Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meeting the Needs of the People


For John, BLUFWe didn't fix the problem today.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



This post is about today's (Wednesday's) City Life show, which included as guests Messrs Jack Mitchell and Gerry Nutter.  The issue is Neighborhood Groups and Charter changes.

But, before we proceed, I must address some fraternal correction about my post which covered yesterday's edition of City Life.  It was pointed out to me, correctly, that in my previous blog post I focused on the question of the Plan A form of government, which is what suited my line of argument.  However, as was correctly pointed out to me, the guests on Tuesday talked about way more than the Plan A form of government.  In particular, they talked about our Mayor, Patrick Murphy, who has suggested that the Zoning Board of Appeals had been less than forthright in turning down the zoning for a Methadone Clinic.  The guests are not alone in this, in that Councilors Elliot and Mercier have raised questions about the Mayor's comments.  Former Mayor Rita Mercier was quoted by The [Lowell] Sun as saying:

To insinuate the ZBA members are on the take is a slap in their respective faces...
My apologies to any who felt I did not sufficiently cover Tuesday's show.

That said, I mentioned the Tuesday show to talk about how various proposals are being put forward to ensure better representation of the Residents of Lowell in our City Government.

Today, with Mr Jack Mitchell on, there was some discussion of his use of the term "Taliban" to describe the Neighborhood Groups.  That is to say, like the Taliban, the Neighborhood Groups show up to operate in areas where the local government is failing the citizens.  While some inside and outside Government may object to the characterization, it does serve a purpose.  It makes the point that in a dynamic society government is sometimes slow to adapt to ongoing changes and informal instruments are needed to help more formal instruments adapt.

The arguments were well laid out today, but what was missing, on the part of Host George Anthes, was a willingness to go beyond decrying the Neighborhood Groups to looking at what problems in Resident Communications exist and how those problems can be overcome.  While a Professor of Government, Mr Anthes was not prepared to analyze possible structural problems in the current government organization, wherein one or another group might feel left out.  Without such analysis, there was no going to step two, which would be to explore possible solutions, possible adaptations in the formal and informal structures to create better citizen involvement.

In sum, an opportunity lost.

Tomorrow is likely to be all about GLTHS.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Greater Local Involvement


For John, BLUFDon't focus on the Taliban, but on getting Lowell Residents involved.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Tomorrow, Wednesday, the 31st of July, City Life will have have Host George Anthes and Co-Host Linda Bown.  In addition, there will be the guests, in this case Bloggers Jack Mitchell and Gerry Nutter.  I expect the issue of Neighborhood Groups and the Taliban will come up.  But to delve into that here would be getting ahead of the story.  Suffice it to say that Mr Anthes and Mr Mitchell are probably singing from the same score with regard to Neighborhood Groups.  They both realize that Neighborhood Groups are ad hoc solutions that do not provide full representation of the People in the Neighborhoods.

On Monday the show included Dr Victoria Falhberg.  During the show a representative of one of the Neighborhood Groups was on for a half hour or so, talking about a locally organized "Night Out" activity.  She was accompanied by Ms Ann Marie Page, who is the Chairman of the Citywide Neighborhood Council.  (Here is an example of a Facebook posting on the Lower Highlands Night Out.)  Professor Anthes was very polite to the two women and gave them full scope for their publicity and appeal for financial help, and Producer John McDonough even put the material up on the screen for folks to copy down.  But, at the end he went on about how Neighborhood Groups are not representative and are self selecting.  He then went off on the question of Proposed Zoning Changes along Route 38 here in Lowell (Rogers Street).

The thing is, Monday was an opportunity missed.  Many people believe our current form and structure of Government does not encourage sufficient participation and does not include all groups within the City.  With Dr Fahlberg sitting there Professor Anthes had the perfect opportunity to talk about the last effort to change our City Charter, since Dr Fahlberg was the Ramrod for such an effort, an effort that made it all the way to the City Council and to the Neighborhood Groups.  An opportunity that was, at best, missed, and maybe squandered.

At this point I would like to declare my view.  While it would have both an initial start-up cost and some ongoing costs, I think we should take advantage of what works today while still looking for more inclusion of various groups.  I would go (back) to a bicameral City Council, with one House being the current at large elected City Councilors and the other House being 11 Assemblymen elected by voting wards.  That would make eleven.  Thus we would have more elected officials and each person would have someone they saw as their local person, while still not losing the value of dedicated group of at-large City Councilors we have today.  I mean, is there anyone who would wish to see Rita Mercier pigeonholed as the Councilor from Ward 1?&nbbsp; Of course not.

Moving on to Tuesday's show, it was J-Mac and the Bear.  Most of us know that Mr John McDonald would like to see a Plan A form of government, as opposed to our current Plan E form of government.  Plan A would give us a "strong mayor" and downgrade the role of the City Manager.  Such a change would not help us.  It would not do anything to involve more voters in government and it would not shorten the distance between elected officials and the voters.  And, it would take us off what has been a very successful path, as we have veered away from a Detroit-like outcome.  In fact, a charter change from Plan E to Plan A seems like a solution looking for a problem.  The problem is, we don't have such problems here in Lowell.  Thus, one wonders if this proposed charter change is just a stalking horse for those who wish to see the current manager go away.

This brings us back to Wednesday morning.  Jack Mitchell has caused a bit of a stir with his use of the term "Taliban" to describe the local neighborhood groups.

To be frank, I think I would have gone more with a reference to the informal structures agains the formal structures, as Economist Hernando de Soto does in The Other Path.  Mr de Soto talks about informal housing groups and informal street peddlers and informal transportation providers and even talks about such informal people mounting "invasions" of formal areas.  The thing is, Mr de Soto and his organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy were a big factor in helping to defeat Peru's Shining Path movement.  But, who knows about Hernando de Soto?  Sure, I thought he was that conquistador from the early 1500s.  Then when three friends all mentioned his book, I picked it up.

But, as Jack Mitchell explains here, Taliban is not a bad way of drawing attention to a stark problem.  Like the Taliban, which advances into areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the central Governments are unable or unwilling to govern, so to do Neighborhood Groups fill voids in terms of communicating what needs to be done and even executing on some projects.

The issue of the term "Taliban" is also ventilated at Gerry Nutter's blog, here.  Mr Nutter puts it down to hyperbole.

And here is a comment from Left in Lowell, but not by Mr Jack Mitchell.

My view is that we need to focus on the issue, which is involving more Lowell Residents in the process of Government and ensuring that the views of all Lowell Residents get an airing.  How do we do that?  It isn't that Neighborhood Groups are bad, but what is it that should replace them as we do a better job of governing our fair city.

We need ideas and not "gotcha" rhetoric about word choices.

Regards  —  Cliff

Campaign Finance Reform


For John, BLUFMoney measures value.



The The New Yorker has an article on an upcoming US Supreme Court issue on Campaign Finance restrictions, the case being brought by Mr Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama Republican.
Indeed, the patriotically minded McCutcheon wanted to give “$1,776” to enough candidates to exceed the current limits on direct contributions.
The current aggregate limit is $123,000 "to candidates, political action committees, and parties over a two-year period." The title of Reporter Jeffrey Toobin's article is "ANOTHER CITIZENS UNITED—BUT WORSE".

I am not all that upset by Citizens United, in that money is free speech and in our system corporations are "people".  I hear people decry that fact, but none has offered an alternative way of organizing commerce, let alone one as effective,

On the other hand, I like the idea of a level playing field, especially for challengers.  I am for limits on campaign contributions and would even support public financing.  How about extending this idea under the thought that time is money?  Let's put a dollar value on the contribution of time, as we do "in kind contributions".  Some might propose $22.00 per hour.

Most things have value and money is the way we assign that value.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Rorschach Test.  What does "Alabama Republican" bring to your mind?  Perhaps a list of personnel possessing appropriate security clearance for Operation NEPTUNE.
  I would go with $10.00 per hour, which is above the Federal Minimum Wage, but these campaign workers are not digging ditches.

