Saturday, June 29, 2013

Breakup Came Late This Year


For John, BLUFIt was a long winter.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At a blog site named The Nenana Ice Classic we learn that this years winners, Mr and Mrs Snow, won a Jackpot of $318,500.00.  They are definitely "flat earth" kinds of people, considering their pick won with Breakup being on May 20th, at 2:41 pm, Alaska Standard Time.

Interestingly enough, as we worried here if Winter would ever turn to Summer, that was the latest DTG on record for the ice to go out.  I blame climate change.

Sorry for the late reporting reporting.

On the other hand, Alaska is experiencing record high temperatures.  I blame the same source.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Down Side of Wind Farms


For John, BLUFEvery solution brings its own problems.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Althouse Blog

June 28, 2013

"Rare bird last seen in Britain 22 years ago reappears..."

"... only to be killed by wind turbine in front of a horrified crowd of birdwatchers."

Posted by Ann Althouse at 10:17 PM

Regards  —  Cliff

Ancient Finds in Peru


For John, BLUFThe history of this hemisphere is pretty interesting.

Back before the Inca Civilization there was the Wari Civilization dominating parts of the area now known as Peru.  The BBC has an article on recent archeology discoveries, including the tombs of queens.

Back when Rome was declining the Wari Empire was booming.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 28, 2013

Angela Merkel Goes to Paris


For John, BLUFIt is a joke.

A friend of mine, the owner of perhaps the largest collection of East German uniforms in the US, sent along this little bit of humor.

Angela Merkel arrives at Passport Control at Paris airport.

"Nationality?" asks the immigration officer.

"German," she replies.

"Occupation?"

"No, just here for a few days."

Regards  —  Cliff

Ignore Snowden?


For John, BLUFThe Federal Government should be studiously ignoring Mr Edward Snowden.

Columnist Trudy Rubin, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, on this Thursday, wrote "For Snowden, Odd Bedfellows".  This Column does a good job of laying out the current situation, and some of the pitfalls.

The global hunt for Edward Snowden is damaging U.S. interests in ways that go far beyond the intelligence data he leaked.

The wild flight of the fugitive leaker—from Hong Kong to the transit area of Moscow's Sherymetyvo Airport, and perhaps on to Ecuador—has turned into a public humiliation for the White House.  U.S. officials publicly threatened "consequences" if Snowden wasn't returned, only to be openly rebuffed by Chinese officials and Russia's Vladimir Putin.  This made embarrassingly clear how little leverage President Obama has in Moscow or Beijing (and how much wiser it would have been to request Snowden's return in private).

Most disturbing, the Snowden affair has enabled some of the world's worst human-rights offenders to portray themselves as champions of freedom by defending Snowden while denouncing America as a massive violator of rights.

China's Xinhua news agency branded the United States as "the biggest [cyber]villain in our age."  Russian parliamentarians did likewise.  You might think that such self-righteous claims would be dismissed as political posturing.  Yet in today's world, with America's image sullied by Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and by our paralyzed politics, these charges can find a receptive audience, not only abroad but at home.

The direction Ms Trudy Rubin is going is shown by her final paragraph.
So, critics of American hubris may cheer when Putin praises Snowden - or when the People's Daily proclaims that Snowden "tore off Washington's sanctimonious mask." It's necessary to remind them: The countries helping Snowden aren't doing so because they dislike spying. On the contrary. They don't want limits on their own surveillance, just on ours.
The more important conclusion is that we will not be seen as a serious international player, which means we won't be taken seriously.  I do believe the President is taking a better tone, with his comment that he is not going to be focusing his time on Mr Snowden.  Per The Washington Post, here is what the President said in Senegal, yesterday:

“I shouldn’t have to,” Obama added at a news conference in Senegal. “I’m not going to have one case of a suspect who we’re trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues simply to get a guy extradited.”
That is the proper public face for all Administration officials.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Flat Earth Society


For John, BLUFBullying to build scientific consensus is wrong.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Weather comes and weather goes.  Over the long term, climate comes and climate goes.  The President believes that those who believe we are not in a period of "global warming" are like "flat earthers". 

The question is, are we facing CAGW or are things not so drastic.  How governments come down on this will have consequences, and not just for our air conditioning in the summer.  The question of bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty turns on the availability of cheap energy.

It is like the issue of DDT, which came up on City Life this last Monday.  Author Rachel Carson was correct to point out the damage and dangers of DDT, in her book Silent Spring, back in 1962.  However, DDT was helping the world make progress against a major killer, malaria.  There is no denying that the World Health Organization estimate is that in 2010 between 490,000 and 836,000 people died from malaria that year.  Even the bottom number is significant.  The estimated middle number, 660,000, is larger than the population of Boston, Mass.

We may need to "act now", but we need to understand the costs and we need to have trap doors out of which we can drop if it turns out we are on the wrong path.  I don't see that.  The other little secret is that when science finds it is on the wrong path others will come forward to provide alternatives.

We are making progress against malaria.  But, fifty years on, malaria is still with us, and killing us.

Regards  —  Cliff

  President Obama favors this phrase when characterizing his opponents.  Here, from March 2012 and here, from this last Tuesday.
  Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Distractions?


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

Mr Andrew Klavan, of Pajamas Media, offers an alternative, and very Episcopalian, view on the rulings by SCOTUS yesterday.

The takeaway:

I believe the advent of no-fault divorce gutted marriage of any beneficent legal meaning, and so the government should simply get out of the business altogether and leave the whole thing to contract law and church ceremony.
Exactly.  Thanks to Assemblyman Jim Hayes.

Regards  —  Cliff

Junkyard Dog at State


For John, BLUFNo one watching the store at State.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am not keen on US Senators placing holds on Executive Branch appointments requiring Senate Confirmation.  However, holds are a way for the US Senate to get the attention of the Executive Branch.  Thus, I will make an exception in the case of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is placing a hold on ALL State Department nominations until the Obama Administration nominates someone to fill the office of Inspector General (IG).

This is from The DiploPundit, and in particular Mr Domani Spero.  Here he quotes Senator Cruz:

The President’s failure to nominate a State Department Inspector General since taking office in 2009 is unacceptable.  The position has been vacant for almost 2,000 days.  This is a crucial oversight position and should be a priority for an agency facing substantial management challenges.
We are talking about a Congressionally mandated position at State, and at other federal agencies.  These are the "Junkyard Dogs" who go after those kinds of things that represent fraud, waste and abuse, and bring disrepute upon the agency.

And it isn't like there hasn't been some hanky-panky at State.  Consorting with prostitutes and some underage, adultery by an Ambassador overseas, with another nation's Ambassador, and so on.

This seems more than a casual oversight.  This is the kind of negligence that results in a loss of faith in Government.  The whole time Ms Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  Two thousand days.  Ms Chelsea Clinton graduated from college in less time.  I would think this should be a key issue in the run-up to the Presidential Election in 2016.

In their briefing earlier this month State said they have a candidate.  Almost 2000 days later.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Racial Preferences in Higher Ed


For John, BLUFIt isn't what you asked for, but it is what you get.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Daily Beast, where Writer Megan McArdle argues that in higher education racial quotas work against Asian-Americans.

We can hope she is wrong.

