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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Holding Officials Accountable

Over at Gerry Nutter's Blog there is a comment about Left in Lowell and other blogs not taking the City Council to task re having the negotiations over City Manager Bernie Lynch's contract in Executive Session.  A contrast with Bloggers and Greater Lowell Technical High School came up in the blog post.

I am not sure my esteemed colleague, Mr Nutter, gets it exactly right.  The Greater Lowell Technical High School negotiations re Ms Santoro were in Executive Session, as they should be.  But, the videos of the candidate interviews have not been released.  Further to that, the view of some, to include some in Move Lowell Forward, is that perhaps the best person was not picked for the job of GLTHS Superintendent.  That is now water over the dam—but it would be nice, polite, perhaps even in conformance with the spirit of our Commonwealth's Open Meeting Law, if the video of the interviews were released.

The fact is, the whole process at GLTHS had some appearance of the decisions having been taken before the interviews.  Perhaps not, but the fact is, the process didn't convey that full and open appearance that some of us would like to see.  And in saying that, I would like to note that I think of Dave Laferriere as being a fair person.  Not real open in terms of the GLTHS School Committee, but a very fair person.  On a side note, I was happy to note that the GLTHS updated its web page for the School Committee.

As for the Lowell City Manager issue, the negotiations should be in executive session.  That said, I will be looking forward to the release of the minutes, which is part of the new Open Meeting law as of 1 July 2010.  That is where the mining of information will take place.  That is unless someone leaks information, which I have never found edifying.  Fun, but not edifying and not helpful to the cause of good government.

Now, I will say that I am currently in a conflict of interest position WRT the Lowell City Manager.  Professor Lynch is teaching the course I am taking—"State and Local Government"—through the UMass Lowell Continuing Education Program.  And an interesting course it is, to include interesting classmates.  Note that if you are 60 or so the course, any classroom course, is only $30 plus books.

But, that said, here is one of the complaints on Mr Nutter's blog:
Yet after 3 days nothing, no one is clamoring for the Council or Manager to negotiate in public, including me. It got me to recall George Anthes on City Life saying that Bloggers give Bernie Lynch a break and don’t criticize him. It made me step back and take a look as to why he doesn’t seem to get criticized as much as some elected Officials do.
I know George Anthes and this is a constant criticism—well, for the first fifteen to thirty minutes of the show.  Mr Lynch does get less criticism, but then he is doing less to openly annoy the citizens and the bloggers.  Not that GLTHS isn't a fine institution, but it is a public institution and the School Board and the Administration have grown comfortable operating out of the sun light.  Part of their responsibility to the public is to operate in the sunshine.

But, back to the Lowell City Manager and UMass Lowell.  For my class project, Casinos, I contact the full delegation, via EMail.  From our Senator I got an immediate automated out-of-office response.  Soon thereafter I got an EMail from my own Rep, Mr David Nangle, with two attachments, which were megabyte sized electronic copies of outside reports to the General Court.  Rep Tom Golden called me and talked to me and when we were cut off he called back to finish up.  Rep Kevin Murphy sent me a very short EMail response to my two questions:  1) Yes, 2) No.  That was it.  Sufficient and not something to jam my electronic incoming mail.

I would encourage all to reach out to elected and appointed government officials.  I use Hanks Street (North/South street approaching the East side of Fort Hill Park).  The other day, after a couple of weeks of enduring a couple of potholes on Hanks Street, I call DPW and a very nice lady took all my information and in less than a week the potholes, and several others in the area, were filled.  But, a couple of days after calling I talked to one of the more highly placed people in Lowell Government about the two potholes.  It was a day later I noticed them filled.  So, I asked Professor Lynch (academic situation) if the fill was in line with procedure or if my talking to someone motivated the fill.  The Professor said that my story seemed to indicate a longer than normal time to get the potholes filled.

QUESTION:  Why didn't anyone on Hanks Street call in about the potholes?

It seems to me that Government works best when the citizenry is involved and the Government is open to that participation.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 30, 2010

There is Some Relatively Good News Out There

From the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) we have this press release:
Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010, (that is, from the first quarter to the second quarter), according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  In the first quarter, real GDP increased 3.7 percent.
Now, if consumers will spend and show confidence, manufacturers and retailers will begin hiring again.

These little reports are available to all Citizens and you can sign up here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CBO on the Federal Debt

Here is the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) talking about Federal Debt.

Here is the beginning of the Blog Post by Mr Elmendorf:
Federal Debt and the Risk of a Financial Crisis

In fiscal crises in a number of countries around the world, investors have lost confidence in governments’ abilities to manage their budgets, and those governments have lost their ability to borrow at affordable rates.  With U.S. government debt already at a level that is high by historical standards, and the prospect that, under current policies, federal debt would continue to grow, it is possible that interest rates might rise gradually as investors’ confidence in the U.S. government’s finances declined, giving legislators sufficient time to make policy choices that could avert a crisis.  It is also possible, however, that investors would lose confidence abruptly and interest rates on government debt would rise sharply, as evidenced by the experiences of other countries.

Unfortunately, there is no way to predict with any confidence whether and when such a crisis might occur in the United States.
Then follows the link to the CBO report.

Someone once told me that the CBO has a hard time projecting out more than five years in the area of debt and its impact upon the economy.

If you like this report, you should consider creating a bookmark for the CBO Director's blog—and paying your taxes to support him.  It is not like he is paid like he was the City Manager of Bell, California.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome Back!

This is not actualy new news, but blogger Renee Astee, from over on Christian Hill, is back with her blog The End of Nihilism.  And that is a good thing.

Also, Matt Matthews is back with his blog Scildweall: The Online Journal of Military History.  Matt is also an author and his booklet for the US Army on Posse Comitatus is on-line, The Posse Comitatus Act and the United States Army: A Historical Perspective.  This came in handy in class last Wednesday, when the question of if the National Guard is subject to this law came up.

Regarding Posse Comitatus, while it looks like a good idea today, baring the Federal Military Services from acting as law enforcement agencies, when it was passed by Congress it was for a very bad purpose.

Quoting from the book:
A marshal of the United States, when opposed in the execution of his duty by unlawful combinations, has authority to summon the entire able-bodied force of his precinct as a posse comitatus.  This authority comprehends, not only bystanders and other citizens generally, but any and all organized armed force, whether militia of the State, or officers, soldiers, sailors, and marines of the United States.

Attorney General Caleb Cushing, 27 May 1854

That is the way it used to be.  Then came the Civil War and Reconstruction and the disputed election of 1876.  Again quoting Matt Matthews:
The presidential race of 1876 between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and his Democratic opponent Samuel J. Tilden was so close that a special commission, comprised of members of the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, was required to determine the winner. In return for a Democratic promise not to challenge the commission’s findings, President-elect Hayes, in what can only be described as a “back-room deal,” vowed to remove a large portion of the Army from the South.32 Furthermore, he assured Southerners that the federal government would no longer interfere in their internal affairs.33 In this so called “Compromise of 1876,” black civil rights became the first casualty. The newspaper The Nation reported, “The negro will disappear from the field of national politics. Henceforth, the nation, as a nation, will have nothing more to do with him.”  W.E.B. DuBois affirmed the true meaning of the compromise when he wrote “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”
In the 44th Congress attempts were made by White Southern Democrats to limit the use of the Army in enforcing laws and fighting the Klan.  They did not pass any such legislation, but in the 45th Congress Kentucky Congressman J. Proctor Knott introduced the Knott Amendment to the Army Appropriations Act.  As Matt Matthews puts it:
The Knott Amendment became known as the Posse Comitatus Act. This amendment passed the House and the Senate as part of the Army appropriations bill, and President Hayes signed it on 18 June 1878.  Though a few congressional representatives from Northern and Western states voted for the amendment after witnessing the acts of the Army during labor disputes in 1877, the Southern Democrats carried the amendment through Congress.  Consequently, there can be little doubt that the Posse Comitatus Act was a direct result of the Army’s involvement in Reconstruction and the military’s involvement in Grant’s campaign against the Klan. In fact, the act was almost certainly intended as one last bulwark against federal meddling in the internal affairs of the white supremacist South.  It is perhaps the ultimate irony that a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to democratic ideals has until this time upheld the precepts of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law with origins in oppression and tyranny.
Not an honorable period in the history of our nation.

