Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vote Against The Terrorists

For John, BLUFVoting is a way to say no to terrorists.

Normally I am not that impressed by the Sunday OpEd writer, Mr Michael Goldman, but this last Sunday he hit a home run with his column in The [Lowell] Sun, To send a message to terrorists -- just vote on Tuesday.

Thank you very much Mr Goldman.

Regards  —  Cliff

Where Is The Gun Violence in the US

For John, BLUFGun violence high in Obama voting areas.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The InstaPundit sends us to "Dems love guns.  No, really.  Stop laughing."  A comparison of two maps, same area, different stats, same general picture.

Regards  —  Cliff

Review of Police Actions re Dragnet For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

For John, BLUFWhat Fourth Amendment?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at the Althouse Blog there is a post that consists of quotes from an item from former US Representative Ron Paul, regarding the police search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, following the Boston Marathon Bombing.  The location on the web is the Lew Rockwell Blog.  Mr Rockwell is a libertarian and founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

But, back to the item from Mr Ron Paul, here are the quotes pulled by Professor Althouse:

Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe...
... but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston.

Three people were killed in Boston and that is tragic. But what of the fact that over 40 persons are killed in the United States each day, and sometimes ten persons can be killed in one city on any given weekend? These cities are not locked-down by paramilitary police riding in tanks and pointing automatic weapons at innocent citizens.

Regards  —  Cliff


For John, BLUFVote today.

Today is an Election Day.  We have a primary election today—US Senate seat.

Even those who have waffled and not registered as a member of one of the Parties we use to organize our political process may temporarily join this or that party and vote in that party's primary election.


V o t e

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 29, 2013

Benghazi is Back

For John, BLUFThere is more to learn regarding Benghazi.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Political Analyst Michael Barone today reviews the Benghazi Imbroglio in The New York Post—"The difference Benghazi makes".

There are still a couple of open points.  To me the long term question is why we blamed some videographer for the attack?  There are two parts to this.  The first is why we ignored (trashed) the First Amendment in going after the videographer, who is still in jail.  The second is the question of what was being missed, or covered up, by focusing on what was not the reason for the attack.

And, there is more at the article.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Make no mistake, Mr Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was doing his videography in violation of his parole and thus deserves to receive punishment.  But, should the US Department of State have turned over that rock?  As an added note, the video was not "vile" as was asserted at the time by some officials of the US Government.

Kangaroo Courts?

For John, BLUFCan an accused get a fair shake in college?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This item goes back a couple of weeks, but is evergreen.  How do we ensure justice in sexual assault cases?  Equally important, how do we ensure that the rights of all Americans are respected by College and University Tribunals?  From The Wall Street Journal we have this headline:

Judith Grossman: A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast

Unsubstantiated accusations against my son by a former girlfriend landed him before a nightmarish college tribunal.

How do we ensure justice for all?  Ms Grossman, herself a lawyer, as well as a mother, thinks we need to work on the balance.  That means we need to explore this issue more, gathering facts.  From that should flow action, including revised legislation.

Regards  —  Cliff

Kangaroo Court

Is the US Coming Back Economically?

For John, BLUFSomeone thinks the US is back, economically.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This report is from ten days ago, 19 April, but it is still timely.  Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Reporter Jason Zweig tells us:

The investment visionary who coined the term "emerging markets" and helped launch the first funds to invest in developing countries thinks he has spotted what you might call the next great emerging market.
.    .    .

Antoine van Agtmael is arguably the founding father of emerging-markets investing. He still is an evangelist for investing in parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other less-developed regions, where he thinks the future remains bright. But he believes the U.S. is at the beginning of an industrial revitalization that most analysts only have begun to recognize.

Are we back?

Regards  —  Cliff

Does The Bronx Show the Way?

For John, BLUFHow to react to crime?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Last evening, at the Althouse Blog we have a post on people resisting robbers who point guns.  Note that this is not about gun vs gun, but people telling people with guns to shove off.  Note further, however, that this is The Bronx.

A trend in The Bronx
“You get more resistance in high-crime areas than low-crime areas,” [said Rajiv Sethi, a Barnard College economist].  “People who would not resist have left the areas.  Those who stay can’t afford to leave or to give up the little property that they have in their possession.”... “We are not under siege by the vigilantes and the criminals that come out at night,” said Andy King, a city councilman whose district includes the area.  “The pride, the respect factor” takes hold, he said.  “It’s a violation, and some people are at a stage in our communities that they will stand up for certain beliefs.”
In the comments, someone from Cincinnati says:

I don't live in NYC and would never live in a city that prefers to allow armed criminals run free while disarming it's citizens.  In the midwest city where I live, there were three recent attempted armed robberies.  In all three instances, the robber got shot dead by the victim. No expensive trial or costly incarceration.  Just dead criminals, each of whom was no stranger to the justice system....
Is this the answer?

Regards  —  Cliff

500 Most Powerful

For John, BLUFWho is running the world?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From time to time we hear about those who are "running the world", the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, etc.  Now comes Foreign Policy Magazine with its own list of the 500 most powerful people in the world.

Is it possible to identify the 500 most powerful individuals on the planet—one in 14 million?  That's what we tried to do with the inaugural FP Power Map, our inventory of the people who control the commanding heights of the industries that run the world, from politics to high finance, media to energy, warfare to religion.  Think of it as a list of all the most important other lists.  Here's how they stack up—and why (sorry, declinists!) Americans are still No. 1 in pretty much everything that matters.  For now.
Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Free to Speak Freely

For John, BLUFRoom must be made for unpopular opinions, otherwise it is tyranny.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In the Opinion section of The New York Times we have this OpEd from Salman Rushdie, "Whither Moral Courage?"

I have seem comments saying that Mr Rushdie's examples in the US, Professor Noam Chomsky, the late Professor Edward Said and the Occupy Wall Street crowd are soft targets and do really face much opposition here in the Land of the Free, but even so, I think we need to be aware of the tendency of humans to not support those who take the path less traveled.  We are all poorer for it.

Worth reading and thinking about.

Regards  —  Cliff

Health Care Reform in the UK

For John, BLUFAffordable health care is hard to find everywhere.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Apparently we are not the only nation having problems with healthcare reform.  And, the infamous Speaker Nancy Pelosi line, "We have to pass it to know what is in it" may also apply to the United Kingdom.  From the blog Brighton Lite we have this report on the UK efforts to reform its 1948 National Health Service.  My recollection is that Minister for Health Aneurin Bevan's system was a single payer approach to health care.  The blog post is titled "What is the cost of the NHS reforms?".

The Government of Prime Minister David Cameron has produced a 400 page document.  You might say that 400 pages is nothing compared to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obama Care), but remember, the United Kingdom has about 63 million people, about one-fifth that of the United States.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 27, 2013


For John, BLUFHeadline writers are the bane of newspaper readers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday someone sent an EMail in frustration over a misleading headline.  I wrote back and told him that headlines are written by aliens from space.  Take this example:

One giant leap for mankind: £13bn Iter project makes breakthrough in the quest for nuclear fusion, a solution to climate change and an age of clean, cheap energy

What does that mean?

The FIFTH paragraph down we finally get to the meat of the matter:

This week the project gained final approval for the design of the most technically challenging component – the fusion reactor’s “blanket” that will handle the super-heated nuclear fuel.
They got design approval.  That is the big breakthrough.  We are years, perhaps decades, away from when these boffins will be able to ignite a fusion reaction and destroy planet earth.

Regards  —  Cliff

Big Bucks on the Potomac

For John, BLUFThe Defense Budget is shrinking, but is still big.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Blog Site Strategy Page, three days ago, we have a look at the big ticket items in the Defense Budget.  Please note we are talking billions of dollars and trillions of dollars.  By way of comparison, the Massachusetts Commonwealth Government (excluding local budgets, less the Cherry Sheets) budget for 2014 (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014) is $34 billion (actually $33.826B as it sits in the House Ways and Means Committee as of 10 April 2013.  Found here, Executive Summary Tab.

