The EU

Google says the EU requires a notice of cookie use (by Google) and says they have posted a notice. I don't see it. If cookies bother you, go elsewhere. If the EU bothers you, emigrate. If you live outside the EU, don't go there.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Global Progress

For John, BLUFLife is getting better for more people around the Globe.

From political speech writer Michael Cohen we have an upbeat view of the world.  Writing in The Manchester Guardian this weekend, he asks "The best of all possible worlds?".  His response to the question is "Not yet, but as a UN report proves, we're making global progress.  The other good news is that government really works".  As to that last part, he is a Democratic Party operative.  From the article, the lede and following paragraph:

A bloody civil war in Syria, renewed violence in Iraq, economic uncertainty in Cyprus, brinkmanship on the Korean peninsula – it seems that every day brings with it a fresh new tale of woe from around the world.  At the same time, government officials tell us constantly the world is a place of great danger and potential dangers and politicians inflate threats and the risk they pose to the United States.

But guess what?  You can turn that frown upside down, because for all the seemingly bad news around the world, we are actually living in a golden age of global development.  Today, millions of people around the world are living longer, healthier, freer, safer and more prosperous lives than ever before in human history – and we have the data to prove it.

Our personal and collective choices matter.  The article is worth the read to get a better feel for the situation.

Regards  —  Cliff

  "Speechboy" does tweets as

Well Payed Mayor Proposal

For John, BLUFKendall wants to pay the mayor more.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In the Saturday Chat, Publisher Emeritus Kendall Wallace calls for a Charter change, but not a radical one.  He is interested in direct election of a ceremonial mayor for our Fine City.  And a pay raise to $75,000 PA.  The pay increase actually makes sense in that we are expecting the person to devote a fair amount of his [or her] waking hours to doing things for the City.  Not managing anything, but going to ceremonies and attending subcommittee meetings and the like.  Mr Wallace even floated a proposal from some unnamed male City Council member to put on this November's ballot the question:

Who would you like to see the council select as mayor?
My question is, are we moving to a more papal approach, where the mayor could be anybody, but almost certainly will be one of the City CardinalsCouncilors?

Charter change?  I am not in favor of it, but of the various ideas I have heard floating about, this is one of the less offensive.  I believe we can count Mr Wallace in the corner of the Strong City Manager and Professional City Government crowd.

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.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.

He is Risen


Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 30, 2013


For John, BLUFForgiveness is the gift we give that also helps us to live better.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Gospel Reading this last Sunday, Palm or Passion Sunday, was from St Luke's Gospel (Lk 22:14—23:56), which the Homilist told us is about forgiveness.

There was an article in the Spring 2013 edition of Spiritual Life, a publication of the Discalced Carmelite Friars down in Washington, DC.  The article was "Forgiveness:  How Much and What kind?", by Father Jerome Knies, OSA, STD.  I would like to tell you it is available on line, but alas it is not, not even at the publication's Web Site.

The author starts out by drawing a thread from the American transcendentalists of 200 years ago to American today and American exceptionalism.  He is concerned that:

The sin is not with the ideology of individualism.  The sin is not having the faintest idea anything is wrong.  It is the innocent presumption of innocence.
And that is a danger with American exceptionalism.

From there the writer moves to the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew, Chapter 18), which has the debtor forgiven his debt, but then not forgiving someone who owes him.  The article author goes back to Genesis (Gn 4:23-24) to bring forth Lamech, who claims the right to inflict vengeance seventy times sevenfold.  That is a lot.  The author then takes the parable and says:

If Peter is not prepared to forgive even a Lamech, Peter is an unforgiving debtor.  The obvious irony in this teaching is that Jesus is telling Peter that God will be more cruel than Lamech if Peter does not forgive from his heart.  But then if one is forgiving from one's heart, one also knows in one's heart that our "heavenly Father" is far more merciful than can be imaged by us, the sinners we are.
So, forgiveness is important, but it is not just our forgiveness of others.  We must also forgive ourselves and be prepared to receive forgiveness.
We do not need forgiveness such that it pretends we are innocent when we are not, as if it would make any difference to pretend we are not paralyzed when we are.  It is more than some kind of divine pretense.  If Jesus had stopped after telling the paralytic that his sins were forgiven and gone on his way, the paralytic would never have walked home on his own (Mt 9:2ss).  A child needs to be forgiven by our forgetting the misdeed, but the older we become, the more we need healing attention to ourselves.  The paralytic received something far more precious than a ritual pardon.  It was something to see:
But to prove to you that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins....Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go off home."  And the man got up and went home.(Mt9-6)
Forgiveness is vital to all moving forward.  I have heard it suggested that a lack of forgiveness can cause us physical as well as emotional problems.  I don't doubt it.

We need to cleanse ourselves by forgiving others, even those who were stupid or hurtful.

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, March 29, 2013

Noon to Three


Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, March 28, 2013

UK Bad Winter

For John, BLUFGlobal Warming saving lives?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A friend of my Brother Lance sent along this extract from an article in The Daily Telegraph on the impact of CAGW on the UK:

... The reaction to the 2003 heatwave was extraordinary. It was blamed for 2,000 deaths, and taken as a warning that Britain was horribly unprepared for the coming era of snowless winters and barbecue summers. The government’s chief scientific officer, Sir David King, later declared that climate change was “more serious even than the threat of terrorism” in terms of the number of lives that could be lost. Such language is never used about the cold, which kills at least 10 times as many people every winter. Before long, every political party had signed up to the green agenda.

Since Sir David’s exhortations, some 250,000 Brits have died from the cold, and 10,000 from the heat. It is horribly clear that we have been focusing on the wrong enemy. Instead of making sure energy was affordable, ministers have been trying to make it more expensive, with carbon price floors and emissions trading schemes. Fuel prices have doubled over seven years, forcing millions to choose between heat and food – and government has found itself a major part of the problem.

... By now, the Energy Secretary will also have realised another inconvenient truth – that, for Britain, global warming is likely to save far more lives then it threatens. Delve deep enough into the Government’s forecasts, and they speculate that global warming will lead to 6,000 fewer deaths a year, on average, by the end of the decade. This is the supposed threat facing us: children would be less likely to have snow to play in at Christmas, but more likely to have grandparents to visit over Easter. Not a bad trade-off.

Global warming saving lives.

The full at article can be found here.

Regards  —  Cliff

  He no longer copies Brother Lance, since Lance believes in CAGW as unmitigated disaster.

Employment Up, Salaries Down

For John, BLUFTHe economic recovery is slow.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have the County Employment and Wages Report, Third Quarter 2012.

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report we find that Middlesex County had an increase in employment from this past September over September of 2011 of 1.7%, making us number 123 out of the 329 largest counties in the country.  Our employment was 829,8000 workers.

On the other hand, average weeky wage was $1,318, down 0.3%.  That makes us 68 in terms of size of change from September 2012 vice 2011, out of the 329 largest counties, nation wide.  Quoting from the report:

Average weekly wages for the nation decreased by 1.1 percent during the year ending in the third quarter of 2012.
So, we did better than average, wage wise.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Quoting from Wikipedia:  Middlesex County, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the twenty-third most populous county in the United States and the most populous county in New England.  As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,503,085, making it more populous than any other New England state except for Connecticut.  The center of population of Massachusetts is in Natick, Middlesex County.  As of 2006, Middlesex County was tenth in the United States on the list of most millionaires per county.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Farewell to Arlo and Janis

For John, BLUFComics being rotated in The Sun.

Arlo and Janis have left the building!

Or at least The [Lowell] Sun.

Been gone for over a week.  Did you notice?  I wonder if the Editor finally realized that it was not always a family friendly strip, what with the "Arlo Award" being named after it.

I have suggested replacing it with Jump Start.  The artist lives in Conshohocken, another former mill City on a river.

Regards  —  Cliff

What Does SSM Approval Give US?

