Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Moves On

For John, BLUFThe Pope has left the building.

Here, from Zenit, is a report on Pope Benedict XVI meeting for a last time with the Cardinals.

Regards  —  Cliff

Woodward to Davis to ...

For John, BLUFPulling back the curtain on Washington press relationships.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

We have all heard about Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward being warned off by the White House.

Now we have former President Bill Clinton Special Counsel Lanny Davis telling WMAL the White House threatened The Washington Times that it would suffer limited access to White House officials and might have its White House credentials revoked.  Clinton Special Counsel?  Must be some DLC thing.

Frankly, when it was just Woodward whinging. others could say that it is just Woodward whinging.  With Lanny Davis coming out, while talking to Breitbart News editor Larry O'Connor, this is in danger of cascading in a bad way.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  WMAL is the Washington Area radio station that wanted to buy the WCAP call sign when Morris Cohen sold the station.

The Next Pope

For John, BLUFAt this point no one knows who will be the next Pope.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The First Black Pope in 1500 years?  The New Yorker has an article that suggests it is possible.

According to the smart money, the odds favor the election of Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson as the next Pope, the first from Africa since Pope Gelasius I over fifteen hundred years ago. In the intervening years, several African candidates have attracted interest (Benin’s Cardinal Gantin, in 1978, and Nigeria’s Cardinal Arinze, in 2005), but none has ever been a front-runner among the papabile. In fact, the term “black pope” traditionally refers to the head of the Jesuits, revealing how unlikely the prospect of an actual black pope was for most of the Church’s history.
I would like to draw attention to one of the links above, the odds on who will be elected, from the Web Site, Paddy Power, Ireland’s biggest bookmaker.

This will be an interesting Conclave.

Regards  —  Cliff

Not Every Problem is from Sequestration

For John, BLUFSometimes the Bureaucracy gets it wrong.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is a claim that the Office and Management and Budget (Obama Administration) has listed as a Sequestration impact the National Drug Intelligence Center.

The National Drug Intelligence Center went away in 2012, with the loss of 180 jobs.  It was a Congressional vote to save $34 million.  Another sign that Representative John Murtha is gone.

Regards  —  Cliff

  That would be the old Penn Traffic, where my Father's Step-Father worked as the Credit Manager.

The Judge's Wife

For John, BLUFWhat exceptions should we allow for religious views regarding Federal rules.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At CNS News there is a discussion of an exchange between a Department of Justice lawyer and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.  The topic is certain rules of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Tyndale House Publishers v. Sebelius).  The article is titled "DOJ to Federal Judge: We Can Force Your Wife to Violate Her Religion".  An excerpt from the article:

Tyndale is a for-profit corporation that publishes Bibles, biblical commentaries and other religious works. Tyndale House Foundation, a religious non-profit organization, owns 96.5 percent of the corporation’s stock and receives 96.5 percent of its profits. The foundation’s mission is “to minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through grants to other religious charities.”

As a matter of religious principle, the foundation believes that human life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong.

And there it is.  How much religion do you have to have on you to qualify for First Amendment protection under the "Free Exercise" Clause.  Looked at another way, is there a limit to what one can do under the cover of religion.

For me, the interesting question is, in these United States what degree of fuzziness should we allow at the margins of activities to accommodate different religious views?

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is the commonly called Obama Care.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

ND Teen Pregnancy Rates Low

For John, BLUFIt is all about (1) economic opportunity and (2) what you learn at home.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Why Are Teen Pregnancy Rates So Low in North Dakota?


Click here to learn more.

From the Althouse blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

Dr Koop (RIP)

For John, BLUFDr C Everett Koop—1916-2013.

I once met Dr C Everett Koop, in a line at Manchester Airport.  I thanked him for his service as US Surgeon General.

Here is an appreciation from The New Yorker.

Regards  —  Cliff

Meet Your Local Terrorist

For John, BLUFA list of terrorist organizations across the globe.

Periodic Table of Terrorist Groups.

Pretty good job.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Election Commission Kerfuffle

For John, BLUFWherever you go, there is politics.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A little spat at the Fairfax County (Virginia) Election Board.  Democrats object to re-appointment of Mr Hans A von Spakovsky.  The line to The Washington Post from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Chairman:

I’ve read about his background.  I’m concerned why and how he ended up in Fairfax County in his role.
I wonder if the County Democratic Chairman thinks of Mr von Spakovsky as a "blow in"?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Winning Isn't The Only Thing

For John, BLUFSome Democrats are hypocrites.  But then so are some Republicans.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Racist Democrats in Kentucky.  It is sad.

Hat tip to Hot Air.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bad Presidents

For John, BLUFThe past is a strange place, peopled by folks whose motivations seem strange to us.  But, there is also good to be found there.

I usually note that Jefferson Davis was the worst Democratic Party President this Nation has had.  It is a point of view.  Washington Post Writer John Kelly takes a somewhat different approach, arguing that President John Tyler was a traitor.  It is to be noted that President Tyler became an independent in 1841 and so remained until his death in 1862, while he was helping to organize and form the Confederacy.

The interesting footnote to the article is this:

Just to get back to John Tyler:  Did you know two of his grandsons are still around?  Tyler had 15 children, the last when he was 70. One of those sons had his last child at 75.  That’s how two grandsons of a president born in 1790 are still alive.  Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. lives in Tennessee.  Harrison Ruffin Tyler lives in Charles City, Va., on the family plantation, Sherwood Forest, which is open for tours.
Interesting debate in the article.

Regards  —  Cliff

Whither China

For John, BLUFWhere is China heading, on the international scene?

From the Moscow Times we have a piece by Mr Richard Lourie, titled "China's Secret Foreign Policy".  Dated 24 February 2013, it talks to a comment by Jack Mitchell on a previous blog post:

As far as I know, the Brazilians are tight with the Japanese. Sao Paulo has the largest concentration of Japanese living outside of Japan.

Even so, the Chinese are a fine people. We have nothing to fear. Unless, American global hegemony is something to covet?

2/24/2013 09:42:00 PM

The question we face, as we execute our foreign policy "Pivot to the East", is what does China have in mind and what is it capable of doing.  Mr Lourie talks to that.  Here is the lede:
Everyone is afraid of China. One reason is an instinctive reflex to avoid anything enormous moving at great speed. But even more important is that China's true intent can't be gauged.  Is China a threat to the world order, or at least to its region? Is it a rival to the U.S. or an enemy?  Should it be balanced or contained? Or should China be envied and admired for its achievements in accruing wealth and power?
Here is Writer Richard Lourie's concluding paragraphs:
The recent revelations about the Chinese government-backed hacking of U.S. business and institutions are about more than saving money on research and development.  They are part of a three-pronged foreign policy strategy in which China will combine cyberespionage with economic pressure to bring the West under its sway while projecting traditional military might in its own region.  The third prong is nuclear.  Currently, China is in the same league as England and France but is pushing ahead with intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-based missiles.  You can't be a superpower without them.

China is also investing heavily in its navy, which is the only way to protect the flow of energy and raw materials into China, and the export of finished goods.  Besides protecting its economic lifeline, naval power allows China to deny or delay U.S. access to the South China Sea and East China Sea in the event of a crisis over Taiwan.  Beefed up naval power will also help in negotiations over the various disputed islands.

For all the money Beijing is pouring into modernizing its armed forces, it still spends more on domestic security than on defense.  According to official figures, since 2010 the budget for the police, the state security forces, the courts and prisons has exceeded the money spent on the military.  Even China is afraid of China.

