Sunday, November 30, 2014

Trends in the Oil Market

For John, BLUFYes, turning seawater into energy is the goal, but in the mean time, cheap oil is a blessing and a curse.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Project Syndicate we have a discussion of the geopolitical impact of the international oil market.  Oil is what is sometimes referred to as a fungible product.  That means that when the price goes up availability of the product increases in one location there will a price drop across the board, and visa versa.  This issue is tackled by Professor Martin Feldstein, (Economics Professor at Harvard University and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research).  His OpEd is The Geopolitical Impact of Cheap Oil.  Cutting to the bottom line, here is the conclusion:
The big losers from falling oil prices include several countries that are not friends of the US and its allies, such as Venezuela, Iran, and Russia.  These countries are heavily dependent on their oil revenue to support their governments’ spending – especially massive transfer programs.  Even at $75 or $80 a barrel, these governments will have a difficult time financing the populist programs that they need to maintain public support.

Although Saudi Arabia and several of the Gulf states are also major oil exporters, they differ from other producers in two important ways.  First, their cost of extracting oil is extremely low, which means that they will be able to produce profitably at the current price – or even at a much lower price.  Second, their enormous financial reserves allow them to finance their domestic and international activities for an extended period of time, as they seek to transform their economies to reduce their dependence on oil revenue.

A further decline in the price of oil could have major geopolitical repercussions.  A price of $60 a barrel would create severe problems for Russia in particular. President Vladimir Putin would no longer be able to maintain the transfer programs that currently sustain his popular support.  There would be similar consequences in Iran and Venezuela.

It is not clear whether these countries’ current regimes could survive a substantial and sustained future decline in oil prices.  By contrast, it is obvious that oil-importing countries would benefit greatly – as they already are.

If you read the article, there is a lot of initial discussion of interest rates, which is important, but I think the big hand/little map version is the paragraphs above.  Low oil prices will help American consumers, but it will put the pinch on certain nations, including Russia, Iran and Venezuela.  One or more of them could react badly.  Including in the area of foreign relations.

Regards  —  Cliff

Period Costume

For John, BLUFMarine Corps Museum, down in Quantico, Virginia.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Who ARE these Colonial Soldiers?

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Star Wars is Back

For John, BLUFOf course I will be seeing it.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

If Fox News is to be believed, there is a new trailer out for the upcoming new Star Wars movie.  And it is dragging down the Internet.

The new movie is The Force Awakens.  The plot summary is "Star Wars: Episode VII is set about 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi, and will star a trio of new young leads along with some very familiar faces."

And, just a sure as a new Star Wars movie is an Ebenezer Scrooge to tell you why the movie (the movie series) is a bad thing.  In this case we have Mr David P Goldman and his column, "May the Farce Be With You".

UPDATE:  The release date is 18 December 2015.  That is over a year away.  What are they going to be doing for the next twelve and a half months?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Comments on IAEA

For John, BLUFThere is a lot we don't know about the President's "Amnesty" Program.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Eric, at the blog ¡No Pasaran! ("Behind the Façades in France") we have a look at President Obama's recent action regarding immigration.

"Caesarism — Obama’s Executive Order is an open invitation to the teeming masses around the world: we are paying people to come here illegally"

It turns out the promised Executive Order hasn't yet been written, or at least signed, since it is not on the White House Web Site for Executive Orders.  What we do have is a White House Fact Sheet, titled "Immigration Accountability Executive Action".

But, back to Eric, I think that it is quite possible that in parts or in whole it is illegal.  The question is, will the courts find it so?  The reason I mention the courts is because while the House might be able to issue articles of impeachment if it is widely viewed to be illegal, Senator Harry Reid does not have a proper sense of the rule of the US Senate and of the US Constitution to throw his weight behind conviction, and that is what would be required.  So, to the first question.  Has the President embarked, ever so finely, on a path of Presidential Rule by Executive Order, or what Eric suggests is Caesarism.  Interestingly, Eric allows that word to be traced back to The Founding Fathers.  As we know from history, Caesarism is a bad thing.  Even Shakespeare got that point.

The second point is the degree to which the President's move has made it open season on illegal immigration to the United States.  His "Fact Sheet", the IAEA, says he will use what was learned from stemming the flow of unaccompanied children to staunch the flow of future illegal immigrants:

The President’s actions increase the chances that anyone attempting to cross the border illegally will be caught and sent back.  Continuing the surge of resources that effectively reduced the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this summer, the President’s actions will also centralize border security command-and-control to continue to crack down on illegal immigration.
So, the question is, will the increase in resources match the increase in attractiveness to those wishing to come here however they can?

And, of course what will be the impact on those waiting patiently for their number to come up on the legal entry contest.  Will they begin to wonder if they too should find a coyote to bring them across illegally, hoping for an inclusion under some existing or future amnesty?