✈ ✈ ✈ ✈ ✈

My choice would be to add professors and cut administrative staff (to cut costs) while raising taxes (to cover additional costs), thus expanding college opportunities for all people.  And, bring in everyone for the first semester and let them sort themselves out at Christmas.  As I recall, that was the California way, fifty years ago.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Hitting The Snooze Button


For John, BLUFWhat is laziness?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

When you hesitate before hitting snooze on your alarm clock, are you being lazy?
Regards  —  Cliff

The Constant Fight for Privacy


For John, BLUFIf you want total security, you will have neither privacy nor security.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am glad I am not the only one using the Stasi reference.  Here comes the ¡No Pasaran! blog with "Obabush in his element in the heart of the Land of the Stasi".  The poster is Eric, who has been at this blogging for a while.

He is the spy who came in from the West, writes Arnaud Leparmentier in a column in which the Le Monde writer also reminisces about such things as JFK's speech to Berliners (1963) and Ronald Reagan's (1987), as well as Bill Clinton's many official visits to Germany when he was president (1990s).

Und who ish zhis shpy vrom de Vest zat ve are shpeakink apout?  Well, about the White House's current resident, aka "Obabush", and his trip to the land of the Stasi.  Indeed, this time (in contrast with his 2008 speech), Barack Obama's visit was held in the part of Berlin that was part of the former East Germany.

In the final analysis, the American president is in his element:  at the heart of the former communist dictatorship, which spied upon and filed reports on all its citizens with its sinister political police, the Stasi.  Shocking?  We will not let him off the hook, this president, a curious winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who refrained from closing Guantanamo, and whose spying on our emails, our phone conversations, and our Facebook accounts has just been discovered.  It was a promise, this Democrat was to break with George Bush.  Wake up.  At least for the present column, we will call him "Obabush."
We, as a nation, have been around this rock before:
  • The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1789.  These laws were designed to quiet criticism of the US President, at the time Mr John Adams.
  • The Espionage Act of 1917.  Amongst those convicted under this act was Mr Eurgene Debs, who had run against Woodrow Wilson in 1912.  Mr Debs was a socialist and was convicted for speaking out against WWI, the War to End All Wars.
  • The Church Committee in 1975, which exposed to the light of day the spying by the Federal Government, including the US Army, on US Citizens, and not just during the Nixon Administration.
  • Edward J Snowden and NSA.  This we know about.
Here is the deal.  Our right to privacy, Griswold v Connecticut notwithstanding, is being eroded.  If you think the right to privacy is just about being free to perform sexual acts out of the mainstream and to engage in acts to prevent unwanted pregnancies from any sexual acts, then you are just fine as things are—until police agencies become more prurient.

I want more.  I want to be able to think and write without worrying about the Government monitoring what I am up to.  I want to be able to oppose a war and oppose a new draft, without the fear of going to jail as did Eugene Debs.  I want to be safe to oppose things that I think are wrong, and not worry about some Government Agency keeping tabs on me, unlike the Rev Martin Luther King.

Up to this point I have felt comfortable, knowing that the government has been checking everyone's EMails and phone conversations (see ECHELON), believing I am hiding in plain site.  My thought has been that the information is so massive and I have no ties to Drug Cartels nor do I have contacts with Christian Identity Movement folks, so I will be passed over.  On the other hand, I am on a local Tea Party EMail list and I know my way around the so called religious right—I know there is a difference between Church of God, Cleveland, Tenn (Pentacostal), and Church of God, Anderson, Indiana (Holiness).  Worse, I am a Roman Catholic.

The present may be secure, but the future is uncertain.  IRS revelations are not comforting.  Nor are the ones about NSA and the Post Office comforting.

I don't expect folks are opening my EMails and listening to my cell phone calls this evening.  But, what about the future?  If the US Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act in 1789, and we are still using (making more use of) the Espionage Act of 1917, why won't the Congress, at Administration urging, do the same in the future, unless we the People make it plain that we don't want it?

As for the item in Le Monde, those French have a way with words.  I wonder what Emile Zola would make of the situation?

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Stasi is not about torture chambers as much as it is about collecting limitless amounts of information on people.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Voting Rights Act Decision from SCOTUS


For John, BLUFThinks may not change in Lowell, but beyond Connecticut things do change.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at Legal Insurection Professor William A Jacobson discusses the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act, with the title "Ignorant and Confused Reactions to SCOTUS Voting Rights Act Decision". He posted today, Tuesday, 25 June, at 12:46pm.  The discussion was with regard to the US Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder.

They cling bitterly to racial politics even though the decision was based on the Constitution and the change in society since 1965.

They certainly don’t understand the decision itself, and that discrimination as to voting rights still is illegal.  All the decision did was do away with a remedial anachronism based on outdated facts as to the South.

Or will the South always be guilty, but the Democrats not so much?

Here is SCOTUS Blog Editor Amy Howe, "We gave you a chance:  Today’s Shelby County decision in Plain English".

The Court did not invalidate the actual preclearance provision of the statute.  But it did something just as significant:  it struck down Section 4 of the Act, which contains the formula that is used to identify the state and local governments that have to comply with the preclearance requirements.
I'm with the majority on the Court.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, I am slow in posting this.
  Have I ever mentioned that US Attorney General Eric Holder is my biggest disappointment in the Administration.  He has the background, but not the follow through.  Biggest disappointment.

Markey Wins


For John, BLUFYou were right.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Congratulations to newly elected Junior Senator Ed Markey.

As a Republican I say thank you very much to Businessman Gabriel Gomez.  Thank you for running.  Stick around.

Regards  —  Cliff

NB:  Remember, articles in The [Lowell] Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.

Kitchen Fires


For John, BLUFIs self-sufficiency dead?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I do think that Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse is drifting Libertarian on us.

June 25, 2013

"Firefighters use lid to put out kitchen pot fire in Berkeley."

Of all the headlines I have ever read, that one most exemplifies the loss of individual know-how and the instinct for self-defense in the face of dependence on government.

Posted by Ann Althouse at 4:56 AM

It is Berkeley.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, the 25th of June


V O T E


PLEASE
 

Never Give An Inch


For John, BLUFSome folks are too stubborn.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A few days ago I blogged about the unartful way that Ms Chelsea Clinton talked about her Grandmother being pregnant before she was married.  And then went on to say how nice it would have been if Planned Parenthood had been there.  The casual observer might draw the conclusion that had Planned Parenthood been around Ms Clinton's Grandmother might have not gotten pregnant or perhaps might have had an abortion.  The end result might have been Quinn Bradlee making that speech.

Well, like all things, the comments spiraled down to the issue of "Life" vs "Choice".  I will state my position up front before I go on.  There is a Venn Diagram out there that says some 80% of Americans think abortion is wrong and some 80% think it should be available.  One might think that the American tradition of compromise might allow some sensible compromise position to grow out of that.  Compromise is the genius of the American system, and its Achilles Hell.

If we are asking the Life crowd to accept that some abortions make sense to many Americans, can we not expect that organizations such as Planned Parenthood should be willing to move past "we want to see a reduction in abortions" to the position of not performing abortions after—what, maybe 23 weeks, or 25 weeks.  At least not not unless it is the physical life of the Mother.  I don't like it, but it would be an American solution.  Action, not platitudes.

Instead we get a sometimes a great notion sort of stubbornness.  Never Give an Inch.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Not actually a word, but inarticulate didn't quite do it for me.
  Back in the old days there was the term PWOP—Pregnant Without Permission.
  Sally Quinn having become a US Senator, with the backing of her husband, Mr Ben Bradlee.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vote for G2


For John, BLUFThe big thing is to vote, no matter who you vote for.