For John, BLUFAre the boundaries of our conduct cultural or are them set by some sort of derived natural law?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked one of the key questions during yesterday's oral argument over the California Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. PerryMs Penny Starr reporting.

Mr. Olson, the bottom line that you're being asked—and—and it is one that I'm interested in the answer:  If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what state restrictions could ever exist?

Meaning, what state restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to—that could get married—the incest laws, the mother and child, assuming that they are the age—I can—I can accept that the state has probably an overbearing interest on—on protecting a child until they're of age to marry, but what's left?

Mr Ted Olsen.
Well, you've said—you've said in the cases decided by this court that the polygamy issue, multiple marriages raises questions about exploitation, abuse, patriarchy, issues with respect to taxes, inheritance, child custody, it is an entirely different thing.  And if you—if a state prohibits polygamy, it's prohibiting conduct.

If it prohibits gay and lesbian citizens from getting married, it is prohibiting their exercise of a right based upon their status, picking out a group of individuals to deny them the freedom (the court) said is fundamental.

Writing at the Instanpundit blog spot, Law Professor Elizabeth Price Foley says:
Lawyer Ted Olson’s answer was not entirely satisfactory, suggesting that a ban on polygamy or incest would be a ban on “conduct,” not one based on “status.”
I think that puts the question back in play, after Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall punted on that specific question, telling the General Court it could do whatever it wanted, as long as it didn't mess with Same Sex Marriage, in the Goodridge v department of Public Health case.

And didn't SCOTUS say, in Lawrence v Texas, that Government couldn't regulate conduct?

There is always the somewhat sour view of Ms Megan McArdle, at The Daily Beast.  Her view is that with US Supreme Court approval it will be all over for those who are eligible for Same Sex Marriage.  It will look like the 1950s in suburbia.

Regards  —  Cliff

Birthers Galore

For John, BLUFThe more things change the more they stay the same.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

It appears that Birtherism comes in all stripes of political persuasion.  At least per National Review.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Kudos For Renee

For John, BLUFLocal blogger gets a shout-out.

Blogger K T Cat, from San Diego, writes:

She's Just Better Than I Am, That's All

Renee is awesome.

She's an excellent writer - well organized compositions and stylistically solid. I step my game need up to.

Good Lord, she's got me so intimidated that my grammar is falling apart!

Posted by K T Cat at 7:21 AM

That would be Renee Aste, blogger from here in Lowell.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Physics Developments

For John, BLUFWe missed the boat on physics research, when we cancelled our "collider" near 20 years ago.

Over in Europe scientists think they have found the Higgs boson, in an experiment in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, in Europe..  The title of the Scientific American article is "How the Higgs Boson Might Spell Doom for the Universe."

The finding also means that our universe could be doomed to fall apart.  "If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it is bad news," says Joseph Lykken, a theorist who works at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.  "It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable."
But probably not for a number of eons.

UPDATE:  Added a link and provided some punctuation update.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I blogged about it here.
  It could have been in Texas, but the US Congress, which is a prime wasteful spendeer, suspended our investment in this basic scientific research.

Oral Hearings Today

For John, BLUFToday the US Supreme Court meets on Same Sex Marriage.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

One of my sources for blogging ideas is Law Professor Ann Althouse, who teaches out in Madison, Wisconsin.  She has had a couple of interesting posts up in the last 24 hours on Same Sex Marriage (SSM), which I will link to below:

  1. "Ann, if you're correct and gay marriage is inevitable it might be more profitable to ask of gay marriage proponents 'How do you want to win?'"  The flip side of this is the question "How do you want to lose?"  The professor says she wants to win in the US Supreme Court.  Go to the link to see why.
  2. "There’s no way of knowing what combination of these singular features of marriage confers which of its demonstrated advantages, culturally and psychologically."  This is in response to an article by Andrew Ferguson, in The Weekly Standard.  This is a look at the chicken and egg question of if marriage begat government or government begat marriage or if it really is a Sacrament instituted by God.  More important, what are the implications of the answer.
  3. Lastly is a post on Ms Jean Podrasky, a cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts, and a Lesbian, who says:  "He is a smart man... He is a good man. I believe he sees where the tide is going." "I do trust him.  I absolutely trust that he will go in a good direction."  She will be there today for the SCOTUS Session.
Today is the day for oral arguments before the US Supreme Court on SSM.

Will the world be the same after?  Will the world be the same after the decision is released?  And what do we mean by "the same"?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, March 25, 2013

Kerry Healey to New Position

For John, BLUFKerry Murphy Healey moves on to a new job.

Maybe this explains why our former Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Murphy Healey, elected to not run for the US Senate, where she would have been a standout.  Babson College announces Dr Kerry Healey as President of the institution.

The Babson College Board of Trustees named Dr. Kerry Healey, former Lt. Governor of Massachusetts and a leading advocate for the expansion of women's rights and higher education in Afghanistan, Babson’s next president and the first woman to lead the College.  An academic by training, Kerry is an internationally known and respected leader with nearly three decades experience in academia, government, and international diplomatic and humanitarian work.
Congratulations to you, Dr Kerry Murphy Healey.

Regards  —  Cliff

What is Marriage?

For John, BLUFWhat are the limits on legally recognized interpersonal relationships?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I expect some sneering at this post.  It asks for some lateral thinking, a fresh questioning about the issue of Gay Marriage, which is going before the US Supreme Court.  In fact, Hollingsworth v Perry is to be argued before the US Supreme Court tomorrow, Tuesday, 26 March 2013.

A question has been raised about the Unitarian Church trying to suppress members who wish to expand the discussion of marriage to include polyamorous relationships.  I am not advocating legal recognition of such relationships, as I see them as being intrinsically wrong.  I realize that opens me to the charge of being prejudiced, and so I am.

Here is what Professor Althouse wrote:

But within the ranks of the UUA over the past few years, there has been some quiet unrest concerning a small but activist group that vociferously supports polyamory.  That is to say “the practice of loving and relating intimately to more than one other person at a time,” according to a mission statement by Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA).  The UUPA “encourages spiritual wholeness regarding polyamory,” including the right of polyamorous people to have their unions blessed by a minister.

UUA headquarters says it has no official position on polyamory. “Official positions are established at general assembly and never has this issue been brought to general assembly,” a spokeswoman says.

But as the issue of same-sex marriage heads to the Supreme Court, many committed Unitarians think the denomination should have a position, which is that polyamory activists should just sit down and be quiet. For one thing, poly activists are seen as undermining the fight for same-sex marriage.  The UUA has officially supported same-sex marriage, the spokeswoman says, “since 1979, with tons of resolutions from the general assembly.”

The original Washington Post article can be found here.

I would like to note that my position is that "marriage" is a religious construct and that the Government's interest is in documenting legal relationships that protect those engaged in long term relationships, to include, in particular, children who are legal dependents of adults.  You go to your local Town or City Clerk to register a relationship and you go to your Minister or your best friend to officiate at a solemnization of your relationship.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

New TV Series (The Americans) Critiqued

For John, BLUFSome murderous dictatorships are more equal than other murderous dictatorships.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a critique of the NBC TV Series, The Americans, about two KGB (Soviet) "Sleeper Agents" in 1980s America.  Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Ilya Somin (George Mason Law School) wrote about "Communism, The Americans, and the Nature of Evil".  Here is, I believe, the key sentence.

My main criticism of the portrayal of communism in much of Western popular culture and intellectual discourse is that it tends to ignore or downplay communist crimes and atrocities, as most recently evident in the fawning obituaries of the late British communist historian Eric Hobsbawm; a lifelong Nazi sympathizer would never have been so lionized by mainstream media and academia.
This is a problem in that it distorts our understanding of history.  We seem to hold people from different nations and different parts of the world to different standards of conduct.  The implication of such an approach is that human rights are not universal.  That is to say, a denial of the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I rather hold all nations and all People to the same high standards, thus avoiding what has been called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sequestration and Boots Blesse

For John, BLUFAnother Great American moves on.