UPDATE:  Added a link for the Asia Pivot of the current Administration.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sequestration Impact

For John, BLUFnext week is talk.  The week after is action, but the type and magnitude is yet to be determined.

Writing in The Washington Post, Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane, ask, "The big sequester gamble:  How badly will the cuts hurt?"

The sub-headline is "With the ax set to fall on federal spending in five days, the question in Washington is not whether the sequester will hit, but how much it will hurt."

The Wash Post writers have a mythical Ms Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist, state:

The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens.  And Republicans say:  See, that wasn’t so bad.
We just don't know what will happen.  It could be like the mine tip collapse at Aberfan—a sudden collapse that engulfs us all.  Or, it could be just a small ripple in the economy—big to those directly impacted, but unnoticed by others.

It would appear we are like Admiral Christopher Columbus, sailing into unchartered waters.

On the other hand, the US Congress could pull a rabbit out of the hat and kick this can down the road for another month or so.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Aberfan is just outside Merthyr Tydvil, from where some of my forefathers came.

Chinese Aircraft Carrier

For John, BLUFThe Chinese are making friends in a lot of different places.

From the Strategy Page we have this little blurb on how the Chinese Navy learned how to fly in Brazil.  It turns out the Brazilian Navy has an aircraft carriers, the NAe SÃO PAULO.

Here are some notes from someone I know with some insights into this issue:

An interesting examination of how knowledge can proliferate.

The Chinese, rather than learning how to conduct carrier operations on their own, or approaching the Russians (who, from Indian experience, would seem at times unreliable), appear to have found another source of knowledge--the Brazilians.

This should not actually be surprising--Chinese cooperation with the Brazilians in, for example, their space programs has benefited both countries.

It does answer the question of how the Chinese were able to do a basic carrier take-off and landing (more advanced than a touch-and-go), and raises interesting questions of what other kinds of cooperation might be going on around the world, especially among smaller, second-tier powers which we simply don't think about. Just a thought...

It isn't always about us, but it could impact us.  China is beginning to try and push around those nations on its periphery.  Some may call on us for help.  We need to be thinking about that, which is why our pivot to Asia is important and of value.  Now, if we can provide the resources without stripping other areas dry, we will be OK.  Nothing says you area serious like an aircraft carrier moving into the area, unless it is an airfield or an army unit already there.

Regards  —  Cliff

Deep Concern

For John, BLUFIf we escalate the rhetoric too fast we will have nothing left to describe what comes next.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The headline in Saturday's edition of The [Lowell] Sun was "Deep national-park cuts seen in budget standoff". And, of course, the reason we care is, here in Lowell, we have a National Park within the City itself.  People come here for the Museum.  Someone I know from the Florida Keys wrote me this AM, saying:

I've visited Lowell and toured the National Park, which is a meaningful tour and really helps in understanding a number of aspects of the industrial revolution.
There is value in our National Park, as in all our National Parks.

The reality of the cut is 5%.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has asked park superintendents to detail how they'd absorb the 5 percent budgets cuts that could become necessary.
What would The [Lowell] Sun have used for an adjective for a 10% cut, or a 15% cut?  This isn't to downplay the impact of a 5% cut here in Lowell.  People working fewer hours and less money spend on operations and maintenace budgets.  Perhaps hours cut back, or interprutations reduced.  This impacts the viewing public, here to learn about American History.  It also has a ripple effect.  If you workers find their hours reduced they will have less take-home pay and thus they will go out to eat less, or elect not to hire someone to fix this or that in their home.  They may put off buying a new car, which means the man in the showroom will have a thinner wallet.  Maybe one family will cancel their subscription to The Boston Globe and that will be the cancellation that will cause the New York Times Corporation to just shut down the whole operation.  You know, like the butterfly in Jakarta causing a thunder storm in Texas.

There will be consequences.  Further down in the article ...

Most of the Park Service's $2.9 billion budget is for permanent spending such as staff salaries, fuel, utilities and rent payments. Superintendents can use about 10 percent of their budgets on discretionary spending for things ranging from interpretive programs to historic-artifact maintenance to trail repair, and they would lose half of that to the 5 percent cuts.
Is the vocabulary in the newsroom sufficient to run the escalation ladder as cuts continue to come, or have they shot their wad?

Regards  —  Cliff

Compensation For Injuries on the Field

For John, BLUFDo you think Massachusetts pays workers comp to injured pro atheletes.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the San Jose Mercury we have this item on atheletes collecting state Workers Compensation.

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California’s workers’ compensation system has awarded millions of dollars in benefits for job-related injuries to thousands of professional athletes, including many who played for out-of-state teams, according to a report.

Sports leagues and their insurers are working to stop the practice, which has paid an estimated $747 million to about 4,500 players since the early 1980s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some of the athletes played as little as one game in California.  Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, got a $199,000 settlement for injuries related to football.  This came despite the fact Davis was on the roster of a Colorado team and played just nine times in the Golden State during an 88-game career, the newspaper said.  Among other sports stars receiving settlements were NBA star Moses Malone, who was awarded $155,000, and Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, who received $249,000.

I think that over the long run it will turn out that there isn't enough money for us to compensate everyone for every injury.  We are going to have to prioritize.  Or, as Law Professor Glenn Reynolds often says, "What can't go on, won't go on."

Hat tip to my Brother Lance.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, they still call themselves the Golden State.

Blame Game—Both

For John, BLUFThey are all politicians.

Over at The International Herald Tribune Memoist Jackie Calmes says both sides have their fingerprints on Sequestration.

But, it is still a long ways off.  It doesn't happen until Friday, and then there is the weekend, so, really, Monday 4 March.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, the IHT is a creature of The New York Times, sort of like The Boston Globe, except the IHT serves a broad audience, from Paris to Berlin to Naples.  And, it isn't up for sale.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Word From The Local Ordinary

For John, BLUFLink to a local parish web site.

This week, in his Weekly EMail, Seán Cardinal O'Malley highlighted our own local St Anthony's Parish.

The Cardinal did note:

I want to conclude this week inviting everyone to a Mass marking the last day of the Holy Father’s tenure on Thursday, February 28 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at 7:30 p.m.
I assume that means that he will be on his way to the Vatican no later than Wednesday.  I also assume he will not be blogging from inside the Conclave.

Regards  —  Cliff

Facing Sequestration

For John, BLUFWe are likely going to face some serious Federal Budget cuts, with reverberations down to the local streets.

The Agenda for the US House of Representatives for this coming week doesn't seem to focus on Sequestration and the Fiscal Cliff.  No mention of either, although there will be a hearing on Workforce Investment System.

This issue is also tackled by The Wall Street Journal, which sees us going over the Fiscal Cliff.—Lengthy Impasse Looms on Cuts:  Budget Standoff Presents Political Risks on Both Sides.  What about the "economic risks" on all sides?  At any rate, the writers are Peter Nicholas and Damian Paletta.

Lawmakers in both parties anticipate that a looming set of spending cuts will take effect next week and won't be quickly reversed, likely leading to protracted political uncertainty that presents risks both to Congress and President Barack Obama.

WSJ's Damian Paletta says the sequester cuts - including painful slashing of defense spending - now seem inevitable. The question now is how long they'll last. WSJ's David Wessel explains the hit to federal employees and when furloughs could kick in.

