Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PowerPoint Anniversary

Death By PowerPoint

The inventor of PowerPoint, Robert Gaskins, writes about the 25th Anniversary of the program's development for the Beeb, here.

Then there is this:
I am a Powerpoint Ranger. This is my creed.

This is my PowerPoint. There are many like it but mine is 2007.
My PowerPoint is my best friend. It is my life.
I must master it as I master my life.
My PowerPoint without me is useless.
Without my PowerPoint, I am useless.
I must format my slides true. I must brief them better
than the other J-cells who are trying to out brief me.
I must brief the impact on the CINC before he asks me. I will!
My PowerPoint and myself know that what counts in this war
is not the number of slides, quantity of animations, the colors
of the highlights, or the format of the bullets. We know that it
is the new information that counts. We will brief only new information!
My PowerPoint is human, even as I, because it is my life.
Thus I will learn it as a brother.
I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its fonts,
its accessories, its formats, and its colors.
I will keep my PowerPoint slides current and ready to brief.
We will become part of each other. We will!
Before God I swear this creed. My PowerPoint and myself are
defenders of my country. We are the masters of our subject.
We are the saviors of my career.
So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy,
but peace (and the next exercise)!
There you have it, except for Edward Tufte, who writes here.  Per Professor Tufte,
Power Corrupts.
PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely.
Now you have it.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, to the extent any one person has ever invented anything.
  You have it if you recognize Lord Acton's quote about Vatican I.

Milton Friedman Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today

As someone noted, today is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Milton Friedman—the champion of the free market.  Nobel Laureate Friedman represented the Chicago School.  His advice remains timely for our current economic strife.

Here is an appreciation from Newsday.

Regards  —  Cliff

Eartha Kit Captures Campaign in Song

From New Faces 1952, we have Ms Eartha Kit singing Monotonous.

In the mean time, From the Althouse blog we have this link to a David Brooks OpEd in the International Herald Tribune (the Paris edition of the NYT).  Mr Brooks is bored by the Presidential Campaign.  Monotonous.

Regards  —  Cliff

Trans-Atlantic Spin re Warren/Obama Economic Theory

British spin on the Roanoke Speech, here, in the Daily Mail.

Regards  —  Cliff

Hunter Gatherers v Modern Man

Per this study, the calorie expenditure isn't much different.  I was surprised.  The lede:
Modern lifestyles are generally quite different from those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, a fact that some claim as the cause of the current rise in global obesity, but new results published July 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE find that there is no difference between the energy expenditure of modern hunter-gatherers and Westerners, casting doubt on this theory.
Wherever the science leads, Mayor Bloomberg.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  My wife thinks I should spell it lead, but I am sticking with the more "inside baseball" spelling.  Comments welcome.

Administration in One Anecdote

Over at The American Thinker we have a short article, titled "The entire Obama presidency, in one anecdote".  They got it from the American Enterprise Institute, here.  It is only money, which Professor Krugman tells us is practically free.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spreading Story of Teacher Pedophilia

Former Reporter Campbell Brown wrote an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on teachers as sexual predators.  No, not in Catholic Schools.  No, not in California.  In New York.  Is this a scandal waiting for The Boston Globe to break it wide open?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Abide With Me

Blogger Sissy Willis gives us some thoughts on coverage of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Our thoughts for the British, who are in this with us, even if we returned the bust of that Great American, Winston.

Regards  —  Cliff

Krugman Says…

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman says that the low interest rates out there (even negative rates for inflation protected securities) means money is practically free to national governments (private companies not investing at this time).

Professor Krugman attributes it to a
“deleveraging shock,” in which Nearly everyone is trying to pay down debt at the same time.
Thus, people are practically giving away money.  And, weak as it may be, the dollar is where everyone is fleeing.

But, what happens when we run out of other people's money?  I am guessing Professor Krugman, et al, hope that by then the Great Recession will be over.

Hat tip to the Daily Caller.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tenth Anniversary—Torture Memo

I have never met retired Air Force Colonel Morris (Moe) Davis, but I have read what he has written on the subject of torture and other issues regarding the war on terror and Gitmo.  At this link is an OpEd he has written on the subject of torture and its use by the Bush Administration in the days after the 9/11 attack.  The publisher is The LA Times.

There are two reasons to eschew torture.  For one thing, it doesn't work well.  Here is the quote from the OpEd:
Torture is counterproductive. Professional interrogators — Ali Soufan of the FBI, Matthew Alexander of the Air Force and Glenn Carle of the CIA — have said this clearly.
Then there is the even more important moral issue.  Again going to the OpEd:
Torture is also a moral abomination. As the National Religious Campaign Against Torture — made up of member institutions representing followers of the Bahai faith, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and more — attests, it runs contrary to the teachings of all religions and dishonors all faiths. It is an egregious violation of the human rights and dignity of each and every person and results in the degradation of all involved — the victim, perpetrator and policymakers.
If that doesn't do it for you, it is illegal, notwithstanding the US Department of Justice giving the CIA the go ahead back in 2002.  We didn't just sign the United Nations Convention Against Torture, back in 1994, we ratified it.
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
Weasel-wording that water boarding is not torture is weasel wording.

The "enhanced interrogation techniques" engaged in during the George W Bush Administration were a blot on that Administration.  We need a never again attitude toward this problem.  The premise of 24, that anything goes, is wrong.  Notwithstanding Commonwealth Senator Dianne Wilkerson declaring, after a Constitutional Convention, that the ends justify the means, they do not.

Regards  —  Cliff

Double Down?

I don't usually read the down state newspapers, so I missed this in The Boston Herald, but supposedly the Democrats are considering Professor Elizabeth Warren as a keynote speaker.  Per Hot Air, it is being considered.  The author is Ed Morrissey, so I put some faith in the report.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thinking Back

The Althouse blog channels the Founding Fathers, talking to Lord North, then the British Prime Minister.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mass Muder Before Repeaters

Over at Slate is a short piece on Mass Murder before the age of repeating firearms (guns).

Then there was this disturbing note from someone.  After quickly discussing H Scott Peck (People of the Lie:  The Hope for Healing Human Evil (1983)), the writer goes on to introduce Dr Martha Stout, and her book, The Sociopath Next Door (2005).
Stout uses the same instrument to identify sociopaths, or APDs.  Her thesis is startling; 1 out of every 4 or 5 Americans is a sociopath or has strong sociopathic tendencies.   There is an epidemic of socio or psychopathy in this country.  We have the highest rate of this “disorder” of any country in the industrialized world.   She finds, conversely, that the rate is extremely low, especially in cultures—like those in Asia—with strong community bonds and group or familial identity.   She advances the notion that Americans’ extreme brand of individualism, which is intensified by an ideology that values individual autonomy above group conscience, favors a cultural pathology that produces more sociopaths than normal .  She emphasizes, that not all of these people are necessarily physically dangerous, but they know how to hurt and take advantage of others.  They are “takers”—to a man/woman.   The narcissism and excess of American culture has led to a greater tendency to lack empathy for others.   Individual rights have been enthroned to an extreme level over personal responsibility and Dr. Stout suggests that the high level of sociopahthy/psychopathy in the US may be one byproduct—the downside of the unrestrained blessings of liberty—a mixed blessing if you will.

All one need do is drive in rush hour to get a sense that maybe, just maybe, she is right—as may be Peck.  Lack of empathy is everywhere—why do we produce so many narcissists who lack empathy?   We may be dealing with symptoms, not the fundamental problem.  How is your mental health?
On the other hand, freedom is very precious.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Contracting Out

Here is an item from The Telegraph, about the Royal Navy contracting out maintenance of the nuclear deterrent.  Makes me quesy.