This Washington Post article is about Sequestration, and its impacts, but it mentions the late Frederick C "Boots" Blesse, author of No Guts, No Glory, a short booklet about being a fighter pilot.  The article is "Funeral flyovers squeezed by sequester, but fighter ace ‘Boots’ Blesse gets a final salute", by reporter Michael E. Ruane, and published on 22 March.

From the lede:

The shadows of the fighter jets streaked across Arlington National Cemetery on Friday as mourners laid to rest legendary Air Force general Frederick C. “Boots” Blesse.

Overhead, four gray F-15s roared across a cloudless blue sky, and one pulled out of formation and shot upward, signifying a departed pilot.

It was a majestic salute. But because of “sequestration” budget cuts, Blesse, who died in the fall at 91, might be one of the few getting such an honor this year.

The Air Force has decided that it will no longer do public flyovers at graduations, air shows, sporting events and funerals. That decision went into effect March 1. The Pentagon issued a similar decree for all services, effective April 1.

But the Air Force and the Pentagon allow special consideration for funerals. And Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry O. Spencer approved funeral flyovers Friday for Blesse and for Maj. Lucas Gruenther, who was killed in a training crash Jan. 28 and was being buried in Colorado.

Wendy Varhegyi, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the service normally would do flyovers at about 1,000 public events a year.

In addition, it would fly over 100 to 150 funerals a year.

It is worth noting that General Blesse died 31 October of last year and was just buried at Arlington.  This has nothing to do with the Sequestration and everything to do with the scheduling problem faced by the people running Arlington National Cemetery.  This delay is not unusual.  Note that the burial of Major Lucas Gruenther, in Colorado, was much quicker.

I met General Blesse, after he retired.  The then Commander-in-Chief of United States Air Forces in Europe, the late General Charles L Donnelly, Jr, was bringing retired fighter pilots to Europe to talk with the young fighter pilots about how it was in the old days.  I had a short conversation with General Blesse.  He asked and I told him I had been in the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang Air Base in 1966.  He noted he was there in 1967.  He then noted that when he was the Director of Operations for the Wing he instituted the practice of carrying the SUU-16 gun pod in place of the 600 gallon centerline fuel tank on missions escorting bomb dropping aircraft over North Viet-nam, thus making the 366th "The Gunfighters".  The SUU-16 housed the M-61 Vulcan (20 mm "gatling gun" cannon) and 1200 rounds of ammunition, which was fired off at the rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, which was about 12 seconds of firing time.

In my own tactless way I explained that actually that tactic had been developed by then Major Bob Dilger, a half a year earlier.  The reason the 366th stopped carrying the SUU-16, with the M-61, into the northern reaches of North Viet-nam was that one of our Aircraft Commanders jettisoned one into Haiphong Harbor when he thought he was running out of gas.  So much for that good idea.  As a bonus point, I said that Major Dilger did get a MiG Kill, scraping one off on the ground during some fancy aerial maneuvering.

And here is the "unofficial" patch for the 366th Wing while it was at Da Nang, flying as the "Gunfighters", which just means that until the arrival of the F-4E, Da Nang was the only F-4 PHANTOM outfit taking guns up into Route Packages V and VI of North Viet-nam.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Up until Donald Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense we had theater commanders who were "Commanders-in-Chief" and their Service Component Commanders were also stylized as "Commanders-in-Chief".  However, Mr Rumsfeld felt that since the US Constitution designated the President as "Commander-in-Chief" no one else should have the title (in the US), notwithstanding common English usage.  Mr Rumsfeld erred.
  From an article in DoD Buzz, back in 2009:  "Col. Robert Dilger (USAF, ret.), an F-4 fighter tactician in Vietnam (187 missions) and then chief air-to-air instructor at the Fighter Weapons School, became A-10 Armament Director in charge of the 30mm cannon, the massive 30mm ammo war reserve production program (reducing its costs by a factor of 8), and the pioneering live fire effectiveness tests of the 30mm against loaded Soviet tanks in formation."

Gun Laws

For John, BLUFAre we talking gun safety or political theater?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Who is Mr Wayne LaPierre and why is he saying bad things about Chicago?  Here is how Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse puts it in her blog:

Do you know where Chicago ranks in terms of enforcement of the federal gun laws?  Out of 90 jurisdictions in the country, they ranked 90th. Why doesn't NBC News start with, 'Shocking news on Chicago. Of all the jurisdictions in the country, Chicago's dead last on enforcement of the federal gun laws'? Why doesn't the national press corps, when they're sitting down there with Jay Carney and the president and the vice president, why don't they say, 'Why is Chicago dead last in enforcement of the gun laws against gangs with guns, felons with guns, drug dealers with guns'?
Here is the link to the "Meet the Press" page, which Professor Althouse uses with Mr LaPierre's question, "Why push for bad new laws when good old ones are not enforced?"

Sometimes it seems that "Gun Control Laws" are about making it hard on the law abiding citizens, while ignoring the problems of those who are willing to skirt our flout the laws. I provide the Althouse Blog link for quick access to the caustic comments.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Buddhist-Muslim Violence in Burma

For John, BLUFRiven—"split or tear apart violently".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A colleague of mine wrote in an EMail this morning:

While we tend to think of religious violence as being associated with the Middle East, it is useful to recognize that there are Muslim-Buddhist tensions, not only in Burma, but also an active insurgency underway in southern Thailand. This is in addition to the ongoing insurgency involving Abu Sayyaf (commonly associated with al-Qaeda) in the Philippines.

Southeast Asia, and Asia in general, remains riven by a variety of tensions, religious, territorial, etc. As the recent Malaysia-Philippines fracas shows, these tensions often express themselves in use of force--perhaps not high intensity (at least initially), but with the potential for escalation.

This was in response to an article in The Washington Post on violence in Burma (Myanmar), where Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims in the City of Meikhila.  The article is here—"UN envoy to Myanmar visits ruined city after Buddhist-Muslim violence kills dozens".  Not a major event, but 32 human beings were killed, some burned beyond recognition.

The lede for an article on Muslim-Buddist violence reads:

MEIKHTILA, Myanmar — The top UN envoy to Myanmar on Sunday toured a central city destroyed in the country’s worst explosion of Buddhist-Muslim violence this year, calling on the government to punish those responsible for a tragedy that left dozens of corpses piled in the streets, some of them charred beyond recognition.
We, as the United States, either alone or as part of some international agency or authority, are not going to be able to end this sort of thing, except by the example we provide in the way we conduct our own affairs.  That said, we need to be prepared to stamp out such sectarian violence if it should ever appear on our shores.  At the same time, we need to recognize that such sectarian violence is often not so much about religion as it is about economics or job opportunities or oppression of minorities or the imposition of minority rule on the majority.  Sometimes things are not what they appear to be.

Regards  —  Cliff

Which Way to Turn?

For John, BLUFEconomics seems to be more about Faith than Reason.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Writing for Forbes, Mr James Gruber tells us, "Forget Cyprus, Japan Is The Real Crisis".  As we remember from our last thrilling episode, the EU was going to force Cyprus, in exchange for an 11 Billion Euro bailout, to tax all savings accounts over 100,000 € at 9.9%, those under a little less.  That was rejected last week, but now Cyprus is going to tax all accounts above the insured level some 20%, which is still less than losing all the money in a bank collapse.

Someone I know wrote in an EMail about this:

It appears that the Cypriots now plan 20 percent haircuts for uninsured deposits (those over 100,000 Euros, about $130,000) at the large Bank of Cyprus.  If it were to fail, uninsured depositors would have no legal recourse to demand reimbursement over the insured amount, and the bank would be under no obligation to make good on uninsured deposits.  That the Government of Cyprus seeks to protect 80 percent of uninsured deposits goes well beyond legal requirements.  Apparently depositors are other banks will face only a four percent haircut on deposits over the insured amount.
He then continued with some political analysis of the Russians who put their money in Cypriot banks.