It had been thought that the cuts, some $85 billion through the rest of the fiscal year, could be averted or quickly replaced with a longer-term deficit-reduction plan. Those expectations have now dissipated. No significant negotiations are known to be under way between the two parties, which are at an impasse over Mr. Obama's demand that any plan to replace the cuts include more tax revenue.

The president and congressional Democrats are looking beyond Friday, when the across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, are due to take effect. Their strategy is to persuade the public that the cuts would harm defense, education and other programs, make air travel difficult and cost jobs, among other effects. They hope public pressure would force Republicans to reverse course and agree to new tax revenue.

. . .

Republicans believe they can stay united by accusing Mr. Obama of campaigning rather than negotiating and reminding people that they have backed legislation to replace the cuts to defense programs with nondefense cuts. They say they won't bend to Mr. Obama's demand for new tax revenue and that the public supports their goal of reducing the deficit.

"I don't think anyone on our side is squirming," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio). "We feel like we're on very strong ground."

A lengthy dust-up over the spending cuts threatens to derail parts of Mr. Obama's legislative agenda. He is now using campaign-style tactics against Republicans whose support he would need to pass an immigration overhaul, an expansion of early childhood education and stricter gun controls. He is set to travel outside Washington next week to illustrate the hardships resulting from the sequester—time that he would rather devote to his legislative agenda.

Some argue that our problem is not capacity—its political will.— As Sean Kay wrote in his book on Ireland's crisis and its lessons for America—the question isn't "yes we can".  Its rather "will we?"  We here in the US lost a credit rating not because they thought we couldn't pay back our debts, its that they thought we might not have the political will to do so.

The above paragraph does assume that we have some sort of a consensus on the way forward.  While almost all think that Mr Grover Norquist's idea of reducing the size of the Federal (and State) Government by reducing taxes is a bit extreme, notwithstanding his success so far, it is not clear that everyone thinks the Keynesian approach to getting out of this hole is the correct approach.  We need the political will to move forward, but we also need agreement on which is the proper direction.

We are about to find out if Commenter Jack, who does have skin in the game, is correct about letting the Sequester happen.

Regards  —  Cliff

Trouble to the South

For John, BLUFWe need to focus more on Latin America.

This longish passage is from a member of the Armed Forces of the South American nation of Columbia.  He is talking about the insurgency situation in not just his nation, but in his region of South America, and beyond.  It came in response to someone's comment that "the Colombians are now exporters of COIN, and have advisors in Central American countries and are helping the Mexicans train up their cops and pilots."  (The comment was to show that Columbia is a great example of how the right kind of partnership can pay back many times over.)

I would like to contribute with my point of view regarding the analysis for the purpose of clarifying that according to the "FARC's own statutes" they do not call themselves a military organization but more precisely a "Politico-Military" organization, aligned with the revolutionary theories of popular, prolonged warfare espoused and promulgated in communist China.  Therefore, as I understand it, it is not relevant to allude to the reduction of armed members (formal combatants) when the clandestine structure is strengthened, at its best expression and at levels, to a category that no one could categorize.

As I see it, at this time the FARC's strength is not, in any way, of a military nature, but rests on its essence or what they themselves call "politics" that translated to the reality is nothing more than clandestine crime materialized in what I have denominated as "the social sentiment of the population" which from an International Human Rights' perspective, is the modern version of SLAVERY.  This requires of a prolonged effort, not only of a military nature, but an integrated effort that includes judicial and law enforcement actors, among others. But this also requires the renovation of the State's strategy.  On the other hand, not all of the funding/financing of the terrorists is in the country since they are involved and lead in transnational criminal activities, as in the cases of Mexico, Central America, and some countries in the Southern hemisphere.

It is important and interesting to highlight, as you do, the accomplishments made in the military realm, but I recommend not to ignore the variables of the terrorist concept denominated "clandestine" or incorrectly denominated by them as "political", remember that from a revolutionary warfare's theoretical perspective, the ratio is clear; 20% of their effort is military and 80% is "clandestine" or incorrectly called "political".

The aforementioned strengthens your criterion of not to stop supporting the efforts in Colombia (from another perspective) until all necessary objectives have been well established in an integrated fashion in order to flank and undermine the FARC.

I would like to highlight his comment:
...nothing more than clandestine crime materialized in what I have denominated as "the social sentiment of the population" which from an International Human Rights' perspective, is the modern version of SLAVERY.
We are seeing this kind of clandestine crime materialize in Mexico, and it is seeping over the border into the Southwestern United States.  Where there are large criminal enterprises it is a form of oppression, a form of slavery for the ordinary citizens.  Worse, some of them, like Sonderkommandos, actively participate in the enslavement of their fellow citizens.

Two key points out of this is that, notwithstanding our success in partnering with Columbia, we have two key failings in our regional strategy:

  1. Our interagency response to criminal insurgency, and
  2. Our inability to respond to the Bolivarian clandestine campaigns in the region.
Regarding the first, we know the problem but we still have a disjointed bureaucratic approach to these groups and we are fixated on counter-drug when these groups participate in an array of activities.

The Bolivarian issue is a serious problem.  How do we as the US respond when a subversive movement infiltrates the democratic system, takes power, and then refuses to leave power through the corruption of the liberal democratic checks and balances.  Professor Max Manwaring believes this is a combination of Lenin, Gramsci, and Verstrynge at do we counteract this activity?

We need to be looking South, and not just at Mexico.  Joe Kennedy may like Hugo Chavez, but I am not sure the President of Venezuela is a through and through liberal, one who believes in the People making the choices, vice the strong man, Caudillo.  Just read the link for Jorge Verstrynge, above.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, February 22, 2013

Announced Retirement

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

Retirement notice for Maj Gen Suzanne M Vautrinot.

FROM:  Commander, Twenty-Fourth Air Force, Air Force Space Command, and Commander, Air Forces Cyber, United States Cyber Command, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, TX.

TO:  Retirement.

Here is a blurb that captures the spirit of General Vautrinot.

I have served with Suzanne, on the staff at Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe.  It was an honor and a pleasure.  And, she is my Middle Brother's Sister-in-Law.  Oh, and she is the former roommate of the wife of one of the people I work with at DRC.  It is a small world.

Regards  —  Cliff

Rush Explains

For John, BLUFRush says both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the deficit/debt problem.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is OpEd Writer Charlie Spiering, writing in The Washington Examiner, about Rush Limbaugh saying, on Thursday, "For the first time I am ashamed of my country".  I find that an interesting reversal on the First Lady's line from four years ago.

The argument of Mr Spiering is that perhaps Rush Limbaugh has relaunched the "Tea Party" movement.

Why?  Limbaugh explained that both political parties in Washington refused to stop spending and used alarmist scare tactics every time anyone proposed cuts to government programs.

"To be watching all of this, to have my intelligence – all of us – to have our common sense and intelligence insulted the way it is….it just makes me ashamed," Limbaugh explained, "Seriously man, here we get worked up over 44 billion dollars – that’s the total amount of money that will not be spent that was scheduled to be spent this year."

So, today Rush Limbaugh spent the first hour this Friday not talking about this issue.  In the second hour he talks about it.  In doing this he distinguishes between ignorant and stupid.  He says that the voters aren't stupid, but they are ignorant.  In his words, "low information voters". So, stop reading and tune in Rush. Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Free Speech Attacked

For John, BLUFBe careful how you criticize government officials.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

We are in danger of becoming a third world nation.

I got to that blog post by reading this blog post on free speech.