The U.S. Department of Defense has 86 major procurement projects, worth $1.6 trillion if all are completed.  This figure makes some allowance for cost growth, but those allowances, historically, are usually too low.  The $1.6 trillion figure is nine percent less than it was last year and is expected to continue to decline as the defense budget shrinks over the next decade.  That shrinkage will come from some projects being dropped, others reduced, and fewer new ones arriving. The ten costliest projects in the last year (in terms of total project cost as of last year) are:

  • F-35 stealth fighter: $336 billion
  • DDG 51 Destroyer: $103 billion

  • Virginia class Submarine: $84 billion

  • F/A-18E/F Fighter: $59 billion

  • V-22: Transport $58 billion

  • Trident II Ballistic Missile: $54 billion

  • KC-46 Tanker $44 billion

  • CVN 78 Class carrier: $35 billion

  • P-8A Patrol Aircraft: $33 billion

  • Littoral Combat Ship: $32 billion

These ten projects represent 62 percent of the remaining cost of all the large procurement projects.  These ten projects have already consumed $805 billion.

Regards  —  Cliff

  "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."  Attributed to US Senator Everett Dirksen (1896 - 1969)

Prescriptions Harder To Get Filled?

For John, BLUFThe bureaucrats wish to save us from ourselves, every one of us, at all times, in all locations.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This was the first item up on the InstaPundit blog this AM:

COMPASSIONATE GOVERNMENT: Reader David Craig emails:
My wife suffers from chronic pain as a result of a serious back injury, and while surgery helped, she still requires daily narcotic pain medication to manage her pain.  Because of prescription drug abuse, the states and DEA have been changing regulations almost monthly for narcotic medications.  In the past we could fill her prescriptions at midnight of the day written on the prescription, but now they can only be filled during “business hours,” you know, cause pain apparently only happens 8-5 Monday through Friday.  This morning a new paperwork regulation required the pharmacist to spend more than 30 minutes filling one prescription for my wife.  The pharmacist was as frustrated as my wife and her doctor, and the pharmacist told me it’s only going to get worse with more regulations.

My wife is not the criminal.  Colorado and the DEA are forcing her to live in pain as they restrict her legal access to pain relief.  No one should have to watch the person they love suffer in unimaginable pain just because of bureaucratic hurdles put in place to slow illegal drug use.

I had to get that off my chest, and you were the only outlet that I had.

Yeah, all these hurdles mostly affect honest people.  Junkies and dealers know how to get around them.
I guess the fact that I can no longer purchase carbon tetrachloride at my local pharmacy, as I was able back before I was a teenager (That is to say, before the age of 13 I rode my bike up to the Pharmacy, by myself, and purchased it.), is a good thing.  On the other hand, it made a great track cleaner for the HO layout.  All that said, prescriptions should not be a pain in and of themselves.  It makes me think of the medical marijuana issue.  States have, through the ballot initiative, voted to approve its use.  Why are the Feds making a federal case out of this.  Let the Ninth and Tenth Amendments work.

Those who think it will get better in the future, raise your hand.

You are excused from this session.

Regards  —  Cliff

Life in Marseille (or Chicago)

For John, BLUFTo have real gun control (e.g., kill the Second Amendment) the Government will have to kill the Fourth.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

As we all know, Europe sets a sort of standard with regard to Gun Control and especially automatic weapons.  So, I was a bit surprised to find this item while scrolling through ¡No Pararánt! this afternoon.  Apparently, about half a year ago, on 19 September 2012, The International Herald Tribune published this article, by Reporter Maïa de la Baume.  Here is the lede:

Walid Marzouki and his girlfriend stopped their black Renault Twingo at a red light on the deserted Boulevard Casanova late one night in August.  Another car pulled alongside.  The driver opened his window, pulled out an automatic rifle and killed Mr. Marzouki, using more than 20 rounds.
Then, lower down in the story we have this paragraph.
Today, experts and police officers say that the number of crimes, mostly related to marijuana trafficking, has not increased significantly.  But the crimes have become much more violent in the past year.  Police officers and residents are particularly worried about the increasing use of automatic and semiautomatic rifles, especially the Kalashnikov.  Knockoff versions are made in many eastern European countries and China, and cost about $1,300.
Isn't the Kalashnikov, the AK-47, the first of the second generation "Assault Rifles"?

Two points:

First, when the threat is only feet away, the police are only minutes away.

Second, no matter how hard the Government tries to control legally owned weapons, illegal weapons will exist and be used.  Just ask Walid Marzouki's girlfriend.

Think of how Chicago would be with gun control legislation.

Then there is this view.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sequestration A Fact of Life?

For John, BLUFSequestration may be around for a while.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Ezra Klein, over at The Washington Post has this column, "The Democrats have lost on sequestration".  In sum:

It is worth noting how different the Democrats’ approach to sequestration has been to the GOP’s approach to, well, everything.  Over the past five years, Republicans have repeatedly accepted short-term political pain to win the leverage necessary for long-term policy gain.  That’s the governing political principle behind their threats to shut down the government, breach the debt ceiling, and, for that matter, accept sequestration.  Today, Democrats showed they’re not willing to accept even a bit of short-term pain for leverage on sequestration.  They played a game of chicken with the Republicans, and they lost.  Badly.

At this point, it probably makes sense for the White House to push for and accept an expanded version of the Inhofe-Toomey bill giving them some discretion over how the cuts are distributed.  So far, they’ve resisted bills giving them the ability to choose, within sequestration’s broad parameters, how to allocate the cuts.  But that refusal was based on the theory that making sequestration less painful would make it more permanent.  If sequestration is permanent, however, they might as well make it a bit less painful.

Regards  —  Cliff

How Things Have Changed, Or Our Perceptions

For John, BLUF"Bush is a bottomless chasm, a deep, mysterious, emotional, profound man."  Nothing to see here; just move along.

It is The Washinton Times, so you would expect the article to be pro-Bush on the day his Presidential Library is dedicated, but this was interesting:

Shortly after Barack Obama was elected in 2008, a fellow reporter who’d covered President George W. Bush all eight years told me she’d had enough of the travel and stress and strain of the White House beat, that she was moving on.

We reminisced about all the places we’d been, all the crazy days and wild nights, all the history we’d seen — first hand.  Just before we said our goodbyes, I asked her if she’d miss covering President Obama.

“Not at all.  He’s an inch deep.  Bush is a bottomless chasm, a deep, mysterious, emotional, profound man.  Obama is all surface — shallow, obvious, robotic, and, frankly, not nearly as smart as he thinks.  Bush was the one.”

Her words, so succinct, have stuck with me ever since. By the way, she’s a hardcore Democrat.

And, President Bush's numbers are back up, as Columnist Peggy Noonan tells us:
When Bush left office, his approval rating was down in the 20s to low 30s.  Now it's at 47%, which is what Obama's is.  That is amazing, and not sufficiently appreciated.  Yes, we are a 50-50 nation, but Mr. Bush left office in foreign-policy and economic failure, even cataclysm.  Yet he is essentially equal in the polls to the supposedly popular president.

Hat tip to the Wife.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit, re the quote from Ms Noonan.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Katrina Aftermath

For John, BLUFA nice word for "W".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From CNN, Brazile:  Bush came through on Katrina".

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Breaking for Diversity

For John, BLUFPC run amok in New Hampshire.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Dartmouth being Dartmouth.

Not to be confused with our Commonwealth University of the same name, where one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers went to college.

Not to be confused with the HMS Dartmouth, a serious college with serious students looking forward to serious jobs.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fox News vs Second Amendment

For John, BLUFSometimes Fox tries to be a real news service, vice MSNBC.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Last week, over at Hot Air, Commentator Mary Katherine Ham weighed in on The New York Times comparing Fox News and MSNBC coverage of "Gun Control" legislation.