But, back to the subject of this blog, there is still on person on my Blog Roll avoiding his blogging duties over at And then there is this ....  He didn't even blog about the World Cup.  Perpaps he will use his blog to tell us about his trip to San Diego.  What wonderful weather.  Every day is like last evening was here in Lowell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wearing the Uniform

A while back there was a comment from one commenter to another that his service to the nation in uniform had earned him his right to his opinions, much as the first commenter didn't agree with said opinion.  That immediately elicited a comment from someone who had not served in one of the seven uniformed services and who thought it was a putdown.  Knowing all three commenters, I judged it not to be a putdown but I saw how it could be taken as such.

Here is the corrective, from a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel (retired suggests 20 years of service and lieutenant colonel suggests about 15 years of commissioned service).  It is from the San Jose Mercury News.

Hat tip this time is to my middle brother, Lance, who, as a Civil Servant, served his nation well in the contracting area of the US Air Force.

Regards  —  Cliff

Race and Racism in America Today

Race and Racism seem to be the topics this weekend (I have no idea what the TV News shows covered, I am talking print media here).  But, we are just getting the surface look at the issue.  Perhaps Attorney General Eric Holder is correct in stating that we are cowards when it comes to discussing race.  But, not US Senator, decorated Marine and novelist James Webb.

On Friday last Senator James Webb (D-VA) had an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal about race and affirmative action and discrimination based upon race.  I haven't heard this kind of frank discussion since the late Representative Shirley Chisholm ran for President, back in 1972 and talked about the "ecology of the poor", both Black and White.

The third and fourth paragraphs from the OpEd sort of sum it up.  Note the last sentence.
I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America's economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship.  Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations.  These programs have damaged racial harmony.  And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.
What the Senator is noting is how, over time, most programs morph and stop serving the original purpose and take on a life of their own.

Further, the Senator goes on to do a socio-economic examination of the South and concludes that while the "badges of slavery" needed to be eliminated, there were others who also suffered economically from slavery before the Civil War and later suffered economically from the Civil War and its devastation.  Like Representative Shirley Chisholm before him, Senator Webb is showing a concern for all who are poor and not reaching up to their potential.

Or, he could be just running for reelection.

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy Ilya Somin does a sort of "fisking" of the Webb OpEd.

Mr Somin notes:
Like Webb, I tend to be skeptical about the “diversity” rationale and at least somewhat sympathetic to the compensatory justice argument.  Unfortunately, Webb doesn’t make clear whether his position is that affirmative action preferences should be abolished entirely or limited to African-Americans.  If the latter, should they be limited to descendants of victims of slavery and Jim Crow, or should recent immigrants continue to be included (as they usually are now)?
One commenter at the Volokh Conspiracy, "Patent Lawyer", takes the discussion in a different direction, asking if the Senator is not looking at class warfare:
Actually, there’s a good, conservative/libertarian reason to bring it up–the narrative Webb is pushing, that poor whites were just victims stirred into racist nuttiness by evil puppetmaster elites, is one which encourages the replacement of race warfare with class warfare.  This isn’t surprising, coming from a liberal Democrat, but is something that should be resisted.  The remaining points of Webb’s article argue against continued affirmative action and race-based policies; this particular point argues for continued redistribution of income and an alliance of poor whites and poor blacks against rich and middle class whites.  I don’t think you want that.
My initial thought was that Senator Webb is helping to move the ball down the field, but that he hasn't fully covered the issue—and how can he in the limits of an OpEd?  There is little doubt in my mind that poor whites in the rural South were being economically held back in the first hundred years after the Civil War.  When I was stationed outside Selma, Alabama, I was not impressed with the industrialization available to provide jobs to anyone.  It was really big news when Dan River Mills announced it was opening a mill in the area.  As Corporal Q-Ball would say, "It is the economy, stupid".  And, as someone in the Volokh Conspiracy threat noted, economically the South was a backwater until the Civil Rights act of 1964.  Racial discrimination was holding back the South and as it disappeared the South took off.

But, racism is a powerful accusation that has been used against the Republican Party of late.  And, against the Tea Party and Fox News.  Look how normally balanced Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi tackles the question of Ms Shirley Sherrod, the NAACP and the Tea Party.  I think that the column is a bit snarky.  And it doesn't capture the situation, at least here in Lowell.  So, if Ms Vennochi herself or an person of color who is opposed to the mounting Federal deficits, or any other person of good will, would like to attend the next meeting of the Greater Lowell Tea Party would contact me, I will advise them as to time and date.  I am "crk" at "".

To sum up, the discussion is good, but the hard headed thinking is going to be hard.  Truth will need to be spoken in all directions.  Even to Attorney General Eric Holder.  And truth will need to be spoken to the likes of The New York Times opinion writer, Mr Frank Rich.  And, yes, Mr Mark Williams is a jerk and was rightly rejected by certain elements of the Tea Party—but he didn't represent the Tea Party here in Lowell, although he might have represented the Tea Party in New York City.

Perhaps the catch phrase about definitions and dictionaries applies here.  In the dictionary, at the definition of "over the top" there is a picture of Mr Frank Rich.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Before he was a Democrat, Senator Webb was a Republican and served during the Reagan Administration, including as Secretary of the Navy, a position from which he resigned in a fit of pique.
  I liked the campaign she ran and was hoping that the Democratic Party would pick Senator Scoop Jackson for President and Ms Chisholm for Vice President.  Frankly, I didn't want to vote for Richard Nixon, but in the end he was all that was left, after the Democratic Party imploded in Miami.
  Doesn't the "Journolist" explain pretty much everything we might want to know about Mr Frank Rich?  It seems that way to me.

Gov't Saving Money

On Thursday Martha and I drove down to Hanscom AFB, so I could pick up some meds.

One of the things she noticed, immediately, was that the grass had not been cut and some tall weeds were growing up.  And, indeed such was the case.  Very unusual for a military base of any Service.

So, I called the Hanscom Air Force Base Public Affairs Office and talked to Kevin Gilmartin.  Mr Gilmartin explained to me that times are tough and budgets are tight and something had to give.  Rather than close the Recreational Sports Center or some like facility for the Air Force members, the decision was made to not cut the grass for a while.  Frankly, a good decision.

I have seen this before.  When we were at Eielson AFB, Alaska, outside of Fairbanks, one year, in response to President ClintonCarter telling us to cut fuel expenditures, we didn't plow the roads one winter.  It worked out just find, right up to the end, when "Breakup" came and the snow and ice started to melt.  It was a mess and the Base Civil Engineers had to run through the base, plowing and trucking the snow, but the crisis passed in a few days.

When I was at the USAFE Headquarters in 1984/85 I was the Chairman of the Budget Committee for the Command, which stretched from England to Turkey.  The USAFE Band was the hot button symbolic issue and at every level there was someone who wanted to kill it to save money.  In the end, it was going to say, since the four star wanted it.  But, the band aside, we worked hard to save money on the one hand, and to fund needed requirements on the other.  That was where I came to the conclusion that a person with an initiative and without an offset is a liar and a thief.

A little tall grass is fine with me if we are using that money to take care of the young (and older) airmen who find themselves at Hanscom AFB, perhaps a couple of thousand miles from home.

UPDATE:  Changed President Clinton to President Carter on the advice of a Commenter.

Regards  —  Cliff

Cardinal Sean Does Jury Duty

Our local Ordinary got called out for Jury duty.  He blogs about it here.

His post starts:
On Wednesday, for the second time since being named archbishop, I was called for jury duty.

I reported with my fellow prospective jurors and we first listened to a presentation given by one of the judges to prepare us for jury, and then there was a video presentation.

