Monday, December 31, 2012

Getting Back Into Space


For John, BLUFSpace is still the Final Frontier and things are still happening there.

Writer Jeff Foust of The Space Review talks to "Space" issues for 2013.

This coming year should see even more commercial access to space.  That should be exciting.

Sequestration will play a role in how we go forward.  Also, Export Controls have changed and should open up new avenues for helping reversing our balance of payments problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

The End of Life Debate


For John, BLUFSome take a long and arduous trip before they come to you.  The question is, should the Government, to save money, be encouraging them to visit you sooner?

My Middle Brother, Lance, and I have been having a dialogue, maybe more, since we copy the youngest, John, on our EMails.  It involves end of life decisions.  Our Mother, who was suffering from Cancer, had a do not resuscitate order.  I was out to the Coast for a long weekend visit and the night I flew home she fell and broke her hip (or her hip broke and she thus fell).  The doctors reset it, but she died the next night.  By then I was back in the DC area, and as she told me, her ashes would be scattered before I could get back out.  And so it went.  Our Father, at age 90, spend a couple of weeks in the hospital and passed away.

The question is, what is the best way to deal with end of life issues?  Today Lance sent along this URL, which is a link to a San Jose Mercury News article.  The author, Lisa M Krieger, is no relation that we know of.

Of course there was the expected back and forth.  My Brother does some work with the sick and dying, so he sees the human face of this.  We are, I believe, both in agreement with the Church's teachings, which include:

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article Five, Item 2278.

After that it is all down hill.

My position is that medical research is extending life and in doing so, doing good.  That extension of life is not easy.  There was an article in The New Yorker a while back that talked about some terrible surgeon down in Boston who would put his patients through all sorts of abuse in order to perfect organ transplants.  Surgeons are arrogant people.  They have to be.

I asserted that life doesn't have to stop at 65.  People can be productive workers past that age.  On the other hand, some in our society are physically and mentally past 70 by the time they hit 55.  Our prison system sees those folks all the time.  One problem for the future is to find a way to identify such people and help them without sweeping up everyone else.

Even so, there is no reason to start putting expiration dates on people.

Let them go as they feel they wish to go.

Then my Brother responded:

  • Your biases are keeping you from any critical thinking on the subject. And as a result you make preposterous statements, speaking in politically oriented, wrong headed, blurbs.
  • Your assertion is ridiculous:  if a quarter of medicare money is spent on the last year of life how does that have anything to do with extending productive lives (and studies have shown that heroics actually tend to shorten life).
I grant that we spend a lot of Medicare money on the last portion of a person's life.  Does it all go to waste?  Should that last year be forfeit?  Since statistics are probably hidden in here, I bet some go quickly and some hang around for a while.

There are no easy answers here, and I have the keyboard, although the comments are open to any who wise to opine.  For sure, when we hear talk regarding the Fiscal Cliff that includes "entitlements" the Medicare issue is wrapped up in there and these end of life costs are also wrapped up in there.  When Governor Sarah Palin spoke of "death panels" she was not far off, in as much as decisions to reduce the cost of end of life care will certainly involve decisions about the health care to be provided.

I fully support the idea of better end of life counseling and encouraging people who are in pain to let go and avoid "'over-zealous' treatment".  My Mother, a Registered Nurse, understood that without a "Do Not Resuscitate Order" someone could be breaking her ribs trying to get her heart going again, and in the end fail.  On the one hand, I don't want my spouse to leave me one second before it is time.  On the other hand, I hope that I recognize the time when it comes and can let her go into God's hands, and visa versa.

Regards  —  Cliff

  It is possible Grandpa Ray remarried after he divorced Grandma, but I have heard nothing of it.  This would be, I suspect, a great grandchild or married to one.
  Here is the obit from The Boston Globe.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Speaker?


For John, BLUFPeople see the present budget crisis as a chance to force change on DC.  Not likely.  The only thing that has changed in the last 20 some years is the Tea Party Caucus.

Today's edition of The [Lowell] Sun has an article talking about the replacement of House Speaker John A Boehner.  The Writer, Norman Ornstein, suggests the House Republicans replace Speaker Boehner with an outsider—former Governor Jon Huntsman.  This raises the possibility of a Speaker who is not a member of the House.  Not outside the realm of possibility.

Another suggestion is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Republican from Virginia.  Mr Cantor's district is the 7th, extending north and west of Richmond, but not including Richmond.  It is what my Sons would describe as "Red Neck" territory—Rappahannock, Culpeper, Spotsylvania, on down to Henrico County.  Median Household Income of $64,751.

In his book, The Price of Politics, Author Bob Woodward records this exchange during the 2011 Debt Ceiling negotiations:

“This is our come-to-Jesus moment,” Biden said.  “Yeah,” said Cantor, who is Jewish, “but I’m not very good on that point.”
Kindle location 2256
My own, uninformed, guess is that it will be Speaker Boehner for the near term.

Regards  —  Cliff

Education Cost Inflation


For John, BLUFHigher Education is pricing itself out of the market of goods.  It will eventually crash, since what is not sustainable will not survive.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article focused on the cost of higher Education.  But, it is The Wall Street Journal and their articles are behind a "pay wall".  Except, perhaps, this article.  Just in case the link doesn't work for you, here is part of a summary someone provided in an EMail:

The following article focuses on the University of Minnesota and what the new president's "fresh eyes" found as he looked at their staffing and finances.   He did find that there was one University employee for every 3.5 students, and most new hires did little or no teaching.   The topic has been previously discussed, but this article provides a degree of granularity not previously available.

Many of the "lessons learned" at the University of Minnesota, also apply to other parts of our economy, to include business and government.   One of the lessons to be learned from the article and from the fiscal cliff "debate" currently underway is the sheer cost of doing some otherwise "good things."   When economic times are good, the cost of the "good things" is more readily accommodated.   When times are tough—and particularly when tough times last for years—the cost of "good things" can be too difficult for many to bear.

From the article:  "Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example.  The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says.  It's part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs."

And, "For students, the effect (tuition more than doubled in 10-years) is striking.  In 1975, a University of Minnesota undergraduate could cover tuition by working six hours a week year-round at a minimum-wage job, the Journal calculated.  Today, a student would have to work 32 hours at minimum wage to cover the cost."

And, "Many forces besides administrative overhead add to universities' cost pressures, among them health-care and retirement expenses.  And among the administrative spending, some is unavoidable, such as that owing to federal rules requiring greater spending to oversee research grants or accommodations for students with disabilities."

And, "Higher education now faces pressures similar to those that reshaped other segments, Minnesota's Dr. Kaler says.  "You look at American industry in general—the car industry got comfortable until the Japanese showed up, the airline industry was comfortable until it got deregulated," he says.  "Now it's higher ed's turn."

I think this last point is important.  What is not sustainable will not continue.  It is a warning to us here in Lowell.  UMass Lowell is a wonderful engine for growth, but its long term success will depend upon how well Chancellor Meehan manages the cost of education and the drag of too much administration.  One solution, of course, is more on-line courses and UMass Lowell is doing that very well, although at some point the price per credit hour will have to come down to be competitive.

And, over at The New Englander Blogger and MBA Student Greg Page comes at this same WSJ article from a different direction, looking at salaries and "competitive pay" with the private sector.  Nice job, Greg.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cutting a Deal on Debt and Deficit

The Price of Politics
Bob Woodward
Kindle:  380 Pages
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Language:  English
ISBN:  1451651104
Copyright:  2012

For John, BLUFThe President's tactical maneuvering WRT Capitol Hill left something to be desired—and I blame Rahm Emanuel.

This book looks at negotiations over the Federal Debt Limit after the 2010 elections, where the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives.  The book runs through 2011, up to the point where a deal is cut, giving us Sequestration as the gun at our head to force us to fix our debt and deficit problems before the next need for a Federal Debt extension.  What we are seeing today in negotiations to avoid going over the “Fiscal Cliff” is déjà vu all over again.