Yes, I want each reader to get out on Tuesday and vote for Gabriel Gomez for US Senator from Massachusetts.  And take friends, neighbors and relatives with you.  Leave no man or woman behind.

He is our Hope for some Change down in DC.  Not that he can do it all himself, but he can be a big part of the change.

Things are, in the view of many, messed up in DC.  Let us give G2 a shot.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sen Warren vs Second Amendment (or Constitution)


For John, BLUFDog whistles abound.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From 0600 to 0900 I am the Duty AM Moderator for a national security online discussion group—460 of my closest friends.  In the background I have local Lowell Channel 8.  First is City Life and then Democracy Now.  When Amy Goodwin goes away I know my time is up.  Sometimes I let the TV run.  Last week I learned about the Superior General of the Divine Word Missionary Society, who is working in Cebu, Republic of the Philippines.

Today the 0900 segment was a Edward Markey rally at Hookslide Kelly's.  Is Hookslide's the place for Democrats to go?

At any rate, there was our senior senator, Elizabeth Warren, condemning Republican Candidate for Senate Gabriel Gomez for being against "Sensible Gun Control".  What is Ms Warren's mind is sensible gun control?


Well, it was just a bumper sticker comment.

Well, more interesting is, if Mr Gomez wins tomorrow, will Ms Warren greet him warmly or will she snub him?

Regards&nbps; —  Cliff

  What is the LTC cutoff for political programs for candidates vs election day?

Should Republicans Vote For Immigration Reform?


For John, BLUFCurrent immigration reform is a joke.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The answer to the Post Title Question, of course, is absolutely.  On the other hand, regarding the current bill, I am doubtful.

From Law Professor Glenn Reynolds (InstaPundit) we have this:

If “Amnesty” will make the GOP loved by Latinos where are the Latinos holding signs for Gabe Gomez?  He’s Latino and pro-Gang of 8, but not getting any love because the Latino vote is owned by the Democrats.  So why do the Republicans think they’ll win if they enlarge it?
Please note.  Immigration reform should not be about getting more votes, but about doing what is right, doing what reflects the good parts of our past and points to a better future.

Senator Marco Rubio is correct in saying that doing nothing is providing de facto amnesty.  We need to find a way to fix our border, help Mexico and other Latin American nations build economies that will keep people home, and provide a path to Citizenship for those who wish to become Americans, while providing a path home for those who are just economic migrants with strong ties back home.

One of the things in any bill should be a reciprocity clause that holds that when the home nation restricts or encumbers Americans in that nation, then those citizens will be so encumbered in the US.  For example, if there are restrictions on Americans owning property in Mexico, then Mexican immigrants should face similar restrictions in the US.  I would not impede the education of children in a tit-for-tat way, but otherwise I think it is fair and reasonable.

The worst thing about this current Immigration Reform bill is that it is very long and it is likely that amongst the 535 Congress Critters few really understand what they are voting for or against.  It is as though those 535 US men and women are voting on their emotions, rather than serious analysis.  Pitiful.  Feckless.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pulling Rank


For John, BLUFAll who served deserve our respect.  But, their vote isn't any bigger.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

There is a fine line between a retired officer's First Amendment rights and the abuse thereof.  Contemplating a missive from some 700 Special Operations personnel to the US Congress over the Benghazi Imbroglio, retired Army Colonel Robert Killebrew has penned an opinion piece for Armed Force Journal.  The title is "Rank partisanship:  Why retired officers shouldn’t lend their titles to political causes".

This is why I am always a little uncomfortable when, on City Life, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel George Anthes refers to be as Colonel, or "The Colonel".  Yes, I have a lot of experience I bring from my time in the military, as does Registrar of Deeds Dick Howe, Jr, or Democratic Operative Jack Mitchell or MIT Sloan School student and former Dog Robber for the Mayor, Greg Page.  The point is, while our experience may merit some deference, our rank does not.

Here are the first paragraphs from the article.  The article is free on line, so if you are interested, click the link and read all of it.

On April 8, a letter titled “The Benghazi attacks on 9/11/2012” and signed by “a representative group of some 700 retired Military Special Operations professionals” was sent to members of the House of Representatives.  The letter urged lawmakers to dig deeper into the militant attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“America failed to provide security to personnel deployed into harm’s way and then failed to respond when they were viciously attacked,” it said.

Whatever the facts are behind the Benghazi case, the signatures on this letter represent still another example of retired officers throwing their military ranks and influence into partisan politics. Sincerity is not an issue; doubtless, many of the signatories were genuinely troubled by the Benghazi tragedy.  But the more important question is whether the military’s self-policed “wall” between the military profession and partisan politics is being eroded, perhaps irreparably, by actions like the Benghazi letter and other recent episodes.

This article argues that the use of retired commissioned rank to influence partisan political issues is never proper, is injurious to the military services and is demeaning to the officers concerned.

“Use of military rank” is the key. This is not an issue of freedom of speech, but of propriety:  Is it ever proper for retired officers to use their rank to influence a partisan political issue?  Certainly, all American citizens have the right to speak their minds, and though retired officers retain their rank and are still subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, they have been traditionally afforded a different status from that of active members.  There is no question that retired officers have a right to speak out.  But in so doing, they threaten a long and vital American tradition that holds the military aloof from partisanship.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In the interest of full disclosure, Colonel Killebrew was a professor at the Army War College when I was there as a student.

The Limbaugh Theorem


For John, BLUFMr Obama wouldn't be the first such politician.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Somewhere out there in radio land is The Limbaugh Theorem.  This hasn't yet made it to the Wikipedia page on the The Rush Limbaugh Show. The Theorem is summed up here:

People do not associate Obama with his agenda, and that's because he's permanently campaigning.  He's running against his own agenda, by design, on purpose.  He's running against what's happening.  He makes people think that he doesn't like what's happening and he's trying to fix it when in fact everything that's happening is precisely because he wants it to and has made it happen.
Another was of putting it is to think of the role of what Mr Limbaugh calls the "Low-Information Voters".
I'm telling you, that's because low-information voters are in these polls, and they think that what's happening in the country has nothing to do with Obama.  Because he's out campaigning against things. He's perpetually campaigning. He's not seen as responsible for any of this.
This means there is a view out there that if only Obama knew about what is going on, he would set things right, but his subordinates are keeping the truth from him.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All Those Bike Lanes


For John, BLUF"Every solution breeds new problems"—Arthur Block.

At The International Herald Tribune is an article on the congestion problems in The Netherlands.

What keeps Mr Thomas Koorn, of Amsterdam’s Transport and Traffic Department, awake at night?

We have a real parking issue.
That would be bicycle parking.  The title of the article is "The Dutch Prize Their Pedal Power, but a Sea of Bikes Swamps Their Capital".

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Goodbye to All That


For John, BLUFA life terminated is a life never lived.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

It seems that Chelsea Clinton wishes she had never been born.

How else to interpret her remark about her maternal Grandmother:

From the stage at the recent Women Deliver conference, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea revealed that her much-admired maternal grandmother was the child of unwed teenage parents who “did not have access to services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide.”
The thing is we are all unique and if THAT sperm doesn't fertilize THAT egg, our moment on the stage never comes.  There are no substitutes.  No Hillary.  No Chelsea.  No President Bill Clinton.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

NB:  The title is from Poet and Soldier Robert Graves, in a different context.