Hat tip to The Instapundit blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Book Coming on Our Culture

For John, BLUFAre men on strike?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Instapunidt, Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds, is flacking this book, to be published 18 June of this year.  The author is his wife, Ms Helen Smith, a PhD forensic psychologist, and the title is Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters.  While you can pre-order the hardback from Amazon, the Kindle is still to appear.  From Amazon we have this description:

American society has become anti-male.  Men are sensing the backlash and are consciously and unconsciously going “on strike.”  They are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates.  The trend is so pronounced that a number of books have been written about this “man-child” phenomenon, concluding that men have taken a vacation from responsibility simply because they can.  But why should men participate in a system that seems to be increasingly stacked against them?

As Men on Strike demonstrates, men aren’t dropping out because they are stuck in arrested development.  They are instead acting rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers.  In addition, men are going on strike, either consciously or unconsciously, because they do not want to be injured by the myriad of laws, attitudes and hostility against them for the crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century.  Men are starting to fight back against the backlash. Men on Strike explains their battle cry.

I see this as taking a more helpful approach to the problem.  We, as humans, respond to stimuli around us and this book appears to track down what stimuli are changing the way males in our society are reacting.  There are long term issues for our consideration.  I am looking forward to reading this book.

Regards  —  Cliff

Big Data Commentary

For John, BLUFBig Data is a big deal.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Big Data is one of the hot issues of the day.  Foreign Affairs, the prestige high brow magazine, has an article titled "The Rise of Big Data:  How It's Changing the Way We Think About the World" in its May/June 2013 issue.  The authors are Mr Kenneth Neil Cukier and Mr Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger.  The article can be found here.  Here is the lede and following paragraph.

Everyone knows that the Internet has changed how businesses operate, governments function, and people live.  But a new, less visible technological trend is just as transformative:  “big data.”  Big data starts with the fact that there is a lot more information floating around these days than ever before, and it is being put to extraordinary new uses.  Big data is distinct from the Internet, although the Web makes it much easier to collect and share data.  Big data is about more than just communication:  the idea is that we can learn from a large body of information things that we could not comprehend when we used only smaller amounts.

In the third century BC, the Library of Alexandria was believed to house the sum of human knowledge.  Today, there is enough information in the world to give every person alive 320 times as much of it as historians think was stored in Alexandria’s entire collection an estimated 1,200 exabytes’ worth.  If all this information were placed on CDs and they were stacked up, the CDs would form five separate piles that would all reach to the moon.

Yes, knowledge is exploding, but as the last three paragraphs show, we have not reached the point of the Singularity, made popular in books by Author Ray Kurzweil.
Ultimately, big data marks the moment when the “information society” finally fulfills the promise implied by its name.  The data take center stage.  All those digital bits that have been gathered can now be harnessed in novel ways to serve new purposes and unlock new forms of value.  But this requires a new way of thinking and will challenge institutions and identities.  In a world where data shape decisions more and more, what purpose will remain for people, or for intuition, or for going against the facts?  If everyone appeals to the data and harnesses big-data tools, perhaps what will become the central point of differentiation is unpredictability:  the human element of instinct, risk taking, accidents, and even error. If so, then there will be a special need to carve out a place for the human: to reserve space for intuition, common sense, and serendipity to ensure that they are not crowded out by data and machine-made answers.

This has important implications for the notion of progress in society.  Big data enables us to experiment faster and explore more leads.  These advantages should produce more innovation.  But at times, the spark of invention becomes what the data do not say.  That is something that no amount of data can ever confirm or corroborate, since it has yet to exist.  If Henry Ford had queried big-data algorithms to discover what his customers wanted, they would have come back with “a faster horse,” to recast his famous line.  In a world of big data, it is the most human traits that will need to be fostered—creativity, intuition, and intellectual ambition—since human ingenuity is the source of progress.

Big data is a resource and a tool.  It is meant to inform, rather than explain; it points toward understanding, but it can still lead to misunderstanding, depending on how well it is wielded.  And however dazzling the power of big data appears, its seductive glimmer must never blind us to its inherent imperfections.  Rather, we must adopt this technology with an appreciation not just of its power but also of its limitations.

Things to think about.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tricking Wall Street

For John, BLUFWhen news moves at the speed of light, trading systems need good filters and fuze plugs.

Comments from a newspaper reporter (Deep Background):

Fake tweets posted about explosions at White House, prompting this official tweet:
The official @AP account has been hacked!  No explosions at the White House, Barack Obama not injured.
It should be noted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 150 points based on that fake tweet.

So investors and traders don't have time to analyze news, they just react to stimuli.  If terrorists really wanted to wreck the US economy, all they need to do is post fake news.

1)  Thank God the President is safe and the White House is undamaged.

2)  With computer based trading on a hair trigger, this has potential to be a problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

Value of Going to Church

For John, BLUFReligion has an impact on its practitioners.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Professor T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropologist at Stanford, has an OpEd in The New York Times, The Benefits of Church.  From the lede:

ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you.  Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure.  It may add as much as two to three years to your life.  The reason for this is not entirely clear.
The article ends up trying to understand what is happening in churches, in this case evangelical churches.  It suggests the power of the "placebo" effect, but says it is real.  On the other hand, Wikipedia is not so positive about the placebo effect being real and measurable.  From the article:
Eventually, this may teach us how to harness the “placebo” effect — a terrible word, because it suggests an absence of intervention rather than the presence of a healing mechanism that depends neither on pharmaceuticals nor on surgery.  We do not understand the placebo effect, but we know it is real.  That is, we have increasingly better evidence that what anthropologists would call “symbolic healing” has real physical effects on the body.  At the heart of some of these mysterious effects may be the capacity to trust that what can only be imagined may be real, and be good.

But not everyone benefits from symbolic healing.  Earlier this month, the youngest son of the famed pastor Rick Warren took his own life.  We know few details, but the loss reminds us that to feel despair when you want to feel God’s love can worsen the sense of alienation.  We urgently need more research on the relationship between mental illness and religion, not only so that we understand that relationship more intimately — the ways in which they are linked and different — but to lower the shame for those who are religious and nonetheless need to reach out for other care.

Ms Luhrmann's experience is my experience.  Faith can make a difference in someone's life.  For example, a couple of times I have been in a group paying for someone to be physically healed, and that person has experienced physical healing.  It could have been a placebo effect, or it could have been the accidents of nature or it could have been the Flying Spaghetti Monster or it could have been the God I worship every Sunday (well, usually Saturday evening) or it could have been something totally different.  What I do know is that I would not have wanted to not be there.

Regards  —  Cliff

  As is often the case, the OpEd is a guest column and the Professor has a book out, When God Talks Back:  Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God.

Another Commercial Space Success

For John, BLUFPrivate enterprise meeting the Space challenge.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Space Review Jeff Foust tells us about the latest commercial space entry, "Antares rising".  The launch was this last Wednesday.

Orbital Sciences Corporation had a successful launch of its Antares rocket, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia. Following this successful launch, Orbital will try to fly its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Now attention turns to the next Antares launch this summer to fly the first Cygnus spacecraft. “I’m not going to hold my breath any less on the next one than I did on this one.  Every launch is a challenge,” Culbertson said.  “Rockets are hard.  Spaceflight is difficult.  And getting off the ground is a real challenge.”  It is, though, as Orbital demonstrated Sunday and others have in the past, an achievable challenge.
This brings some competition to the commercial space area.  Late last year Space-X delivered a package to the International Space Station.  The Station Commander, US Navy Captain and NASA Astronaut Sunita Williams referred to it as taming the Dragon as the capsule was hauled in.

Regards  —  Cliff

What was the Motivation for the Tsarnaev Brothers?

For John, BLUFThere is a lot more to learn about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a quote from an article in The Wall Street Journal, by By Pervaiz Shallwani, "Details Emerge of Alleged Carjacking by Bomber Suspects".