I was not chosen to sit on a jury.  I guess they didn’t need me!
As the Cardinal notes, it is a civic duty and a very important one.  Sometimes just showing up is enough to encourage someone to cut a plea deal or the parties in a civil action to agree to a settlement.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Blog is not linking friendly, but the post is about half way down.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

North Korean Threats and Promises

I am not sure The Boston Globe got it right about North Korea in their Saturday Edition.  The headline is:
N. Korea warns of ‘nuclear deterrence’ to naval exercises
This was followed by:
North Korea said yesterday that it would counter US and South Korean joint naval exercises with “nuclear deterrence’’ after the Obama administration said the government in Pyongyang shouldn’t take any provocative steps.
Here is what Night Watch has to say:
North Korea-US-ROK:  "There will be a physical response against the military steps imposed by the United States," according to Ri Tong Il, spokesman for the North Korean delegation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, Yonhap reported 23 July.  The military exercises are another expression of hostile policy against North Korea, he stated, adding that it is no longer the 19th century, which maintained the gunboat policy.  This is a new century and Asian countries are in need of peace and development, and Pyongyang is moving to that end, he said.

Comment:  An analysis by linguistics experts earlier this year found the term "physical response" is a particular usage by the North Koreans that refers to the science of physics in Korean. It is a poor translation, but there is no other comparably nuanced English idiom.

The significance is the North is promising -- not threatening -- a nuclear test or nuclear-related demonstration.  The North might be bluffing and might substitute a military provocation, but the language of the statement refers to physics.  The North needs more testing and one must be expected during every crisis.
I would tend to go with the Night Watch assessment, which suggests another nuclear test, justified in the minds of the North Koreans by US and South Korean military exercises.

I think The Boston Globe softballed this.

The more serious issue is what would be a US response.  I assert that what we have is the continued economic strangulation of North Korea, which works by hurting the North Korean People (we should not ignore that fact) and by keeping hard currency out of the hands of the North Korean Government.  This is a long, slow process.  However, because of Iran (and because of the Iranian threat to Israel and, implicitly, to Saudi Arabia and other nations) we will have to continue on this path and continue to make noises about North Korea.

Regards  —  Cliff

City Manager Salaries

I am lifting this link from Greg Page, The New Englander.  It is about the salary being paid to the City Manager of Bell, a small town in LA County.  Bell, along with Gardena (legalized gambling and demolition derbies) and Carson and some other names are boutique cities sandwiched between Long Beach, to the South, and LA, to the north.

The City Manager in Bell is earning just south of $800,000 pa.  And Bell is a third the size of Lowell.

I hope the City Council, in reviewing a pay raise for our own City Manager will take this as a cautionary tale.

Here in Lowell we are on the horns of a dilemma.  On the one hand, we want the salary we pay to be competitive, but on the other hand, these are tough economic times.  The City Council will have to do a balancing act, and will have to get an agreement with the City Manager, who can always respond by walking away.  That "walking away" part would not be good for our City.  So, it is all about striking a deal.

Fortunately, we have a panel looking at this pay issue.  I am hoping they will be reporting back to the City Council very soon.  The reason to be quick is that the City Manager's contract runs out soon and he is not going to be able to make it on his salary as an Adjunct Professor at UMass Lowell; although a couple of folks wishing to organize the Adjuncts wandered into the classroom after class Wednesday night.  I asked them for copies of their literature, to pass on to another adjunct professor, who is visiting family in Italy, which they were happy to give to me.  In fact, they had been looking for the chap.

UPDATE:  The City Manager of Bell, California, Mr Robert Rizzo, is retiring, per The Washington Examiner, which quotes quotes KTLA News on the value of Mr Rizzo's retirement, along with Social Security.  Wait for it ... with a retirement of $1 M pa, within two years.  Mr Rizzo is 62 years old.

Regards  —  Cliff

  For example, should the City Manager not make as much or more than the School Superintendent?  Point to ponder.

Lowell Spinners—Blogged

Here is a nice Blog Post by Fran Sansalone, whose blog, Loose Threads, is linked somewhere down the right side of this blog.  She obviously enjoyed her experience with the Spinners and is spreading the word.

Regards  —  Cliff

Congratulations to T J McCarty

T J McCarthy, our assistant city manager and the Department of Public Works commissioner here in Lowell, has found a new job, according to The Lowell Sun.  Mr McCarthy will be moving over to UMass Lowell as the assistant director of buildings.

From The Sun we have this quote:
"It's just a personal choice," McCarthy said in a telephone interview yesterday. "There's an exciting, progressive atmosphere at the university and there's a buzz there. It's a great opportunity to learn something new."
I think that Mr McCarthy is correct.  Over the last few years I have noticed that facility-wise there has been a positive shift at the University and I, as a student, am looking forward to his touch to the challenges on campus.  For sure he has done a great job for the City of Lowell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 23, 2010

Goodbye to Chief Justice Margaret Marshall

Here is the Boston Globe article on Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stepping down.

The story of why the resignation is one that is full of love and commitment and should be an inspiration for any of us.  Ms Marshall is married to Reporter and Columnist Anthony Lewis (Two Pulitzer Prizes).  Now 83, Mr Lewis has Parkinson's Disease.  It is a terrible disease and the victim has to fight, fight, fight.  And, he or she needs the loving support of family and friends.  Ms Marshall's decision is an inspiration.

Regarding the career of Chief Justice Marshall there is much focus on the Goodridge v Department of Public Health decision.  This was the decision that brought same-sex marriage to Massachusetts.

The Goodridge decision surprised me on two counts.  The first was that the Supreme Judicial Court did not just invoke the First Amendment of the US Constitution and say that "marriage" is a religious issue and that the interest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was in recording contracts.  Given that the Chief Justice had some reputation for looking to legal decisions overseas to influence her, I thought the German example would have been excellent.  When I was stationed in Germany in the late 1960s, if one wished to marry, one went to the local City Hall and pulled a license and got married.  If one wished to be married in a religious ceremony, one went to the local City Hall and pulled a license and got married at the local City Hall and then went to a Church for a Church wedding.  However, the local "Civil" wedding was what was needed by the Government.

Thus, it seemed to me that Ms Marshall should have said, we are talking about registering contracts and the state has no interest in the sex of the contractees.  Thus, all couples, to have a contract, must go down to their local City Hall and raise their hands and have their contract authenticated.  And, the reason is, at some point the State might have to dissolve the partnership.  And there are tax issues and in some cases responsibilities for raising minors.

The Opinion says:
Here, no one argues that striking down the marriage laws is an appropriate form of relief. Eliminating civil marriage would be wholly inconsistent with the Legislature's deep commitment to fostering stable families and would dismantle a vital organizing principle of our society.
But, making marriage strictly a civil affair would be consistent with this move.  Perhaps people are put off by the idea of not using the word marriage in the legislation, but the point is that marriage seems to drag religion into the discussion.  This, in turn, violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

The second thing that puzzled me is the Supreme Judicial Court saying it is OK for the Legislature to prohibit certain forms of marriage, as long as it does not mess with same-sex marriages.  It does this at Footnote 34:
Similarly, no one argues that the restrictions on incestuous or polygamous marriages are so dependent on the marriage restriction that they too should fall if the marriage restriction falls.  Nothing in our opinion today should be construed as relaxing or abrogating the consanguinity or polygamous prohibitions of our marriage laws.
Frankly, given the multicultural nature of our society, this footnote seems to make the whole decision either thoughtless or corrupt.

That said, I still have the right to write this blog post, so the fundamental freedom of speech appears to remain intact, as does my freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the Government.

Regards  —  Cliff

An IC Too Big to Fail?

As many may know, The Washington Post has been running a series on the growth of the Intelligence Community (IC) following the 9/11 event.  It includes a database of IC Agencies and IC Contractors.

There has been some discussion out there as to if this has given our enemies information they they did not originally have or if it has been boon to those in our own nation who think this is a mess that now needs to be cleaned up.

An example of that second line of thinking is this comment (Note, NSA stands for either No Such Agency or National Security Agency):
[A]fter the past few years it should be obvious to everyone that the the concept of "too big to fail", does not protect from failure.  It just makes the failure that much bigger when it hits.  That said, the fact that fear is not front and center in the development of the IC, means that we just don't learn.