Sam Colt to the Rescue


For John, BLUFWhen you pick up a gun you need to know what you are doing.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At the blog A Complementary Angle, blog master Rich Hailey takes on Ms Heidi Yewman, who is writing at Ms Magazine Blog about what it is like to be packing heat for 30 days.  The comments from Mr Hailey can be found here:  "Ms’ing the Mark; Heidi Yewman Fails Her Own Test".

It is said of Samuel Colt:

God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.
Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

By RICH HAILEY | June 21st, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Cut Them Loose


For John, BLUFTime for Puerto Rico to be independent.  Then they can decide about coming back in, as a state.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A news organization known as Latin American Press had the following news item on Puerto Rico, with a dateline of 20 June 2013.  The issue is the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States and the UN Decolonization Committee has issued a report.  It can be found here.

The unalienable right to sovereignty

The UN Decolonization Committee described the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States as a “subordinated” one.

In a resolution approved on June 17, the United Nations Decolonization Committee reaffirmed the unalienable rights of Puerto Rico to free self-determination and independence, ratifying it as a Latin American and Caribbean country “with a distinct and well-defined national identity”. In addition, the committee described the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States as a “subordinated” one.

The initiative put forth by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela referred the non-binding ballot carried out in Puerto Rico on Nov. 7, 2012 — the same date as the elections for the country´s new governor — in which the majority of voters rejected the country´s free association status with the United States, held since 1952, due to the inability of Puerto Ricans to vote in US presidential elections and lack of representation in Congress.

The always reliable Wikipedia tells us:
On 6 November 2012, a two question referendum took place, simultaneous with the general elections.  The first question asked voters whether they wanted to maintain the current status under the territorial clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The second question posed three alternate status options if the first question was approved: statehood, independence or free association.  For the first question, 54 percent voted against the current Commonwealth status, and in the second question, of those who responded, 61.1% favored statehood.  On December 11, 2012, Puerto Rico's Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to request to the President and the U.S. Congress action on the November 6, 2012 plebiscite results.  But on April 10, 2013, with the issue still being widely debated, the White House announced that it will seek $2.5 million to hold another referendum, this next one being the first Puerto Rican status referendum to be financed by the Federal government.
It has been my long-standing view that the current relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is wrong and needs to be changed.  While there are advantages to the United States of having Puerto Rico as a Commonwealth, as part of the United States, the fact is that the relationship does not conform with our Declaration of Independence.

It isn't like people haven't tried to fix this.  In 1936, US Senator Millard Tyding (D-MD) introduced legislation to grant independence to both the Philippines and Puerto Rico.  For the Philippines it past and the island nation became independent on 4 July 1946.  For Puerto Rico there was opposition from within the island and it did not pass.

So, we have a Senator Tydings, an attempt to assassinate President Truman, the November 2012 referendum and a President's Task Force on Puerto Rico.  Let us cut through the fog and just grant the nation independence.  Then, and only then, if they wish to become a state within the Union, invite them in.

Here is what I have advocated.  The US Congress should pass legislation putting Puerto Rico on a five year path to independence, decreasing US subsidies to the nation progressively over those five years.  At the end of five years, Puerto Rico is independent.  At that point, and only at that point, they may, if they wish, hold a referendum to join the United States as one of the several states, becoming the 51st.  The legislation—I would call it the Millard Tydings Memorial Puerto Rico Act (MTMPRA)—would allow for automatic acceptance of Puerto Rico as an English speaking state in the United States.  There would be no special deals, aside from what new Puerto Rican Congress members could gain through the pork barrel.  There would be no separate teams in the Olympics.  Just another state, like Montana, albeit smaller and warmer.

Guam, on the other hand, is a different case.  Guam is where America's day begins.  Guam is good.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There is a web site, but they would do well to hire Lynne Lupien to help them update and maintain it.  Heck, they would be money ahead to hire me.
  Actually, that was a little slight of hand.  I quoted from the Wikipedia article on Puerto Rico, but linked to the article on the November 2012 vote.

Males Take Another Hit


For John, BLUFThe statistics suggest we are disadvantaging our young males.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is a rant from the blog Zero Hedge, which Law Professor Glenn Reynolds (The Instapundit) linked to.  In fact, the Zero Hedge post was a lift from Mr Michael Snyder and The Economic Collapse blog.  It is a rant, but that doesn't mean there aren't facts of interest present.  The title is:

"32 Facts That Show How Men Are Being Systematically Emasculated In America Today"

Several of it items ring true to me and several of them raise interesting questions about how accurate our views of the current situation really are.

There is this at Item 9:

According to one very surprising study, "young, urban, childless women" make more money in America today than young, urban, childless men do.
Frankly, it is good to see women getting a fair wage, although the sociology of the disparity in the recent past is probably one of those political correctness areas that will not be explored for another 200 years.

Number 15 is one I have contributed to in the past.

Males account for approximately 70 percent of all Ds and Fs in U.S. public schools.
Back to my original source, Professor Reynolds, his comment was:
HEY, SOMEONE SHOULD WRITE A BOOK ON THIS
Notwithstanding some clowning around, there are some serious issues about how this society understands men and their roles in this society.  We are, it seems to me, way out on an ocean for which we have no charts.  Are we going to find new lands of wonder or are we just going to end up exploiting a new different group of people?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, June 21, 2013

Malarkey From Markey Supporters


For John, BLUFBeware the theory of "class conflict".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I was at Jiffy Lube, getting my oil changed, trying to concentrate on my Rosary, when an Ad from the Democratc Party blared out of the TV, decrying Gabriel Gomez as an "out of touch" rich guy.  I expect that Mr Gomez is richer than Representative Markey.  But, Mr Markey is in the millionaire region also.  He is definitely not like thee and me.

The Washington Post talks about Representative Markey here.  It reports that in 2010 he was worth $1.5 million, a 66% increase since 2004.  Did e make all that money while Mr Obama was President, or did he perhaps make a lot of that while "W" was President?

Here is an overview of all Congressional members, including Senators.  Here is a look at the top 57 members of Congress, who are among the wealthiest 1%.  This is by Reporters Gregory Korte and Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY, updated 16 November 2011.

That Democratic Party Political Advertisement was rubbish.  And, remember that the once and future Speaker of the House, Ms Nancy Pelosi, was at $35.2 million in 2011.  Sure, it is all Paul, but it is also Nancy's.

Regards  —  Cliff

"Embrace the Suck"


For John, BLUFDon't let the problems wear you down.

When a Navy Rear Admiral writes an appreciation for a Army Major killed in action, for her local newspaper, it suggests that Major made an impression.  In this case it is Read Admiral John F. Kirby, who is the U.S. Navy’s chief of information at the Pentagon.  While stationed at the Pentagon he worked with Army Major Jaimie Leonard.  On 8 June of this year she was killed by an Afghan Policeman.  Was he a Taliban soldier, who had infiltrated the Afghan Police, or was he just an Afghan Policeman who saw gunfire as the way to settle an argument?  We don't know.  The Straits Times has this story.

For me, the story in the Warwick [New York} Advertiser contains the important point.  Major Jaimie Leonard was a person with a positive attitude and who could communicate that positive attitude to others.  This article reveals the little known and much hidden secret that leadership—real leadership—is not just top down, but also bottom up and lateral.