I found this book difficult to read.  After ten to fifteen pages the reader gets frustrated by the lack of progress, a lack of progress that was manifested in the previous ten to fifteen pages, with no hope that it will be better in the next ten to fifteen pages.

To be fair, the players, especially President Obama and Speaker John Boehner, are struggling to find a solution.  Others are actively looking to find a way out, but with little success.  These would include Senate President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The author sums it up early on:

They were facing contradictory policy requirements: spend more quickly, but address the long-term deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
The story is muddled by the fact that some, like WRKO’s Jeff Kuhner, think the President is a Radical Socialist, and he does sometimes sound that way.  However, this book suggests he is, his time in Chicago and round people like William Ayers notwithstanding, a bit of a Blue Dog Democrat.  This is not to say the President wasn’t and isn’t a Keynesian, but that he understands that there are limits.  This view of the President may cause my wife to comment on this blog for the first time ever.

Another thing happening in Washington was that even some Democrats were concerned about the economy.  Early in the Administration Democratic Senator Kent Conrad expressed concern.

Conrad, the head of the Senate Budget Committee, believed the country was heading off a fiscal cliff.  He could prove it, and he was going to fix it.
So, the problem with the Debt Ceiling was not solely a Republican Party issue:
Raising the debt ceiling was normally a routine matter, but Conrad was determined to change that.  “Unless we get a commission we’re just not” raising it, he said flatly.
There was also the issue of the President and the Republicans on Capital Hill.  Early on there was the Rush Limbaugh “I hope the President Fails”.  Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell put it this way:
In an October 2010 interview with National Journal, McConnell had said that for Republicans, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  The statement was widely reported in the press and was cited by Democrats as evidence that Republicans in Congress prized defeating Obama above the good of the country.  But the coverage largely ignored the rest of what McConnell had said.  Asked if his strategy involved constant confrontation, McConnell said, “If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him.”  “I don’t want the president to fail,” he said later in that interview.  “I want him to change.”
The thing that comes through the book is that, in fact, the Administration wasn’t into compromising here and there in order to build consensus.  It was an approach created by then White House Chief of Staff and now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, "the man in charge of that process":
President Obama’s fellow Chicagoan left the House leadership to help guide the relatively inexperienced president through the intricacies of Washington politics, and his aggressive approach to dealing with congressional Republicans in the early years of Obama’s first term was:  “We have the votes."
While that worked for the first two years of the Administration, it wouldn’t work for the next two years, following the 2010 election, when Tea Party Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives by voters who wanted real change and not just the continuous flow of Pork to their towns and cities.

As Author Woodward points out, “from the Obama administration there was virtually no outreach or contact.”  This meant that there were no paths laid down for future compromise.

Thus, the “Rahm Emanuel approach to congressional relations”:

We have the votes.  [Screw] ’em.
With the new Congress in 2011 the Democrats lacked the votes in the Lower House and in the Senate the ability to break a filibuster was reduced.  Further, the President’s promise, following the 2010 election, of regular meetings, never happened.  The needed infusion of political operatives from the White House into Congress, doing the button holing needed to build relationships and sell ideas, never happened.  It was as though the While House believed in the strong man theory.  Thus, in the previous crisis the President negotiated with House Speaker Boehner, but did not include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  One assumes that the President either believed, (a) that Ms Pelosi would support the President, no questions asked, or that (b) Speaker Boehner would make it happen in the House, since he was in charge.  It doesn’t work that way.

Adding to the problem appears to be the belief on the part of the President that he is in charge, as opposed to one of three centers of power.  This would be what writer Garry Wills decries as "bomb power", the idea that the President is superior to the other branches of Government, and not beholding to or accountable to the other branches.

Negotiations are hard.  They are harder when one side thinks it has the power and the authority to do what it thinks it right.

Regards  —  Cliff

  As opposed to the Deficit.  The Debt is the totality of what the Federal Government owes to creditors.  The Deficit is the amount the Federal Government overspends in a given fiscal year—Expenditures minus Revenues (Taxes) collected.
  Rush’s own words on this issue can be found her.  In essense, Mr Limbaugh didn’t like the policies President Elect Obama had been proposing and Mr Limbaugh thought they were bad for the nation.
  Sometimes referred to as "Dead Fish" after he mailed a dead fish to a pollster who was late with the data.
  Bomb Power:  The Modern Presidency and the National Security State, which suggests the acqusition of nuclear weapons "dramatically increas[ed] the power of the modern presidency and redefin[ed] the government as a national security state".

Friday, December 28, 2012

Seigniorage for Profit


For John, BLUFWhile Uncle Sugar loses money minting pennies he more than makes up for it on dimes and quarters and dollars.

Army Colonel, and PhD, Scott Nestler, while teaching at the Naval Post Graduate School wrote this blog post on seigniorage.  It is a short post, but it tells us that while the US Mint loses money minting pennies and nickels, it more than makes up for it minting dimes, quarters and dollar coins.

Regards  —  Cliff

  An Army Officers teaching at the Naval Post Graduate School?  Yes, such exchanges do happen, and they help broaden the education of the student officers.  I wonder if he knows my old roommate from the Air Force Academy, Dr Greg Hildebrandt?  At any rate, Colonel Nestler is currently studying Dead Carl, at the Army War College.  I note he won the MORS Richard H. Barchi Prize, for Excellence in Operations Research, in 2010.  If you have gotten this far, I will inform you that you should be impressed by the Barchi Prize.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our Aging Pipes


For John, BLUFOur City is being proactive in avoiding possible infrastructure problems, as shown below.

Yesterday we had a water main break, which followed one in the Belvedere area about a fortnight ago.  On City Life this morning City Councillor Marty Lorrey mentioned a third in the City.  Yes, our infrastructure is aging.  Driving home from City Life I noticed what looked like urban "graffiti" at the intersection of Mansur and Fairmount and thought it might be about our water system.  Here are two views of the same art work:



When I gave it a close look it said "Multiple Fractures Deformed".  I called around and found it was action by the Waste Water Department.  The paint in the pictures is a form of directions to a contractor who will subsequently show up to fix the pipe in question.  This positive action speaks well for our City's Waste Water Department.

UPDATE:  I talked to someone from the City's Waste Water Department and he said they had sent a camera down the pipe to assess its status.  They are not going to do anything to the pipe that involves opening the street before 15 April, which is the official date for breaking pavement—unless it is an emergency.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rioters' Veto?


For John, BLUFDo rioters get a veto over free speech?

From Reason Magazine we have an article that asks the question "Can violence in the Middle East justify censorship in the United States?"  Ths isn't directly about the video "Innocence of Muslims".  It is about posters (advertisements) in the Washington, DC, Metro.

In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel.  Defeat jihad.
Can we retain a robust democratic form of government, our robust democratic form of government, if demonstrators, including demonstrators in other nations, can quash the ability of minority groups in the US to express their views. Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thinking Like Sherlock Holmes


For John, BLUFUsing your brain for health.

From the 15 December edition of The New York Times we have an article on the power of meditation.  The key point:

[N]ew evidence suggests that not only can we learn into old age, but the structure of our brains can continue to change and develop.
Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Still Raucous Internet


For John, BLUFIf the Internet is to do for us what needs to be done, helping to ensure our Democracy, it has to be a free and open place.  While some may be offended, that is a price that even the offended should be willing to pay for freedom.

I am not trying to be Gerry Nutter, Lynne Lupien or Dick Howe, or any of their incorporated bloggers.  I have tended not to dive two deeply into local political personalities.  But, that doesn’t mean those opportunities don’t seek me out. I wrote a blog post on 5 December of this year, “The Raucous Internet”.