But, back to the Forbes article, here is how Mr Gruber starts his article:

Forget Cyprus. A much bigger story in the coming weeks and months will be in Japan, where one of the greatest economic experiments in the modern era is about to begin.  A country where government debt even dwarfs those of Europe’s crisis-ridden nations, Japan will attempt to inflate its way out of a 23-year deflationary spiral.

The overwhelming consensus among the world’s economists is that quantitative easing (QE) has saved the day in the U.S. and that Japan needs to follow suit, on a larger scale.  I beg to differ and suggest this policy will almost certainly lead to a hyperinflationary disaster in Japan.  If that’s right, it will have serious ramifications for other countries, dragged down by an acceleration of the so-called currency wars.  More broadly though, it is likely to destroy the myth pushed by today’s economists that QE is a cure-all for downtrodden economies.  It isn’t and Japan will become the template to prove it.

Mr Grube lists three "Facts" and then disputes them.  The facts are (1) that the US Economy proves stimulus works, (2) that Europe's problem is government spending cuts and (3) that Japan never tried an aggressive stimulus approach.
Fact 1:  It is far too early to tell whether U.S. stimulus policies have worked.  They have propped up the economy in the short-term, but whether that’s sustainable in the long run is open to question.  Even in the short-term though, the recovery has been slow and unimpressive.  Consider:  2012 GDP growth of 2.2% vs a post World War Two average of 3.2%, a current unemployment rate at 11.3% if you include that have dropped out of the workforce since 2008, real household incomes are still 10% below levels in 2000 and the velocity of money (M2) is the lowest in more than 50 years (indicating printed money hasn’t circulating into the real economy).

Fact 2:  Europe hasn’t pursued austerity.  Anyone who says it has is lying. But it makes for a nice political argument in favour of stimulus.  European total debt has kept climbing, now at 390%, as the private sector hasn’t paid down any debt, while governments have increased their debt portions.  No cutbacks here!

And for the curious, unlike QE, there is some historical evidence that austerity can actually work.  In my neighbourhood of Asia, the financial crisis of 1997-1998 brought tremendous pain to many Asian countries, but through austerity and sweeping economic reforms, they recovered relatively quickly and in much better shape.

Fact 3:  Those that claim that Japan has never pursued aggressive stimulus are talking rubbish.  But again, it’s nice propaganda for Keynesian advocates.  From 2001-2006, Japan embraced large-scale stimulus, with its monetary base increasing by a mammoth 36% year-on-year at its peak.  During the period, the monetary base rose 82% in total.  But economic growth was never revived, the currency rose rather than fell and inflation continued to decline.  QE in Japan was dropped because it was seen as failing.

There you have it.  There are two different views.  It is like you are driving east along a highway and you get to the Atlantic Ocean, where your road Tees.  Do you go north or south, or do you do what many cry for from Washington, you compromise and go straight ahead?

Regards  —  Cliff

  "(Reuters) - Cyprus conceded on Saturday to a one-off levy on deposits over 100,000 euros in a dramatic U-turn as it raced to satisfy European partners and seal an 11th-hour bailout deal to avert financial collapse."
  "The mega depositors realized Cyprus was less politically stable and economically strong than, say, Switzerland, but they wanted to avoid transparency requirements the Swiss impose, e.g., Swiss willingness to share information with US and other international law enforcement authorities. The oligarchs knew the risks, and took their chances. If they are reimbursed for eighty percent of their uninsured deposits, they should thank their lucky stars."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bishops State Budget Priorities

For John, BLUFThe first job of Government is to protect the People from their enemies.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In this week's edition of The [Boston] Pilot we have an article by Reporter Dennis Sadowski, "Bishops remind Congress that poor must be first in budget priorities".

The needs of poor and vulnerable Americans must remain at the top of the country's spending priorities as Congress debates the federal budget in the coming weeks, the chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committees said.

Holding firm to earlier stances, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, told members of Congress in a March 18 letter that budget expenditures reflect the priorities of a nation.

"As Catholic pastors, we continue to emphasize that these choices are economic, political and moral," the bishops said.

"While we lack the competence to offer a detailed critique of entire budget proposals, we do ask you to consider the human and moral dimensions of these choices," they said.

On the other hand, Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution reads:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Provision of a common defense is vital to being able to provide for the general welfare of these United States.  Even the Bishops recognize that, as is show in the last paragraph of the article:
"Our nation has an obligation to address the impact of future deficits on the health of the economy, to ensure stability and security for future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively," they wrote. "A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military spending and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly."
In sum, if the answer fits on a bumper sticker, it is probably not the correct answer.  We do need to take care of those less fortunate, of those suffering in this current economic downturn.  But, we also need to provide military and police forces to protect all of us from enemies foreign and domestic.  Further, we owe it to the less fortunate to help them not become dependent upon government for their support, but rather to help them become functioning and contributing members of our society.

Regards  —  Cliff

Being Ethical While Being a Spook

For John, BLUFEthics is about what we owe ourselves, not what we owe our bosses.  FYI, Spook as in Spy.

Retired CIA Officer Burton Gerber Shares Spy Stories

The title of Mr Burton Gerber's talk was "The Ethical Aspects of Intelligence Work: The Cold War and Beyond"  The Ethical Aspects...  A very good topic.  In the article at the DePauw University website are embedded links to audio of the talk.

Here is the early part of the article:

March 22, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. - It may seem like an oxymoron, but a man who spent virtually four decades in the Central Intelligence Agency says spies have a moral imperative to be ethical.  Burton Lee Gerber spoke on "The Ethical Aspects of Intelligence Work:  The Cold War and Beyond" in a Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture on the DePauw University campus today.

Gerber spent 39 years in the CIA as a case officer and chief of station.  "As a case officer.. a guy who goes out and recruits other spies abroad, I was lying and cheating and stealing," Gerber explained to the audience gathered in Meharry Hall of historic East College.  "All of you were taught as youngsters not to lie, or cheat or steal.  But yet we expect the people who are going to be the case officers for our intelligence agency to do those things."  The retired CIA veteran said, "the question in the business of spying is, for what ends are you doing it?  You are lying, cheating and stealing but it's your job and it's for the good of the country."

That said, Gerber said he has not always agreed with CIA assignments, which are dictated by presidents and their cabinets.  For instance, the veteran spy said he opposed CIA efforts to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro.  "Some people would say killing one person could save 1,000 other lives, but I would say that I'm more interested in saving my soul."

Gerber was also very interested in the welfare of those who were spying for him.  "Spying is, by definition, risky.  You're putting people's lives on the line, you're asking them to do dangerous things. And you should be troubled by that," he said.

Regards  —  Cliff

Review of Movie Zero Dark Thirty

For John, BLUFTorture is both wrong and also ineffective at revealing the truth.

Playwright Carla Seaquist here writes on the movie Zero Dark Thirty.  Ms Seaquist goes on at some length about the film, and for good reason.  She feels that the film represents the fact that Hollywood has lost its moral way and has betrayed what it means to be America.  The title is "Society Instructs Hollywood on 'Moral Ambiguity' of Torture: Or, What the Zero Dark Thirty Controversy Means".  Quoting the Author:

"Moral ambiguity" has become a standard artistic choice today, for filmmakers as well as playwrights and novelists, meaning:  Rather than put the thumb on the scales for or against an action depicted, the artist professes to leave the moral judging to the audience.  Moral questions being by definition about right and wrong, the artist presuming to treat such questions in an ambiguous manner must then show at least two sides (or more) of the question under review.
But, Ms Seaquist asserts, there is not, in this movie, the presentation of two or more sides.  There is just the one side—torture works and is acceptable because it works.

