The EU

Google says the EU requires a notice of cookie use (by Google) and says they have posted a notice. I don't see it. If cookies bother you, go elsewhere. If the EU bothers you, emigrate. If you live outside the EU, don't go there.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Clean Elections

For John, BLUFYes, there is cheating, but probably not so much in Lowell.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

People cheat, especially if they think cheating is free.  Just look at the folks speeding on Interstate 495.

This item out of National Review talks to cheating at polling places.

The article even includes a plug for Professor Larry Sabato's 1996 book, Dirty Little Secrets.

Frankly, aside from a few rumors, Lowell sees to be pretty clean election-wise.  I can't say the same thing for Lawrence.  Maybe next year will be better.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 30, 2013

Strong Woman Overcomes Devastating Accident

For John, BLUFYou have to be tough, but you can come back.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the San Jose Mercury News comes an inspirational story of comeback.  By Reporter Bruce Newman, it is titled "Ramona Pierson's remarkable tale: From near-death to Silicon Valley CEO".  Ms Pierson was out jogging and was the victim of a hit and run and nearly died, but came back from terrible injuries, coma and blindness to sight to be the CEO of a Silicon Valley company.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Internal Immigration Checkpoints

For John, BLUFOur freedoms are slowly bering eroded.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Reason Magazine we have "America's Internal Checkpoints".  This is about how "Refuseniks fight back against feds demanding papers" within 100 miles of US borders.  Not so much a problem here in Massachusetts, but a big deal from California east to Texas.  The author is Mr Wes Kimbell.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  New York City is a special case, with its "Stop and Frisk" law.

Geography Complications

For John, BLUFCan't we all just get along?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Korea Obsrver we have an article on the Virginia State legislature considering a bill to define how Virginia students will understand the body of water between Korea and Japan.  Will it be the East Sea or the Sea of Japan?

You say "Who cares?" but the naming convention is seen by Koreans as being a remanent of Japan's Imperial Past, which is not popular in Korea.  An indicator of the presence of Koreans in Virginia is that Korean is the second most non-English language spoken after Spanish.

This is definitely an indicator of the influence of immigrant communities on schools and legislatures.

And, it is an indicator that World War II isn't quite over in Asia.  Just this week, with Korean and Japanese peace keeping forces deployed to South Sudan, the Japanese loaned ammunition to the Koreans, which they blew up.  If the US pivot to Asia is to work we are going to have to help these two friends get along.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tom Weaver On WRKO Monday AM

For John, BLUFLocal guy on the local [Boston] radio.

Listen in tomorrow AM 680AM WRKO from 6 AM to 10 AM — Tom Weaver, The Classical Liberal, will be filling in for Jeff — please call in…

Regards  —  Cliff

NYT On the Beghazi Imbroglio

For John, BLUF.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Late last evening, actually, The New York Times came out with an investigative article that says al Qaeda was not involved in the attack on our US compound in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were murdered over a year ago.  However, per the NYT, the video, Innocents of Islam was.

Blogger Ann Althouse picked this issue up from a Fox News segment, today, on the issue, where US Congressmen Mike Rogers (R) and the Democrat Adam Schiff (D), both on the House Intellegence Committee, state that the NYT investigative reporters lack information available to the House Committee.  Per Representative Schiff:

I think the intelligence paints a portrait that some came to murder, some people came to destroy property, some merely came to loot, and some came in part motivated by those videos.
Mr Schff further said:
So it is a complex picture. There was some planning, as Mike points out, but it was not extensive. I don't think it's either accurate to characterize this as a long-term preplanned core Al Qaeda operation or something completely unaffiliated.
Regarding some degree of planning, Althouse Commenter "madAsHell" said, at 3:25 PM today:
and some came in part motivated by those videos.

I dunno about you, but I keep an 81mm mortar in the back of my car......cuz, you never know when you will need to provide indirect fire support for light infantry.

For those of you who would quote to me then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “What difference at this point does it make?” I quote TV personality, Mr Bill Slowsky:  "Exactly".  So why did the NYT pick this scab?

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This works if you believe Ansar al-Sharia is NOT part of the al Qaeda franchise system.  If you believe that you then have to believe that Ansar al-Sharia is some penny-ante operation isolated to Eastern Libya, as does Wikipedia..  That is to say modern forms of communication have not come to Salafist Jihadist movements.
  The Producer of Innocence of Muslims, Mr Mark Basseley Youssef, who, while clearly guilty of parole violations, was jailed for political reasons, is now out of prison and on probation in Buena Park, California (Home of Knott's Berry Farm).

Pater Noster

For John, BLUFWhat does George mean?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is how I learned the "Our Father", at my Mother's knee, so to speak:
Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Here is how all the other kids in my Elementary School Class said it:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
So close and yet so far.  Every morning, at the beginning of school, we would all stnd by our desks and say the "Our Father" in unison and I would find myself done before the rest of my classmates.

It's the Doxology.  So, when City Life Host George Anthes says "The Lord's Prayer" I don't know which he is talking about, and so far he has been reluctant to say.  Perhaps he will make a comment on this blog.  Perhaps he will say something on City Life.  Perhaps he will wait until the US Supreme Court rules on this issue.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Wenonah, New Jersey.  At the time a thoroughly WASP town, with just six Roman Catholic families, one Christian Science and no others.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Linda Taylor, Welfare Cadillac Owner Reprise

For John, BLUFNo system is perfect and there is usually some individual trying to cheat to a better position.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The InstaPundit had this quote at his blog:
I put off reading Josh Levin’s piece about Linda Taylor, the famous Chicago “welfare queen” of the ’70s, in part because I feared it would be so engrossing and revealing I’d be consumed with professional jealousy.  I’ve now read it.  It’s engrossing and revealing and I’m jealous.  (Also, Slate‘s new format mysteriously makes reading a long article easier.  You should go there immediately.)  But Dave Weigel’s idea that Levin’s piece somehow “vaporizes” Ronald Reagan’s use of the Taylor case in his campaigns is silly.

Levin doesn’t vaporize Reagan’s story.  He confirms Reagan’s story.

It is from an article by Columnist Mickey Kaus of The Daily Caller, filed under "Politics" and titled "Welfare Queen Probed, Krugman Hardest Hit".  This, in turn, links to an article in Slate, by Josh Levin, in the "History:  Then Again" section, dated 19 December 2013.  The article is titled "The Welfare Queen" and the subtitle goes "In the 1970s, Ronald Reagan villainized a Chicago woman for bilking the government.  Her other sins—including possible kidnappings and murders—were far worse."

Ms Linda Taylor (plus aliases) was in the spotlight in the mid-1970s and having made the pages of The Chicago Tribune, was picked up by then Governor Reagan as he ran for the Presidency in 1976.  The woman was no myth.  That said, she did not represent all other welfare recipients.  However, she might be representative of some, which is why fraud tracking is important.

Interestingly enough, the song Welfare Cadillac hit number one on the Canadian Country Sings list for 1970, but not the US list.  This was well before Ms Taylor made the headlines.

As voters we need to encourage our elected officials to protect the weak, but without building in perverse incentives.  That is hard work.