In that Blog Post I mentioned an unnamed friend who wished to “control” the internet.  I also mentioned City Councilor Bill Martin, who was on City Life, and in response to an assertion by Host George Anthes, “compared Blogs unfavorably with the newspapers”.  And, since Mr Anthes had mentioned the criminalization of political speech, local community activist Deb Forgiene called in to say there was a distinction in speech and that some things were not as threatening as others.

Frankly, in the back of my mind was the 11 September Benghazi Incident, in which the Current Administration threw a videographer and the First Amendment under the bus in an effort to concoct a cover story for whatever was going on there.  Not only was it wrong, it was somewhat foolish, in that while some Administration drones kept up the story for weeks, by and large the American Public realized it was a false story fairly early on.  Even CNN Reporter Candy Crowley realized it, as she tried to show that the Administration knew all along that it was a terrorist event and not the reaction to a video put together to contrast the persecution of Copts with the errors of Islam.

My other concern was the on-going World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), sponsored by the United Nations.  Our Ambassador to the Conference, Terry Kramer, understands the importance of a free and unfettered Internet:

There have been proposals that have suggested that the ITU should enter the internet governance business.

There have been active recommendations that there be an invasive approach of governments in managing the internet, in managing the content that goes via the internet, what people are looking at, what they're saying.

These fundamentally violate everything that we believe in in terms of democracy and opportunities for individuals, and we're going to vigorously oppose any proposals of that nature.

So, along comes local Blogger Jack Mitchell, to add to the discussion.  He explains why he thinks Councilor Bill Martin is wrong.  And he does the same regarding Ms Forgione.  In fact, he goes a little over the top and uses a common (as in coarse) term to show his distain for her comments, in contrast to his “a decent guy, like Bill Martin” comment.

On a subsequent day Ms Forgione calls back into City Life, when Host George Anthes again brings up the criminalization of political speech.  Amongst other things she says that this humble blogger will never get elected to the School Committee if he allows Jack Mitchell’s comments to stand.

This evening Mr John McDonough showed me an EMail from Ms Deb Forgione to me at my World Account, asking me to take down my blog post of 5 December.  She says that it is her third request, and copies a number of local political personalities.  I am thinking that she doesn't really want the blog post itself taken down, but really wants Jack Mitchell's offending comment removed.  So, as to what Jack Mitchell said as a comment on the blog post on 5 December 2012, at 11:29 AM, I have deleted it from its position.  However, I repost it here, but with what I believe to be the offending phrase snipped out:

I think "speech" is somewhat like music.  We tend to gravitate to what we find stimulating and palatable.  I grew up listening mostly to Rock music.  As a young adult, I branched out listening to funk, country, hip-hop & raggae.

So often the human themes in the lyrics are the same.  They are just expressed in different 'vernacular.'

Political speech speaks to an intended audience.  Well-heeled, softened speech aims at a broader audience.  Speech with sharpened edges narrows itself to an audience that enjoys (or tolerates) such things.

For me, the equation is quite simple.  If you want to see what we dole out on Left in Lowell, you can click THIS LINK.  Please note the conspicuous absence of a soldier holding a gun to your head in this moment.  Also, note there may be a trillion something OTHER places to go, other than Left in Lowell, Trust me when I say, the internet is a big place.

It unfortunate when a decent guy, like Bill Martin, has to deal with the hassles of pests nipping at his heels.  Does it make him a better Councilor?  There's no way to tell.  But, his point that there is no anonymity in the main stream media is without merit.  Sorry, Bill.  You're wrong.  Are there standards in "The Press?"  Less so, everyday. It can't be any worse than in the late 19th Century.

So, Deb Forgione can try to parse a position based on her politically motivated bigotries, all she wants.  She called into the show and used her name. Did she read from a script, prepared by others?  I dunno?  Consider the source, is the theme here.


[SNIP of overly disdainful and coarse material.]  The self anointed "Princess of Pawtucketville" can cast aspersions upon the countless foes she has conjured in her delusions until her tongue stops wagging, for all I care.  She is the "proverbial tree in the forest," even to those that nod, pleasantly, as she lobbies inanely.

That said, I wish her good health and a Merry Christmas.

There you have Jack’s comments, with the offending phrase removed.  Will I, in the future, shun Mr Mitchell?  Not likely.  He is, along with a number of bloggers I know, like Dick Howe and Marie Sweeney and Lynne Lupien, a member of, and supporter of, Massachusetts’ majority party.  I find that sad, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have good ideas or that they are not capable of intelligent interaction and dialogue.  Or that they are not interesting people to be around.

Will I, at some point, encourage Producer John McDonough or Host George Anthes to shun or send to Coventry Mr Mitchell.  Not likely.  Mr Mitchell is a Democratic Party operative and has worked hard to defeat candidates I support, but that is his right and I see no reason to try and shut him down.  My responsibility is to better articulate the ideas and ideals of the Republican Party so that the voters of Lowell know the truth and that truth will make them free.  I also have to recruit candidates and work on a ground game, but that is under my job description as Chairman of the Lowell Republican City Committee.

Speak freely!

Regards  —  Cliff

  I like the City Councilor, and find him alert and insightful, unlike the 23 December “Column” in The [Lowell] Sun.  I voted for him in 2011 and expect to vote for him in 2013.
  Yes, I have seen the cited video, Innocence of Muslims, and while it isn’t the quality of the musical The Book of Mormon, it is also not “vile” as we, as Americans, would understand the term.  On my scale of offensive, it is along the lines of, but not as offensive as, the “Piss Christ”.
  Was that a threat or a promise by Ms Forgione?  The fact is, I am considering a run for Lowell School Committee, as are a number of challengers.  I see the possibility of the People getting a wide choice.  Why would I run?  Because I think the current paradigm is exhausted and we need to look for new ways to empower our young men and women as students.  It isn’t that the current Administration and Teacher Force is not doing their best, but that we need to think of ways to further empower the process.  If Lowell is going to continue to prosper, we have to graduate young men and women who can take up the cause and make it happen.  We are not just in competition with Lawrence and Worcester, or even Cambridge.  We are in competition with Mexico City and Angeles City and with some obscure small city in China or India.
  Frankly, I have only been visiting that EMail Account from time to time and the last time I found I had over 2,000 EMails there, mostly SPAM, which I reduced to under a thousand, without finding one by Ms Forgione, but I have some 1,000 sitting there to review.  As my Blogger profile points out, I am using, currently, "mbaring" at "mac" dot "com".
 If you would like to help, call me at home or send me an EMail at crkrieger at me dot com.

Future SecDef


For John, BLUFYes, Ms Michèle Flournoy would make a good Secretary of Defense.

Ms Molly Redden, writing for The New Republic, tells us why Ms Michèle Flournoy, former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy, would be a good choice for Secretary of Defense.

For sure there are some Republicans who don't like the presumptive nominee, former [Republican] Senator Chuck Hagel.  Having been a member of the club is no guarantee of confirmation.  If he hadn't died in an airplane accident you could have asked Senator John Tower of Texas.  But, there should be enough Democratic Senators, plus the odd Republican, to make Hagel happen.

Ms Redden ends her article with this paragraph:

Flournoy's Republican supporters do not necessarily see these qualities in her.  They want to tweak Hagel for what he's done, and to frustrate Obama’s nomination process for a second time in a month.  But who says the right choice always has to be for the right reasons?
Well, for one, myself.  Sometimes we luck out picking the right person for the wrong reason, but that doesn't make sense as a policy approach.  That said, Ms Michèle Flournoy would be a good pick for Secretary of Defense.

As for the idea that the Republicans wish to "frustrate Obama's nomination process for a second time in a month", it seems a little over the top.  There were good and solid reasons to question US UN Ambassador Susan Rice as Secretary of State.  These reasons go back to Rwanda and Sudan.

Whoever gets the job, it will not be a fun couple of years.  Major cuts are coming and it will be months and months of apportioning pain.