Here is the Author's condemnation that should hurt all in Hollywood:

It can also be argued that today's Hollywood has lost the moral voice that, once upon a time, it had, when it produced thought-provoking movies like The Lost Weekend, Gentleman's Agreement, High Noon, 12 Angry Men, Paths of Glory, Judgment at Nuremberg, To Kill of Mockingbird, In the Heat of the Night, and recent anti-war films like Platoon.  But today, Hollywood goes for buff bodies and "edgy" premises and visceral experience, not so much for dramas of conscience.  It's good to remember that, once upon a time, in Casablanca, every refugee biding time in Rick's café wanted to get to America—because America was a moral beacon.
It was a moral beacon.  It needs to be that moral beacon again.  I am more ambiguous than Ms Seaquist regarding the Iraq War, ten years on, but I agree the decision to invade was a bad decision and I believe that our early post-invasion actions left things to be desired.  The actions of our Soldiers at Abu Ghraib Prison was objectively wrong and it showed a lack of leadership before the event and a lack of justice after.  Torture elsewhere was also wrong.

But, my take-away is that we have to be prepared to make moral choices, as individuals and as institutions.  Torture is wrong.  Taking bribes is wrong.  Carelessly having a child out of wedlock is wrong.  On the other hand, we need to leave room for remorse, restitution and forgiveness.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In the interest of full disclosure, I have previously met Ms Seaquist and her husband and I worked together on the Joint Staff.
  It is sort of like the former Commonwealth State Senator Dianne Wilkerson declaration after a Constitutional Convention, "The Ends justify the Means".  Unacceptable.

Being Open to the Press

For John, BLUFI know the Press can be difficult, but shouldn't State Government folks get some short training on being open and "transparent"?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Things like this just serve to embarrass the Citizens of our fine Commonwealth.  The headline in Reporter Chros Cassidy's 22 March story in The Boston Herald was "Commission's meeting on openness closed to Herald".  Of course it got picked up and past around.  I found it at The Instapundit.

The lede:

The State Ethics Commission preached transparency and accountability in a closed-door training session with scores of House lawmakers yesterday, but practiced old-fashioned back-room politics as it booted a Herald reporter hoping to witness ethics reform in action — a bizarre encounter that ended with the state ethics chairman ducking simple questions and refusing even to identify himself.

“Some would argue the first rule of ethics reform is transparency ...” a man later identified as Ethics Commission Chairman Charles Swartwood III was asked by the Herald as he boarded an elevator after the session.

“Can I tell you — don’t argue with me,” Swartwood responded.

Swartwood, a former federal judge magistrate, also scolded a Herald reporter for snapping his photo as he walked out of the State House and refused to give his name and his exact job title.

I just received my notice from the City of Lowell to do my annual traning in the area of ethics.  From the last time I took this training, it mostly seems straight forward.  That said, I feel constrained by the Open Meeting Law, in that it seems to me there isn't a lot of room for early exploration of ideas with colleagues on the License Commission.  At the same time I recognize that things can easily go the other way—a broad lack of transparency.

I wonder if Ethics Commission Chairman Charles Swartwood III was brought in so that the 200 members of the General Court could validate ethics training by attending the lecture?

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Work Has Inherent Dignity

For John, BLUFWork is noble.

Adrian Dantley, ex-NBA star, says crossing-guard job is meaningful way to fill his days.

That is the headline in The Washington Post, and it is absolutely correct.  Work has an inherent dignity about it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Cost of Intelligence

For John, BLUFProducing the intelligence we need to protect our nation is an expensive business.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In yesterday's edition of The Washington Post is an article by Reporter Greg Miller that says a report to the President questions the current overall focuses of our Intelligence Community (IC).  The article, "Secret report raises alarms on intelligence blind spots because of AQ focus", says too much attention is being paid to the war on terrorism, thus causing neglect in other areas.  Here is the lede and following paragraph.

A panel of White House advisers warned President Obama in a secret report that U.S. spy agencies were paying inadequate attention to China, the Middle East and other national security flash points because they had become too focused on military operations and drone strikes, U.S. officials said.

Led by influential figures including new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former senator David L. Boren (D-Okla.), the panel concluded in a report last year that the roles of the CIA, the National Security Agency and other spy services had been distorted by more than a decade of conflict.

This article raises some questions about how the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, will deal with this situation, now that he is running the institution that most benefits from this supposed distortion of our intelligence focus.

However, SecDef Hagel aside, this is a serious issue.  Intelligence collection and analysis is expensive business and at least part of the budget is hidden within the larger Federal Budget.  My friend, the late Colonel John Rothrock, used to say that the cost of tracking Soviet (it was some time ago) mobile strategic nuclear missiles would cost the GDP of a small nation.  Expensive.

The rule has to be, bring me an initiative, bring me a tradeoff.

Regards  —  Cliff

That Budget Surplus

For John, BLUFThere is a budget surplus out there somewhere.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At Defense News we have an article on the Administration's Fiscal 2014 Budget, by Reporter Marcus Weisgerber, titled "New WH Plan Would Cut $100B From Defense".  Here is the lede:

WASHINGTON — The White House is preparing to submit a fiscal 2014 federal budget that would partially offset across-the-board sequestration cuts by reducing the Pentagon budget by $100 billion, but not until later this decade, according to a senior defense official and budget documents.
Note that the saving will not occur "until later this decade".  One of my Brothers EMailed me about this, stating:
What I don’t understand is after how many times I’ve read over the last four decades about all the money to be saved, although “outside the President’s term of office” or “outside the FYDP,” that we don’t have a budget surplus in the quadrillions.
Smoke and mirrors?

Aside from President Bill Clinton, in cooperation with then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, this has been a bipartisan approach for many decades.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sarah is Cranky

For John, BLUFMaybe it isn't good for everyone to be all excited about politics.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Fiction writer Sarah Hoyt is cranky and lets us know it.  Her blog post is "A State of Ignorance and An Ignorance of State".

She is in a lather over people who are in a lather over the fact that most Americans don't really have a handle on either government or politics.  By government, I mean the Constitution and how things work, or don't, from Capitol Hill, in DC, to their local town or city.  As a point of reference, when, in the Blog Post, she says "partly because I lived in times when not knowing who was likely to gain power the next turn could cost you your life (a lot of people become engaged in those circumstances)" she is talking growing up in Portugal under Salazar up through the Carnation Revolution.

Somewhere in the Blog Post she says:

The problem we have right now is the confusing of politics with social clubs.  A lot of this has always happened.  Hereditary democrats who don’t believe anything the democrats are promising vote democrat because their local Ward people met their immigrant grandfather coming off the boat and helped.  So, in gratitude, they keep voting democrat.

But it is worse now, because there are a lot fewer other (local) clubs and sports are less … uh… fewer people care about sports.  So people identify with a party in the same way that people would identify with a sports fandom.  They vote democrat because their neighbors do.  Other people do it was a status thing “All of my industry votes democrat.  It’s what smart people do.”

As I said, this has always happened, but it’s become more so as the mass media – note I used all democrat above.  There’s a reason – has worked very hard to foster this kind of clubbish partisanship.  (Including reporting everything stupid a republican says and keeping mum about things like Guam tipping over and/or having to pass the law to find what’s in it.)

She wraps up the blog post thusly:
Pray.  Pray very constantly that the crash isn’t bad enough to wake the rest of the people.  PRAY that there is never a state of affairs where your survival depends on almost everyone knowing the constitution and being able to tell you if they’re for or against each amendment.

Because that will mean a state of unimaginable chaos and fear and possibly a tri-or-four part civil war.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  Let’s hope it’s never required that the majority of the people be THAT well informed.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Korea in Our Lives

For John, BLUFEven today you can be a Korean War Vet.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Two items regarding Korea have come to our attention.  First off, as we know, there has been a Korean War Armistice in place since 27 July 1953.  However, the Government of North Korea has said it no longer accepts the Armistice as being in force.  Here is the key paragraph from the agreement:

62. The Articles and Paragraphs of this Armistice Agreement shall remain in effect until expressly superseded either by mutually acceptable amendments and additions or by provision in an appropriate agreement for a peaceful settlement at a political level between both sides.
Here is a scenario that shows one path to war—nuclear war—between the US and nKorea (North Korea).  The [London] Sunday Times titles this article "Countdown to catastrophe:  Experts say armageddon, triggered by a Korean conflict sucking China and America into war, could be only four days away."