Regards  —  Cliff

Job Opportunities

For John, BLUFYou can grow up and you can become a pilot, but you can't do both.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Foreign Policy Magazine warns us that the US Air Force is facing a potential pilot shortage as the airlines begin hiring again.  If the Air Force, then the other uniformed Services as well.

This is not something new, but one wonders if we couldn't do a better job of planning to smooth this sort of thing out?  Or is the smoothing harder than coping with the problem?

Yes Mr Congressman, we do need an excess of pilots now so we have the right number of experienced pilots in seven years.
Long term planning is hard.

Regards  —  Cliff

Greece Reducing Road Traffic

For John, BLUFGreece is in tough economic straits.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Gates of Vienna comes a link to this headline from the ANSA Med web site, "Crisis:  thousand more Greeks unregister their cars".  The lede:
Thousands more Greeks have unregistered their cars as the New Year draws near, GreekReporter website writes, because they could no longer afford to pay a motor vehicle tax with their earnings having shrunk tangibly amid austerity.
We are talking from several hundred Euros to up to 1,000€ for a luxury car.

The article suggests that 70,000 have deregistered their cars in anticipation of 2014 and then notes that car dealers estimate that since 2009 some 1 million vehicles have been deregistered and auto sales are off 40% so far this year.

When you get your national books out of whack and you are looking for a bailout the creditors can be tough.  I had not realized how tough.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Friday the exchange rate was 1€ to $1.3768.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Alan Turing Pardon

For John, BLUFWhen we realize a law was wrong, then what?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At the blog Above the Law, Ms Tamara Tabo makes her point about "The Mistake Behind The Posthumous Pardon Of Alan Turing".

The core of her case is:

Turing’s case does not present an actual innocence claim.  Turing was not wrongfully convicted of a rightful law.  He was rightfully convicted of a wrongful law. His actions violated the then (unfortunately)-applicable law.  Turing freely admitted as much.  The problem then was not that, despite his conviction, Turing’s conduct did not actually meet the elements of the statute.  The problem was with the existence of the statute itself.

If, on the other hand, the UK pardoned Turing because the Crown believes that his extraordinary service as a code-cracker in World War II paid the debt he owed to society for his crime, then the pardon is also a mistake.  To do so assumes that there is an actual debt owed.  If being such a useful, patriotic, brilliant gay man redeems you in the eyes of the Crown, that legitimizes the supposed need for redemption.

Does any gay person want to be redeemed in the eyes of their government only because of other good deeds?  Isn’t an underlying premise in arguments for gay rights that gay men and lesbians don’t need to apologize or compensate for their sexual orientations in order to be held in high regard in civilized society?  Or at least not be chemically castrated by that society?

She is correct.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Tea Party In Your Future

For John, BLUFThe Tea Party, due to decentralization, is going to be around for a while.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Last Semester one of the courses I took was Modern Revolutions and one of the texts we used was from Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol (our professor said that was pronounced Scotch Pole).  However, after putting forward a theory on revolutions, Professor Skocpol turned to the Tea Party phenomenon and has published a number of items on the topic.  I am not saying she is a fan, but she is paying attention.  So, I thought this item from The Atlantic, "Why the Tea Party Isn't Going Anywhere" was worth reading.  The subtitle is "The movement's structure means it can withstand low popularity and continue to exert a huge pull on the GOP".  While I don't agree with all of the Professor's political conclusions, I think she is making a good point about the Tea Party.  It isn't going away.

This led to another item, from Real Clear Politics, by Salena Zito, where she suggests ""Obamacare Could Go Way of Prohibition".  Surprisingly, this is an item from late October.  A lot of this coming year will turn on how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PP&ACA) evolves.  I am sure that there are people who are now saying "It seemed like a good idea at the time".  The thing is, if the Madison, Wisconsin, progressive weekly Isthmus is saying it is in trouble, it is in trouble.  That doesn't mean it will go away, but it does mean that changes will be required for it to survive.  As the great Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke once said, "No plan survives contact with the enemy."  Keep in mind that the Republicans are not the enemy here, the reality of health care is the enemy.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For example, the 2011 The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
  What City Life host George Anthes calls "Obamacare".

Happy New Year Message in Madison

For John, BLUFThe New Year may well see changes in the political landscape.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Isthmus is an alternative weekly newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin (weekly circulation is about 62,000).  Blogger Ann Althouse has highlighted an opinion piece there, looking out toward 2014.  Writer Larry Kaufmann gives us "Prepare for a Scott Walker victory in 2014 (Obamacare's problems will help doom Democrats)".

Ms Althouse highlights this part of the piece:

Republicans will also be calling Obamacare the worst popular domestic policy reform since Prohibition (also warmly embraced by progressives, let's not forget), and the battle to deliver the knockout blow to this wobbly but still-standing program will enter its next phase.
From the comments section at the Althouse blog we have this item highlighted:
She's also responsible for the "rollout" of Obamacare, which has joined New Coke, the Edsel and Showgirls on the list of worst new product launches in American history.  As bad as those fiascos were, at least they had the decency to disappear quickly after the public rejected the merchandise.  Obamacare will be a constant, unwelcome presence in 2014 that permeates nearly every economic and political development during the year.
The problem is, health care is a big part of our economy and a vital part of our quality of life.  We are going to have to all rethink this issue, because changes (glitches) are happening even as we move from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I was not sure what the term "alternative weekly" meant, so I looked it up.  Starting with The Village Voice, these papers avoid the nitty-gritty of news reporting for "stylized reporting, opinionated reviews and columns, investigations into edgy topics and magazine-style feature stories highlighting local people and culture".
  That would be HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

You Will Write Five Thousand Times...

For John, BLUFOnce you get behind you can never catch up.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At Think Progress and The LA Times we have headlines about a judge sentencing a man to having to write, 5,000 times, "Boys do not hit girls".  My source for this is the news aggregator Memorandum.

The thing is, the offender was sentenced to the maximum time in jail of six months and ordered to pay the medical costs for his [we assume] ex-girlfriend.  The writing assignment was just icing ion the cake.

Why write the headline so as to leave the reader with an initial impression that the writing assignment was the only punishment?  Is this Fourth Estate politicking?

Or is the Fourth Estate concerned that the judge is over punishing the offense?

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is, of course, Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who presided over the trial of a teacher for the statutory rape of a 14 year old and when the offender violated the limits of his parole handed him a sentence and then suspected it to 31 days (1 served) and also made remarks that were controversial.

Moving the Crèche

For John, BLUF"And what's lost is lost and gone forever".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On City Life on Monday last the issue of the Lowell City Manger Scene (the crèche) came up.  It used to be on the plaza in front and to the side of City Hall, but apparently no longer.  Now it is at Saint Anne's Episcopal Church, which is, appropriately, on Kirk Street.  In a way, Saint Anne's is an appropriate place, given that Saint Anne was the Mother of Mary.

On the other hand, it seems to me that something was lost by the move.  I know the move saves the City, and thus the rate payers, on lawyers' fees from when we get taken to court over violating the First Amendment "Establishment Clause".  On the other hand, moving the crèche to Saint Anne's seems to not broaden the meaning but to narrow it.  When it was on City Hall property it belonged to all of us, just as would a menorah or the symbol of some other religion or some other nation.  Now, not so much.  It will soon be the Saint Anne crèche and we will go down Merrimack Street to see it.  It will, in fact, be just a little less communal.  That is a loss.

