rights reared their capitalistic head when facilitators went to clean up the park, which was looking more like a shantytown than usual after several days of wind and rain.  The local community board was due to send in an inspector, so the facilitators and cleaners started moving tarps, bags, and personal belongings into a big pile in order to clean the park.

But some refused to budge. A bearded man began to gather up a tarp and an occupier emerged from beneath, screaming:  “You’re going to break my f***ing tent, get that s**t off!”  Near the front of the park, two men in hoodies staged a meta-sit-in, fearful that their belongings would be lost or appropriated.
It will be interesting to see how OWS evolves, especially as the winter approaches.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Jacobins were identified with the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.  Originally moderate, they moved to the use of force to impose their own ideas and to prevent counter-revolution.  With the death of Robespierre, a leader, the Jacobin Club went away.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Investment in Afghanistan

This is a question of the tactical vs the strategic.  This is a report from Michael Yon on Women (and little girls) in the relatively peaceful Southwest corner of Afghanistan.

It is also a question of how we want our foreign policy executed and what we want to achieve.

Regards  —  Cliff

Dear Wendy

I'm a little old for this kind of thing—and besides, I'm married—but I thought the flow chart was excellent.  It comes from a Dear Wendy question.

Hat tip to the Instandpundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Modesty to Charity

A small group at the University of Texas, in Austin, has formed the UT Anscombe Society.  The story can be found here.  From the title of the newspaper article, the "New organization aims to promote modesty, chastity, marriage and charity".  The group is named after the late Oxford philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe.

And not just UT in Texas, but also Princeton.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

No Obama Doctrine

This article is a short look at reporters asking the President's Spokesman about if there is an Obama Doctrine, now that we have seen the capture of former Libyian Strongman Moammar Qaddafi. Mr Jay Carney apparently ducks the question as to if there is an Obama Doctrine.
The White House doesn’t want to box itself into a “doctrine,” and Carney repeated that the “prism” through which Obama views national security and foreign policy is the safety of the U.S. and the American people — not an ideological or political one.
Frankly, that looks like a good prism to use.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kelo Not Long For This World?

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has described Kelo v. City of New London as the third worst political decision by the High Court.  He was speaking at Chicago-Kent School of Law Monday last.  The ABA Journal had a spot on it, including this:
“My court has, by my lights, made many mistakes of law during its distinguished two centuries of existence,” Scalia said. “But it has made very few mistakes of political judgment, of estimating how far ... it could stretch beyond the text of the Constitution without provoking overwhelming public criticism and resistance. Dred Scott was one mistake of that sort. Roe v. Wade was another. ... And Kelo, I think, was a third.”
I agree with Justice Scalia that it was a mistake.

Regards  —  Cliff

Steve Jobs vs the President

Over at the Huffington Post, not what I would consider a "Right Wing" rag, we have notes on the upcoming biography of the late Steve Jobs.

Of some interest is the fact that Mr Jobs met with President Obama and offered to help with the 2012 campaign, but he told the President that he was probably a one termer and that teachers unions were killing school reform.  From the article:
"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America's education system, saying it was "crippled by union work rules," noted Isaacson. "Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform." Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year.
Both the Jobs comments on jobs and the Jobs comments on schools ring true to me.

Hat tip to the Instapundit, via the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pelosian Theory of Politics

Over at the Althouse blog we have a post on the signature collection for a recall petition of Wisconsin (Republican) Governor Scott Walker.

One of the things of interest is that for a recall vote someone has to run to take Governor Walker's place.  This leads to this comment at 1208 this afternoon:
You have to sign the petition to know who's running..

Its the Pelosian Theory of Politics all over again.
A parallel comment might be, if it is OK to run a recall against Scott Kelly, is it OK to impeach a President, an Andrew Johnson, a Dick Nixon, a ...?

But, on the other hand, we have the infamous Russ Feingold line:
This game's not over until we win.
Former US Senator Feingold is from my Wife's hometown.