The victim told police he was driven to a Shell Gas Station on Memorial Drive in Watertown. Inside the car, the brothers "declared to [the victim] that they were the Boston Marathon bombers and would not kill him because he wasn't American," the report said.
To me this suggests that the Tsarnaev brothers were working out some hatred of Americans.  Does it exclude the possibility they were doing something in support of al Qaeda or al Qaeda like organizations?&nbps; No, but it says we need to gather the facts before we render final judgment.

From the Federal US Code, Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 113B › § 2331:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—
     (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
     (B) appear to be intended—
          (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
          (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
          (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
     (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
While the Boston Marathon bombing seems like "domestic terrorism", who were the Tsarnaev brothers trying to intimidate or coerce, or what policy were they trying to influence or what conduct were they trying to affect?  There is more to learn.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 22, 2013

The President and the Bully Pulpit

For John, BLUFPresident Obama is no LBJ.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The one and only Ms Maureen Down writes Sunday in The New York Times, "No Bully in the Pulpit".  She is not happy with President Obama's ability to pass legislation.  I think there are some misperceptions in the article about where the US is on "gun control" and about what the legislation proposed, but Ms Dowd may be on to something here:

President Obama has watched the blood-dimmed tide drowning the ceremony of innocence, as Yeats wrote, and he has learned how to emotionally connect with Americans in searing moments, as he did from the White House late Friday night after the second bombing suspect was apprehended in Boston.

Unfortunately, he still has not learned how to govern.

How is it that the president won the argument on gun safety with the public and lost the vote in the Senate?  It’s because he doesn’t know how to work the system. And it’s clear now that he doesn’t want to learn, or to even hire some clever people who can tell him how to do it or do it for him.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Bully Pulpit.

Our British Cousins

For John, BLUFMiss Amanda Thatcher is an up and comer.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

"The Texan who stole the show at Margaret Thatcher's funeral"

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Look At The US Economy

For John, BLUFThe US is not owned by foreigners.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At this link are a series of charts from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), part of the US Department of Commerce.  Here is BEA's home page.

Chart Number 11 looks at the question of how much of the US is foreign owned.  But, there are also other interesting charts, including one showing that Detroit, which seems to be an economic basket case, is experiencing greater economic growth than the US as a whole.

Knowledge of this set of slides traces back through Blogger Matt Yglesias.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Solving the Priest Shortage

For John, BLUFThere is a Priest shortage.  We need some innovative solutions.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

It is time to come up with new solutions to the "priest shortage" now being experienced in the United States by the Roman Catholic Church.

My preferred solution is increased orthodoxy—hewing more closely to the lines laid down by the Popes.  That approach seems to be working in the Arlington Diocese of Northern Virginia, where new parishes are opening up, rather than old ones being closed.  The growth in vocations, allowing for a growth in parishes, in Arlington springs from hewing more closely to the orthodox approach.  For us in the Boston diocese there are two problems with this solution.  The first is that it is long term.  The second is that in many dioceses there will be resistance that will not be quickly or easily overcome.

Thus my alternate solution:  We should consider a corps of educated elderly laymen ordained for the confection of the Eucharist and additional limited duties.  These men would not be full time priests, but rather gap fillers, saying a few masses, doing some Baptisms when Ordained Deacons are not available and officiating at some weddings.  Their job would be to allow Diocesian Priests to focus on those things they have been trained for and which no one else can do.  For example, hearing Confessions.

The recommendation is that a select number of men, age 65 and older, be vetted for their new duties and then given specific practical training for what they will be doing.  Limited training.  I would think sessions several times a week over six months.  Not long, grueling sessions, but short blocks of instruction in saying the Mass, something these men have been observing for decades.

The flow of the Mass these men know.  Holding the Mass sacred will be second nature to them.  For the Mass they need some specific instruction and then review and renewal training at six month intervals, just to make sure they haven't picked up any wrong habits.  Where there will be potential problems is with regard to the homily at each Mass.  As all Roman Catholics know, there are precious few good homilists in Holy Mother the Church.  From my experience I remember three.  Father Tsue, who was hard to understand, as he was from China, Father Tom Sandi, and our current Pastor at the Immaculate Conception Parish here in Lowell.  It isn't quality I worry about.  The odds are the average man over 65 will do fairly well at a seven to ten minute talk on the readings of the day.  The danger here is a drift from orthodoxy, since these men will not have had years of theological training.  How do we make up for that?

It would seem to me that the way to prepare these new Elder Priests to be satisfactory homolists will be to provide a homiletic service for them.  Each diocese should ensure the new Elder Priests receive a number of prepared homilies for each Sunday, emphasizing different aspects of the readings, thus giving the Priests options to pursue.  But, each Priest should be encouraged to follow the guidance from the Local Ordinary.

My recommendation is that some individual Bishop reach out to the Vatican and request authority to conduct a long term experiment in recruiting, screening, training and ordaining a corps of Elder Priests, to help bridge the gap in vocations in their own diocese.  With permission, the local Bishop would embark on two paths, one regarding the Elder Priests and the other the Parishes, helping the members of the Parishes to understand why this is being done and understanding that these men, embarking on this new phase in their spiritual journeys, are not trained seminarians, but rather men called to the Priesthood because of their spiritual journey and their experience along that journey.

Good luck to us.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Carinas

For John, BLUFThe Danes are rethinking their welfare state.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At the International Herald Tribune today (dated 20 April 2013) is an an article by Suzanne Daley, titled "Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault"

“In the past, people never asked for help unless they needed it,” said Karen Haekkerup, the Minister of Social Affairs and Integration, who has been outspoken on the subject.  “My grandmother was offered a pension and she was offended.  She did not need it.

“But now people do not have that mentality.  They think of these benefits as their rights.  The rights have just expanded and expanded. And it has brought us a good quality of life.  But now we need to go back to the rights and the duties.  We all have to contribute.”

What can't be sustained, won't be sustained.

But, the Danes seem to have a plan.

Instead of offering disability, the government intends to assign individuals to “rehabilitation teams” to come up with one- to five-year plans that could include counseling, social-skills training and education as well as a state-subsidized job, at least in the beginning.  The idea is to have them working at least part time, or studying.
It is not a bad plan.  It might work here in the US, if we were serious about ending our own homelessness problem.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 20, 2013

NPR Does Branch Dividians

For John, BLUFNPR can be pretty clueless.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse quoted in full:

"I came back here after the slaughter and I feel that the Lord has anointed me and appointed me to be the leader."

"I don't claim to be a prophet.  I'm a teacher of righteousness, that's the only thing I claim.... The United States has to fall in order for the One World Order to be set up... Especially if there's war in the Middle East, that's when they're going to see Branch Davidians start scrambling to find out what the truth is, and where they need to be."

NPR reports on the remnants of Branch Davidians this morning. Why them? Why now? There was just a big explosion in Waco, and perhaps that naturally makes us think back to the assault on the Branch Davidians 20 years ago. I hope it's just that and not some burning need to make listeners refocus on the dangerous white male Christians of America instead of the darker-skinned Muslim Chechans accused of the bombings in Boston.

That, or NPR thinks there is a comparison between the Branch Dividian compound going up in flames and that fertilizer plant blowing up in Texas this last week.  I am going with the angry white male theme.

The other option is that this was long scheduled and NPR is run by a bunch of rigid, feckless radicals who just don't get it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Counter-Terrorism. Where Next?

For John, BLUFWhere are we going in the "war on terrorism"?

Over at The Washington Post we have an OpEd by Mr Juan C. Zarate, "When to Call It 'Terrorism'".  The author notes that President Obama was slow to call the bombing at the Boston Marathon an act of terrorism.  And, the author notes, the President was wise to do so.  There are legal implications to using the word Terrorism, and also political implications.  The Federal Government is still treating the Fort Hood shooting (suspect is Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan) as workplace violence, as opposed to Terrorism.