The second point in the story is the importance of an attitude of "embrace the suck".  It is all part of life.  NPR explains it all, here.

This blog posts references a 20 June 2013 article, so this is current.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mayor Blomberg Bombs


For John, BLUFGun control nuts.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A local Lowell friend sent along this comment in an EMail:

Bloomberg’s Gun Control Rally Names Boston Bomber as Victim of Gun Violence

At a June 18 gun control rally in New Hampshire sponsored by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, the name of Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was read aloud as a recent victim of gun violence.

Throughout the rally, organizers read a list of names of people who had been killed with guns since the Dec. 14 shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

When they read Tsarnaev’s name, pro-gun supporters who were at the rally to counter Bloomberg’s group began shouting, “He’s a terrorist,” according to a report by Tim Buckland of the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

So, I went to the New Hampshire Union Leader.  Sure enough, Reporter Tim Buckland wrote about this, Apology issued for naming of Boston bomber as a victim of gun violence at Concord rally.

On the other hand, if "gun control" means the police on the beat don't carry guns, amybe this makes some kind of sense.  Does "gun control" mean the beat cops don't carry guns?  Are there any "gun control" advocates out there who can help us out on this?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Technical Approach to Nuclear Power


For John, BLUFSafe nuclear power is possible.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

International Herald Tribune
From the 13 June issue of The New Yorker we have the article "A New Way to Do Nuclear", by Interviewer Gareth Cook.  The thrust of the short piece is that there may be a way to have safe nuclear power.  The sub-point is that even current nuclear power may be safer than coal and natural gas.
When nuclear power plants fail, they do so dramatically.  Coal and natural gas, through air pollution, kill many more people every year, but the effects are diffuse.  One recent paper estimated that nuclear power has prevented 1.84 million air-pollution-related deaths globally.  Nobody died at Three Mile Island.
So, The New Yorker has realized that going green is complex.  Further, if the elevators are to operate in the building housing The New Yorker we are going to need electric power.  It is time to think about where we are going to get that power, given that solar and wind are not doing the job and water has its own environmental burdens.  (Well, if the late Teddy Kennedy is to be believed, so does wind, obstructing the view of the beautiful people.)

Two MIT Students, now Dr Leslie Dewan and PhD Candidate Mark Massie, came up with the idea of having a "molten salt" nuclear reactor, thus obviating the need for some of the current machinery, which could cause mechanical problems for a nuclear reactor.  Details can be found at the article—you wouldn't want me to test the edge of copyright, would you?  The Pair, Ms Dewan and Mr Massie, have formed a startup, Transatomic Power.

They are a startup and going through the throws of moving from idea to market.  The article summed up the problem with the phrase "valley of death":

In many industries, companies trying to do something hard face what investors call the “valley of death”: that long, financially barren stretch between proving a concept with a bit of seed money and taking the first commercial steps.
I wish Transatomic Power the very best of luck.  We will be needing the extra power they can supply fairly soon.

Regards  —  Cliff

High Stakes [Education] Testing


For John, BLUFWhat do high stakes educational tests really tell us?

I am not all that keen on long exams.  I think they are not good at judging the examinee.  I have taken the GRE several times and always did well, notwithstanding a 2.78 GPA, which put me in the bottom half of my class.

I took the LSAT in competition with my youngest Son, and beat him.  I am not sure that, of and in itself is a good thing, parenting wise, but I was trying to get him to explore that option.  He is now a Government Lawyer.  Maybe I made a big mistake.

I think this link provides an example of the extreme pressure generated by such tests, in this case a parent making a big mistake test wise.  She sneaks into a test disguised as her 19 year old daughter.  Good on her for being able to get in looking so young.  However, the story should also raises questions about high stakes testing.  The headline:

French woman accused of disguising herself as daughter to sit exam
Police question 52-year-old who reportedly sneaked into Paris exam centre to sit three-hour English Baccalauréat test
Mind you, I think such tests are very important.  How else well we know how well the school system (and, frankly, the parents) are doing in educating our youth?

The point is that such "high stakes tests" should not be used to put barriers in the way of students who wish to go on.  That is the "European" way and it ends up limiting the late bloomers and that is bad.

Regards  —  Cliff

President on Parochial Schools?


For John, BLUFCarelessness is bad in politics.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

"OBAMA CALLS FOR END TO MADRASSAS IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES ...NO, WAIT"

I got the link above from The International Herald Tribune.  The link my wife sent me was from BIZPAC Review, here.

“If towns remain divided,” said the U.S. President, “if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation.”
So, does the President feel the same way about Catholic Schools in the US?  What about home schooling?  What about charter schools?

Was this a talking point given to the President by Her Majesty's Government?  Was this something put into the President's speech by someone in his office, pushing some domestic agenda, rather than a foreign policy agenda?  The possibilities are interesting.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some Rules For Aiding Revolutions


For John, BLUFDon't do Syria.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Historian Edward Luttwak published an article on 17 June at the Foreign Policy blog site.  It is timely, "5 Rules for Arming Rebels".  His assertion is "Before going to war in Syria, the Obama administration should heed the lessons of history."

Rule 1:  Figure out who your friends are.

Rule 2:  Be prepared to do all the work [don't count on allies].

Rule 3:  Don't give away anything that you would want to have back.

Rule 4:  Do not invite an equal and opposite response by another great power.

Rule 5:  Lay some ground rules for the endgame.

The nuances are in the article, but the points are important.

And, this just in, per Reporter Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg.  "Pentagon Shoots Down Kerry’s Syria Airstrike Plan".  Two decades ago then US UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright famously ask Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Flash-forward to this past Wednesday.  At a principals meeting in the White House situation room, Secretary of State John Kerry began arguing, vociferously, for immediate U.S. airstrikes against airfields under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime—specifically, those fields it has used to launch chemical weapons raids against rebel forces.

It was at this point that the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the usually mild-mannered Army General Martin Dempsey, spoke up, loudly.  According to several sources, Dempsey threw a series of brushback pitches at Kerry, demanding to know just exactly what the post-strike plan would be and pointing out that the State Department didn’t fully grasp the complexity of such an operation.

Say it ain't so, Joe!

Our former Senior Senator here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that one time anti-war candidate for the seat that Ms Niki Tsongas now holds, wasn't advocating that we commit acts of war against Syria, was he?

He was.

Back to the five rules from Eddie Luttwak.

Regards  —  Cliff

Hunger Strikes at GITMO Prison


For John, BLUFGITMO has to go.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Listening to Democracy Now I am hearing a Professor George Annas and I find him to be an arrogant and class conscious pedant.  He was talking on the force feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo.

He looked down on certain members of the medical profession, including nurses.  He questioned whether those other than medical doctors could hold the same high ethical standards as doctors.  His argument was that they are not empowered by the Hypocratic Oath.  In the interest of full disclosure, my late Mother was a Registered Nurse and one of the most ethical people I have known.

Oh, and news reader Amy Goodman referred to The [Manchester] Guardian as being "The Guardian of London.

By the way, this is the same program I heard yesterday, on the same LTC channel, in the same time slot.

As for the prison at GITMO, I am of the opinion that the prisoners should be, to the extent possible, released back to their own nations and the rest should be moved to the United States as Prisoners of War—not that they merit such status, but it would be good foreign policy to grant them that status.