The Pope on Gays


For John, BLUFThe Pope comments on gay people.



Interesting take by Blogger Ann Althouse on Pope Francis' remarks on the flight back from Brazil, here.
If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?
Regards  —  Cliff

Why You Need A Gun In Some Cities


For John, BLUFYou are your own "First Responder".  Others filter in later.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Subway Stabbing Victim Can't Sue NYPD For Failing To Save Him

That is the headline at the Gothmist blog, which talks to the issue of Mr Joseph Lozito being brutally attacked by Slasher Maksim Gelman on a subway in New York City, while two Transit Cops locked themselves in the motorman's car a few feet away.

A man who was brutally stabbed by Brooklyn subway slasher Maksim Gelman two years ago had his negligence case against the city dismissed in court yesterday, despite the fact that two transit officers had locked themselves in a motorman’s car only a few feet from him at the time of the attack.

Gelman stabbed Joseph Lozito in the face, neck, hands and head on an uptown 3 train in February 2011, after fatally stabbing four people and injuring three others in a 28-hour period. Lozito, a father of two and an avid martial arts fan, was able to tackle Gelman and hold him down, and Gelman was eventually arrested by the transit officers.  Lozito sued the city, arguing that the police officers had locked themselves in the conductor’s car and failed to come to his aid in time.

The city, meanwhile, claimed that the NYPD had no “special duty” to intervene at the time, and that they were in the motorman’s car because they believed Gelman had a gun.

NB:  Gruesome picture and further links at the link above.

There you have it.  The police have no duty (none, nota) to protect you from this or that random slasher or other person committing criminal acts upon your person (mugging, rape, mayhem).  In places like New York City, with its dreaded Sullivan Act, you either take up martial arts training or accept that you are subject to the great statistical roulette wheel and accept your fate if assaulted.  To repeat, the police have no duty to protect you (and if you live in Detroit, it could be an hour before they respond).  On the other hand, you could point out to your legislators that while God created man, Sam Colt made them equal.

Oh, and the bonus here is that the two Transit Police, who wouldn't help Mr Lozito while he was being slashed, were actually there because they thought Mr Lozito had a gun.  As an aside, you will know that the authorities believe you are safe without a gun when they put police out on the street without guns.  Until then it is all about "control"—controlling you.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I'm with those who think the Sullivan Act was all about discrimination against immigrants.  We should always look for the racism behind unconstitutional laws that have been on the books for long periods of time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The IRS Scandal


For John, BLUFYes, Virginia, there is an IRS Scandal.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Day 81.

Those who keep saying there’s no scandal here need to acknowledge that the IRS admitted targeting conservative groups months ago.
Quoting from the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Pill Popping


For John, BLUFHumor is a dangerous form of attack on governments.



Friend Neal Crossland sent along this item from The Capitol Steps, talking about our culture, "Take Ten Pills And You're Fine".

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Capitol Steps started out as a group of Congressional Staffers who got together for the fun of it, and then progressed toward a group of professional artists.  They appear on the radio, and also live in Western Mass.

The Down Side of Sprawl


For John, BLUFRace is a very imperfect label for discussing out social problems in the US.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman is not my favorite economist, but in this 28 July article he does raise some interesting questions about how we make the American economic system work to the advantage of all of us.  Professor Krugman's focus is on urban sprawl, which he sees as damaging in Detroit and in Atlanta.  He also sees sprawl, and the lack of transportation for many as a factor in the breakdown in families.  The article implies that this family breakdown (think out of wedlock children and single Mothers) is a result of problems and not a cause.  Further, he notes:
When the researchers looked for factors that correlate with low or high social mobility, they found, perhaps surprisingly, little direct role for race, one obvious candidate.  They did find a significant correlation with the existing level of inequality:  “areas with a smaller middle class had lower rates of upward mobility.”
This makes the point that when we are talking about "race" we need to broaden the discussion immediately, to understand the larger socio-economic issues, otherwise we miss the chance to understand what is happening and to make progress in fixing what is wrong.

Some of the larger issues can be seen here in this two paragraphs from the article:

The apparent inverse relationship between sprawl and social mobility obviously reinforces the case for “smart growth” urban strategies, which try to promote compact centers with access to public transit.  But it also bears on a larger debate about what is happening to American society.  I know I’m not the only person who read the Times article on the new study and immediately thought, “William Julius Wilson.”

A quarter-century ago Mr. Wilson, a distinguished sociologist, famously argued that the postwar movement of employment out of city centers to the suburbs dealt African-American families, concentrated in those city centers, a heavy blow, removing economic opportunity just as the civil rights movement was finally ending explicit discrimination.  And he further argued that social phenomena such as the prevalence of single mothers, often cited as causes of lagging black performance, were actually effects — that is, the family was being undermined by the absence of good jobs.

I do not buy all that Professor Krugman is saying here, but I do think he is opening up an important area for discussion.  I hope he is keeping an open mind.

Regards  — : Cliff

"We Will Not Accept The Result"—Sam Rainsy


For John, BLUFElection results in Cambodia stir controversy.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



From today's edition of The International Herald Tribune we have this article, by Reporter Thomas Fuller, on the results of the the elections over the weekend in Cambodia.  Here is the lede and following paragraph:
PHNOM PENH — Cambodia faced a volatile and possibly prolonged political standoff on Monday after leaders of the opposition said they rejected the preliminary results of Sunday’s election and accused the authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of large-scale cheating.

“We will not accept the result — we cannot accept the result,” Sam Rainsy, leader of the newly energized opposition, said Monday at a news conference. “The party in power cannot ignore us any more.”

Democracy is a messy process, but that it is happening in a nation from which we draw many of our residents is a good thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Path For "Nation of Change"?


For John, BLUFEven if behind the curtain, there is always someone providing some direction.



The "New Media" outfit Nation of Change, in it's Summer Fund Raising Campaign, advertises:
No owners.  No shareholders.  No corporate ties.  No filters.
That is a little disingenuous.  There is always someone guiding the group.  Even within a Charismatic Prayer Group, being led by the Holy Spirit, there is aways someone who is providing some human input.  So, for Nation of Change, aside from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, how does internal change, minor or profound, come about?  Or is it on a ballistic path, subject only to air density, temperature, wind and time?

Regards  —  Cliff

  "Progressive Journalism For Positive Action".
  Or so says Pastor Bob Mumford.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Campaign Managers


For John, BLUFYou should envision the scope of the job before you sign on.



Professor Althouse is correct here:
"I Condemn Kedem."
Yes, former US Rep Anthony Weiner is a mess, but campaign managers are hired to work through the mess.

Regards  —  Cliff

Text If You Find Work


For John, BLUFOverall employment situation is not improving.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Over at Fortuna's Corner we have a discussion of unemployment.  It is noted that on Friday, 2 August, the July Non-Farm Payroll number will be out.  Then the Blogger notes a 16 July OpEd in The Wall Street Journal.  The author is the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of U.S. News and World Report, Mr Mort Zuckerman.  Mr notes “there are jobs, and there are jobs.”

The article summarizes the situation by noting that since 1 January the number of jobs has increased by 753 thousand, but 557 thousand of these jobs were part-time.  This is according to the U.S. Government’s own Household Survey.  The IRS notwithstanding, Federal Bureaucrats tend to be about getting the numbers correct, so we can expect the Household Survey is on the mark.

Again according to the survey, last month the number of full time jobs dropped by 240 thousand, while the number of part time jobs grew by 360 thousand.  Total part-time jobs is 28,059,000, up three million from 2008.  From the blog post:

Mr. Zuckerman argues persuasively that “the 7.6% unemployment figure, so common in today’s headlines is utterly misleading”.  An estimated 22M Americans are unemployed or underemployed.  Of the 195K net new jobs created in June, 75K were in restaurants and bars, where the average weekly paycheck is about $351 less than half the average for all private employers.  The measure of those adults who can work and have jobs — known as the civilian workforce participation rate — is 63.5% — a drop of 2.2% since the recession ended — something Mr. Zuckerman notes, “never happened after previous recessions.” More people are leaving the workforce than those finding work by a factor of three.  The number of Americans on welfare and public assistance is approaching the number of those working, a frightening prospect for entitlements.
We have to wait until Friday to see how July went.