While we have done a good job fighting al Qaeda, the effort is not over, as Mr Zarate says:

The core of al-Qaeda has been decimated, but its leadership, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, is the ideological center of a violent Sunni extremist movement that aspires to energize and unify the group’s various branches and resurrect its relevance after the Arab Spring.  Al-Qaeda’s strategy now revolves around bleeding the United States with a thousand cuts — inspiring followers to “attack in place.”  This effort comes alive in regional Sunni terrorist organizations and individuals radicalized online.  “Lone wolves” infected with this ideology have been caught in FBI sting operations over the years and remain a major concern for counterterrorism officials.
The threat has changed, and it is not just a narrow, extremist sect of Sunni Islam.  There is still Hezbullah, which may some day be a peaceful political party, but today engages in terrorism.  It is a new day and it is a new threat.  So, one of the questions we face is the question of the status of the AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) with regard to Terrorism.
There is a debate unfolding about whether Congress should issue a new authorization for the use of military force to update the one it provided Bush on Sept. 18, 2001, reflecting that today’s threats are not necessarily tied to the Sept. 11 attacks.  Who can or should we target with lethal force?  Which terrorism suspects may be held indefinitely?  Do we see a terrorist insurgency in Yemen or Nigeria, or a drug cartel using terrorist tactics, as a threat to the United States, or are our enemies simply those planning imminent attacks against U.S. interests at home or abroad?  Does the ideology of al-Qaeda, as it evolves in places such as Syria and North Africa, define the outer limits of threats against America?

The way we talk about terrorism shapes the response to these questions.  We have yet to grapple with the hardest of them.

This is an important discussion and should not be happening just in DC.  We all need to be involved.  One place to start is an OpEd by Ms Maureen Dowd, in the International Herald Tribune, "The C.I.A.’s Angry Birds"—Dowd Down on CIA Predators.
President Obama, who continued nearly every covert program handed down by W., clearly feels tough when he talks about targeted killings, and considers drones an attractive option.  As Mazzetti says, “fundamental questions about who can be killed, where they can be killed, and when they can be killed” still have not been answered or publicly discussed.
We haven't really vetted these issues enough.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Mr Zarate served on the National Security Council of President George W Bush, from 2005 to 2009, as Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism.  He is currently a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). His forthcoming book is Treasury’s War:  The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (Not yet available for pre-ordering on Amazon).
  Mr Mark Mazzetti, of The New York Times and author of the new book, The Way of the Knife.

President Angry

For John, BLUFIt isn't about gun control, it is about politics and who is on top.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I have heard that the President was very angry over the failure of the US Senate to pass the gun control bill.  I didn't pick up on the anger in the videos I saw.  A limitation on my part.

I do believe that the President was angry about the fact that he missed the chance to see gun control crash and burn in the House of Representatives, which he could then blame on the Republicans as a way of helping defeat those same Republicans in the 2014 House races, finally bringing Democratic Party Control back to Washington, SCOTUS aside.

Blogger Ed Morrissey takes a different look at the situation with regard to the failed gun control legislation in the US Senate.

So far, we’ve heard a lot of bluster coming from Barack Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill about how the voters will punish Republicans for opposing a series of gun-control measures that didn’t even keep all the Democrats in the fold.  The real problem with “the audacity of mope,” as National Hotline’s Josh Kraushaar writes today, is that voters may end up punishing Democrats in key 2014 Senate contests.  Obama and the Democrats just learned the wrong lesson over their spectacular and embarrassing failure, and may lose the Senate as a result:
And on he goes, working with Mr Kraushaar's column.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff


For John, BLUFPublic safety first, Miranda second.

One of the questions with regard to the Boston Marathon bombing and the capture of the suspect is whether, to quickly obtain information related to public safety (are there other bombs or are there other bombers), the suspect, Mr Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, of Cambridge, will not be Mirandized initially, but just questioned before he lawyers up.  Here is one person's comments on this issue:

If you think you already have a good case, and are very worried about the possibility of other imminent threats, then you would take his statements without Mirandizing.

If I wanted to be sure you could get all his statements into the court record, then you would Mirandize.

It's hard to know what they will do, but if there's no Miranda warning, it's a sign that they're either very confident of a conviction on the evidence they have, very worried about other threats, or both.

However, the public safety side of the coin doesn't mean that all evidence will necessarily be excluded.  The US Supreme Court has held that there is a narrow public safety exception to Miranda, NEW YORK v QUARLES.  In this case a suspect appeared to have ditched a gun in a grocery store and the policeman wanted to know where the gun was, before there was additional problems:
Procedural safeguards that deter a suspect from responding, and increase the possibility of fewer convictions, were deemed acceptable in Miranda in order to protect the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination.  However, if Miranda warnings had deterred responses to Officer Kraft's question about the whereabouts of the gun, the cost would have been something more than merely the failure to obtain evidence useful in convicting respondent.  An answer was needed to insure that future danger to the public did not result from the concealment of the gun in a public area.
It is the US Supreme Court, so of course there are differences.  The opinion was delivered by Justice Rehnquist, concurred in by Chief Justice Burger and Justices White, Blackmun and Powell.  Justice O'Connor concurred in part and Justices Marshall, Brennan and Stevens dissented.

I hope they err on the side of public safety.  Evidence abounds.  Besides, the United States Attorney is Carmen Ortiz, who will be charging him with everything under the sun, including "picking his feet in Poughkeepsie".

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, April 19, 2013

Source of Disaffection

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

From someone who is a bit of an expert in these things:

These guys likely had no connection to the Caucasus Emirate in person; connection would likely have been online.

This looks more and more like "resonant effects," rather than something planned and executed by a cadre-level organization.

Chechens I know are completely crushed.

That is to say, two unhappy youths, not part of some larger Islamic extremist group with terror as a method.  Not part of some focused Chechen effort to obtain independence from Russia.

Not likely there are other like cells here in this area or across the US.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Resonance—Physics the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object.  That is to say they picked this up from the back and forth of the Internet.

Russian View of Marathon Terrorists

For John, BLUFPicture is confused at this time.

Here is an article from the Russian newspaper, Izvestia.  This is a very rough translation via Google.

How do I find "News", who was arrested on Friday in the U.S. 19-year-old Johar Tsarnaev really came to America from Makhachkala.  However, until the age of seven, he lived in Kyrgyzstan and Russia's can be called only a stretch - in Dagestan Tsarnaev lived for only a year.

- Johar and his brother and sister came to our school in the first grade - told "Izvestia" in high school number 1 in Makhachkala.

- He and his family came from Kyrgyzstan, and in the second grade Johar left for America.

In 2011 Tsarnaev graduated from high school in Boston.  In profile it is said that the main thing for a young person is "Islam, career and money."  Last Tsarnaev looked at his page on the social network shortly before his arrest.

Tsarnaev lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  It was there on Friday night there was a skirmish on the campus, killing a policeman.

Now Tsarnaev beyond the assassination of the police suspected of organizing terrorist attacks in the marathon in Boston. Two explosions at intervals of 20 seconds thundered near the site of the finish-agonists during the completion of the race.  As a result of the terrorist attacks killed three people.  Affected more than 180 people.  23 of them are in critical condition.

Someone commented:
This is exactly the kind of profile that renders young people vulnerable to radicalization. Moving around, from multiple places, multiple cultures.  My guess is that Islam became unifying identity for these kids; something that would make them particularly vulnerable to radical variants.

This is going to be complicated and tragic.  Most things involving the Caucuses usually are.

People talk about Chechnya, but these young men traveled across the Caucuses before coming to this nation.