Regards  —  Cliff

David Gregory Denied Permission


For John, BLUFI am guessing a pressured subordinate said it was OK, when it wasn't.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The Instapundit we have this blog post about the current state of play regarding TV Journalist David Gregory:

DAVID GREGORY GUN-CRIME UPDATE; D.C. Police — NBC requested and was denied permission to use high capacity magazine in news segment.  Laws are for the little people.  From the comments:  “To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates:  If sizable numbers of journalists become gun law victims themselves, maybe there’s hope for some balanced coverage on the issue.”
I am thinking a harried low-ranking member of the NBC Meet the Press organization, being rebuffed by the Metropolitan Police, decided to go with it anyway, hoping nothing would happen.

Note for Gerry:  This is why allowing folks a "but, sir" is important.

Regards  —  Cliff

Benghazi For Ever


For John, BLUFAt our Department of State "resigning" doesn't necessarily mean leaving the building.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I think the Department of State is factually correct here, but we allowed ourselves to be misled into thinking that some people were actually leaving State over the Benghazi Imbroglio.

What is that line Jeremiah used?

You duped me, ..., and I let myself be duped
Jeremiah said that around Chapter 20, Verse 7.

Oh well, at least some action was taken.  Some boxes on the org chart were exchanged.  Some people knew that they had messed up.

But, now is the time to get down to the serious work.  Retired Army Lieutenant General Jerry Boykin claims, in The Washington Times, "Congress asking the wrong questions on Benghazi".  Read it to see his spin.

Regards  —  Cliff

Confronting a Gunman


For John, BLUFNot every situation calls for massive retaliation.  Sometimes a person has lost control and confrontation with a strong personality will create new "facts on the ground".

Here is an interesting take on confronting a gunman on a school yard.  It was a "Charter School", but it was South LA.  Per The Daily Beast, School Principal Shanley Rhodes confronted a young man pistol whipping one of her students.  The man with the gun knocked Principal Rhodes to the ground, but she got up and faced him again, and then he ran away.  I don't think the young man with the gun was intent on mass murder, but he did have a gun.

The aftermath of the confrontation is even more interesting than the confrontation itself.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gun Law Violation in DC


For John, BLUFThere are too many different gun laws and now people are proposing even more.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Poor TV Personality David Gregory.  Not only is he a hypocrite with regard to armed guards at schools, now folks want him prosecuted for violating DC's gun laws. It seems he had an illegal (high capacity) magazine on the set of his news program.  Well, illegal in DC.

I feel sorry for Mr Gregory, except, as Professor William Jacobson points out:

But I’m less sympathetic than you might expect because fear of unintentionally violating gun laws is one of the things that has kept me from purchasing a handgun.  As you know, I took the NRA safety course over a year ago.  But I’m a legal resident of Rhode Island who lives much of the year in New York, so there’s an issue of whether I could obtain a NY permit, which is needed even to keep a gun in the home.  And then there’s the issue of transportation back and forth, and complying with the requirements to avoid prosecution as I pass through Massachusetts.

It all became such a bureaucratic jungle that I just deferred for the time being.

That’s where we are with many gun laws, the law-abiding responsible citizens who worry about compliance are scared away or risk prosecution for unknowing violations, while the lunatics and criminals don’t care.

We need a clean set of laws, so we understand what is and is not legal.  Something like "full faith and credit", perhaps in the form of Article 4 of the US Constitution.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is as opposed to New York Times talk about "high capacity ammunition", whatever that means.
  Someone noted today that violent crime in DC dropped after the de facto gun ownership ban ended in 2008 with the Heller decision by SCOTUS.
  There is, of course, always the racist Sullivan Law to deal with in New York.

Boxing Day


For John, BLUFFeast of Saint Stephen.

Here is a version of the Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslas", sung by Bing Crosby and illustrated by DC Comics.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"May Your Days be Bright and Merry"


For John, BLUFMulti-Culturalism at its best.

A perennial column, White Christmas.

I like the song because it reminds me of my youth and living in [Greater] LA, back when there was hope.  Belmont Shore, Signal Hill, Hoff's Hut, Admiral Heim Bridge, Pea Soup Anderson and Palomar.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Twas The Night Before Christmas bis


For John, BLUFIf you have to explain it, it isn't funny.

Every year variations of A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as "Twas The Night Before Christmas" are provided.  This year we have Santa Clausewitz.  Like much humor, it is understanding the subtext that makes it fun and funny.

Regards  —  Cliff

DNA Testing For Criminal Tendencies


For John, BLUFWe may think science can protect us from those who would become predators, but we need to show great caution in how we deal with data that purports to tell us who is naughty and who is nice.

In the Monday edition of The New York Times is an article titled "Seeking Answers in Genome of Gunman".  Researchers at the University of Connecticut want to examine the DNA of Newtown shooter, Mr Adam Lanzi, age 20.  Mr Lanzi killed 20 children and seven adults, including his own Mother.

If this doesn't call from the back of your mind issues from a Century ago, when eugenics was all the rage, you need to study more history.  The article, by Ms Gina Kolata, needed to get to paragraph 11 to note the connection, but it shouldn't be that remote in our own minds.  The article references to this book and provides information on recent studies.  It does not go back to Buck v Bell, the 1927 SCOTUS decision authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., legalizing forced sterilization.  It also does not reference the 1920 German book Life Unworthy of Life.  We all know where that ended up.

While I don't object to the examination of Mr Adam Lanza's DNA and its recording and storage, I am firmly against using that DNA, in combination with any other, to deny US Citizens of their rights under the US Constitution.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 24, 2012

Adeste Fidelis


For John, BLUFListen and Meditate.  The Savior comes.

My Father's favorite Christmas Carol was Adeste Fidelis.  A friend of mine from Ashland sent along this version, which is very nice.  It lasts four minutes and four seconds.

The singer is Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, known as Enya.

The hymn itself comes in both Latin and English versions.

Merry Christmas to all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Auto vs Traffic Light


For John, BLUFCar downs traffic light at bottom of Fairmount Street.

The City, in its infinite wisdom, activated a traffic light for southbound traffic where Fairmount, Laurel and Boylston come together in front of the Gold Star Chinese Restaurant and the 38 Store, on the property of the Oakland Fire Station.

When it went up it was a flashing green light facing the people coming down Fairmount.  That signaled nothing.  It meant nothing.

Then the City synched it to the lights at the intersection of Rogers and Boylston, just dozens of feet away.

It appears that over the weekend an irate (or confused) driver took action against this superfluous traffic light.  What remains of the traffic light and its pole can be seen in this photo, which is looking westward.  The firehouse to the right.  The pole is below the brake lights of the car in the middle ground.

Here is a closeup of the traffic light pole down on the ground:

And there you have it, another news story from Lowell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tokenism


For John, BLUFWe are not making progress when we assume every action from the other side is vile and low.

Thanks to a link from The Instapundit we can travel quickly to Legal Insurrection, where he is ranting about accusations of GOP tokenism and about Slate writer David Sirota.

The accusation of GOP tokenism was published in The New York Times, recently famous for their proposal to ban high capacity ammunition, whatever that means. But, Cornell Law School Associate Professor William A Jacobson did not limit himself in yesterday's post to mocking writers in The New York Times for bloviating about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appointing a "Black man", Representative Tim Scott, as US Senator to replace resigning Jim DeMint.  He then went on to other issues, keeping in the back of his mind the lack of diversity at The New York Times, the University of Pennsylvania Political Science Faculty and Salon's collection of writers.

In the blog post Professor Jacobson talks about Mr David Sirota and Mr Sirota's views about Caucasian Males:

“The issue with it will be, politically, I think; the profile is white men,” Sirota said. “That’s a profile that’s not, essentially, in America allowed to be profiled. That’s the one profile in America that’s not allowed to be profiled.”
I am sure that upon reflection Mr Sirota would have said Caucasian Males, at least to my face, since I don't think of myself as "white" although I do see myself as a Caucasian.  And, no, I don't see myself as an Anglo.  Notwithstanding my name, I am descended from Irish stock, not English or German—well, maybe a dash of English, but more Welsh than English.