In the mean time, the Fortuna's Corner has introduced the term "the 49ers" to characterize those who have less than 50 employees.

Regards  —  Cliff

Coming to America


For John, BLUFHispanic immigants do assimilate.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



"Immigrants are Assimilating, Just Like Always".  That is the headline at The American Interest.  The author is Mr Walter Russell Mead.  The lede:
A new poll indicates that Hispanic immigrants, just like the many immigrants before them, are assimilating in pretty quick order.  More Hispanics get their news from English language sources than from Spanish ones, and the gap is growing as time goes by.
The belief/fear that Hispanics will become a dedicated block voting for Democratic Party candidates regardless of the views and ethics of those candidates goes against the grain of what America represents.  People vote their perceived interests.  And not just their economic interests.  Or, as often happens, they are satisfied either way and don't bother to vote.

And, it isn't like Hispanic immigrants came here to have more of what they had in the old country.  They came here for something else and most of them have probably guessed that it is a package deal.  My guess is that Asian immigrants assimilate more quickly, but everyone who is going to prosper is going to assimilate.  Those who don't assimilate will not prosper, except perhaps through crime.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I like that middle name.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Check Under the Bed


For John, BLUFEven paranoids have enemies.



Over at the blog Fortuna's Corner we have this opening:
As the late Herman Kahn once put it (from one of my readers who worked for him) “paranoids have a high false-alarm rate; but, they find all the plots.”

Turkey Releases Bird Suspected of Spying for Israel.

After X-Raying it, looking for collection devices, that is.  The source is Reuters.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Where the motto is:  "You can never have too much information – knowledge is your best weapon!"

All Huma, All The Time?


For John, BLUFShouldn't there be a waiting period for political comeback tries?  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Is this a backhanded way of saying Rep Michele Bachmann, et al, may have been correct about Huma Abedin (aka, Mrs Anthony Weiner)?  The item from The Atlantic Wire is titled "Huma Has Lost Her Halo".

No, of course not.

I blame Anthony for this excess of exposure.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Her out of control husband, a former US Representative from New York, is running for Mayor of New York City.

Senator From NATO


For John, BLUFGlobe writer sees Sr Sen Warren as No Action, Talk Only.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



I may have to reconsider and start paying attention to The Boston Globe.  Recently Columnist Alex Beam went after our Senior Senator in an article headlined "Lots of noise from Warren but little delivery".  Ouch!
I call Warren the Big Noise because in her brief political career she has proved to be a panderer of Charles Schumer-esque proportions.  For 28 years we had a showhorse senator, John Kerry, better known for posturing on television (his unflattering nickname was “Liveshot”) than getting things done.  With her PR savvy and her lawyerly gift of gab, Warren makes for a worthy successor.
Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Military Gender Issues


For John, BLUFAll men [and women] are created equal, but can they all perform to the same standard?  Nothing to see here; just move along.



"Pentagon mulling separate combat training for men, women".  This is a story from Mr Rowan Scarborough, in The Washington Times Thursday last.  My youngest brother, John, was the first to send me the article.  Here is the lede and following paragraph:
The military is looking at ways to modify its training for women to help them qualify for direct ground combat roles in the infantry, tanks and special operations.

Senior officers revealed the new effort this week at a hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel.

This idea didn't come out of nowhere.  It appears our US Representative is following in the footsteps of her predecessor, the late Edith Nourse Rogers.
The idea was presented by Rep. Niki Tsongas.

“To put in place a training regimen that is ill-suited to maximizing the success of women is not really the outcome any of us want to see,” she said.

Army Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, deputy chief of staff for personnel, agreed.

“We are looking at that, and we’re not looking at it just for the integration of women,” Gen. Bromberg testified.  “We’re looking at it for the total soldier, because just as you have a 110-pound male who may lack some type of physiological capability or physical capability, he or she may both need to be trained differently.  We’re trying to expand our understanding of how we train.”

My question is, if we have separate training for high school graduates, to maximize the success of women, might we not consider re-writing the rules to allow separate education in subjects like math, for those who have not yet graduated from high school.  We would be looking to not only maximize the success of females, but to also maximize the success of males?

It is not that I doubt the ability of women to learn math.  I have a daughter who is ABD in math from a tough engineering school.  However, we do find there are problems in outcome.  Research suggests there are gender based differences in outcome.

But, back to the issue of military training, at some point the males and females will graduate from formal training schools and join up in units, where they will be doing mission training.  Per the article, the US Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Manpower, Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead Jr., says

They need to be nurtured different.  They just need different steps as they go.  They end up in the same place, the United States Marines.
But, they "end up in the same place," performing, one presumes, to the same tasks, conditions and standards.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There is a dictionary of tasks and conditions updated quarterly by the US military, known as the Universal Joint Task List (UJTL).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hot Cambodian Election


For John, BLUFLowell connections overseas.



The National Elections in Cambodia are making the news, including The International Herald Tribune.

And, a Cambodian Politician familiar to Lowell, Mr Sam Rainsy, was mentioned.

The opposition was galvanized by the return last Friday of Sam Rainsy, a former finance minister who fled Cambodia in 2009 rather than face charges in a highly politicized trial.  Mr. Sam Rainsy, who was greeted by tens of thousands of supporters at the Phnom Penh airport, was pardoned by Mr. Hun Sen under pressure from the United States and other governments that provide aid to the country.
Regards  —  Cliff

NSA Vote Map


For John, BLUFVoting across party lines.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



This Congressional Map shows how yesterday’s NSA vote cut across partisan divides

Your mileage may differ.

Regards  —  Cliff

They Do Listen, It Appears


For John, BLUFIt is worth it to try to correct other media.



Law Professor Ann Althouse was able to get The New York Times to print a correction to an article on Justice Scalia.
The Godwin’s Law joke, then, was inapt.
Or would that be inept?

Regards  —  Cliff

House Votes on NSA


For John, BLUFWe need to talk about the balance between individual rights and national security.



The Blog Politico, on 23 July, published "It's time to debate NSA program".  The lede and following paragraph.
Every day, it seems, brings disturbing new revelations about the National Security Agency’s program to collect phone and email metadata, raising serious questions for our country.  Reports indicate that the NSA is gathering metadata on millions of people in the United States and around the world, targeting diplomatic missions of both friends and foes.

The NSA’s metadata program was put into place with virtually no public debate, a worrisome precedent made worse by erecting unnecessary barriers to public understanding via denials and misleading statements from senior administration officials.

The authors are Mr Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and Mr Lee Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana.  They are co-chairs the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Homeland Security Project.  Governor Kean was chairman and Represenaive Hamilton was vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

A friend of commented:

We have begun the debate.    Yesterday's Congressional decision is an indication that the political process is getting back on track.   We may not like the outcome of the Congressional vote but that is how we do it.  At least there was an open discussion of the issue.   We now know where our Congressmen stand on the issue and their constituents can decide if that position is the right one for them and they can take it up at the next election.   If we do not like the outcome then we need to continue to press our Congressional representatives.
Having a debate is a good thing.  It is OUR Democracy, not the Democracy of the Washington Politicians and Bureaucrats.  We need to be part of the debate.  And, as my friend says, we now know how our Congressman (and Women) voted and I liked Ms Tsongas' vote.
Tsongas statement on NSA oversight amendment

07/24/13
Today, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas voted in favor of an amendment to the FY 2014 Defense Appropriations bill that would end the NSA’s blanket collection of Americans’ phone records.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), did not pass.

Congresswoman Tsongas released the following statement.

“Over the past few months, news outlets have been reporting leaked information about the significant scale to which intelligence agencies are collecting Americans’ personal information, both as it pertained to phone records and internet providers.  The discussion that we are now having as a nation about the balance between civil liberties and national security is an important one.

“The bipartisan support for this amendment makes clear that there is skepticism on both sides of the aisle about the wide-ranging actions taken by the NSA, and sends the Administration a compelling message that protecting the privacy of our citizens in this digital age is ever more essential.

“I have always believed that there is no greater duty for a Member of Congress than to provide for the public safety and security of our nation, but in doing so, we must determinedly protect our civil liberties.  We know we still have work to do to improve our intelligence collection efforts – most recently evidenced by the Boston Marathon Bombing.   That’s why I support revisiting the policies and procedures that are currently in place in a comprehensive and transparent way so that we can provide our intelligence agencies with the tools they need to keep our nation safe without weakening our civil liberties.

“Our nation has persevered through countless struggles, and we have done so by protecting the freedoms that make this country great.  Those who want to do us harm present new threats and challenges, but we cannot sacrifice the values that have made America the beacon of hope for the rest of the world.”

I believe she voted well.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sequestration Beginning to Bite


For John, BLUFWhat Casey Stengel said—"Can't anybody here play this game?"  Nothing to see here; just move along.



The Sequestration is starting to hit and, as usual, it is hitting the little folks hardest.  There are reports of low ranking Federal Employees taking out bank loans to cover the pay gap.  And there is the question of getting a second job.
On a recent shuttle run between the Building and the Capitol the driver told me how he had been offered non-government tourism-bus-driving employment during his furlough days, but that he had been told he was not allowed to engage in additional employment on those days.
In a time of legalization of illegal immigration, why would anyone care of the person was moonlighting?

There are impacts elsewhere.  A friend of mine told me that with Sequestration the Department of State Bureau responsible for granting export licenses has extended the wait period from 30 days to 90.  This is going to have an adverse impact on US exports, which impacts other workers, outside of Government.  That impacts the economy.

The question is, is there some compromise between those who wish to run a deficit, to get people back to work, and those who fear big deficits will send us the way of Greece.

I wonder what our delegation on Capitol Hill thinks?  Our two Senators probably say spend.  What about Rep Tsongas?

Regards  —  Cliff

What Does Democracy Demand of US?


For John, BLUFDemocracy demands vigilance, but not paranoia.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



There has apparently been some discussion of Justice Antonin Scalia's speech on Saturday last.  Before he got to his prepared remarks he touched on a talk from the previous day.  The press suggested that the Justice has confirmed Godwin's Law, by referencing Hitler and the Nazis.  From The New York Times reporter Juliet Lapidos, says:
Justice Scalia brought Godwin’s Law to Snowmass, suggesting in an address to the Utah State Bar Association that activist judges helped bring about the Holocaust.
This is a rant against Justice Scalia, who is not a favorite in certain circles.

Of course nothing ruins a good fish story like someone who was there.  An EMail to Blogger Althouse:

On Friday morning (Day 2 of the meeting), the principal speaker was Dr. William F. Meinecke of the Holocaust Memorial Museum giving his presentation “Law, Justice, and the Holocaust: How the Courts Failed Germany.”  It is a fascinating presentation of how the Nazi party co-opted the Courts and lawyers to further its agenda against the Jews and used the judiciary to “legalize” its conduct.  [Bolded in the original]
So, Justice Scalia was making legitimate comments on the presentation of a previous speaker.  In my mind it is never to frequent when one is talking about the Holocaust and the larger question of how Germany descended into the madness that was Gestapo policed Germany from 1933 to 1945.  It wasn't just the six million Jews from across Europe who were exterminated, bad as that was.  There was also the several hundred thousand disabled human beings destroyed beginning at the time of the invasion of Poland, in September 1939.  It was German's who dissented and were beaten and tortured by the police.  Some, such as the pacifists of the White Rose movement, were executed.

Where were the lawyers who should have fought this kind of thing?  Where were the courts that allowed this to happen?

Professor Althouse says:

While the Nazi discussion did weave into his prepared remarks of about judicial “mullahs," he offered a single conclusion that is unreported by the press account before he commenced his planned speech.  He stated that educating to improve intelligence or advance culture was not education’s highest calling.  Rather, he contended that pinnacles of intellectualism, culture, and learning were meaningless unless education also instilled “virtue.”  His position was that the lack of virtue in the German elite (who were as cultured and educated as any group in the world) was their failing when confronted with the evil of the Nazis.
We rest comfortable, in the belief that it couldn't happen here.

Regards  —  Cliff

Comments on Blogging


For John, BLUFNothing to see here; just click on the link.



This sums up where we are.

Funniest cartoon in weeksmonths.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Partial View of Beacon Hill


For John, BLUFWe don't understand all we know about new revenue bill.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



The [Lowell] Sun, on Wednesday, had a State House News Service item by Matt Murphy and Michael Norton, "Rep: Patrick using 'scare tactics' on road-project warning".  The gist of it seems to be that the Governor vetoed "a $500 million tax bill that will dedicate $805 million in new spending to finance-transportation investments over the next five years."

Then Governor Patrick's veto was overridden by the Legislature.  From this bill we will get a three cent a gallon hike in gas taxes and an increase of one dollar on a pack of cigs.

My problem with the first article is that it throws out four different numbers, several times, but never ties them all together.  To be fair, the on-line version of the article is much better than the version on Page 2 of the dead tree edition of The Sun.  Missing is the cost of the toll takers along the Turnpike.  Also missing is the question of if they will go into a thriving economy or become additions to the welfare roles.  How many will be able to retire?

As sort of a side issue is the environmental impact of tolls, in terms of cars having to slow down and speed up, not to mention idling as people wait to pay tolls.

And what are we getting for $161 million a year in terms of improvements to our transportation infrastructure?  There is the mention of the MBTA, which seems to be one of the ways the rest of the Commonwealth underwrites Boston.  They need to replace cars that are 35 to 45 years old.

And, there is talk of 480 new buses, which I bet cost at least a million a piece and more with accoutrements, spare parts packages and simple graft.

There is a lot yet to learn about what is going on down on Beacon Hill.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Remember, articles in The [Lowell] Sun go away after a while, to a different place.  I will not be updating their links unless I am bedridden and have read every book in the house.  And, besides, the Editor tells me the links cost money after a few weeks.  It is the new business model.
  From the second story, "The House voted 123-33 to override Patrick's veto. The Senate followed a short time later, voting 35-5 to override."
  Is there anyone out there who wonders if there is a tipping point on cigarette taxes, beyond which people just start smuggling cigs into our Commonwealth.  From my time living in the Naples, Italy, area, in the 1970s, I know that cigarette smuggling can be big business.  In Canada it is a $1.5 Billion dollar a year business.  I also know that cigarettes, as in Post-War Berlin, can be a form of currency.
  We still owe $70 million on the Turnpike.  The tax bill is for $500 million (per annum, one assumes).  There is $805 in new construction over the next five years, which averages out at $161 per annum.  Then there is $135 million in lost tolls from the Turnpike, if the Turnpike debt is retired and the road is in good condition.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mitch in the Crosshairs


For John, BLUFDemocrats targeting Senate Minority Leader.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



There is an interesting piece in today's edition of The International Herald Tribune, looking at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's situation with regard to the 2014 Senate race in Kentucky.  The reporter, Ashley Parker, takes the position that Senator McConnell is weak on women's issues and will thus have trouble during his reelection bid next year.  His opponent will be Alison Lundergan Grimes, described as "a 34-year-old Democratic political newcomer", although she is Kentucky's Secretary of State. 

Maybe Senator McConnell has never met a strong woman to give him guidance.  One can't imagine his wife, Ms Elaine Chao, being seen as a liberated woman, what with her being born in Taipei and coming to the United States by third grade and then graduating from Mount Holyoke College and Harvard B-School.

Regards  —  Cliff

  One wonders if we would tag a Massachusetts Secretary of State as a "political newcomer"?  It reminds me of Democratic Party affiliates telling me that Texas has a "weak" Governor.  At least they did when it was George W Bush.
  In 30 years she will be as well remembered as Georgia Neese Clark.

President Carter Decries Loss of Democracy


For John, BLUFFormer Pres Jimmy Carter worries about NSA spying.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



This is old news, having an 18 July dateline, but still it is interesting.  From Salon we have a headline "Jimmy Carter:  US 'has no functioning democracy'".  The reporter is Mr Alberto Riva.  The gist of the story is that former President Jimmy Carter thinks that the NSA spying revelations have impacted democracy in America.  The other interesting thing is that this got big play in the German Edition of Der Speigal, but not in the English Edition, nor in US publications.  Here is the lede and subsequent paragraph:
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter is so concerned about the NSA spying scandal that he thinks it has essentially resulted in a suspension of American democracy.

“America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy,” he said at an event in Atlanta on Tuesday sponsored by the Atlantik Bruecke, a private nonprofit association working to further the German-U.S. relationship.  The association’s name is German for “Atlantic bridge.”

OK, I grant you it is President Jimmy Carter, who is dismissed on both sides of the aisle, but still, he raises interesting questions.  And that is about it.  There isn't much substance at the article, but we are given a couple of things to think about.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Correction re Election Commission Meeting


For John, BLUFThur Election Commish Mtg CNX'd.



On Monday (yesterday) I blogged that there would be an Election Commission Meeting on Thursday, at 4:30.

Late this morning I was told, nicely, that 4:30 worked against broad public participation.  I explained that it was nice they were meeting again.

In the afternoon I was informed the meeting had been CNX'd.

No, I don't think the cancellation followed from the criticism.

Next month should have a new meeting.

Reards  —  Cliff

Diocese for the Moon


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



Into which Roman Catholic Diocese does the Moon fall?

One possible answer.

I am one who hopes this becomes an important issue in the next few decades.

Hat tip to my youngest Son, whose work, wife and four kids are apparently not keeping him busy enough.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 22, 2013

Should We Intervene?


For John, BLUFBeing a "do gooder" in international affairs often backfires.



This is another article on the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  This idea of humanitarian intervention is favored by both Samantha Power, the President's nominee for US Ambassador to the UN, and by National Security Advisor Susan Rice.  This article, from the magazine American Interest, by Rajan Menon, suggests that at its core, R2P is wrong.  The title is "It's Fatally Flawed".  Here is the lede and subsequent paragraph, which gives the quick overview:
It is now a commonplace belief that a worldwide diffusion of human rights norms occurred following the Cold War, creating a consensus favoring humanitarian intervention.  The cachet acquired by the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) is proffered as proof of this proposition.

This is wishful thinking.  Armed humanitarian interventions since the aftermath of the Cold War have been selective, poorly executed, strategically naive, morally incoherent and even dangerous.  Far from reflecting, let alone having contributed to, a global consensus, they have been divisive.  This is so not because the world has just done it wrong at this early stage of R2P awareness; it is so because of flaws in the concept itself.

Later in the article we get to how high-mindedness just gets one in trouble:
Those who start wars are often confident that they know how they will end.  They are just as often proved wrong.  Idealistic humanitarian interveners, a sub-species of such hubristic planners, congratulate themselves on their high-mindedness, which leads most of them to assume that if no self-interested motives attach to their intentions, then no self-interested consequences can emerge from them. Of course this is absurd.
And, the article has a neat cartoon showing the US, dressed as Captain America, frustrated at not being able to do the good intended.

A good heart is not enough.  A lot of people who mean well say and do things that are ultimately self-defeating.  Look around.  These are people you know.  Now scale it up to big US military forces, or CIA covert operations.  There is a lot of culture out there that we just don't really understand and will not be able to change in a short (decades) period of time.  Sometimes things break good.  Germany and Japan come to mind.  South Korea after the 1950-53 Police Action.  Iraq not so much.  Afghanistan?  Neither we nor the Soviets made much of a dent over the last couple of decades.

Today we have the Syrian Civil War ongoing.  If you see someone on the street or in a store, ask them what they think about US intervention in Syria.  If they are hesitant, commend them.  If they are supportive, suggest it is a fools errand and the US should not be doing more than supporting Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel in dealing with refugees that flood out of Syria as a result of the unrest..

Regards  —  Cliff

  Rajan Menon is Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of Political Science, City College of New York/City University of New York, and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Talking to the Enemy


For John, BLUFMaybe we will have negotiations with the Taliban, who allowed al Qaeda to operation in Afghanistan prior to 9/11.



Reporter James Kitfield (national security and foreign affairs correspondent) tells us:  "Here's Why Taliban Talks Will Fail".  The lede from Defense One:
If there is anyone who has a right to be skeptical of the Taliban’s “good faith” in reaching a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, it is top Afghan peace negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani. He’s the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, established by the Afghan government in 2010 to reach out to the Taliban with an olive branch. The Council was initially led by Rabbani’s father and former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was assassinated by a Taliban suicide bomber in September 2011.
Here is a discussion of these "negotiations" from our Ambassador James F Dobbins, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, from 27 June of this year.  And here is a second link to the transcript.
Press:  [What is the] concern [in] India? [Inaudible] talks with Taliban? Without [inaudible] of terrorists, do you believe that an improvement in Indo relations with Pakistan [or] Taliban [will pass]?

Ambassador Dobbins:  We certainly agree that there’s no prospect for improvement in relations with the Taliban or any agreement with the Taliban unless the issue of terrorism is directly addressed.  We set as a precondition for beginning talks with the Taliban that they make a statement that at least began to distance themselves from international terrorism and they did so.  They made a statement a week ago Tuesday in which they said they opposed the use of Afghan territory for attacks on anybody else.  But that’s I think from our standpoint sufficient to begin talking to them, but it’s not going to be sufficient as the basis for any agreement.

We’ve made clear, Secretary Kerry made clear when he was here that any agreement would need to include a cessation of hostilities, a respect for the Afghan constitution, and a severing of all ties with al-Qaida and similar terrorist organizations.

I would stress that the negotiations toward this objective will principally be negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.  Not between the United States and the Taliban.  But we hope that our dialogue with them, if it begins, can contribute to that and we’ll be focused particularly on the topic that you raised which is severing their ties with al-Qaida. It will be one of the first issues we will raise is how do they intend to do that.  Not just what they intend to say about it but how they actually intend to go about severing those ties.

So, what are the negotiations all about?  Or, are we just "Chatty Cathy" in all this?

Regards  —  Cliff

Election Commission Meeting


For John, BLUFElection Commission Mtg, Thursday, 4:30.



The Lowell Election Commission will have a public meeting on Thursday, 25 July, at 4:30 PM.  The location will be The Mayor's Reception Room, City Hall, Second Floor.  Come and meet the members of the Election Commission, learning about what they are doing to secure your right to vote and maybe even give them some of your wisdom on the side of the meeting (that means before or after the meeting).

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 21, 2013

NSA Reads the Mail


For John, BLUFThe Government is snooping on almost all of us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Writing for The Atlantic, Reporter Philip Bump gives us "The NSA Admits It Analyzes More People's Data Than Previously Revealed".
As an aside during testimony on Capitol Hill today, a National Security Agency representative rather casually indicated that the government looks at data from a universe of far, far more people than previously indicated.

Chris Inglis, the agency's deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning.  Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government's surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.

But Inglis' statement was new. Analysts look "two or three hops" from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed.  Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops.  This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop.  And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three.  Two hops.  And now:  A third hop.

So, the Boston Bomber, the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was a Golden Gloves boxer.  Even came up to Lowell to fight.  If we assume that he knew boxing folks in Lowell, those boxing associates would be the first hop.  Now, let us assume that there are people who know and work with some of those involved in boxing in the Lowell area.  Perhaps through charities connected with Irish Micky Ward or Dicky Eklund.  There is the second hop.  Now, assume I have met one or more people on the second hop—and I believe I have—then I am the third hop.  That is to say, NSA is checking me out, EMail and telephone.

Back in November 2011 Facebook estimated that the average distance between two strangers was 4.74 hops.

It isn't like NSA doesn't have a handle on most all of us.  The idea of privacy is a mirage.  When it wasn't exposed and people weren't disappearing into secret prisons, this really wasn't a problem.  Unfortunately, it has now been exposed.  The difference between us and East Germany, or Communist Russia or Nazi Germany is that we are all in agreement that we all play by the rules and the rules conform to the Bill of Rights.  Even if they know you are guilty of something, they have to prove it the old fashioned way.  And no one wishes to expose how much NSA knows and how much it passes on to other Government Agencies.

Someone I know uses as a tag line this item from Edmund Burke, in his First Letter on a Regicide Peace (1796):

Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend.
Good manners is what is keeping us safe.  Teach your children well.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bradley Manning Trial Proceeds


For John, BLUFThe wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.



Army Private Bradley Manning is still on trial at Fort Meade, in Maryland.  The Defense has rested and the Military Judge, Colonel Denise R Lind, has rejected a Defense motion to dismiss the charges.  From The New York Times we have "Judge Upholds Charge Against Manning".  This is from Reporter Erin Banco, on 18 July 2013.  The lede is:
FORT MEADE, Md. — The military judge in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning decided on Thursday not to drop a charge accusing Private Manning of “aiding the enemy.”  If found guilty on all counts, Private Manning could face life in prison without parole plus an additional 154 years.
As we watch the Bradley Manning case go through the justice system we might get a clue about how Mr Edward Snowden will be treated, if he ever returns to US control.

Regards  —  Cliff

The President Speaks on Race


For John, BLUFIf we are going to fix the problems underlying the death of Mr Treyvon Martin we are going to have to do a lot of self examination, on all sides.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



Here The New York Times talks about the President's presentation Friday on Race and the death of Mr Treyvon Martin.

Here is the take of Law Professor Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Exile Returns


For John, BLUFUnlike our Commonwealth, there seems to be democratic competition in Cambodia.



Headline in Chinese newspaper Xin Hau, article by Reporter Nguon Sovan.

Huge crowds greet Cambodian opposition chief's return from exile

PHNOM PENH, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's charismatic opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned to his homeland on Friday after spending nearly four years abroad in self-imposed exile to avoid an 11-year prison sentence on charges of disinformation and destruction of public property.
This report was confirmed by Bloomberg News, Mr Daniel Ten Kate reporting, HERE.

Cambodia’s Sam Rainsy Returns to Cheers Before Vote Here is the lede and subsequent paragraph:  

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy arrived in Phnom Penh nine days before a national election, ending a four-year exile after receiving a royal pardon for charges he says were politically motivated.

Thousands of cheering supporters greeted Sam Rainsy, who stood on a makeshift stage at the airport to greet the crowd, according to live footage on his Cambodia National Rescue Party’s website.  The former finance minister has lived abroad since 2009 to avoid jail time for falsifying maps and inciting racial discrimination.

Sam is one of the good guys, no?

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tip Lines


For John, BLUFMr Zimmerman acquitted.  It is tome to look past simple race, for underlying causes.



So the Department of Justice has set up a "tip line" regarding Acquitted Shooter George Zimmerman.  Are they doing the same thing for Acquitted Shooter Roderick Scott, in upstate New York?  I wonder if the Reverand Jesse Jackson is going to declare New York an Apartheid State, like he did Florida?  New York, you ask? 

Don't get me wrong.  Blacks who arrived in this nation early on and up to the 1950s and 1960s have a lot of history and baggage that needs to be dealt with by the rest of us.  Most of them were enslaved and, even after slavery ended many were abused as human beings.  And it got worse again as the 19th Century turned into the 20th.

On the other hand, some people seem to have over-learned the lesson that demonstrations and boycotts work.  At some point they lose their effectiveness and then become counter-productive.  We need new tools for fixing our social problems.  Creative tools.  Disappointingly, our Attorney General seems to lack both creativity and a sense of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Our Attorney General, Eric Holder, is going around saying the verdict was wrong and he is going to fix it.  Here is his talk to a convention of Delta Sigma Theta, the nation's largest black sorority.  The next day he said the same thing to the NAACP.

The Attorney General is so upset he has had the Department of Justice set up Tip Lines regarding George Zimmerman.  As Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds says, in his paper Ham Sandwich Nation, when everything is a crime it is just a question of if they bother to prosecute.

Still, this is all so over the top.  At least we have a bit of humor at the Day-by-Day cartoon.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Western Rim of The Pacific


For John, BLUFJapan is reacting strongly to Chinese claims to a few islands controlled by Japan.  Nothing to see here; just move along.



On 13 July The New York Times had an article on the maritime tensions between China and Japan, Japan and China Trade Sharp Words Over Islands, by Reporter Jane Perlez.  The lede:
In an unusually vigorous rebuttal to Japan’s latest accusations that China is using aggressive tactics to expand its maritime reach, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Japan was undermining stability in the region with its claims to disputed islands known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkakus in Japan.
A recently issued Japanese Defense White Paper lays out the case.  The English version of the Japanese Defense White Paper, Defense of Japan 2013 can be found here.  Here is how Japan sees China’s Five Objectives in waters near Japan:
  1. “to intercept naval operations by enemies in waters as far as possible from China”
  2. to develop military capabilities to deter and prevent Taiwan’s independence.
  3. to weaken the effective control of other countries over the islands which China claims its territorial rights over….
  4. to acquire, maintain, and protect its maritime rights and interests.
  5. to defend its sea lanes of communications.
Given these objectives and recent trends in China’s maritime activities, it is believed that China plans to further expand the sphere of its maritime activities, and expand its operations as an ordinary routine practice in waters surrounding Japan, including the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean as well as the South China Sea.
Japan sees China as a threat, a bully.  And China doesn't like being seen as a bully.  And, it wants what it things belongs to it, including territory

Here is the top of a box for a model kit of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Helicopter Destroyer 181, the HYUGA.  This is a 1/700 scale model, of the "Water Line Series".

The company producing the model is Aoshima Bunka Kyozai, in Japan.  Down in the HTML Code, as I received it, the image name includes the term "Hyuga_victorious".

Looking at the foreground one sees MV-22s taking off from the deck of the HYUGA, something that happened for the first time just this last June, off San Diego, during Exercise DAWN BLITZ.  Interestingly, China asked the US and China to cancel the combined exercise.

If you look in the right hand side, at the horizon, you will see a Chinese LIAONING Class aircraft carrier burning and sinking.  Note the distinctive ski-jump forward part of the flight deck.

There is a caption in English that says "Operation 'Senkaku'.  Senkaku refers to a disputed set of islands.  The Japanese text to the left says "Distant Island Defensive Combat".

As someone noted:

Sometimes a picture on a model toy box is more than just a picture; it's a statement.
Let us grant that model-makers are in the business of selling models, and so, a lurid box-top is also simply going to sell models.  It is why when you walk into a hobby shop it is easier to find ship model kits for battleships than it is to find models of underway replenishment ships.

On the other hand, the Japanese are worried about the Chinese, and even model ship kits can reflect that worry.

So, to bring it home, are problems on the western rim of the Pacific a cause for the Obama Administration's pivot to the Pacific or is the pivot the cause for the unrest?  One hint.  It isn't always about us.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

G'Day Damascus


For John, BLUFSyria is turning into the Spain of the current decade, people coming from far and wide to fight Assad, the new Fascist—or is al Qaeda the new Fascism?  Nothing to see here; just move along.



This is a report at the Blog Fortuna's Corner, "G’Day Damascus:  Australians Are Joining Syria's Rebels in Surprising Numbers"?  The original source is, apparently, Time Magazine.

The lead-in is that more Aussies than any other "developed nation" nationals are fighting in Syria.  The key point is that Sunni v Shia differences are being acted out in Australia.  On top of that there is the question of trained jihadists returning home.

In February, Norwegian terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer released a paper showing that 1 in 9 Westerners who fight in foreign jihadist insurgencies ends up becoming involved in terrorist plots back home.
I do not see either of those sorts of adverse outcomes here in these United States.  Perhaps that is because we are fairly big and diversified.  There are 316,252,000 people in the US, give or take.  I was surprised that Wikipedia says that 0.8 percent of those people are Muslim.  I thought it was larger.  In Australia, per Wikipedia, 2.2% are Muslim.  Maybe it is America's Second Amendment.  Maybe it is NSA, although the Boston Marathon Bombing would suggest that isn't the case.

The thing is, it hasn't been called "The Long War" for nothing.  We need to have long term perspectives and long term solutions.  What we don't need are short term solutions with long term adverse consequences.  You want an example?  Interning all those Japanese on the West Coast during World War II (and also interning Germans and Italians).

Regards  —  Cliff

A Conversation On Grace


For John, BLUFWay too much ego involvement out there.


From at link at the Althouse blog we arrive at Lem's Learning Levity, where we find, inter alia, these two comments:
Meade said...

America needs to have a national conversation about grace.

July 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM


rhhardin said...

Don't punch random strangers even if you think you're disrespected, no matter what your culture says.

We have concealed carry.

Thus endeth the lesson.

July 16, 2013 at 9:17 AM


We absolutely need a national conversation about grace.

In other news, the lead sub-title for Lem's blog is:

It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.
-- Salvador Dali
Additionally, one wonders about the cosmic correctness of Meade "Commenting" here while the place he works has just banished comments.  Well, you can EMail Meade and he might post your comment.  He has for me.

And, finally, don't mess with other people.  They could turn out to be bigger that you, meaner than you, have friends around the corner, or they could be armed.  Show some grace under pressure and don't start fights.  If you absolutely have to fight someone, join Golden Gloves, or a Hockey Team or a Rugby Team.  And don't drink and start fights.  Booze does slow your reaction time.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Little Cheap Education


For John, BLUFOne of the few Good Deals in Martyville, in class tuition at Continuing Ed for Vets and those 60 and older.



The UMass Lowell Continuing Education Class for the Fall Semester is Revolutions in the Modern World (Humanities & Social Sciences, Course Number 43.344-001).  [Well, the one Martha and I agreed on.  And one of our friends.  Join us.]

Course Description
In this comparative history course, we look at the theories of Marx, Barrington Moore, Crane Brinton, Theda Skocpol, William Sewell, and others on the causes, dynamics, and outcomes of revolutions in the modern world.  We then consider the history of the French, Russian, Vietnamese, and Iranian Revolutions (list may vary each semester) to see how well the theories fit the events.  The course ends with a discussion of whether the pattern and analyses discussed in the course are helpful in understanding a contemporary revolution, such as that in Egypt.

[So you complain that you don't see Peruvian Economist Hernando de Soto there.  That is why mature individuals should be attending such classes.  They bring additional insights to the discussion.]

Prerequisites, Notes & Instructor
Prerequisites:  43.106 / The Modern World
Credits:  3;
Instructor:  George Deak

When Offered & Tuition
Thurs , 6:30-9:20 pm
Fall 2013:  Sep 04 to Dec 18
Tuition:  $1005
Note:  There is a $30 per semester, nonrefundable registration fee for credit courses.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I bet that can be waived if one asks politely.
  IGNORE THE TUITION.  You don't have to pay it.  You are a mature student, interested in where the world is going, and not so much worried about making the correct career choice.  You pay the $30.  And the books.

Leadership Styles


For John, BLUFIgnore the man behind the curtain.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


This morning I came across, in The International Herald Tribune, an article titled "In Second Term, Obama Is Seen as Using ‘Hidden Hand’ Approach".  That is, the "hidden hand" in governing this great nation.  Here is the lede and follow-on paragraph:
In the nearly two weeks since Egypt’s military seized power, President Obama has promoted a better federal bureaucracy, given a medal to George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame and had former President George Bush to the White House for lunch.  What he has not done is publicly address the violent upheaval in Cairo.

That is not to say Mr. Obama is uninvolved.  In the privacy of the West Wing, away from the cameras, he has made calls to leading figures in the Arab world and has met with advisers trying to influence the crisis.  But his low public profile on issues like immigration, Syria and health care underscores a calculated presidential approach that admirers consider nuanced and detractors call passive.

So, the question is, have we seen this approach to governing before.  The Reporter, Mr Peter Baker, gives us President Dwight David Eisenhower:
Some compare Mr. Obama’s approach to the “hidden hand” style of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who often steered events behind the scenes without being public about his role.  Jim Newton, the author of “Eisenhower:  The White House Years,” a book with back-cover blurbs from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry, said Mr. Obama was like the former president in avoiding major international conflict, relying more on covert action and letting Congress take the lead in legislation.

“In those senses, Obama does appear to me to be taking a page from Eisenhower’s playbook,” Mr. Newton said.  “What I don’t know, however, is how aggressively Obama is working out of view on these matters.  The essence of Eisenhower’s hidden hand, of course, is that there was real work going on that people didn’t know at the time.  If that’s true now, then Obama really is emulating Ike.  If, on the other hand, he’s simply doing nothing or very little, that would be passivity, not hidden-hand leadership.”

Here is Law Professor Ann Althouse's take on it.

My question is, is this really the "Hidden Hand" or is this really a less involved President, devolving decisions and execution to lower level officials of his Administration?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, The International Herald Tribune (and New York Times) is behind a paywall, but my understanding is you can access a few articles each month.

Learning What Health Care Costs


For John, BLUFPrice competition works.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


Canadians coming to the US for surgery?  Yes, according to this article in The Blaze, by Reporter Becket Adams.  The article is "Free Market at Work:  OKLA. City Hospital Causes Bidding War by Posting Surgery Prices Online".

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, July 15, 2013

Smith-Mundt Killed by US Congress


For John, BLUFKilling the Smith-Mundt Act is like killing the Glass-Steagall Act.  Bad will come from it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


May he rest in peace.

NPR look out.  The US Congress has unleashed the BBG, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks).  At this point they are just releasing their information into the domestic media mix.  The next step will be their own stations on radio and TV.

Here is the background on the long-standing ban on the US Government conducting propaganda actions domestically (from the Foreign Policy Magazine Blog, "The Cable"):

The restriction of these broadcasts was due to the Smith-Mundt Act, a long standing piece of legislation that has been amended numerous times over the years, perhaps most consequentially by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. In the 70s, Fulbright was no friend of VOA and Radio Free Europe, and moved to restrict them from domestic distribution, saying they "should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics." Fulbright's amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky who argued that such "propaganda" should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. "from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity."
It isn't like the output of the BBG wasn't available in print.  But, now it is available on all media.

This is a move in the wrong direction.  Democracies should not have the central government generating propaganda for domestic consumption.  It sort of works against the First Amendment.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Gun Crime v Self-Defense


For John, BLUFAs long as criminals use guns, citizens will need guns for self-protection.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


At the InstaPundit I got a link to the blog Talk Left, "The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news".

The title of the Blog Post is "The Legacy of the George Zimmerman Trial".

In the Zimmerman trial and surrounding aura we have some confusion between "gun crime" and "self defense".  The use of a gun or other instrument, such as a rock or a table lamp, is a normal and civil reaction to "gun crime".  Those who wish to reduce the use of self defense as a protection against criminals with guns should work on a plan to take guns away from criminals without using an NSA like total intrusion into the lives of innocent citizens.

Regards  —  Cliff

Not Even a Toy Gun


For John, BLUFThe "do gooders" would allow the criminals to rule the neighborhoods.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


Headline from The International Herald Tribune:
In Zimmerman Case, Self-Defense Was Hard to Topple
Do you think the News Analyst, Lizette Alvarez (and her anonymous editors), want to destroy the concept of self-defense?  Would they make us sort of like England, where a home invasion met by the homeowner threatening the home invader with his or her child's toy gun is considered an offense on the part of the homeowner?  Or, is it just a careless Headline Writer, a group which apparently is accountable to no one?