But, we aren't worried about that.

So, moving on, I checked Monday, because someone asked, and found that about ten years ago the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) agreed that any military member who has been to Korea, even after the Armistice went into effect 2200 hours on 27 July 1953, for a day is qualified for VFW membership—the war has never ended.  And once in a while nKorea reminds us of that, shooting at an SR-71, sinking a South Korean naval vessel, or shelling a South Korean island, killing civilians.

It is a tough world out there.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Other Marriage Inequality

For John, BLUFThe current system for raising families in certain strata of our society is broken.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At a previous blog post, "Marriage and Government", Commenter Renee refers us to this USA Today Opinion Piece from Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds, "The Other Marriage Inequality".

Professor Reynolds talks to the marriage gap between the Middle Class and the Lower Middle Class, where the number of births without marriage is soaring.  The Professor suggests that Government policies are encouraging this trend, with bad consequences.  He notes, "When you subsidize something, you get more of it—and we're subsidizing unmarried mothers".  He summarizes this as follows:

The problem, though, is that the kids do worse.  A government check isn't a substitute for a father, and while plenty of single-mom kids do fine, most tend to do worse on measures ranging from educational attainment and future income to criminality.  And the process feeds on itself:  Women want "marriageable" men—those with good incomes and stable lifestyles—but the more single-parent households there are, the fewer men are likely to be "marriageable" in the next generation. Government programs like Head Start don't make up the slack, because no institution can invest the amount of time and energy in a kid that his or her parents can.

So as we talk about "marriage equality" between gays and straights, give a little thought to the problem of marriage inequality between rich and poor.  It matters, too.

Our whole approach to committed relationships between adults and between adults and children needs to be rethought, in terms of our Governments.  In doing this we need to understand the implications of our First Amendment.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lowell Makes Meeting

For John, BLUFThis is a good development.

Dick Howe's blog mentions tonight's meeting of Lowell Makes, at the Lowell Telecommunicatons Corp, at 246 Market Street.  The time is 6:00 PM.

One of the things I miss from my time living on or near an Air Force Base is the availability of "hobby shops".  I have taken my car to the local base Auto Hobby Shop to do this or that work, with the tools available at the Hobby Shop.  I have done wood working at the Woodworking Hobby Shop.  I have made crèche members (the Three Wise Men) at a Ceramics Hobby Shop.  Then there is the photo hobby shop, back when pictures involved film and chemicals.  And, not just me, but my wife and children.  All good.

I could never have afforded all the different tools and facilities needed to do all those different things.  And, there was free advice and help.

But, where are such "hobby shops" in the Greater Lowell Area?  Now we may have a solution to this lack of hobbyist opportunities.

Here is an article on Lowell Makes from The Boston Globe.

See you there, at Six.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, March 18, 2013

For Me and For Thee

For John, BLUFSun Columnist Cheers for Sen Warren going on the offensive.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Sunday Columnist Michael Goldman, writing in The [Lowell] Sun, has a potpourri of things, ending with praise for Senator Elizabeth Warren for not showing Freshman restraint.

One final moment to muse, if you please, on the biggest political surprise of 2013, that being the way Massachusetts' new U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is kicking butt and taking names down in D.C.
Of course, at the same time we have Texas Freshman Senator Ted Cruz being criticized in the Press for being out there expressing his views and fighting for what he thinks is right.

Is there balance out there?  What about down in Boston, where Mr Goldman has his office?

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.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.

Marriage and Government

For John, BLUFWe are in a middle place re "marriage".  Do we think we are coming to rest or do we think there are more changes coming?

Law Professor Ann Althouse blogs about the appearance of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Meet the Press Sunday AM (I was working), "Scott Walker entertains the notion of entirely extracting government from the business of recognizing marriage".

On "Meet the Press" today, David Gregory asked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker:  "Are younger conservatives more apt to see marriage equality as something that is, you know, what they believe, that is basic, rather than as a disqualifying issue?"  Walker said:
Well, I think there's no doubt about that.  But I think that's all the more reason, when I talk about things, I talk about the economic and fiscal crisis in our state and in our country.  That's what people want to resonate about.  They don't want to get focused on those issues....
Later, pushed to talk about a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Walker said:
Well, the interesting thing on the generational standpoint is I've had young people ask me--I think an appropriate question is not expanding it to include folks who are not one man and one woman, but rather questioning why the government's sanctioning it in the first place?  And that would be the alternative, say not have the government sanction... marriage period.  And leave that up to the churches and the synagogues and others to define that....
This is an issue that's been raised time and again in the comments to same-sex marriage posts on this blog...

Chris Matthews jumped all over Walker's idea:  "Well, you can't get away because here are issues of Social Security payments and all kinds of things involved in that.  And rights of prisoners and rights of people in the military. You have to recognize spousal rights."

Marriage is very deeply embedded in so much of what government does.  How could you disentangle it now?...

I would like to start by saying that Mr Chris Matthews is either not now, or is no longer, a critical thinker.

I like what Governor Scott Walker says, but Professor Althouse raises a good point when she says:

Marriage is very deeply embedded in so much of what government does.
As a society we tend to be buffaloed by what my Wife calls the seven last words of the church, "We never did it that way before."  Down that path is rigidity.

If we visualize that what the Government cares about is good contracts, faithfully executed, involving the rights and responsibilities of the committed adult partners and any offspring (and perhaps even parents), then we have a path forward.  We have formal contracts, executed down at the City Clerk's office, and we have defacto contracts, self executing when adults enter into long term relationships or procreate.  Having made that decision, we then, by law, incorporate all those rights and obligations into the new contract, perhaps named Contract of Civil Union.  And we make it retroactive.

If you want to get married, see your local Rabbi or Minister or Imam or have your best friend's Brother officiate at some form of commitment service in a beautiful local, or do it yourself, as Professor Althouse and Meade did, out in Colorado, a few years back.  Or do nothing.  The Government shouldn't care.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Boston Phoenix (RIP)

For John, BLUFAshes to. Ashes.

At her own blog, Majorie Aron-Barron gives us a reprise of the Alternative Newspaper, The Boston Phoenix, "This Time, The Phoenix Doesn't Rise".

Hat tip to Tony at the Dick Howe blog.

Regards  —  Cliff

"The Axis of Torpor"

For John, BLUFMark Steyn writes sarcastically about nuclear proliferation.  It is coming.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Canadian expat Mark Steyn, writing in National Review talks about nuclear proliferation, with the title "The Axis of Torpor". M Steyn starts by reviewing recent movie releases and then reviews the nuclear proliferators and talks about the possible long term outcomes of such proliferation.  He also talks about economies across the globe and wonders why there are rich nations who don't care about nuclear weapons and poor nations that do.  He then looks at different approaches to the problem of nuclear proliferation by different factions down in DC.  Here is the last paragraph:

As the CPAC crowd suggested, there are takers on the right for the Rand Paul position.  There are many on the left for Obama’s drone-alone definition of great power.  But there are ever fewer takers for a money-no-object global hegemon that spends 46 percent of the world’s military budget and can’t impress its will on a bunch of inbred goatherds.  A broker America needs to learn to do more with less, and to rediscover the cold calculation of national interest rather than waging war as the world’s largest NGO.  In dismissing Paul as a “wacko bird,” John McCain and Lindsey Graham assume that the too-big-to-fail status quo is forever.  It’s not; it’s already over.
Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

CPAC—Conservative Political Action Conference
NGO—Non-Governmental Organization
Rand Paul—US Senator from Tennessee, who recently conducted a near 13 hour filibuster regarding possible proliferation of Drone (RPA) attacks.

The Light Gini

For John, BLUFSome Geeks have a formula for understand economic development based on light generated at night.