At any rate, Mr Sirota gets wrapped up in the issue of "White Privilege".  I might be interested in this thesis if I hadn't spent part of my youth in an "all-white" town and seen that even there privilege existed and there was a pecking order.  It would be nice if we could move beyond race as defining who we are and recognize that there are people who have preferences and sometimes they cut across lines that divide us and sometimes follow lines that divide us.  We still have the ignorant with us, and given the history of the human race, probably will for a few more decades.

Our job is to try and overcome those prejudices, in ourselves, and to offer avenues of overcoming for others.  One way we could start is by not assuming all Republicans are racist.  I have never assumed all Democrats were racist, even when bunches of them were.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Our Family was one of two renting our homes and living in a two family home.  We examined things from the bottom up, so to speak.

Election Fraud


For John, BLUFA Democratic Party State Rep felt he had to commit Voter Fraud to regain election.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I have been told time and time again that "voter fraud" is a myth perpetuated by Republicans on an innocent population.

Thus, I am very perplexed about why the FBI and the Federal Attorney for our area went after poor Mr Stephen Smith, of Everett, Massachusetts, Representative of the 28th Middlesex District (Lower House), here in Massachusetts.  They apparently bullied him into a plea agreement that calls for him to resign his position in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, effective January 1, 2013.  Further, he will be bared from seeking elected office for a period of five years.

Per the FBI Web Posting, U.S. Attorney Carmen Milagros Ortiz said,

Fair and free elections are the foundation that this great nation was built upon. Our electoral system is unrivaled, and it is egregious that an elected member of our Commonwealth would rob his constituents of a fair and honest election. I want the voters of Massachusetts to know that we will continue to root out public corruption and restore confidence in our state’s political system.
And, Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Lanny Breuer commented:
Rep. Smith compromised the legitimacy of his races for public office by facilitating the casting of invalid ballots for ineligible and unaware voters.  In doing so, he undermined the democratic process in Massachusetts and violated the public’s trust.
Did you have to ask?  Mr Smith is a member of the Party of Woodrow Wilson.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 21, 2012

Plan of Government


For John, BLUFI am for sticking with a Plan E form of government and for sticking with the current City Manager.

The [Lowell] Sun, on Thursday, had a letter from Mr Joe Machado, advocating a Plan A (Strong Mayor) form of Government.  This puts him in the same camp as last time City Council Candidate John MacDonald (J-Mac on WCAP).

I disagree with Mr Machado.  I think our Plan E system is working well, as shown by the fact that the Cit Council has not bounced the current City Manager, Mr Lynch.  I agree that "the City's current financial condition seems stable".  I disagree with Mr Machado's characterization of our City Departments.  The ones I come in contact with seem productive and customer/citizen oriented.

When I run into the City Manager downtown I try to have an anecdote of this or that department or individual I have dealt with.  The vast majority of my experiences have been positive—positive because we have a professional set of people at all levels of City Government and I (1) want to encourage that activity by telling their boss and (2) want the City Manager to know that it isn't just the City Council that is grading his performance.  If I am telling him, I am also telling City Councilors.  On the other hand, there is one small segment of City Government I judge to be "under performing" due to being overshadowed by a different Department.  I expressed my concern to the City Manager and he acknowledged the problem.

Can the City Manager do better?  I am sure he can.  I agree with the comments from the City Council about the City Manager holding more frequent "staff meetings".  I hope the Manager is also engaged in "management by walking around".  Since I am not his shadow, I don't know one way or the other.  I do know I have run into him several times outside his office and that is a good sign.

I noted the comment in the Letter about our current City Manager not living in Lowell.  Frankly, that is on the City Council.  I have known about the concept of City Managers living in the City they manage since Fourth Grade, when Susan Sawyer moved away when her Father was appointed City Manager of Philly.  The irony here is that the City Manager of Cambridge, a city down county, lives on Andover Street, here in Lowell, and has for the many years he has been CM of Cambridge.

The switch to a strong mayor, elected by the People, would change our election dynamics, but it wouldn't change the fact that our chief executive might well be looking for his or her next career move.  At the end of each election under a strong mayor we will lose the talents of those who ran for mayor and lost.  They will not automatically be members of our City Council.

All in all I am for sticking with our current form of Government.

Regards  —  Cliff

Blog Commenting


For John, BLUFDifferent Bloggers have different approaches to "comments".

There has been some discussion of blog comments, here and on City Life.  This is not a binary issue.  There are several approaches to comments available to the Blog Master:

NO COMMENTS:  This is the easy way to deal with comments.  Law Professor and Blogger Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) used to allow comments, but as he shifted to shorter and more frequent posts he dropped comments.  That said, you can EMail him and he might well post an interesting response on his blog.

COMMENTS UPON APPROVAL:  You write the comment and then wait for someone to review it before it is posted and others get to see it.  This is used by Left in Lowell, the Dick Howe crew, Gerry Nutter and the City Manager's Blog.  Usually it says "Your comment is awaiting moderation."  Don't be fooled.  It is publish or perish.  The Blog Master can't edit your comment.  He or she can either kill it or let it through.

USE OF THE CAPTCHA:  This is the "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart".  The Commenter faces the need to read and interpret a group of numbers and a group of letters and replicate them in order to be allowed to post.  They are very annoying.  Google introduced this to Blogger a while back.  I got complaints and I complained.  It is designed to keep out computer generated spam.  It also keeps out humans.  In Lowell bloggers Greg Page, Kad Barma and Renee Astee use this system.  When Law Professor and Blogger Ann Althouse dropped it from her comments section I figured there was a way and also dropped it from my blog.

OPEN COMMENTS:  The Mayor's Blog and my own allow free and open comments, without any controls.  For me it means that I get ten or twenty SPAM comments a day, most of which are intercepted by Blogger and sent to my EMail for review.  There are some leakers that actually go up, but, again, the EMail alerts me and I take them down.  Open comments is the easiest for me and the commenter and allows for a more free flowing discussion, which, to me, is part of what blogging is about.

RED LINES:  All of us have criteria for keeping or deleting comments.  Some make it explicit.  I don't for reasons of aesthetics.  I don't wish to clutter up the blog page.  In keeping with my belief in free speech and in the idea that information wants to be free, I am pretty open to any comments except SPAM.  Are there lines I have?  Yes, I would delete a comment where the F-word was used without some justifying context.  The N-word would be an invitation for deletion.  Hyperbole in general would be respected, although the famous Larry Flynt/Rev Jerry Falwell parody advertisement, where Mr Flynt wrote about the Reverend Falwell having sex with his Mother in the outhouse, while approved by SCOTUS, could well find itself deleted here.  While Kad Barma has the 15 year old daughter rule, I have the "what would my Father think of me showing it to his wife?" rule.

I don't have many commenters and most of them I know—Neal, Jack, Renee, Greg, Kad, Chris (Mr Lynne), Joe and Lance.  I am happy to give them a sandbox.  I have been known to put up a calming comment or to send the commenter an EMail suggesting he or she is pushing a limit.

I will say that I love good argument and alternative ideas, but I don't like people trying to push me around, or to engage in bullying on the blog.  But, what I see as bullying may not be what you see as bullying.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Free Speech Today


For John, BLUFIf you restrict speech someone may eventually come along to restrict yours.

At the Popehouse blog, "a group complaint about law, liberty, and leisure", there is [another] post on free speech and the First Amendment.

The story begins with Erik Loomis, an associate professor of history at the University of Rhode Island.  Professor Loomis also blogs at Lawyers, Guns & Money and has — well, had — a twitter account.