Regards  —  Cliff

Turning The Page, Some More

From The Wall Street Journal we have this analysis by Kim Strassel.  The thrust of the column is that the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party were rattled by the response to the Roanoke speech, which was much stronger than the apparent response to Prof Elizabeth Warren's earlier version.  Here is a snippet from the article:
Witness the first president to demean the bedrock American beliefs in industriousness and exceptionalism.  The "context" only makes it worse.
But there is pushback to the WSJ article (New York Magazine), and it is ugly.  The specter of racism is raised.

It s going to be a long three months to the General Election.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 27, 2012

Turning The Page

Over at The Hill is a report that the President has turned the page.  Quoting the President in their article:
Of course Americans build their own businesses.  Every day, hardworking people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs and make our economy run.  And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has.
I like what the President said, above.

Hat tip to Drudge.

Regards  —  Cliff

[Mis]Quoting Romney

Over at the Althouse blog we have a post on a Foreign Policy article on Governor Romney and his views on the United Kingdom.  The post can be found here.  The Foreign Policy link is here.

This is an expansion on Governor Romney's comments on British Olympic Games preparations.  It goes to the Governor's book, No Apology, which apparently is available on line from Google, here.

The Professor Althouse point is that Foreign Policy quoted the Governor out of context, making him sound belittling of our British Cousins.  The Press being unfair to a member of the Party seen as Conservative?  "Say it ain't so, Joe."

I am hoping it was just an attempt at humor.  I don't think of Foreign Policy being that snarky, normally.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Euro Zone and Innovation

Per the latest edition of The Economist, out yesterday:
Since 1975 the countries now in the euro zone have given birth to just one company currently among the world’s 500 biggest (ironically it is from Spain: Inditex); by contrast California alone has created 26.
Someone suggested "this said it all".  The Economist is recommending "shock therapy" for the Euro Zone.


The Economist is well respected.  When I was in "college" we had a subscription to a weekly news magazine each year, taken out of our pay.  One year it was The Economist, a thin paper edition, befitting its traveling from England, unlike now, with the electrons flowing readily for printing in the US.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I have to put college in quotes for my Brother Lance, who is dubious that I ever really had a college experience.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Linking to Kad Barma

Over at choosing a soundtrack (the Blogger lacks a Caps key on his keyboard) we have this post:  "the "you didn't build that" apologists just don't get it".  His is the view from the crowd that dislikes both parties; sincerely dislikes both parties.

Kad talks about the size of the Administration's Economic Stimulous.  As I recall, Ms Christina Romer, a "New Keynesian" on the Administration's Council of Economic Advisers, recommended a $1.8 Trillion Stimulus package, but the infamous Harvard President, Larry Summers, killed that number as politically unacceptable and put forward $800 Billion, which did pass.  Do I think $1.8 T was the right number?  If you are a Keynesian, yes.  If you are not, then $800 B was too big.  It is unlikely there is a compromise number.

Regards  —  Cliff

Are We Looking to the Past For Our Future?

I am hoping that Professor Elizabeth Warren, and her followers, are not going down the path of famed Democrat Senator Huey P Long and his "Share The Wealth" plan.  That would not be good for this nation.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Some places it is "Share The Wealth" and some places "Share Our Wealth".
  FilmDetails at eleven.

Europe's Auto Industry

On Wednesday The New York Times produced an article that examined the European automobile industry.  Te article is titled "Europe's Auto Industry Has Reached Day of Reckoning".  A lot of it as to do with how one understands economics and how one's culture operates.  Cultural issues like paying taxes is bedeviling Greece at this time.  It turns out that folks paying their taxes is important.

Here are some comments on the article, by someone with some experience in Europe:
A New York Times story today highlights the inefficiencies that bedevil Europe's auto industry.   There are three culprits, especially in such as Italy and France:   economic regulation, corruption, and economic illiteracy.  
Inefficiencies.   According to the story, "The most dreadful year for car sales (in Europe) in more than a decade may require the industry to deal with the overstaffed, underused factories that have been undermining earnings for years ... The question is whether any of the companies can do it fast enough — or at all — in the face of restrictive European labor laws and stubborn political resistance to cutbacks."  
These challenges, however, cut across all industries in Europe.   They come into sharper relief only because of the current economic crisis.   Increased awareness may spur sharper debate:   Should Europe move toward a more competitive, risk-taking economic model?   Ours is freer and more entrepreneurial than most European economies, despite growing regulation, entitlements, and politically-driven resource flows, e.g., subsidies for green energy, inefficiency in delivery of health services.   Europeans are not unaware of their lack of economic dynamism.   For example, they know thay have missed out on much of the worldwide IT boom of the past two decades.
Corruption.   The 2011 corruption perceptions index published by Transparency International ranks 183 countries and territories around the world according to perceived levels of public sector corruption.   Selected 2011 rankings are:  Finland, 2; Germany, 14; France, 25; Italy, 69 (tied with Ghana); and Russia, 143.   The NYT story points out that BMW and Mercedes "continue to thrive," and Mercedes will shift some production to Finland to meet strong demand.   On the other hand, car-makers in southern Europe are "suffering the most, especially Fiat and Peugeot."
Economic regulation and corruption are positively correlated; the former often abets the latter.  In assessing how to fix their economies, Europeans need to tackle both, if they wish to create more productive and competitive economies, for example, conditions that would encourage a future European Silicon valley.
Understanding of economics.   Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio  Marchionne has been heralded for his business genius, but it seems not to be matched by his knowledge of economics.   According to the NYT, he called on the European Commission in Brussels (the EU's executive branch) to "coordinate a rationalization of the industry across the producing companies ... the French and the Germans have not taken out any capacity at all ... (but) everybody should take haircuts.”
This prescription implies that the European Commission ought arbitrarily to level, at least to some extent, differences in production capacities and market access of more and less efficient auto manufacturers.   How can a world-class CEO advocate such a thing?
In Marchionne's formative years (he was born in 1952), socialist economics was widely taught in European universities, especially those with large communist parties.  Thus, we should not overestimate the economic sophistication of leaders there, such as French Prime Minister Francois Hollande.   On the other hand, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti studied economics at Yale under Nobel Laureate James Tobin and is a noted exception.
What should they do?  And why?

In the mean time, is CEO Marchionne's a reasonable solution to balancing out production capacity?  Should Mercedes cut production to help out Peugeot or Fiat?  Would you forego a Mercedes and buy a Peugeot to help out the workers in France?  (Full disclosure, in 1977 I sold a Morgan +4 and bought a Peugeot Station Wagon.  Family size was the reason.  But didn't bring it back to the states.  Bought a Jeep Cherokee for the assignment to Alaska.)

Regards  —  Cliff

DPRK Leader Marries/Married

Congratulations to North Korean Leader Kim Jong Eun upon his marriage to “Comrade Ri Sol Ju”.  With North Korea it is sometimes hard to know if and when things happen.  In this case we have a press announcement, right after a press announcement that a top general was fired.

Nice photos at the link.

On balance, I take this to be a good thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Gun Sales Spike

And why do you think they spike in the wake of a shooting like that in Aurora, Colorado, or in Littleton, Colorado?

Per this article, they spike because the People fear what the politicians might do.  So, it isn't so much the shooter and his or her carnage that pushes up the sale of firearms and ammo.  It is more the politicians, like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  See, people do pay attention to what politicians say.

On the other hand, the President and his main challenger have been very measured in their reactions.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  It was when the Mayor was on the CNN Piers Morgan show.  Mr Morgan is an ignorant Englishman who does not understand our culture, but sees fit to lecture us on who we should be.  I assume he has a model in his own mind.  I hope it isn't the French.

Sunrise Over Campobello

Neal, who sometimes comments at this bog, sent along this photo of the sun having risen over Campobello on Tuesday.  This was one of Franklin D Roosevelt's vacation locations.

To me the house has a certain "Dutch" look about it.  There is a movie about the place and FDR, Sunrise at Campobello  It is a tale of an individual overcoming difficult circumstances to achieve greatness.  An inspiring story.