Those of us who see free speech as necessary for our economic and political success must be ever vigilant.  Gently talking back to those who would take away our free speech rights.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sequestration Bites

For John, BLUFSequestration will have an impact on people here in the Commonwealth, perhaps our friends, relatives and neighbors.

I don't think that Sequestration will happen.  I am expecting the adults in Congress to cut a deal that makes some progress toward taming the deficit and debt, but which doesn't throw hundreds of thousands out of work.

A friend of someone I know works the Army budget.  This Budgeteer's take on Sequestration is that it will happen, and here is the reason:

Republicans like it because it cuts spending.  Democrats like it because it cuts defense.

So … both sides get something they want.

Well, that is fairly cynical, but also insightful.  An internal Army "G-8" briefing circulating on the Internet shows the impact on Massachusetts in terms of Army only cuts. The Army sees us experiencing about $140 million in economic loss, which includes 47 furloughs and 574 expected layoffs.  It is to be noted that this doesn't address the impact on Raytheon (and others) from Navy and Air Force cuts that will be coming along.

Overall impact from the Army share of this—nation wide—is expected to be about $15.35 billion, with some 302,626 jobs impacted one way or another.  The biggest hits are Texas, Alabama, Virginia and Pennsylvania, each over a billion dollars.

Here is another view of the issue, although the author's projection of 1 million people being impacted looks at more than the US Army.  At the link is another link, going to a briefing that looks at the out years and the debt projection.  That briefing sees health care as being a major driver in the debt issue.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Bureaucratic Solution

For John, BLUFOne needs to know when to try a new approach.

We were talking on the Internet about obtaining security clearances, which slipped into talking about TSA, when a reflective practitioner sent along this observation:

A bureaucracy does what it does.  When that doesn't work, it does more of it.
For those who are thinking I am picking on Government, I have seen it also in the private sector.  It brings to mind that old Navy expression, taught to me by my Father:
If it doesn't fit, don't force it; you need a bigger hammer.
Regards  —  Cliff

Five Steps To Save The Nation

For John, BLUFAnother man with a plan to save the nation.

Or not.

Writing in Nation of Change, "Progressive Journalism for Positive Action," Political Scientist Thomas M Magstadt gives us "How to Fix Washington in Five Easy Steps".

Step 1 – Abolish the filibuster Enough said. Nothing can or will change until the Senate rediscovers the principle of majority rule.   Like it or not, it's the way a democratic republic is supposed to work.
How could all those Senators have been so wrong, for so lomg, about how a democratic republic is supposed to work?

It is supposed to be hard to pass legislation through the US Senate.  The Founding Fathers and their immediate successors made it that way, for a reason.

Step 2 – End life tenure for Supreme Court justices

The fix:   Establish fixed terms for the justices, say, 15 years give or take a few; a mandatory retirement age of, say, 72 or 75; and some variant of the Missouri plan. In Missouri high court judges are nominated by a bipartisan panel.   The panel selects a small number of nominees and submits the list to the governor.   The governor chooses one nominee from the list.

The author starts out with a two paragraph diatribe against Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.  Shouldn't OpEd writers be trying to gain acceptance, rather than alienating readers?  Yes, the Pope resigning is a fine example of how older Justices should act.  We have had examples of Justices who stayed too long.  Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes comes to mind  On the other hand, a life tenure provides a certain independence, which is needed for a Supreme Court Justice.  And why discard a fine mind due to some arbitrary rule?  Earlier resignations for some makes sense, but we are humans and not subject to arbitrary rules.
Step 3 – Get serious about campaign finance reform Money corrupts and absolute money (i.e., unlimited cash contributions) corrupts absolutely.  Right now we have the worst Congress money can buy.  Everyone – seriously, everyone – with any experience inside the beltway knows it. The Supreme Court can fix it by overturning Citizens United.   Congress can fix it.  But only if a) the filibuster is abolished and b) the Supreme Court is drastically depoliticized.

The fix:  First, limit political campaigns to six weeks before each election (primaries and general elections).  Second, require every radio and TV licensee to set aside a certain amount of time for free political ads to all candidates on the ballot in any given voting district as a condition of obtaining and retaining a license to use "public airwaves".  Third, limit by law the total amount any candidate can spend.   And one more thing:  it's not a "free speech" issue.  (Anyone who says otherwise spends way too much time watching Fox News.)  

The fact is the campaign goes on 52 weeks a year.  How do we really limit it to six weeks?  As for limiting money, what are the odds it will just go underground?  The Devil is in the details.  As for Citzens United, does that mean corporations will no longer pay income tax?  What are the consequences of overturning Citzens United?
Step 4 – Regulate lobbying (and prosecute violators) [Yada, yada, yada]

…between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of House members more than doubled from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars, excluding home ­equity.  To say nothing about the scandalous "revolving door".

The fix:  Ban any member of Congress, general officers, and federal senior executive service (SES) officials from engaging in any kind of lobbying activities for life.  Make it a crime punishable by serious jail time and large fines.  Enforce the law.   Require member of Congress to disclose all contacts with lobbyists.   Require Congressional staff members to log all contacts with lobbyists.  Publish the logs on the internet.

I am in general agreement here, but I want "lobbyists" to include all those petitioning their Congress-critters and their staffs.  Joe Bag-a-Donuts, down the street, asking for a pirate bill because his Uncle was unfairly treated by some bureaucrat over some arbitrary rule or regulation, is just as much a lobbyist as any guy in a $2,000 suit.
Step 5 – Restore fiscal sanity with deep cuts in defense spending De-mythologize war and demilitarize the American economy. Mothball at least 7 of the 11 carrier strike groups, scuttle the F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter and the F-35 Lightning, and do not build 3,000 more tanks.

The fix:   Under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse, so Congress can fix this problem at any time.   To put it mildly, our defense budget is defensible.   Cut it by 10-15% every year for the next four years.   Then continue cutting it until it is no greater as a share of GNP than the average for the other OECD countries.

I am not sure what we save by scuttling the F-22, except O&M (Operations and Maintenance) costs, which we would have to pay for whatever we pull out of the Bone Yard to replace it.  As for the F-35, I am ambivalent, but what takes its place?

The real question is what we need a Department of Defense for?  To defend our borders and deter nuclear attack we probably need a lot less than what we have.  But, what if we want to help the French and their European friends fight al Qaeda in Mali?  If so, buy strategic lift and reconnaissance platforms.  Want to be able to reach out and smack some terrorist group after another World Trade Center like attack?  Spend a lot of money on Special Forces, conventional bombers (and tanker and surveillance aircraft) and buy back a couple a couple of aircraft carrers and consorts.  Don't want China to turn the Western Pacific (and South China Sea) into a Chinese inland waterway?  A couple of more aircraft carriers.

So, the author wraps up:

See, fixing Washington is easy.  If only we didn't have to depend on Washington to do it…
On the other hand, if you know history and took civics and think thirty-two plus thirty-two is sixty-four, these five steps are overly simplistic and should be ignored.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thoughts on Gun Control

For John, BLUFNot everyone is for gun control.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Open letter to President Obama on gun control, from a Columbine Shooting survivor, printed in The Blaze.