My question is, how far is Russ willing to go to "win"?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

With Drugs Comes Corruption

From the Small Wars Journal we have a blog post by a Mr Robert Bunker, "Border Corruption of US Officials by the Mexican Cartels & Cases Shown".

What can I add to what is at the link?  Very little.  I would note this is why we ended Prohibition.  Legalizing drugs won't make the cartels go away, but it will help create an environment in which it will be easier for Federal and State Governments to secure the support of the citizens in fighting this problem and helping those who have been crippled by drugs.  And save money in the long run.

Regards  —  Cliff

Higher Food Prices

Based on an article in The [Lowell] Sun the price of food could be going up.  Maybe not by much per customer, but some.  You don't think it will come out of the profits, do you?

The newspaper article, which can be found here, says that the Department of Labor (Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA, really) has proposed fines of $589,000 for Tewksbury based Demoulas Supermarkets, Inc.  That sounds like a lot of money to me.

I don't wish to dismiss the infractions the firm.  My Father made his living as a Safety Engineer, trying to prevent accidents in a Naval Shipyard.  Took a lot of work and ingenuity.  Part of that is good supervision.  Take the Demoulas at Stadium Plaza.  A couple of times I have suggested that the young men you run the powered sweepers and snow blowers in the parking lot need ear defenders of some sort, even if only foam earplugs.  Does anyone listen to me?  No.  I would even wager a small amount that the problem continues on into the winter when the snow begins to fall.

I would note that these are the same kinds of fines that OSHA is handing out to small businesses, fines that will see more private citizens up on their roofs this winter, shoveling snow and depriving local handymen of work.

Is there not a happy medium?  We need safe working places.  We need to not strangle businesses.

Regards  —  Cliff

Election Corruption

Today's edition of The [Lowell] Sun has an article on redistricting.  It sounds like the Redistricting Plan on Beacon Hill is not an honest presentation, but another manipulation to achieve the political ends of the majority.  I guess I wouldn't expect much better if the Libertarians were in charge, or the Republicans..

Take the article lede.
... one of 10 new "majority-minority" districts in the state would be in Lowell...
Then turn to page "8".  For the 16th, 17th and 18th Middlesex seats the Proposed boundaries are "Same."  Sitting at my computer I wonder if that will be the spark for a lawsuit by those advocating "majority-minority" districts.

Then there is the comment from State Representative Michael Moran:
In recent weeks, state Rep. Michael Moran, a Brighton Democrat who co-chairs the redistricting committee, said Chelmsford could lose one of its four House seats. But Moran said yesterday it was logistically impossible to reduce the number of districts in Chelmsford due to the creation of a new Lawrence district in which a majority of the residents are minorities.
He says it like it is a bad thing.  The folks on Beacon Hill must think we are taking stupid pills out here in the districts.  Then again, maybe they don't.  Maybe they think that enough folks will vote Democrat each year that it won't matter.  Yes, it does feel like living in the Old South of my youth.  The Solid South.

Then there is Littleton resident and Austin Prep history teacher, Ed MacKenzie.  He took his home computer and drew a map that gave Chelmsford its own district, just like in the old days.  I thought Representative Michael Moran, a Brighton Democrat, who co-chairs the redistricting committee said it wasn't possible.  As a tax payer I would like the General Court to hire Mr MacKenzie, as a high paid consultant.  Mr MacKenzie said:
It's not an overwhelming difficult problem to solve if you're looking out for the interests of the people of these towns first, rather than looking out for the interests of the incumbent state legislators first.
Mr MacKenzie recommends the California approach, which had an independent group redraw the lines.  I like Mr MacKenzie.

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.
  Hey Sarah!  Where is the link to the Common Cause web page with the maps?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Risk Management

I had thought I had already blogged this item, but when I found an EMail from the author, unopened, I went in search and couldn't find it.  So, if this is a duplicate and I say the opposite of what I said before, gig me for it in the comments.