Also, the IC and the NSA cluster in particular is now a living breathing organism that will take on a life of its own, as all large organisms do, and its natural instincts will push its primary mission to grow and protect itself.  I lived through this the past 18 years with the defense biz, and the results are self-evident.  Formerly, agile, dynamic companies, are essentially bloated bureacracies who now don't make appeals as to the superiorty of their technology, but how they need the work to keep the people employed.
But, my favorite comment is:
FWIW, I did hear last night from a friend that the database is the best job hunting tool he's ever come across, and hopes the Post will maintain it.
Before I comment I should note that I have relatives who have been or are currently involved in the IC or supporting the IC.

But, back to the issue at hand, the cost and competence of the IC.  I think that concerns about the IC being too big is correct.  It does take away from the agility needed to be an effective intelligence gatherer, analyzers and reporters of information.  As for duplicate reporting, in the past I found that to be an advantage, as it provided a wider perspective on issue.

The real question is, how safe do we need to be?  It is my assumption that Intelligence will never make us perfectly safe.  The question is, what does the curve look like.In this chart, notion security is on the Y (Vertical) Axis and notional cost on the X (Horizontal) Axis.  As you can see, we never get to perfect security—or that is my take on the topic.  We can not spend our way to perfect security.

But, I don't think it is all about money.  It is also about educating and training the analysts and empowering them to put forward their real analysis.  That is to say, no shooting of the messenger, even when he or she may be wrong from time to time, and no shooting of the messenger for analysis that is not politically incorrect or doesn't follow the conventional wisdom.  All of this will take a certain reorientation of the attitude in DC.  I would suggest it means investing time and money in sending analysts to school and maybe even sending them to visit or live in parts of the world that is their area of expertise.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Journolist and the 2008 Campaign, Part II

Yesterday I blogged about the recent EMails released from the Journlist ListServ.


As noted in my previous post, the The Daily Caller had an additional information for today  Members of the ListServ talked about censorship of Fox News.  The idea of censorship being acceptable when it comes to Fox News (or any news organization (or, thinking ahead, bloggers)) is a bit disturbing.

The Instapundit linked to it with this comment:
Stalinist by instinct, aren’t they?
Also, for me it calls to mind SCOTUS Nominee, but then Solicitor General Elena Kegan's comments about allowing banning of books or censoring—she said it is OK, since it won't be enforced by the FEC.  The problem is, once on the books there is someone, some day, who will bring it to the fore.  Just look at that old and forgotten law on the Massachusetts books used to ban same-sex couples from out-of-state from being married in the Commonwealth.

For a perhaps traditionally more balanced view we can turn to the Christian Science Monitor which has this to say on this issue.  Hat tip to Instapundit for this link.

My take so far.  The Journolist members were talking to themselves and in the end it just confirms a somewhat wide-spread belief that Journalism is returning to its roots in the 19th Century.  It is becoming more overtly partisan.  The Republic will survive.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Journolist and the 2008 Campaign

The Daily Caller and its chief, Tucker Carlson, have been going to town on a treasure trove of EMails from the now defunct Journolist, an EMail reflector service or listserv.  In this case, it was a group of journalists and journalism professors.

Law Professor Ann Althouse gets to the crux of the current question (your newspaper or radio station may not be following this), which is "How far were Journolisters willing to go to help Obama win the election?".  It is a long post, and especially long by Ms Althouse's standards.  And at this point has 153 comments.

It wasn't all about Fox News.  Ms Althouse culls this item:
Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks–in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC..."
There is more on that in Ms Althouse's post, which I have linked to, but which I can not in fairness quote in toto.

My wife tells me that more revelations are due at midnight on The Daily Caller, per Tucker Carlson on the Sean Hannity show this evening.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I am on three such services and find them easy, handy and useful.  One includes some MSM journalists, in small numbers, but domestic politics is not only not the focus, but is verboten.

Forced Resignations on the Highway

From over at the Ann Althouse blog we have a comment and a link on the Shirley Sherrod affair.  I would say that few come out of this looking good.  Looking especially bad is the Secretary of Agriculture, The Honorable Tom Vilsack.

Maybe Ms Sherrod and the Farmer's Wife survived this with some integrity.  At least the NAACP reversed course and called to say so.

Note that this imbroglio has several levels of problems.

Regards  —  Cliff

Taming the Defense Budget

Gordon Adams, who has been in the defense budget area for some time, including at one point running a think thank on Defense Budgeting, has an article out in Politico, co-authored with Matthew Leatherman.

The article can be found here.

I generally agree with the article, but this piece needs some more thinking:
A mission like stabilization, which is more remote from U.S. interests and addresses lesser risks, should have lower budgetary priority. We need to shore up our civilian institutions to address these issues.
While divestiture is a good option, from a "Whole of Government" point of view it needs some thinking.  Today the Department of State is short over 1,000 Foreign Service Officers.  If we are looking for other government agencies (other than Department of Defense) to pick up the slack we are going to have to see them funded and manned to do the work.  That does not seem to be happening at this point.  If I was being tortured to reveal the truth I would quickly give up the US Congress.

Regards  —  Cliff

Former MI-5 Chief and War With Iraq

The former Director General of the British domestic intelligence agency, known as the Security Service or MI5, the Barroness Manningham-Buller, testified before an Inquiry panel in London this week.

Her testimony, reported by the AP, was that there was no link between Iraq and 9/11.  Further:
She said the belief that Iraq might use such weapons against the West "wasn't a concern in either the short term or the medium term to either my colleagues or myself."
Overall, her assessment was that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the war against al Qaeda.

On the other hand, there was that hope that if Iraq could turn around it would be the basis for change throughout the Middle East.  I wonder if anyone still thinks in those terms?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Today, on the radio, I heard someone refer to the sister organization, MI6, as M16.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Playground Fight

My most recent post on immigration, from Sunday, the 18th, seemed to have elicited a response back channel from my brother, who pointed me to an article in the June/July 2010 issue of The Catholic Worker.  (I am the one who sent him the subscription, so I am happy he is reading it.  I have also introduced him to First Things and The New Oxford Review, with mixed results.)  In fact he anticipated that article because the EMail DTG was from Saturday.

Since The Catholic Worker doesn't have its own website, I looked for the article in question on line and found it at The Louisiana Justice Institute.

The thrust of Mr Bill Quigley—Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans—is that while Arizona is picking up illegals in Arizona, ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of Homeland Security, is making agreements with other state governments to do the same kind of thing.

Professor Quigley disapproves of the new Arizona law, but sees the same thing going on in Maryland under a program called "Secure Communities", funded by the US Congress in 2008.  But, it isn't just Maryland.
This ICE program is now operating in 165 jurisdictions in 20 states and aims to be in partnership with every local law enforcement office in the country in a few years.  ICE admits that in its first one year period almost one million people were fingerprinted under this program.  About one percent, or 11,000 people, were identified as immigrants arrested – arrested not convicted - for major crimes.  Most of the people deported by ICE were picked up for minor or traffic charges and not violent crimes.  As the Washington Post revealed in March, ICE has explicit internal goals to remove 150,000 immigrants through the “criminal alien removals” and to deport 250,000 others this year.
My question is, why is the US Department of Justice suing Arizona, wasting millions of dollars to fight something that the Federal Government is partnering with other states to execute?

This makes the DOJ suit look like a playground fight over who is taller.

I hadn't gotten to this article and thus I thank my Brother Lance for pointing this out to me.

Regards  —  Cliff

The EU, the UN, and the Rest of Us

Over at No Pasaran is this item about the European Union making a bid for its own representation in the United Nations.

Do you think they will eventually ask for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council?

To accommodate them, who should give up a seat?

And how will this play with the need to provide permanent seats to India and Japan, which I would favor, given their positions in the world?  Of course the problem with India is Pakistan, which will wish equal status.

There is also the argument that a nation from Latin America should have a permanent seat and also a nation from Africa.  Should there be a Muslim nation with a permanent seat on the SC?  Would Turkey count as a Muslim nation, and if it did, would that be acceptable to the EU?