What is a bigger loss, over time, is the striping of the public square of everything that points to our Judeo-Christrian beginnings.  It is OK for Pericles to sit on the mantel of the Mayor's Reception Room, because he is a secular symbol.  But probably not one of Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in the Fourth Century, even though he invented, by accident the symbol for pawn shops.  Slowly that cultural deposit that made the West what it is is being washed from the public square.  When it is gone what will be left will be secular symbols, but secular symbols from which we have drained all the religious background.  We will be navigating on waters we have never seen before.  We will have no charts.  And we won't know where we are going.  Of course not us.  Our grandchildren.

UPDATE:  Updated for a geographic error.

Regards  —  Cliff

  We lived outside of Naples, Italy, in the middle of the 1970s and in Naples the crèche is a very big deal.
  We do a lot of flag raising events for those who have come here from foreign lands and still wish to honor the homes of their ancestors.  Well, not so much for those of us who have a German surname, but for a lot of minority groups.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Story

For John, BLUFA nation of immigrants.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a feel good piece for Christmas, about a young boy, Bishoy, asking his parents to take him to see Santa at the Mall.  Bishop is living with his parents in the United States in asylum from persecution in Egypt, where there is no Santa in Malls, or anywhere.  Bishoy and his parents are Coptic Christians, which make up 10% of the population in Egypt.  According to the article in the Tampa Bay Times, some 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt and 40,000 have sought and received asylum in the United States.

Funny about the flight from Egypt.  On Sunday, the 29th, we will celebrate at Mass the Holy Family, to include the Flight into Egypt.  How times have changed.

Regards  —  Cliff




Regards  — Cliff and Martha

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Working on Christmas

For John, BLUFSometimes thanks is in order.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This afternoon and evening Martha played for three different Masses (4:00, 6:00 and 9:00).  Not enough time to prepare a proper meal, and I don't cook, so we went to the Longhorn after the Six.

Next to us in a set of long tables were two dozen rough and ready men, dressed for outside work.  We asked and instead of being linemen heading home from Maine they were linemen heading up there to restore power on Christmas day.  Sure enough, the were over a dozen pieces of equipment outside in the Longhorn Parking lot.

We live a pretty pleasant life because some are willing to go out and work on Christmas, not just linemen, but police and fire and doctors and nurses and others who keep things going 24/7.  It is something to appreciate on a Christmas morning in a warm living room.

And there are our Armed Forces, including the 150 Marines heading for South Sudan to be ready to restore order and prevent genocide.  And the Service members in Korea and in isolated locations in Alaska and in Iceland and across Europe to Turkey.  And in the Persian Gulf and up in Afghanistan and down in the Philippines.  People away from home, stationed on Guam, where America's Day Begins.

A lot of people contribute to us having a Merry Christmas.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Or just a nice Federal Holiday, if you don't buy the whole virgin birth story.

Protecting Our Bill of Rights

For John, BLUFJustice Sotomayor protecting our Fourth Amendment Rights.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I just completed a survey in which I said I didn't much watch MSNBC, but here is a report from that station which I found interesting and informative.  It is from the Associated Press, by Craig Ruttle, titled "How Sotomayor undermined Obama’s NSA".
If Edward Snowden gave federal courts the means to declare the National Security Agency’s data-gathering unconstitutional, Sonia Sotomayor showed them how.

It was Sotomayor’s lonely concurrence in U.S. v Jones, a case involving warrantless use of a GPS tracker on a suspect’s car, that the George W. Bush-appointed Judge Richard Leon relied on when he ruled that the program was likely unconstitutional last week.  It was that same concurrence the White House appointed review board on surveillance policy cited when it concluded government surveillance should be scaled back.

“It may be necessary to reconsider the premise that an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in information voluntarily disclosed to third parties,” Sotomayor wrote in 2012.  “This approach is ill suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.”

Not a single other member of the high court signed onto Sotomayor’s concurrence; her three Democratic appointed colleagues sided with a narrower one written by Justice Samuel Alito.  Though all nine justices agreed that police would likely need to get a warrant to place a GPS device on a suspect’s car, it was Sotomayor who was willing to argue that modern technology had essentially changed the meaning of what privacy means when so much of our personal information and history is preserved online, and can be easily collected by the government in mass quantities.  When the Framers of the Constitution wrote of “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” they could not have imagined cloud storage or cell phone location tracking.

I have no idea if the NSA issues will reach the US Supreme Court, and how the Justices will vote, but I think Ms Sotomayor has made a very interesting and intelligent point.

As for the rest of the MSNBC article, it is typical MSNBC Progressive diatribe, but for sure, Justice Sotomayor is someone who has been doing some thinking about privacy in the Internet age.

Regards  —  Cliff

PP&ACA May Have Been Too Much Too Soon

For John, BLUFSometimes the elephant needs to be eaten one bite at a time.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

When I hear people talk about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PP&ACA) and the cost and confusion surrounding it I am not surprised by what they are talking about.  This is a system that is supposed to help bring order to some of the chaos in a program that is one-sixth of the national economy.  Of course it is going to be complicated and confusing.  That it works today is due to the hidden hand of the free market.

Now the Federal Government is trying to manage parts of it.  And just because it is the Federal Government, that doesn't mean that it is really, deep down inside, a great, well thought out approach.  It isn't.  But that should not be a shock to any of the 535 folks in the US Congress (or their Staffers).  Nor should it be to the White House or to the Office of Management and Budget.

My standard for comparison is the Department of Defense effort to audit its own books.  An abject failure since 1996.  Before then they didn't even try.

This article, from Reuters, tells part of the story of the Department of Defense trying to meet a Congressionally mandated requirement to be able to audit the books.  Going to the lede from the article (and my own Service):

The U.S. Air Force had great expectations for the Expeditionary Combat Support System when it launched the project in 2005.  This accountants’ silver bullet, the Air Force predicted a year later, “will fundamentally revolutionize the way the Air Force provides logistics support.”

The new computer-based logistics technology would replace 420 obsolete, inefficient and largely incompatible “legacy” systems with a single, unified means of tracking the hardware of warfare.  And it would be done for a mere $1.5 billion, combining three off-the-shelf products from Oracle Corp and modifying them only enough so that they could work together.

Seven years and $1.03 billion taxpayer dollars later, the Air Force announced in November 2012 that it was killing the project. ECSS had yielded “negligible” value and was “no longer a viable option,” the Air Force said.  It would have taken an estimated $1.1 billion more to turn it into a system that could perform about one-quarter of its originally planned tasks, and couldn’t be fielded until 2020

It goes down hill from there.

With that kind of a Federal Government track record it was hoping a lot that we would fix all the problems with health care for peanuts.  "The Obamacare website design contract was for $93 million."  That was the original cost.  The new estimate in October of this year was $630 million. The idea that we would fix all the problems of health care and provide some form of insurance for everyone at one fell swoop was flawed from the beginning.  Computer software, especially computer software that talks to other software, and is secure, is hard.  Most software programs die somewhere during the birthing process.