Back to the White House "Fact Sheet", there is a mention of a three year period:

By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.
Three years would be November of 2017, well after the new President is Inaugurated.  The new President will have options.  He can just let things roll over, allowing a new three year period, or he can determine that he has to renew the three year period and opt to do so or not, or he could just issue a new Executive Order, abrogating the whole thing.

In the mean time, the idea of taxes being collected sounds good…

Share of US Individual Income Tax Payments, including payroll taxes, by Income Group, 2010. Source data, US Congressional Budget Office, December 4, 2013 report. See  Mattnad.  From Wikipedia.

But, one imagines that most of those who will fall under the Executive Order will be paying little income tax.

Yes, we have a lot yet to learn about this Presidential Executive Action.  And I am not counting on the Main Stream Media to help out the average voter.  Too much Gruberism.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I like the question on his profile.  I believe the answer is yes.
It is possible that sufficient Democrat Senators will rise up and demand impeachment by the House, but I wouldn't count on it.  Most of them probably don't really know who Ben Franklin was.
  Then there is the psychic impact on those who are here legally, but haven't gone from Green Card to Citizenship, like my oldest Granddaughter's Husband.  To what degree will this new influx slow the immigration machinery and delay his citizenship.  The supplemental question is, will those under the IAEA end up paying the same amounts of money my Granddaughter and her Husband have paid out?

Look Back at 2014

For John, BLUFI am predicting a steep decline in marriage rates for female college graduates.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From National Review we have this humorous look back on 2014, by Writer George Will:  "Thanks, Big Government:  A look at some of the more entertaining recent headlines to come out of Obama’s America".

Here is the first paragraph:

Before the tryptophan in the turkey induces somnolence, give thanks for living in such an entertaining country.  This year, for example, we learned that California’s Legislature includes 93 persons who seem never to have had sex.  They enacted the “affirmative consent” law directing college administrators to tell students that sexual consent cannot be silence but must be “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” and “ongoing throughout a sexual activity.”  Claremont McKenna College requires “all” — not “both,” which would discriminate against groups — participants in a sexual engagement to understand that withdrawal of consent can be any behavior conveying “that an individual is hesitant, confused, uncertain.”
And from there it only gets better.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

One Sided Discussion

For John, BLUFDemocrat writer doesn't give us the limits.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at The New Yorker Columnist Adam Gopnik has a column, "Arguing Abortion".  Don't be mistaken.  This is a one-sided look at the issue, even putting down the Clintonesque “Safe, legal, and rare” formulation.

This is actually a puff-piece for Ms Katha Pollitt.

In the midst of this, Katha Pollitt, an old friend of this magazine (and of this writer) has written a bracing, unapologetic polemic in favor of abortion rights. “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights” has two major originalities. First is its lack of bowing or scraping for its pro-woman position. Abortion, in Pollitt’s view, must be seen not as a moral compromise requested by poor, weak women—we’re sorry, and we promise we’ll make it rare, but please, forgive us, we’ll still need it in extremis— but as a positive doctrine of women’s control over their own bodies, and of their own lives and destinies. Abortion, she insists, is a right integral to women’s own autonomy, not a privilege to be used as infrequently as possible. The Clintons’ shrewd formula—“Safe, legal, and rare”—may have been born of political necessity, but it misstates the truth. Abortion need not promise to be rare to be secured as safe and legal. One of the greatest moral achievements of human history—the full emancipation of women—should not be seconded to a metaphysical intuition, one with no scientific support or even coherent meaning: that a fertilized egg makes the same moral claims as an entire person. In a memorable moment in the book, Pollitt points out that the use of sonograms of embryos and fetuses to promote the anti-abortion case—with good reason, since any parent can recall their excitement at first seeing them—is intrinsically misleading:
Sonograms distort reality in another, more subtle way: you can only take a picture of the embryo/fetus if you erase the body of the pregnant woman. As with the famous optical illusion of the duck-rabbit, you can’t see them both at the same time: either you see a rabbit or you see a duck. In a sonogram the fetus is the subject, the woman is the background; the case for its personhood is made by turning her into gray-and-white wallpaper.
The second virtue of Pollitt’s book is that—with the help of some arguments from the late Ronald Dworkin, in particular—it takes seriously, and seriously refutes, the metaphysical arguments that claim some ethical seriousness in the view that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a human being. First, Pollitt sees, and insists, that for a “pro-life” argument to make sense it has to make sense; that it follows from a spiritual instinct, or from religious dogma, however deeply held, is not something that rational people have to pretend to respect.
This article talks about the "slippery slope", but it doesn't tell us where the acceptable stopping point is today with the Progressives.  When does this thing created by a man and a woman become a person?  That is the thing about Progressivism.  Where does it end?

Then there is this little item.

It is not absolutely impossible to imagine a world in which contraception, and post-conception medication, are so widely available that abortion indeed is safe, legal, and rare.
No mention of the Republicans putting forward a bill for over the counter sales.  Didn't pass.  One wonders why.  That would have been a good move.