I would note that it is not the President who makes laws, but the US Congress, although in recent years they have tended to duck their responsibilities, often by "delegating" their responsibilities to Federal Agencies.  But, the President does have the Bully Pulpit, and so this letter to him is appropriate.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Bully as in "first rate".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Use of Drones to Kill

For John, BLUFIt isn't what is happening in combat that should concern us, but extrapolation of that capability to deal with quasi-civilian or civilian crime.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The use of drones (UAVs) to take down targets of interest in the Global War on Terror has raised a lot of controversy.  The Department of Justice wrote an internal memorandum justifying the use of drones, which was leaked to NBC.  In my mind, if we are going after legitimate military targets in what is a combat zone, or in an area where guerrillas or terrorists are operating freely and openly, we are on solid ground.

The concern of some (and of me) is at the boundary.  When do such attacks violate (1) norms of international law, and in particular the concept of national sovereignty, and (2) the protections guaranteed by our Constitution to our own citizens, here and abroad, and resident aliens here?

A Pajamas Media writer from Ohio, Ms Paula Bolyard, asks a provocative question, "President Obama, Would You Send a Drone to Cuba to Kill the Weathermen?"  Put another way, "Which way is the wind blowing today in Bill Ayers' neighborhood?"

This is not such a far fetched question.  I knew a person killed by a bomb planted by Weathermen or Weathermen associated people.  An early version of an IED, or VBIED?  Ms Bolyard says:

It’s rather fascinating to compare members of the Weathermen to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen-turned-terrorist who is the subject of the leaked white paper defining the parameters for drone strikes against American citizens abroad.
Early members of the Weathermen included Bernardine Dohrn, and her now husband, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, and others.  Those folks are not heroes of mine, but they absolutely should have the protections guaranteed by the US Constitution, just like you and me.

And that is why we should all be concerned about secret drone attacks being carried out by the CIA.  It is one thing for the Commander of a military theater of operations or theater of war to allow such attacks.  It is totally different for the CIA to be doing it as part of a covert war.

And just to add to the concern, here is an item from The New York Times on China contemplating taking out a bandit in Burma with a drone.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GI Bill Expansion?

For John, BLUFIt is all a joke.

The Duffel Blog web site appears to have sucked in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over a story about Guantanamo Detainees being granted Veterans Benefits.  To be fair, it was a constituent who brought it to the attention of the Senator's office.  Here is the linked original Duffel Blog post, and the lede:

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - In a controversial move praised by the international community as a promotion of human rights, the Department of Defense has begun allowing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to seek Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.  While these benefits have traditionally been restricted to veterans of the United States Military to use in pursuit of a degree, the Pentagon has seen fit to begin allowing GTMO prisoners to enroll in the program
Regards  —  Cliff

  From the term Duffel Bag, which a military person is issued to hold all his or her issued items.

Monday, February 18, 2013

More Laws for the Law-Abiding

For John, BLUFMore laws being passes to ensure the law abiding have more laws to fall afoul of.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Instapundit describes this as the Democrats' own Todd Akin event.  I don't think it quite measures up, especially because Representative Joe Salazar is a Democrat and they are never picked on by the MSM.  Mr Salazar represents a district in Colorado.  The issue was banning guns on college campuses.  We know how well that works out.  Those with evil intent ignore the ban, but those who might even the odds are unarmed.

Regards  —  Cliff

US and Iran United

For John, BLUFYour sport, threatened by the IOC.

Mr John Duerden, writing at The Diplomat blog tells us that "Iran, U.S. to Fight IOC’s Wrestling Cut".

It would be a testament to the power of sport if Iran, the United States and Russia were to unite to fight the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.
It would. Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Goose Gander Issues

For John, BLUFWhy a Republican Party?  So the media can have a double standard.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Law Professor Ann Althouse thinks The Washington Post is unbalanced in its reporting of Freshman Senators, smearing Senator Ted Cruz for being aggressive, but ignoring the same actions by Senator Elizabeth Warren.

What reason does Professor Althouse have for expecting an even handed approach from the Main Stream Media?  We know Senator Cruz is a buffoon, and probably went to a no-name law school, and Senator Warren is a Harvard Law School Professor.  Is any more information needed?

Well, the other thing is that Senator Cruz is racially dishonest, in that he is a Republican.  Like Senator Marco Rubio.  In contrast to Senator Cruz' racial dishonesty, there is Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who may have violated campaign finance laws by failing to pay for multiple trips on the private jet of a campaign supporter.  The destination was the Dominican Republic, where he allegedly engaged in paid sex with one or more underage prostitutes.  At least Brietbart is on it.

UPDATE:  Added Info on Senator Cruz attending a no-name law school.

Hat tip to the Althouse blog.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From Wikipedia:  "Cruz earned his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, an executive editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, and a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review."  He must have been pretty busy keeping up.

Please Describe This Elephant

For John, BLUFIf you can't properly name it, how do you expect us to understand what you are describing?

Why I am wary of the Main Stream Media Number 32,483.  That would be more than one a day for my whole life.

At any rate, this article from Fox News On Line refers to the famous Supermarine SPITFIRE Fighter, with the magnificent Rolls Royce MERLIN engine, as a "jet".

By the way, that MERLIN engine sure sounds sweet as the SPIT flies by at some airshow.

Before you run off blaming Fox News, remember that it is an Associated Press report.  One of our vaunted news services.

We have to learn the names of things, so we can describe what we see to others.  Maybe half the problem in our Nation's Capitol is that politicians (and bureaucrats) are conceptualizing different things when they hear this word or that.

And those of us out across the Fruited Plain may be thinking of something different altogether.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, February 15, 2013

That Was Frustrating

For John, BLUFToo much anti-spam technology makes commenting hard.

The Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association posted the License Commission Agenda for 14 February on their blog site on Wednesday, 13 February.

I tried to post a comment on the Blog, noting that the 28 February meeting of the License Commission will begin early, to allow more time to review updates to the License Commission Rules for Licensees.  This temporary new time is 5:00 PM.  So, those interested should update their diaries.

The Internet being what it is, and spammers being who they are, I tried three times and had my comment blown away three times by protection software.

But, the point about the change in meeting time still stands.

Regards  —  Cliff

Jones Act

For John, BLUFProtectionism means higher prices.  Nothing to see; just move along.

Here is a comment on fuel prices in Florida, which are high right now.  Part of the reason is supply (supply being low, thus prices being high).  Supply is low because there has to be capacity to move POL (Petrol, Oil and Lubricants).  If you don't build the pipeline or you restricted whose ships can move fuel on inland waters, you run into problems:

For many reasons, consumers are confused about the causes of strange price fluctuations in fuel.  For the past two weeks, Florida has been having a devil of a time with fuel supplies—even the majors, like Chevron, Valero, and Marathon.

Welcome to the Jones Act.  While most of the public concern has deservedly gone to gasoline, diesel is a problem waiting to happen.  There is no "season" for diesel in the state, so there is a less pressing need to use the smaller freight fleet for moving diesel to Florida.  One of Florida's terminals keeps running out of diesel and much of the extra Gulf Coast manufactured diesel continues to head for Central and South American destinations where U.S. refiners can maximize profits by relying on much cheaper foreign-flagged tankers.

Economies are complicated, which is why central planning is so problematic, even with Excel.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Representative William A Jones gave us this protectionist legislation, but was also the Representative who wrote legislation granting ultimate independence to the Philippines (achieved in 1946) and gave US Citizenship to Puerto Ricans.

Looking to North Korea

For John, BLUFThe odds are, we are somewhat clueless about North Korea and China.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Mr Michael J Totten, who has been a free lance reporter from the Near and Middle East, now works for World Affairs Magazine, where he wrote this piece:  The Grand Universal Illusion.