Ms Carla Seaquist is a playwright out in Oregon Washington State.  She has combined her love of literature with her concerns about where we are going.  The article is titled "Risk Management, According to Moby-Dick" and it can be found at The Daily Kos.

The article seems to suggest that when the Captain of a ship has lost his sense of proportion he should be relieved, even if by his Number 1, while at sea.  This Caine Mutiny approach is made more interesting in that Ms Seaquist's husband was one of the US Navy's last Battleship Captains (I was at the change-of-command ceremony, when he relinquished command of the USS IOWA).

Yes, it is The Daily Kos, but most people aren't good enough to be wrong every time.  Here is a chance to challenge our thinking.

I hope to talk about risk and profit and loss in a subsequent post.

UPDATE:  State changed from Oregon to Washington State.  Brain cramp.

Regards  —  Cliff

Queue Jumping

Today, coming home with my wife I was traveling Eastbound on the VFW Highway and got onto the ramp to get on Route 38 Southbound, at the Hunts Falls Bridge.  It was a single line, but then I noticed, about 40% of the way up the ramp a large white truck passing cars to the left the queue.  I glanced at the mark on the truck and Diamond Rio came to mind, but it was really an International.  His bumper came up to my front left fender.  I eased a little right and got right on the bumper of the chap in front of me and the truck had to settle for being behind me.

When we got to the traffic circle (rotary) I had a stop sign and I stopped and then pulled forward a few feet.  However, a car was approaching from the left, on the traffic circle—and had the right of way—so I let him in.  The truck behind me honked at me for doing such a thing.  What can I say?  I learned to drive in California, when there were still rules.

The thing about the truck driver was that he was an obnoxious queue jumper.  He was not willing to wait his turn on line.  At best he was grasping.

Which brings me to illegal immigration.  I like immigration for this nation.  Every immigrant who joins us, who becomes a US citizen, adds to our wealth and strength.  Every such immigrant who is squeezed out because of illegal immigration—and let us not deny the relationship here—is a loss for this nation.

And, my final thought is that we should change the law and require all new citizens to denounce their former allegiances and adhere only to the United States of America.  For me that would be especially important for developing a compromise to execute some sort of program to regularize those illegal immigrants who remain in this country after the Obama Administration plan to reduce illegal immigration by keeping unemployment high is fully executed.  That and some other requirements and then we can talk.

Regards  —  Cliff

"America the Beautiful"

I would like to see the song "America the Beautiful" replace the "Star Spangled Banner," which is harder to sing, as our national anthem.  And, it is a "war" song, the words having been penned during the War of 1812.  Alas, no one in a position of authority cares what I think on this matter.

However, per the Seattle Post Intelligencer. the Chinese like the song and played it during the launch of one of their space rockets.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cloud Computing

Over at Watts Up With That? we have a short post on the IPCC moving its EMail to a cloud so that it would not be exposed to FOIA Requests.  For the Progressives out there, FOIA is the tool that brings transparency when the Administration that promised transparency, doesn't deliver.

I like the scientific method as a way of looking at things.  I am dismissive of people who hide their data, for whatever reasons.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Crumbling From Within?

Yes, it isn't Obama Care, it is the Reid/Pelosi Health Insurance Reform Bill, but however you call it, it took a hit on Friday.  All controllable bad news comes on Friday afternoons, when most decent people are either at Happy Hour or home with their families.

The Washington Post reported that CLASS, was being dropped by the Administration.  This is about the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.  Clever juxtaposition of words. The idea of CLASS was that we could develop a program open to all Americans to pay for long term disability, for life.  The approach was strongly supported by the late Senator Edward Kennedy.  (Did he do his economics studies at Harvard?)

In the story in The Washington Post:
Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at the Department of Health and Human Services, announced its conclusion Friday: “At this point, we do not have a viable path forward to implement the CLASS Act.”
Jennifer Rubin wrote an appropriate OpEd on the issue.

