Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gun Ban Failing


For John, BLUFBanning guns doesn't prevent criminals using guns.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Earlier today we talked about a home invasion, out in Fairborn, Ohio.  Now we skip across the Pacific to the Philippines, where the President, Mr Benigno Aquino, III, is concerned about armed robberies, even though guns have been banned.

President Aquino is alarmed by the spate of armed robberies in shopping malls and other high-profile crimes in Metro Manila despite a nationwide gun ban, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said Wednesday.
But they have a "nationwide gun ban."

Of course the President is concerned.

Regards  —  Cliff

Terrorism Uptick?


For John, BLUFIranian sponsored terrorism could reach the US this year.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

OK, so who knows where militarized political forces will go?  At some point most become part of a peaceful movement or are squashed.  However, for Hezballah and for the Iranian Quds Force, that time of conversion may be a ways off.  In the mean time, they may be becoming a bigger threat to the US.  For sure, as we put pressure on Iran, those two organizations will work to put pressure on the West, and on Israel.  In international affairs there is hardly ever a free lunch.  Pearl Harbor was the result of someone squeezing Japan over scrap metal and oil.

The news report linked to above was based on a Washington Institute Policy Paper, Policy Focus 123, Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran's Shadow War with the West.  The author of the report is Dr Matthew Levitt, who has worked for both the FBI and the Treasury Department in the anti-terrorism arena.

Regards  —  Cliff

Home Invasion Thwarted


For John, BLUFThe Second Amendment isn't JUST about the Government.  There is also the natural right to self defense.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Instapundit.  Note that Fairborn is in the Dayton, Ohio, area.

WAIT, I THOUGHT THIS KIND OF THING NEVER HAPPENED:  Home Invasion Suspect Dies Of Gunshot Wound.  “One man was killed and another shot in the leg when they, along with three others, allegedly participated in a home invasion Monday evening where the residents fought back. . . . Fairborn Police Sgt. Paul Hicks said the only motive they’ve uncovered was that the subjects intended to rob the home.  Two Wright State University students who live at 1006 Victoria Ave. were home when the intruders entered. Trent Seitz, 21, reportedly struggled with the men and was ordered to the floor.  He called out for his roommate, Christopher Muse, who told police that he grabbed a gun and fired at the men.”
UPDATE:  Or Texas, but maybe that is to be expected.

Regards  —  Cliff

Disability Hidden and Uncovered


For John, BLUFNew York Times Columnist Paul Krugman caught off base, again.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at the Smarter Times blog we have a discussion of an apparent disability on the part of Columnist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman.  Mr Krugman appears to misstate the situation on worker disability claims.  Although, using President Obama's former budget director, Peter Orszag as an example of someone understanding the situation may cause some Democrats to cry foul.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Democrats and 2016


For John, BLUFLooking at the two parts of the Democratic Party.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Politico writers Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, back on 18 January, wrote about possible future struggles within the Democratic Party, "Up next for Obama:  A looming Democratic divide".  While this post is not current, it may well be timely.

The lede:

As President Barack Obama approaches his second inaugural on Monday, he presides over a party that has largely papered over its divisions for the past four years thanks to the president’s commanding popularity.

But almost as soon as the echo of Obama’s inaugural address fades and he instantly becomes a lame duck, Democrats are going to have to face a central and unresolved question about their political identity:  Will they become a center-left, DLC-by-a-different-name party or return to a populist, left-leaning approach that mirrors their electoral coalition?

The authors set it up this way:
As 2016 grows nearer, and their presidential hopefuls begin openly maneuvering, Democrats must decide whether they want to be principally known as the party of Rahm Emanuel or the party of Elizabeth Warren.
But, it is really about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and if she will run for President in 2016.  But, that means it is really about Bill Clinton and his understanding of how to lead this nation.  (I almost changed "understanding" to "vision", but with Bill Clinton it is a fingerspitzengefuhl for the electorate.)

Regarding Senator Warren, we discussed 2016 here.  If President Obama can catapult into the Presidency with less than two years in the US Senate, then surely Elizabeth Warren can do it with more than three.  After all, Senator Warren taught at Harvard.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From Dead Carl, finger-tip feel for the actual situation on the ground.

"U.S. Embassy closes amid Egyptian violence"


For John, BLUFSo, what Youtube video sparked all THIS violence?

From The Washington Times, a report on violence in Egypt.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo shut down Tuesday, as more than 120 were reported injured in the escalating violence that has marked Egypt over the past few days.

United Press International reports that emergency services for U.S. citizens would only be offered “to the extent possible,” according to an embassy statement.

“Due to the security situation in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy, our public services will be closed, including visa services and the Information Resource Center,” the statement continued, according to UPI.

Egyptian news is reporting that 48 security officers were hurt in the past 24 hours of protests.  More than 50, meanwhile, have been killed in clashes since Friday, according to Health Ministry estimates, UPI said.  The embassy closure comes just hours after the country’s leading general warned of a looming nationwide “collapse,” UPI reported.

But, the question is, which YouTube video was behind this action?  Or was it internal Egyptian politics all along?

Regards  —  Cliff

Al Gore Has A New Book Out


For John, BLUFFormer VEEP Al Gore has a new book out.

Law Professor and Blogger Glenn Harlan Reynolds gives us a review of the new book by former Vice President Al Gore, The Future:  Six Drivers of Global Change.

I like the bifurcation of Vice President Gore into "techno-enthusiast Al" and "Savonarola Al".  Fits.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Going to the Moon


For John, BLUFAre we every going back to the moon?

"A Russian Moon?"

A short article by Dwayne Day at The Space Review, reviewing who is going back to the Moon and when.

CountryNameTypeYear
ChinaChang’e 3Lander2013
USALADEEOrbiter2013
PrivateGXLPLanders2014?
RussiaLuna-GlobOrbiter2015
IndiaChandrayaan-2Lander2015?
ChinaChang’e 4Lander2015
RussiaLuna-GlobLander2016
RussiaLuna-GruntLander2017?
JapanSELENE-2Lander2018?
ChinaChang’e 5Lander2017

Thank God for private enterprise.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sequestration Alive and Lurking


For John, BLUFThe Congress is going to have to be creative in order to avoid Sequestration.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Sequestration is still out there and Washington Post writer Ezra Klein tries to understand why Republicans douldn't abhor it more than Democrats.

I can't answer that.  I am thinking that Republicans see the debt crisis as so big and so bad that they will do anything to try and fix it.  Mr Klein says:

This is the kind of perverse policy outcome that’s the consequence of the GOP’s no-tax pledge. They could get a deal from the Obama administration that would cut Medicare and Social Security and all the other spending Republicans want to cut so long as they’d also raise taxes. And they wouldn’t even have to raise tax rates — they could just get rid of loopholes and tax breaks in the code.
But, that is exactly what the Speaker offered back in 2011.  I don't think the Congresscritters want to touch that issue.

On the other hand, I would expect the Democrats are counting on Republican House overreach and backlash against budget cuts to propel them to victory in 2014, thus accomplishing what DWS couldn't in 2012.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 28, 2013

North African Blame Game


For John, BLUFThe fall of Muammar Qaddafi was necessary for progress to be made in the Middle East and North Africa.  But, as local girl Bette Davis said, "Buckle up.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Ms Ann Marlowe, writing in World Affairs Newsletter today, talks to "The North Africa Blame Game".