Regards  —  Cliff

  There is always the approach of philosopher Peter Singer from Princeton.  Weeks after birth.

Ultimately, Social Issues Trump Economic Ones.

For John, BLUFThe Democrat Party Central may be able to engineer Hillary Clinton into the nomination, but Jim Webb wrote the book Born Fighting.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Well, at least in the Democrat Party, per National Journal Reporter Josh Kraushaar.  The article is The Curious Case of Jim Webb.  Reporter Kraushaar uses this article to make the case "Webb's long-shot presidential campaign says as much about the evolution of the Democratic party as it does about his qualifications."

The Instapundit quotes these three paragraphs:

In a vacuum, Webb would be a compelling candidate.  While independent-minded groups like No Labels obsess over liberal Republicans or independents (Jon Huntsman, Michael Bloomberg) as credible third-party candidates, Webb’s profile better fits that bill.  He’s one of the few politicians who caters more to the populist grassroots than to elite public opinion.  He has angered Democrats by expressing skepticism about increased immigration and has been downright critical of affirmative-action policies, but he is passionate about the issue of income inequality.  He’s ticked off Republicans over their foreign-policy interventionism, with his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War fueling his 2006 Senate campaign. He’s skeptical of the free-trade deals that most Republicans champion, and is so at odds with the ascendant environmentalist wing of the Democratic Party that the online magazine Grist headlined its profile: “Jim Webb sucks on climate change.”

In a Democratic Party that’s been shedding white working-class voters during the Obama era, leaders would be wise to pay closer attention to Webb’s views on economic and cultural issue—and consider co-opting some as their own.  On paper, his resume is first-rate:  decorated Vietnam War veteran, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, swing-state Democratic senator, and an acclaimed author.  At a time when economic anxiety is a defining feature of American politics, Webb’s record on the subject is as impressive as Elizabeth Warren’s.  That he’s treated more like a fringe figure these days is a testament to how far his party has drifted from its roots.

Consider:  There will be only five red-state Senate Democrats left in the next Congress if, as expected, Sen. Mary Landrieu is defeated in next month’s runoff. Even more striking, there will be only five House Democrats left representing districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.  The once-influential Blue Dog Caucus of fiscally hawkish Democrats is all but extinct.  Republicans now boast twice as many blue-state senators (10) and five times as many blue-district representatives (25) than their Democratic counterparts in red territory.

Did you see how Senator E Warren snuck in there?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Here is the more extensive, and honed, Wikipedia bio for Senator Jim Webb.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Senate "Torture" Report Update

For John, BLUFHere is another question for which there are no answers, just ethical or moral positions.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Central Intelligence Agency repeatedly tortured suspected terrorists, regularly lied about it to Congress and the White House, and, for all the pain and trouble this caused the agency and the United States, didn’t end up extracting a single piece of valuable information not readily available by other means.

That, at least, is the conclusion of the forthcoming Feinstein report, a long and, in certain quarters, much-anticipated review of the CIA’s detainee and interrogation programs during the Bush administration.  A steady stream of leaks in news stories over several months has provided the public a preview of its contents.

That would be Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California.

And so go the top two paragraphs in the Weekly Standard article on the report being produced by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein.  It is being done by the Democrat staffers, as the Republicans on the Committee declined to participate.  There is bipartisanship for you.

The article, by Reporter Luis M. Alvarez, is headlined "The Truth About Interrogation" and the subheadline, telegraphing the story's punchline, is "The enhanced techniques work."

This is an infinity of mirrors and with this being a report from Capitol Hill, by Democrats alone, the idea that it will be seen as being balanced by those outside the Democrat corral, including those unenrolled in a political party, is between slim and none.

People I know and respect have written that torture is not necessary to extract needed information.  On the other hand, there is always, lurking in the background, the idea of the "ticking time-bomb" scenario.  That is where the bomb is going to go off within the next 24 hours (or so) and you have someone who (you believe) knows the location of the device and perhaps how to disarm it.  This can wander of into the Sodom and Gomorrah Scenario, where Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare the two cities for the sake of the righteous (Genesis 18:16-33).

In our recent scenario, al Qaeda had shot its wad and there were no further terrorist attacks along the lines of 9/11.  Was it due to the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques or to the limits of al Qaeda's capabilities?

Regards  —  Cliff

  Here is the Wikipedia article on EIT or Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.  Fortunately, aside from use by Germany and Japan in World War II, torture has never been used by any other nation or group.

Hagel Departure—Another View

For John, BLUFSecDef Hagel's departure points to deeper problems.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here s a different view of Secretary of Drfense Chuck Hagel's departure.  The source is The New Yorker.  Please bear in mind that The New Yorker is not a noted right wing publication and is not a noted critic of President Obama.