As for hunger strikes, we have to decide if we are going to put up with it and what it is going to cost us.  The hunger strike is a very powerful tool, as prisoner Bobby Sands demonstrated at Long Kesh back in 1981.  This was a situation where the Provisional IRA scored a major propaganda coup against the British Government.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Maybe he isn't old enough to remember the Fee Splitting scandal of the 1950s.
  The powerful magic of the oath only applies to medical doctors, apparently.

Picking a Restaurant


For John, BLUFSending our military overseas results in broader options for dining at home.

When we send our military forces overseas in large numbers they tend to pick up some of the local culture and bring it back home to the United States.  When I was down in Northern Virginia last week, in a Haymarket (Prince William County) shopping mall I found this restaurant, "K Kabob":

As you can see in this closeup, this is Kabul Kabob, as in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Traveling overseas is broadening of one's outlook, perspective.  Not an excuse for foreign military adventures, but a consequence thereof.

Regards  —  Cliff

Long History of Domestic Surveillance


For John, BLUFAs you note, the Government has been spying on us for a while.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Volokh Conspiracy takes us back to the Bush Administration and 2004 and "domestic spying".  The title is "Did the Definition of “Pen Registers” Lead to the Goldsmith/Comey Threat to Resign in 2004?"  As Qoheleth says, "Nothing is new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes, 1:9)

Leakers help the US Congress understand what is going on and what questions to ask during hearings.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where is the Street Car Heading?


For John, BLUFWe don't really know where President Obama is leading us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at Pajamas Media Mr Ed Driscoll has a piece titled The Bonfire of the Journalistic Vanities.  For me this is the bottom line (and for Mr Driscoll):

And that’s the problem:  to reveal who Obama is and what his agenda is, would be to a shine a light on the goals of what passes for “liberalism” and “progressivism” in the second decade of the 21st century.  And no MSM journalist wants to be accused of telling the American public what those truly are.
Where are progressives progressing to?

Regards  —  Cliff

Critique of US Foreign Policy


For John, BLUF"Nasr offers the zero-sum, realpolitik focal point of great power competition with China as the “bedrock” that should shape US grand strategy in the Middle East."

A book review from Small Wars Journal, The Dispensable Nation:  American Forward Policy in Retreat.

Vali Nasr’s book, The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, is a dark offering.  Nasr is clearly disillusioned with the process and results of America’s foreign policy in recent years, asking “why, despite our overwhelming power and potential, our influence is diminishing.  The answer lies in how we exercise our power and how we see our role in the world.”  In crafting this answer, Nasr’s book ranges well beyond the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue (on which he was the senior advisor to U.S. Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, from 2009 to 2011) in an attempt to reestablish the foundational logic of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.

Nasr pulls no punches in stating his case.  “We have abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan to instability, pushed Pakistan away, destabilized but not ‘denuclearized’ Iran, let down countries of the Arab Spring, and still managed to also alienate authoritarian allies in the Persian Gulf.”  Nasr’s goal is much larger than his criticized interpretation of events and actors in Afghanistan and alleged hagiography of Richard Holbrooke.  He wants the US to do more in what he sees as “the single most important region of the world.”  We should have done more in Iraq, we must do more in Afghanistan, and we should do more in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, and the Gulf.  Nasr’s activist bent does not follow the neoconservative or liberal interventionist logics that have driven America’s recent military adventures.  His argument rests on a classical realist foundation: the coming great power reckoning between the US and China.  “The Middle East will be at the center of that clash when it happens,” he warns (emphasis added).

There are links embedded at the original.

Having just read the review and not yet the book, I would assert that we need to really shift a lot of focus to the South, toward Mexico and nations further South.  Otherwise we will find a lot of problems boiling up down there.

Just one more book that needs to be read to understand what is going on.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr Goldman Doesn't Do Analysis


For John, BLUFThe Sun's Mr Goldman is a blowhard.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I suspect I use the term "Hack" too little in describing some of those engaged in politics.  My computer dictionary says;

a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work: [ as modifier ] : a hack scriptwriter.
• a person who does dull routine work.
But, once in a while Mr Michael Goldman's column in the Sunday edition of The [Lowell] Sun makes we think that he is a Democratic operative, vice a columnist, and a hack.  This last Sunday was an example.

Mr Goldman starts out by slamming Senate Candidate Gabriel Gomez for saying that our Commonwealth "doesn't need limits on the availability and size of ammo clips".  A whole lot of angst and no analysis.  Where are his facts?  He has none.  So much for that.

Then Mr Goldman jumps on the Patriot Act and those who voted for it.  Remember, it passed the House of Representatives by 357 to 66 (423 votes out of 435 possible).  It passed the US Senate, 98 to 1.  So, while Mr Goldman may think they "voted in a panic", it was a very large number of them.  On the other hand, Mr Goldman would appear to be clueless if he thinks reading other peoples' mail hasn't been going on for a long time, notwithstanding US Secretary of State Henry L Stimson stating "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail."  This was about withdrawing Department of State money from funding of the US Black Chamber operation.  In a way, the Patriot Act is a continuation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), introduced in 1977 by Senator Edward Kennedy and cosponsored by Senators Birch Bayh, James O. Eastland, Jake Garn, Walter Huddleston, Daniel Inouye, Charles Mathias, John L. McClellan, Gaylord Nelson, and Strom Thurmond.

There is something about Rutgers University, which is a New Jersey issue, but it was a chance to take a swipe at Governor Christie.  Swipe away.

Then Mr Goldman is on to racism.  The problem is again a lack of asking the second and third level questions.  Yes, it is a bad thing that police are arresting Black people in Brooklyn and Manhattan ten times as often for marijuana possession than they are white people Caucasians.  What are the odds that if you sliced the statistics another way it would be a class issue rather than a race issue?  There are problems that need to be fixed, but if we focus on the wrong aspects we will not fix those problems and perhaps make them worse.  Thanks for not helping us here, Mr Goldman.

Then there is Mr Goldman's putdown of candidate Gabriel Gomez and his polling numbers.  I figure he is correct to call into question the polling by Republicans.  On the other hand, I am finding folks who are interested in Gomez bumper stickers and lawn signs.  Not everyone is happy with Mr Markey as a candidate.  Damon Runyon would tell us that Mr Markey is the way to bet.  The disruptive thinkers out there are always looking for a way to shake up the market.  Mr Goldman wants things to continue the way they are going, no matter the fact that they are not going well.  Good luck to you Mr Gomez.

As for the idea that a member of the General Court might ask for reports seems beyond belief to Mr Goldman.  One suspects he just doesn't want his fellow hacks to be disturbed by providing information on what is going on.

Then there is the praise of Representative Niki Tsongas.  The point about "patent trolls" is good, although it should have asked why she was not also doing something about our Mickey Mouse copyright laws.  Is the absence some sort of deference to Editor Jim Campanini or some other entity?

But, the issue that I think is also a sign of an inability to do analysis is his comment about Ms Tsongas and the issue of sexual assaults in the military.  Mr Goldman makes no mention of the fact that more military men report being sexually assaulted or harassed than military women in our uniformed members.  He doesn't answer the interesting question of if he thinks his daughter would be safer from sexual harassment or sexual assault away in some college environment than she would be in the US military.  The military does need to change, but the fact is that, like with race relations, the military will be in the forefront in changing how the nation deals with these problems.  This paragraph is just a way of throwing praise at Ms Tsongas, not a serious comment on the issues involved.