There’s a dangerous blame game being played now among the pundits, laying the responsibility for the conflict in northern Mali and the recent terror attack on the In Amenas gas field in Algeria on the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
Not so, says Ms Marlowe:
The lesson of these rough times is not that the US was better served by the dictators of Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.  It’s that decades of dictatorship do not create stability, prosperity, or economic growth.  (The only exceptions may be China and Singapore.)  American support for the revolution in Libya was by and large wise and appropriate—stopping well short of boots on the ground, which the Libyans themselves did not want.  Expecting Libya to become a thriving democracy barely a year after the death of Qaddafi is unrealistic.  And blaming any terror attacks in North Africa on the Arab Spring is foolish and likely to lead to more bad policy choices.
That said, while the Arab Spring was necessary for Muslims and Arabs to move on, it doesn't mean that there will not be an Arab Autumn.  But, we have to go through this faze to get to the other side.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Ms Marlowe has written a monograph on the life of French soldier and thinker and author David Galula.  The market is a strange and wonderful place.  For the Kindle edition, 99¢, but it is free from the Army War College Strategic Studies Institute web site.  Hardcover has no Amazon price, but is listed new for $245.06, but used is $8.80.

Worst Law of 2013


For John, BLUFThere are too many laws and too many people making them.

Political strategist Derek Khanna, writing about issues of government and technology for The Atlantic, gives us "The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far):  It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone".

In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both.
And a law, not from Congress, but from The Library of Congress, through delegated authority.  Promulgated this month, with eleven more to go this year.

The size of the penalty is so US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, down in Boston, can bully the accused into accepting a plea bargin, rather than having to face a trial, where the judge can say no (see the Caswell Motel forfeiture case) or the jury can bring common sense to the courtroom.

Copyright law is out of control and is a prime example of the adverse effects of corporations and trade associations having undue influence on Congress members.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Praise for President Bill Clinton


For John, BLUFA Republican admits that a Democrat can help fix the fiscal crisis.  Unfortunately, he has timed out of office.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From News Busters we have this short note on Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) saying on NBC's Meet the Press "If We Had a Clinton Presidency, We Would Have Fixed This Fiscal Mess By Now."

If we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles chief-of-staff at the White House, or President of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now.  That's not the kind of presidency we're dealing with right now.
Congressman Ryan isn't wrong here.
Both parties - forget about just the recent past - both parties got us to the mess we are in, this fiscal crisis, Republicans and Democrats.  And you know what?  It’s going to take both parties to solve this problem.  That’s the kind of leadership we need today.
And he isn't wrong there either.

And remember, President Bill Clinton, for part of his time in office, had to work with a Republican Congress and a Senate with a filibuster rule.

Regards  —  Cliff

Equality of Opportunity


For John, BLUFMany members of the Black segment of our society are still battling to break into the Middle Class and remain there, and this is often because of perverse incentives, which have, in turn, distorted the values of these people.  This needs to be fixed.

The Blogger Philo of Alexandria, back in September of 2010, drew attention to what he called Reynolds Law:

“Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”

It’s easy to see why.

If people don’t need to defer gratification, work hard, etc., in order to achieve the status they desire, they’ll be less inclined to do those things.

The greater the government subsidy, the greater the effect, and the more net harm produced.

Philo links it back to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States.  I admit that at one time Woodrow Wilson was a hero of mine.  Then I realized that he and I didn't really think alike, but that we both wanted good outcomes for the People.

But, back to the issue of the moment.  It all starts with this Washington Monthly article by Professor Thomas J. Sugrue,  "A House Divided:  Why do middle-class blacks have far less wealth than whites at the same income level?  The answer is in real estate and history."  The title sums it up.  Discrimination held Blacks back from developing capital, and capital builds slowly until it moves one into the Middle Class, and then helps provide a launching platform into the world of small enterprise and further wealth accumulation.

When I was young, back in the '40s and '50s, people would sometimes comment that they didn't understand why Blacks drove shiny new cars, but lived in homes that were down-scale.  I didn't have a clue.  Only later did it come to me that we were dealing with a reaction to housing discrimination.  Reacting to restrictive covenants and other forms of discrimination.  And, it was a sign of the capital accumulation problem mentioned above.  A shiny new Caddy didn't increase in value, the way a home might.  It depreciated in value.

Writer Walter Russell Mead, writing in The American Interest, points out the consequences of such discriminatory practices:

So when the real estate bubble burst, it hurt Blacks much more than whites:  25 percent of African-Americans who purchased or refinanced homes from 2004 to 2008 have lost or are losing them, compared to 11.9 percent of white Americans.  According to Sugrue, “the median black family today holds only $4,955 in assets.”
Needless to say, this is not good from a societal point of view.  An effort to move more Blacks into the housing market resulted in not just efforts to eliminate Red Lining, but, eventually, predatory lenders stepping forward.  Those predatory lenders contributed to Blacks being disproportionately hurt in the bursting of the real estate bubble.

Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, quoted above, touches on one aspect of this problem.  As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out, we have distorted, through Government programs, the values, the character traits, of some members of the Black Community.  Another side of this problem is that as things were going bad in the real estate market we ignored it and allowed perverse incentives to continue.  The percent of foreclosures for the Caucasian side, 11.9%, or over ten percent, is a sign of serious problems and millions of people hurting.  A 25% rate for Blacks is just scandalous.

The question is, what steps can we take to redeem the situation, both in terms of preventing more family capital being lost and in terms of reversing perverse incentives, so all who are willing and capable can be put on the path to long term success.

It is my personal opinion that we should create a law that creates a legal bond between an unmarried woman and the father of her child, requiring the father to acknowledge, to the child, birthdays and some festive winter holiday (e.g., Christmas or Kwanzaa) and requires report cards to be reviewed and endorsed and requires payment of child support through high school graduation and education support through a bachelors degree for those children actively in college.

We need to create sufficient jobs to drive the unemployment rate down to a manageable level.  Not with make-believe jobs but with real jobs, creating opportunities for people to develop skills as well as earn (and save) money.

We need to find a way to liquidate much of the bad paper in the real estate bubble, rewarding those who tried for the American Dream, but without rewarding those who would distort that dream for their own criminal intentions.

We need to do this in a way that is both color blind and at the same time sensitive to the fact that many in this nation have not gotten a fair break in the last century and a half.

And, we need to do it while reducing our Budget Deficit and the Federal Debt, and without contracting the economy by raising taxes too far.

And, finally, we need to understand that we will encounter unintended consequences, which will need to be looked at.  Every solution will contain the seeds of future problems.  Not a reason to not act, but a caution as things evolve.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  "Thomas J. Sugrue is the David Boies Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.  His most recent book is Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why It Matters


For John, BLUFSecState Clinton didn't answer the question and as a result we should conclude that Foggy Bottom isn't capable of drawing the needed lessons.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Mr Eric Chase, in a 24 January article at Small Wars Journal, brought up the issue of Defining Terrorism:  A Strategic Imperative.  Reflecting on the Benghazi Imbroglio, he noted:

Even if a video attacking the Muslim faith had in fact inspired a spontaneous attack on the Consulate, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”  This definition certainly seems applicable in such an instance.  Nevertheless, applying the label “terrorism” or “terrorist” to any one event, person, or group conjures visceral emotions, incites ideological sparring, and stirs vociferous political debate that reverberate well beyond the initial application of the term.
So, in answer to the question, "What differences does it make?" we have a proposal to sift through these things and come up with decent terminology to help us better understand what we are doing in this global war on terrorism.  The thing is, if you don't know the names of the different items in the garden, it is harder to communicate what needs picking and what needs hoeing.  It is as simple as that.  If you don't know what is causing problems then you can't tailor your responses.

Focusing in on Secretary of State Clinton's testimony, and in particular her response to questions from Senator Johnson, I believe there is a difference in knowing the reason for the attack.