The abstract for a study of global nighttime lighting, as an indictor for economic development can be found here, and is produced below.

Dynamics and Spatial Distribution of Global Nighttime Lights
Nicola Pestalozzi, Peter Cauwels, Didier Sornette
(Submitted on 12 Mar 2013)

Using open source data, we observe the fascinating dynamics of nighttime light.  Following a global economic regime shift, the planetary center of light can be seen moving eastwards at a pace of about 60 km per year.  Introducing spatial light Gini coefficients, we find a universal pattern of human settlements across different countries and see a global centralization of light.  Observing 160 different countries we document the expansion of developing countries, the growth of new agglomerations, the regression in countries suffering from demographic decline and the success of light pollution abatement programs in western countries.

Gini coefficients?  From Wikipedia:
The Gini coefficient measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution (for example levels of income).  A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality, where all values are the same (for example, where everyone has an exactly equal income).  A Gini coefficient of one (100 on the percentile scale) expresses maximal inequality among values (for example where only one person has all the income).
This nighttime light as seen from space can be seen playing out in the real world.  A photograph from space shows South Korea as ablaze with light and shows North Korea as a dark location.  And so it is with the respective economies.  South Korea has a per capita GDP of $32,431 (2012).  In contrast, North Korea has a per capita GDP of $2,400.  That North Korean number would be 7.5% of the South Korean per capita GDP.

But, they do have nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Here is the link to the PDF of the study.

Regards  —  Cliff

Policy vs Politics

For John, BLUFPresident Eisenhower's Granddaughter, Susan, has joined your political party.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The growing trend toward isolationism, both on the far "left" of the Democratic Party and on the "right" of the Republican Party, has sparked Susan Eisenhower to argue against "acrimonious gridlock" down in Washington.

It appears that our politicians don’t know the difference between politics and policy anymore, which has brought us to a leadership crisis at the very point in our history when our country’s future depends on our capacity to find compromise. Political leadership is about taking responsibility for one’s actions, putting the country first, and demonstrating moral courage.  That sense of moral bravery, seemingly absent in recent times, would have required both sides to engage in a series of intensive closed door sessions until they had hammered out a comprehensive deal—which would have averted other rounds of crises.  Instead, over the last eighteen months they “negotiated” with each other via Twitter, Facebook and friendly 24/7 cable programs.  This wasn’t a serious effort to find a solution for the country; it was only an attempt to talk to their supporters.  Guess who was listening and watching?

News just in tells us that President Obama is now reaching out to the Republicans to see if a compromise is possible.  This is a welcomed move.  We need to reverse our image overseas that the federal government is hobbled by paralysis and dissension.  If we don’t, our nation’s rivals and adversaries may have all the information they really need to know.  Appearances of acrimonious gridlock or a failure of “collective will” can be more important intelligence for a foreign power than any specific security breech.

Of course there is the problem of what to do when there are actual policy differences.  If you say Keynes and I say Hayek, what is the "compromise" position?  Of course George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin explained this to us back in 1937, with this song from Shall We Dance.

Regards  —  Cliff

Strong Religion

For John, BLUFIf a religion isn't serious about its beliefs, its doctrines, it will whither and die.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is some happy little news from The Pew Trust, the number of Roman Catholics identifying themselves as "strong Catholics" has decline.

And this right after the election of a new Pope, Francis I.

From the article lede:

The percentage of U.S. Catholics who consider themselves “strong” members of the Roman Catholic Church has never been lower than it was in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the General Social Survey (GSS). About a quarter (27%) of American Catholics called themselves “strong” Catholics last year, down more than 15 points since the mid-1980s and among the lowest levels seen in the 38 years since strength of religious identity was first measured in the GSS, a long-running national survey carried out by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
The thing missing from this study is the fact that a too liberal religion tends to lose members, but one that is more "conservative" or "fundamentalist", while it may lose members overall, tends to increase the percentage who strongly identify with that religion.  Remember, the two Pentecostal Churches East of Lowell, one on 133 and the other on 110, didn't come over with the folks on the Mayflower.  They represent faiths that are only about 100 years old.  So, their members came from other faiths.  Why?  Because the members were not being nourished by their original Faiths.

Even within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, the more "conservative" dioceses are thriving and the more "liberal" are declining.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Be Careful Out There

For John, BLUFBeing safe abroad.

Ethnic tensions exist across the Globe.  Sometimes when we travel abroad we are not aware of the problems and the triggers.  Thus, the US Department of State has a "Smart Traveler Enrollment Program" (it being the Government, there is an acronym, STEP).  Enrolling in STEP is not a bad idea.  Below is an example from Turkey, a nation with a long, rich cultural heritage, including Ephesus, South of Izmir, on the Aegean Sea, where the Blessed Virgin Mary spent her last days on earth.

The example deals with the Kurdish holiday of Nevruz, which is celebrated on Sunday, 17 March of this year and the alert is for a neighborhood in Istanbul (Constantinople).

The U.S. Consulate General Istanbul alerts U.S. citizens to the upcoming Nevruz holiday (Kurdish New Year) occurring on Sunday, March 17, 2013.

On March 17, many in Turkey will observe Nevruz - a spring festival celebrating the beginning of spring. Public Nevruz observances typically involve celebration rallies and marches.  The main celebration gathering area for Istanbul is expected to be in the Kazl?çe?me [Perhaps Kirazlıçeşme?] neighborhood of Zeytinburnu District.  Although the celebrations are expected to be peaceful, the Turkish National Police have already taken proactive security measures to ensure public order is maintained throughout the city during the holiday celebration.

The Department of State recommends U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for violence, to avoid those areas where disturbances, demonstrations and large gatherings have occurred.  Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens and nationals traveling to or residing in Turkey enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  U.S. citizens and nationals without Internet access may enroll directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Enrolling allows you to receive updated information about areas abroad and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to contact you or your designated emergency contact in case of emergency.

And, severe flooding in Podgorica (Montenegro) and Tirana, Albania.

Regards  —  Cliff

You Can Still File for the Senate Race, If...

For John, BLUFThe "Unenrolled" still have time to file papers for a Senate run.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Good news for John McDonough, John MacDonald and others of their ilk—they can still file nomination papers to run for the US Senate Seat of Mo Cowan, which used to be the US Senate Seat of John F Kerry, now our Secretary of State.

For Non-Party Candidates, 3 April 2013, at 5:00 PM is the last day and hour for submitting nomination papers to local Registrars of Voters or Election Commissioners for the certification of signatures.

Now is the time for you independents to show that you are the "Majority" in the Commonwealth and to put up hour own candidate for US Senate—or candidates.

Go for it!

Regards  —  Cliff

St Patrick's Day Breakfast—Lowell Edition

I had the honor of attending the Lowell version of the Patrick's Day Breakfast on Friday.  It was a fund raiser for The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell.  It was also a chance for Democratic Party Politicians to showcase themselves. The co-hosts were State Senator Eileen M Donoghue and City Manager Bernard F Lynch. I had the honor of sitting at Table 34, The Ancient Order of Citizen Media.  Those present at the table include Jack Mitchell, Greg Page, Linda Bown, George Anthes, John Nappi, Marge Kelly, Paul Bellay, and John McDonough.  In fairness to others, we were not the only Citizen Media present, as Dick Howe was introduced (those introduced were current and former political personalities, including Casey Crane).

Before the festivities started someone raised a question as to the impact on Senate Democratic Nomination Candidate US Representative Stephen F Lynch of his being endorsed by State Representative David Nangle.  Speculation was that Representative Lynch might be disinvited to the Massachusetts Democratic Party Convention in Lowell this Summer.