And this isn't all on Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, or even President Obama.  The Congress, with years of watching the Department of Defense, should have been on guard against expecting too much, especially for so little money Appropriated and Authorized for this project.

It is likely that piecemeal was the way to go.  But, that may have been a political non-starter.  Either way, we lost, at least for now.

We will see what the new year brings.

Regards  —  Cliff

  My youngest Brother, who worked for the Marines as a Civil Servant, notes that the DoD IG gave them a score of "UNQUALIFIED", which is the highest score possible—meaning no qualifications required to define their audit.

Reform From the Netherlands

For John, BLUFIncentives work, even perverse incentives, in perverse ways.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Those folks over at the CATO Institute are saying something nice about how the Dutch do business, at least with regard to providing welfare to Citizens.  The author is CATO Senior Fellow Michael D Tanner.

Remember, poverty is not a single group of people, but rather a spectrum of people, and one size does not fit all.  Further, people in poverty respond to incentives.  Simple solutions are not always good solutions.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fairy Tales

For John, BLUFMost Fairy Tales are propaganda.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At Forbes, writer Jerry Bowyer asks us "What Was Charles Dickens Really Doing When He Wrote 'A Christmas Carol'?".

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wedge Issues

For John, BLUFOne person's wedge issue is another person's something.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This morning, on City Life, the Host, Lawyer George Anthes, brought up the issue of Duck Dynasty Patriarch Phil Robertson's interview with GQ, in which Mr Robertson said he thought it sinful to engage in homosexual behavior, beastiality and adultery.  The guests were Lawyer Dick Howe and Businesswoman Muriel (Mimi) Parseghian.  From the Guests was the suggestion that bringing up this issue, along with the issue of prayer at the beginning of City Council Meetings, was bring up a wedge issue.

As we all know, the wedge is the simplest tool known to man (or woman).  There should be a warning in that.  The problem in trying to discredit a discussion with the epithet "wedge issue" is that those who first made a point about what Mr Robertson said were making a wedge issue.  They are trying to shave off Mr Robertson and show that he (and his ilk) was outside what is acceptable mainstream American thinking.  What I don't know is if they just thought he was out of the mainstream with one thing he said or with all of the things he noted as being sinful.  Is adultery sinful?  Is it at least unethical?

As for creating wedges, this item with Mr Robertson seems to cut in both directions.  Apparently the Restaurant Chain Cracker Barrel, responding to the original uproar, said it would stop selling Duck Dynasty gear in its restaurants.  Customers objected.  This from The LA Times:

You told us we made a mistake.  And, you weren't shy about it.  You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings.  You flat out told us we were wrong.  We listened.  Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.
What Phil Robertson said would not have come to my attention, as I neither watch Duck Dynasty nor read GQ, without the brouhaha over his listing of possible sins.  The real question is the limits we are prepared to put on the opinions of others.  If our opinions are out of the mainstream should we keep our mouths shut?  Today we deplore the fact that in the past homosexuals were not able to keep photos of themselves with their spouse on their desk.  Will people in the future feel they are not free to openly state that they are a practicing Roman Catholic or Baptist for fear that it would be taken as indicating beliefs that homosexual activity is sinful, a belief that is out of the mainstream of acceptable polite conversation?

One other thing from the show this AM.  Dick Howe brought up the fact that Christmas used to be banned in Massachusetts, and so it was.  The rest of the story is that it was banned because of religious reasons, not secular.  Back when the Meeting House was both the Church and the Town Hall and the Citizens could slip from one role to the other without getting up, the Puritans thought that Christmas was an abominable Papist contrivance and something to be avoided by all right thinking people.  So, if you happen to go to Mass this Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day), remember that it is because of the First Amendment that you are able to go there.  Otherwise, the Puritans would still be banning it as a publicly observable holy day of obligation.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Some claimed that Mr Robertson was equating homosexual activity with beastiality (zoophilia), which, in the sense he was talking about what he saw as sin, he was.  But, then, he was also equating both to adultery, and some other things.
  In Eighth grade, after transferring from a town of 2800, with six Roman Catholic and one Christian Science family and the rest Protestants, to a more mixed community (my best friends were a German and a Jew) I observed that the use of the Our Father in classrooms was not just coercive of Roman Catholics (to do it the Protestant way) but of young members of other faith communities.  It was something that needed to be dropped.
  It may be an acquired taste.  I like Cracker Barrel, but my wife doesn't.
  Especially in the US Military, where such a photo would suggest grounds for dismissal.
  I think Muslims are safe for now, since people are affaid they will go off and burn down some federal facility, like the CIA compound in Benghazi.  A view that is totally irrational, but effective in protecting Muslims from some secular humanist irrationalism.

Unforced Error

For John, BLUFIf you can't improve your position, don't bring up a subject.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I missed this, but sometimes Commenter at this blog, Neal, sent along this Fox News clip.  It sure makes the Benghazi portion of Ms Susan Rice's recent 60 Minutes interview look like an unforced error.

Regards  —  Cliff

Some Cities Fail

For John, BLUFSome Cities make it and some don't and it is the People who make the difference.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From a post at Renee Aste's blog Cappadocia in Lowell I found a link to K T Kat, writing on the blog The Scratching Post who was talking about Camden, New Jersey.  K T is actually living in San Diego, but is somehow either following Camden as I follow Detroit, out of interest and horror and fear, or he has a tie.  In my case I have a tie. In the early 1950s we would travel from our small town in South Jersey, through Camden, to get to Philly and points beyond.  First by bus and then by car.  I remember the Camden Airport and Airport Circle.  I can still see the Airport Hotel from the New Jersey Turnpike.  I remember the big Walt Whitman Candy sign on the Camden side of the Ben Franklin Bridge.  Two of my friends had Fathers who worked in Camden, one as a naval architect and one selling pretzels to workers at the gates of the Sun Shipbuilding Yard.  There were jobs in Camden in those days.

Mr K T Kat was talking about an article in Rolling Stone, called "Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America's Most Desperate Town".  The point of K T Kat is that no where in the article in Rolling Stone does the writer focus on the responsibility of the People in Camden.  That is to say, it is their City.  it doesn't belong to the cops or the State of New Jersey or Governor Chris Christie or to Federal Anti-poverty officials or to the drug gangs rampant in the city.  The City belongs to the potential voters of Camden and it looks like they gave up.

Not everyone gives up.  Reporting from Tepalcatepec, Mexico, The Washington Post gives us:

An audacious band of citizen militias battling a brutal drug cartel in the hills of central Mexico is becoming increasingly well-armed and coordinated in an attempt to end years of violence, extortion and humiliation.

What began as a few scattered self-defense groups has spread in recent months to dozens of towns across Michoacan, a volatile state gripped by the cultlike Knights Templar, a drug gang known for taxing locals on everything from cows to tortillas and executing those who do not comply.

Not the Government, state or Federal.  Not the Army.  Not the Police.  The People.

As Renee was saying, don't be a Political Zombie.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Who is the MSM?