  1. If it was all due to the video, Innocence of Muslims, then it is incumbent upon the Department of State and its Public Diplomacy program to make clear that we will not be curtailing any of our freedoms because of concerns overseas.  Just as we don't allow mobs to run wild in the streets of Washington, DC, because someone objects to polygamy or female circumcision in certain Islamic nations, or suppression of homosexuals in Russia, nations overseas should be about protecting American Citizens and American Embassy property from mobs in their nations.  If it is all about the video then the responsibility of the Department of State is clear, and it isn't about apologizing.
  2. If this was all about some man, or group of men out for a walk and feeling a little frisky and they killed four Americans and ten Libyans, then it is a different thing.  The attention of the Department of State should be focused like a laser on security of Embassy personnel.  As Secretary Clinton said, "It is our job to make sure that it doesn't happen again."  End of story; unless it happens again.
  3. A third possibility is that this is one of a number of attacks being executed at this time (the Algerian Gas Works incident being another) and that this represents a coordinated set of terrorist attacks to achieve some larger goals, such as driving the US and Europeans out of the Islamic Maghreb or destabilizing secular governments in the MENA area.  If it is determined that this is, in fact, what Benghazi is all about, then the response of State, in coordination with the Department of Defense, should be about pulling together alliances, providing aid, including training for indigenous forces and airlift and intelligence support to all fighting the war.  Economic aid and support is called for, since there seems to be a 5% growth rate threshold for keeping these kinds of things at bay.
So, Madam Secretary, what is it?

And this isn't just on Secretary Clinton.  Senator John Kerry, the Secretary designate, didn't do any better in answering the question in his testimony before Congress.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Captain Eric Chase is a former Intelligence Officer in the United States Marine Corps with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently commands Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines and he works at Toffler Associates as a consultant specializing in defense strategic planning and irregular warfare.
  From SecState Clinton (Manchester Guardian):  "Was it terrorists, or was it because of a guy out for a walk one night?  What difference at this point does it make?  It is our job to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
  I know the term "Global War on Terrorism", along with "Long War", has been not just abandoned, but rejected by the US Federal Government, but that doesn't mean there isn't still some war going on with terrorists and that it doesn't stretch across the face of the earth.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Intelligencia and the Second Amendment


For John, BLUFNot everyone in "Hollywood" is against guns.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Playwright David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross (1984), Speed-the-Plow (1988), The Verdict (1982) and Wag the Dog (1997)) talks about the Second Amendment at The Daily Beast.  He is for it.

The title of his piece is "Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm".

My grandmother came from Russian Poland, near the Polish city of Chelm. Chelm was celebrated, by the Ashkenazi Jews, as the place where the fools dwelt.  And my grandmother loved to tell the traditional stories of Chelm.

Its residents, for example, once decided that there was no point in having the sun shine during the day, when it was light out—it would be better should it shine at night, when it was dark.  Similarly, we modern Solons delight in passing gun laws that, in their entirety, amount to “making crime illegal.”

What possible purpose in declaring schools “gun-free zones”?  Who bringing a gun, with evil intent, into a school would be deterred by the sign?

Ah, but perhaps one, legally carrying a gun, might bring it into the school.

Good.

Yes, laws don't seem to control those who have guns illegally or guns for illegal purposes.  Thus, the question is, once all the legal guns are out of the houses, then what?
The police do not exist to protect the individual.  They exist to cordon off the crime scene and attempt to apprehend the criminal.  We individuals are guaranteed by the Constitution the right to self-defense.  This right is not the Government’s to “award” us.  They have never been granted it.
I like this quote, for speaking the truth of the situation.  And, someone else EMailed it to me.  However, let us give the police their due.  The police have a powerful deterrent effect.  The presence of a policeman on the beat is a deterrent to crime and thus a safeguard to the citizen.  However, the police have no "duty" to protect the average citizen.  And we are not willing to pay the taxes and carry the political burden of having it any other way than it is.  We don't wish to have a Stasi like police organization in our nation.

In the end, do we wish to go to firearms confiscation via a house-to-house search?  I would hope not, since that would (1) shred more of the US Constitution and (2) leave us with only cold steel, until that too was confiscated.

And, the interesting thing is, while firearms help people feel protected, confiscation helps the Government feel protected, and that is why we have a Second Amendment.  It is an educational device for helping the Government to understand that there are limits.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Doesn't sound like a George W Bush Republican to me.
  The Bill introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein will provide exemptions for Government Officials and police, so Government Officials must be a different class of people from police.  One wonders who they are.  Given the way Capitol Hill operates they could be anybody.

Opening All Military Jobs to Women


For John, BLUFWe have embarked on a voyage of discovery in which we will see if life as an infantryman is suitable to women.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

We are now having a discussion of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's direction to eliminate existing restrictions on the employment of women throughout the Department of Defense.

Views differ.  Here is an exchange, reported in The Washington Post, between a Granddaughter (combat veteran) and her Grandfather (combat veteran).  Young Valerie Warner and her Grandfather, retired Army four star general Volney Warner.

Then there is the view of the soldiers and marines in infantry battalions.  As one person has asked, "How does one address psycho-social group dynamics and successfully implement change in a 18-24 y/o male cohort who believe that every great feat of Western civilization began with the phrase, 'Hey guys, watch this!'"?  It appears that if one looks at young infantry via social media, it will tell you that, in some part, "they feel as though a piece of their manhood was taken away yesterday".  This now becomes a leadership problem.  How does one "calm the herd' and explain policy changes to those who will actually have to implement them and make them a success by accepting women as fellow infantrymen and making the new partnerships work?

None of the research into the mechanics of women in every Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) over the next couple of years will be new.  Here is a 12 November 1982 report from the US Army, Women in the Army Policy Review: 

This report presents the result of the Women in the Army Policy Review Group's analysis of Army personnel policies as they relate to mission, combat readiness, quality of life aspects, and the utilization of female enlisted soldiers in the United States Army.
Then there is the argument that this move by the Secretary of Defense will actually raise standards:
There is a fairly straightforward and objective argument to be made that enlarging the pool of potential personnel for combat billets by removal of a social barrier—whether through the admission of women, allowance of openly gay personnel, or allowance of new immigrants (as Max Boot has championed), all other factors being equal—will result in a net increase in the quality of the personnel serving in those career fields.

This argument relies on a few assumptions:

  • Common, objective standards (i.e. PT test scores, marksmanship, ASVAB test scores, etc.) will be set and be universally applied to all potential entrants
  • Selection for combat billets will be made on meeting or exceeding these standards, with selections made in order of test scores
  • The size of the force (including combat billets) will remain constant
The most qualified applicants in the pool, those who exceed the universal (and gender/etc.-blind standards), will squeeze out the marginally qualified male personnel who previously benefited from the discriminatory rule.  Of course, the dynamic only works if all three of these assumptions are true.

To paraphrase Rahm Emmanuel: every crisis is also an opportunity.  If the Services look at this as an opportunity to increase their standards, and apply them universally, and improve the net quality and readiness of the force, then I think they will do quite well.

There is no guarantee that this further opening up of the Armed Services to women will be a success.  It may turn out to be a failure.  That said, the chances of success seem high to me.

Remember, Audie Murphy was 5'5" and 110 pounds.  My wife, when in college, had Audie by two inches and ten pounds, which was Audie's age when he earned the Medal of Honor in the European Theater of Operations in World War II.  What is that line?  "It isn't the size of the person in the fight, but the size of the fight in the person."

Some may think that the key to successful implementation of this new policy for the Army and Marines will lie in well written directives, guiding the Services, and especially the Army and Marines, to success.  I am with those who believe success will lie with our Battalion Commanders and Command Sergeants Major.  As one experienced soldier put it, "They are in the unique position to be the bridge between our senior leaders and the youth (and future) of our Army."