Here is Neal's commentary from today:
Today was tea with Eleanor in the Hubbard House. An excellent event featuring two older women who were exceptionally well versed in their subject, Eleanor Roosevelt. It was a most interesting two hours, highlighted by an excellent tea and cookies made on site by the staff of the park.

Did I mention the Roosevelt estate is the only international park in the entire world? It is funded and operated coequally by the US and Canada and the grounds are spectacular.  Actually….the Roosevelt summer home was purchased by Armand Hammar and his wife….stipulating that Eleanor could come stay anytime she wanted…and for as long as she wanted.

The thing is, Eleanor was above all else, a true humanitarian…..and FDR took much of his cue from her.  I will never be a liberal or a full fan of FDR, but the thing is he did things that in the context of the time and the conditions, they were precisely the right things to do.  Yes, they were over the top in many cases…..but….unlike today…..things were really tough in those years…..and he gave folks not only hope…but a means by which to realize it.  The CCC and the WPA were reviled by many “elites” of the day, but just imagine how many lives were actually rescued by the existence of those programs…..the products of which stand today as monuments to their excellence of effort.

Eleanor was never even in the slightest bit an egocentric.  She put herself last in every instance, and in every instance, she was flawlessly mannered and an elegant lady to the very last breath.  She arrived in the marriage to her cousin Franklin with a completely damaged self esteem, her mother having told her when just a young girl that she was absolutely ugly.  Her grandmother reinforced her shyness by telling her that since she was not very smart or beautiful, she had better have impeccable manners.

I think much could be learned by people today from the life of Eleanor Roosevelt.  She had many very intense, deep seated fears such as flying, water travel, and even public appearances……and yet she never let them deter her in the slightest, even going up in an airplane with Amelia Earhart one grand evening in DC, after a WH dinner….both dressed in ball gowns.  She knew full well that the KKK had placed a $35k bounty on her……dead…..and yet she traveled into the mouth of the dragon and defied their hatred with seeming impunity.  She believed that everyone was put on this earth for a purpose….and that they had value…..period.

As I said, I’ll never be an ardent fan of FDR, but I will enthusiastically cheer the many GOOD things he did or set in motion….and will caveat it only to the extent that his great accomplishments were great because they met the needs of the time…in the context of that point in American history.  But, times change and context changes…..and it is folly to insist that those programs continue on without change.  America needs to learn that important lesson.

So…it was a good day at Campobello…and the gardens were spectacular once again.  Early this morning….at sunrise (really), I had the pleasure of chit chatting with the maintenance folks who make the park so wonderful.  What an incredibly nice bunch….and each so very knowledgeable about their particular contribution.  It was a nice way to welcome the day.
Regards  —  Cliff

Strike the Military Bands

As the warning signs say, Sequestration is coming.  The Congresscritters are beginning to pay attention.  And, Representative Betty McCollum wants to cut military bands to save money.  Her prepared remarks include:
Mr. Chairman, over the past four years the Department of Defense has spent a stunning $1.55 billion on military bands, musical performances, and concert tours around the world. That’s right, $1.55 billion in taxpayer funds in four years for military bands.

This amendment reduces Pentagon spending for military bands and musical performances from the $388 million in this bill to $200 million for fiscal year 2013. The $188 million reduction is transferred to the deficit reduction account.

In the National Defense Authorization Act – H.R. 4310 – this House included language to limit the authorization for “military musical units” not to exceed $200 million. This amendment conforms with the defense authorization while cutting spending by $188 million.

With our nation in a fiscal crisis, the Pentagon is on pace to spend $4 billion over the next decade on military bands!

Is the United States really going to borrow from China and other foreign countries so the Defense Department can spend billions for its 140 bands and more than 5,000 full-time professional musicians?

The Air Force announced reductions in bands in March of this year, cutting three bands and reducing the size of two others. One of the bands to begin dissolving by June of 2013 will be the USAF Band of Liberty at Hanscom Air Force Base (Massachusetts).  The overall manpower reduction for the Air Force will be 103, or about 26 per band.

But, a word of caution.  As one friend noted:
The hard truth is that in the 21st century, a band may be more valuable in many instances for building mil-to-mil and other relations with international partners than a BCT. IMHO, we need to think out of the box about ways to connect.
Finally, for the National Guard, the bands are paid for by the individual States.  Not so much a savings for the Federal Government there.

But, still, cuts are coming.

Regards  —  Cliff

One's Labors Belong To…

Here is another take on President Obama's Roanoke speech, by Johns Hopkins' Professor Ken Masugi, "Is This Progress?".  Here is the final paragraph:
Abraham Lincoln stated the core of the objection to Obama, when he described the work of a slave black woman, his initial speech on the Dred Scott opinion:  “in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.”  Obama would have to tell that slave black woman her labors too did indeed belong to “somebody else.”  But she knew that to begin with.
Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Advert

Professor William Jacobson, of Legal Insurrection notes this Brown Campaign Advert.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trademark Infringement, Politely Handled

And, the approach probably rebounds to everyone's advantage.  Here is the blog post from Ms Christina Warren.  The title is "Jack Daniel's Sends the Most Polite Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever".

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Changing of the Guard

Congratulations to [Lowell] Sun Reporter Jennifer Myers, who has been selected as the replacement for Mr Greg Page as the Mayor's aide d'camp and dog robber.  I think she will do a great job.  She just has to remember, it isn't a permanent position.

Much as I like Greg, it is time for him to go off to the County's Land Grant College and get some more education.  And, I am looking forward to seeing Ms Myers at the desk.

Regards  —  Cliff

Who Are The Heroes

Who are our heroes?

In the American story it has been individuals who have done things, or groups who have done things.  Sometimes the groups have been doing Government things, like the Iron Brigade or the 20th Maine or private groups, like the first winning America's Cup Team.

Individuals might be someone like Edison or Einstein, Ford or the Wright Brothers, maybe George Washington Carver.  Sure, there is Audie Murphy, war hero, but still, while the Government gave him the gun, uniform and training, he did part of it on his own.  That is why we have individual in addition to unit awards.  He earned an MOH and a DSC and a SS, plus other individual awards.

Life of Julia notwithstanding, we commemorate the individuals.  Sure, you are who you are due to your parents, assisted by your Minister or Rabbi, Sunday School teacher, public (or private) school teachers and the cop who let you off with a warning, but at the end of the day you are responsible and thus you get the credit or the blame.

Yes, we all succeed because the US Military has kept us safe and President Eisenhower sold a national highway system and President Lincoln sold an idea to give land to railroads to encourage them to strike out across the nation and there is an FAA to keep airliners going in the proper direction.  For TSA I am not so sure.  Sometimes we have big debates about how to do things.  In the 1930s we had a big debate on how to develop electric power production, perhaps represented best by the views of President Roosevelt and Challenger Wendell Willkie (a "liberal" Republican).

Public vs private is a good debate to have, time and time again.

We should be publicizing our heroes, not belittling them, especially the ones who made it without having to fight a war, however worthy that war may have been.

Regards&nsp; —  Cliff

Organized labor is in free fall

And that is not a good thing.  I am sure many of us have our pet gripe about this union or that, but the fact is that Unions have been good for the United States and, notwithstanding problems in the recent past, are still important for our workers (and thus the People) and the economy.  The headline showed up in The American Propect, here, but initially came from The New York Times, here.

Some may wish to say it is all about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  The would be a misleading assessment.  First, it spreads a focus on public service unions (folks in the civil service) to Unions in private enterprise.  Secondly it misses that Unions once more must reinvent themselves to the economic realities of the day.  This is not he 1930s, when my Father helped lead a strike at a steel mill in Johnstown, PA.  Got his picture, a group picture, on page two of the NYT, or so he told me.  Industry is different today and Unions need to adapt.  Maybe swing back from the CIO Model to the AFL Model.  I am not an economist of Unions, so my thoughts are mere speculation, but I do know we can't afford to lose the Union side of the equation.  See Pope Leo XIII and Rerum Novarum.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Fiscal Cliff"

No, that is not self-advertising.  This is about Sequestration.