The long term question is if we are now at war with terrorist groups in the Caucuses.  My thought is that we are not and should not be.  This is a pin prick, not a war by them on us, and thus not an invitation to be at war with them. Regards  —  Cliff

Block Party

For John, BLUFVisit East Pawtucketville on 4 May.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

East Pawtucketville Neighborhood
Franco American Festival

Celebrate the Historical Roots of East Pawtucketville

When:  Saturday, May 4, 2013, 10:00AM-2:00PM
Where:  in Gershlot (the parking lot at Gershom and University Ave), Lowell, MA

  • DJ and Music
  • Kids’ Games and Face Painting
  • Contests and Prizes
  • French Culture and Entertainment
  • Tell Your Story at the Story Booth
  • Hear the Stories of East Pawtucketville Residents
  • Hear the Works of Author Jack Kerouac
  • See Photos and Share Photos
From Judith Davidson we have this:
We have a French bookstore participating, several French clubs, and Cote’s will be providing Franco-American delicacies.  UML students will be performing French music of various sorts, and the English club will be doing Kerouac readings.  A couple of schools are participating (face painting and temporary tattoos), TD Bank (cookies, water, etc.), and we have storytelling about the neighborhood with help from a UML class that has been doing ethnographic case studies in the neighborhood.  If I can get it organized we will also have whist!!  Which I just learned was a favorite game of Franco-American immigrants.  Oh—Parks and Rec will be hosting games for young children, and there will be a ground breaking ceremony for the new pocket park that is being created in Gershlot.
No Bocce Ball?

The Points of Contract (POCs) for this event are Judith Davidson and Nataliya Poto.  The EMail is EastPawtucketville@gmail.com

From the flyer, here is the definition of East Pawtucketville:  North = Dracut; East = Riverside Drive; South = Merrimack River; West = Mammoth Road.

Go and enjoy.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fisker Karma Going Away, Along With Our Money

For John, BLUFThe jury is still out on Department of Energy ability to wisely invest.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The New Yorker, we have an article by James Surowiecki on the slow demise of the Fisker Automotive.  The title is "What Killed the New Electric Car".  No, it is not a question, it is a statement.  Actually, it is a defense of the current Department of Energy and its various investments in solar power.  You see, Fisker is going out of business—it hasn't rolled a new Fisker Karma off the production line in months.  And, per the article, while the Karma looks good from the outside, inside it is not an engineering marvel.  Quality counts.  So do low prices. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Fisker Automotive, maker of the Karma, a hundred-thousand-dollar electric-gas hybrid sports car, is in deep trouble.  It’s laid off seventy-five per cent of its workforce, hasn’t produced a single car in nine months, and may well declare bankruptcy in the next couple of weeks.  And opponents of the U.S. government’s attempts to invest in green energy couldn’t be happier, since Fisker received nearly two hundred million dollars in loans from the Department of Energy under a program designed to foster investment in electric and hybrid vehicles.  Fisker’s failure (like that of the solar company Solyndra before it) is, as a result, being held up as evidence of the futility of all government investments in green technology.  Lou Dobbs said, simply, “All they pick are losers.”  And House Republican Jim Jordan, who will be chairing a hearing next week on the government’s loan to Fisker, called the company’s troubles “a very timely case study of what happens when the Department of Energy plays venture capitalist with taxpayer money.”

The blanket condemnation of green subsidies is, of course, purely ideological—Fisker also raised $1.2 billion in private money, but [Congressman Jim] Jordan’s not arguing that this is proof that private investors should stay out of the business of investing.  And contrary to [Reporter Lou] Dobbs’s assertions, many of the government’s investments are still doing well (including, most notably, Tesla, which just turned its first profit).  And anyway, this is the nature of venture capital: you make many bets, knowing in advance that some are going to fail.  The key to making government investments work is that when those investments go bad, the government, like any good private investor, has to be willing to cut companies off instead of keeping them on life support.  That’s precisely what the Department of Energy has done.  Fisker was originally awarded five hundred and twenty-nine million dollars in loan commitments, but when it failed to meet production deadlines on the Karma, the D.O.E. cut off the company’s access to three hundred and thirty-six million dollars of those loans.  Far from coddling Fisker, the government has been a stern taskmaster—indeed, reports suggest that it’s the D.O.E. that’s been pushing hardest for Fisker to file for bankruptcy.

So, the real question is, is there value to the Department of Energy investing in new technologies, which might reduce energy consumption?  I am not sure this article answered that question.  I am of mixed feelings on this.  On the one hand, feed money to bring new technologies on line is a good thing.  On the other hand, the US Government, nay, all governments over time and space, tend to be a heavy hand and often on the wrong thing.

Back on 20 October 2011 [18 months ago], the Instapundit had this to say:

THE FISKER KARMA:  Solyndra On Wheels?  “Our tax dollars at work… a half-billion dollar loan (actually $529 million) from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a hybrid toy for the wealthy and/or celebri-licious (like Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the first customers) that, in real world driving, won’t get much better mileage than your average crossover utility vehicle.  Not only that, but the cars are manufactured in Finland — that’s right, Finland – and shipped here for sale, where their purchasers will then receive a $7,500 tax credit for buying one . . . . Oh, and by the way, it just so happens that several major investors in the company are also major donors to the Democratic Party.  Can you say, 'crony capitalism?'”

At least it’s really good looking.

The Fisker investment is not a shining example of success and Mr Surowiecki does not balance it in his article.  The jury is still out.

Regards  —  Cliff

Ignore First Reports

For John, BLUFFirst reports can lead you astray.  Be patient.

This is from The Bateman.  It is a little out there in terms of language, but not a lot.  "A LESSON FROM THE ARMY ON MAKING SENSE OF THE NEWS".  Historian, author, Army Lieutenant Colonel, NATO Staff Office, Robert L Bateman.  To those who know his EMails, The Bateman.  Here is the bottom line of his article, linked to above.

…one should never believe the initial reports of your scouts.
Same goes for reporters.  As LTC Bateman points out, those who are out gathering the data see the dots, but perhaps not the big picture.  From my point of view, it is up to us, the Citizens, to put those dots together, but not too soon.

Here is a different version of the same idea, by the same author.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Future of Lowell

For John, BLUFWhat does the future hold; and how do we get there?

Under the title "demographics and a little math" Kad Barma talks to income distribution in Lowell.  This is important stuff as we visualize what Lowell will be in twenty years or forty years.  I have had this view that the Downtown would become gentrified and thus attract a lot of neat boutique like shops and great restaurants.  The kinds of people I am thinking of are my friend Sandi, who used to live in Mass Mills, the anthropologist Pat and Kad and Greg Page.  Not rich, but with enough disposable income to attract businesses to Downtown Lowell.

In particular, I think that a thriving downtown Lowell will strengthen all the neighborhoods, but a decaying downtown will sap the surrounding neighborhoods.

Here is another look at the situation.

But, back to the "blow-in" thing, I guess I don't care, if the person using the term smiles.  This is the line from The Virginian, shown in this short clip from the 1929 version of the movie.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, as part of the divorce settlement, his Ex took the "Shift" keys from his keyboard.
  From the Dictionary:  "1 a small store selling fashionable clothes or accessories.  2 a business that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele."  I was thinking more definition 2.

Looking Back on Monday

For John, BLUFToo soon to tell about Boston Bombing.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am sure many readers of this blog (all two of you) have seen the item in Salon, by Reporter David Sirota, hoping the Boston Marathoner was just another middle aged angry whitecaucasian guy.  I see his reasoning, but I reject it, for reasons I will explain below.

Even at this remove, the key point is to express our sympathy for those who were injured in body or mind and the relatives of same.  One can only imagine the long term costs of this for the living, and for the relatives and friends of those killed by this event.

That said, Monday, the 15th of April saw a number of bombings and shootings around the world.  The one that stands out in my mind is Mogadishu, Somalia, with 30 dead from a set of coordinated bombings and shootings.  Then there is the Central African Republic, with 17 dead.  Bombings in Iraq, with 75 dead, already has its own Wikipedia page.  This tells us we live in a violent world, and also tells us that we here in the United States are very lucky.  Rarely does such mass violence touch us.  A man in Mississippi sends a Senator and the President letters with ricin in it, but the letters are intercepted and the man is arrested.  He will not be tortured to give a confession.  In fact, he might end up getting mental health help.