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, January 25, 2013

Asset Forfeiture in Tewksbury


For John, BLUFThe Caswell Motel is free, at last.

The Caswell Motel wins against the Feds in an asset forfeiture case.  That was covered in this article in The [Lowell] Sun.

Here is Law Professor Glenn Reynolds on the issue, with a comment on the Federal Attorney, Carmen Ortiz, who lost this case.

Asset forfeiture is a powerful tool for law enforcement, but it is rife with possibilities for abuse.  That is where the Courts come in.  An independent Court system is a good thing.

While I don't expect to hear from "the other Cliff", his milage may differ.  My younger Brother, John, was involved in this at the periphery, a while back, working for BATF.  His job was to educate folks that you seize the copier, but not the copier paper.  You never seize the race horses.  You should avoid seizing the Chicken Ranch.  Asset forfeiture is an art form.

Regards  —  Cliff

How To Manage an Empire


For John, BLUFDon't micromanage.

Blogger Glenn Reynolds writes:

WHY THE BRITISH EMPIRE WAS SO EFFICIENT:  Bad communications inhibited micromanagement.
I think this is very insightful.  Good intermediate managers don't ask for help.  They do, however, recommend change upward.

Regards  —  Cliff

Which "It"?


For John, BLUFStill, no one will explain why the Administration lied and continued to lie over the cause of the Benghazi Imbroglio.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Talking Points Memo dumps on Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) for being dense.  They highlight Senator Kerry pointing out that Senator Johnson missed "the briefing".

Here is Blogger Add Althouse explaining that both Secretary of State Clinton and SecState Designate, Senator John Kerry, are focused on the wrong "it".

It.  She has the wrong it.  Johnson's question to her and then to Kerry related to the point in time when the people in the Obama administration decided to mislead the public by actively pushing a phony story about the "Innocence of Muslims" video.  That was a strange thing to do, and both Clinton and Kerry have doggedly distracted us by pretending the question is why the attack occurred.
I believe Professor Althouse has scored a shack here.

Maybe 50 or 100 years from now, as PhD students pore over the musty archives, an answer will emerge.

With regard to Senator Johnson, he is in the minority and can be safely ignored.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Election Commission Meeting, Lowell


For John, BLUFthese meetings haven't been too frequent.

I am trying to liver blog the meeting of the Election Commission, so I must be late.  They just elected Thel Sar as the Chairman as I walked in.

I thought the meeting started at 4:45.  I think they were aggressive in action.

Tom O'Brien says he had booked the room for the fourth Thursday of each month.

Mark Brierre, Commissioner
Thel Sar, Chairman
Tom O'Brien, Commissioner
Pat McCartin, Commissioner

Joe Kaplan
Etta Matchak
Christine O'Connor, Solicitor

Also present was City Councillor Vesna E. Nuon.

Mark asks if there is a rule or regulation that mandates meetings.  Ms O'Connor says no.

Mid-June special election, and a primary seven weeks before.

Tom O'Brien discussed an EMail from Gerry Nutter re GLTHS elections.  Ms O'Connor says she will get back with an answer.

Chairman Sar says he would like each Commissioner to know how to test the ballot boxes.  Mark says that only one person knew how to do that in the past—one would assume Denis Teague, who has moved to Vermont.

Pat talks to the interaction with LHS and the importance of that.

Tom talks to the importance of boundaries in the process.  A question of available people to move equipment and boxes.  Ms O'Connor says that for the last election Ralph Snow made the manpower available.  It was agreed that it worked well.  Mark says that with a professional office manager the logistics should not be a problem.  His question was what the Commissioners should be poking into.  At one time the Commissioners were near full time, but then a staff was put into place and the pay reduced.

Ms O'Conner announces that Ms Gail Cenik has resigned, as of today.  Ms O'Connor will look into the responsibilities of the Staff and the Commissioners, for the next meeting.

Pat McCartin says he has reached out to the State and has collected some information on duties, which he will distribute electronically to all.  One of the issues raised to Pat At Demoulas is Poll Workers not being able to vote absentee.  He said he has been told the General Court is looking to open up absentee ballots.

Ms O'Connor notes that when communications come from the State they should be shared with the Commissioners and perhaps the Law Office and Manager. I note that the City Web Site for the Election Commission is out of date.  And, it doesn't include the names of the Commissioners, and contact information, like City EMails.

Ms O'Connor reviews a PowerPoint on Lessons Learned from th,e last election.  A key item is poll worker training.  Perhaps expand the training to the Lowell Police Department. Polling locations were a topic. There were some challenges at one or more polling locations.  Some of those locations, like the Masonic Temple, may not be properly sized for the changing demographics.  Another issue was T-shirts for different types of workers (shades of the Flight Deck).  Also, a question of scheduling teacher training days with elections.

In the past some issues that should have been of interest to the Commissioners were not past to them, for example nursing homes as special polling places.  It is the Commissioners who must designate which nursing homes will be authorized polling places.

Apparently we have not, for a long time, posted Warrents for Elections.  This is a requirement in law.  It was suggested we seek out professional assistance, providing cross-feed on our operation.  [As an aside, there is a City Clerks professional organization.]

Some discussion of poll workers and bringing in workers drawn from other offices.  Outside help has included UMass Lowell and the Community College, as well as UTEC.  UTEC also helped with voter registration.  Our phone bank was 12 computers and phones. Before the last election not all Commissioners had all the various important phone numbers.  Considering more use of social media.

Etta notes that she has gotten feedback on the Web Page and the need to update it.  Pat agrees that if it could direct folks to polling places based on address it would be great.  We need remote access to the database, from polling places.  Etta will check with RMV on how that information flows.  Joe says that over the years down in Cambridge half the problems were from RMV Registration.  The question of Active Duty military voters.  It was agreed to touch base with Eric Lamarche.  Mark talked about the Census and people being delisted (inactive status).  Mark asked if people didn't have to be notified of their change of status?  The answer is yes, people need to be notified.

Supplies were an acknowledged problem, and the turn out was bigger than expected.  There is a need for established SOPs and pass along books.

Quick review of the Open Meeting Law.

Review from the office, including a desire for an office physical reorganization, especially so customers are seen as the enter. 

Adjourn at 6:22 PM.

Regards  —  Cliff

Who Will Make It Happen?


For John, BLUFSome think only they can save this nation.  Ignoring the People.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

"This Country Won't Fix Itself."

That is the title of an EMail I received last evening from Nation of Change.

Despite the comforting corporate-sponsored speech yesterday, to the tune of $124.3 million from civic-minded citizens such as Bank of America, Coca-Cola and AT&T, things are not under control.

A ban of high-magazine clips will not prevent more mass shootings. Our underfunded education system will not repair itself.  The planet will not protect itself from the unrelenting blows of a faceless Corporate pugilist.  The poor will not will themselves out of poverty and those with nearly all the wealth of this country will not give it up without a fight.

It turns out that Board President Donna Luca is telling us that (1) only she and her team can fix this nation and (2) they need our money to do it.

To be fair, I agree that:

  1. A ban of high-magazine clips will not prevent more mass shootings.
    • I suspect they and I draw different conclusions from that simple fact.
  2. Our underfunded education system will not repair itself.
    • No, as President Obama said in a recent radio advert, we all have to get involves.  Are you running for School Committee or supporting someone who is?  You should!
  3. The planet will not protect itself from the unrelenting blows of a faceless Corporate pugilist.
    • Actually, I am not sure what this means.  "Faceless Corporate pugilist"?  How many corporations are extracting natural resources for the fun of it?  They do it because they can make a profit.  Check the mirror.
  4. The poor will not will themselves out of poverty...
    • I fully agree with this.  Our poverty problem is partly the problem of perverse incentives we put into place in the 1960s and early 1970s.  We need to change those incentives, and at the same time find ways to allow the economy to grow, thus creating jobs for those who are currently in poverty.
  5. ...and those with nearly all the wealth of this country will not give it up without a fight.
    • Especially the Middle Class people with retirement plans, like State and Local Employees.
If you would like to donate to Nation of Change, you can contact them here.