Last Friday, as the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut unfolded, Professor Loomis got upset.  As described at Twitchy, he tweeted or retweeted violent rhetoric about the NRA, and then began to engage angrily with people who criticized his rhetoric:

Here are two of Professor Loomis' tweets:
First [person] to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death.

I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders.  Now I want Wayne LaPierre's head on a stick.—

Professor Loomis is for gun control and strongly so.  He is trying to convey that.  I think Professor Loomis has this by the wrong end of the stick.  In fact, I strongly disagree with his position.  But, he has a right to express his views.  He doesn't have a right to expect me to agree with him, or even listen to him.

Some have reacted to Professor Loomis' exercise of free speech by contacting his boss.  That is the wrong thing to do.  It is bullying.  The fact is, these are speech and not credible threats.  Popehat blogger Ken summarizes the situation regarding those who are apoplectic about these tweets:

[I]f you think those tweets are criminal threats outside the scope of the First Amendment, then (1) you're ignorant, probably willfully so, of fundamental American civil rights, or (b) you're not too bright, or (c) you're blinded by partisanship, or (d) more than one of those.
Our right to Free Speech is very important, almost sacred.  We may not like the words used, but we should be prepared to stand up and support everyone's right to free speech.

UPDATE:  I guess this is getting out of hand, given this post at The Other McCain, which was noted at the Althouse blog.  There is some data on Professor Loomis' PhD dissertation, not that you would wish to know.

Regards  —  Cliff

Christmas in Italy


For John, BLUFLink to local blog that talks to Nativity scenes in Naples, Italy.

Well, the title is misleading in that Italy is a such a diverse collection of sub-cultures that there is no single, definitive, Christmas tradition.

A local blog, Keepers of Tradition, has a post on Italians in Massachusetts that talks to the tradition of the presepio, the Christmas Crèche, or nativity scene, in Naples, Italy.  The presepio is one of the charming aspects of the City, with many of them in open air display on Via San Gregorio Armeno, or Crib Street.

Regards  —  Cliff

Accountability at Department of State


For John, BLUFA Federal Department shows some backbone in dealing with a major problem—and people were fired.

Regarding the Benghazi Imbroglio, we had Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "accept responsibility" a while back, but the rubber met the road when we got the Unclassified Report of the Accountability Review Board, chaired by Ambassador Tom Pickering, with vice chairman Admiral Michael Mullen.  Here is Wednesday's Press Conference for the release of the report.  The report itself can be found here.

Here it is summarized by The New York Time.  And The Washington Post.

I have recently complained that Secretary Clinton's acceptance of responsibility was as hollow as that of Governor Patrick over a recent expulsion of one of the Commonwealth's senior administrators.  However, this is a big deal.  As someone I know pointed out:

This is a remarkable accountability moment for the State Department.  And in the context of discussions of accountability for general officer building on writings by Mr Tom Ricks and others—this news merits more attention than it's getting.

Three senior State Department officials resigned today in connection with this inquiry:  Asst Secretary Eric Boswell (Diplomatic Security), Deputy Asst Secretary Charlene Lamb (Embassy Security), and Deputy Asst Secretary Ray Maxwell (North Africa).  Assistant Secretaries are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the US Senate.  Protocol wise they are the equivalent of 3 or 4 star general.  Deputay Assistant Secretaries (DAS) are also presidential appointees, but do not need Senate confirmation.  They are the equivalent of 2 or 3 star generals.  Within the Department of State some Asst Secretaries and DAS's are career personnel, while others are political appointees.

So, in effect, this inquiry resulted in the performance-related termination of three general officers.  For the State Department, an organization that is smaller (in absolute number terms) than an Army division, this is a big deal.

Actually, this is a remarkable event across Governments.  Kudos to Secretary Clinton and the Department of State for this show of responsibility.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Song Comes to Mind


For John, BLUFSometimes one thing leads to another in one's mind, setting up a string of connections.

Today on City Life we had Host George Anthes, Tyngsboro Co-Host Linda Bown and, as guest, Mr Jack Mitchell.  Early in the show Host George Anthes brought up an earlier post on this blog, "The Raucous Internet", dealing with free speech issues.  It was one that Guest Jack Mitchell had commented on, mentioning, inter alia, Ms Deb Forgione.  One of the issues was a "colorful" comment Jack, who was on from 6:00 to 7:30, made about Ms Forgione.  In explaining that he meant to use the words he used, Jack said about his youth "we were rough and rowdy guys", which reminded me of a song:

When we were kids on the corner of the street
We were rough 'n ready guys
But oh, how we could harmonize
Do you think Jack can sing?

The song is "Heart of My Heart".

And, you can catch this morning's show this afternoon from 1600 to 1800 (4:00 to 6:00 PM ROTC Time).

UPDATE:  Why yes, I did update this post, this overcast 13th of January, 2013, putting an apostrophe in "morning's", in the para above.  This came about because some SPAM writing machine tried to post a comment over night.  It failed, but I felt I had to check.  Something about Gucci Japan sales.  If you are interested, EMail me and I will send you a copy.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Ms Deb Forgione called in after Jack left for work to ask to be booked on the show to express her concerns of bullying and bad taste vs free speech.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tom Byrne RIP


For John, BLUFTom Byrnes has moved on to a new plane.

The [Lowell] Sun has an article announcing the passing of Lowellian Tom Byrnes.  I knew Tom through our mutual interest in aviation.  I liked Tom.  It is true that he did run afoul of the law, as the Sun article points out.

But, as Gerry Nutter points out on his blog, there is a lot more to Tom than his misadventure with former City Manager Joe Tully.

May Tom Byrne rest in peace.

Regards  —  Cliff

Changing Tax Rates


For John, BLUF"At some point, the parasites will run out of hosts."  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Gérard Depardieu "leaves the building".

Hat tip to The InstaPundit.

UPDATE:  The InstaPundit updated and thus so do I.  No Pasarant! weighs in, partly in French, but you can get the drift.

Regards  —  Cliff

What Did That Mean?


For John, BLUFSometimes a comment is not straight forward, but symbolic.

Right off the bat Pogo comments:  "In short, they're either stupid or fascists".

This at an Althouse post on Justice Scalia and the use of rhetorical devices.

Regards  —  Cliff

Post Newtown


For John, BLUFGuns represent a very hard problem, notwithstanding what some might suggest.

Writing at The Daily Beast Megan McArdle says "There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre".  The headline writer says that "The things that would work are impractical and unconstitutional.  The things we can do won't work."

Yes, our statistics regarding gun deaths are worse than those of other nations.  But, we are starting with a backlog of illegal weapons, or weapons that are legal but owned by people using them for illegal purposes.

One point I would make here is that on the one hand, machine guns are not illegal to own, and on the other hand, any gun can be put to military use by someone.

What is the goal of Gun Control advocates and what is our criteria for measuring success?  I would suggest that people like Mayor Bloomberg should agree that their goal, and our criteria for success, should be that beat police and police in cruisers are armed with no more than a night stick—like the British Bobbie.  Then we will know we have sponged up all those guns that are a threat to us all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 17, 2012

Daniel Inouye (RIP)


For John, BLUFA great man has left us.

From The Washington Post:

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the nation’s longest-serving senator and a decorated World War II combat veteran, died Monday at 88.
In fact, Senator Inouye was the holder of the Medal of Honor for his service in World War II.  He was a member of the fabled 442nd Regimental Combat Team ("Go For Broke"), rising through the enlisted ranks to become a Lieutenant Platoon Leader.
On April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near San Terenzo in Tuscany, Italy...  As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions just 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground.  Inouye stood up to attack and was shot in the stomach; ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his Thompson submachine gun.  After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.

As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards.  As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore".  Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade.  As the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye pried the live grenade from his useless right hand and transferred it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye tossed the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroyed it.  He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge.