As for his comment on the trial of Mr James "Whitey" Bulger, he is right on the mark.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This was a reaction to the revelations of the Church Committee findings based upon an examination of the Nixon era, although the more cynical might suggest that President Nixon was just the end of a line that passed back through LBJ to, who?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who Are The Syrian Rebels?


For John, BLUFIt's your tax money.  Do you like what Washington is doing with it?

NPR has an Internet post up on the Syrian Rebels, "5 Things To Know About Syria's Rebels", by NPR International Editor Greg Myre.  These would be the people we are arming.  The announcement was made this Friday last by Mr Benjamin J. Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.

Scary quote, from Mr Joseph Holliday, of The Institute for the Study of War, Washington, DC.

But, he warned, "the longer this goes on, the more likely extremist elements will come out ahead. That's just the nature of these wars."
By "extremist elements" he means, I assume, those who want Sharia as the law of the land and the eventual reconstitution of the Caliphate.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, that does seem like a relatively low level official for such an important announcement.

The Lowell Shallot?


For John, BLUFI have nothing to say.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Lowell Shallot is back?

Let the guessing resume.

And thanks to Mr Jack Mitchell, at Left in Lowell for alerting us.

Lowell Shallot is here.  Just not posting frequently.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What Are We Doing Vis-a-Via Syria?


For John, BLUFDo you have any money invested in Syria?  WHy should you care?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

There are two interesting aspects to President Obama's decision to provide small arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels, three actually.  Per this article from the International Herald Tribune the decision was not lightly taken, and when taken was because of serious pressure on the White House to do so (and also to not do so).

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning in Mr. Obama’s State Department, said her onetime boss so clearly wanted to be a domestic president and yet could not remain at a distance from the Syria conflict because it could set the Middle East in flames. Already, she noted, it has helped destabilize Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey and flooded refugees into Jordan.
This paragraph reminds one of the fact that the 911 attack reoriented President George W Bush from Domestic Attention and attention to issues with Mexico and Latin America to issues on the other side of the globe.  The United States needed a President with a Western Hemisphere orientation, but it was all lost early in the Administration.

Then there is the question of why exactly we are sticking our toe into these waters.  That is best summed up by Professor Zbigniew Brzezinski:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said he was “baffled” by Mr. Obama’s decision to become more deeply involved. “What exactly is our objective?” he asked. “It’s not clear to me that every nondemocratic government in the world has to be removed by force.”

The Syria war is a struggle for power, not democracy, he said. “Is that something we should be engaged in?”

The third issue is that of Hezbollah, the Lebanon based Shia group that uses terrorism as its tool for advancing its agenda.  Perhaps one should say agendas, since it has one with regard to Israel and another with regard to Lebanon, and now one with regard to Syria, in concert with Iran.  To what degree do we wish to engage Hezbollah?

Going back to Porfessor Brzezinski, "What exactly is our objective?"  That is the key question.  How would you answer that?

  
pollcode.com free polls 

As one of my friends noted:

The Administration is trying to be half-pregnant, while the Iranians are all in.  The stakes are huge.  We'll see how this works out.
Regards  —  Cliff

  Policy Planning is the State Department think tank.  It was as Director of Policy Planning that George Kennan developed the Cold War "Containment Strategy", for made public as an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in an article by "Mr X".  Now Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter held an important position in our national security apparatus.  Ms Slaughter is also famous for her Summer 2012 article in The Atlantic, titled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All".

Friday, June 14, 2013

Unintended Consequences—NSA Style


For John, BLUFIt's not the first order consequences one has to worry about, but the second and third order impacts.

From The Huffington Post is a report on a Sun Sentinel article—"Bank Robbery Suspect Terrance Brown Wants NSA Phone Records For His Defense".  Here is a summary of the situation and the question:

At present, the federal government argues that our phone metadata is necessary for the fight against terrorism.  Now, an accused man wants to use them in his defense, as the FBI has been unable to locate his pre-2010 phone records.  Will metadata in NSA's possession be made available to the public?
Oh, and for those of you who wondered if the actions of Mr Edward Snowden would impact the ability of his former employer, Booz, Allen, Hamilton (aka BAH, Booz), to garner new contracts, we have this, from NextGov.com, dated 13 June 2013.  Special Ops Command Extends Booz Allen's IT Management Deal, by Mr Bob Brewin.

The folks in the Special Operations Command's contracting shop evidently have no intention of letting the largest leak of top secret intelligence in history keep it from extending a contract with Booz Allen Hamilton, the employer of the now on-the-lam leaker, Edward Snowden, to help run its global information technology network.

In July 2011, SOCOM awarded Booz Allen (along with six other contractors) a $62.5 million deal to provide it with “enterprisewide application management services to manage USSOCOM's global enterprise IT computing environment.”

Regards  —  Cliff

The Case Against NSA


For John, BLUFIt isn't just Democrats.  People of all stripes.

The case against the NSA is:  Lois Lerner and others of her ilk.

I like the word "ilk".

OpEd by George F Will, in the Wash Post.

Regards  —  Cliff

A View on Freedom vs Metadata


For John, BLUFFreedom vs Security.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a very good summation of the argument about NSA, Metadata and PRISM, from my point of view.  At the Kings of War blog, Mr Jack McDonald says "It’s the violence, stupid."  He is a Brit, writing as a Brit, but the fact is that our Government, and our approach to the relationship of the Citizen and his or her Government, comes from that British background.  Here is the lede:

There are many different angles to the NSA/PRISM story.  There’s the nitty-gritty points of law, the bits of the story that don’t add up and the inevitable stonewalling from sections of the security apparatus that don’t want to talk about metadata collection that most commentators consider to be a pretty big deal.  Still, most of the debate is framed in the “Don’t snoop on me”/”A government’s gotta do what a government’s gotta do (to protect you)” dichotomy.
The thing is, metadata analysis leads to people being arrested or killed.  That is the purpose of metadata analysis.  It is to find those individuals and groups the Government believes are a problem to its Citizens and to its own existence.  Metadata analysis is not perfect—it doesn't catch all the possible bad guys.  Metadata analysis can sweep up the innocence with the guilty.  Metadata analysis can be used to control, suppress and manipulate the citizens of a nation.  We are looking for the proper tradeoff.

Here is the last paragraph of the blog post and last caveat:

I put emphasis on ‘potential’ because a) this is a theoretical argument in many respects (given the lack of firm facts) and b) because at current, I’m not too worried about the UK government oppressing large sections of the population, or going after suspected domestic terrorists Baghdad-style.  Furthermore, I think that painting the government in the worst possible light, and ascribing government bureaucrats dubious motives pointlessly blurs the argument.  I’m not worried about the UK government now, but I don’t know what the government will be like in 30-40 years.  I have a good idea, and I suspect that it will continue to amble along like the UK parliamentary system tends to do, but I don’t know. The same goes for the American government.  We can paint them in the worst possible light, but they’re still not quite as bad as, say, China or Russia, who openly coerce sections of the population that disagree with them.  Regardless, I don’t want states (including mine) accumulating metadata, since that might change in future.  Even if any access to metadata databases owned by the government are ‘black boxes’ which can only be accessed by court order, their very existence in government hands represents a latent threat to the population, which remains unrealised only for as long as governments adhere to the rule of law.  Or, more likely, until they pass more laws to enable easier access.