I think that we should just leave well enough alone.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And, there is also this from a 14 July posting, providing some background.
  As in having the power of the Veto on the UN Security Council, as does, currently, the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, the major allies from World War II.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Local Wedding

My wife, Martha, and I were invited to the wedding of Greg Page and Ratriey Dang.  Greg and Ratriey were married in a civil ceremony about ten days ago.

Friday was the day for the traditional Cambodian wedding and the Invitation say 8:00 AM.  However, Greg had warned me that it would go all day and that we should stop by and visit the bridge and groom and then go about our business.  Martha and I showed about 0830 and stayed until about 1000 and then went to conduct other business.  While there we saw Greg and Ratriey and the wedding party in traditional Cambodian dress.  While the men looked handsome, the women, and in particular, the bride, looked spectacular.

Inside the house, in Dracut, a band of about five men were playing traditional Cambodian music and outside there was a awning covering several tables and we met several of the people there, including Greg's parents, Jonathan and Patrice Page.  Mr Page was one of those fortunate enough to escape from the World Trade Center both in 1993 and on 9/11.

Mimi Parseghian, with whom we sat at the Reception the next day, said that she went later and it was very crowed.  Personally, I liked the "Dawn Patrol" as it was easy to talk with the people who were there.

So, Saturday was the Reception, beginning at 5:30 PM.  We showed about 6:00 PM.  It was a broad collection of people, including Greg's classmates from Stanford, Naval officers he had served with in the Navy and National Guard colleagues from his new status as a Massachusetts National Guard Captain.  There were also bloggers, including the aforementioned Mimi Parseghian and Craig Himmelberger and your humble blogger and his wife.  And, from Friday morning, I met one of the Groomsmen, who has his own web site, sort of a news aggregator, Change dot Org.

There was Greg's Father and Mother and Brother and Sister.  There was the Bridge's parents, Mr Chamroeun Khom and Mrs Phin Dang, and Brothers and Sisters.  And, there were many from the Cambodian community.  A sizable crowd.

At the table we sat at there was also Mimi Parseghian, to our left.  To our right were Sam Meas and his wife, Leah, both born in Cambodia and now here in the US.  Across from us were two couples where the husbands had gone to college with Greg Page, at Stanford.  On the right side a couple who live in New York, where he is in Investing and she is a a lawyer.  In a previous post I mentioned that she is a graduate of the same law school as my youngest son.  Both had been young members of the Clinton Administration as it was winding down.  That is the time when others, looking to the future, jump ship with six month or so to go and thus great opportunities are open to young men and women just getting their feet wet in Washington.

Toward our left was a couple with a local connection.  The wife was from Salem, NH.  After we talked for a while, I became convinced that her Father served in a KATUSA unit, which is a US Army unit in Korea where South Korean and US soldiers serve in the same unit.  After his service in Korea he joined the US Army and fought in Viet-nam.  The husband works for a No-Profit Organization in DC, dealing with the problems of "human trafficking", to include trafficking in women.  The husband, Brad Myles, the Executive Director of the organization, said that in fact, human trafficking in women had migrated from Thailand to Cambodia, since the Thai Government has cracked down on sex tourism.  The couple lives in Adams Morgan, in Washington.

The food started about 8:30 PM, with a lobster and crab soup, followed by breaded crab balls, which were great.  These were followed by several other course, of which I lost track.  It was different and it was good.

For me, aside from the conversation around the table, the highlight was Greg and Ratriey going from table to table to receive their wedding gifts.  Unlike a tradition American wedding, there were not gifts based upon where the couple was registered.  Rather, we gave money.  The idea was to cover the cost of the reception (good move for Mr Chamroun Khom and Mrs Phin Dang, the parents of the bride).  There were envelopes at each table and a sort of Table Captain, who passed out the envelopes and then collected them and handed them to the Couple.  Straight forward so far.  But, this is a Wedding Reception, so there are variations, including the Table Captain standing on a chair and holding up the envelopes toward the ceiling, with Greg lifting up Ratriey, so she could grad the envelopes.  A lot of work for the Groom.  Not quite a Shivaree, but the same outcome, perhaps.

Towards 11:00 PM Sam Meas and his wife left and then Mimi wanted to go and we escorted her to her car and then headed home.

Reflecting on the Reception the thing that struck me was that there was a large number of people of various backgrounds, enjoying themselves together and enjoying it.  It was the best face of Lowell and the best face of these United States.

And a hearty congratulations to Greg and Ratriey.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This reminded me of the drill in West Germany, at least in the 1960s, where everyone had a civil wedding and then those who wanted got married in a church also.  Put another way, a church wedding did not substitute for going down to City Hall and having the civil ceremony.  From a First Amendment point of view this makes some sense.  The State is interested in the legal arrangements, which the State may sever later on, distributing the assets of the contracted arrangement.  The church wedding is about the couple making a commitment before God.  In fact, in the Catholic tradition it is the couple who perform the ceremony and the Priest is a witness for the Church.  The Priest does not "perform" the sacrament, the couple does.
  I like the British approach of saying something like 5:30 for 7, meaning we will be ready for you at 5:30 and have cocktails, but we are eating at 7 for sure.  It takes some of the guesswork out of things.  On the other hand, it does not provide for a more casual approach to living.
  Candidate for the Republican nomination to run for the Fifth Congressional District seat, against our former neighbor from across the street, Rep Niki Tsongas.

Getting An Angle On It

Writing on the Blog , Law Professor Tom Smith has this article, "Angling for Reid ".  It is a play on words, talking about Nevada Republican Senate Candidate Sharron Angle, who is running against incumbent Senator (and Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid.  Professor Smith writes:
She doesn't sound that crazy to me.
The article in question, from The Wall Street Journal, gives a little background on Ms Sharron Angle.

While I believe taking down Senator Harry Reid is not going to be easy, I was interested in the article because it provides a broader picture of Ms Angle than just another "Tea Party" amateur.  I am thinking it should be an interesting race.  I am wondering if voter turnout will be high.  In class this last Friday we went over voting patterns and our text noted that in the 2004 National Election Nevada ranked 45th in the nation for "voting age population casting ballots", at 51.3%.  In 2006, per the US Census Bureau, the turnout was 37.3%.  In contrast, Massachusetts had a 50% turnout in the November 2006 election.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Professor Tom Smith is at the University of San Diego School of Law.  Among the graduates of the Law School are my Son, Clifford, Theo Epstein, and a young woman at the table we were sitting at last evening at the Reception for the newly married Greg Page and Ratriey Dang.  The young woman, who now practices law in New York City, noted that Professor Smith was fairly conservative.
  State and Local Government.  The reason 2004 was picked is that we are at the end of the cycle for the current version of the textbook.  The new book is due out any day now.

Coming to an Area Near You

There is an article out there in The Washington Post on recent violence in Mexico.  Mexico sounds a long ways away, but it was Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which is not much different, geography wise, from El Paso, Texas than Boston is from Cambridge—just across the river.  Think how the people in Cambridge would feel if there was lawlessness in Boston that not only included children killed by stray bullets, but IEDs—Improvised Explosive Devices.

The story, which focuses on the M-67 hand grenade, was written by reporters Nick Miroff and William Booth, and can be found here.

Ignore the paragraph that says:
Now selling for $100 to $500 apiece on the black market, grenades have exploded in practically every region of Mexico in recent years.
My information is that a new M-67 costs $50 off the production line.  A price of $500 seems like way too much of a markup.

And, down around the third paragraph there was an implication, once again, that "assault rifles" are flowing in from the United States.  If we are the source, that is good news, because it means the drug cartels are stupid.  Weapons are much easier and cheaper if brought up from Panama.  I have heard 20% from the US, tops.

The point in posting this is to say that the violance of the Mexican Drug Cartels, which is doing terrible things to the People of Mexico, is moving north and it does not look like our Federal Government, which apparently sees itself as being solely in charge, is doing much to prepare for this.  That said, the police in Los Angeles are beginning to train for this.  This quotation is not from the article, but from someone who commented on the newspaper blog in another forum.
Grenades will pose a significant challenge to police responders.  The US police service, especially in metropolitan areas is making great strides in enhancing capacity to address small arms in active shooter scenarios.  Grenades and IEDs are something that will significantly alter response.  Currently here in LA, evolving close quarters battle training is including IEDs and military ordnance. (But much more needs to be done to fully integrate IED awareness into our tactical sensory perception... Players in our exercises observe and orient themselves well to ballistic/human threats, but frequently miss the IEDs in play...
Put in other terms, here in the US local police forces within a couple of hours of the Mexican border are beginning to train to deal with Cartel level drug violence.