In an item titled "Mostly Quiet on the Western Front", Mr David H Schanzer, Wednesday addressed the question "Why isn’t terrorism in the United States a whole lot more frequent?".

Adding to the confusion about the Monday bombing in Boston is this item from Mr Joseph Fitsanakis of Intel NewsAnalysis:  Five dangerous myths about the Boston Marathon bombingsThis was countered by Mr Larry Grant:

May I disagree?

1-They were intended to terrorize (multiple devices, shrapnel loads, event selection)—this is a terrorist act by definition.

2-If not an intelligence failure (and they were not discovered by organizations formed for precisely this purpose, which sounds a lot like failure or inadequacy), they certainly demonstrate the limits of intelligence. That is, there will always be leakers of this sort.

3-They were minor only in their immediate effects, assuming that a few dead, low hundreds injured, is minor.  But their full extent cannot yet be determined, since the ultimate ramifications also depend on the actions various agitators, bureaucrats, and politicians are moved to take using this bombing as an excuse, motivation, or crisis that cannot be wasted. For reference, see Sandy Hook and gun control.

4-Finally, preferring al-Qaeda as a perpetrator probably voices a desire that this be an act that would, at least in the short term, unite Americans rather than divide them.  A domestic terrorist might increase partisanship if he were found to be motivated (or made to seem so) by some identifiable left-right ideology.  Who knows?  These were easy devices—might be anybody.

Mr Grant ends by stating:
Rather than wish for an external enemy, I would prefer that Americans have the backbone to live up to Benjamin Franklin's Tweet from about 240 years ago:  "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

I suspect, on the contrary, we will soon be living with many more security cameras and routine bag searches.

Which brings us back to Mr Sirota, of Salon, who has a lot of anger bottled up inside him.  Mr Sirota wants it to be some member of the largest male group in the US so that this bombing doesn't derail legislation currently under consideration.  He tacitly acknowledges that a Bill Ayers or a Timothy McVeigh are aberrations, and thus can quickly fade into the background.  Yes, there will be no drone strikes on their home towns.  They will be seen as acting alone or as part of a small group, but that they will not be seen as including their brothers and their cousins.  The sad part of Mr Sirota's article is that on Tuesday, 16 April, the Boston Marathon bombing had already regressed to politics as usual.  As per Mr Larry Grant, above, I think that Mr Sirota hopes the perpetrator(s) will be someone who can be identified with the "right", so that opposition in Congress to the Progressive Agenda can be marginalized.

NEWS UPDATE:  "Mogadishu - A suspected al-Shabaab militant was killed on Thursday trying to plant a bomb in a busy district of the Somali capital, a police official said, after the Islamist group threatened more attacks following two deadly assaults this week."

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am sure some think it is cute or symmetrical or something to refer to caucasians as "white", but I don't.  I think it is disrespectful.
  A play on the book out of World War I, the 1929 All Quiet on the Western Front, by Herr Erich Maria Remarque, a man who spent exactly one day in the trenches, in his case on Germany's Western Front.
  So much it makes you wonder if he is the bomber.
  And, the bombing in Boston has precious little to do with the issues of gun control vs the Second Amendment or immigration reform or balancing the budget and when.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


For John, BLUFWe are different.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Europe was created by history.   America was created by philosophy.
Margaret Thatcher
Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, April 15, 2013

Morgan Factory

For John, BLUFHand made sports cars are neat.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

My Brother-in-Law, Mic, send along this item in an EMail.

It is about the way I remember it from when Martha and I visited the factory in Malvern, UK, in 1974.  And very informal.  We didn't call ahead, but just showed up and got a tour.

The thing that stands out in my mind from that visit is the guy with a quarter inch drill putting in the parking lights on the wings (fenders).  He literally eyeballed it.  Stood in the middle in front of the grill, looked one way, looked the other, and then drilled two quick holes.

Owning a Morgan is owning a sports car.

Regards  —  Cliff

Turbo-Tax Crash

For John, BLUFProcrastination removes the safety net of time to deal with unexpected problems.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Drudge we have this item from The Brevard Times:

MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2013
Turbo Tax Goes Off Line Sunday Night
2013 Tax Day procrastinators had a scare last night when Turbo Tax went off-line hours before the 1040 individual taxpayer filing deadline.

Last night, just before 11 p.m. EDT, the online tax filing giant started to get complaints that its system was not working, to which it Tweeted, "We're having problems with TurboTax online. We're in process bringing back the experience u expect.  Updates 2 follow."

About an hour later, to the relief of last minute online tax filers, Turbo Tax tweeted again, "Good news - TurboTax [dot] com is back online and functional.  For those still having issues, please try closing your browser and go back to turbotax dot com in a fresh window."

I wonder if I am the one who crashed it?  About that time I had just downloaded the Mass State module.

Regards  —  Cliff

Book Adverts—Non-Fiction

For John, BLUFI complain about book advertisements.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Yesterday I was reading The New York Times Book Review (a couple of interesting books) and on page 2 was an advertisement for Secrets From the Past, by Barbara Taylor Bradford.  As such advertisements go, it was better than most, but it was pretty sparse on giving us a sense of what the book is about.  Alternate hypothesis is that I just don't have a very good imagination.  From the Advertisement:

After the unexpected death of her father, American photojournalist Serena stone embarks on a quest to write his biography.  From war-torn Libya to the romantic ambience of Venice, Serena discovers a shocking family secret—and is drawn back into the life of the ony man she ever loved.
"War-torn Libya"?  Which war?  WWII?  Was he Italian?  War the war the recent overthrow of Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution, Muammar Gaddafi (I remember when Colonel Gaddafi overthrew King Idris)?

From Amazon we have this Book Description:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful and emotional novel about one woman’s quest to uncover long-buried secrets about her family—secrets she will stop at nothing to uncover, no matter the consequences.  At thirty, American photojournalist Serena Stone has already made a name for herself with her unique and dramatic coverage of wars in the Middle East, following in her famous father’s footsteps.  But after his unexpected death in France, she ends her job at the renowned photo news agency, weary of years of danger.  Leaving the front lines behind, Serena returns to New York where she starts work on a biography of her celebrated father.  When Serena discovers that her former lover Zachary North is in trouble overseas, she's forced to leave the safety of her new life, and head back to a place she was trying to escape...and her life will never be the same again.  As she brings Zac back to health in Venice, she discovers a shocking secret in the archives of her late father’s work.  It is a secret that will propel her back to war-torn Libya, risking her life looking for clues that she hopes will piece together the mystery surrounding her parents’ marriage and the part of their life together that she never knew.

Well-kept secrets, passionate love, obsession, betrayal, redemption, and the power of the past to control the future propel Secrets from the Past, the explosive new novel from The New York Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford

For me that Amazon offering is a much better description and one more likely to draw me into the story.

Most adverts in publications like The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books and The New Yorker tend to be puff pieces with references to this or that person or publication praising the new offering.  I am sure that book publishers have tested these approaches and find them to be the most productive available (Amazon excepted).  My alternate theory is that this is some sort of payola scheme that works for the book publishers and the magazine publishers.

What it doesn't do it work for me.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Elderly/Homelessness Conference

For John, BLUFA learning experience about the elderly and the homeless.

As previously noted in this blog, Lowell held it's Eighth Keys to Ending Homelessness Conference yesterday, Friday, 12 April, at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center.  The focus was homelessness and the elderly.

The Conference was kicked off by City Manager Bernie Lynch and included talks by State Treasurer Steve Grossman and Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary of the State Department of Housing and Community Development.  In addition, there were eight breakout sessions, in two phases, and a final panel session with lunch.