Of course, there’s the valid point that the government has less access to this stuff than the plethora of private companies that do, but the last time I checked, Google didn’t have a paramilitary wing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Accounting

Someone was commenting on the US Congress looking at a bill to require DoD to compare the costs of Active and Reserve forces and gave us this old saw:
And of course we all know that the difference between a good accountant and a great accountant:
When a good accountant is asked "how much is two plus two" the response is "four of course".  The great accountant when asked the same question (how much is two plus two), responds with "What would you like it to be ?"
Regards  —  Cliff

Men in Skirts


For John, BLUFClever protests can work.

From Forbes we have a follow-up article on "Men In Skirts:  Swedish Train Workers Ditch Pants In Heat Wave", with a picture.  This was a protest movement and when it turned out the Swedish People weren't upset by the men in skirts, the transit company being protested, Arriva, folded like fresh laundry and at the same time temperatures in Sweden fell (CAGW).

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Its About the Data, Not the Computer


For John, BLUFWith enough PostIt notes you can analyze anything.

On the 9th of June this item—Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere—appeared at the blog of Associate Professor in Sociology (Duke) Kieran Healy.  The point of the paper is that with just a little bit of work (in this case, the work of David Hackett Fischer of Brandeis University) one can isolate the trouble makers, in this case, Paul Revere.

Metadata isn't just about cell phones and the internet.  As this paper points out, data is data, even if it is 1775.

I admit that, in addition to the possibilities for finding something interesting, there may also be the prospect of discovering suggestive but ultimately incorrect or misleading patterns.  But I feel this problem would surely be greatly ameliorated by more and better metadata.  At the present time, alas, the technology required to automatically collect the required information is beyond our capacity.  But I say again, if a mere scribe such as I—one who knows nearly nothing—can use the very simplest of these methods to pick the name of a traitor like Paul Revere from those of two hundred and fifty four other men, using nothing but a list of memberships and a portable calculating engine, then just think what weapons we might wield in the defense of liberty one or two centuries from now.
You don't need computers, you just need the data.  Just ask the Stasi.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Keeps Us Safe


For John, BLUFThere are no security guarantees.

As we all know, PRISM is the NSA (No Such Agency) program for gathering and sorting METADATA about our cell phone calls, and all our other communications.

Connected to the previous post, about the EU challenging Mr Holder regarding US intelligence gathering from citizen communications, is this blog post from Kings of War blog.  The title is "Prism and the making of our idiocracy" and the author is Rob Dover.  The publication date is 10 June 2013.  Here is the lede:

This is not the time for cliché or sound bite, but to paraphrase Tony Blair, I feel the hand of history (or the all-seeing electronic eye) just to the right of this keyboard.  And your keyboard actually.  And your webcam.  Oh, and your telephone.  Indeed, if your toaster has acquired the ability to engage in two-way communications, the all-seeing electronic eye probably knows how you like your toast.  And your crumpets.  It has probably told its all-seeing master (or mistress). And they have made a micro-judgment about the fact that your toast is underdone (an unsound choice unless matched with slightly underdone bacon) and that your crumpets are ever so slightly rubbery.
So, right now we are being surveilled to a faretheewell.  It will not guarantee us safety from terrorists or anarchists.  For example, the Boston Marathon Bombing.

So, is there a solution?  There is no utopia out there, but I believe Professor Dover wraps up with good advice.

Well, nothing will change.  So forget any notion that this seismic event will generate change. It will generate a lot of political hot air, and a lot of protests.  But no-one will dare challenge the myth of absolute security, and it is on that premise that the whole system sits.

Security is created by economic growth, and the access to the benefits of and means by which economies grow. There will always be those who want a fight. No matter how good life is.  We should pay these people negative attention.  But we won’t need to worry about the mass of population if we know that there is an absence of grievance.  And economic growth cures most grievances.  Just as in COIN, the aim should be to reduce the fighting core to the smallest number, not to label the largest number of people as combatants.  The best thing the politicians of the US, UK and the rest of Europe could do in response to this crisis is get their economies motoring again.

Leave the toasters to do their business in peace….

Let us not put our faith in an all seeing, all knowing domestic intelligence surveillance state.  In that direction is a loss of freedom.  Rather, let us spread prosperity across the fruited plain and around the world.  That will greatly reduce the number of disaffected men and women and create a vast net of people who wish to save what they have.

Regards  —  Cliff

Poor Mr Holder


For John, BLUFThe EU equivalent of the US Attorney General wants answers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In yesterday's International Herald Tribune is an article, " E.U. Official Pushes U.S. to Explain Its Surveillance, about Dr Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, sending a letter to Mr Eric Holder, our Federal Attorney General.  In the letter, as described by reporter James Kanter, Ms Reding poses nine questions and asks for serious answers.  Here is the first part of the longish article:

BRUSSELS — Amid a growing outcry over American snooping on foreigners that threatens to cloud European-U.S. trade talks and President Barack Obama’s visit to Berlin, the European Union’s top justice official has demanded in unusually sharp terms that the United States reveal what its intelligence is doing with personal information of Europeans gathered under the Prism surveillance program revealed last week.

Viviane Reding, the Union’s combative commissioner of justice, told Attorney General Eric Holder in a letter sent on Monday evening that individual citizens of European countries had the right to know whether their personal information had been part of intelligence gathering “on a large scale.”

In the letter, seen Tuesday by the International Herald Tribune, she also asked what avenues were available to Europeans to find out whether they had been spied on, and whether they would be treated similarly to U.S. citizens in such cases.

“Given the gravity of the situation and the serious concerns expressed in public opinion on this side of the Atlantic, you will understand that I will expect swift and concrete answers,” Mrs. Reding wrote.

Speaking for a continent where snooping carries ghastly echoes of fascist or communist regimes, Mrs. Reding challenged Mr. Holder to answer a list of detailed questions by Friday, when they are expected to speak face-to-face in Dublin at a ministerial meeting scheduled before the Prism spy operation came to light.

One might well ask what cudgel the EU has to bring Mr Holder to actively respond.  The answer is trade agreements.  That and President Obama's upcoming trip to Europe.
In Berlin, where Mr. Obama will speak next week before the Brandenburg Gate, privacy is a highly sensitive political issue and the Prism revelations have stirred a furor.

“You can be sure that this will be one of the things the chancellor addresses when President Obama is in Germany,” said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Angela Merkel, who grew up in the former Communist East.

Germany’s interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, said his ministry wants to establish whether any Germans’ right to privacy had been infringed and is preparing a “catalog of questions” for its American counterparts.

The views of the Europeans will not likely influence decisions of the US Administration and the US Congress, although jurists such as former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall have urged US Courts to consider the views of judiciaries overseas.  But, it will complicate diplomacy and international trade.

Regards  —  Cliff

  A Doctorate from the Sorbonne, in human science.  Her career before going into politics was journalism.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Being Safe / Not Being Abused


For John, BLUFDo you trust the Federal Government to not abuse its power too much?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at USA Today Law Professor (and Blogger—InstaPundit) Glenn Reynolds gives us his view that "The common thread running through his [President Obama's] scandals is an abuse of power."

Key paragraph

The justification for giving the government a lot of snooping power hangs on two key arguments:  That snooping will make us safer and that the snooping power won't be abused.
Is this just "The Chicago Way" playing out at the National level?

I hope not.

Regards  —  Cliff