Health care continues to be an issue in this nation.  Some of our approaches are not economically sound, such as dealing with those without health insurance via hospital emergency rooms.  However, we have no other workable alternatives.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Where is Iraq Headed?

Yes, I have not been blogging very much.  I blame my spouse, who picked the UMass Lowell Continuing Ed class for this semester—Fiction Writing.  I accept that a high percentage of my few readers think this blog is mostly fiction, but this class requires real inventiveness and not just rehashing the talking points of the late Herbert Hoover or Thomas Dewey.

The National Journal has an article by reporter Yochi J Dreazen on the future for government in Iraq.  That future does not look bright from the Democracy viewpoint.  It appears that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was seen as weak when he took office, five years ago, has learned how to rule.

Since then he has become increasingly authoritarian as he has knit his nation back together.  For two years he seemed to flounder, but in 2008 he went after radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr and took back control of Basra. Since then he has done more to consolidate his nation, and his control.

The other view, inside Iraq, is that he is really a democrat.
...his allies deny that he is expanding his control of the country. “The prime minister suffered a lot under the dictatorship, and he helped write a constitution [that] is precisely designed to prevent the creation of a new dictator,” said Sadiq al-Ribaki, a nattily dressed Dawaa lawmaker who has advised Maliki for years. “Why should anyone doubt what is in his heart?” Ribaki said that Maliki lost many close friends fighting Saddam, and he ultimately had to flee the country (for a lengthy exile in Iran) after the Iraqi strongman pronounced a death sentence for him. The prime minister has a deeply personal reason to avoid following in the dictator’s bloody path, Ribaki says.
Maybe the Prime Minister will bring democracy to Iraq.  Part of the answer lies in the Iraqi understanding of what democracy is.  Is it a route to power or is it a way of sharing power?

The last paragraph of Reporter Dreazen's article talks to my disappointed hopes.
And that may be the most dispiriting development of all. Americans once talked of turning Iraq into a functioning democracy that could inspire other Arab nations—the “demonstration effect,” they called it.  Instead, the reverse is happening.  Iraq is absorbing a lesson from neighboring Syria: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki seems determined to hold onto power by any means necessary.  A succession of authoritarian strongmen has long ruled the country.  With U.S. influence at an all-time low, Maliki looks like the next in line.
Strong men is the way of the Near and Middle East.

For the United States, which has already withdrawn 140,000, the question is how this will all unwind.
An official at the U.S. Embassy who asked not to be named says that the Americans have neither the means nor the inclination to try to change his course because the most important objectives now aren’t connected to Maliki or his commitment to democracy. Instead, the Americans say, the primary U.S. goals are boosting the professionalism of Iraq’s security forces, devising economic policies that encourage foreign investment, using Baghdad’s regional influence to help stabilize neighboring Bahrain, and isolating Syria.
That may be the long term goal, but the short term goal must be getting our forces out of Iraq without problems that endanger our forces.  For at least some Iraqis it is just for us to go.  In Basra the Iraqi general in charge is pushing for us to just leave.  No nice ceremony, just get out.

Back when we invaded the line running through my mind was "War is like childbirth. The outcome is always uncertain."

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Star Chamber Anyone?

From a comment on this blog post from The Volokh Conspiracy.  The Post title is "You Can’t Read This Opinion".  The opinion came from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and the case was Abdual Latif v. Obama.  For those whose minds bend in a certain direction, this is almost certainly not about the birth certificate.

The Court Order is here.

Over at the Lawfare blog we have this factoid:
A docket entry explains that there is a classified opinion consisting of a 53-page opinion for the court by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a 14-page concurring opinion by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, and a 45-page dissent by Judge David Tatel.
Another Commenter at The Volokh Conspiracy summed it up this way:
Si Ego Certiorem Faciam...Mihi Tu Delendus Eris.
In English, "I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you".

Star Chamber?  The Wikipedia entry linked to, uses the term "pejorative", as well it should.