The STRIB had this item yesterday, but it was originally in The Washington Post on the 17th of July.  This is analysis based upon the testimony of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who told Congress, "Do no harm".  The lede and a couple of more paragraphs:
The main threat to the economy is shifting from what others may do to us to what we are doing to ourselves.

For much of the year, economists worried about the impact of the slowdown in Europe on the U.S. economy.  Now, analysts say anxiety about the impact of the fast-approaching fiscal cliff — the series of federal spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the beginning of 2013 if Congress and the Obama administration do not act — is displacing Europe as the primary threat to the nation’s sputtering economy.

Morgan Stanley said this week that concerns about the fiscal cliff are reaching new heights across a wide range of industries.  It is already seeing reductions in business orders and hiring, among other areas.

“While our analysts are somewhat less worried about the impact of European bank strains,” a Morgan Stanley report said Monday, “the negative impact of fiscal cliff uncertainty is becoming more widespread.”

The potential economic impact could smother the flickering recovery and further stifle job creation, analysts warn.

A new report commissioned by the aerospace industry says federal budget cuts set to take effect in January could cost the country’s economy more than 2 million jobs and raise the national unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points over the next year.
The line that comes to mind is:
If you can remain calm while those about you run around in panic, you just don't know how serious the situation is.
Sequestration begins 3 January 2013, unless you are a business, in which case you may have to give notification of layoffs 60 to 90 days in advance.  Sixty days would be about 3 November of this year and ninety would be in October.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thank You Prof Warren

Back on Tuesday, 19 July, Professor William A. Jacobson, Legal Insurrection said:  "Thank you Elizabeth Warren (for possibly costing Obama the election)".

He was referring to President Obama channeling Professor Elizabeth Warren over how no one succeeds unless the Govern makes it happen.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 21, 2012


My wife is reading Hitlerland and Reporter Dorothy Thompson came up, so I checked out her bio at Wikipedia.  It had, amongst others, this quote:
It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.
Regards  —  Cliff

What If

What if the Government built a road and then no one built a business on it?  Would that be a road to nowhere?  Would we end up with a government homeless shelter on the road?

From what business would the taxes come to pay for the homeless shelter?

Is it fair to say that Government never succeeds without private enterprise of some sort?  Did the Soviet Union not have a Black Market and does not the DPRK have one today?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Did It Myself

Do we not remember when our young children said "See Mommy [Daddy], I did it myself"?  They were so proud, and so were we.  Do we wish to rip that out of our culture?  Can we, without denying the truth in what Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins have taught us?

I think the President (and Professor Warren) have this thing by the wrong end.

Regards  —  Cliff


Why California Democrats Protect Sex Abuser Teachers
How Betsy Butler and Mike Eng torpedoed Alex Padilla's sex-pervert bill, SB 1530
From the LA Weekly we have a longish story on how the sausage gets made in Sacramento.

Let's start by stipulating that tenure is good for school teachers, considering how poorly they are paid and how important it is to them to make it to the sanctuary of retirement at age…I guess 65 or maybe 55.  Tenure means that rich, irate parents can't run them out of town and gives them some room to be creative in the classroom.

On the other hand, schools should not be a place where child abuse is tolerated by bureaucratic inertia.  The linked article makes California Public Schools sound like the Catholic Church in light of The Boston Globe series, except AFTER The Boston Globe series.  Was nothing learned?  Is sexual abuse wrong only if it is the Catholic Church or Happy Valley?

Regards  —  Cliff

Top Ten List

The Breitbart team is pretty cranky.  They now have a list of the top ten things the Obama Campaign (or Obama Administration) hasn't released.  But, it would all go away if the Romney Campaign just released his tax returns for the last ten years, right?

Then there is Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), who has submitted a bill giving us a law requiring presidential candidates to release ten years of tax returns.  For reasons not clear to the casual observer, he seems to have exempted those running for Congress.  Meanwhile, CBS News yesterday told us this:
Over the course of three months, McClatchy Newspapers asked all 535 members of Congress to release their most recent tax returns, and just 17 members complied with the request. Nineteen congressmen refused while most never responded.
Assuming that 499 didn't get the word, that is still not a sterling response.  And it makes you wonder what else those 499 didn't get the word on.  ACA before they voted?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Title Revised

The Little Engine That Couldn’t Without Federal Assistance

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

No More Mr Nice Guy

Over at the Althouse blog is this post:  "Why Romney deleted the line 'He's a nice guy.'"  She is feeding off of Buzz Feed.

I liked when Governor Romney saw President Obama as a nice guy, in over his head.  It was respectful of Mr Obama as a person.  Let's face it, in this current economic situation a lot of us would be in over our head.

But, it had to get ugly as some time, so the Obama Campaign decided to go ugly early and here we are.

One friend of mine suggested he was going to the voting place rigged out in MOPP 4 due to the odor of it all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Syrian's Situation

As we know from yesterday's news, a suicide bomber killed the Syrian Defense Minister and his Deputy (the Deputy being a brother-in-law of the Syrian President, Bashar al Assad).  Night Watch says:
Barring outside help for the Damascus government, the end game has begun, signified primarily by the inability of the center of government to protect itself. Outside support from Iran and Russia might help stabilize the situation.  In the final analysis, the Syrian fight is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia with the US supporting the Saudis, and Iran with the Russians working with the Iranians.  Iran might yet provide more help to rescue the Syrian regime, before it faces a strategic loss to the Saudis and the Sunnis.

The Alawite regime does not look like it can hold for long unless the Iranians raise the stakes. Before it falls, it will use chemical weapons to try to survive. After it falls, expect massacres of Alawites, Christians, Sunni collaborators and other minority tribes and cults.  This will not end well.
That didn't seem too optimistic.

Also, someone EMailed out to a group of folks:
Did any of you catch Putin's speech to his ambassadors and foreign service VIP's earlier this month? Here's the salient excerpt:
....The traditional Western economic powers are being weakened by the crisis, which has exacerbated social and economic problems in the developed economies, and by the multi-vector nature of global development today.  We can already see this for a fact now.

Colleagues, this is no cause for joy. We should not take delight in this turn of events, and much less feel malicious glee.  On the contrary, we cannot but worry over these developments, because the consequences of these tectonic shifts in the global economy are not yet clear, nor are the inevitable shifts in the international balance of power and in global policy that will follow.

We are all the more worried when we see attempts by some actors in international relations to maintain their traditional influence, often by resorting to unilateral action that runs counter to the principles of international law.  We see evidence of this in so-called ‘humanitarian operations’, the export of bomb and missile diplomacy, and intervention in internal conflicts.

We see how contradictory and unbalanced the reform process is in North Africa and the Middle East, and I am sure that many of you still have the tragic events in Libya before your eyes.  We cannot allow a repeat of such scenarios in other countries, in Syria, for example.  I believe that we must do everything possible to press the parties in this conflict into negotiating a peaceful political solution to all issues of dispute.  We must do all we can to facilitate such a dialogue.  Of course this is a more complex and subtle undertaking than intervention using brute force from outside, but only this process can guarantee a lasting settlement and future stable development in the region, and in Syria’s case, in the country itself….
This crisis is about more than Syria.  So, here is the question:
Having given such clear signals of the importance Russia places on being at the center of an international decision on Syria, what are the likely second and third order effects of us deciding to run roughshod over Putin and intervene directly in Syria in force without the legal cover of the UNSC or an understanding with Moscow as to Russian interests in Syria?
Yes, we are facing another bloodbath in a country that is in a bad neighborhood.  A set of bad steps there could result in worse down the road.  Neither Russia nor China will want to see the US pursue the idea that R2P (Responsibility to Protect) gives one sovereign nation the right to invade another.  In fact, given that they have a number of dissident minorities, they will be sensitive to what the US does.