The other possibility is studying the issues, thinking about them in light of history and then getting politically involved in your local community.  While the phrase "All politics is local" can obscure some important points, it also contains a lot of truth.  Politics is a trinity of (1) The Party, (2) The Candidates and (3) The People.  We are part of The People and we need to play our role.

My preference is for the American People to be active in their own future and my belief is that we are capable to determining our future path, politicians notwithstanding.  Call it American Exceptionalism.

To answer the title question of this blog post, one needs to answer "Me!".

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am presuming from the accompanying photo of the West side of the Capitol that they are talking about President Obama's second Inaugural Speech.

"Rigging" the Electoral College


For John, BLUFReform is vital, unless it might gore your ox.

Over at Slate Writer David Weigel is whinging about how efforts in Virginia to make their Electoral College votes more representative is BAD for Democrats, and therefore BAD.  The title is "Virginia State Senate Moves Ahead on Electoral College-Rigging Bill".

Up until this point I had thought that a lot of folks had problems with the Electoral College "winner take all" approach to representing the will of the voters.  If a presidential candidate wins a state he or she get all the Electoral College votes for that state (Maine and Nebraska excepted). Some deemed that as unfair.  Now efforts to fix the Electoral College is seen as "rigging".

So, where are we?

Here is one comment from the Althouse blog post on this.

Will anyone actually argue the position that what the Republicans are doing is "rigging"? It's not enough to say I hate when they find ways to take political advantage because I'm on the other side. It must be that you would say the same political advantage-taking by Democrats would be impermissible. Not just unwise or too hardcore, but actually cheating.
Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hillary Testifies


For John, BLUFSecState Clinton's Testimony is probably a waste of time for most of us, but interesting political theater.

I have not been watching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testify on the Benghazi Imbroglio.  Lets face it, life is short and Congressional Testimony can be almost endless.  The two key issues are (1) did we have a clue what we were doing when we joined others in helping to take down Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and (2) who cooked up that stupid cover story about the video, and why.

Over at Night Watch Analyst John McCreary had this to say about the recent terrorist attack in Algeria:

Algeria-US:  Update.  A senior Algerian official said that one of the terrorists captured at the In Amenas gas plant said under interrogation that some of the dead Egyptian terrorists also participated in the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi last year.  Three terrorists are in custody.

The official said the terrorists staged in southern Libya with arms purchased in Tripoli, Libya.  He also said, "This is the result of the Arab Spring….  I hope the Americans are conscious of this."

Comment:  There is no way to corroborate the detainee's statement.  What is worth noting is that the Algerian official's statements help explain why the Algerians might have had few qualms about assaulting the terrorists, despite the risk to foreigners.  The Algerian government expects more attacks and the outcome will probably not be much different for foreigners.

The government has opposed US policy in the Arab world, especially the overthrow of the Qadhafi government.  Some officials are making it very clear they hold American policy ultimately responsible for the gas plant attack in Algeria, the invasion of northern Mali by Islamist fighters and future attacks to come.

Americans working in Algeria are at increased risk from terrorists.  Moreover, their safety does not appear to be a major factor in government planning for rescue operations.

Yes, with regard to item one, there are some serious foreign policy issues to address.  The fact is, if the Middle East and North Africa are to progress, at some point they need to make the move toward a more representative form of government, in which the People get to make their own mistakes.  This, in turn, could result in a reformation in Islam that drags it out of the 12th Century and allows for reinterpretations that allow for freedom for women and for less drastic punishments for crime.  I am not sure it needs to allow for interest on loans, since Islamic financing seems to being doing fine.  The separation of law into two realms, one secular and one religious, might be a good thing.  The question is, was last year the year for this change?  Remember your school history?  The French Revolution was in 1789, but was terminated at Waterloo in 1815, but may have not yet fully played out.  These "revolutions" go on for some time.  We had a small twinge from 1860 to 1865 here in the US, even though your revolution was over and we had a solid constitution by 1789.

With regard to item two, it seems to me that someone should go to jail for trampling on the Constitution of the United States and someone in a position of authority in the Federal Government should apologize to Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, whether he is in jail for parole violation or not.

Woman in Combat Roles?


For John, BLUFSecDef Panetta says women can serve in all combat roles, and then allows Services to apply for exemptions over the next three years.

This will be interesting.  The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has opened up all jobs in the Armed Services to women.

BC-US--Women in Combat
Panetta opens combat roles to women
Panetta removes military ban on women serving in combat
Eds: APNewsNow; will be updated.
Bulletin
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press
WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

Drudge has a link to Fox News, but this above came from elsewhere.

The questions are:  (1) is this a good thing for women, (2) is this a good thing for unit readiness, (3) is this a good thing for our American view of what a woman is and is not.

My tentative responses are (1) yes, (2) who knows, (3) mezzo-mezzo.

UPDATE:  My wife is still under the weather, so I have taken her to Chili's for dinner.  Enroute we discussed this issue.  She is against.  Negative from both the male and female perspective.

While we were discussing I contemplated the timing of the announcement.  It is after the election, but just before Mr Penetta leaves office.  So, a quotate came to me, attributed to both Tallyrand and Prince Metternick.  On being informed of the death of the Turkish Ambassador, the (whichever) Foreign Minister was supposed to have said:  "I wonder what he meant by that?"

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Elections Contested


For John, BLUFThere are contested elections out there, just not so much here.

From Intelligence Analyst John McCreary and Nightwatch we have this item:

Jordan:  Jordanians will hold parliamentary elections on 23 January.  Some 1,400 candidates are contesting the 150 seats in Parliament.
If this was our election here in Lowell this year that would be like 140 candidates for City Council and School Committee combined.  That might be a little too many, but what about a total 35?  That might be interesting, as the field got winnowed down.

The interesting thing is that Mr McCreary reports the Jordanian electorate as apathetic.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Automobile and Freedom


For John, BLUFThe automobile, like the Second Amendment, isn't so much about the power as about the leverage.

As a follow-up to the Martin Luther King Holiday we have this insightful post by Sasha Volokh, "Martin Luther King and automobility".

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mitch Daniels as President


For John, BLUFGreat having Mitch Daniels as President, even restricted to Purdue University.

Speaking of higher education, Mitch Daniels takes over at Purdue.

Yes, my wife is a proud Purdue graduate.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

UML Continuing Ed Offerings


For John, BLUFOn-Line Courses changed the rules for elders and vets at UML.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Today is the first day of the Spring Semester at UMass Lowell.

As I hope we all know by now, for Veterans and for those 60 and older, UMass Lowell Continuing Education Courses, in the Classroom, are $30 per semester, plus the books, of course.  I think you have to live in Massachusetts, since every year I am required to present a utility bill (or a certificate from the Elections Office).

The problem is, this good deal, this break for Vets and the "elderly", only applies, or has been interpreted to only apply, to in-classroom courses, where the Vets and elderly are added to the regular students, over and beyond the regular number required to constitute a class.  The thing is, in-classroom courses are going the way of the dinosaur and the Tin Lizzy.