"Hagel’s Resignation Raises Questions About Obama’s Judgment"

The author is Mr John Cassidy, who is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and has been since 1995.  His column covers politics and economics and other things.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Getting A New SecDef

For John, BLUFDecent pay, car and driver, chance to fly around the nation and to different countries.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

As we know, the US Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has resigned (was pushed).

From the Instapundit:

WHO WANTS TO BE THE LAST CAREER TO DIE FOR A MISTAKEN PRESIDENCY?  Hagel successor, with limited room to maneuver, will face quandary in Iraq, Syria.  “The next defense secretary will also have to contend with a sometimes-tense relationship with the White House.  Both of Hagel’s predecessors, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, have criticized Obama’s handling of national security matters since leaving office and have complained of White House micromanagement of the military.”
The link inside the Block Quote is from The Washington Post.

I would think that if you want the job of America's Secretary of Defense, it could be yours.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Some think that SecDef Hagel was happy to go.

Another Non-Terrorist Act

For John, BLUFDon't you think they are crazy?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From San Antonio we have a short item from the Houston CBS Television Station website, "Saudi National Detained At Fort Sam Houston, Explosives Found In Vehicle".
Military officials told KCEN-TV that the man that drove through the gate at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio was a Saudi National and that explosive materials were found in the vehicle.
Maybe he was just lost and trying to find his worksite, where he is blasting rock.  For sure,
Military officials are not calling this an attempted terrorist attack.
I think I am seeing a pattern here.  If it is overseas it is terrorism, but if it is here in the US it is workplace violence or some other sort of mental instability.  And, that makes some kind of sense, since we think we have a pretty good system of Government here, thus anyone violently protesting is probably crazy.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Admitting Error

For John, BLUFWe need transparency in order to help us cure our record.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Ouch!  This hurts:
Yes, Obama Is A Phony On Torture
Well, the author is Blogger and Harvard PhD Andrew Sullivan.

It isn't that torture is being conducted under the Obama Administration, but that the White House has been trying to suppress a report on torture under a previous administration.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  On the other hand, until someone leaks it, we wouldn't know.  Which is not to say it is going on.  I believe if it was ongoing, it would have leaked by now.

The Silent Cal Model

For John, BLUFThe 2016 Presidential field is still pretty hazy in my mind.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am not sure having the endorsement of Grover Norquist is an advantage, but Governor Scott Walker picked it up, in an OpEd published by Reuters.
After the GOP’s midterm-elections sweep, the Republican Party holds more U.S. House seats and controls more state houses than at any time since 1928.  Having reached this goal, the GOP now needs to look for a 2016 presidential nominee to match this success.

President Calvin Coolidge, who sat in the Oval Office from 1923 to 1929, would be a smart model for the party. He reined in spending and reduced tax rates at a time when it was as needed as it is today.  President Ronald Reagan admired Coolidge so much that he hung a portrait of the 30th president in his Cabinet Room.

One talked-about possible 2016 presidential candidate who shares many of Coolidge’s policy bona fides is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who won his third statewide race in four years on Nov. 4.  The two men have so much in common that it is worth seeing what Coolidge’s experience can tell us about a potential President Walker.

But, it is an open field.  Here is an article from The New York Times, by Reporters Michael Barbaro and Jonathan Martin.  They argue "A Deep 2016 Republican Presidential Field Reflects Party Divisions".
Republican presidential primaries have for decades been orderly affairs, with any momentary drama mitigated by the expectation that the party would inevitably nominate its tested, often graying front-runner.

But as the 2016 White House campaign effectively began in the last week, it became apparent that this race might be different: a fluid contest, verging on chaotic, that will showcase the party’s deep bench of talent but also highlight its ideological and generational divisions.

As Democrats signal that they are ready to rally behind Hillary Rodham Clinton before their primary season even begins, allowing them to focus their fund-raising and firepower mostly on the general election, the Republicans appear destined for a free-for-all.

“I can think of about 16 potential candidates,” said Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi and a veteran of Republican presidential politics dating to 1968. “Almost every one of them have a starting point. But there is no true front-runner.”

What is it with the Main Stream Media that they think it is a slam dunk for Ms Clinton?  There is still VEEP Joe Biden with a belief in his owns skills and personality.  And, if some critics are to be believed, he is the major-domo of national security in this Administration.  Then there is Senator James Webb of Virginia, who used to be a Secretary of the Navy, and who used to be a Republican.  And don't forget Senator E Warren.

But, perhaps the important thing to me is that their Lordships in charge of the Grand Old Party not dictate to me the next Presidential nominee.  We need an open competition.  It is when the members of the GOP, the registered voters, believe they have been consulted, that we get support on election day.

Then there is this NYT headline, Balance of Power: What 2014 Elections Can Tell Us About 2016: Not Much at All

Regards  —  Cliff

The New SecDef

For John, BLUFWhen hiring for a crisis, look for experience.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

With the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, pending his replacement being confirmed, it seems reasonable to consider what the President and his inner circle should be looking for in such an appointment:
  • Easily Confirmed by the Senate
  • Conversant in National Security
  • Committed to fighting De'ith (ISIL)
  • Understands the Military
  • Knows the Pentagon
  • Understands how Congress works
  • Knows how the West Wing works
  • Conversant with the Press
  • A Republican

The obvious candidate is Dick Cheney.

Regards  —  Cliff

Benghazi Report

For John, BLUFThis is going to take a while to find the truth.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Fisking of the reporting on the House Benghazi Report.

Everyone misses the First Amendment implications surrounding the US response to Benghazi.

Hat tip to Memeorandum.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fight in the Global Energy Market

For John, BLUFThe Global Market for oil may kill the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In the British Newspaper The Telegraph there was an article by Reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Oil industry risks trillions of 'stranded assets' on US-China climate deal".  The sub-headline is "Petrobas' hopes of becoming the world's first trillion dollar company have deflated brutally".

From deep in the article is this:

JP Morgan expects US crude to slide to $65 over the next two months, a level that could lead to a "cumulative default rate" of 40pc for the low-grade energy bonds that have financed much of the fracking boom, if it drags on for two years.

Gordon Kwan from Nomura says OPEC (or at least the Saudi-led part) is "engaged in a price war with US shale producers" and will not rest until it has inflicted serious damage.  He thinks Saudi Arabia will deflate US crude prices to $70 and hold them there for three to six months, targeting high-cost shale plays in the Bakken and Eagle Ford fields.

OPEC has a clear motive to do this.  The US has slashed its net oil imports by 8.7m barrels a day (b/d) since 2005, equal to the combined exports of Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.  Yet this game of chicken could be dangerous.  There will be collateral damage along the way.

The economies of several nations will be impacted by this move (a move some say can not be sustained).  Included is Brazil, where Petrobras is the most indebted company in the world and their stock price has dropped 87pc from the peak.  Then there is Venezuela, Russia and Iran, each of which has a national economy and government financing based on a higher price for crude oil.

Further on the article notes this:

China is already shutting down its coal-fired plants in Beijing.  It has imposed a ban on new coal plants in key regions after a wave of anti-smog protests.  Deutsche Bank and Sanford Bernstein both expect China's coal use to peak as soon as 2016, a market earthquake given that the country currently consumes half the world's coal supply.
This will impact US exports, in that vast quantities of coal are mined in the Powder River Basin and shipped by rail to West Coast ports, including as far away as Terminal Island, in Long Beach, California, for shipment to China.

But, the article continues.

The US in turn has agreed to cut emissions by 26-28pc below 2005 levels by 2025, doubling the rate of CO2 emission cuts to around 2.6pc each year in the 2020s.

Whether or not you agree with the hypothesis of man-made global warming, the political reality is that the US, China, and Europe are all coming into broad alignment.  Coal faces slow extinction by clean air controls, while oil faces a future of carbon pricing that must curb demand growth far below what was once expected and below what is still priced into the business models of the oil industry.

As President Obama promised back when first running for President, he is going to shut down the coal industry.  It looks like he is well on the way.  What will replace it?  Will the replacement be more "environmentally friendly?

The article ends with this discussion of how an innovative society is a disruptive society and how technology change means that past investments may well lose their value as new technologies emerge.

Great fortunes were made in 18th Century in the British canal boom. The network of waterways halved coal prices and drove the first leg of the Industrial Revolution. Yet you had to know when the game was up.

The canal industry was on borrowed time even before the Liverpool and Manchester Railway first opened in 1830, unleashing the railway mania that entirely changed the character of Britain.

These historic turning points are hard to call when you are living through them but much of today's the fossil fuel industry has a distinct whiff of the 19th Century canals, a pre-modern relic in a world that his moving on very fast.

So, if Climate Change is (1) real and (2) bad, what are we going to do to reverse it?  Perhaps a better question is how are we going to change how we live and work in order to reverse climate change.  There is no free lunch.  Changing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will require major changes in how we live and work.  It might mean changes such as no more going to Florida to visit Disney World.  No more commuting to Boston by auto, and maybe no commuting to the train station by auto.  No more air conditioning.

I recall from my time in the Fairbanks area that some person was heating his cabin with one light bulb and a bunch of chickens.  Should we all be keeping chickens, again?  Less drastic, should we be replacing all the homes in Lowell to provide for more energy efficient, and more compact, living spaces?

And, there is the question of if the Climate Change folks can actually “live up to its own book of rules”?

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saint[s] For the Day / 24 November

For John, BLUFMore people in Heaven to pray or us.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

It snuck up on me:
St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his Companions are known as the Vietnam martyrs.  These 117 saints were chosen from among the approximately 130,000 Christians killed during the Vietnamese persecutions between 1625 and 1886.  Despite over 50 decrees banning the Christian faith, the Church has grown to almost 6 million Catholics in Vietnam.  Along with St. Andrew Dung-Lac, a diocesan priest, his companions included 11 Spanish missionaries, 10 French missionaries, and 96 Vietnamese priests and laity.
Vatican News Services, “The Church in Vietnam fertilized by the Blood of Martyrs,” June 19, 1988.

Regards  —  Cliff

President on Ferguson

For John, BLUFThere is an underlying problem and it needs to be fixed, but not via violence.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Re the Ferguson imbroglio, I think the President hit the right note in his 10:00 PM talk to the People.

Kudos to the President.

Regards  —  Cliff

Racism in America

For John, BLUFThis means you too.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I was watching City Life this morning and, bold as brass, as we used to say, Middlesex North Register of Deeds Dick Howe said I was a racist.  Given that the other guest, Ms Marie Sweeney raised no objection, I have to assume she is in full agreement.

How do they know I am a racist?  The signs are all there.  I am, he asserts, opposed to the policies of President Obama and, he asserts, I think the President's Amnesty for illegal aliens was a bad move, a wrong move.

There it is, plain and simple.  I oppose, per Mr Howe, President Obama because he is Black.  And, in a separate count, I am, per Mr Howe, opposed to those 11 million illegal aliens because they are Hispanic.

I confess.

The only hopeful thing is that Mr Howe made the point that Caucasians are soon (a few decades) to be less than 50% of the population, and thus, I would assume, just another minority.  But, one has to be careful.  Asians are a minority and they face a lot of discrimination, often by being lumped in as the same as Caucasians and often for being Asians and thus having an unfair advantage.

What did Rodney say?  "Can we all get along?"

Regards  —  Cliff

  Well, I think of President Obama as a Caucasian with a Black Father.  I find the "one drop" criteria to be insufferable.  On the other hand, maybe he is really just another Haole.
  Well, some of them are Irish and some are, I am willing to bet, Brazilian, and I don't know if they count as Hispanic.  Then there are the Asians.  But, we think of those 11 million as all being Spanish speaking from Latin America.
  He kept using the term "White".  Pink would be better than "White".  Beige would be a better term.  I like Caucasian, since I have finally learned how to spell it.

New SecDef?

For John, BLUFHow hard will confirmation of the replacement be?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The New York Times we have an article by Reporter Helene Cooper, "Hagel Said to Be Stepping Down as Defense Chief Under Pressure".
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down under pressure, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and a beleaguered national security team that has struggled to stay ahead of an onslaught of global crises.

The president, who is expected to announce Mr. Hagel’s resignation in a Rose Garden appearance on Monday, made the decision to ask his defense secretary — the sole Republican on his national security team — to step down last Friday after a series of meetings over the past two weeks, senior administration officials said.

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ.  A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

The first two paragraphs are OK, but the third seems to misunderstand the situation.  Things are, indeed being turned upside down.  Way back in 2008 Afghanistan was the good war (relatively speaking) and Iraq the bad war.  Just this morning, on Democracy Now, Afghanistan was characterized as a bad war.  Well, there are no "good" wars, but freedom for Afghanis seems of some value—educating women, doing away with child brides, giving people a change to accept or reject this or that brand of religion.  The idea of the rights of the individual over the idea of the primacy of the tribe.

My concern is that this is an indication that the Obama National Security Team will be retreating into a bunker, a bunker in which no new ideas will be able to penetrate.  That would not be good.

An administrative question is, will SecDef Hagel go immediately, or wait for his replacement to be confirmed by the US Senate, or will the President go with a recess appointment?  In the mean time, if Mr Hagel steps down, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work, will step up in the interim.

Regards  —  Cliff

Switching Sides?

For John, BLUFIs the weakness of the Mass Republican Party leading to a Democrat Party breakup?  Nothing to see here; just move along.


On City Life is morning prominent Lowell Area Democrats Marie Sweeney and Dick Howe offered perennial Democrat candidate Ms Mirisa DeFranco to the Republicans.

Seems the Democrats are doing some house cleaning.  Maybe Rep David Nangle will be facing a show trial in December, per Ms Sweeney.

One wonders if and when Rep Colleen Garry will be questioned about her Democratness, based upon her self-proclaimed very conservative voting record.

In the mean time, the Lowell Republican City Committee works to live the theory that we are looking for converts, not heretics.

It would be nice if Ms DeFranco lived in our area and could become part of the Republican Party.

Regards  —  Cliff

Climate Change Questions

For John, BLUFIf the crisis is real, we are not being real about the crisis.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I think my wife is dubious about my subscription to The New York Review of Books, but sometimes it can be a real though provoker, as with an article in the current edition, "Can Climate Change Cure Capitalism?".  It is a review of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein.

I haven't read the book, but the review by Ms Elizabeth Kolbert caused me to think more about the hypocrisy, or the ignorance, of the climate change crowd.  The book goes in one direction, as you can see from reading the review.

According to these groups, climate change is a problem that can be tackled without major disruption to the status quo.  All that’s needed are some smart policy changes.  These will create new job opportunities; the economy will continue to grow; and Americans will be, both ecologically and financially, better off. Standing in the way of progress, so this account continues, is a vociferous minority of Tea Party–backed, Koch brothers–financed climate change deniers.  Former president Jimmy Carter recently summed up this line of thinking when he told an audience in Aspen:  “I would say the biggest handicap we have right now is some nutcases in our country who don’t believe in global warming.”

Klein doesn’t just disagree with Carter; she sees this line of thinking as a big part of the problem. Climate change can’t be solved within the confines of the status quo, because it’s a product of the status quo.  “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” she writes.  The only hope of avoiding catastrophic warming lies in radical economic and political change.  And this—again, according to Klein—is the good news.  Properly understood, the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere represents an enormous opportunity—one that, well, changes everything.

I go in another direction.  I realize that many believe the science is settled, but I am not tracking well the temperature issues, which used to be the issue, first as Global Cooling and then as Global Warming.  Now it is all about CO2.  And CO2 is increasing.  On the other hand, I live more than 50 feet above sea level. But, Ms Klein raises the important point about a lot of Climate Change Alarmists not being serious.

Ignore Former Vice President Al Gore.
Ignore Former President Jimmy Carter.
Ignore President Barack Obama.

They are not serious about this issue.  If you are serious about this issue you will wish to cut average US energy consumption by 80% or more.  This is not buying a Prius or getting an Energy Friendly fridge.  This is serious life style change.

The reviewer, Ms Kolbert mentions the 2000-Watt Society, out of Switzerland, which is trying to direct us all to living on 2,000 watts of energy, or 48 kilo-watt hours per day.  Their target date for this goal is 2050, which the Climate Change folks think is way too far off. By the way, Ms Kolbert wrote about this in a New Yorker article, back on 7 July 2008, "The Island in the Wind:  A Danish community’s victory over carbon emissions."  This is about the Danish island of Samsø.

If we are going to be serious about this issue, and serious about not leaving anyone behind, then we are going to have to do some radical things.  Things so radical that even Senator Elizabeth Warren would blanch.

The number one rule would need to be that we don't begger the less fortunate in order to allow the well off to continue their lifestyles.  For example, no private jets, Mr Gore.  No internal carbon tradeoffs, or maybe none that results in a energy usage differential of more than 50%.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I believe it is unseemly for himself to refer to some of his fellow citizens as "nut cases".
  To be clear about the magnitude of this goal, the average American consumes about 288 kilo-watt hours per day, against a target of 48.  On the other hand, the average Bangeldeshi consumes 7.2 kilo-watt hours per day.

Refunds for LEGAL Immigrants?

For John, BLUFWhat about the legal immigrants?  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Instapundit:
IOWAHAWK ON OBAMA’S IMMIGRATION MOVE:  Somewhere a legal immigrant engineer in his 10th year of paperwork and lawyers is on Orbitz shopping for flights back home.

Which leads to an idea for the GOP:  How about legislation to refund the fees to legal immigrants who have applied over the past six years? Dare Obama to veto that. . . .

And yesterday in The [Lowell] Sun Immigration Lawyer and former Democrat Senate and Gubernatorial Candidate Marisa DeFranco made the same point.  Her OpEd is "President's actions an affront to this country's rule of law".
President Obama should consider the millions of people who have followed the legal process and waited outside our borders for the green card numbers to come up.  Some have died, been separated from loved ones, and endured many hardships.  Where is the fairness and justice for them?

As a country, if our chief executive usurps the rule of law for the people who broke the law, our message to the people who obeyed the law is this—you are dupes.  And this message will only encourage more disrespect for our sovereign laws.

So I reached out to my Granddaughter and asked her about her Husband, who is Dutch, but living here in America with a Green Card.
I would say about $1200 between the fees for paperwork, biometrics, appeals, all that…

And for the approval for him to work, which for some reason it seemed nobody was willing to accept as proof of his eligibility to work.

I am looking for the GOP in the House to send forward a bill refunding the fees they and thousands of others have paid.  Maybe refund all but the amount of the fee we will charge illegal immigrants to become regularized.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dangerous in DC

For John, BLUFRemember Harry Truman's quip, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a blog post from "Doctrine Man", a sharp-eyed critic of the US Military.  It is a 20 question interview with Writer Tom Ricks, and titled "The Beard that Roared".  If you are interested in the views of a former reporter and current author with a focus on the US Military, then you can visit the site.

I have extracted part of Question 5 because it says something about our Nation's Capitol:

5. You have somewhat of a reputation for being irascible.  What makes you “tick”?

Kurt Campbell once observed to me that I didn’t want anything from anybody, and that made me both unusual and dangerous in Washington.  I found that flattering.  But it is true that I have what I want — the life of an independent writer.