UPDATE:  One of my critics demanded that I spell out R2P.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Take the Credit, Share the Blame

That is the sense from the Right Coast blog, as articulated by Tom Smith of USD.  He talks about the problems of creating a start-up business, and the role Governments plays in restraining startups.

Take the credit, share the blame.

President Obama, Ms Warren.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Get Over It!  We Are Not All Created Equal"

Well, so asserts US Marine Corps Captain Katie Petronio, in this article in the Marine Corps Gazette.

So, is this just anecdotal or is this real data?

Regards  —  Cliff

The Best Soldiers

This should probably be filed under maybe.  From Strategy Page we have this assertion that non-citizens make better soldiers.  (I am using soldier in its more generic form, for uniformed personnel, but I suspect this article applies especially to the US Army.)
In the United States the non-citizens of prime military age (18-29) make up about 2.2 percent of the U.S. population, but 4 percent of military personnel.  There are about 1.2 million non-citizens who are physically, mentally, and psychologically fit to serve in the military.  These men and women are particularly attractive to the military because they tend to work harder, have fewer disciplinary problems, and often possess language skills and cultural knowledge that the military needs.  But a major reason non-citizens are overrepresented in the military is that it's an ancient tradition for a newcomer to gain membership in the tribe/kingdom/country via performing some dangerous service to gain acceptance.

In the last decade the U.S. military has enlisted some 70,000 non-citizens, about five percent of all recruits.  The foreign recruits are tossed out during their first three months of service at half the rate of their citizen counterparts.  After three years of service 72 percent of citizens were still in uniform, compared to 84 percent of non-citizen troops.  The foreign troops are more patriotic and work harder than their citizen counterparts.  Non-citizen troops have another incentive, as they can apply for citizenship sooner because of their military service.  Any foreign recruit forced out for medical reasons (because of combat or non-combat injuries) can still obtain citizenship more quickly.  Most foreign troops obtain citizenship as soon as they can while in the military because many jobs require a security clearance and only citizens can get one of those.
As the article says:
Not mercenaries but foreigners willing and able to serve next to the native born.  It still works.
As I recall, a lot of immigrants served in the Union Army during our Civil War.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trash Talking

CBS/WBZ Reporter John Keller, a normally an even handed guy, on his Keller @ Large segment this AM, at about 0755, gave us "Democrats, Republicans Talking Trash; Neither Side Listening".

Except this time he wasn't so even handed.  He first went after the Republicans for going after President Obama for his channeling of Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren, but he left out the key sentence.  Here is the unmentioned offending sentences:
If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.
Is that to say that small business came out of nowhere, ex nihilo, so to speak, and the business founders were mythical characters from the past who then passed the businesses on to the new owners?

OK, I get it.  He was carried away by the moment, but still, this is not something to mock the Republicans for mocking.  Mr Keller missed it on this one.

And to be clear, I don't think of Mr Obama as a Socialist.  I am sure he understands Capitalism, in a Keynesian sort of way.  But, he needs to be clear that small businesses are important and that they are created by the hard work and long hours of citizens with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Quoting from Wikipedia:
In the US, small business (less than 500 employees) accounts for around half the GDP and more than half the employment.  Regarding small business, the top job provider is those with fewer than 10 employees, and those with 10 or more but fewer than 20 employees comes in as the second, and those with 20 or more but fewer than 100 employees comes in as the third....
Most of those small business owners think they did it themselves.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For the original quotes (Obama and Warren) click here.

Mixed Signals

Driving in to Boston this morning I was behind a minivan with a Harvard Alumni bumper sticker.  OK, we have an initial diagnosis—liberal elite.  See this blog post.

But, then the contradictory signs.  The license plate was MOMOF 8.  My wife explained that it wasn't the eighth vehicle of the Momof Company, but Mother of Eight.  There was the Gadsen Flag.  There was a bumper sticker that has "St Patrick, flanked by crosses.  There was a small sticker saying "Life is Good".  Add in "FEIS MOBILE" and the "Step Dance" Oval.  Plus two others, but I didn't get them due to fine print and the fact that I was coming off the 93 and spiraling down to Storrow Drive.

So, who IS this person, who seems to cut across stereotypes?  A true American.  Someone I am sure would be interesting to talk with.

UPDATE:  A reader pointed out to me that just because it says Harvard Alumni (yes, I corrected the misspelling in the first para) doesn't mean they graduated from the regular BA/BS program.  It could have been the Divinity School or even the Extension Program.  :-)

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 16, 2012


Over at the Althouse blog we have "Obama Is Channeling Elizabeth Warren".

I am not sure I really understand this riff.  Is there anyone who says grace like Charlie Anderson (the movie Shenandoah)?
Lord, we cleared this land.  We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it.  We cook the harvest.  It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eating it if we hadn't done it all ourselves.  We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat, amen.
On You Tube.

This fact that an economy is a puzzle of many pieces does not dictate one type of Government imposed system or another.  It does mean we all should share in the burdens and we should all be respectful in our use of resources.

I am not sure where Professor Warren and President Obama are going here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gay Talese On Writing

Reporter Susannah Breslin, writing, as a blogger, for Forbes, talks about writing, and surviving being laid off and other things.  In talking about writing she recently said this:
Gay Talese said something once about how journalism is a stage, the journalist’s job is to show up, and that is the point at which the story appears.
I wonder if I can apply that to my blogging?

From the Wikipeda artice on Gay Talese we have this:
Talese credits his mother as the role model he followed in developing the interviewing techniques that would serve him so well later in life interviewing such varied subjects as mafia members and middle-class Americans on their sexual habits.  He relates in A Writer's Life:
I learned [from my mother] ... to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments ... people are very revealing—what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them.  Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them, or what they regard as too private or imprudent to be disclosed to another person at that particular time.  However, I have also overheard many people discussing candidly with my mother what they had earlier avoided—a reaction that I think had less to do with her inquiring nature or sensitively posed questions than with their gradual acceptance of her as a trustworthy individual in whom they could confide.
On the other hand, at the Althouse blog, on Friday we have this Matthew Arnold quote
Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style.
This aphorism begins the first of 10 lessons in what Professor Althouse claims is an excellent book, Style:  The Basics of Clarity and Grace.

On the other hand, Plain Words is my favorite.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New "Spice Route"

There is talk of a new "Spice Route".  Here is an article, with a map.

Can this been a good thing?

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Elites or Elitists?

In honor of yesterday being Bastille Day here is an OpEd from New York Times writer David Brooks on elites, ending with a comparison of the French and American Revolutions.   It seems that after reading the Christopher Hayes (of MSNBC and The Nation) book, Twilight of the Elites, Mr Brooks believes that Mr Hayes "argues that meritocratic elites may rise on the basis of grades, effort and merit, but, to preserve their status, they become corrupt.  They create wildly unequal societies, and then they rig things so that few can climb the ladders behind them. Meritocracy leads to oligarchy."  The David Brooks article can be found here.

From the lede:
Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant Establishment sat atop the American power structure.  A relatively small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.

Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment.  People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.

Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted.  It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network.  Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government?  The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed.  The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.
And here is the closing paragraph:
The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.
Not everyone accepts the views of Mr Brooks or Mr Hayes.  For example I have seen some discussion of "credentialed" vs qualified (or educated or trained).  Some are beginning to question our obsession with credentials.