Reporter Hiroko Sato wrote up the story for today's edition of The [Lowell] Sun, which can be found here.

The issue is not just homeless people who become elderly, although that is a serious problem.  It is also the fact that the number of people 65 or older is going to be growing out to the year 2050.  In 2010 the percent of the total US population over 64 was 13%.  By 2020 it will be 19.3 percent and by 2040 it will be 20.2 percent—1 in 5 Americans will be 65 or older.  This and other data from the US Census Bureau can be found here.  The last of the Baby Boomers will hit 65 in 2029, but they will be living longer lives and will be with us for quite some time.  Consider the impact on the housing market when all the Baby Boomers begin to sell their homes, and with relatively fewer people coming behind them to purchase those homes.  The question is, with a smaller ratio of working taxpayers to support the Baby Boomers, and with Boomer assets perhaps not being valued as highly after they retire as before, will we find we are facing problems in terms of the ability of Boomers, and those who have gone before to sustain themselves?  There are no magic formulas out there, so we need to be planning now for those days ahead.

And this brings us back to the situation of those who are homeless today.  Being homeless ages people physically, emotionally and mentally.  An indication of the problem is the fact the average life expectancy of homeless people is 48 years old.  Those who are homeless and 50 are more like the average person who is 65.  Plus, for the elderly, additional support services are required, both for the homeless and for those on the verge of being homeless, due to lack of income or some diminishment in capacity.

These are the kinds of issues tackled by the conference and which will need to be tackled at local, state and federal levels.

Conferences are tricky things.  As mentioned in the article, the ramrod for the Lowell Homelessness Conference is Ms Linda King.  She had to be away the second half of this last week and it fell to her volunteer staff, with Ms Kathy Muldoon taking the lead, but others joining in.  A good job was done by all.

But, not just the Lowell Homelessness Committee's Conference subcommittee.  There is also the staff at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, headed up by Ms Carol Scalesse.  The staff prepares the rooms, sets up tables and easels and prepares a light snack for breakfast and a lunch.  Sure, they do use Pepsi products, but aside from that they are great, and do things like cater to vegetarians.

One of the people who stands out in my mind is Mr John Morrison, Audio/Visual Manager for the Inn and Conference Center.  We show up with computers and projectors and he sets them up, provides the projection screens, loads the thumb drives of the presenters and makes sure there are the extension cords needed to do the job.  He is also anticipating our needs, including asking if we need screens for our luncheon panel, or if he should put them away so they don't distract.  When Mr Marc Duci arrives from LTC to video the plenary session, Mr Morrison works with him to make sure all is good to go.  Mr Morrison understands what it means to be a service organization and he provides that service.  Thank you Mr Morrison.

Regards  —  Cliff

  At the risk of missing someone, other volunteer subcommittee members included Patricia Bergan, Deb Sevigny, Sue Smith, Dan O'Conner, Bruce Akashian, and Ann Scannell.  Susan Rourke is part of small crowd, although she couldn't make this Conference.  A big help to us was Roberta from Lowell DPD, as we scrambled to get it all together.

True Believers

For John, BLUFNot everyone is from Belvedere Village.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Friday evening CNN put up a news story by Kyung Lah, "North Korea's propaganda machine grips defector 11 years on".  Ms Chae Young Hee fled North Korea 11 years ago, but still feels the pull of the North Korean propaganda.

Loose talk of Korean reunification, or even responding to an attack by North Korea with an invasion misses the point that the People of North Korea have a religious like affection for their three leaders since WWII.  Per Ms Chae:

"Even if I tried to explain this, I don't think people here would understand.  They won't think this is real," she says, watching a news clip of adoring citizens waving flowers and rushing to the young leader.

"But this is true.  That is the truth.  And we can't think for ourselves.  When North Koreans watch news on the dear leader, they believe in it.  We live because of him."

Not everyone thinks as we do.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Woodrow Wilson

For John, BLUFPresident Wilson was not such a great man.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Instapundit:

APRIL 11, 2013

PROGRESSIVE RACISM:  On this day in 1913, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson segregated the Civil Service.

Prior to the segregation of the civil service in 1913, appointments had been made solely on merit as indicated by the candidate’s performance on the civil-service examination.  Thereafter, racial discrimination became the norm.  Photographs came to be required at the time of application, and African-Americans knew they would not be hired.  The existing work force was segregated.  Many African-Americans were dismissed.
Woodrow Wilson and Che Guevera.  A lot alike.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Talking to Baby

For John, BLUFTalk to your Grandchildren.  Use adult words.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At The New York Times, we have Tina Rosenberg talking about The Power of Talking to Your Baby.  Here is the lede and subsequent paragraph:

By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn.  The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm.  American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.

There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself.  What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn?  Researchers have answered the question in different ways:  Is it exposure to lead?  Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences?  The effects of high levels of stress hormones?  The lack of a culture of reading?

Here is the payoff paragraph, the one quoted by Law Professor Ann Althouse in her shorter blog post on this issue:
The disparity was staggering.  Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour.  Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words.  By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family.  And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school.  TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.
Yes, contrary to the ideas of people like Ms Melissa Harris-Perry, parents matter and they matter a great deal.

Babies are not just lumps of flesh, eating and pooping, but are human beings and the parents' interactions with them makes them smarter.

That said, I agree with Professor Althouse on the need to ensure we are not confusing correlation and causation.  For the sake of the children, I would lean strongly to the side of causation.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Bringing Up Baby

For John, BLUFThe idea of family is under assault in some quarters.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From an analyst at the Brookings Institution we have this item, "Twenty Years Later, It Turns Out Dan Quayle Was Right About Murphy Brown and Unmarried Moms"

This is a year old, but it is timely.  The author is Dr Isabel V. Sawhill (the Brookings Institution analyst), a budget expert, focusing on domestic poverty and federal fiscal policy.  She was also co-director of the Center on Children and Families and the Budgeting for National Priorities Project at Brookings.

Ms Sawhill's bottom line:

But in the end, Dan Quayle was right.  Unless the media, parents and other influential leaders celebrate marriage as the best environment for raising children, the new trend—bringing up baby alone—may be irreversible.
This is in contrast to the idea put forward by MSNBC Host Ms Melissa Harris-Perry, who said in an Advertisement for MSNBC:
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we've always had kind of a private notion of children.  Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility.  We haven't had a very collective notion of these are our children,” she says in a spot for the network’s “Lean Forward” campaign.  “So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”
Of course context is everything.   Most of us recognize the responsibility of the community to provide common services for the raising of children, from playgrounds to schools, from vaccination programs to public libraries.  In this case the "context" seems to be that children are more public property than the are members of a private family.

The Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, dated 15 May 1891, RERUM NOVARUM, "On Capital and Labor", gives us some guidance.

From Paragraph 12 we have:

Hence we have the family, the "society" of a man's house - a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State.  Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.
And then, in Paragraphs 13 and 14 we have these sage words:
A family, no less than a State, is, as We have said, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, that is to say, by the authority of the father.  Provided, therefore, the limits which are prescribed by the very purposes for which it exists be not transgressed, the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty.  We say, "at least equal rights"; for, inasmuch as the domestic household is antecedent, as well in idea as in fact, to the gathering of men into a community, the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature.  If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.

The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.  True, if a family finds itself in exceeding distress, utterly deprived of the counsel of friends, and without any prospect of extricating itself, it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth.  In like manner, if within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due; for this is not to deprive citizens of their rights, but justly and properly to safeguard and strengthen them.  But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State; for it has the same source as human life itself.  "The child belongs to the father," and is, as it were, the continuation of the father's personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born.  And for the very reason that "the child belongs to the father" it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, "before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents."  The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.

Sure, 1891 was a long time ago, over a century, and, we use different language to describe the family, but this idea of the place of the family remains sound.  To reiterate, "...that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error."

Regards  —  Cliff