Things like the recent killing of Anwar al Awlaki and this item raise questions as to if our legal system is wandering off the tracks and will soon come back to bite innocent citizens in the privacy of their own homes.

Not yet and maybe never. But possible.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is OWS Anti-Semetic?

That is what Blogger and Law School Professor Ann Althouse asks.

I don't like the idea that the answer might be yes.

Regards  —  Cliff

Drone Virus Update

From Wired's Danger Room we have an update on the virus infecting control stations for PREDATOR and REAPER Drones.  From Journalist Noah Shachtman we have "Air Force Insists: Drone Cockpit Virus Just a ‘Nuisance’"

They were playing "Mafia Wars"?  Probably not.  That is just an example.

I did blog about this before.

Regards  —  Cliff

Cooperation on Capitol Hill

Democrats and Republicans came together on Capitol Hill to pass three free trade agreements being supported by the White House.  The Washington Post labeled it a win for the White House.  The nations involved included South Korea (the world's 15th-largest economy), Columbia and Panama.

These agreements were opposed by some labor unions.  As reported in the article:
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, called the deals “lousy” in a speech in Washington this month.
On the other hand, the United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers supported the agreements.

This is a must better direction than the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which helped deepen the Great Depression.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, a member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, wrote about trade wars and their bad outcomes in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.  His final paragraph reads:
In 1930, Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.  In a moment of populism, legislators reached for simple answers to complex problems.&nnbsp; The result was a deeper depression and a decade of increased joblessness. We must not repeat these mistakes.
There is no doubt that some lose jobs due to increased international trade, but some also gain jobs.  Economics tell us that both sides in trade agreements win.

UPDATE:  This just in from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA):
The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, through the Department of Commerce, announced today that total August exports of $177.6 billion and imports of $223.2 billion resulted in a goods and services deficit of $45.6 billion, virtually unchanged from July, revised.
Increased trade would help balance the trade balance.  Note that the link is probably only good until the next such announcement, when the content will change.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iranian Penetration of Western Hemisphere

One of the hot stories is the reported plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the US with a bomb at his favorite restaurant.  Perhaps not in the MSM, but off line, there have been some questions about this plot and why the Iranians would not use their own Hezbollah sleeper cells here in the US.  My interlocutors seem to think that such sleeper cells do exist, but we don't hear about them just because they are sleeper cells.  The idea that an Iranian operative would contact some Mexican Cartel is as weird as the idea that the Kennedy Administration would contact the Mafia about taking out Fidel Castro.

However, we should be aware of Iranian activities in Latin America.  Here are some comments from retired Army Colonel Bob Killibrew, who has been studying these issues for some time: 
A quiet disagreement has been going on for a couple of years among the people who follow this story about the extent of the Iran-Venezuela-Mexican Cartel relationship; the essence of the talk was when and whether the Iranians would cross a "red line" and start to use cartel networks to carry out terrorist acts inside the US.

As many on this reflector know, the Iranians have deployed Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force in various countries in Latin America.  They have close ties, particularly, with Chavez, the Cubans, Hezbollah and the Mexican cartels (the Iranians and Venezuela are deeply involved in the drug trade as well).  There are well-defined "rat lines" that run from Iran to Venezuela and through South and Central America and into the U.S.

The arguements against the cartels getting involved in terrorism inside the US has always been "what would be the profit in that?"  I heard it deployed just yesterday by a brilliant lady who has a key role in a think-tank, before we heard the news.  In my opinion, this exposes, though only partly (sort of like the first attack on the World Trade Center presaged 9/11) the capability and willingness of Iran and its band of assorted fellow travelers to use criminal networks to penetrate the US.  Let's hope they never get nukes, though hope is a lousy way to run defense policy.
The question is, if we accept this view, how do we respond?

Colonel Killebrew says the following:
It's a real problem.  In my study, I recommended a national strategy that had three big pieces—more effective drug treatment and anti-gang measures here, more vigorous alliances with countries that are fighting the cartels—notably Mexico and Colombia, a country that is already trying to support a regional strategy, and international measures against cartels and criminal states outside the hemisphere.  Every problem we have, Europe has as well.