This is not a good thing.

But, it is worse.  Some
argue this is not simply or even primarily a border problem.  It would be easier if it was.  It is too far down the road for that.  All of the transnational organized crime groups have links, alliances, and frequently a presence here [in these United States].  On top of that, it is a Hemispheric problem (and slowly emerging global issue).
And that is not a good thing.

So, at the "strategic" level, we need to be strengthening the various governments to the south.  And, I would suggest, helping them to become strong democracies.  Which brings me to the first two steps of my plan for immigration reform—legalizing drugs and a "Marshall Plan" for Mexico.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 16, 2010

Is al Qaeda Racist?

President Barack Obama is my President just as much as he is anyone else's President, so when I can support him I like to.  I think it drives my wife crazy, but that is NOT why I am doing it.  I am doing it because I am an American and Barack Obama is my President.

So, when the President noted the racism inherent in the recent bombing in Uganda, which killed 74 people, I thought I would write a blog post in his defense.  The attack was sponsored by al Shabaab, an Arab operation affiliated with al Qaeda, and done in Uganda, which is part of Black Africa.  Al Shabaad is a terrorist group out of Somalia.

I thought the President might be on to something.  I am currently reading Making Haste From Babylon:  The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World:  A New History and it mentions that Arabs were sailing off Newfoundland before the Pilgrams landed at Plymouth Rock and taking as slaves fishermen from Europe using those waters.

But, back to the question of if al Qaeda and al Shabaab are racist.  Quoting from the Johannesburg Times:
A US official meanwhile branded Al-Qaeda, linked to the Somalia-based Shebab group which claimed the attacks, as "racist," as the United States cranked up its diplomatic response to increasingly active extremists in Africa.

Obama, leveraging his African heritage and popularity on the continent, took direct aim at Shebab and Al-Qaeda after attacks on crowds in Kampala glued to the World Cup final on Sunday killed at least 76 people.

"What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself," Obama told the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

"They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains," he said, in the interview to be broadcast early Wednesday.
But, I did ask someone I know, who knows the territory and got this response:
Arabs often refer to Black Africans by racist names, and I do not doubt that they value Sub Sahara Black lives less.  However, I do not think that is the primary reason for the attacks and am rather surprised that Obama had to see it that way.  In fact, from what I know, the main reason is that the U.S. is using Uganda as a main source for our interests in Somalia and against the LRA.  As usual, there are a bunch of Americans running around Kampala [Uganda] shooting their mouths off and attracting attention.  In addition, Uganda is one of the more progressive countries in Central Africa and has attracted investments and attention from Europe and China.

Obama should be careful not to view the world from the point of view of racism.  He and [US Attorney General Eric] Holder are fueling the flames and masking some real problems and issues.  Of course there is racism, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it runs in all directions.
And this person is a pretty hard-headed observer of the scene in Northeast Africa and Latin America.

Please note that Uganda is involved in the chaos known as Somalia and the US is backing this intervention.  Wikipedia quotes The Wall Street Journal quoting an International Crisis Group analyst as saying, [Al-Shabaab is] "sending a message:  Don't come here propping up the Somalia government ... It's a message of deterrence."

And, to reinforce my interlocator's note about US involvement, a spokesman for the US State Department, on 15 July, noted that the US is sending 63 FBI agents to assist with the investigation into the July 11 attacks in Kampala (Uganda).  At the same time, the Spokesman noted that the US will be increasing aid for the UN approved African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and Uganda will add an additional 2,000 troops to its current commitment of 3,500 soldiers.

Not very strait-forward, is it?  Life is usually complicated.  So, I think there is an element of racism present in al Shabaab, but even if it were absent, the bombing would have happened.

Short blog posts are great, but they can lead to confusion.  Long blog posts are complicated, but can add needed perspective.

For those of you who have been thinking that if we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan it will all go away, please look around.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Lord's Resistance Army.  In Northern Uganda, and elsewhere.

Getting Closer

There was an earthquake down in the Potomac region about four and a half hours ago.

My youngest Brother sent me an EMail.  He claims to have missed it—he was on the elliptical trainer.

Regards  —  Cliff

Europe and the US

Well, it is Fox News and we all know that the source is not noticeably biased toward the President, but still, from other things I have been reading, this makes some sense.

When it was Bush 43 we knew it was hard to make the sell to the EU.  For example, there was SecDef Rumsfeld talking about New Europe and Old Europe.  The MSM reported and we knew that it was bad—bad for us and bad for Europe, because we were not listening.

Now, with President Bush's successor we are hearing rumbles of the same thing and I am not sure what to think.
  • Are we still wrong?
  • Or is Europe wrong?
    • And, if it is Europe that is wrong, are they still wrong or did they just become wrong?
Are there any thoughts out there?

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Hat tip to The Drudge Report

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Origin of the Universe

From Instapundit we have a link to this theory as to the origin of our universe.  Cool stuff.

The source is MIT's Technology Review.  Did you know that MIT is a Land-Grant University?  One of two in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Regards  —  Cliff

Arizona and Immigration

I went to class last night thinking that Arizona was in the right about passing an immigration law and that the suit by the Federal Department of Justice was wrong, was political and was going to fail.

In the early part of the class session I began to question my conclusions.  The idea that Immigration was a natural area for the Federal Government and that the States were bared from playing in the area began to grow in my mind.

Then we started building a table of who does what—Federal, State and Local (and later PVO and Commercial actors)—and it soon became obvious that the "marbled cake" view of how the different actors play was more applicable than the "layer cake" view.

If we say that state and local governments have no role in immigration, are we not then going to move toward other areas where Federal supremacy inherently excludes state and local government?  I am afraid that would be the case.

That is the legal and policy side of the issue, but there is also the political and voter side of the issue.  If the article in today's Lowell Sun is any indication, there is a lot of ignorance out there.  The Arizona law is not about racial profiling and it is not about stopping people and asking for their papers.  Arizona is not New York, where the police can stop you and frisk you to see if you are carrying a gun, in violation of the Sullivan Act.

However, in the article in The Sun some of the people interviewed seem to think that the police could stop anyone and check their status.  Such is not the case.  Attorney General Eric Holder threatening a suit based on the grounds of racial profiling is just that—a threat whose trigger has not been pulled.  This is unlike the New York law, where today, this very hour, the police can come up to you and pat you down for a weapon.  Where are our Bill of Rights protections in those cases?  What do you bet that if you are a Caucasian guy, over 25, wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase and with a decent haircut you will be passed over.  I bet that even a Black person meeting that criteria is pretty safe.

In any event, this will all be very interesting to see unfold.  And, the political repercussions may be as great as the legal.

Please note, in supporting the Arizona Law, which I do, it is not because I expect we will send 12 million foreign nationals home, but because I don't wish to see them jumping ahead of my Granddaughter's husband in the queue (or any other legal immigrants, following the rules).  He has a Green Card and has done it by the book.  I would not like to see his reward be to have a bunch of people who didn't follow the rules get their US Citizenship ahead of him.  Those who follow this blog know my three steps to immigration reform.

Regards  —  Cliff

  UMass Lowell, Continuing Education, "State and Local Government".
  Remember, articles in The 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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

14 July 1789

Happy Bastille Day.

UPDATE:  From The Chicago Boyz.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bloggers on "City Life"

As I mentioned and as Gerry Nutter mentioned and as Mimi described, some of the local bloggers were live on local access TV this AM.

And a hearty thanks to:

Marie Sweeney
Greg Page
Gerry Nutter
Jackie Doherty
Mimi Parseghian
Shawn Ashe (Donator from Dracut)

And to our caller:

Tom Wirtanen

And a big thanks to George Anthes (no blog) and John McDonough, producer of "City Life" (6:00 to 8:00 and 4:00 to 6:00).