This switch from in-classroom to on-line is not smooth, but it is relentless.  Of the 30 different groups of undergraduate courses, ranging from Accounting to Sociology, 365 courses overall, four have all their courses in the classroom and four have all of their courses on line.  As for the totality of individual courses, 136 are in the classroom and 226 are on line, with three blended courses, partly in the classroom and partly on line.  I make that 37.3% of the classes are fully in the classroom.  Put another way, the good deal is kaiboshed for about two-thirds of the classes being offered this semester.

A table giving the rough numbers is below the signature block.

So, if there were no upper level Sociology Courses this Semester, for me to finish out my degree, and I thought it would be broadening to take a Genders Studies Course, I would find that they are all on-line.  There is the pedagogical issues of having such a course on-line, but in addition, there are the financial issues.  You don't encourage someone in their 60s to take a course when you are charging full freight.

From the table below, that chap advising Benjamin in The Graduate was right all along.  I should have been in plastics.

This is just a color of money issue, and thus it should be easy to fix, shouldn't it?

All the players are informed, from the Chancellor to the Veterans Office on Campus to the four members of our delegation to Beacon Hill.  Who else do I need to ring in on this?  The Governor?  If he can help the children of illegal aliens, can he help the Grandparents of children legally born here (Veterans who signed up and fought our wars)?

Regards  —  Cliff

TABLE OF COURSES FROM UML SPRING CATALOGUE

COURSE AREATOTALCLASS-ROOMON LINEPercent in Classroom
Accounting65183.3%
Art/Computer Graphics6060.0%
Art History51420.0%
Biological Sciences81712.5%
Chemistry106460.0%
Computer Science53260.0%
Criminal Justice1910952.6%
Cultural Studies4040.0%
Economics1631318.8%
Economics and Social Dev110100.0%
Electrical and Computer Engineering110100.0%
Electronic Engineering Technology1514193.3%
English242228.3%
Gender Studies3030.0%
Health72528.6%
History2181338.1%
Info Technology48103620.8%
Intercollegate Arts and Sciences110100.0%
Languages120120.0%
Legal Studies2671926.9%
Management168850.0%
Mathematics3025583.3%
Mechanical Engineering Technology137553.8%
Operations and Information Systems73442.9%
Philosophy52340.0%
Physics43175.0%
Plastics550100.0%
Political Science1441028.6%
Psychology2442016.7%
Sociology95455.6%
TOTALS36513622637.3%

Deploying to Afghanistan


For John, BLUFWe are still sending people to Afghanistan.

When I was young we used to refer to the Umpteenth Messkit Repair Battalion to characterize a unit with no obvious front line contribution.  The number of the unit was whatever you thought was sufficiently derisive.

Now we have deploying to Afghanistan the3-49th Agribusiness Development Team.  But wait, this isn't some minor litte effort:

"I'm proud of the accomplishments of our Agribusiness Development Teams and the outstanding precedence they've established in Afghanistan," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., State Adjutant General and head of the 11,000-member Guard.
This kind of thing has been going on since 2008, and has included units from nine states.  The job of these Guardsmen is to work with Afghan farmers, helping them grow crops other than the poppie, which becomes drugs in the US and Europe and helps finance the Taliban. As Blogger and National Guard member Greg Page noted to me,
Those sorts of units don't sound STRAC but they often wind up doing tons of outside-the-wire missions.
The war we are fighting in Afghanistan isn't just about patrolling and firefights.  Often it is about engaging the local People, setting good examples, and sometimes fighting when ambushed. And, if you go to the link above you will see a typical National Guard family saying goodbye to a spouse—in this case Captain Michael Haley, and his wife Nikki, the Guard Adjudent General's boss, and the two Haley children. Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, January 21, 2013

Whither Terrorism, al Qaeda Style


For John, BLUFIs there still a terrorist threat out there?.  Your chance to vote.

Over at The Manchester Guardian we have Columnist Jason Burke telling us "Algerian hostage crisis does not mean we are back to dark days of extremism".  The lede:

Since the beginning of the Algerian hostage crisis, David Cameron has repeatedly emphasised the seriousness of the threat such incidents pose.  Al-Qaida in the Maghreb [AQIM] and other northern African groups, he has said, pose a "large and existential threat" that is "global [and] … will require a global response … that will last decades".  It needs to be "top of the international agenda", he said on Sunday.
Mr Burke suggests that since Prime Minister David Cameron didn't arrive at Number 10 Downing Street until 2010 he might have a lack of perspective.

Meanwhile, over at The Telegraph we have Columnist Janet Daley is saying "Al-Qaeda is back – big time.".

Killing Osama bin Laden (or rather, signing off on the ongoing military operation that killed him) might have given Barack Obama a great electoral pitch, but what exactly did it accomplish for the security of the United States and its interests?  Al-Qaeda is back – big time.  As a man who knew something about indefatigable terrorist organisations once said, “They haven’t gone away, you know.”  As we learn more of the horrific details of the Algerian hostage crisis, it becomes clear that the old outfit is getting on just fine without its nominal head, scoring a hit of quite spectacular global proportions, which threatened nationals from as large a number of countries as would ever be likely to gather in one place of employment.
On this side of the pond we have things to celebrate, like another change of government by peaceful means.  Well, it is the same President, but some of the cabinet is changing.  We are not focusing, in public, on the Long War.  But, the Long War is still out there and it may link up with drug cartels that are roiling Mexico.

So, where are we?  Are the dark days behind us or are we seeing more of the same in our future?

Is al Qaeda still a serious threat?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

Regards  —  Cliff

President Inaugurated


For John, BLUFCongrats to the President.

I know that President Obama was sworn in on Sunday, but today is the big day for pageantry, so I send him good wishes on this day.  Actually, I am writing this on Sunday, as I have a (routine) medical appointment during the noontime period.

We have only one President at a time and they are constrained by the US Congress on one side and the US Supreme Court on the other.  In addition, there are the Indiviual States, with their own rights.  If not enough, the President is constrained by the laws of nature and by the existence of other nations, pursuing their own goals.  It is a tough job and we should all wish him well, even if that means he have a revelation as to the wrong track he is on, and for those who do, I think we should follow the advice of St Paul to Timothy and say a prayer for him.

Regards  —  Cliff

PP/ACA As A Tax


For John, BLUFFederal (and State) laws are becoming too complex.  It will harm the Citizens in many ways.

It seems to me that Government has become too complicated.  The average citizen just isn't able to keep up with the complexities.  Or, able to hire the lawyer and accountant necessary to understand the wrinkles that will allow them to not only operate within the law, but to save money.

Here is Law Professor Glenn Reynold's six page paper, "Ham Sandwich Nation:  Due Process When Everything is a Crime".  If that link doesn't work, this one might.

Now comes Columnist George Will with a column arguing that Chief Justice Roberts put the ACA on a path to failure.  Here is the lede and next paragraph:

A willow, not an oak. So said conservatives of Chief Justice John Roberts when he rescued the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — a.k.a. Obamacare — from being found unconstitutional.

But the manner in which he did this may have made the ACA unworkable, thereby putting it on a path to ultimate extinction.

I will leave the details for you to read at the link, but it has to do with the complexities of our large, intertwined, system, and the ability to raise taxes.

Regards  —  Cliff

Neighborhood Meeting


For John, BLUFEast Pawtucketville on the march.

Here is a notice for an upcoming (two weeks hence) meeting of the East Pawtucketville Neighborhood Group.

The DTG is Monday, 2 February, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM.

The venue is McAvinnue Elementary School, 131 Mammoth Rd., Lowell, MA (Enter at the side door on Fourth Ave.)