He starts of (and ends up) talking about New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof.  Mr Totten thinks that Mr Kristof's idea, constructive engagement, is as much a waste as isolation and sanctions.  The first problem with this approach is that North Korea has isolated itself.  It is Japan before Commodore Matthew Perry.

But, that isn't Mr Totten's main point.  The main point has to do with "cognitive egocentrism".  We assume that because we would reaction a certain way, others would also.

This is what Professor Richard Landes calls cognitive egocentrism.  “The act of empathy,” Landes explains, “can often become an act of projecting onto another ‘what I would feel if I were in their shoes,’ rather than an attempt to understand how the person with whom one is empathizing has reacted to their situation, how they read and interpret events.”

People do this sort of thing all the time. We do it to our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.  It’s hard not to.  We also do it to foreign people, and they do it to us.

The Soviets did it to us, and we do it to the Chinese, who are doing it to us.

We need cultural context to help us navigate in the world.  When we lack this we can misjudge what other nations may and will do.  Mr Totten uses Russia as an example.  As likely is Japan, who we misjudged in 1941, and who misjudged us in 1941.  Thus, war.

This is a reason the departure of Assistant Secretary of State Kurt M Campbell from the Department of State during the transition of the President's National Security Team and the period when the "Pivot to Asia" are taking place is unfortunate.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Coolstone Meets Reality

For John, BLUFIt is always on you.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Coolstone was a heroic Air Force pilot, who encountered a number of different problems related to flying safety.  In this story our hero is the Zero Responder—that is, he was the "PIC", the Pilot in Command, when something went wrong with the aircraft.  Fortunately for Coolstone he had plenty of fuel (for a fighter) and he convened the Accident Board, that ad hoc body that comes together after an accident to try and determine what went wrong.

In the story Coolstone is flying an F-101B, the McDonald VOODOO—"two weenies, two genies and two J-57s. : That is, two aircrew members, two MB-1 nuclear GENIE rockets and two J-57 Jet engines.  The VOODOO, the One-oh-Wonder, provided Air Defense for the United States from the 1950s into the 1980s.

As Coolstone learns in this story, at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own actions.  Try as you might, you can't pass it off to others.

Regards  —  Cliff

Homicide Rates

For John, BLUFWhen looking at statistics it isn't always "yes, no or I don't know".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At PJ Media, Mr Clayton E Cramer looks at differences in murder rates between the US and Canada.  To avoid any confusion, for 2011, the Canadian rate was 1.73 homicides per 100,000 people, while that for the United States was 4.8 murders and non-negligent homicides per 100,000 people.  And, as we all know, Canada has much stricter gun control laws than the United States.

The interesting part is the homicide rate in Canada is not uniform across that nation.  Mr Cramer points out that his state of Idaho has a homicide rate of 2.3 per 100,000.  Then he breaks down Canada by provinces and territories.

Surely with such lax gun-control laws, our murder rate must be much higher than our Canadian counterparts’ rate. But this is not the case: I was surprised to find that not only Nunavut (21.01) and the Northwest Territories (6.87) in Canada had much higher murder rates then Idaho, but even Nova Scotia (2.33), Manitoba (4.24), Saskatchewan (3.59), and Alberta (2.88) had higher murder rates. (Okay, Nova Scotia is just a teensy-weensy bit higher than Idaho for 2011.)
This doesn't address the wave of terrorism that engulfed parts of Canada between 1963 and 1970.

But, back to gun control, as Mr Cramer points out at the end of his article, there seems to be more to homicide rates than just the availability of firearms.  Put another way, if the Government was able to sweep up all the legal firearms in the United States, it might not have a proportionate impact on our homicide rates.

Yes, if you argue that a reduction of just one homicide would be worth moving heaven and earth, I would agree with you, in the abstract.  The truth is, however, that human life has value attached to it and we are willing to make tradeoffs around that value.  Look at how we deal with highway deaths and the death of pedestrians.  Look at aviation accidents.

We take steps big and small to avoid deaths, but we don't take all steps possible.  We find there are other factors to be balanced in the equation.  For example, in the case of fighter aircraft, nimbleness in the air can lead to more losses in training, but fewer losses in combat, where that nimbleness pays off in combat victories.  In the realm of politics the Second Amendment is one of those other factors, a factor which some argue pays off by reminding the government of the ultimate power of the People.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Changing Faith

For John, BLUFMulticulturalism has some limits.

I admit it is fun to poke fun at Former Vice President Al Gore.  He is such a bundle of contradictions.  And, I find it ridiculous that he would separate from his wife, Tipper.  It is part of what can only be described as erratic behavior.

As we know, Vice President Gore recently sold his TV Station, Current, to al Jazerra, for $500 million, of which he pocketed a nine figure payout.  (Where is a tax hike for the rich when you need one?)  That isn't the interesting part.  The interesting part is that one of al Jazerra's top shows, "Shariah and Life" featured Sunni Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi saying "Islam’s mandated death-penalty for apostasy has kept Islam alive since the 1400s"

If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today.
I am not sure I believe that, but it does seem to be in conflict with our more easy-going laws.  Yes, some of my Baptist friends think I am going to Hell for being a Roman Catholic, but we haven't engaged in hunting down Catholics for Centuries, and almost 200 years ago we began letting them hold office here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

So, is such a view of the punishment for apostasy compatible with our laws here in the United States?  Would it be possible to carve out a Shariah/Apostasy exception to US Law?  The flip side of the question is if we believe in the universality of the Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Or does this assertion just apply to certain classes of human beings?

Regards  —  Cliff

Ash Wednesday

For John, BLUFAshes to ashes and dust to dust, but you knew that.

Holy Day?

Question:  Is Ash Wednesday a Holy Day of Obligation?

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent in the Roman Catholic Church, and many Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday to be marked with ashes as a sign of their own mortality.

But is Ash Wednesday a Holy Day of Obligation?

Answer:  While all Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday in order to begin the Lenten season with the proper attitude and reflection, Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation.  It is, however, a day of fasting and abstinence.

Ah, fast and abstinence.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Earthquake" On Korean Peninsula

For John, BLUFNorth Korea closer to a useable nuclear weapons capability.

There will be a 9:00 AM Emergency Meeting of the United Nations Security Council today, to discuss North Korea's third nuclear weapons test.  The North Korean News Agency said it was a "miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously".

To me this is the key phrase from the report in The International Herald Tribune article By David E Sanger and Chor Sang-Hun:

Preliminary estimates by South Korea suggested the test was much more powerful than the previous two conducted by the North.
From a South Korean perspective that means that North Korea has an incipient nuclear capability.

The question is, what will deter North Korea from using their nuclear capability, or using it for blackmail by threatening South Korea?  Are American voters happy to continue to extend a US Nuclear Umbrella over South Korea, given that North Korea has tested (a) a long range rocket that could reach portions of the US and (b) a miniaturized nuclear warhead that might fit on that rocket?  Well, are the voters in Seattle happy?

Regards  —  Cliff

Homicide Statistics

For John, BLUFThe statistics on homicides suggests that the AR-15 is not the big scary killer that a claw hammer might be.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Someone local pointed me in the direction of this Table from the FBI.  The table is titled "Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 / Murder Victims by Weapon, 2007–2011". In 2011 there were 12,664 homicides, down from all previous years included in the table.  Handguns took out nearly half (6,220).  On the other hand, rifles took out 323 humans.  There was a category labeled firearms, type not stated, with 1,587.  Knives were used in 1,694 cases and hands, feet, etc in 728.  Blunt objects, like clubs and hammers accounted for 496.