His replacement will be according to Hawaii law:
Inouye’s seat will be filled by an appointment by Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D).  He will pick from three finalists provided by the state Democratic Party.  State law requires that Inouye must be replaced by a senator from the same political party.  Inouye’s seat is up for a full term in 2016.
The Greatest Generation continues to pass in review and then march off the parade ground.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sycophants of Lowell


For John, BLUFOur City Manager is respected in a number of venues.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From time to time I see comments out on the blogosphere that suggest that the blog Left in Lowell is composed of bloggers who are sycophants of our City Manager, Bernie Lynch.  I think that is a bit overdrawn, but I also think it is incomplete, especially if you read Kendall Wallace's "Saturday Chat" in yesterday's edition of The [Lowell] Sun.  Mr Wallace notes "Lynch in comfort zone in Lowell".  This after the word went out that Cambridge put a future manager (not Mr Lynch) on contract to replace the retiring Mr Robert W Healey.

I will admit that I think the Lowell City Manager is doing a good job and that the City Council is doing a good job providing supervision, as is its job.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Connecticut Shooting


For John, BLUFHorrific.  Say a prayer and move on for now.

The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was so horrific that there is nothing to say about it at this time it except to say how sad it is for all the survivors.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 14, 2012

Environmentalism


For John, BLUFBeing environmentally friendly is a 24 hour a day state of mind proposition.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The other day I went to Panera Bread to meet someone.  It turns out we had understood different Thursdays as the meeting day.  But, given that I occupied a table and chair for a while, I bought a scone and hot chocolate.  My question is why did they give me NINE napkins?  I am pretty sloppy, but not nine napkins sloppy.  This seems to not follow the path of environmentalism.

Regards  —  Cliff

History Matters


For John, BLUFLearning history is useful.

William Faulkner's immortal line:

The past is never dead. It's not even past
We are going to see that confirmed in the Near East in the Near Future.

Regards  —  Cliff

Syria's Near Future


For John, BLUFThe situation in Syria could be building to be like the Thirty Years War.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday I posted on the long run chances for peace in the Near East.  If Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov is to be believed, the future is almost here.  On 13 December he said, about Syria:

The opposition's victory, regrettably, cannot be ruled out…. We need to face the truth. A current tendency is that the regime and the government keep losing control over an ever-growing territory.
One of the issues we now face is who will succeed Syrian President.  At the blog of the Long War Journal is a post suggesting that the leading insurgent group is Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda in Iraq's affiliate in Syria.  From the blog post:
The terror group, which was designated as such by the US on Dec. 11, has now claimed credit for 43 of the 52 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria in the past 12 months [see LWJ report, US adds Al Nusrah Front, 2 leaders to terrorism list, for information on the designation].

The group has become one of the most powerful and effective units in the Syrian insurgency, and it has begun to absorb elements of the supposedly secular Free Syrian Army.  The Al Nusrah Front also conducts joint operations with the Free Syrian Army and other so-called secular groups, and has numerous foreign fighters in its ranks.  Earlier this week, Al Nusrah and two other jihadist groups seized a Syrian military base thought to be involved in the chemical weapons program [see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo].

So, where are we if President Assad goes away?

The first question is if the United States cares if the new Government engages in expulsion of religious or ethnic minorities, genocide against same, or other activities?  We are talking about a combination of Armenians, Arab Christians, Druze, Shia Muslims and other groups.

If we are repulsed by a Rwanda like situation, do we go to the UN for agreement to intervene?  If we intervene, will it be to protect or just to evacuate the endangered minority group(s)?

If intervention is for the purpose of evacuation, to where do we evacuate the people?  The US?

The second question is if Al Nusrah will be busy trying to establish control in Syria, distribute food and collect trash or will it act to divert the attention of the Syrian population by starting trouble with Israel?

If it is an aggressive conventional attack across the border, will the United States be willing to intervene on Israel's behalf?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Of course, now the Russians are denying they actually said that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Starting a Fund


For John, BLUFFred Bahou's dance card got overbooked and the Newspaper of Record noted it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

So much to read and so little time.  At The [Lowell] Sun, Blogger Christopher Scott takes a swipe at GLTHS School Committe Member Fred Bahou.  The reason is that Mr Bahou three times signed up for the November meeting of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees in Hyannis and for three years didn't show.  Cost GLTHS (read the taxpayers) $725 total.  Yes, I think Fred owes some money back, although, as he pointed out, he did fund his trip to the National School Board Association annual convention out of his own pocket.

I wonder if this blog post, at this time, is what Blogger Gerry Nutter would describe as political in nature?  Would a source for this report have provided some illuminating context, some useful tint and texture?  This is blogging, where anonymous sourcing is constantly decried.  [wry smile here]

In the mean time, is Mr Scott starting a fund to raise the adjusted $240?  If so, he can put me down for $20 and I will deliver the amount to the Sun office.  I expect Jack and Gerry are good for the same amount.  25%!

As for the picture used, couldn't a photog have been dispatched to get a more up-to-date photo, rather than using the one from the GLTHS web page?

Regards  —  Cliff

Long Run Peace Chances


For John, BLUF"US policy in the Middle East appears to be promoting an increased threat to Israel by uniting the new Islamist regimes against Israel under Iranian leadership.  This is the one issue on which they can agree and this is a warning."

The 12/12/12 edition of Night Watch has an opinion piece by Analyst John McCreary regarding the long term prospects for peace for Israel.  Israel's current security situation is good, but with the Arab Spring and Iran close to having a nuclear weapons capability the situation could well change.  We could well ignore the impact of these developments, but to do so could leave the United States less well off in having to deal with future crises.  That is to say, a small investment now could pay good dividends in the future.

NightWatch Special Comment:  (This is a NightWatch editorial opinion.)  The US is helping to destabilize the government of Syria, just as it did the government of Egypt.

US interests generally favor stable governments, whether elected or not.  The Chinese take the same approach to North Korea.  They judge that instability in Northeast Asia is contrary to China's national interests.  It is bad for business, investment and development projects.  Thus, even the Chinese would consider the current US policy as confusing because it promotes instability with no clear end state in mind.

In the Syrian case, the US is acting as a proxy for Saudi Arabia, which is determined to block the spread of Iranian influence in Arab countries.

The US has no high-minded moral interest in this fight, as if it were helping the downtrodden struggle against an authoritarian government.  Were that the motivating factor, the US might have denounced Egyptian president Mursi's assumption of dictatorial powers on 22 November.  Asad has no comparable powers.  The US has said nothing about Mursi's personal coup d'etat.

The big winner from instability in Syria and Egypt will be Iran because its policy of hostility towards Israel is a magnet for all Arabs.

The Saudis lost the struggle to influence or control the direction of the Arab Spring states when Hamas survived eight days of Israeli air attacks, owing exclusively to Iranian, Egyptian and Sudanese help.  Saudi Arabia, with all its $billions, was irrelevant.

The US and Saudis appear to be on the wrong side of history, because Iran already appears to have made contingency preparations for supporting an anti-Israel, fundamentalist, Sunni regime in Damascus, just as it did with the Mursi government in Egypt.

US policy in the Middle East appears to be promoting an increased threat to Israel by uniting the new Islamist regimes against Israel under Iranian leadership.  This is the one issue on which they can agree and this is a warning.

What adjustments do you think we should consider in our approach to Israel and the rest of the Near and Middle East?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another Idol Falls


For John, BLUFBeing famous or well beloved is no guarantee you aren't a sexual predator.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here in the "Colonies" we don't know BBC personality Jimmy Savile (Sir James Wilson Vincent "Jimmy" Savile, OBE, KCSG), who died last year, but his death revealed a host of possible criminal activity during his lifetime.