Topics include:

  • Nancy Pitkin, Trustee of the Lowell Public Library, will be joining us to talk about all the new, great services (online and traditional) that the library makes available for children, youth, and adults.  You would be surprised at all the library can do for you!
  • Hearing from University, Lowell Police, and City Officials with updates on issues of interest to our neighborhood.  Come and share your experiences or raise questions about the issues of concern to you.
  • Plans for the new year:  How can East Pawtucketville grow this year?
Here is an EMail Address:  EastPawtucketville "AT" gmail.com

At the risk of being wrong, I think that folks in all parts of Lowell could benefit from attending local neighborhood meetings.  We can learn by seeing how others are doing thing.

Regards  &mbash;  Cliff

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Paying for Retirement


For John, BLUFA suggestion of a war on the young by at least one state legislature.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Government spending stories just get better and better.  Here is columnist Walter Russell Mead in a piece titled "Illinois’s Blue Robin Hoods Stealing from the Young to Give to the Old".  The quote lifted by Law Professor Glenn Reynolds is:

After pension reform went down in flames last week, Illinois moved to Plan B: war on the young.  Governor Pat Quinn’s administration claims that the upcoming budget will include major cutbacks on state services to make room for a $1 billion increase in pension spending.  Most notably, education spending will decrease by $400 million, which would make 2013 the third straight year in which education spending has dropped. . . .  Sticking it to either group, the young or the old, isn’t appealing, but the boomers are politically organized and better positioned to fight for their interests, particularly because powerful unions are on their side.  The young, by contrast, are among the least politically active groups in the country, making them much easier for politicians to ignore.  Illinois has obviously chosen the path of least resistance.
I am prepared to believe that the population in Illinois is shrinking, at least in terms of children, but still, $400 million is a chunk of change.  If we assume a teacher's salary, burdened, is around $100,000, that is some 4,000 people (I am assuming the number of administrators remains constant.)  Given 25 children to a classroom, that might be 100,000 less children being educated.

This web site says that from 2010 to 2012 the overall population of Illinois went up almost 40,000, but for a sample of ages (8 through 12) most cohorts dropped about 1,500 in number.  Assuming that is a good average, then maybe 21,000 less students.  I am not sure it adds up.  But, I am sure they know what they are doing.

With the number of older people growing proportionately to those of a working age, and with more working age people dropping out of the work force, we face a problem.  At what point will the ratio shift to the point that working folk will no longer be able to sustain those who are not working?  And, if we are spending less on educating our youth, will they be able to get the jobs needed to help sustain the rest?

Your Defense Budget


For John, BLUFDefense Budgets are going down, but we still have far flung responsibilities.

Whether the US Congress fixes Sequestration and the Fiscal Cliff or it doesn't, there are going to have to be changes in our "Defense Posture".  That is to say, we are going to have to do some cutting back.  We can not sustain our current national security budget, consisting of the Department of State, Department of Defense and Department of Energy (Nuclear Weapons).  Here is a breakout from four years ago, which comes to almost $800 billion, including a number of Budget Functions that contribute to national security.

For those who wish to return to "splendid isolation", as a way to save money, I suggest you refer to this publication from RAND, figure 4.2, page 23.  The pamphlet is titled U.S. Global Defense Posture, 1783–2011.  The figure is titled "Continental and Commercial Posture, 1815–1898" and it depicts US Naval Squadron deployments over the period cited.

It costs nothing to download this RAND Monograph.

This Federal Budget situation offers up no easy solutions.

That said, we are going to see a reduction in spending on national defense and that will result in people being discharged from military service and a reduction in contracts let, meaning people working for contractors being laid off.  If the economy rebounds, no problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Mother Jones would make it $1.2 Trillion, by adding in Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Interest on borrowing apportioned to national security.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The NRA Status


For John, BLUFThe NRA, derided left and right, is holding its own.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Quoting from The Instapundit:

Well, and after the NYT, and pretty much all the other inside-the-beltway crowd, called the armed-guards-in-schools proposal crazy — the Times called it “delusional, almost deranged” — President Obama came out with . . . a proposal for armed guards in schools.  It is no small feat for an out-of-touch, on-the-ropes organization to get the President to basically endorse its signature policy proposal at a time of national debate.
Read the whole thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Checking the Pipes


For John, BLUFWaste water folks in action, or at least in operation.

A couple of weeks ago I posted two pictures on maintenance by our Waste Water Treatment Folks.  Subsequently, this morning, I posted a picture of the repair having been made.

The house in the background, on Fairmount Street, has excellent paintwork over the front door.  Well worth driving by and observing.  Done by the owners.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pipe Repaired


For John, BLUFWaste-water folks here in Lowell do a good patch job, on top of the repair.

If you look at the center of the picture below, between the windscreen and the far utility pole, you will see a patch in the road, rectangular, running at an angle up and to the right.

This is the repair to a waste-water pipe that was indicated as being needed in this blog post.  In a subsequent post I will show the truck that goes along and drops down the observer for checking the pipes.

Yes, this is a night shot, but I thought I would take it while I was there and the street light makes the patch stand out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Space Cowboys


For John, BLUFThe European Space Agency wants to play bumper cars with an Asteroid.

What could possibly go wrong?

The European Space Agency is planning on smashing a space vehicle into an Asteroid in about 2020 AD.  (Here is an earlier article on line.)  They are looking at the Asteroid 65803 Didymos, and its smaller companion asteroid (Didymos is about 800 meters in diameter and the consort is about 150 meters in diameter).  The plan is to mug the smaller Asteroid with the 660 pound DART (The Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft.  Traveling in formation with DART will be ESA's Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) vehicle, to record the results.  The goal is to shift the small guy's trajectory by 0.5 to 1 percent (percent of what?).

If the European Space Agency did their sums correctly and everyone used the same units of measurement this might actually work.  I just hope that they don't disturb some other small Asteroid, which disturbs something else, which hits us, by accident.

I am glad it is the Europeans, and not us.  We already get blamed for enough.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In its story on the failed Mars Climate Orbiter, CNN says "Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while the agency's team used the more conventional metric system".  On the set of CNN they all use the metric system?  The system that seems to relate to nothing with which we are familiar?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The President Presents His Plan


For John, BLUFThe President's 23 Gun Violence actions don't seem that big a deal.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday The President announced 23 Executive actions to be taken with regard to "Gun Violence Reduction".

Contrary to the fears of some, the list seems fairly straight forward and workable.  There are, however, a couple of items that raise additional questions.  For example, item 16 seem to encourage health providers to ask patients about guns, but will it provide the extra time, or will that come out of the time for dealing with the problem causing the patient to present. 

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
If my PCP asks me about guns in my home, may I ask him or her about guns in his or her home?  I am not keen on them asking me questions when they have little or no basis for evaluating my responses.  If this person is a fellow gun owner perhaps I can evaluate the ability of the person to judge my ownership.

Some of you may feel Item 17 conflicts with HIPPA, but then you haven't read HIPPA.  They can even talk to military authorities about you.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
The one item that raises some issues is Item 14.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
It isn't that it isn't a good idea.  However, one blog site claims that Congressional appropriations for the CDC prohibit such activity.  Then there is the whole question of the integrity of the science itself, which is also questioned by the Reason article at the above link.  Science should be clean and straight forward, but sometimes it isn't.  Especially the further we stray from physics.

One niggling little item is the Second Amendment itself.  The wording is short, if confusing:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
It seems some folks are trying to divest the Second Amendment of its acknowledgement of the natural right of a free man to keep and bear arms.  They would hobble the Second Amendment, perhaps by placing a new emphasis on "a well regulated militia".