UPDATE:  "Meet" to "met". Regards  —  Cliff

What difference at this point does it make?


For John, BLUFSometimes people are thrown under the bus to "protect" the institution.  Nothing to see here; just move along.


At the DiploPundit, a sort of unofficial (and seditious) underground blog for the US Department of State, we have a comment on part of the Benghazi Imbroglio.  Before we proceed, I will state my take on the affair.  Bad things happen in Diplomacy and Ambassador Chris Stevens was out there trying to make good things happen, walking on the edge of the line, when things went south.  This was probably not about him, but about CIA operations out of Benghazi, but he and three others were killed.  The Obama Administration handled the fallout very poorly, including trashing the First Amendment in an attempt to put the blame on some Videographer out of California, a chap with a fifteen minute short.

The State Department ended up firing (demoting) four mid-level administrators, one of whom was career employee Raymond Maxwell.  Mr Maxwell has written a poem about his experience, "Raymond Maxwell:  Former Deputy Ass't Secretary Removed Over Benghazi Pens a Poem".  The lede at the DiploPundit blog post:

In December 2012, the NYT reported that four State Department officials were removed from their posts after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.  According to the report, the four officials “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action” citing the State Department’s spokeswoman as source.
Here is Mr Maxwell's poem:
Invitation
– Posted on April 1, 2013

© Raymond Maxwell

The Queen’s Henchmen
request the pleasure of your company
at a Lynching – to be held
at 23rd and C Streets NW
on Tuesday, December 18, 2012
just past sunset.

Dress: Formal, Masks and Hoods -
the four being lynched
must never know the identities
of their executioners, or what/
whose sin required their sacrifice.

A blood sacrifice –
to divert the hounds -
to appease the gods -
to cleanse our filth and
satisfy our guilty consciences.

Arrive promptly at sunset –
injustice will be swift.
there will be no trial,
no review of evidence,
no due process, and no
accountability.

Dress warmly -
a chilling effect will instantly
envelop Foggy Bottom.
Extrajudicial.
Total impunity.
A kangaroo court in
a banana republic.

B.Y.O.B.
Refreshments will not be served
because of the continuing resolution.

And the ones being lynched?
Who cares? They are pawns in a game.
Our game. All suckers, all fools,
all knaves who volunteered to serve -
Us. And the truth? The truth?
What difference at this point does it make?

In the event of inclement weather,
or the Queen’s incapacitation,
her Henchmen will carry out this lynching -
as ordered, as planned.

* * *
I especially liked the penultimate stanza.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This Won't End Well


For John, BLUF"Hard cases make bad law."  Nothing to see here; just move along.


At the Althouse blog I found a link to this post at Insta Pundit, relating to the trial and acquittal of Mr George Zimmerman for the killing of Mr Trayvon Martin.
JULY 14, 2013

JOHN ALTHOUSE COHEN ON FACEBOOK:  “Prediction:  the Zimmerman verdict will lead to amendments to penal codes across the country to make it easier for prosecutors to win convictions, causing even more blacks to be incarcerated.”

Posted by Glenn Reynolds at 1:31 pm
Yes, I do believe John Althouse Cohen is one of Professor Ann Althouse's two sons by a previous marriage.  Today he announced he is not really blogging at his Jaltcoh Blog anymore.

Regards  —  Cliff

Economic Self Interest


For John, BLUFWe still don't know how to fix the economy.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I was visiting the blog ¡No Pasaran! this morning and case across a link to a post at Patriot Update.  The thing that caught my attention was the headline at ¡No Pasaran!, which was "This administration is focusing like a laser beam on jobs; or rather like a super-powered death ray".  Here is the link to the article.

Last night I finally finished Professor Paul Krugman's End This Depression N❊w.  I am still sorting through in my mind what I think about it.

But, back to the blog post, the full paragraph, which starts with the ¡No Pasaran! blog post title is:

This administration is focusing like a laser beam on jobs; or rather like a super-powered death ray.  Everywhere it sees jobs being created it destroys them, and not just in coal country either.  Take, for example, the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to prohibit Boeing, our nation’s largest exporter by value, from establishing a new plant in South Carolina because of its right-to-work laws.  (Boeing later fought that decision and won.)

Chrysler and General Motors seem to have more latitude.  The federal government is still a major stakeholder in both of these companies, yet both are setting up new factories in China.  GM announced earlier this year that Shanghai would receive a new Cadillac factory, while Chrysler plans to manufacture Jeeps in China starting in 2014.

How’s that for chutzpah?  The federal government arrogantly dictated to a private company that it could not open a factory in a right-to-work state, while two companies with substantial government ownership were setting up shop in an entirely different country.

With all that economic analysis out there I am reminded of the old saying, "There must be a pony in there somewhere."

Regards  —  Cliff

  "Behind the Façades in France:  What expats and the mainstream media (French and American alike) fail to notice (or fail to tell you) about French attitudes, principles, values, and official positions…"

Happy 14th of July


For John, BLUFHappy Birthday to the French Republic.

Today is Bastille Day, the day the French "Occupy Wall Street" crowd stormed the prison in Paris and freed seven prisoners and killed the Bastille's governor, Bernard-René de Launay.  The crowd was looking for gunpowder.  Among the prisoners was the Marquis de Sade, who agitated the crowds outside by shouting at them.  (It took the crowd a few days to work itself up to taking on the guards.)

All that said, the fall of the Bastille was the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.  A Revolution that has not yet ended.  While we managed to end our Revolution, with the help of the French, and then have another war with the Mother Country (1812) and then a Civil War, and helped liberate French territory, twice, in the 20th Century, the French Revolution still festers.  The problem is, with Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity) you get any two, but you can't have all three.

Happy National Holiday to the French.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, July 13, 2013

One Man, One Vote


For John, BLUFEnsuring one man, one vote is not always easy.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

PressEurop provides a precis of articles they judge to be the best of the European Press, including the UK.  This item is from the British newspaper The Independent and is titled "English revolution in House of Commons".

This is a little complicated, so some background.  The British House of Commons, sometimes referred to as Westminster (after the palace where they meet), is composed of Members from England itself, and also from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which, all together, compose the United Kingdom.  The thing is, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also have their own parliaments and certain authorities have "devolved" to those local parliaments.  It would be like Massachusetts having the General Court, but also some counties having their own authority over important matters, which are theirs alone to decide, while the State Reps from those Counties get to vote on how all the rest of the citizens of Massachusetts deal with the same issues.  For example, say the counties of Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Norfolk, Plymouth (and throw in Nantucket) get to set their own liquor laws, including taxes on booze, and, because it impacts selling, what are holidays.  They also get to set their own minimum wage laws and their own MCAS standards.  They do this free and independent from the say-so of the General Court, but yet the State Reps from those counties get to participate in making those same decisions for the residents of the other eight counties.

Frankly, the English, as opposed to the British, are miffed that Scots and Irish and Welsh tell them what to do, but they have no say the other way.

The British government wants to give English MPs the power to strike down laws that do not relate to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, writes The Independent.  Under the proposed constitutional reforms, which will be presented to Parliament in autumn,
English MPs would be able to reject legislation on devolved issues such as education, the NHS, transport and the environment, even if it had been passed by a majority of all MPs in the House of Commons.

The move would dramatically rebalance power in Parliament – and could result in a future Labour government being unable to pass significant legislation without the support of other parties [because a significant number of Labour MPs are Welsh and Scottish].

Today, all MPs in the UK parliament can vote on legislation affecting England, but English MPs do not have similar sway on matters voted by the national devolved parliaments and assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What is fair?

Regards  —  Cliff

  At this point we call upon Professor George Anthes to explain to us the US Constitution and the "one man, one vote" rule and how it applies in this case, which seems an awful lot like the GLTHS Imbroglio.