I am not seeing the rifle threat in these numbers.  Is it just that scary rifles are easy to identify or that we connect them in our minds with mass murders?

As for large capacity magazines, did you catch this news item, which suggests bans are somewhat irrelevant, since you can "print" your own, as needed?

Regards  —  Cliff


Doughnut Tuesday

For John, BLUFDoughnut (Donut) Tuesday is today.

To quote Wikipedia:

Immigrants have brought various doughnut varieties to the United States.  To celebrate Fat Tuesday in eastern Pennsylvania, churches sell a potato starch doughnut called a Fastnacht (or Fasnacht).  The treats are so popular there that Fat Tuesday is often called Fastnacht Day.

Not to be confused with Fasching, which is now ending.

I hope each of you have a reflective Lent and find something to give up, or something positive to do as your act of mortification.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, February 11, 2013

Veterans Step Forward Please

For John, BLUFA Veteran looking for fellow Vets to take a Survey.  Possible fodder for City Life Break.  Send Vets here.

From the University of Chicago, we have this request from a student to help by participating in a survey—if you are a Veteran:

My name is Alfredo Gonzalez and I am a second year PhD student in Political Science at the University of Chicago.  I am also a former U.S. Marine and I am conducting research concerning ideas of military service, political participation and citizenship.

I’m asking for your help from one veteran to another service member (active or veteran) to take part in this survey that I created.  By taking this short 10 minute survey you will help us in understanding the role military service has on citizenship and political participation.  In order to take the survey just click on the link below:

Here is the link,

It was easy to do and no hard questions.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pesky Plastic Bags

For John, BLUFBanning plastic bags may be another feel-good action by Government.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Out in San Francisco the plastic shopping bag used by Grocery Stores (Supermarkets) was banned.  That ban has now come under fire from a study by Wharton School Institute for Law and Economics Professors Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright.  They suggest it may be killing a small number of people, due to problems with reusing cloth bags without washing them.

They found a 46 percent rise in food-borne-illness deaths. The bottom line: "Our results suggest that the San Francisco ban led to, conservatively, 5.4 annual additional deaths."
The law of unintended consequences.

There are defenders of the ban, including San Francisco health officer Tomás Aragón.

It would seem to me that rather than a ban by a Governmental body, an education program with alternatives would allow the People to make the proper choices.  And, we might find that there are reasons people like plastic bags, including being able to stop into a store on the way home without having to stop by the house to collect the shopping bags, or having to buy another such bag at the store.  For me, the plastic bags, doubled, become a way to deal with cat waste.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

 In the UK, and other places in Europe, the term String Bag has been used to describe recyclable shopping bags with an open netting, which allow for some variety in packing items.  This, in turn, led to the nickname "Stringbag" for the Fairy Swordfish torpedo bomber of World War II.  Some of the exploits of the Stringbag fliers were chronicled here.

Too Cheery

For John, BLUFShe says the Democrats complain "the GOP is too cheery or not really changing or not really saying anything or not actually changing on immigration".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is left over from last week, when Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote "The left protests:  GOP is cheery!".  This was 6 February.  Maybe things have changed since then.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fun With Statistics

For John, BLUFWhen someone shows you a graph you need to check the axes.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The Daily Beast Columnist Megan McArdle talks about income statistics and errors in understanding them.  Her column is titled "Department of Awful Statistics:  Income Inequality Edition".  In her column she is responding to a Mr Jon Evans, of Techcrunch. The chart used for the discussion can be found here.

Quoting Ms McArdle:
"When I was growing up in Canada," says Jon Evans of Techcrunch, "I was taught that income distribution should and did look like a bell curve, with the middle class being the bulge in the middle. Oh, how naïve my teachers were. This is how income distribution looks in America today"
Now, Ms McArdle has a number of what seem like typos to me, but the point is that the reason for the bump on the right side is that while most of the columns represent a $5,000 spread of income, the last two represent, first, ten times $5,000 ($200,000 to $249,999) and second an almost infinite times $5,000 (all the rest, out to, as Ms McArdle says, A-Rod's $27 million—is he worth that much?)

So, those right two columns should have been part of a very long tail that went well to the right of your computer, in my case, out to the driveway.

Lies, damn lies and statistics.
Turns out a number of folks said that, including the Duke of Wellington and Mark Twain.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Limits To Drone Strikes

For John, BLUFIn war and quasi-war, safeguards to civil liberties erode.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Reason Magazine seems a little concerned that the Administration thinks it can order hits on Americans in the US.

I think the author, Jacob Sullum, is reading too much into the tea leaves, but times of war do tend to seen Constitutional Rights diluted or ignored by the Federal Government, starting with the Alien and Sedition Acts, during the Quasi-War with France in 1798, but including the Civil War, The First World War and the Second (remember all those people interned on the West Coast and elsewhere?).  During the Viet-nam war there was domestic spying by the US Army.  And now we have great freedom given to law enforcement agencies, and, of course, the Drone Attacks, executed under a secret plan, that has resulted in American Citizens being killed.  

Interestingly, The New York Times has an article today that compares and contrasts the approach to the Global War on Terrorism by Presidents Obama and Bush.  Less harsh interrogation and more death.

Then there is the comment from the Public Editor (Ombudsman) of The New York Times, in which she laments the fact that the paper has kept secret a Drone Base in Saudi Arabia, kept secret at the behest of the Federal Government.

Hat tip to Hot Air for the Reason Magazine item.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Frankly, if someone takes up arms against the United States, then their passport is no shield to protect them from our armed forces.  They have declared war on us and war it is.  On the other hand, off the battlefield and away from enemy headquarters, suspicion is not sufficient for ordering a hit.

Comic Error

For John, BLUFNothing new.  Comics printed out of order.

Is it just me, or do others agree that this week's Baldo cartoon in The [Lowell] Sun is a repeat of a recent item?

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Iran's Nuclear Program

For John, BLUFSanctions against Iran over nuclear weapons development don't seem to be working and could backfire.

Over at Night Watch, Analyst John McCreary comments on a Gallup poll of Iranians:

Iran:  Gallup published the results of a December survey taken in Iran about the effects of sanctions on Iranians.
  • A majority of Iranians (56%) said sanctions have hurt their livelihoods a great deal; an additional 29% said sanctions have hurt somewhat, according to a Gallup survey conducted in Iran in December 2012.
  • The majority of Iranians (63%) said that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions.
  • Iranians hold the U.S. (47%) responsible for the sanctions against Iran.  One in 10 Iranians said their own government is most to blame for sanctions.
Comment:  The Gallup survey indicates that sanctions are succeeding in making life difficult, but hardship is not translating into popular pressure on the government to end or even freeze the nuclear program.  The data suggest the sanctions are strengthening public support for the program.
In the case of Iran, we are talking "Economic Sanctions".  The idea is that the lack of trade will force the Government sanctioned to capitulate due to fear of economic collapse.  This approach sometimes works, but usually it tends to just hurt the average citizens.  An example of Sanctions not working is Japan in 1941.  We all know how that turned out.

Here are the likely outcomes:

  1. Sanctions Work, and Iran abandons its nuclear weapons program.
  2. Sanctions Don't Work, and Iran deploys nuclear weapons.
  3. Sanctions Don't Work, and Iran decides the sanctions justify counter actions—Cyber War, Terrorism, Attacks at Sea, Attacks on Israel.
Which outcome is most likely?