For John, BLUFEverything is relative, I guess.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I guess we all have our understanding of what constitutes the MSM, the Mainstream Media.  For me it is ABC, CBS, NBC plus the big and established print media, like The New York Times, well, and MSNBC and CNN.  In opposition to the Fox Network.  However, for Nation of Change (e.g., Amy Goodman) MSM includes Fox.  I guess it is all a matter of perspective.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 21, 2013

On-Line Learning

For John, BLUFOn the other hand, it has been a God send to others.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is an essay on MOOC, or "massive, open online courses".  The author is Professor Jakub Grygiel, at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.  It is published in the magazine The American Interest, 19 December 2013.  The title is "The MOOC Fraud".

In brief, Professor Grygiel believes that online education is not education at the upper level. Best Line:

Tacitus is rather the source to invoke:  They create a desolation and call it education.
Second Best is"
“Online education” is to education what pornography is to marriage.  It destroys stable relationships, vitiates the ability to argue and reason, splits people apart and ultimately leaves no intellectual offspring.  It is, in short, liable to be thoughtless, asocial and sterile.
On the flip side, I have seen several people at work sharpen up their skills through the on-line presence of the often maligned Phoenix University.  I would be interested in seeing this approach progress a little further.  For sure higher education has become much more expensive than it was when I graduated from High School and one could get a college degree (granted, in California) for around $100 per semester plus room and board (we lived a few blocks from the Cal State Long Beach).  What are we losing by pricing people out of the education market or saddling them with huge debts upon graduation; graduation into an uncertain job market.

Interestingly, Slate has an article on Johns Hopkins University planning on reducing its number of PhD Candidates.  This is to do a better job of educating those who sign up for the program.

Al of this is coming at a time of proliferation of what one wag has called the academic nomenklatura.  A new class of people who administer the institution.  These non-teaching personnel do drive up the cost of education.

Then there is the way that UMass Lowell is using on-line education to renege on its commitment to veterans and the elderly, to allow them to attend classes for $30, plus books, each semester.  We are told it is a "color of money" issue.  And it is being worked on.

UPDATE:  Provided a missing link.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, December 20, 2013

AF General Fired For Cause

For John, BLUFProperly relieved of duty.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Washington Post is a news article on Fired Air Force General Michael Carey.  The General, a commander of 450 land based nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) conducted himself in a very irresponsible manner, per a redacted Air Force Inspector General Report.  Irresponsible while in Moscow, Russia.

Where was his staff in all this?  They had a duty to speak up.

Redacted IG Report is linked to at the article.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Duck Call

For John, BLUFSpeaking carries consequences, but the Government shouldn't bar you from talking.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Law Professor and Blogger Ann Althouse, who has, in the past, noted that her son is gay, provides intelligent comments on the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty dustup.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, December 19, 2013

To Shoot or Not to Shoot

For John, BLUFWhat is fairness and do we have a right not to be offended?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The InstaPundit links to Tech Dirt, which says that the ACLU is on the wrong side of free speech in the case of a photographer who didn't wish to photograph a gay wedding.  The couple and the ACLU took the photographer to court and now it is up at the US Supreme Court.  Read the Tech Dirt article and then tell me what you think.  (Multiple Votes allowed.) free polls 

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

People Unhappy With DC

For John, BLUFThe Obama Administration is slipping in the polls.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

What ever happened to the "new civility"?  When Congresswoman Gabby Gifford announced she was not seeking reelection, did that all go away?

Here is The Washington Post talking about a big chunk of the voters as "The Haters".  Really?  Is this necessary?  Regarding the reporters (and the headline writers), was their elementary education so limited that this is all they could come up with?  The headline is "Haters gonna hate. But they plan to vote Republican."

Wait, maybe that last part explains everything—vote Republican.

The one place the Democrats are definitely winning is this question:

Q: Who do you think is more responsible for the country's current economic problems - (Barack Obama) or (George W. Bush)?

Barack Obama 38%
George W. Bush 50%
(VOL) Both equally 7%
(VOL) Neither 4%
No opinion 1%

But, back to the big point from Sean Sullivan and Scott Clement from "The Fix" at The Post.  Aren't you glad that you aren't one of those evil Republicans?  No, wait.  The number of haters exceeds the number of registered Republicans.  Some of you Independents / Unenrolled / Declines to State types must be haters also.  Actually, more of you, since I am a registered Republican and I don't hate anyone.  There are a lot of folks out there in error, but that is no reason to hate them.  They need love, and education.

Regards  —  Cliff

FDA Form of Corporatism

For John, BLUFBureaucrats slow the economy, mostly.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The blogosphere is a big Evers to Tinker to Chance machine.  This started with ¡No Pasaran!, echoing Mickey Kaus on the blog InstaPundit.
MICKEY KAUS: “The Obama Administration continues to blaze new paths to corporatism (the cozy alliance of government with a few big businesses in each industry to the exclusion of smaller players).” All in the name of helping the little guy, of course. But wait, there’s a downside:
Obama’s second, FDA-style form of corporatism might ironically pose a serious threat to the Washington economy. After all, if all regulations are hashed out informally around a table between regulators, a few oligopolists and industry trade associations**-well, will we need so many lawyers to litigate rules in formal, quasi-judicial agency proceedings, and then to sue to get them overturned in court? Covington & Burling could lay off half its partners.
¡No Pasarán!
Actually, fewer lobbyists could be an upside.

This is heading toward a form of mercantilism and we should all read The Other Path, by Hernando De Soto.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Troubles in North Korea

For John, BLUFBuckle your seat belts, as Betty Davis might say.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In case you missed it, there have been been some happenings in North Korea recently.  The new leader, Kim Jung-un, had his uncle executed.  There really isn't someone we could point to in the United States who played this role in our Government.  Some wag might say Ms Valerie Jarrett, but I think even that would be a stretch.  As someone suggested, if Kim Jun-un is the Chairman of the Board, Mr Jang Song-taek was the CEO, the Chief Executive Officer, the person who made it all work.  In fact, this CEO analogy is exactly that used by Dr John S Park in his article "The Fallout from Jang Song-taek’s Execution", published in a blog at the Belfer Center.

It could be a bumpy ride in the near future.  When it is the Night of the Long Knives in a nation with possible nuclear weapons we should all be concerned.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Mr Jang Song-taek, the husband of his late Father's youngest sister, Kim Kyong-hui
  In fact, not Vice President Joe Biben, not Attorney General Eric Holder, not Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and not First Lady Michelle Obama.  For diehard Democrats, think Vice President Dick Chaney under President Bush.  Close.  For Republicans, think Ms Hillary Clinton for President Bill Clinton.  Again, close, but not really on target.
  Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, The John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
  For example, here and here and here and here.

Death and Taxes

For John, BLUFSage advise from the past.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

One of my friends down in a warmer clime (Florida) sent along a Will Rogers quote:
The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse very time Congress meets.
Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, December 16, 2013

Being Sensitive

For John, BLUFSeparated by a common language—not just us and the Brits.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In a comment on a previous post I used the term "cake walk", as a way of describing something as easy.  The New Oxford American Dictionary says"
an absurdly or surprisingly easy task:  winning the game won't be a cakewalk.
The one and only time I have seen a cake walk is Lakewood, California, when I was in Junior High School. It was in the driveway of some classmates house and it was for a birthday.  Basically, it was musical chairs.  But, no, I couldn't leave it at that.  I had to check Wikipedia, to see if my understanding was the same as the collective writers at that site.  Little did I know the Wikipedia writeup would carry racial overtones.