One thing I didn't do well was really get into how we should fight for control of international financial systems that are the lifeblood of these people; I'm of the opinion now that money is their center of gravity, that has to be attacked with far more vigor than we are doing now.  (The people who are doing it are fine; they're just undermanned and not part of a larger strategy).  This implies a new international system that is more coercive; it makes a mockery of sanctions and controls when Venezuela can start an Iranian-Venezuelan bank and use it to evade sanctions and oversight.  And incidentally, we also need to send some of our own bankers to jail; there are US banks that are washing huge quantities of drug money and that get slap-on-the-wrist fines.  A few white-collar executives in jail would be a good first step.

Finally, we have got to think urgently about proliferation and the crime and criminal state networks.  It's only a matter of time.
Well, he isn't pulling any punches here.

The death of Hugo Chavez will not be the solution to this problem.

The other thing to keep in mind is that drone attacks are not freebees.  People who are the target of drone attacks are looking for ways to hit back.  The US is not a retribution-free zone.

Regards  —  Cliff

Colonel Killebrew has an infantry and Special Operations background and taught at the Army War College.  He is currently Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  He has an article, titled "Crime and War", in the October 2011 issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings.  Yes, I have a copy.

Army Medevac Doctrine Problem

Freelance reporter Michael Yon has written a hard hitting blog post on US Army Medevac Doctrine.  It can be found here.  It is titled "Red Air:  America’s Medevac Failure".

Michael's post is about decision making with regard to who would come in and pick up a wounded soldier, Chazray Clark.  I thought about Michael using the soldier's name, and hesitated, but in the end followed suit.

Read this short three page report (it is mostly pictures) and get a sense of the fighting and the problem Michael mentions.  Sometimes the Army is wonderful and sometimes it can't get out of its own way.

In thinking about this, remember the Army's effort to honor the Geneva Convention and to not misuse the Red Cross.  Then think about how the other side couldn't care less.  How do we remain true to who we are while still fighting an effective campaign in Afghanistan?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Yes, Michael is "just a writer with a camera, with a small magazine."  But, he does have a tip jarUPDATED

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Asset Forfeiture

In a comment on an earlier Blog Post Kad Barma talked about the Bush era Congressionally passed Homeland Security Act, that gives the Federal Government sweeping authority to take away some of our rights.  He is correct, of course.

But, before we had the Homeland Security Act we had the War on Drugs and Asset Forfeiture.  This Opinion Piece from The Boston Herald talks to the possible forfeiture of the Caswell Motel, just down Route 38 from us.

Not because the owners are doing anything anything illegal, but because crimes involving drugs have occurred some 30 times on the property, over the last 30 years.  As the author of the piece in The Boston Herald says, the owners are treated worse than criminals, since they have to sue to get their property back, and prove that they are innocent.

The source of this link, the Instapundit, treats it this way:
Tar. Feathers. And obviously, you don’t want to locate a business in Tewksbury, or in Massachusetts, with this sort of thing going on. And given the involvement of the DEA, maybe you don’t even want to locate a business in the United States of America . . . .
There are places for Asset Forfeiture, but this abuse is something we should all worry about.  For example, if your 24 year old daughter, back from college with her degree, looking for a job, exchanges money for drugs on your property, you are at the same risk as the Caswells.  For sure.

And, would someone explain to me how the DEA will operate the motel after they seize it?  What impact will this have on homelessness in the local area?  Will the Marshals Service hire the Caswells to run it for us?  To whom will they sell the motel?  And, how long after they sell it before they seize it again?

Just asking.

Regards  —  Cliff

Small Businesses

Here is the Beeb, the British Broadcasting Corporation, talking about the United States and the number of people starting small businesses—people leaving the security of the corporate world in this current economy and going it alone. In the words of the headline, "Why are Americans leaving good jobs to go solo?"  The author is Ms Kate Dailey.