Sanctions will result in: free polls 

Regards  —  Cliff

USPS and History

For John, BLUFThe Post Office is a Government Service and not a profit making business.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Not only was Jefferson Davis the worst Democratic President in our history, but apparently his Post Office wasn't very good either.

In that regard, the Lowell Post Office is excellent, and when my Father was still alive I could mail a letter to him in Huntington Beach, California, on a Saturday and find him calling me on Monday about that letter. You can't get any better than that.

That said, while I love the convenience of the automated postal center in the lobby, it can be slow to dispense postage.  Last night, after closing, a gentleman was trying to mail a package to Fullerton and twice purchased the postage (about $2.35), since the first time didn't seem to work, but then by banging on the machine he was able to get it to cough up the label with the postage.  I have had the same experience, except I walked away to check my PO Container and sort through my mail and when I walked back the postage had mysteriously appeared.

Regards  —  Cliff

Republicans Going Centerist?

For John, BLUFIs this what Brian Bond is calling for?

Not everyone is happy with the latest moves by Mr Karl Rove, with regard to defining who is a Republican.

Here is the take of Cartoonist Chris Muir.  Mr Muir can be a little harsh in his criticism.

In the other hand, Fox News is keeping Mr Rove, but dropping Analyst Dick Morris and former Governor Sarah Palin.  Then there is the argument that Karl Rove is not a Conservative.

Where is the Republican Party, and if it goes all Centerist, who will bother to voter for the candidates?  Elections will be like providing Democrats with the primary challengers they can't gin up themselves.

I wonder where Kristen Hughes stands on this?

Regards  —  Cliff

Stopping Vaccinations

For John, BLUFPolio workers being shot for fear they are Western "Operatives".

Someone EMailed me about this article in The Wall Street Journal, but I found it at Greenwich Times.  It is about Nigerian gunmen killing a number of women engaged in giving polio vaccinations.

Gunmen suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic sect shot and killed at least nine women who were taking part in a polio vaccination drive in northern Nigeria on Friday, highlighting the religious tensions surrounding the inoculation of children in one of the few nations where the disease still remains endemic.
This is like what is happening in Pakistan, where some relate the killings to the US used of polio workers as a cover for gathering information on the late Osama bin Laden.  Yes, this appears to be in the Muslim portion of Nigeria, though it might be culture under the color of religion.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Getting Away With It

For John, BLUFJust because it is OK in your culture doesn't mean it is OK in mine.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday, writing in his own blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, Law Professor Eugene Volokh talked about culture as an excuse.

This is from The Daily Mail, and it is about the UK:

A muslim who raped [in the sense of statutory rape -EV] a 13-year-old girl he groomed on Facebook has been spared a prison sentence after a judge heard he went to an Islamic faith school where he was taught that women are worthless.

Adil Rashid, 18, claimed he was not aware that it was illegal for him to have sex with the girl because his education left him ignorant of British law.

At some point Mr Rashid told psychologists "women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground".

Unless it is your daughter or granddaughter, or mine.

This is cultural relativism run amok.  What happened to "ignorance of the law is no excuse"?  Is a 13 year old girl who is raped (even if it is statutory rape) not harmed and does not society have a responsibility to say to everyone that it is not acceptable to commit this crime?  I don't care if she did "consent" to intercourse.  He took advantage of her and it was wrong.

This young man should have been made an example of, pour encourager les autres.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For the encouragement of the others, referring to the execution of Admiral John Byng.  The author was Voltaire and the work Candide.

Shooter Takes Map From Internet

For John, BLUFIt is the Southern Poverty Law Center, so it is OK.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Per The Daily Caller, a map developed and produced by the SPLC was used by shooter Floyd Corkins when he shot up the Family Research Council offices in Washington, DC.

And he admitted [in court] that he picked the FRC and several other targets based on a “Hate Map” at the Southern Poverty Law Center website...
Wide brush the SPLC uses.

Bonus revelation.  He was going to smear the faces of the victims with Chick-fil-A sandwiches, as they were expiring.  A man with a plan, and a map.

I would say the shooter was wacko, but then I remember how psychiatry was used for political oppression in the former Soviet Union.  Let's not compound the problem.

Regards  —  Cliff


For John, BLUFYou already know—a slip of the dates due to wx.

Soon it will be competing with Lent.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Future of Republicans

For John, BLUFIt is just Republicans.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at the Lowell Republican City Committee Blog, this blogger talks about the assert of Mr Brian Bond, of Dracut, on LTC's City Life Friday last, that Republicans need to become more moderate.

This contrasts with Producer John McDonough's view that the Republican part has ceased to exist in Massachusetts.  Mr McDonough may be correct, given that The [Lowell] Sun yesterday editorialized that the Republican Party should sit out the Special Election and try to recover for the General Election in 2014.

On the other hand, given that the Republican Party, notwithstanding the best efforts of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the coattails of President Obama, is still in control in the US House of Representatives, the Republican Party in the US is not going away before 2014.  If we in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts want to play, as we have in the past, we need to reorganize and move out smartly.  Following are some high level (big hand/small map) thoughts on the process.

The election process is a trinity of the voters, the candidates, and the party.

This can be seen as emotion, chance and reason.

  • The Voters play the role of emotion and we see it time after time.
  • The Candidates represent the play of chance and probability within which the creative spirit is free to roam.
  • The Party is supposed to provide policy and reason.
That Scott Brown won meant that we had a Republican in the US Senate where we haven't before (right of Ted Kennedy). It also meant that Martha Coakley is not still our Senator. These are good things.
That Scott Brown lost means that Elizabeth Warren has become a dark horse for 2016. Just a fact of life.

The question is, what role is the State Party playing in all this.  What reason and policy are they bringing to the table, which the Voters will recognize and which will allow possible Candidates to see chance and probability on their side?  Look at the candidates who have stepped aside from running for John Kerry's vacant seat.  Chance and probability does not favor them.

So, back to the Party.  We must give Ms Hughes, our new MassGOP Chairwoman, a sporting chance, but we must also realize that we have to go from grass roots up.  That means the voters, the ones who bring emotion to the game.

And, the Party, to be a Party, has to stand for something besides elections and reelections.

Regards  —  Cliff

Press On

For John, BLUFThe answer is "Press on".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday the Editor of The [Lowell] Sun, Mr Jim Campanini, editorialized that the Massachusetts Republican Party should just sit out the Special Election to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's now vacant Senate seat.

I tried to rebut that argument here.  In doing so, I paraphrased a speech by Demosthenes, or what Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War) said he said.  My on-line source is Wikisource, at this URL, paragraph 10.

Soldiers and comrades in this adventure, I hope that none of you in our present strait will think to show his wit by exactly calculating all the perils that encompass us, but that you will rather hasten to close with the enemy, without staying to count the odds, seeing in this your best chance of safety.  In emergencies like ours calculation is out of place; the sooner the danger is faced the better. To my mind also most of the chances are for us, if we will only stand fast and not throw away our advantages, overawed by the numbers of the enemy.
The version I read, long ago, said:
Soldiers, all of us together are in this, and I do not want any of you in our present awkward position to try to show off his intelligence by making a precise calculation of the dangers which surround us...
I liked the part about not trying to show off your intelliegence.

Or, as a former Governor of Massachusetts put it:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
So, there will be no backing down.  We just need to find our Demosthenes, or Calvin Coolidge.

Regards  —  Cliff