Here is the view of a Candian university professor:
Personally, I have some problems with the current culture of the meritocracy, so I would tend to agree that that definitely needs to be changed.   To my mind, it's not so much a view of being part of a (supposed) "counter-culture" so much as it is a lack of requirement for the members of the meritocracy to have a persona stake in the state, which is what the older style of elites had.   To quote my old headmaster, "we train the boys to rule", so I would tend to agree with Brooks' comments about stewardship and virtue.

That said, what he doesn't seem to talk about is the "why" of the meritocracy.   There's the "how" (tactics) and the "morality" (operations), but where is the "Why" (strategy)?   Elites, regardless of their system of selection, need a "why" to focus their actions and ethical codes.   Without that focus, then they will inevitably default to a personal and familial focus which will, inevitably, destroy the state in which they operate.   This, BTW, was why there was such a strong "gentlemanly" code, and members of the elite families who went against it tended to be socially annihilated.
Here is a counterpunch from Writer James Joyner, in the blog Outside the Beltway.

Here is a thought (from a younger female military officer) on the contrast between the military and civilian worlds.
Perhaps military elites draw less ire than their civilian counterparts because the military is one of few institutions without lateral transfer at the highest echelons.  Because every general was once a lieutenant, the system looks more fair than many others.  The promotion system may still privilege certain groups, but it requires every officer to travel a roughly similar path without merit based pay.

I noticed that many of my college classmates were really surprised by this.  Many assumed that an Ivy League degree meant that I'd be entering the military with a higher rank, or doing some "special job," like being a general's aid or working an ambiguously defined strategic position at the Pentagon.  It seems like many young, well educated and ambitious people are used to systems that allow for jumping ahead based on a set of demonstrated skills, be they high SAT scores or certain degrees.  This attitude draws criticism from anti-elites who see this kind of path dependency as unfair.
I will note that if you are a physician or lawyer you get to come in with a jump in grade, but you are not part of the "core" of the military.

Where do you stand on the Elite?
pollcode.com free polls 

Regards  —  Cliff

  The title reminds me of the title of the Earnest K Gann novel, Twilight for the Gods.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

San Berdo Bankruptcy

I checked with my two Brothers on the spelling of San Berdo (San Berdo, San Berdoo, San Berdu) and it was agreed that San Berdo is the answer.

Which is by way of leadin to linking to this article on San Berdo's bankruptcy.  Here is the lede:
Facing the same financial stressors that pushed San Bernardino toward bankruptcy, cities across California are slashing day-to-day services and taking other drastic actions to skirt a similar fiscal collapse.
The thing is, out in California they have actual counties, which can give economy of scale on certain services.

We seem to be avoiding this issue of bankruptcy here in Lowell, and just as well.

Regards  —  Cliff

Happy Bastille Day

Happy Bastille Day!

Political Commentator Ann Coulter compared the French and American Revolutions at The Daily Caller on 7 July, here.  And, the French Revolution did great damage to the French health care system of the day.  While a bit over te top here and there, Ms Coulter is correct, "Remember, We're Not French".

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Condi Boomlet

So, there is a boomlet on Condoleeza Rice for Vice President (Republican).  My wife and I differ on this.  She is against Condi because she thinks she lacks the needed aggression for the job.  I like Ms Rice for the job because she is experienced and smart and doesn't talk down to people and she was, when an Intern on the Joint Staff, the best dressed woman in the Pentagon.  I have talked with her, standing in the Tenth Corridor of the Pentagon.  For not many people can I tell you where I held a conversation.

The Althouse blog looked at this yesterday, and discussed possible reasons for floating her name at this time.
  1. Slow News Week
  2. Offset Romney at NAACP Conf
  3. Arguing Rob Portman vs Tim Pawlenty is boring
  4. "Send the Obama campaign into a tizzy."
  5. MY FAVORITE—"Somebody trying to make money on Intrade?"
Regarding number Four, Professor Althouse asks "Will they have to worry that she's more authentically black — American black — than Barack Obama?"  Shouldn't "Black" be capitalized?  [I wish this was the post-racial world some of us thought the Obama Presidency might usher in.]

Here is the view from the Anchoress, who thinks that she would be a major problem for the Democrats.
Let’s be frank. Condoleeza Rice is as qualified as anyone to be Vice President and would be a damn sight less buffoonish in the office than Joe Biden.  She is a graceful diplomat, a fine academic; she is knowledgeable, savvy, internationally experienced; with Putin ascending, her formidable understanding of Russia and the Russian mind and history could be invaluable.  The troops love her and would accept her as Commander-in-Chief.  In fact, Ms. Rice is a good deal more qualified to be president than perhaps either Mr. Romney — for all his business experience — or Mr. Obama, who nearly four years into the gig still seems not to have a handle on the office, its limits or its nuances, and who looks, increasingly, like a man who wishes it would all go away and let him play golf.
But, as Ms Elizabeth Scalia points out, she is a "woman" and the chance of her becoming the first woman president destroys the Democratic Party narrative arc.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Poll Numbers

The LA Times has an article that includes these Poll Numbers.
In the latest Pew polls, 76% of Egyptians had an unfavorable view of the Obama administration; poll numbers from Shibley Telhami found only 25% favored Obama's reelection and 85% had an unfavorable view of the U.S. in general.
The good news for President Obama is that Egyptians don't vote in US Elections; at least I hope not.

The bulk of the article talks to the three things standing between us and the Egyptians:
  1. The Democracy Problem—does either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Egyptian Military really want democracy?
  2. The Israel Problem—Do the Egyptian People really want peace with Israel?
  3. The "Egyptians-hate-our-policy problem"—enough said.
As Margo Channing says:  "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Regards  —  Cliff

Judge Posner Disappointed in GOP

The ABA Journal has an article on the recently stated views of Federal Judge Richard Posner, titled:  "Judge Posner Critic of ‘Goofy’ Trend in GOP, Says He’s Becoming Less Conservative".  Here is the lede:
Judge Richard Posner is a big fan of two conservative icons:  President Ronald Reagan and economist Milton Friedman.

Posner owes his job on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to an appointment by Reagan.  But he tells National Public Radio he’s becoming less enamored with the Republican Party.

Over the last 10 years, Posner said, there has been “a real deterioration in conservative thinking” that is leading people—himself included—to re-examine their own beliefs.  "I've become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy," he told NPR.
So, is he becoming less Conservative or is he saying that the centroid of Conservatism has moved to a new and unhappy place?  If he is saying the second, it might be like the Democratic Party in 1972, which seemed to move, move a long ways, from the space occupied by people such as Hubert H Humphrey, Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Shirley Chisholm.

Regards  —  Cliff

What Is Islam?

There has been some discussion in Defense/Intelligence/Law Enforcement/Homeland Security Circles about teaching about Islam.  Unfortunately, it has tended to polarize into two camps, at different ends of the issue.  One camp sees all Muslims in a secret plot to impose Sharia on the US.  The other extreme believes that Islam is a religion of peace and nothing in Islam, anywhere, offers a danger to us.  As the author of the article linked below points out, some on this second extreme tend to think of religion as a minor factor in society and it's principles as fairly flexible.

US Air Force Major Mark Jacobsen, has written about this in the latest issue of Armed Forces Journal.

I think this passage captures his proposed solution:
Genuine dialogue is rare, and government educators are often caught between extreme anti-Islamic voices and aggressive lobbying by Islamic organizations to silence criticism of Islam.

There is only one way out of this dilemma, and fortunately it is the most intellectually honest one:  to understand the battle for American perceptions of Islam, to map out the topography of the debate and to teach students to critically analyze rival arguments.  Such a program would teach the basics of Islamic history and sources of doctrine, then explore how they have been interpreted and used by various groups throughout history.  Instead of searching out and identifying one “true” meaning, it would explore the manifold meanings suggested by Islam’s friends and foes alike.  It would also explore possible reasons why various groups embrace the meanings they do.
We do need to better understand Islam, and most important, while not thinking of it as being like Protestantism, recognizing that there is no one Islam.  Saudi Arabia and Iran do not think alike.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Major Jacobsen is a C-17 Aircraft Commander, a "Trash Hauler" in Air Force argot.  The Kiwis say "Truckee".

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Senior Taliban Commander on the Late Osama bin Laden

From The Times of India we have an interview with a senior Taliban commander. The interview is by Reporter Michael Semple, who, I am told, has the contacts, history, and instincts to give this some credence.  The interviewee doesn't necessarily represent the Taliban movement as a whole (which has fractured significantly the last few years under all the HVT strikes), but it probably means that a faction of Taliban think that way.  A selection: 
"At least 70% of the Taliban are angry at al-Qaida," Mawlvi is quoted as saying. "Our people consider al-Qaida to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens.  To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama.

The other interesting quote is:
"It would take some kind of divine intervention for the Taliban to win this war," the commander, who is referred to only as Mawlvi (mullah) tells Semple, according to excerpts of the interview on the magazine's website.  "The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect."
I don't think we are about to become best buddies with the Taliban.  They want to be back in control.  But, still, something might be worked out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Right; Blame The Intern

Reporter Carl Prine is on what I hope is a temporary leave of absence, but his column, "Line of Departure" marches on.  I don't know the temp columnist from Adam's odd ox, and neither does Wikipedia, but there are reports he has extensive time in the F-14 Tomcat and is an author of novels.

At any rate, here he writes on Sequestration.  Should sequestration be capitalized?  I think so, given that it is an individual monster, due to appear on or about 2 January, as Writer Carroll points out.

In case you don't think this is real, Bloomberg has this article, "Lockheed’s You-May-Be-Fired Notices Called Scare Tactic". 
Companies led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), the world’s largest defense contractor, say federal and state laws may require them to send out blanket notifications of potential job cuts before the election unless President Barack Obama and Congress act by October to avert automatic defense reductions of $500 billion over a decade that would start on Jan. 2.
After this paragraph the article cites an employment-law attorney, Ms Margaret Keane, who says the contracts existing are such that there will not be abrupt mass layoffs and thus this is a cynical political act to pressure Capitol Hill.

The way I see it, the lack of action now could result in very bad decisions come January.

In the meantime, here is what the Bloomberg article says about the laws Lockheed is worried about.  Remember, the judge and jury won't forgive Lookheed for having IT'S head in the sand.
The federal WARN Act, which became law in 1988, requires most employers with 100 or more workers to give 60 days’ notice of plant closings or “mass layoffs” -- labor cutbacks affecting 500 or more workers, or at least 33 percent of the workforce for companies with fewer than 500 employees.

Some employers also must comply with labor contracts that may require more notice, and some states including New York have their own laws requiring 90 days’ notice, said Keane, who is based in San Francisco and has represented companies such as Alcoa Inc. (AA) and Accretive LLC on WARN Act compliance.

If notices are required, they would have to go out days before the election because of the 60-day notice required by federal law and in early October if a company operates in states requiring 90 days’ warning.
This is a serious problem.  That said, it is an iceberg like situation.  Most of it is below the surface, out of sight.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Only Candidate

Over at the Althouse blog we have a link to a NewsMax article about the Libertarian Candidate for President, Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.  Talking about his platform he tells us:
I’m the only candidate that wants to end the drug war.  I’m the only candidate that wants to repeal the Patriot Act.  I’m the only candidate that’s talking about marriage equality as being a constitutionally guaranteed right.  I’m the only candidate that wants to balance the federal budget now, and that means reforming the entitlements:  Medicaid, Medicare.
I would like to know what he means by the Constitution guaranteeing "marriage equality".

Quoted in Think Progress, he appears to be supporting "gay marriage" but may really be going beyond that.
As a believer in individual freedom and keeping government out of personal lives, I simply cannot find a legitimate justification for federal laws, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, which ‘define’ marriage.  That definition should be left to religions and individuals – not government. Government’s role when it comes to marriage is one of granting benefits and rights to couples who choose to enter into a marriage ‘contract’.  As I have examined this issue, consulted with folks on all sides, and viewed it through the lens of individual freedom and equal rights, it has become clear to me that denying those rights and benefits to gay couples is discrimination, plain and simple. [...]

Today, I believe we have arrived at a point in history where more and more Americans are viewing it as a question of liberty and freedom.  That evolution is important, and the time has come for us to align our marriage laws with the notion that every individual should be treated equally.
Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson seems to not be excluding plural marriages, say the way Maggie's Marshall did.

Are there principles involved, or just special interests?  I am on the record, from when I ran for office, as saying everyone should get civil unions from the state and "marriages" should be done in arrangement with your local minister.  Right now that everyone is straight and homosexual couples.  Why is that the natural limit?  I would like to draw the line there, but isn't that just me trying to impose my religious or cultural ideas on everyone else?

Regards  —  Cliff

IDs Required

The US Attorney General, Eric Holder said on Tuesday requiring ID to vote is a form of poll tax, thus racist.  He said this at a NAACP Conference, where reporters were required to show IDs.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Coming Sequestration

Mr Jeffrey Zients is acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.  That means he is the President's man.  He works for President Barak Obama—directly.

Mr Zients has an article today (12:04 this AM) in Politico calling for action on the upcoming mammoth sequestration.
Congress has now begun to focus on the automatic reductions in spending — or sequester — due to take effect in January because the legislators did not achieve the deficit-reduction goal they set for themselves in the 2011 bipartisan Budget Control Act.

This is good news.  If you are driving toward a brick wall, you should do what you can to change course. Unfortunately, Congress is focusing on how much hitting the wall would hurt — not on how to avoid it in the first place.

Specifically, members of Congress are now asking the Office of Management and Budget for a range of reports on the likely effects of the sequester.  Meanwhile, OMB is beginning the internal analysis needed to implement the sequester, if Congress doesn’t take action to avoid it.  But make no mistake:  When bipartisan majorities in Congress voted for the BCA, they and the administration knew that this sequester would be destructive.

That is by design.  As President Barack Obama has said many times, the sequester wasn’t meant to be implemented.  It was designed to cause cuts so deep that just threatening them would force members of Congress to agree on a big, balanced package of deficit reduction.
There is the news.

Regards  —  Cliff

Was He Joking?

Sure, the report comes from The Weekly Standard, but it is supposed to be a "Pool" report.  Given the misspelling of "rolls", I believe it.  Here is Vice President Joe Biden saying
Republicans have changed the law so you get arrested if you do vote.
Of course, he could be talking about people who are engaged in fraudulent voting.  I have no problem with such people being arrested and tried and if convicted, fined.  My vote is too important to me for me to wink at fraudulent voting.  Winning isn't everything—winning by the rules is the Gold Standard.  Our Vice President, Joe Biden, is a decent person and knows that.

I am thinking it is just another Bidenism.

Regards  —  Cliff

Happening in Germany

Over on The Right Coast, yesterday, was a post on a recent Köln (German) District Court decision, which
ruled that circumcision of children for religious reasons at the instruction of parents constituted the infliction of bodily harm and therefore was a punishable offense.
As the blog poster noted:
Of course, for observant Jews, circumcision of male children is not optional.   It is required as a matter of Jewish law.   To prohibit it is, in effect, to forbid Jews from being Jews.
Are we heading back to 1920?

Regards  —  Cliff

Howie Carr and Elizabeth Warren

I don't think Howie Carr holds Elizabeth Warren in high regard.

But it is Howie Carr.

Then again, it is Elizabeth Warren.

And, Senator Chuck Schumer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Multiculturalism and Freedom

Sometimes I think multiculturalism is oversold.  I have sometimes wondered if the former US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, didn't bring a little too much of the Latin American cultural tradition of the Caudillo—the strong man—with him into office.