But, there is another issue here.  The Miami Herald writer Andres Oppenheimer asks if Steve Jobs could have had the success he did if he had been living elsewhere.  The headline reads "Steve Jobs may have failed abroad".  The lede is:
A Tweet I received from a Spanish follower hours after the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs caught my attention. It said, “In Spain, Jobs wouldn’t have been able to do anything, because it’s illegal to start a business in your garage, and nobody would give you a penny.”
I checked with my Granddaughter's husband, who is from the Netherlands (they now live in Ohio).  He didn't just confirm the observation, he made it sound worse.  I think he is happy to be here.  Yes, he just lost a job opportunity, one that he had been counting on and had been tracking for quite some time, but he has found a whole new freedom in the US, including a freedom in terms of being able to go to college, which he is doing.

As we go through these very trying economic times and people propose changing this or that activity, it is important to us, it is important for the American Dream, that we don't kill off the chance for entrepreneurship, for innovation, that puts this nation in a small group of nations that allows the little guy to become his or her own business owner.  Perhaps that is why it seems that the People are not all that concerned about beating down the rich.  The People in these United States actually think that some day they might hit the right combination and become that rich person, and not by playing the lottery, buy by using their own talents.

Regards  —  Cliff

Not a Good Sign

The US Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes, has an article on one US Citizen of Afghani descent who has decided that the Afghan Government isn't doing enough and that she and her family are returning to the States.  The fact that her Father, also a US Citizen, was murdered for trying to clean up corruption, helped her make her decision.  Her interview with President Hamid Karzai just confirmed her in her decision.

The woman is Ms Rangina Hamidi and her story is told by Reporter Martin Kuz in the 10 October edition of Stars and Stripes, with the headline "Influential Afghan women's rights advocate says hope is lost."

I am not ready to admit hope is lost, but this is part of the ongoing debate about if the Afghan Government can survive or if it will fall after NATO forces withdraw.  One of the things little talked about is that in any insurgency, while the rebels may be evil incarnate, they suppress any corruption that is not part of their strategy.  This is in contrast to the central government they are fighting, which has lost popular support by not providing good, accountable, government.

We are lucky in that in this country we are usually able to take care of corruption by changing the party in charge.  But, those who know history know that every once in a while we have seen force used at the local level to effect change.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Columbus Day

Happy Columbus Day.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

John Lewis Banned in Atlanta

The Instapudnit links to Da Tech Guy, who is talking about the snubbing of Congressman John Lewis, by the protestors in Atlanta (The Occupy Wherever crowd).  But, the post is more than that.  It also talks to the MSM and Governor Mitt Romney's Mormonism, and how the MSM is saying the "Right" rejects him for it, ignoring that the "Left" rejected Mormonism out in California a short while ago for its opposition to gay marriage.  Well Mormons and Blacks were opposed, but the MSM knowns its ideological limits.

Since he has a talk show on WCRN in Worcester, I am thinking Da Tech Guy is from around there.  And he has a summer place in Maine.

Regards  —  Cliff

Killing Anwar al-Awlaki

The modern American version of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the murderer Anwar al-Awlaki died in a drone attack in Yemen.  This attack on a nominally American Citizen has aroused some discussion, as related here.  The input is from the Instapundit, who notes this comment from Bush Administration lawyer John Yoo, who had gathered a lot of opprobrium for his approach to national security legal issues:
We should be thankful that Obama officials have quietly put aside the arguments they made during the Bush years that any terrorist outside the Afghani battlefield was a criminal suspect who deserved his day in federal court. By my lights, I would rather the Obama folks be hypocrites in favor of protecting the national security than principled fools (which they are free to be in the faculty lounges both before and after their time in government).
Actually, few things are totally black or white in the area of terrorism as a method of war.  But, I can appreciate, and sympathize with, Mr Yoo's view.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff