Saturday, August 31, 2013

President Talks About Syria

For John, BLUFGood move by President.

I am happy for the President's speech.  The Juan Williams comments on Fox at 2:55 were good.  I feel sorry for John Kerry (experiencing new things is good for all of us).  For those who think this makes us weak, and look weak, I would caution other nations that it may be a bad idea to step on the Presdent's cape when he is frustrated. Regards  —  Cliff


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

This may not be true but it is too funny to bother checking.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hans Blix Says No

For John, BLUFThere is a lot of opposition out there to a US attack on Syria.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here are some thoughts of Mr Hans Blix, who has been a UN WMD Inspector.  This is just an extract from a longer article, "Even if Assad Used Chemical Weapons, The West Has No Mandate to Act as a Global Policeman".  The subtitle is "By ordering air strikes against Syria without UN security council support, Obama will be doing the same as Bush in 2003".  That seems to be a fairly strong condemnation of possible action.  The source of this item is the web site Common Dreams.
It is true that the UN security council is not a reliable global policeman.  It may be slow to take action, or paralysed because of disagreement between members.  But do we want the US or Nato or "alliances of willing states" as global policemen either?  Unlike George Bush in 2003, the Obama administration is not trigger-happy and contemptuous of the United Nations and the rules of its charter, which allow the use of armed force only in self-defence or with an authorisation from the security council.  Yet Obama, like Bush and Blair, seems ready to ignore the council and order armed strikes on Syria with political support from only the UK, France and some others.

Such action could not be "in self-defence" or "retaliation", as the US, the UK and France have not been attacked.  To punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons would be the action of self-appointed global policemen – action that, in my view, would be very unwise.

While much evidence points to the guilt of the Assad regime, would not due process require that judgment and consideration of action take place in the UN security council and await the report of the inspectors that the UN has sent to Syria – at the demand of the UK and many other UN members?

I think Mr Blix is a little cranky about "W", but basically his analysis is pretty good.

Regards  —  Cliff

Reduce the Number of Secrets

For John, BLUFOver-classification in pernicious.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Editors of the new Blog, War on the Rocks provide us a copy of EISENHOWER’S DECLASSIFICATION INSTRUCTIONS, 1947.  Here is the payoff quote from the Memorandum:
The Army possesses no inherent right to conceal the history of its affairs behind a cloak of secrecy, nor is such conduct conducive to a sound and healthy approach to the day to day performance of its duties.
Well worth reading the whole thing.  And, there is a link at the bottom of the WOTR post to a copy of the original memo.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I think they got it from a distinguished Army historian.

New Meme Coming Out

For John, BLUFHIstory is a natural resource, to be exploited, like coal.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the InstaPundit we have this little blurb:
CONFEDERACY:  The New Democratic Talking Point.  It’s said of the Austrians that they do their best to convince the world that Hitler was a German and Beethoven was an Austrian.  Likewise, the Dems would like you to believe that Jefferson Davis was a Republican, and Abraham Lincoln a Democrat.
And why, in Virginia, is US Route 1 known as the Jeff Davis Highway?

Some Republican Governor should fix that.

In the mean time, maybe the Jeff Davis Republican/Abe Lincoln Democrat meme is just just a trial balloon for 2016.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, August 29, 2013

How Syria is Like Spain

For John, BLUFThe US needs a dose of isolationism.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A friend of mine wrote and EMailed the following meditation on the civil war in Syria.

As Mark Twain reputedly said (and Niall Ferguson definitely quoted):

"History does not repeat itself, rather, it rhymes."

Or something like that.  I propose a harmonic verse that matches from the past that relates to decision-making vis-a-vis Syria.  The Spanish Civil War, where the dichotomy between the "right" side and the "wrong" side seemed so clear cut and, parenthetically, which is still portrayed as such in many venues today.  Or rather protrayed in one-sided fashion.

Here is the snapshot, a legitimate Republican Government is challenged by a militarist coup led by conservative military officers in league with other conservative and reactionary elements in Spanish society in 1935.  The Spanish version of fascists led by General Francisco Franco.  The Republicans fight to defend "democracy" and the cry arises for other nations of the world to intervene.  The Western Democracies essentially decide not to intervene, the US Congress passes things like the Neutrality Act and instead the Militarists (a better characterization) are aided by Nazis and the Italian Fascists while the Soviet Union aided the Republicans.  Seems a clear case of neglect by the West, right?

Wrong, as idealists flocked to Spain to fight in the international brigades for a romantic cause they learned that the Republican front was a loose alliance of socialists, anarchists, some liberal democratic types, terrorist, and Stalinists masquerading as communists.  Some, like George Orwell, learned the true face of totalitarianism from his erstwhile allies among the Republicans and his experience inspired him to write 1984 and Animal Farm.  Yes, Virginia, Orwell was inspired to write his visions of Utopian horror by "the good guys."  Stalin's purged reached down into the Comintern in Spain as the Soviet cadres flew back to the socialist utopia for a bullet in the head or a trip, with family, to the Gulag "without right of correspondence."

The insight?  Both sides were riddled with agenda driven iconoclasts and criminals, and also included good people caught up in the maelstrom.  Sounds like Syria.  The West sat it out.  Correctly I would say, and then made a real error three years later in Munich.  Syria is not Czechoslovakia and Damascus ain't Munich...its more like Toledo, or Madrid, or Barcelona.  I know I am stepping on some "progressive" toes here, but check out the facts.

Thus endeth the Lesson.

This discussion reminded me of the early chapters of Ken Follett's Winter of the World, which looks at the Spanish Civil War.  Or perhaps Earnest Hemingway's book For Whom the Bell Tolls.

We need to stay out of Syria and their problems.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Retired Navy Officer, former Naval Aviator, PhD in History.

Voting in Minnesota

For John, BLUFSome say there is no voter fraud, just voter suppression, but I am not seeing it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Via The InstaPundit we have a link to the blog Election Law Center, which yesterday had a post titled "Somali Immigrants Charged With Illegal Double Voting in Minn".  Would this fall under "too much of a good thing"?

On the other hand, maybe, as immigrants, they don't really understand the voting process here in the United States.

I do wonder if NSA (No Such Agency) played a role in this bust?

Regards  —  Cliff

Voting Laws

For John, BLUFOpposition to Voter ID is a smokescreen.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Reporter Russell Berman writers for The Hill, under the headline "Colin Powell warns Republican voter ID laws will backfire".

There is a broad argument about fairness in voting, where some (mostly Republicans) argue that there is voter fraud out there and others argue (mostly Democrats) that there is voter suppression, but not fraud.  A lot of this turns on the issue of ID to Vote.  There are those who believe asking for an ID to vote is a way of suppressing voting.  As a person who believes that I have the right to walk the streets of Lowell without carrying an ID and without the Police being free to demand I produce my papers, I am sympathetic to that view.  On the other hand, I walked into a bank in Lowell that displayed a sign that said the bank might ask for two forms of ID.  Two forms of ID to transact bank business.  Now there is discrimination, suppression, if you will.  The fact is that to participate in economic life one needs an ID.  To drive, to drink, to cash a check.  One needs to present ID to be hired, at least by a business that is working within the formal system.

I am not sure why showing an ID to vote is such a big deal.  It does not seem like such an onerous imposition to help fellow citizens rest comfortable that everyone gets to vote, but only once per election.  As for the argument that requiring an ID places a burden on the voter who is poor or disabled, one wonders who those people are.  Perhaps Primitive Methodists who are housebound. I suggest that IDs be offered for free to those who are not getting them for the purpose of driving.

All that said, I see where the Department of Justice is going for a second bite of the apple down in Texas.  This from Thursday last:

The Department of Justice announced today that it will file a new lawsuit against the State of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety over the State’s strict voter photo identification law (SB 14).  The United States’ complaint seeks a declaration that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the voting guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
One might wonder if this is more about having an issue than about having fair elections.

I call upon the General Court to pass a law, and fund it, to provide a State Government Identification Card to anyone who asks for it, to include funding teams to visit those not able to go to a Department of Motor Vehicles office or City Hall.  Further, I call upon the General Court to include in the law a statement that no person should be required by law enforcement officers to produce a form of identification except when being stopped for a legitimate suspicion of violating a law.

Regards  —  Cliff

  As I recall, it has something to do with being a US Citizen or a properly documented immigrant.  Frankly, I am not clear on how the Commonwealth's Attorney General feels about firms hiring people who are not citizens or otherwise present with proper conformance to the laws of the land.  She famously said, it is not illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts.
  The Law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allows the poll workers to demand an ID to vote.  Are those against ID to vote working to repeal that law?  One would expect so.
  And no "stop and frisk".

Those Washington Elite

For John, BLUFMaybe we need more people in the US House of Representatives, so that the Reps are closer to the People.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Atlantic Monthly has an article titled "How an Insular Beltway Elite Makes Wars of Choice More Likely", by writer Conor Friedersdorf.  It can be found here.
Intervention in Syria is extremely, undeniably unpopular.

"Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed," Lesley Wroughton of Reuters reported August 24. "About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act." And if there were proof that Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemical weapons? Even then, just one in four Americans favors intervention.

The citizenry wants us to stay out of this conflict. And there is no legislative majority pushing for intervention. A declaration of war against Syria would almost certainly fail in Congress. Yet the consensus in the press is that President Obama faces tremendous pressure to intervene.

Further down in the story we have this paragraph:
Washington elites are doing all they can to diminish the people's ability to exert pressure in foreign affairs.  The Constitution vested the war power in the legislature so that decisions about war and peace would be debated by elected officials from every community in the country—people easily reached by their constituents and not personally empowered by war.  The legislature isn't nearly as enamored of executive-branch wisdom as executive-branch staffers are.
The system of Government we were given by our Founding Fathers depended upon the inputs of the People.  We are evolving into a Government run by a Gaggle of Experts.  Self appointed?  Maybe by agreement of other experts.  This is not a good direction.


Regards  —  Cliff

Oil Prices Going Up

For John, BLUFWar is not good for most of us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The price of oil is fairly quick to react to events which might impact supply (or demand).&nbps; Here is a report from The Washington Post.
This summer’s run-up in crude-oil prices flies in the face of widespread optimism about oil supplies in the United States, where domestic production has surged as a result of shale drilling.  Yet global oil supplies remain somewhat tight in large part because of disruptions in Iraq and Libya.

In Iraq, persistent attacks on the pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan sliced about 290,000 barrels a day off Iraqi exports, according to the Energy Information Administration.  In Libya, labor protests at several oil production facilities cut production to 1 million barrels a day in July, down from 1.5 million barrels a day in April.  It has now slumped to 200,000 barrels a day, according to a Bloomberg News report.  In Nigeria, crude exports were reduced during July and August because of work on key pipelines.

Further disruptions in Yemen, Sudan and South Sudan have trimmed global oil output.

But Greg Priddy, global oil director at the Eurasia Group consulting firm, expects that the run-up in oil prices may be temporary.  He expects a limited attack on Syria and notes that the summer peak oil consumption period is ending and that demand eases during the fall.  Moreover, he added in an e-mail, Saudi Arabia has increased its oil production to 9.8 million barrels a day in an effort to moderate prices.  The kingdom added 150,000 barrels a day to calm markets after the Egyptian military toppled the elected president Mohamed Morsi.

I have a friend who believes it is all manipulation by the Majors.  That is to say, the Majors play the price to maximize profits.  I tend to discount such conspiracy theories.  Besides, wouldn't this Department of Justice, in concert with this Department of Energy, go against such cartel like actions?

Regards  —  Cliff

  That is the major oil companies, like Exxon/Mobile.

Is Welfare Too Generous For Some?

For John, BLUFIt is decades since the "Great Society" and we still don't understand welfare.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am not a big fan of Boston Herald Reporter Howie Carr's style in presenting the news, but he is a force in local discourse.  Here he talks about the size of welfare payments, "Mass. earns distinction as freeloaders’ paradise".

Skipping the personal scathing attack on the Governor in the lede, we skip to the meat of the issue:

Do you make $50,540 a year?  Because that’s how much you need to earn, pre-taxes, to live the same lifestyle as a hypothetical local welfare family.

That’s the finding of the libertarian Cato Institute in a new study, and we’re No. 3 in the generosity of our largesse to the non-working classes.  The only places ahead of us are Hawaii, which Obama refers to as “Asia,” and the District of Columbia, which isn’t a state.

Most People will respond that this is outrageous.  My response is to ask if these numbers are real.  Here is the announcement from the Cato Institute, which says that welfare recipients in 35 states do better than minimum wage.  The study can be found here. If we go to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance web site, we can see their report, "Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients, Fiscal Year 2010".  One interesting point is the few number of two parent families receiving Temporary Need for Needy Families.  Some states have none.  Is that a sign of the value of two parent families or a failure in some states?  Incidentally, the web page has two attachments.

By the way, here is a list of state minimum wage laws.

A friend of mine wrote the other day:

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free meals and food stamps ever, to 46 million people.  Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us, "Please do not feed the animals."  Their stated reason for the policy is because, "The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."

Thus ends today's lesson in irony.

This is a very complicated issue and it involves issues of not just economics but also culture.  What is our duty to generosity to the lest fortunate and what is our duty to our fellow Citizens to not spend their tax money in ways that encourage indolence or merely salve our consciences.

Regards  —  Cliff

China on the Moon

For John, BLUFNature abhors a vacuum.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

China is pressing on with its Space Program, while we fiddle around.
Aug 28, 9:32 AM EDT

China to launch unmanned lunar lander by year-end

BEIJING (AP) -- China said Wednesday it will launch its first unmanned lunar lander by the end of this year, complete with a radio-controlled rover to transmit images and dig into the moon's surface to test samples.

More at the link.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Chicken and the Pig

For John, BLUFIt is the old joke about breakfast.  For the chicken it is involvement, but for the pig it is total commitment.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

A different perspective:
This is the biggest pie on Assad's plate: for Obama it's a Second or Third Tier problem.

If Assad and his followers lose they, their families and their supporters are dead.  I mean like really, really dead, many of them in horrific ways.

Obama won't be able to run again and many of his key people and advisors will be banished to comfortable academic exiles.  Assad and his people have no place to hide.

Is it any wonder why Assad shows no interest in playing nice?

Regards  —  Cliff

Someone With Reads to Go to Syria

For John, BLUFYou may like Amy Goodman, but some of her guests are off the beam a bit.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Not everyone is against us reaching out and slapping Syria around for using chemical weapons against its people, in contravention of agreed standards of international action.  For instance, here is Mr Michael Noonan, writing at War on the Rocks, a "realist" Blog one would assume was against sending cruise missiles to Syria with the intent to destroy things:
(1)  Breaking rules.  Some may scoff at the credibility argument vis-à-vis President Obama’s statements about Syria’s use of chemical weapons and crossing “red lines,” but the more important issue is that Bashar al-Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons against his opposition is not only egregious but it flaunts international conventions.  Many realists generally like to dismiss the reliance on, or importance of, norms but once they are established, they matter because other states, and non-state actors, are watching and will base their behaviors on what they see happening, or not happening, to flagrant violators.  Great powers make the rules, and while China and Russia may not be happy about enforcing these rules in Syria, not enforcing them will have real costs.  North Korea and Iran are watching.

(2)  Don’t let it burn. Edward Luttwak and others think that we can just let Syria burn because if either side wins we lose.  The socoiopolitical tinder in Syria’s neighbors, however, is way too susceptible to the risks of the inferno spreading.  Fire breaks need to be established and expanded.  One method of establishing such obstacles would be the use of limited standoff strikes against targets of importance to the regime, when coupled with intelligence and weapons and training support to the rebels, to help the opposition break the current stalemate.  If discriminate force leads to a breakthrough either militarily or politically, it may help to strengthen our position with more moderate wings of the opposition who currently must lean on violent extremists to serve as the shock troops.

(3)  Shaping rather than accepting the sculpturing of others.  Letting Syria continue to burn will deepen enmity towards the United States both within the current regime and the opposition.  More actively intervening with limited standoff strikes on key regime targets and increasing training, weapons, and intelligence assistance to vetted opposition forces, as possible, will help us to shape the situation on the ground rather than have to deal with the consequences of the fallout that the situation will produce no matter which side prevails.  The foreign fighter veterans that this war is producing will be much more dangerous, capable, and numerous than the veterans produced in Afghanistan and Iraq.  That will have an impact on international security writ large, both across the region and beyond.  Real realism doesn’t tell the state to be passive and hands-off every time it is confronted with a complex problem beyond its borders.

He is wrong, but you can't have a debate if you are not listening to the other side.

Speaking of listening to "the other side", this morning on Democracy Now News Reader Amy Goodman had on Ms Phyllis Bennis, of the Institute for Policy Studies.  At about 16:20 into the show Ms Bennis says that "they" don't have very good control over cruise missiles.  I think she is confused.  The military can put a cruise missile into the City Manager's Office, or his outer officer, or into the studio of LTC's City Life show.  The question is, does the intelligence supporting the attack know which is which, and at what time.  Accidents happen.  Ms Bennis could knock the cleaning lady down the stairs, but that would not mean she has no control.

Speaking of having control, have you written your Newspaper Editor or your Representative or either of your US Senators yet this week?

Regards  —  Cliff

  The military, the Department of Defense, the guys and gals on the ships doing the launching.  I wonder if some of the missiles will actually be air launched?
  Do you think the Institute for Policy Studies should reach out to me and offer me a job as a military analyst?  If I could work from home I would do it dirt cheap.

Going to Syria?

For John, BLUFRight now we have more questions about Syria than answers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Blog Small Wars Journal:
Only after a brutally honest assessment of certain critical issues should we even begin to discuss any form of overt intervention in Syria:

  1. What is crucial to the US regarding Syria?
  2. What if we did nothing?
  3. What are the potential consequences of each posited response by the US?
  4. What are the consequences of failing to achieve any of the above?
  5. What lengths/limits are we willing to commit/accept to achieve our goals?
Lest these questions be dismissed as the thoughts of a weak minded liberal, the author is retired Army Colonel Keith Nightingale, with two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units.  He commanded an airborne battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division.  He later commanded both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade.  This is not his first piece for Small Wars Journal.

Other versions include this from the blog The Diplomat.  The orientation of this set of five from Mr Robert Farley is international communicating.

I’ve written many times in this space about the difficulty of sending clear messages in international relations; there are always concerns about how to read notes delivered by artillery and cruise missile. I recently finished Stuart Goldman’s book on the Nomonhan incident, the decisive battle in the undeclared war between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1939. While the two incidents differ enormously in context and scope, there are some important parallels with regard to how states use military action to communicate.
Then Bill Roggio and Lisa Lundquist have a list of Eight Questions in the Blog Long Wars Journal.

What questions are our Congresscritters asking?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Short version here.  May have influenced the Japanese decision to attack the US in 1941.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syria and Our Actions in Response to WMD Use

For John, BLUFWhen you bomb someone you run a risk of making an enemy of them, perhaps a long term enemy.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

If we go into Syria, along with our Allies, Great Britain and France, in response to Syrian use of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (Chemical Weapons), it can't, under international law, be for the purposes of punishing Syria, as least per one lawyer with experience in international law.
As a matter of international law, “punish” cannot be an objective.  The legitimate functions of an application of military force can be to defeat, to deter, to disrupt, to dissuade, to bend an enemy to our will, and so forth, but it’s the criminal justice system that can punish, inflict pain for the sake of the pain, or extract social revenge.
A distinction that may not be obvious to the casual observer, but the Obama Administration is trying to make some fairly fine distinctions.  For example, any attack would not be about replacing the Assad Regime, but about dealing with Syrian use of WMDs.

Here is how The Blaze characterized the White House view today, as articulated by the President's Press Secretary, Mr Jay Carney.

“I believe that absolutely allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present significant challenge to, threat to the United States’ national security,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

Under Obama’s own standard, a threat could justify a military response without direct congressional authorization. Carney was asked about a 2007 interview Obama had with the Boston Globe when the then-presidential candidate said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

“As I made clear, it is clearly in the United States’ national security interest that that norm be maintained because the consequences of that standard dissolving are enormous and very detrimental to the United States and very detrimental to the international community, to our allies and partners in the region, and the world at large,” Carney said Tuesday.

I am not sure that the President is going to formally go to Congress over this, before he acts, assuming he acts, which seems pretty obvious from both Secretary Kerry's comments and today's White House press conference.  Here is the Press Secretary:
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I don’t want to engage in speculation about a course of action that has not been decided upon. When the President has an announcement to make, he’ll make it. As this process is undertaken, we are consulting directly with House and Senate leaders in Congress. We are consulting directly with the leadership of the relevant committees as well as with other members of Congress who have a keen interest in this matter. I think you’ve seen that documented by some members who have spoken to it. And that process will continue. We think it’s very important that the consultation process take place in a matter like this of such gravity.
That didn't seem like a positive ratification of Senator Obama's views on Presidential Powers and limits.  I believe the President will execute and then notify Congress, but also tell Congress that he really doesn't have to tell them. 

I have heard that only 9% of the American People are in favor of this.

Citizens should be asking themselves if we, the United States, have an interest in touching up Syria over internal use of Chemical Weapons.  We should also ask ourselves if Syria will take this as a limited act over Chemical Weapons, rather than our joining the rebels.  We should also ask ourselves if we think Iran, Russia, China or someone else will react to our action.  We should also ask ourselves if there is an escalation ladder and if we will be able to step off at some level.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The British Prime Minister has recalled Parliament to talk to them about action against Syria.
  War Powers Resolution.
  I would bet some of that 9% thought the pollster said "cereal" rather than "Syria".  I base this on my own informal poll of checkout clerks around Lowell and the towns, where sometimes the clerk says "I thought you said cereal".
  This would be the World War One scenario, where each nation had its own "Red Line" and each felt it had to act early, to prevent losing an edge.
  Here is one version of an escalation ladder.  In this version we would be on rung 4 of 16.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nice Flowers

For John, BLUFThings of beauty to see in Lowell.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Driving up MaryL the other day (it runs between Rogers Street and Battles Home), I came across this plant at the street end of a driveway.

If you note the curb in the foreground you will get a sense of the size of this plant, inside its planter.

Very nice.

Regards  —  Cliff

Buying Donuts

For John, BLUFNot all donut purveyors are created equal.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Remember Fred the Baker?  Remembered his catch phrase "Time to make the donuts"?  Fred made you think that Dunkin' Donuts was a serious operation.  And so it is, mostly.

The other day I dropped my wife off at a medical appointment and drove off to find a near-by Dunkin' Donuts.  My template is the Dunkin' Donuts on Route 38 in Lowell, across from the gas station.  On Rogers Street in The Belvidere.  The Option X doesn't measure up.

I ask for a Poppyseed Bagel.  I was told they don't have Poppyseed, but I can have a Sesame seed Bagel.  It makes me think about Jesus talking:

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Matthew 7:9
Well, anyway, I wasn't having a Sesame seed Bagel, so I asked for a Plain Bagel.  "We don't have any Plain Bagels."  I settled for a Boston Cream.

For my Wife I asked for a chocolate frosted raised donut (not cake).  Didn't have any.  Fortunately, her other choice was a croissant and they had one.

Then I asked for "Hash Browns" those little bags of button sized shredded potato.  Properly cooked and seasoned they are wonderful.  In this case I got two servings and they were oily and greasy and instead of being eight or ten individual items, they were all mushed together.  Yuck. I am going to be favoring the one at 651 Rogers Street.

Regards  —  Cliff

  From the King James version, the one Paul used when he preached.  Hat tip to Bob Mumford.
  As an aside, I often ask for "Philly" with my Bagel.  Usually the clerk has no idea what I am talking about.  That strikes me as being a little narrow, culture wise.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Content of Their Character

For John, BLUFWe need to continuously fight to get beyond race and ethnicity and get to the content of one's character.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Law Professor Ann Althouse has an insightful Blog Post on the issue of race and the fact that some Republicans, wrongly, are prepared to abandon their colorblind position—"The conservatives' high ground on race is colorblindness, and they'd be fools to abandon it."  Her concern is that recent murders (Slain World War II vet Delbert Belton and Australian Christopher Lane) are going to raise questions as to why the use of Trayvon Martin is not being replayed "in the other direction".  Her point, and I hope the point of every right thinking American is that there is only one direction, and it is colorblind.

From Professor Althouse's blog:

Trayvon Martin — an individual human being — was used by demagogues to score points about the suffering of black people in America, but this is not a game, and it is delusion to imagine that there is a need to score points on some imagined other side.  This is not a game.  There is no score.  And we are all on the same side.
Put more starkly, the race baiting engaged in by the Left over the Treyvon Martin case does not justify Republican abandoning their very important position that the nation is best off when it works to be colorblind.  Getting down in the swamp of demagoguery is not what is going to fix our problems.  I remember listening to US Representative Shirley Chisholm, back in 1971, when she was giving a speech in her campaign for the Democrat Party nomination for President.  It was a talk at a college campus and a student brought up the ecology of the whales.  Ms Chisholm said that she was concerned about the ecology of children in inner cities and children in Appalachia.  No race defined.  Geography and cuture diverse.

Back to the Professor:

Conservatives have rested on the principle of colorblindness for a long time, and they've taken abuse for it.  Look at how left liberals abuse Chief Justice Roberts for writing, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  They consider that kind of talk naive (at best).  They push the perceived sophistication of what Justice Blackmun said back in the first affirmative action case:  "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race.  There is no other way."
Let us continue to rest on the principle of colorblindness.  It doesn't mean we ignore problems, but it does mean we look for the underlying pathologies in humans, pathologies that are deeper than race.  That is something that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has failed to do with his Fourth Amendment violating stop and frisk rules, which have been, thankfully, struck down by a Federal Judge.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior, summed it up 50 years ago this coming week:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Regards  —  Cliff

  Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg switch from the Democrat Party in 2001 and registered as a Republican and held that until 2007, when he became an Independent.  We are well rid of him.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The New York Times Has A Bias

For John, BLUFHow neutral are the papers?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Blog of Law Professor Ann Althouse we have this item:
Michael Kinsley asks NYT executive editor Jill Abramson whether there's an ideological bias in the paper's news articles.

I know, you can't expect her to admit it.  But the way she avoids admitting it is fascinating:

Um, I think that they would recognize a sort of cosmopolitan outlook that reflects that, even as we become international, we’re a New York–based news institution.
The story in The New Republic is headlined "A Q&A With Jill Abramson:  The Times' top editor on mean bosses, liberal biases, and the demise of the Washington Post".  The Washington Post is dead?  Did anyone notify the On-Line edition?

And "as we become international"?  What does that mean?  Perhaps The International Herald Tribune.

But, in the end, Ms Abramson is saying that The New York Times is just another home town newspaper.  It isn't Smallville.  It is Gotham City.  And this home town is addicted to strong leaders and the use of police power to corral those who are seen as problems, under the cover of doing it for the good of those being corralled.  It has an addiction to "the arts" and being cool.  It is dismissive of small town values and squares.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Views of the World

For John, BLUFMaps are fun.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

My youngest sent along this link to a series of maps that help us better understand the world and what is happening.  To be fair, most of the maps ask more questions than they answer.  For example, Map 2.  How long is it going to take the rest of the world to catch up with the United States, Liberia and Burma?

Regards  —  Cliff

  We got our metric system when "[t]he French law of 18 Germinal, Year III (7 April 1795) defined five units of measure."  So much for the metric clock and calendar.

Situation in Egypt

For John, BLUFReligious prejudice.  Reminds on of the Ursuline Convent Fire in Boston.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Sister Manal, principal of a Franciscan school in suburban Cairo, told a reporter for the British Tabloid, The Daily Mail, in this 19 August 2013 story:
We are nuns.  We rely on God and the angels to protect us.  At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us.
The situation in Egypt is confusing and confounding.  For sure it is not politics American style.  That said, some might argue it is politics Chicago style, but with the Army, rather than the police.

One of the lessons I would draw from the removal of President Morsi from office is that our broad-brush term, coup, is not suitable for intelligent discourse.  A coup it Egypt is not a coup in Turkey, is not a coup in Chile or Argentina, is not a coup is France or North Korea. For those of us old enough to remember, France had a coup in the 1958, which produced The Fifth Republic.  We seemed to live with that—de Gaulle came to power.  There were the riots of '68 and in April 1969 Charles de Gaulle resigned.  Incidentally, during the riots of 1968 President de Gaulle made sure he had the backing of the Army.  Everything worked out swell.

Pinochet in Chile, overthrowing Allende did not go down well with many people here in the US.

On the other hand, Juan Paron came to power in Argentina on the heels of a series of coups in the 1930s and we all love Evita.

If there was a coup in North Korea today, or in Iran, and a more friendly government came to power, would we not reach out and embrace the new Government?

Why do we care?  Because if the whole Near and Middle East blow up and we get a global conflict the young men and women of Lowell will be marching off to war—and our taxes will be going up.  On the other hand, to be honest, the recession will end, but at what a price.

Hat tip to Ann Althouse.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Situation in Mexico

For John, BLUFThe real issue is violence in Mexico and its spread to the US.  Remember Prohibition?  Worse.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a Headline from The International Herald Tribune:
Report Shows Modest Rise in Requests for Asylum
Here is the lede:
Requests along the border with Mexico have more than doubled over the last three years as immigrants claim a fear of persecution back home, a federal government report found.
The article, found here, is from The Associated Press.  It says that requests for asylum more than doubled.  The headline says "modest rise".

The next paragraph helps explain what is happening, numbers wise.

The so-called credible fear claims reached 14,610 by the end of June, with three months left in the fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security reported.  For the entire 2011 fiscal year, there were 6,824 such claims.  The department’s report notes, however, that those numbers are a tiny portion of the millions of travelers who legally enter the country each year.
Compared to all the folks coming into the United States the number of requests for asylum is rather modest, but it should be a troubling trend.  Some may put it down to Mexicans learning how to work the system.  On the other hand, it could also be a canary in the mine, telling us that violence is rising rapidly in Mexico, or at least parts of Mexico.  Violence in Mexico should be of concern to us, the way a neighbor's house on fire should be of concern to us.  It could jump to our house.

And it isn't just the US.  Here is the view from Toronto, Canada.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The Daily Mail, about a week ago, suggested that Mexicans hoping to come to the US are being coached on how to work the system, how to phrase their fears, allowing them to pass through the US immigration filter.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

To Compromise

For John, BLUFNot every compromise is a good deal for the voters.

Writing in a recent edition of USA Today, Messrs Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, Foreign Policy at Brookings, and David Petraeus, Former CIA Director; Former Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggest Washington "Compromise on budget".
As Congress heads home for its August recess, huge political storms are brewing over a budget impasse that will confront lawmakers when they return.  The House is basing its annual spending bills on one set of relatively draconian budgetary assumptions, the Senate on a whole different set.  And hanging over everything is the need for another extension of the debt ceiling to keep the government running.

In fairness to Democrats and Republicans, the paralysis is largely based on principle, not parochialism or pettiness.  Democrats typically want to protect entitlements and other assistance for middle-income Americans, who have suffered significantly in recent years.

Republicans tend to worry that the burgeoning growth in entitlements, especially Social Security and Medicare, must be checked — and soon.  While they agree that the middle class is beleaguered, Republicans view tax relief as a better response than government programs.

Here is how it ends up:
If we had extremely high tax and spending burdens like some European countries, Tea Partiers might be right that it was time for a showdown about the country's future.  Or, if entitlements were about to be savaged by a heartless right wing, Democrats might be right to defend them at all costs.

In fact, our budget choices today are much more palatable.  Tax rates are lower than they were under President Clinton, and virtually no one wants to raise them massively.  Entitlements have just been expanded under a Republican president and continue to grow faster than inflation, and virtually no one is proposing that we actually cut them. So we have space within which to compromise.

Finally, Washington should not exaggerate government's role in our economic future.  Beyond the Beltway, the gradual recovery of the housing market, the reinvigoration of domestic energy production and U.S. manufacturing, exciting progress in new technologies such as cyber and 3-D printing, and the ongoing electronics revolution are beginning to bring our economy back — and our deficit down.

Washington does not need to be the only answer.  It just needs to avoid being the main problem — and then live to fight another budget battle as the parties seek new mandates from the voters in 2014 and 2016.  That is how it is supposed to work. That is why Congress and the president should seek a compromise deal now.

This is just another chance to take a swipe at the Tea Party and to say lets all compromise and go with more spending.  This was unhelpful.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fewer Ships and More Cargo Movement

For John, BLUFInternational trade is growing and this is helping to raise the poorest into better standards of living.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Colombo, Sri Lanka, is getting a new super port, made possible by investments from China.  Here, at The Maritime Executive, is a discussion of the port, and what the developers learned from what we do here in the United States, including in the Port of New Orleans.
The closest ports extend from around India and northeast to Bangladesh.  The option to send containers via super carriers at Colombo offers more cost-competitive transportation service to Indian exporters and importers.  Colombo’s port duplicates some logistics of the Port of New Orleans where oceanic carriers interline with barges that sail on the American inland waterway system.  Research undertaken by Applied Economic professor, Dr Jerry Fruin at the University of Minnesota and also the Smart Barge group showed that a barge carrying 72-containers to be cost competitive against railway and trucks on the link between Baton Rouge and Pittsburgh.

The voyage between Baton Rouge and Pittsburgh also involved the barge having to transit through 21-navigation locks and pay a fee.  Tug-barges built with ‘unrestricted’ ocean-capable hulls carry containers between the Port of New Orleans and Caribbean ports that include Kingston, Jamaica and extending as far as Port of Spain, Trinidad, the maximum viable/competitive sailing distance for tug-barges.  Many of the ocean-capable barges are built to lengths of 400 to 450-feet, and widths (beams) of 50 to as much as 90-feet and can carry anywhere from 54 to 110 x 40-ft containers, or 108 to 220-TEU’s on a single level.

A TEU is a unit of measure of cargo capacity and spelled out is Twenty-foot Equivalent Units.  It is based upon the twenty foot long Intermodal Container.  That means it can go by truck, train or ship.

This new port in Sri Lanka, along with the widening of the Panama Canal, and accompanying expansion of ports along the Eastern Seaboard are indications of cheaper costs of transportation, opening up more international trade.  First semester Econ tells us that trade makes everyone better off.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, August 16, 2013

Deaths in Tahrir Square?  Blame Ethanol.

For John, BLUFFighting Global Warming by adding Ethanol to our gas raises food prices and leads to revolution (and immigration).  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Reporter Kimberley A Strassel, of The Wall Street Journal, gives us "Behind an Ethanol Special Favor".  The subtitle is "An Alon USA Energy refinery in Louisiana was the only one—out of 143—exempted from an EPA mandate.  Why?".

Ms Strassel writes about the fact that political favors are being exchanged.  Here is her "bottom line", which asks why Krotz Springs gets a break?

The problem is we don't know.  The EPA, citing confidentiality restrictions, won't explain the process.  We are to trust that it did the right thing. Yet this is the same Obama administration that has spent years doling out billions in grants and loans to politically connected energy companies and junking federal rules to help favored players.  Why trust the EPA now?

With federal mandates growing to crushing sizes, agencies like the EPA increasingly hold discretionary powers that can mean life or death for companies.  The public deserves to know how and why that power is being exercised.

It is a great question, in that a redistributionist state is a state with an ever increasing number of regulations and more and more companies spending their time and money trying to find the loopholes rather than trying to find the scientific and engineering advances that make their produces safer, cheaper and more effective.  If personal computers were regulated like banks, then we would still be driving machines with slow speeds and small memories.

But, that isn't the important issue, important as it is.  The important issue is that in our effort to deal with concerns about global warming we are fomenting revolution across the globe and especially in the Near East.  The more we thin our gasoline with Ethanol the more food prices grow around the world.  When you produce more corn you produce less wheat and thus the price of wheat goes up.  Here is one take on it, a WSJ OpEd.  When you think of the ongoing turmoil in Egypt, remember that you, American voter, are helping to keep it going by who you send to Congress and what you are telling them is important.

Here is NYT OpEd writer, Mr Thomas L Friedman, writing about this issue and using a study by Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter and two others.

Doing bad by trying to do good.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, this is the former Department of State Director of Policy Planning who wrote for the Atlantic an article titled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All`" (July/August 2012).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nature or Nurture Issue

For John, BLUFHow do we know a reporter's agenda?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a blog post from Law Professor Ann Althouse, recommended by Law Professor Hlenn Reynolds (The InstaPundit).  Don't get hung up on the gender orientation issue and focus on the question of obscurant ion and hidden agendas.
"The stories of young men sexually assaulting young women seem never to stop... and there are times when I find myself darkly wondering if there’s some ineradicable predatory streak in the male subset of our species."

Writes Frank Bruni, beginning his NYT column, which proceeds to tell us about a psychology professor who blames the culture and is in the business of fixing the culture. The military uses him to teach and advise on the prevention of sexual violence, so it's in his economic interest to promote the theory that it's the culture and not the innate biology. On the other hand, even if a tendency toward violence is inborn, we demand that people overcome destructive urges and channel their energy in a positive way.

Reading the line quoted above, what I found myself wondering — darkly wondering? — is whether Bruni should have noted that he is gay and thus not susceptible to the "ineradicable predatory streak" that he imagines leads to the sexual assault of young women. Is it wrong to write something like that about men and not address his own exclusion from the category he's derogating? Maybe. There's added authority in running down one's own kind.

A more serious omission here, however, is that sexual assault in the military happens to men even more than to women. If homosexual encounters are a big part of the problem, then Bruni is protecting his own kind, and the eclipsing of his exclusion from the heterosexual group he insults becomes much more problematic.

For those who might be tempted to see Professor Althouse as a "homophobe", she is pretty open about having a son who is homosexual, and being OK with it.

Of course, there is yesterday's post, which suggested females are the aggressors.

Regards  —  Cliff

Possible Challenger for Niki

For John, BLUFFor sure you can't win if you don't play.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

So far the only person who was come out to say they will run against incumbent US Representative Niki Tsongas is Physicist Timothy Imholt.  Dr Imholt has a presence on PJ Media, here.  He was also featured in an article in The [Lowell] Sun, found here.

As Mr Frank Talty, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, points out, it will be a tough battle (From The Sun article, "Talty said Republicans in Massachusetts should not be targeting this district.").  But, as he also points out, it is an off year election and President Obama's coattails will not be available to the Democrat Party incumbent.

An uphill battle for sure.

Regards  —  Cliff

Iran in the Western Hemisphere

For John, BLUFIgnore Iran's Nucs for a second and focus on their "special forces".  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At the new Blog, War on the Rocks, retired Army Colonel Robert Killebrew writes about "Iran's Cartel Strategy:  The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Western Hemisphere".  From the lede and subsequent paragraph:
On October 11, 2011, Iranian nationals Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri were indicted by the Southern District Court of New York for plotting to kill the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, by bombing a Washington D.C. restaurant.  The “Saudi Ambassador Plot,” which was initially disregarded by official Washington, was the first instance (that we know of) of Iranian use of Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) to attack targets in the United States.

That the Iranian security apparatus would stage such an attack in the nation’s capital in which scores of Americans would have been killed or wounded, and that they would attempt to use a TCO to make the hit, sounds audacious and irrational – like something out of a movie that ends very poorly for Iran.  But it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with both the scope of Iran’s penetration of the Western hemisphere and its association with TCOs at every level.  Understanding both the nature of this new combination, and American weakness in dealing with it, requires some knowledge of TCOs, the security apparatus of the Iranian state, and their links.

Read the whole thing and consider that an Iranian nuclear weapon is not the current primary threat.  The exploitation of TCOs by Iran is the present problem.

Frankly, it is past time for the United States to focus a lot of attention on this Hemisphere.  Not that we should be a bull in the china shop, but that we should be doing a lot of intelligence collection and sharing and we should be providing support to various government in terms of police and military assistance.  We should not be trying to muscle other Governments, in that such action would be counter-productive, but we do need to be aware and awake.  One of the first things we could do it make US Southern Command the top priority Combatant Command in the Department of Defense.  Another thing is the US Congress could make funds available to help the Department of State upgrade our presence South of the Border.  We can't ignore the rest of the world, but we definitely need to be looking more to the South.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Colonel Killebrew writes and consults on national defense issues as a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Alternate Views

For John, BLUFThis is about extending brain health.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Professor Barry Komisaruk, of Rutgers University, asserts:
Mental exercises (such as crosswords and Sudoku) increase brain activity but only in relatively localised regions.  Orgasm activates the whole.
But, he has only conducted his experiments on women, per The Telegraph.

So, drop the Sudoku and reach for your mate, I guess.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Doctors Without Borders Find No Borders

For John, BLUFSometimes you can't help people because other people just won't allow it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In the morning I check the Althouse blog and this AM she had a post on Doctors Without Borders and Somalia.  She is referencing an article in the The Christian Science Monitor.  The story is that Doctors Without Borders is pulling out of Somalia, due to the violence in that territory. The lede from The Christian Science Monitor:
The international aid agency Doctors Without Borders is to permanently close its operations in Somalia because of repeated “extreme attacks” that it says the country’s authorities are doing little to curb.
Professor Althouse quotes the following from the article:
We have reached the point where I just don’t see the recognition of the value of impartial humanitarian assistance in Somalia anymore...  We’re not therefore able to put our staff in places where they can work.  The risks and the compromises that we must make are too high....  I want to reiterate that the kidnapping was simply the latest in a series of incidents since we have been present in Somalia, but yes, it was the last straw."
This is not a good development.  It suggests that civilization, as we understand it here in the West, is slipping away in parts of the world.  Should those parts of the world be allowed to go their own way?

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Monkeying Around

For John, BLUFHeadlines are often misleading.

Blogger Ann Althouse comments on an article in The Washington Post, "Lust, monkeys and the science of human desire".  This is a look at the research work of Kim Wallen, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at Emory University.  Professor Wallen is interested in the fact that amongst the Rhesus monkeys, and in this case, with the female, Deidrah, it is the female who is the sexual aggressor.  It appears the males are used and discarded.

Professor Althouse, on the other hand, was interested in the headline.  Or maybe the headline writers.  They are a sordid lot.  She notes the front-page teaser for the article is "What the sex lives of female monkeys may tell us about women."  Then we get to the "lust" part.  Did you know that lust is the acronym for "Leaking Underground Storage Tanks"? Front-page teaser for a WaPo article that — on clicking — is headlined "Lust, monkeys and the science of human desire."

Now, I'm not interested in monkey sex at all.  The science I want to know about is the journalism of the web.  Why was the front page, the page that invites you to click, all gendered up with "female monkeys" and "women," but the title at the site of the article is sex neutral, with "monkeys" and "human desire"?  There are 2 other differences that suggest that the front page was intentionally skewed toward women:  1.  Omission of the word "science," and 2.  Substituting "sex lives" for "lust.
I do agree with Prof Althouse, headline writers and the writers of teasers are the scum of the earth.

But, back to the article, it does talk about female gang warfare in the compound.  That elicited this comment, at the paper:

“Occasionally the compound was littered with corpses.”

Sounds like typical primate behavior.

“…all the females around her are higher ranked,” Wallen said. If they decided, for any reason, that they didn’t want her having sex with him, they and their families might tear and bite her to death.”

I lived in a compound like that once, it was call “high school.”

And so it was.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Laws Be Faithfully Executed

For John, BLUFPresidents, and not just the current President, are getting sloppy re enforcing the laws.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Early this morning Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse provided a link to this item from the Associated Press, at ABC News.  The Althouse post title is "The D.C. Circuit Court rebukes Obama over Yucca Mountain."  You can go there and see the comments, which are sometimes insightful.  From the article:
In a rebuke to the Obama administration, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been violating federal law by delaying a decision on a proposed nuclear waste dump in Nevada.

By a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the commission to complete the licensing process and approve or reject the Energy Department's application for a never-completed waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

In a sharply worded opinion, the court said the nuclear agency was "simply flouting the law" when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close the proposed waste site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  The action goes against a federal law designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste repository.

As I noted, the comments can be informative.  The top one asks the Andrew Jackson question.  President Jackson is supposed to have said, about a US Supreme Court decision, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!".

On the other hand, the US Constitution, concerning the President, states (Article II, Section 3, Clause 5):

he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed
And, of course, Yucca Flats is in Nevada, and Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, is from Nevada.  How does that play?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pyongyang Deployable Traffic Girls

For John, BLUFA spoof of the North Korean Government.

A friend of mine down in Florida, a collector of military trivia, sent along a YouTube on Pyongyang Traffic Girls.  That would be Pyongyang, North Korea.  It is a very insightful item, although I think it was done before the current Leader, Kim Jung Un.  I will note that there is a bit of edgy humor, but nothing terribly offensive.  But funny.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, August 12, 2013

Stop and Frisk Limits

For John, BLUFIt isn't just NSA eating away at our rights.

The New York City Police Department has a Stop and Frisk Program, which involves over half a million stops a year, the disproportionate number being Blacks and Latinos (88% of stops).  This derives from a US Supreme Court decision, which led to the concept of the Terry Stop:
The name derives from Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that police may briefly detain a person who they reasonably suspect is involved in criminal activity; the Court also held that police may do a limited search of the suspect’s outer garments for weapons if they have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person detained may be “armed and dangerous”.  When a search for weapons is authorized, the procedure is known as a “stop and frisk”.
Now, Blogger and Law Professor Ann Althouse notes that a Federal Judge rules "NYC stop-and-frisk practice violates rights", after a 2-month trial.  Quoting from an article in The New York Times, Professor Althouse ledes with:
Relying on a complex statistical analysis presented at trial, Judge Scheindlin found that the racial composition of a census tract played a role in predicting how many stops would occur.
Per the newspaper, correction included:
The judge designated an outside lawyer, Peter L. Zimroth, to monitor the Police Department’s compliance with the [US] Constitution.

Judge Scheindlin also ordered a number of other remedies, including a pilot program in which officers in at least five precincts across the city will wear body-worn cameras in an effort to record street encounters.  She also ordered a “joint remedial process” — in essence, a series of community meetings — to solicit public input on how to reform stop-and-frisk.

I did find it unfortunate that Judge Scheindlin used the term "whites" to describe people originating from the Eurasian land mass.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Happened to Health Care?

For John, BLUFObamacare is a potential disaster coming down the road.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Memeorandum last evening talked about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  There were a couple of items of interest.  First up out of The Las Vegas Sun was this item, "Reid says Obamacare just a step toward eventual single-payer system".

So Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is saying that the Democrat Party Controlled Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was just a way station on the railroad to a "Single-Payer" health care system.  At least that is what Reporter Karoun Demirjian tells us.

In just about seven weeks, people will be able to start buying Obamacare-approved insurance plans through the new health care exchanges.

But already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is predicting those plans, and the whole system of distributing them, will eventually be moot.

Reid said he thinks the country has to “work our way past” insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS’ program “Nevada Week in Review.”

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said.

When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

So, when Senator Read and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were assuring us that they had to pass the bill so we could not what was in it, was it a case that they didn't know what was in it, or was it a case of them knowing good and well what was in it and just not telling us? Then over at Investors Business Daily we have this headline, " Sarah Palin Was Right—More Dems Ditch Death Panels".
ObamaCare: Some Democrats are signing on to bills repealing the powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board to effectively ration health care for seniors.  So Sarah Palin was right about those death panels after all?

Palin was mocked by liberals when at a Tea Party rally in Reno, Nev., in late 2010, shortly before the GOP retook the House of Representatives, she told attendees:  "Don't be thinking that we've got victory for America in the bag yet. ... We can't party like it's 1773."

Leftist know-it-alls insisted that 1776 was the correct year, when in fact Palin was right:  The Boston Tea Party she referred to — a protest of British oppressive taxation — happened on Dec. 16, 1773.

Palin was right as well, and also took a lot of heat, when she referred to ObamaCare's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as a death panel whose decisions would result in health care rationing.

(Under ObamaCare, IPAB's board of 15 presidentially appointed "experts" will be empowered to make arbitrary Medicare spending-cut decisions with virtually no congressional oversight or control.)

Dr. Donald Berwick, who headed the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, admitted as much when he opined:  "The decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open."

Berwick also said: "We can make a sensible social decision and say, 'Well, at this point, to have access to a particular additional benefit (new drug or medical intervention) is so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds.'"

In an op-ed last month in the Wall Street Journal that Palin could have written, Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee, called IPAB "essentially a health care rationing body" and said he believes it will fail.

That was Governor (and Medical Doctor) Howard Dean mentioned in that last paragraph.  Former candidate for the Democrat Party nomination for President and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

There you are.  I bet it hurts when Governor Sarah Palin turns out to be prescient.  You didn't doubt her, did you?

Then there is Professor Paul Krugman, trying to fill in the holes with an OpEd, Death Panels and the Apparatchik Mindset. Here are some extracts:

…the Wall Street Journal, which is outraged, outraged, at the prospect that Oregon’s Medicaid system might seek to limit spending on treatments with low effectiveness and/or patients who aren’t going to live much longer in any case. Death panels!

And yes, we’re talking about taxpayers.  Nobody at all is talking about rationing the care you may choose to buy for yourself; if Rupert Murdoch wants to spend $100 million on a treatment that probably won’t work, but might prolong his life by a few weeks, he’s perfectly free to do so.  The real policy question is simply whether taxpayers should be obliged to do the same for everyone — and the answer is obviously no.

Now, the Journal isn’t really confused on this point.  Surely it understands the difference between rationing care and limiting public spending on care.  The point, however, is to confuse readers, and make them think that spending controls on Medicaid are the same thing as having bureaucrats pronounce death sentences on the middle class.

Surely Professor Krugman remembers the little book, The Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life.  Of course there are limits to what we can and will do, but the question is the limits.  The question is where we will place those limits.  What some worry about is a sort of T-4 Program, secret and overreaching.  Given the actual lack of transparency in the current Administration, including with regard to surveillance of Americans, just adds to the concerns.  One concludes that as long as it isn't George W Bush as President, Professor Krugman is prepared to give near total faith to the Executive Branch of the Government.

Remember then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously saying Congress has to "pass the bill so you can find out what's in it".

So we can find out what is in it?  Or so the Congress-critters can find out what is in it?  Was Senator Reid our secret Aneurin Bevan, setting up a secret path to a single payer national health service or was he just grossly ignorant.  What did Speaker Pelosi know and when did she know it?

That is the stark question.  Did the Hill Staffer crowd give us this complex and hard to understand bill that could be going anywhere or was this planned by Congressional leaders Reid and Pelosi?

Yesterday I thought anyone thinking of voting to defund the PP&ACA was dump.  Why take on the heat of shutting down government?  Now it seems that Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi either passed a health care bill that is sending us directly toward to a single payer system or they were duped and befuddled by their staffs.  Neither is a good outcome.  Neither is acceptable.  It is time to rethink this whole thing.

Regards  —  Cliff

Party Affiliations

For John, BLUFYes, Party Primaries shouldn't cost the taxpayers money.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I was trying to figure out the political affiliation codes in the Purged Voter List (which party is "J") and did an internet search and came up with this web site—"Massachusetts Directory of Political Parties and Designations".
If you enroll in any of these three parties you may vote only in that party’s primary. Enrollment in a political party does not affect your right to vote in the general election.  In the general election, all voters receive the same ballot and vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of party enrollment.

Party Name and Letter CodeTelephone Number
Democratic (D)617-776-2676
Republican (R)617-523-5005
So now I not only don't know which party is "J", but I also don't know which is the third party Secretary of State Galvin will allow to have primaries.  I suspect it is the Libertarian Party, but who knows for sure.  Not the Web Master for the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

And, in the mean time, I am still not sure why we allow the "Unenrolled" to sign up to vote in this or that party's primary, and then slink away into the night.  Where is the ownership there?  Sure, it makes them feel good, but allowing them to prance in and mess with a Party and then walk away just doesn't make sense.  Where is the taking of responsibility?

For Kad Barma and John McDonough, yes, I could go for primary elections not being paid for by the Commonwealth and local communities.  I am fine with that.  Let the Republicans in Lowell hold a caucus.  Perfect.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Is That Weapon Loaded?

For John, BLUFLaws should not lead to different understandings, but provide a common understanding.

A criminal statute is void for vagueness when it forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of ordinary intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application.
This is a statement by A New Hampshire judge in his ruling in State v. Dor (N.H. May 7, 2013).  This was part of a blog post by Law Professor Eugene Volokh, "Loaded Means Loaded".

I believe this is a very important point.  Men of ordinary intelligence need to be able to understand the laws they come across.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Lee Kuan Yew Reflects

For John, BLUFLee Kuan Yew guided Singapore from birth as a nation state to democracy as a nation state.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Lee Kuan Yew:  Asia’s Confucianist Edmund Burke

Of course you have to know who Edmund Burke was to appreciate this complement.

From the Blog Site The Diplomat we have a review of a book by Harvard Professors Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill

Lee Kuan Yew:  The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States, and the World came over the transom last spring.  As the title implies, Lee Kuan Yew is a volume of commentary from the Singaporean eminence griseon, well, most anything relating to politics and culture in the Indo-Pacific region.  That's an advantage of age (or so I hear): you can speak your mind.  To his credit, Lee speaks his mind in more elevated fashion than, ah, certain equally outspoken wise man this side of the Pacific.

Harvard professors Graham Allison and Robert Blackwill assemble a sample of Lee's interviews, speeches, and published writings.  They arrange the materials by theme, covering such topics as the futures of China, the United States, and India; future interactions likely to play out among Asian states, large and small; and the future of economic growth, globalization, and geopolitics.  Yep, future is the common denominator among the chapters.

If you were looking for someone who was a reflective practitioner from the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean area, you probably couldn't go better than Lee Kuan Yew.


Regards  —  Cliff

  British Politician who supported the American Revolution and opposed the French.  A man of keen insight, apparently.

Cambodian Vote Results Delayed

For John, BLUFSome solutions require a little patience.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This is an unusually long lede for The International Herald Tribune:
Cambodia’s state election body said Friday that it would postpone its announcement of the final results from last month’s general election, a move that could ease fears of violence over opposition protests. The National Election Committee made the announcement after the government acknowledged moving armored vehicles and troops into the capital, Phnom Penh, to keep order if a threatened protest by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party spins out of control. The opposition has challenged the Cambodian People’s Party’s claim that it won the July 28 election and charges that there were widespread irregularities. The Election Committee said it would release the results later because its own investigations of irregularities had not been completed.
And it is the full story.

The good news is that the leaders of various parties are working on solving this problem.  And, it isn't like it has gone to 200 ballots, like one issue in the local area here in the Lowell area.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Yes, I am referring, in a light hearted way, to the Greater Lowell Technical High School School Committee search for a new Superintendent.  And, yes, I do think that an even number of board members is a good idea.  A five to four decision on such a matter would signal to me (1) a serious lack of consensus and (2) a sign of troubles ahead.  They need to keep working this problem.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paying Your Way

For John, BLUFNewspapers have to find their place in the 21st Century.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At 11:12 last evening, The InstaPundit posted this item, with the link:
The linked article may be a little over-drawn, but does raise the question as to what is the proper business model for newspapers these days?  Whatever was its business model, the recent owners and managers of The Boston Globe weren't able to make it pay.  A real free press, and state controlled media is not a "free press", needs to pay it's own way.

Here is an insightful comment at the linked article (from Wildcat72)

"Journalism" has always been punditry and opinion.  The difference is that Rush Limbaugh is honest about it while the WaPO and NYT lie about it and claim to be "objective".
So why does Mr Limbaugh make money at this and The Boston Globe and The Washington Post don't? Regards  —  Cliff

Obamacare Exception For Capitol Hill

For John, BLUFOur Legislators and their Staffs further distance themselves from average Americans.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Shame!  Shame!  Shame!

"UPDATE 1-U.S. Congress wins relief on Obamacare health plan subsidies"

From Reuters we have this lede and subsequent paragraph:

WASHINGTON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Congress has won some partial relief for lawmakers and their staffs from the "Obamacare" health reforms that it passed and subjected itself to three years ago.

In a ruling issued on Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers and their staffs will continue to receive a federal contribution toward the health insurance that they must purchase through soon-to-open exchanges created by President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.

The difference between the ruling class and the rest of us continues.  While the 535 Congresscritters and their staffs don't totally escape the tentacles of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, they are protected from some of the costs others face.  An exception was carved out for those on Capitol Hill, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is happy about it.  As I said, Shame!  Shame!  Shame!

Regards  —  Cliff

  From the article:  "When Congress passed the health reform law known as Obamacare in 2010, an amendment required that lawmakers and their staff members purchase health insurance through the online exchanges that the law created.  They would lose generous coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.  The amendment's author, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, argued that if Obamacare plans were good enough for the American public, they were good enough for Congress.  Democrats, eager to pass the reforms, went along with it."  Well, until now.
  Colloquially, "Obamacare".

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Are Our Vital Interests?

For John, BLUFIt is nice to see a politician admit that mistakes may have been made.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

At Real Clear Politics we have this dialogue between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Talk Show Host Laura Ingraham.  The title is "Gingrich:  Republican Party Needs A Debate On National Security".
NEWT GINGRICH:  The Republican Party needs a debate on national security.  The strategy we've followed over the last 10 years did not work.  In the end, Iraq is a disaster, Iran is stronger than it was a decade ago. The fact is that Afghanistan's going to turn out to be a disaster.  Pakistan is in greater danger than it was 10 years ago.  If you look at the number of prison breaks in the last 30 days:  In Libya, over a thousand people.  In Iraq, two major prisons, over 500 people.  In Pakistan, I think over 350 people.  These are all al-Qaeda operatives, and I think anybody who doesn't believe this has consequences is very foolish.  Nobody in our party's had the courage to say—and Rand Paul's come the closest, I think partially because of his father's background, but partially because he doesn't have an emotional investment in the old order.  Republicans have a real obligation to ask themselves the question, aren't there some pretty painful lessons to learn from the last 10 or 12 years?  Don't we have to confront the reality that this didn't work as a strategy?  Which is not to say that Obama's right, and it's not to say that Rand Paul is right.

LAURA INGRAHAM:  What about Bush's participation in all this?  I mean, Bush's last term brought us Obama and a country who is vehemently opposed to obviously staying in Afghanistan.  The polls are devastating, as you know on that.  And most people think we lost the war in Iraq today.

GINGRICH:  I think when I said the last 10 or 12 years I included Bush.  And that's why nobody wants to have this discussion.  Look, I'm a conservative, I am generally speaking a hawk, I was for the two campaigns.

INGRAHAM:  I was too.

GINGRICH:  I have to look back and say the way that they were executed failed, and maybe we should have known better, those of us who supported them.  I am disheartened by some people who have refused to learn anything and who run around pretending that we can somehow continue to pour resources in when it's clear the country won't sustain it.

And on it goes...

Yes, we need this discussion, nation-wide.  With regard to National Security, we do need to get back to defining what needs to be secured, and what needs to be secured to secure what is vital to us.  Today the Panama Canal is not as vital to our interests as it once was.  While we don't want it falling into the wrong hands, I would suggest it is not as vital a waterway to us as it once was.  Maybe the widened version will be again, in the future.

On the other hand, since Leo Carrillo talked to my Junior High School, back in 1957, about the importance of Latin America to the United States, we have been basically ignoring it.  Would now be a good time to change?  I think so.  With our "Pivot" to Asia what ARE we going to do about the Near and Middle East?

And, I hope we are going to be having a discussion on the policy principles regarding how we secure our vital interests.

I think it is good that Newt actually raised this issue.

Regards  —  Cliff