It reminded me of Mr David Howard, a caucasian aide to DC Mayor Anthony Williams, who used the word "niggardly" when talking about dealing with the City's budget.  There was an uproar and Mr Howard resigned. 

Fortunately, Mr Julian Bond spoke up and offered some reasoned commentary:

Julian Bond, then chairman of the NAACP, deplored the offense that had been taken at Howard's use of the word.  "You hate to think you have to censor your language to meet other people's lack of understanding", he said.  "David Howard should not have quit.  Mayor Williams should bring him back—and order dictionaries issued to all staff who need them."
The entire Wikipedia article on the use of the word niggardly also reveals that shortly after the DC contretemps the issue came up at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the outcome was the abolition of the University's speech code.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He later accepted a different position with the City.

Congressman Ryan Speaks

For John, BLUFI like Ryan for the big job.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I like Congressman Paul Ryan and here in The Washington Examiner is an example of why.  He has the big picture.

Congressman Ryan makes the point that political progress is because a number of groups get together to achieve some common goals.  If we were in Europe there would be a number of different political parties and they would form coalitions to achieve whatever they could agree to.  We are blessed with a two party system and thus the coalitions are within our two parties.  We need to be looking for friends, not heretics.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, there are fringe parties, but they are at the fringe and while they provide a refuge, they don't provide political power.

Happy Anniversary

For John, BLUFHappy Tea Party Anniversary.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Althouse blog a short meditation on this 240th Anniversary.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 15, 2013

OECD Does Study on Education

For John, BLUFWhat kind of education will your Grandchildren get?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This item is from the Blog ¡No Pasaran!, which is usually "Behind the Façades in France", but in this post is looking at schools in the US.

The blogger, Erik, links to a post by Mr Benny Huang.  The post title is "Too many kids aren’t motivated to learn and too many teachers aren’t motivated to teach; It’s a baby-sitting service".

I hope not.

I grant you the post by Mr Huang is biased, but it may contain some truth.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961.  It is an outgrowth of the organization developed to administer the Marshall Plan.

Getting Vets Jobs

For John, BLUFA good news story.

Over at The Washington Post is an article on Chris Taylor and the work he does with regard to getting Veterans work.  As someone in the DC Metro area noted:
...the first part of this article appeared on the front page, below the fold.  The remainder occupied all of page A8 and most of page A9
Pretty impressive.

Wish I had his talent.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tree Lines

For John, BLUFScience is a never-ending quest.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Study:  Earth was warmer in Roman, Medieval times

This is a headline from The Daily Caller, from 13 December.  The author, Michael Bastasch, blames the Swedes of this finding.  The article states:

The study, by scientist Leif Kullman, analyzed 455 “radiocarbon-dated mega-fossils” in the Scandes mountains and found that tree lines for different species of trees were higher during the Roman and Medieval times than they are today. Not only that, but the temperatures were higher as well.
This can't be right.

To paraphrase Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:  "Science is like a streetcar.  When you come to your stop, you get off."?

That can't be right, can it?

Regards  —  Cliff

Action and Reaction

For John, BLUFActions have consequences.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I think the idea that a move can be made without it causing additional actions and reactions is fallacious.  Sometimes the reactions are a ways away from the original site of action.  This morning's International New York Times has an article on the rise of a xenophobic nationalistic party in Bulgaria, Atata, which is reacting to Syrian refugees coming into the country (6,500 this year).  These kinds of things lead to events that belie our humanity.

Closer to home, Law Professor Ann Althouse picks up on a ruling by the US District Court for the District of Utah.  The Althouse blog links to the Ruthann Robson post at Constitutional Law Prof Blog, which includes a link to the ruling in Brown v Buhman.  The post is named "Federal District Judge Finds Portions of Utah's Criminalization of Polygamy Unconstitutional".

Per Ms Robson,

The challengers to the statute, the Browns, are famous from the reality program Sister Wives and the accompanying book and are represented by Professor Jonathan Turley, who blogs about the case here.
From Professor Althouse's blog, the subject and lede is a quote from the 91 page ruling:
Adultery, including adulterous cohabitation, is not prosecuted.  Religious cohabitation, however is subject to prosecution at the limitless discretion of local and State prosecutors, despite a general policy not to prosecute religiously motivated polygamy.  The court finds no rational basis to distinguish between the two, not least with regard to the State interest in protecting the institution of marriage.
Back to Ms Robson, she includes this comment which refers to Columbia Professor Edward Said:
The judge's scholarly opinion includes a discussion of Edward Said's groundbreaking book Orientalism as a critique of the well-known passage in the United States Supreme Court’s 1879 decision in Reynolds v. United States upholding the criminalization of polygamy by reasoning, in part, that "Polygamy has always been odious among the northern and western nations of Europe, and, until the establishment of the Mormon Church, was almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people."
From Professor Turley's blog:
As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization.
Those who promised us that change and evolution of marriage laws would stop with gay marriage, and ridiculed those of us who were skeptical, lacked access to the clue bag.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Imagine the impact of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees on poor little Jordan.
  The next level is the Tenth Court of Appeals, out of Denver, Colorado, not the famous Ninth, out of San Francisco.
  Or didn't know there was one.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why Some Are Chary of Obama Administration

For John, BLUFUnforced error.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Of course it is Breitbart bringing us this news about a latin cross on a Veterans Memorial.

This was a feed off a web report from ABC Channel 10 News out of San Diego.

A federal judge in San Diego issued an order from the bench Thursday declaring that the government's display of a 43-foot cross atop Mount Soledad in La Jolla violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The federal display was challenged in a 2006 lawsuit by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America and several local residents, all of whom were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties.

There is a long discussion of the history at Wikipedia.  The original cross dates from 1913 and the current cross from 1954.  It has been around a while.  The war memorial dates from about 1989.  The City of San Diego sold the small parcel of land under the cross to some private group, but that didn't end anything.  In 2006 the US Congress ordered the Federal Government to take the memorial by eminent domain.  This was also not a solution acceptable to the Ninth Circuit Court.

It is unlikely I am ever going to live in San Diego or to visit La Jolla again in my lifetime, so at some level I am indifferent to this long running fight.  On the other hand, it is part of the ongoing fight between those who fear all religious symbols on public property and those who fear that the lack of any symbols sends a signal that the Federal Government is hostile to religion, and shows preference for an atheistic secular humanism that is becoming our dominant civil religion.

What I find interesting, and thus the title of this post, is that the current Administration is changing policy by letting this item slip through the cracks.  This leads some, who might otherwise be friendly to the Administration, to think that there are unfriendly agendas being pursed.  It reminds me of the thesis in the book Deer Hunting With Jesus.

Originally, the U.S. Justice Department defended the cross memorial. However, when President Barack Obama was elected, the government’s defense of the memorial under Attorney General Eric Holder seemed to become lackluster, and the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial Association stepped in to bolster the defense.
I guess it is important to the Administration.

This will end up before the US Supreme Court.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Ninth is the biggest in terms of area covered, population covered and number of judges, and is perhaps the most controversial.

You Can't Keep Your Doctor

For John, BLUFPhysicians not being able to treat pain because their union doesn't like it and won't talk about it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Instapundit links to this article, "Men With Pelvic Pain Find a Path to Treatment Blocked by a Gynecology Board".  It appears the Gynecology guild is opposed to Gynecologists treating men.  I hope this isn't some insightful reaction to the PP&ACA.

As Professor Glenn Reynolds says, "Pathetic".

Regards  —  Cliff

  On City Life host George Anthes pokes fun at me for not calling it ObamaCare, but rather going for the proper title, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  On the other hand, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry has stated quite frankly that "ObamaCare" is a racist term.  Per the Washington Times "The word was conceived by a group of wealthy white men who needed a way to put themselves above and apart from a black man — to render him inferior and unequal and diminish his accomplishments.”  Frankly, I am not wealthy nor am I "white", although I am a man.  With regard to the "white" thing, that is just Ms Harris-Perry trying to diminish me.  I am a caucasian.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Constitutional Convention?

For John, BLUFThis is not a near term threat, unless Washington continues to invite it by its actions.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at the Daily Kos was this item mongering more fear of the dreaded whatever.

In this case it is concern about folks wishing to call for a Constitutional Convention, as provided for in Article V of the US Constitution.  As noted in the Kos article, all 27 amendments to the US Constitution have been done through the US Congress acting and then the States voting the amendment.  The dreaded alternative path is for the several states to get together and propose a change and have the other states vote for it.  Mr Markos Moulitsas has his panties in a twist because he sees all the small states getting together and proposing all sorts of weird ideas, like requiring a balanced budget and taking away direct election of US Senators (repeal of 17th Amendment).

So far the only news I have been able to find on this is from Glenn Beck's website.

The real concern about an Article V Constitutional Convention is that once those folks meet there is no control over what they do and where they go.  Remember, our Constitution came from a convention to fix up the Articles of Confederation—a convention that took it upon itself to throw out the Articles of Confederation and start over.  Yes, they did exceed their mandate, and the States and the People accepted it.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There are six still out there, awaiting a sufficient number of states, including the Corwin Amendment to abolish slavery.
  Actually, I would be opposed to repeal of the 17th Amendment, at least as a Citizen of the Great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  I want some shot at determining who goes to Washington in my name.  I don't trust the General Court to get it right.

Monday, December 9, 2013

MoDo on Woodrow Wilson

For John, BLUFOne purpose of an education is to help us see our heroes in their true light.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

For a Sunday news trifecta, we have Ms Maureen Dowd (MoDo) writing in The New York Times about President Woodrow Wilson.  Be advised, it is a puff piece, pushing Wilson, a biography by Mr A Scott Berg.  The title of MoDo's piece is "Woodrow Wilson, Stud Muffin", but she gets to the important part, at the end.

When I was young I had heroes like President Teddy Roosevelt, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes and President Woodrow Wilson.  Who could not admire President Wilson.  He was a straight arrow, he kept us out of war and when war was inevitable he gave us his Fourteen Points.  Then he pushed the League of Nations, which the other nations accepted but the US Senate did not.  Turns out all three had feet of clay.

Jumping to the bottom of Ms Dowd's opinion piece and perhaps President Wilson's greatest moral failure, Ms Down quotes biographer Berg:

“He made statements, no matter what age they were uttered in, they are racist in nature,” the author said.  “More important, he famously brought Jim Crow back to Washington. They were just starting to integrate the Postal Service, the Treasury Department, and it was Wilson’s cabinet members, specifically McAdoo, his Treasury secretary, and Burleson, his postmaster general, who insisted that you can’t have integration in federal offices.  The truth is, Wilson’s cabinet was largely made up of Southern racists.”

And he did not want to cross the block of Southern senators and congressmen he needed to get his progressive “New Freedom” agenda passed.  When he was president of Princeton, Wilson worked to curb elitism, trying to get rid of eating clubs, but he did not work to curb racism.  When a poor student at a Virginia Baptist college wrote beseeching to come, Wilson answered “that it is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton.”

He made jokes in black dialect and felt that interracial marriage would “degrade the white nations.”

“For me,” Berg said, “the worst thing Woodrow Wilson did as president was what he didn’t do.  That was in 1919 when the soldiers came home from the war. Many of them were African-Americans.  They came home thinking: ‘This is our moment.  We’ve lost brothers, we have shed blood, this is the time we have shown we are full-blooded Americans.’  But he said nothing on the subject.  He had global things on his mind.”

Wilson was so consumed with his “New Freedom” agenda, he failed to push for new freedom.

Another fifty years to finally begin to put an end to the racism that followed the US Civil War.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Warning, 833 pages.
  Before the United Nations there was the League of Nations, and even less effective.  Ask Haile Selassie.

The Place of the Bible in Our Culture

For John, BLUFThe MSM is frustrated by the average Joe.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Sunday, at The New York Times, Opinionator Frank Bruni, writes about politicians and religion, under the title "The Bible as Bludgeon".  It starts:
YOU can make a successful run for political office in this country without an especially thick résumé, any exceptional talent for expressing yourself, a noteworthy education or, for that matter, a basic grasp of science.

But you better have religion.  You better be ready to profess your faith in and fealty to God — the Judeo-Christian one, of course.

Well, he has a point about the way religion is part of our political culture.  At one point he says:
Three of four Americans are at least nominally Christian. But that leaves one in four who aren’t.  One in five Americans don’t claim any binding religious preference or affiliation, and their ranks have grown significantly over the last two decades.  Out-and-out atheists remain a sliver of the population, but a restive sliver at that.  On some Sundays in some cities over recent months, they’ve gathered by the hundreds for church-style celebrations without psalms, making the point that good will and community don’t depend on divinity.
On the other hand, politicians tend to go where the votes are.  They go to that end of the pool.  That is how they get elected.  The key to the success of our democracy is if they give the other portion of our population a chance to say their piece, to make voice heard.  You can ignore the other party, but you have to pay attention to the non-believers in your own part.

Here is the point I worry about:

As full of insight and beauty as the Bible is, it’s not a universally and unconditionally embraced document, and it’s certainly not a secular one.
What does he mean that the Bible is not "secular".  Where is he going with that?  Does he not see it as great literature?  More important, does he want to see it go away.  I would hope not.

The Beeb today had an example of why the Bible is an important part of our culture.  It quotes a Dr Paik Haksoon, of Seoul's Sejong Institute, talking about the recently sacked North Korean Leader Chang Song-thaek, uncle to the leader Kim Jung-un, and up until recently an important member of he government.

Chang Song-thaek had finished his role as a bridge between the past and the future," he said. "You can compare him to John the Baptist in the Bible - the man of the Old Testament who played a bridging role for the new era of Jesus Christ.
Let's not lose our heritage.

Regards  —  Cliff

Baghdad Jay

For John, BLUFCredibility is beginning to fade for the Administration.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday Columnist Howie Carr, writing in The Boston Herald, gave Presidential Spokesman Jay Carney a new preface.  He is now Baghdad Jay Carney.  For the young, that is a reference to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, known as Baghdad Bob.

The end of the column, which was about President Obama's Uncle, Onyango Obama, was a little biting.  It is about, in a way, PP&ACA.

But it really is a problem for the president when probably 90 percent of the people who read the story just assumed (correctly) that it was Uncle Omar rather than the president who was telling the truth.

And why shouldn’t they? Uncle Omar works behind the cash register at Conti’s Liquors in Framingham.  When you put a six-pack up on the counter and he says, “Seven-66,” by God you know it’s $7.66.  Period.

Uncle Omar says, If you like your Bud Light, you can keep your Bud Light.

And unlike his nephew, he’s telling the truth.

UPDATE:  Added a title and a note to John.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sharing the Pain, Keepings One's Values

For John, BLUFObamaCare is hard, even for Middle Class.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot talks about losing your insurance and trying to get signed up un the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its portal.  The title of the piece is "My Canceled Policy, And My Values".  Fair enough.  The lede:
In the short term, I am the kind of person for whom the Obamacare mandate is a pain in the neck.  My husband and I, both writers, have been buying health insurance on the individual market for several years, paying about a thousand dollars a month for a policy that covers us and our two children.  We were among those Americans who liked our policy: we had to choose doctors from within a network, but there were plenty to choose from, including the pediatrician we’d gone to since our kids, now teen-agers, were born.  We had no deductible and a reasonable cap on out-of-pocket expenses:  five thousand dollars a year.  We were less happy when, in early October, our insurer, CareFirst Blue Cross, raised our monthly premium by three hundred dollars with no explanation.  (The only health expenses we’d incurred in the previous year were for the annual checkups that the schools required for the kids.)  This was a big increase for us, especially since our writing income tends to fluctuate from month to month and year to year.  Then, like many of the twelve million or so Americans who buy their own insurance, we received a letter from CareFirst in late October saying that our policy would be cancelled, because it didn’t conform to Affordable Care Act requirements.  I did what I usually do in these circumstances: I procrastinated.
Then the story begins.  Ms Talbot accepts that it is all very complicated, but she wants it to work, and sends that message.
So yes, I’ll subsidize someone else’s prenatal coverage, in a more effective way than I’ve been doing by default under the current system, in which too many pregnant women show up in emergency rooms without having had such care, creating problems for themselves and their babies, and all sorts of costs for taxpayers.  And I’ll remember to be relieved that my own access to health care is guaranteed. But they had better work out the problems with the A.C.A.; if they don’t, and it doesn’t fulfill its promise of insuring the uninsured, I’m really going to feel like a chump.
I am putting her down as approving of the President's performance.  I think she sums up the views of many Progressives.  However, she could drift, as recent polls suggest is happening to others, even in Southern California, where support amongst Hispanics, Union households and women is slipping.

And, she does recognize it is a tax, even if she doesn't say so.  A tax on the Middle Class and the Healthy.  No matter what we do, that is the way it is going to be.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, that is the name of the thing, sometimes called ACA and sometimes called ObamaCare.

New Deputy Secretary of Defense

For John, BLUFGetting good political appointees in Federal Government could be getting harder.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs):
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is traveling.
Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine H. Fox and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey have no public or media events on their schedules.
That was Friday last.  Here is a news report (last week's news)…
Christine Fox, who inspired the Kelly McGillis role in the movie "Top Gun," [Charlie] has been called back to the Pentagon to serve as a temporary replacement for outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
And, then the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hegal, signed the whole shebang over to her as he went on a trip.

Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine H. Fox has full power and authority to act for the Secretary of Defense and to exercise the powers of the Secretary of Defense upon any and all matters concerning which the Secretary of Defense is authorized to act pursuant to law.
Department of Defense Directive [DoDD] 5105.02
But, we are seeing a trend in our Nation's Capitol.  Folks are turning down jobs because of the US Senate.  Perhaps we will trend toward only Senators being appointed to the Cabinet.  From Breaking Defense on 4 December we have this lede:
The fact that the Obama administration selected Christine Fox, the former CAPE director, as Deputy Defense Secretary illustrates two truths: 7 First, several people turned down the job or withdrew from consideration because of the hideous confirmation process; second, the political impulse to place a female in the position was intense and, ultimately, successful.
Putting someone in place for 210 days bridges a gap and allows time to build consensus for a permanent appointment.

From a different perspective, someone commented:

As the leader of the Strategic Choices and Management Review [the SCMR, pronounced Scamer], which some top Service leaders have criticized for advancing harsh cuts, Fox may now be in a position to reinforce its role as the analytical basis for QDR 2014 [Quadrennial Defense Review].  Some will see her as the Secretary's enforcer.
Yes, the Defense Budget must come down, unless some foreign power does something really stupid, and the Department of Defense initial approach was the SCMR.  And now Ms Christine Fox is back in the henhouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela RIP

For John, BLUFThe secret to statesmanship is not perfection, but good enough.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

South African leader Nelson Mandela has left this vail of tears for what many of us assume is a better place.

That said, his leaving has not been totally without controversy.  There is the South Carolina Sheriff who won't lower the American Flag to half staff per the Presidential Directive.  His argument actually makes some sense—US Embassy in South Africa yes, South Carolina no.  [I would have lowered the flag]  Then there is the reported negative feedback Ted Cruz, and other Republican politicians got saying nice things about Mr Mandela.  On the other hand, Bishop Desmond Tutu wants to make him a saint.  There is a reason sainthood waits a while after death. 

Mr Mandela was a freedom fighter in his native land (read terrorist to those in power).  The thing that sets him apart is that after winning the fight he worked for reconciliation between former enemies.  In addition, he managed to not destroy his nation's economy while in charge. Further, he served his term and then stepped down, unlike the example set by many others on his continent.  In US terms, he was a real George Washington.

On the other hand, a fair observer will note that all is not perfect in South Africa and the citizens of that nation have a ways to go before they achieve a totally harmonious nation.  This does not make them unique.

For those who think the government was more rationale under the previous, Afrikaner, Administrations, it should be kept in mind that while they fought on the same side as the rest of us in WWI, WWII and Korea, there was a lot of pro-German sympathy in the nation.  Not all were saints.  At the same time, credit to President F W de Klerk for a peaceful handover to the African National Congress and its leader, Mr Nelson Mandela.

There are a lot of really unhappy nations out there.  South Africa could have been one of them, but thanks to Nelson Mandela, and others, it is not.  So, high praise to Mr Mandela.  He deserves to be up there in that modern pantheon, along with Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King.

Rest in Peace, Mr Mandela. Regards  —  Cliff

  And a reason buildings should not be named after people who are still alive.  We just don't yet know all the facts, facts that only time will reveal.
  Historian Crane Brinton tells us that revolutions go through a First (Moderate) Stage, then a Second (Radical) Stage and finally a Third (Recovery) Stage.  The second stage includes a terror phase, when executions abound (Think French Revolution, Russian Revolution, China and Cambodia).  Mr Mandela avoided that "Second Stage" through his statesmanship.