Then there is the whole Afghanistan culture.  This horrendous news article is palmed off on the Taliban, but it isn't like the Taliban appeared out of nowhere—ex nihilo, as they say.  The gist of it is that two Taliban Commanders had a relationship with the same woman, which threatened loss of face, for both.  It appears they arranged for her to be tried for adultery, found guilty and executed.  The execution was mishandled.  In an EMail I received it was suggested that the video be skipped, as a form of pornography.  I skipped it.

But, Ths action is NOT being accepted by all Muslims or all Afgans.  Here is a report that shows that.

So, we actually have two issues.  The first is the degree of freedom to be themselves we give those Afghans who will eventually relocate to the US as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

The second is our feelings about what we (at least some of us) see as the oppression of women.  Eric Hoffer, in his book, The True Believer, says that the most oppressed don't make revolutions, but rather those who already see hope.  A friend of mine summed it up this way:
What was it Frederick Douglass observed: If a slave has a bad master his ambition is to get a better; when he gets a better, he aspires to have the best; and when he gets the best, he aspires to be his own master.


Note the step-by-step attitude that Douglass, himself a former slave, observes. It is, I suspect, quite a leap for an oppressed people to automatically seek full freedom (which is not to say that they do not deserve it or do not have a right to it); rather, as Douglass observes, first they wish for better conditions within their servitude.

Conversely, it also suggests that once you have reform, the oppressed inexorably seek to be less oppressed, and eventually not to be oppressed at all. Thus, the worry on the part of many dictators that ANY reform will be seen as opening the floodgates to their own downfall.

All of which is to suggest that one can gain the support of the oppressed population, be it women or non-Taliban, only by first showing them alternative paths and effecting some measures of improvement in their lot, at which point, you have essentially whetted their appetite.
On the other hand, do we think it s our job to be fighting n Afghanistan on the chance the result will be more freedom for females?  Is it our job to avenge ever act of throwing acid in the face of school girls, for being school girls?

I would argue that it is in our interest to bring back our robust United States Information Agency (USIA), WHICH WENT AWAY IN 1999.  Tell the truth, warts and all.  We will still inspire other People.  We will be (hushed tones now) revolutionaries.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Why Russia Is Backing Syria"

From a Russian Think Tank Director, Ruslan Pukhov (Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies), with high level connections in the Kremlin we have this apology for "Why Russia Is Backing Syria".  From the lede:
MANY in the West believe that Russia’s support for Syria stems from Moscow’s desire to profit from selling arms to Bashar al-Assad’s government and maintain its naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartus.  But these speculations are superficial and misguided.  The real reason that Russia is resisting strong international action against the Assad regime is that it fears the spread of Islamic radicalism and the erosion of its superpower status in a world where Western nations are increasingly undertaking unilateral military interventions.
Not in the article, but from another source, Mr Ruslan Pukhov "is a senior advisor to the Russian Ministry of Defense".

In a way, this could be about Libya.  One analyst suggested:
The Libya episode showed that once Russia gave its assent in the UN Security Council, it became irrelevant to the course of events.
I bet Putin didn't like that one iota.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 8, 2012

MoDo Does John Ford

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
That is the purpose of legends.  They are the "facts" that mold us and guide us.

Hat tip to my Brother Lance.

Regards  —  Cliff

Destruction in Timbuktu

The reason it is important to distinguish amongst Muslim sects is that they are not all the same. Here is a report from New Scientist, which talks to Anser Dine, a Tuareg group, intent on destroying ancient scientific texts, located at Timbuktu, Mali, because those texts are associated with Islamic Sufi followers.  The term idolatrous was used.  One person noted:
The destruction may (may) be the fundamental application of the prohibition of Tasweer
The description in the media seems consistent with the Islamic prohibitions on making, and the mandates for destroying, certain images, monuments and structures. 
We saw it when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist's statues; part of an assertion process.
Please see: Shakir, Abu Muhammad Abdur-Ra’uf. The Islamic Ruling Concerning Tasweer: Two and Three Dimensional Images, Drawings, Paintings, Photography and Sculptures. Zakee Muwwakkil Books, Philadelphia: (1998).
So, our conclusion might be that we, as Americans, welcome, and respect, all Muslims, but we insist on our First Amendment demands that the religious freedom of one person stops at the "nose" of the other person.  As for what we see as wonton destruction of historic sights in other nations, we will use diplomacy, but not force.  If invited in by the lawful, recognized government of the nation, we will consider assisting but make no guarantees.

The destruction of historic treasures is a terrible thing, but not the only terrible thing in this world.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Economic Normal?

Over at Memeorandum is a link to the blogsite of Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw.  In particular, there is a chart of the Civilian Employment-Population Ratio (EMRATIO).  The data is from the St Louis Federal Reserve Bank.

The Professor titles the chart "Monitoring the So-Called Recovery".  What it shows is that before the recession the EMRATIO hovered between 62% and 63%.  Now it is running, after the end of the recession, at between 58% and 59%.  So, who was hurt, and do we need corrective action, or is this the new normal and socially acceptable?  And what was the ratio in the 100 years between 1904 and 2003.

Research continues.

Regards  —  Cliff

The "New" Particle

NB:  There is a joke at the end of this blog post.

Here is an article from The Washington Post on the identification of indications of the long sought Higgs boson.  The lede:
It was a triumphant moment for science:  On Wednesday in Geneva, a team of researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced that they had found the elusive Higgs boson—or at least something that looks an awful lot like it.
The article tells why the discovery didn't happen in the US—well, Texas.
Physicists have been searching for evidence of the Higgs, which supposedly gives other particles their mass, for nearly half a century, ever since it was first predicted by theorists in 1964.  (Here’s a nice Higgs explainer.)  But the actual boson itself couldn’t be found until the construction of the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, which spans a 17-mile radius beneath the border of Switzerland and France.

Here’s a lesser-known fact, however.  The Higgs could have been discovered about a decade earlier—and in Texas rather than Switzerland.  Back in the 1980s, American physicists were developing a particle accelerator three times as powerful as Europe’s Large Hadron Collider.  But Congress eventually cut off funds and the project collapsed.
Investment in such things pays off in the long run, in this case for the Europeans.

All of which gives me a setup to repeat this joke.
A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest stops the particle and says, "We don't allow your kind in here."  Undeterred the particle responds:  "But without me, you can't have mass."
Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alternative Electric Power Generation

There is an outfit out there known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).  In the July 2012 issue of its magazine, Spectrum, is an article on ramping up alternative energy—solar, wind and biomass.  By Professor Vaclav Smil, of the University of Manitoba, it is titled "A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy:  It takes several lifetimes to put a new energy system into place, and wishful thinking can’t speed things along."  And that sums up the article.  Facts, figures and charts, and the never ending question of if Senator Ted Kennedy loved Martha's Vineyard more than he loved the environment.

The comments provide the rebuttal.  For example:
The ULTIMATE goal is not global warming, it's climate change, which is not the same thing (and climate aside, emissions are bad for a number of other reasons).  
The IMMEDIATE goal is peak oil mitigation, and fossil fuel peaks in general. Peak oil is in the PAST not the future.  
Low energy prices are not, and should not be a goal. Higher prices now encourage earlier adoption of technologies which will be cheaper in the future.  
All the skeptics A) are short-sighted and selfish, and B) assume that business-as-usual will prevail in the oil world, which it won't.
So, it is the skeptic's skeptic.

One of the things I took away from the article was the results of a survey by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009, giving our transmission grid a D+ score.

In the long run, we need to reduce energy demand by more efficient use of electricity and we need to move to more sustainable sources of energy.  But we also have to consider how we can help India and China reach our level of economic development, but without consuming all the fossil fuel in the world.  Currently about ten percent of our domestic coal production goes to Asia.

I guess the good news is that there are still challenges for our current young people to overcome in the future.

Regards  —  Cliff