I am all for a better regulated militia.  Since I have aged out of the militia perhaps my opinion doesn't carry weight, but I am not that far out—as I recall, age 45 for all men and age 65 for retired military.  One would think that if there is to be an emphasis on a well regulated militia that the Federal Government would pass an act making women part of the militia.  Right off the bat.  Then, add in calling upon the individual states to provide some basic firearms safety training for everyone in the militia sometime between the age of 21 and the age of 25.  Local police departments could do this.  The Federal Regulation could provide for actual marksmanship training, funded by the Federal Government (I would recommend the US Army provide the weapons (to be stored by the local police) and the ammo.  I would not recommend we engage in teaching close order drill.  It will only serve to irritate the militia and frustrate whomever is appointed sergeants.

No, if folks are just out to collect guns, they should have the self-respect to be straight forward and recommend a change to the Amendment.

A free people being inherently free, do not need arms to enforce their freedom upon their government, the ballot box sufficing, thus firearms will be restricted to Federal and State military organizations and special police units organized at the County level to support ordinary state, county and city and town police.
In the mean time, gun buy-back programs seem to actually be of value, if a 49 page study I am reading is any indication.  This paper, which I am 60% of the way through, suggests that following a gun buy-back program in Australia that reduced gun ownership by 20%, there was a 75% drop in suicides by firearms.  This is a quite remarkable drop.  When I finish the report I will post more.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I believe the term "patient presents" is getting to be a bit trite.  It is moving from someone naked in front of their physician to a person applying for benefits from the Government, fully clothed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Change


For John, BLUFWe are far from understanding the eventual outcome of "Obama Care".

I picked this up off of Drudge.  It seems the Windber (Pennsylvania) Medical Center is giving up birthing children.  I cheated and checked the Press Release (Part 1) and the FAQ at Part 2.  Here we see that the new health care market evolving in the United States is going to have consequences for how health care is experienced.  A physician dies and another moves back home and others change specialties and soon the picture changes.  Here is part of the FAQ:

Based on industry trends and forecasts of reimbursement made under the Affordable Care Act, the practice of obstetrics will be only practical where there is a high volume of deliveries.
The Center had been doing about 200 births a year since getting back in the business in 2005.  This does raise the question of what they were doing before 2005.

Supposedly the French Mathematician Auguste Comte told us "demographics is destiny".  That and the structure of the markets.  We see that playing out in Windber.  I wonder if the "Patient Protection and Affrdabe Care Act" will result in an actual decrease in heath care in more rural areas.

Windber is only eight miles south of Johnstown, where I was born.  As I recall, the town had a Spaghettiville like bridge.   Driving south on 56, passing through Scalp Level, you were on the west side of the tracks and then, passing the center of town you made a sharp left under the tracks and then tracked south on the east side of the tracks, toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I remember my Father telling me Windber was named by flipping the name of the local coal mining operation, owned by Charles and Edward Julius Berwind.

Regards  —  Cliff

  George Anthes will be happy to see the Board of Directors being prominently named in the decision asking process.
  Thanks, Corey Sciuto.

Equal Justice


For John, BLUFOne set of rules for the Glitterati and another for the rest of us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Law Professor William A Jacobson questions DC AG's not excusing himself in the David Gregory case, where Mr Gregory violated DC's Gun Control Laws.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Freedom in Egypt


For John, BLUFWe are not seeing a spread of religious freedom across North Africa and the Middle East.

I will grant you it is Fox News and thus suspect in many eyes, but we do have this report on an Egyptian Court sentencing a woman to jail for 15 years for her returning to the Christianity of her youth.

A criminal court in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef meted out the shocking sentence last week, according to the Arabic-language Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm.  Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa, a Muslim, 23 years ago.  He later died, and his widow planned to convert her family back to Christianity in order to obtain an inheritance from her family.  She sought the help of others in the registration office to process new identity cards between 2004 and 2006.  When the conversion came to light under the new regime, Nadia, her children and even the clerks who processed the identity cards were all sentenced to prison.
I guess one can understand why Christians in Egypt, and friends and relatives here, are nervous about the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the Egyptian Government of President Mohamed Morsi and its new "Islamic Constitution".  Which is worse, the video Innocence of Muslims or the sentencing of this woman, Nadia Mohamed Ali, to 25 years in jail for walking away from Islam?

Mr Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom told the reporter, Mr Benjamin Weinthal:

the [Egyptian] constitution limits the practice of Christianity because “religious freedom has to be understood within the boundaries of Sharia.”  He added that the constitution prescribes that the highest Sunni authority should be referred to as an interpreter of the religion clause contained in the constitution.
In the mean time, former Representative Dennis Kucinich has been signed as a Fox News contributor.  I think this is a good thing.  Representative Kucinich can provide alternative views without being disagreeable.  The man has a brain.  I am sorry to see he has left the US House of Representatives.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Culture of Service


For John, BLUFGood help attracts customers, but you knew that.

I have an "assignment", involving printing six reports, each about 50 pages.  On the way home from the Public Safety sub-committee meeting at 5:30 PM today in Council Chambers, I stopped by Staples (Stadium Plaza) and bought two reams of paper.  Good start.

Then, about 8:30 the toner gave out.  I pulled out the toner and took the cartridge down to Staples and bought a new cartridge, leaving the old one for recycling.  So far, so good.  When I got home I found out what I already knew, the Brother Laser Printer has a "carrier" for the cartridge and I had turned in the "carrier" as well as the toner cartridge itself.  At 5 minutes to 9, closing time, I called Staples and explained my plight and asked that they stay open until I got there.  It is only a short ways away, but more than a 5 minute drive.  They agreed and when I got there a couple of minutes after 9 they were ready to help me with what I needed.

I would like to thank in particular two young clerks, Kristen and Kimy Anny.  Both excellent representatives for their store and their chain.  And cheerful to boot.

Must be good managers.

Regards  —  Cliff

Seeking to Place Blame, While Covering Failure


For John, BLUFMr Michael Goldman's column in the Sunday Sun is always entertaining.  Not always accurate.

In the Sunday Edition of The [Lowell] Sun is an opinion piece by Mr Michael Goldman, of Goldman Associates, in Boston.  The title is "Help yourself to 50 states loosely aligned or 1 union".  It is a collection of straw men.

The trust of the argument is that the evil Republicans are preventing us from helping the poor folks devastated by Hurricane SANDY.  This is the hurricane that was worse than KATRINA, but which FEMA and others responded to much better than those terrible people under President George W Bush.  I am waiting for actual history studies before I accept that.

In the mean time, the problem is the Republicans didn't want to vote approval to a pork laden bill.  I know.  That was tacky of them.

In setting the stage for his contrast between the bad old days of every state for itself and the wonder of the FDR Revolution, Mr Goldman mentions the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, and a 1998 book about it, Rising Tide"  The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America.  Mr Goldman excoriates former Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge.

The most interesting part of this extraordinary book was the reaction of the national government in 1927 to the regional economic holocaust wrought by the unexpected breakdown of the river's levee system, which was created and managed by the National Core of Engineers.
I want to take this in three parts, in that, first the Secretary of Commerce was out leading the rescue effort, and based in part on his efforts, won the US Presidency.

Secondly, while some 246 people died and $400 million in damage was done, "holocaust" seems a little over the top.

Thirdly, can I get a fix on the "National Core of Engineers"?  Do you think he might mean the "Army Corps of Engineers"?

We don't leave individual states behind.  There is always creative tension in how we understand the role of the States and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, but we do, as a nation, tend to pull together.  Mr Goldman should do better that this piece.

And, besides, I think Mr Goldman should explain how this fits into the Budget passed by Mr Harry Reid's US Senate.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Nice looking web site.
  He could have gotten a dig in at Mr Hoover for making promises to Blacks that he later reneged on, resulting in Blacks shifting their vote to Mr Roosevelt in 1932.  Mr Hoover knew better, but he failed Blacks, himself and his Party.
  They are going to try to pass one this year, aren't they, after several years of failure?