The Breakfast enjoyed presentations by both Democratic Party candidates for the recently vacated John Kerry seat, now held by Senator Mo Cowan, our second Black Senator from the Commonwealth.  I liked Representative Lynch's talk over that of Representative Ed Markey.  Your mileage may vary.  I did think that the one Republican Party Candidate who showed, State Representative Dan Winslow gave a good speech, positive, humorous in moderation and tight (read short).  His best line was, noting he had been a judge in the local area, he recognized many faces in the audience.

Our Attorney General, and one time US Senate Candidate, and possible future Candidate for Governor, Martha Coakley, during her time at the podium, listed women in our Commonwealth who have held high office, including herself, Senate President Murray, Auditor Suzanne Bump, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Maggie Marshall.  It slipped her mind that we have had two female Lieutenant Governors and a female Governor.  I will give this to Ms Coakley; she is no Carmen Ortiz.  A wannabe, but not the same quality of Prosecutor as Ms Ortiz, who brings to mind WHY we have a Bill of Rights.

Our Mayor, Patrick Ó Murphy, talked on for a long time, but then he had a long list of people to skewer.  A couple of times Co-host Donoghue started to stand up to help Mayor Murphy off the stage, but he kept on going, and going.  I will say this, he was dressed for the event—formal wear.  Sadly, some time during the festivities, as the Mayor left the podium, the sound of breaking glass could be distinctly heard.  Everything considered, I think the Mayor did OK.

As an aside, as I was leaving the parking garage and heading in to the Inn, I heard a woman say to the parking attendant that the Mayor's twin brother had tried to park in the spot reserved for the Mayor.  That could have created an awkward situation, forcing the Mayor to forage for his own spot out between the fire hydrants.

The three State Reps were fairly short.  Representative Tom (Tipper) Golden gave out his awards, the Golden Something or others.  Fortunately, he gave us the hint that they were named after him.  I missed that subtlety and appreciated the heads up.  Kevin Murphy gave the best talk.  Short and sweet, with good Irish references.  I do think there was a mention that he is not related to the other Murphy.  David Nangle did his telephone bit and even involved UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.  He also did a slide show of him with famous Republicans, including himself with Jim Buba.  Representative Nangle's job was tough, in that he had to show he was a loyal member of the Democratic Party, while showing that he was not some lapdog to be called to heel.  Given the toughness of the job, I think he executed pretty well.

Then there was the hired comedian, Paul D'Angelo.  Mr D'Angelo was funny and yet managed to remain out of the gutter.  He had just the right balance, and since he took from everyday life his humor had lessons in it.  One sketch involved an accused car thief.  It was noted that this particular thief had been arrested four times for car theft, which suggested he had boosted probably 100 cars in total.  The judge wanted to give him three years.  Mr D'Angelo pauses to note that a year in jail costs the taxpayers $50,000.  He then suggested that it might be cheaper to buy the thief a $15,000 Hyundai and call it even.  At that point Mr D'Angelo put his finger on a serious social problem.  Needless to say, I enjoyed Mr D'Angelo.

Somewhere in there was the Irish Step Dance, by the Celtic Company Dancers, DNE School of Dance.  Scanning the list of the young children who participated, one gets the picture of what it means to be Irish in America.  There was Mary Grabowski and Daphne Daldoumas and Kailey Gorski and the very Irish Megan with the very English last name of Whitney.  Being Irish in America is be to American and proud of a heritage that might be in the blood or just adopted, but real all the same.  Even if your surname is Krieger.

I enjoyed meeting up with old friends and meeting new people and the humor was, this year, on a fairly high level and even sometimes funny.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Frankly, this is not a closed event—my prime evidence is my attendance.  On the other hand, it is not a free event.  See next sentence in the first paragraph.
  Yes, that would be "Bernie" Lynch.
  Not to be confused with the late Casey Crane of Pierre, SD, who died in an automobile accident on 24 February.  Ms Crane, 31, the manager of the local Taco John's Drive Thru, left behind two young sons.

  Is it just my imagination that Columnist Howie Carr calls her Marsha Coakley?  Maybe an obscure reference to Prosecutor Marcia Clark.
  She did manage to mention that on a recent weekend she was the acting Governor, Governor Patrick being on a junket, the Lieutenant Governor being in some other state and the Secretary of State likewise being absent from the state.
  AKA former Assistant District Attorney Paul Murphy.  So, yes, he too recognized a number of people in the audience from his time in court.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Press Release

For John, BLUFPrimary coming up.  Be registered.

Below is important information from the City of Lowell Election & Census Commission.  Their Lordships, the Commissioners, chose to underline the deadline for registration, Wednesday, April 10 at 8 PM.  I chose to underline the sentence that says it is also the deadline for changing one's party affiliation if one is a registered Republican or Democrat and wish to vote in the other party's primary.  If you are a wispy-washy Unenrolled you can pick a party ballot on the day at your polling place.

The Lowell Election & Census Commission announces that the deadline to register to vote in the special April 30 US Senate Primary is Wednesday, April 10 at 8pm.   The Election office is City Hall will be open until 8pm on Wednesday, April 10.   We are located in the basement of Lowell City Hall, 375 Merrimack Street, Room 5.   Our normal office hours are weekdays 8am to 5pm.

Mail-in voter registration cards that are postmarked by the April 10 deadline will be accepted for registration in the special primary election.

Lowell voters who are current in the census remain on the Active Voter’s List but must inform us in writing if they changed their name or city address, or wish to change their party affiliation.   April 10 is also the deadline for changing party registration for purposes of the special US Senate Primary.

Lowell residents who wish to check their registration status or would like to request a mail-in voter registration form may call the Election & Census Commission at 978-674-1200.

Enough said.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Man With Balance

For John, BLUFWe are undergoing a foreign policy review in this nation, and the Republicans, for their part, are doing it more or less in the open.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On Wednesday of this week the National Defense University Foundation honored former national security advisor and retired Air Force Lt Gen Brent Scowcroft.  It is just and fitting.

Quoting from Foreign Policy Magazine's Blog, "The E-Ring", we have this item to chew over:

Susan Eisenhower told the E-Ring she got to know Scowcroft through her mentor, the late Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, former NATO supreme allied commander and superintendent of West Point. Nearly 30 years later, she said of Scowcroft, “I don’t know what Washington would do without him, frankly. He’s one of those people you can rely on for clear thinking and good sense.” Neither of which, she said, there is enough of these days. “We’ve been suffering from this for a while.”

“Since I’m a centrist, I gravitate immediately toward General Scowcroft’s worldview,” Eisenhower added. “I think he’s a national treasure in the sense that younger people coming along need to look to General Scowcroft and his immediate associates to see that there is a vital intellectual case for the middle ground. You don’t have to be on one extreme or the other to be associated with great ideas.”

What was that all about?  Susan Eisenhower is an Independent who endorsed Barack Obama, twice.  It turns out that the intelligentsia sees a split within the Republican Party on the issue of foreign policy.  It was discussed this AM in an article in The New York Times, written by Reporter Michael D Shear.  The reporter divides the Republican party into "the internationalists who held sway under the elder President George Bush and the neoconservatives who led the country to long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush."  The fear is that someone like Senator Rand Paul is pushing for a new isolationist approach to US foreign policy.  The essential nation becoming the indifferent nation.

On the other hand, why is it our job to fix the problems of the rest of the world, problems that have festered for centuries and which the participants don't necessarily want our help, especially if our offered solution goes against their self interests.  As both Iraq and Afghanistan show us, it is a complicated world out there.

The article concludes with this comment by General Scowcroft:

"I feel sympathy for them today, because in some ways it's a much more complicated world," he said. "I don't know that it's a more dangerous world, but it's a more complicated world."
I think that the General has hit on a very important point.  It is a less dangerous world than it was 25 years ago, but it is also much more complicated.

Regards  —  Cliff

  In Pentagonese, the E-Ring is the power ring of the five rings that make up the building.  This construction allows for more office windows, since the inner rings actually allow some daylight to filter in.  The E-Ring is the ring where all those with status have their offices, since these are the offices that actually look out across the world, toward DC, Crystal City or Arlington Cemetery.