UPDATE:  Mimi's last name updated to "Parseghian".

Regards  —  Cliff

  Producer John McDonough says Shaun, but the prominent name on the blog is Shawn, so I am going with that, subject to correction.

Congressman Reading the Wrong Blogs

Those voters can be pesky, as Congressman Brad Sherman (California 27th (The Valley and Burbank, more or less)) found out recently.  This is from Powerline:
A constituent asks him about DOJ's dismissal of charges against members of the New Black Panther Party and describes the case accurately.  Sherman claims not to have heard about it, drawing fury from the crowd.
Watch the video at the previous link, or not.

The issue raised by the questioner is discussed in Wikipedia here.  The question of the Department of Justice dropping charges regarding voter intimidation is discussed here.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The US (And UN) vs DPRK

This is a long Comment from Night Watch on the problem with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), which appears to have sunk a ship of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy.
NightWatch Comment:  The US and South Korea are still working on the plans for the show of force military exercises which are supposed to intimidate North Korea. The US is not sure it can afford to send an aircraft carrier because that will disturb China. Plus, the location has to be changed from the Yellow Sea to locations farther away from China because that also will disturb Chinese leaders.

The lesson of the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis is that a great power must act like a great power or it is not a great power. The US sent two carriers to deter China from intimidating Taiwan at that time. The US acted like a great power regardless of China's pique and military ineptitude.

Put another way, actions define a power as great or not. Thus, American concessions to Chinese concerns constitute US acknowledgement and investiture of China as the great power in Northeast Asia and present the US as voluntarily subordinating its actions to China's desires. Every Asian nation, especially the Republic of Korea, will interpret the message in this fashion.

A failure to hold show of force exercises off North Korea for any reason means the US is sending the message that it is no longer the great power of Northeast Asia and the protector of its allies. The North Koreans will have completed a clean sweep, sinking an allied ship, intimidating the UN, gaining Chinese support and forcing the US to back down in support of its ally.

Several press accounts of the UN statement last Friday reported that US diplomats were priding themselves about the cleverness of the language in the statement. That sentiment is curious because a statement is trivial compared to a resolution of the Security Council, which is not much better. Friday's bland exercise in diplomatic legerdemain succeeded in blaming the torpedo for shooting itself at the South Korean ship.

North Korean leaders are risk averse, but even they know a diplomatic victory in the rare occasions when they get one.
Well, nothing is every black and white.  There are all those shades of gray.  There is doubt about the theory that North Korea conducted a torpedo attack.  On the other hand, there are those who believe 9/11 was a US Self-Inflicted attack.

But, if we believe that North Korea did attack the ROKS Cheonan, then we do have to ask ourselves if we are letting this one slide.  If we are letting it slide, then the question is why.

At this time there are two states breaking out of the non-nuclear regime, Iran and the DPRK.  There is the Global War on Terrorism, sometimes called the Long War.  There are various problems in the Levant, which are, these days, tied back to the Long War.  Then there are a bunch of other small wars out there.  Which is most important?  Is one the lynchpin, that allows all the others to come apart when it is pulled?

And, for the $64 prize, is the approach to the DPRK best conducted in a way to intimidate the DPRK or to avoid a confrontation with The People's Republic of China?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bloggers, Live

What he said.

Regards  —  Cliff

Bringing Jobs to Our Valley

I read local Professor Robert Forrant's OpEd in Sunday's Lowell Sun, "Dark clouds for silver linings".

For me it started fairly slow, but the wrap-up was pretty much on target.
So, can we reverse the continuing decline of well-paying work and the attendant foreclosure crisis?  We had better.  But in our poisonous political climate and in a critical election year, we cannot expect bipartisan efforts to soberly discuss ways to stimulate the economy.  In the commonwealth, the Senate backed the start-up of three casinos and put a "job-creation dress" on their handiwork; sorry, these jobs don't enhance the state's future as an innovation-based economy.  Casinos won't produce the next significant wave of entrepreneurship needed to move the state forward.  Adding to "21," waiting for the hole card to be turned, or pulling a lever isn't going to get us out of this wretched mess.

We need discussions on how we can attach powerful jumper cables to the valley's job creation engine.  I've called for this before, but to no avail.  Maybe now things are troubling enough so that regional actors can see their way clear to organizing an emergency jobs summit? How about it higher-education leaders?  What say you local and regional economic-development planning agencies?  Major employers?  Any takers in the Legislature?  A focus could be consideration of the lessons learned from the recent "Innovative Cities Conference" held in Lowell, especially how cities boosted business incubators and attracted private-sector investment?  For what's possible check out Ann Arbor, Michigan (

There is good news to build on.  Infrastructure and other improvements are taking place in numerous Merrimack Valley communities thanks to federal stimulus dollars and a handful of firms have moved into or are expanding in the area.  But, the longer we wait to get together on the subject of job creation the worse things will get.  The market's magic hand isn't capable of pulling hundreds of thousands of badly needed new jobs out of Mr. Monopoly's top hat.  How many more fire stations need to close before we wake up and smell the smoke?
When I say "pretty much" it is because Professor Forrant talks about "our poisonous political climate and in a critical election year".  I am assuming, state wise, he is talking about Democrat on Democrat attacks and undermining, since there aren't enough Republicans in the Great and General Court to sustain a Governor's veto.  The thing is, if we are looking at job creation it is going to have to be a local thing, which I believe Professor Forrant points to.  We can't look to Washington.  We are going to have to do this ourselves.  We are going to have to decide if we are going to be the next Vermont or the next Texas, in terms of economic development path.

So, I say, tell me what I can do to help move Massachusetts forward.  You should also.

And Professor Forrant's EMail is rforrant @ (Just take out the spaces before and after the "AT" sign.)

UPDATE:  And here are some additional thoughts, from Come to Lowell.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The 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.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Left Version of Tea Party Redux

From Friday's Washington Post we have an article by , titled "With 'One Nation,' liberal groups aim to match tea party's energy, influence"
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the "tea party" movement must be honored.

In an effort to replicate the tea party's success, 170 liberal and civil rights groups are forming a coalition that they hope will match the movement's political energy and influence. They promise to "counter the tea party narrative" and help the progressive movement find its voice again after 18 months of floundering.

The large-scale attempt at liberal unity, dubbed "One Nation," will try to revive themes that energized the progressive grassroots two years ago. In a repurposing of Barack Obama's old campaign slogan, organizers are demanding "all the change" they voted for -- a poke at the White House.
As blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse points out, there is no mention of the "Coffee Party".

The best paragraph in the story is this one:
The effort has a historical parallel in a story that Obama has told on the campaign trail. According to the story, when labor organizer and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph met with President Franklin Roosevelt to press his issues, Roosevelt told Randolph he agreed with him but that Randolph should "go out and make me do it."
On the other hand, the article talks about unemployment in terms of race and not in terms of gender.  Women are the ones who have the lowest unemployment rates, regardless of race.  Looking at people over 20 years of age:  Caucasian Men 9.2% and Women 7.3%.  For Blacks it is 17.1% for men and 11.7% for Women.  Sadly, for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it appears, there is no gender difference for Asians and Hispanics don't exist.

But, back to the article, the Tea Party movement is bottom up. If "One Nation", like the "Coffee Party" is top down it will fail.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 9, 2010

Transparency and Economic Redistribution

There I was, checking through the blog posts at Richard Howe when I came across a post by Marjorie Arons-Barron, which talked about an article in The Boston Globe, "Key Senate Finance Committee Democrats divided on Berwick's recess appointment".
John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, diverged from that point of view. He strongly defended the White House circumvention of the legislative branch in this instance. Although Baucus had not even scheduled a hearing for Berwick, Kerry nonetheless blamed GOP "stalling’’ on his nomination -- an apparent reference to the GOP warnings of a GOP roasting and expected "holds,'' which allow single senators to put a freeze on nominees.

“Republican lockstep stalling of Don’s nomination was a case study in cynicism and one awful example of how not to govern. Republicans screamed that these federal programs were in trouble, then tried to deny the Administration the capable guy the President had chosen to oversee them,’’ Kerry said.