The late BBC entertainer Jimmy Savile is a suspect in 199 crimes recorded so far, including dozens of cases of rape, British police said Wednesday.  They described the level of sexual abuse allegations against Savile as "unprecedented in the U.K."
These revelations coming after Mr Savile's death suggest a level of coverup, a level of organizational corruption, that should shock everyone in Massachusetts except maybe Howie Carr.

This scandal does reach to our shores with Mark Thompson, the president and chief executive of The New York Times Company, being called to testify in a closed door inquiry.

Mr. Thompson was the director general of the BBC in December 2011 when the corporation’s flagship “Newsnight” current-affairs program canceled an investigation into accusations of abuse against the television host Jimmy Savile who died two months earlier at the age of 84.  Mr. Thompson assumed his new post at The New York Times on Nov. 12.
Frankly, this is a good reason to not name buildings and intersections after people while they are still alive.  It avoids the embarrassment of having to take down the name.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Over-Incarceration


For John, BLUFThe US has 2.3 million people in jail.  Many of them need to be there.  The rest need help.  In the mean time they are costing taxpayers money that might be spent elsewhere.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

That bastion of Conservative thinking, The New York Times, has an article in the Science Section by Reporter John Tierney, which questions the wisdom of long mandatory sentences for crimes that don't involve physical violence.  The author takes an obvious case, where the Reagan appointed Judge Roger Vinson believes the mandatory life sentence he imposed on Ms Stephanie George was disproportionately harsh.  Worse, it has probably adversely impacted her children (she is a single mother).  And, not as bad, but still bad, it has cost the taxpayers a lot of money to keep Ms George locked up and has deprived the economy of a possible worker and tax payer.  And, the perverse incentives involved in others testifying against her has added to the problem.

In a nutshell, we have hundreds of thousands of people behind bars who could and should be out living free lives.  I am not calling for the early release of murders and rapists.  I am saying that many in jail for drug related offenses should be in treatment programs.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thuggery in Lansing


For John, BLUFNothing to see here; just move along.

At The Instapundit is this item on the response to the punching of Reporter Stephen Crowder.

Not edifying.

Regards  —  Cliff

Not Really Accepting Responsibility


For John, BLUFThe Governor is trying to bamboozle us over the Sheila Burgess affair.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Ms Sheila Burgess, our Commonwealth's Director of Highway Safety has offered her resignation, effective 31 December.  This was precipitated by revelation that she has a bad driving record, including 34 incidents in her "permanent record", including two failures to stop for a police officer.

The search for who hired her has been ongoing, with Governor Patrick going on the radio and telling us that the Administration has been having trouble finding the records.  It looked like buck passing.

President Harry Truman famously said "The buck stops here".  There was no one he could blame for bad things happening.  In yesterday's edition of The [Lowell] Sun is an article that tells us our Governor, Deval Patrick, says "I'm to blame for hiring highway chief".

You know the answer to that.  The ultimate responsibility for all things that go wrong or right in the administration lies with me, and I've said before, and if you want me to say it again I will, she shouldn't have been hired for that position.
The problem is, while he can say he was to blame, with the lack of understanding what happened it seems pretty bloodless.  It actually looks like a "limited hangout".  The actions of the Governor in this incident meets the criteria.

I would hope that Editors and Bloggers across the Commonwealth will call the Governor out on this.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Makes one think of the Richard Nixon Modified Limited Hangout.
  Remember, articles in The [Lowell] 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.

2016 Race Under Way


For John, BLUFMs Clinton is conventional thinking.  Ms Warren is lateral thinking.

The Althouse blog has a post that notes Mr Nate Silver sees Ms Hillary Clinton as a formidable candidate in 2016.

In the comments, Anthony says:

I've already seen a Warren for President 2016 bumper sticker.  So it's not too early.

12/11/12 7:22 PM

Remember, you read it here first.

Regards  —  Cliff

What is Domestic Terrorism?


For John, BLUFAcross the fruited plain Government Officials tend to confuse us about what is domestic terrorism and what isn't.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I appreciate the caution law enforcement officials show with regard to ethnic minorities and issues of violent acts.  This great nation doesn't need to have ignorant backlash stirred up by careless officials making careless comments.  This sometimes leads to strange actions by government officials at various levels.  The case of Major Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood shooter, is interesting.  By all reports he saw himself acting in the defense of Islam and Islam's God and Islam's soldiers.  Yet it is not being treated as an act of terrorism.  No Purple Hearts for those soldiers shot by the Major.

At the end of November, out in Arizona, someone detonated an explosive device outside the Social Security Administration building in Casa Grande.  (No one was hurt and minimal physical damage.)  When the arrest was made, of Mr Abdullatif Aldosary, his name and nation of origin was not made public.  The possibility of terrorism was explicitly obscured.  From an article yesterday we know this is not being treated by officials as an act of terrorism:

Although the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the bombing of a federal building, there has been no indication from the feds that this was an act of terrorism.
Incidently, yesterday Mr Aldosary pleaded innocent to the charges against him.

The flip side of this is that Mr Aldosary has had problems getting his Green Card due to "terrorist activities":

Aldosary was not actually a "known terrorist," but his application had been denied because, according to legislation passed by Congress, Aldosary had "engaged in terrorism activity."

Aldosary's "terrorism activity" was [Aldosary] his involvement in a 1991 uprising against the regime of Saddam Hussein, which was egged on by the U.S. government under President George H.W. Bush.

The Department of Homeland Security just recently created an exemption under that immigration law for Iraqis who participated in those uprisings over a one-month period, and a government source told New Times last week that Aldosary met this exemption, and his green-card case was re-opened.

In some ways we overhype these issues, for example calling large homemade explosives "Weapons of Mass Destruction", as though they were nuclear devices.  Our Government overstates the dangers of returning Service Members being domestic terrorists while downplaying possible external influences.  The Citizens need to read past the headlines to stay informed.  The tools of Kremlinology may be needed.

Regards  —  Cliff

Community Reinvestment Act Distorted?


For John, BLUFSometimes in doing good, we act foolishly.  Trying to increase home ownership by moderate and low income families is a good, but the way we did it since 1977 has created problems.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, down County, in Cambridge, has a paper titled "Did the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Lead to Risky Lending?".  The answer from the four authors is:  "Yes, it did".

The Community Reinvestment Act was created to stop "Redlining", which was unfairly burdening ethnic minorities, particularly in inner cities.

Here is the abstract:

We use exogenous variation in banks’ incentives to conform to the standards of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) around regulatory exam dates to trace out the effect of the CRA on lending activity. Our empirical strategy compares lending behavior of banks undergoing CRA exams within a given census tract in a given month to the behavior of banks operating in the same census tract-month that do not face these exams. We find that adherence to the act led to riskier lending by banks: in the six quarters surrounding the CRA exams lending is elevated on average by about 5 percent every quarter and loans in these quarters default by about 15 percent more often. These patterns are accentuated in CRA-eligible census tracts and are concentrated among large banks. The effects are strongest during the time period when the market for private securitization was booming.
They use "exogenous variation"?  I am thinking that is outside the bank, external factors.

It is an aphorism in the military that you get what you inspect.  And not just in the military.  So, a combination of "the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS)" inspects individual banks and by their inspection encourage banks to engage in certain behaviors, including making loans that are more risky than they might otherwise do.

It is a social good that we encourage moderate and low income families to purchase and own homes.  However, people with less money may be at higher risk of defaulting on their mortgage.  The question is how to spread the risk.  It appears the Federal Government spread the risk by forcing banks to accept that risk.  The question is, did that risk acceptance contribute to the economic collapse we have experienced?  It would appear so.

My take-away is that one needs to be careful as to how the Federal Government, or a State Government, incentivizes subordinate government levels or private organizations.  It is the job of the US Congress to conduct investigations to ensure than we do not incentivize bad or dangerous behavior.  "Too big to fail" is one of those things that creates bad incentives—or "moral hazard", as some say.

Do the right thing, but do it the right way.

Regards  —  Cliff