"The President did the right thing making this a recess appointment. He wasn’t going to let the Republicans thrive in a chaos of their own making. Instead, he put seniors, kids, and the disabled ahead of Republican gamesmanship, and he put a terrific public servant in place,’’ he said.
That is to say, a very controversial nominee never saw the inside of a hearing room because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Panel Head Max Baucus decided that they didn't want the nominee to be questioned by Republicans, who might bring up the nominee's view that:
“Any health care funding plan that is just equitable civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.”
And maybe it is, but should this not be what we might call "a teachable moment"?  Is this not the time to have someone with some opinions help us think through what is obviously a political, rather than a medical question?

The idea that the US Senate, the "world's greatest deliberative body", is not willing to talk about this particular view on economic redistribution is appalling to me.

Worse, it is obvious to the common man on the number 38 bus that this is politically motivated.  The Democrats down in Washington, and apparently Ms Arons-Barron, don't want a public display of the views of someone they are putting into an important position in our Government.

Once again transparency falls before the forces of political partisanship.

And if the Administration and the Democratic controlled Congress are doing this in plain sight, what are they doing behind our backs?

As for Senator Kerry and his comments, I say "Shame, shame, shame".

If I were Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, I would be writing, "THEY TOLD ME IF I VOTED FOR JOHN MCCAIN, there would be a dramatic lack of transparency.  And they were right.

Regards  —  Cliff

Europe and the US / Justice Issues

NightWatch For the Night of 8 July 2010
UK-European Court of Human Rights:  The European Court of Human Rights on 8 July halted the extradition of radical preacher Abu Hamza and three other men to the United States on terror charges.  The court said the possible length of US jail terms—life without parole—raised concerns about breaches of the European human rights code and needed further examination before a final ruling.

Hamza, whose full name is Mustafa Kamal Mustafa, is wanted on terror charges in the US.  The three other men facing extradition are Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, and Haroon Rashid Aswat.  Ahmad, a 36-year old computer expert, has been in a UK prison without trial for nearly six years, refused bail since his arrest in August 2004 on a US extradition warrant.

This is an extraordinary perversion of the notion of justice, as understood in the Anglo-Germanic world.  In the EU Court's interpretation, the nation-states must prove the fairness of their system of dispensing justice, over the heinous nature of the criminal's behavior.  This is tantamount to turning the world upside down in that the dead have no advocate and the accused has more protections than those he killed.

The UK went along with this decision.
It used to be that there would no extradition due to the US having the death penalty.  Now it is long prison terms.  Maybe those who believe in using murder (and other forms of terror) to pursue their religious or political views lose their ardor later in life and can be safely turned loose into society.  Or maybe not.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 8, 2010


From NightWatch, 7 July 2010:
Mexico-Hezbollah:  For the record.  A Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Seyassah, reported on Tuesday that Mexico foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to establish a network in Mexico.

According to the report, Hezbollah operatives employed Mexican nationals with family ties to Lebanon to set up the network whose purpose was to target Israel and the West.  Mexican police mounted a surveillance operation on the group's leader, Jameel Nasr, who traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hezbollah commanders there.  Nasr was living in Tijuana, Mexico at the time of his arrest, the report said.
Nothing to see here, just move along.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Hezbollah, or Hizballah (Party of God), is designated a terrorist group by the US Department of State
  For those who don't know, TJ is the town just south of San Diego, California, USA.  It is like Tewksbury to Lowell, except Tewksbury doesn't yet have a border crossing with border patrol personnel guarding the entrance to Tewksbury.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Firing of Octavia Nasr

Is this Political Correctness gone mad?

The Cable channel, CNN, has terminated, after 20 years, Octavia Nasr, after she tweeted about the death of Lebanon's Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.  The reason CNN acted seemed to be his connection to Hezbollah, but he was also someone who seems to have been much more "modern" (if I may use that word) than the mainstream Hezbollah leadership.

Perhaps others have different views?

Perhaps CNN was looking to fire Octavia Nasr over other issues and this just gave them an opportunity.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Someone described him as a "consequentialist".

DOJ v Arizona

The usual suspects have started to weigh in.

Here is Law Professor Ann Althouse's headline at her post:
[T]he Arizona law would place a undue burden on their ability to enforce immigration laws nationwide, because Arizona police are expected to refer so many illegal immigrants to federal authorities.
She is quoting a Tuesday WashPost article.  Comments are at 169 as I put together this post.

Here is the Department of Justice webpage, with relevant links.  The key link is to the petition.

Ms Althouse asks:
The courts are supposed to buy the paradox:  Because the federal government can't do very much about a problem — or chooses not to do much — an individual state can't act either, no matter how bad things get within that state.
"No matter how bad things get with that state."  We need to think about that for a moment.  We need to think about the implications of democracy failing in Mexico and the drug lords taking over.  It may sound far fetched, but it is not out of the question.  What is the plan?  Some background follows.

Here is the new four star commander of US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Admiral James A Winnefeld, Jr, talking about the issue of drug violence along the Mexican border:
On Mexican drug violence, Adm. Winnefeld said he has increased the priority for dealing with drug cartels, which continue to operate in the United States. "I'm ramping up the priority on our very close partnership with Mexico, a very interesting nation with some very courageous political leadership right now," he said.

Adm. Winnefeld said the "struggle" over Mexican drug trafficking and violence is taking place in several different areas, or "theaters," including inside the United States, in Mexico, along the U.S. border with Mexico and near Mexico's southern borders, as well as in the seas near the U.S. and Mexican coasts.

"So as you examine those theaters, where are the decisive theaters? The two real decisive theaters are the U.S. and Mexico," he said. "Inside the U.S., [it's] reducing demand for drugs, for example, with reducing the movement of weapons and cash to the south into Mexico, and also going after the tentacles of the cartel's networks that have found their way into the U.S., to include gangs and the like."
The drug war is turning worse and inching closer.  In June we had this news item on 39 killed in two separate incidents.  Then there is this about drug gangs trying to influence upcoming elections.
Drug hitmen have forced a string of candidates out of municipal races in two states on the U.S. border and killed at least one mayoral hopeful, using terror to try to dictate who will run cities and towns along key smuggling routes into the United States.
So, we have one analyst with this tentative assessment of the situation:
The point of this study is that the United States and other states in the Western Hemisphere face extensively networked, agile criminal insurgencies that are challenging directly political institutions, security and even democratic culture. And we are losing. Unless the course of the conflict is reversed, our institutions and those of our neighbors may eventually be suborned by the corrosive effects of corruption, intimidation and decay.
"And we are losing."  This paragraph says that things are bad and getting worse and we need to pay attention.  This paragraph says "we are losing".  But, that is more policy than law and is more about November than about the DOJ bringing suit.

Thinking about the possible futures we face, one is a future where the number of illegal immigrants in the United States is not 12 million, plus or minus, but something like 20 million or 30 million, as Mexicans flee the violence in their own nation and the collapse of their democratic institutions (Mexico is a nation of a bit over 111 million).

In Texas or New York illegal immigrants are useful, hard working, members of the community.  But, if the drug war moves North they will not just be more victims, but will become pawns in that war, since their status will make them vulnerable to intimidation.

Then there is this item about Rhode Island already employing the rules that Arizona is still waiting to employ.

And, the author cites some case known as Muehler v. Mena.  (I have got to go to law school, just to be moderately informed as a US Citizen.)  The author points out that Muehler v. Mena gives the police the authority to ask detained individuals about their immigration status—SCOTUS ruling unanimously.

And, will we see discussion of Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3?

Finally for those who have made it this far, I have put forward my approach to illegal immigration.  It is a three part plan and includes a path to citizenship.  It is from two months ago, but is, I think, still sound.

Regards  —  Cliff

  This is the updated Wednesday article in The WashPost.
  I loved the bringing in of the Interstate Commerce Clause.  "67.  Section 5 of S.B. 1070 (adding Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-2929) restricts the interstate movement of aliens in a manner that is prohibited by Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution."  Like that is a bad thing.