For reference, Dr Kurt Campbell is a former Assistant Secretary of State.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Famous for writing Fiasco:  The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005, but his most recent book is The Generals:  American Military Command from World War II to Today, a not very flattering look at today's General Officers.

Marion Barry RIP

For John, BLUFLife is short, so we need to make the most of it  Not necessarily the way Mayor Barry did some times.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

You're just standing there and all of a sudden everyone is old.  Latest indicator is the death of former DC Mayor Marion Barry, at age 78.
Barry D.C. council spokeswoman LaToya Foster says he died shortly after midnight Sunday at a hospital in Washington.  He had battled kidney problems stemming from diabetes and high blood pressure and underwent a kidney transplant in February 2009.
Maybe today's Gospel asks the right question:
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Matthew 25:35-36
In the final judgment the question will be, did he?  Perhaps the answer will be yes.

Regards  —  Cliff

College Kids Flunk Another Pop Quiz

For John, BLUFPolitics doesn't seem to be a big deal on Campus.  Can we blame George?  Ask Marie on Monday.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am posting this quiz of college students down in Texas because it isn't as bad as the one of Harvard Students recently done or the Flag thing out at Berkeley.

My buddy Juan sent this, with a note about "the generation who will be taking care of us in our dotage".

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Don't Get Attached to Your Health Insurance

For John, BLUFOnce the bureaucracy starts, there is no natural stopping point.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

We were pointed to the Reason website, who apparently was watching the Friday dump from the Federal Government, including a 300 page regulatory proposal that would potentially change your health insurance, every year.  Sort of a "If you like your ObamaCare health insurance you can keep it, unless HHS doesn't like it."  In which case they will switch you to another one, of lower cost.

Hat tip to Memeorandum.

Regards  —  Cliff

Suppressing the Vote

For John, BLUFIf Nancy needed her vote it would have happened in a heartbeat.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I know that Congress is out of town, enjoying a Thanksgiving Day break, and this is old news, with this Roll Call article going back to 18 November, but still, there is the irony of it—Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suppressing the vote.  "Democrats Fume in Caucus as Duckworth Denied Vote".  And it looks like Roll Call send a woman to cover the story, Ms Emma Dumain.

Yes, adding to the irony is the fact that there is fear amongst the leaders of the Democrat Caucus of a slippery slope.  Rep Tammy Duckworth is 46 years old and pregnant and surprise of surprises, her Doctor has her on a no travel order.  Actually, that is the good news.  I have a daughter in law of about the same age who got sent to bed about half way through her pregnancy.

The leaders of the Democrat Caucus won't give Rep Duckworth a waiver to vote by proxy.  Is it that old slippery slope?  Is this because she is preggers?  Because she is a disabled Vet.  Because she is Asian-American?  Because she wouldn't have voted the way Ms Pelosi would have liked?

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Reception of New Immigration Rules

For John, BLUFThis isn't about immigration reform.  This is about picking a fight with Congress.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

This article from The International New York Times suggests President Obama's plan for dealing with illegal immigrants, announced this last Thursday, has not been smoothly received everywhere.  The Reporter is Julia Preston and the article, datelined 21 November, is "As Immigration Rules Shift, Migrants’ Joy Is Tempered".

First, there is the process of providing papers to illegal immigrants.

Under the president’s new program, undocumented immigrants who are parents of American citizens or legal permanent residents and have been in the United States for more than five years will receive three-year deportation deferrals and work permits.  They have to submit fingerprints, pass criminal background checks and pay an application fee of $465.
So, if you are an illegal immigrant ("undocumented" in the words of the Reporter and the Editor) and you meet the criteria you get a three year pass on deportation.  Then what?  Maybe those nasty old Republicans in the US House of Representatives will make it permanent.

I see from the article that fixing the problem could take up to six months to begin.

Administration officials said they will begin accepting application “no later” than May, but have given few details of how the process will work.
That isn't helpful to folks who have lost jobs recently because their "irregular" status has been uncovered.  Where is the humanitarian effort in that?

Finally, there are those who followed the rules and came here by the book.

And immigrants who came here legally expressed a sense of betrayal, wondering if foreigners who did not follow the rules were gaining advantages they did not have.
I think in terms economic advantages, coming here legally was a good thing.  And, no fear of the neighbors turning you in to the Immigration Authorities.  On the other hand, what about the person who has been trying to follow the rules and was told that they have to wait until next year.  Where is the equity in that?  This effort by the Administration seems to reward corruption.

The key question is, is this move by the Administration legal?  I am willing to give the Administration the benefit of the doubt.  That said, if it is legal, what incompetence has caused the Administration to delay implementation for some five and a half years?  What insensitivity let the bureaucrats and their political appointee bosses drag their heels on this?  Pretty ugly, if you ask me.  Unless, of course, it is all about picking a fight with a new Republican Congress, in which case it is brilliant.

Moe Lane is correct.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hidden Agendas

For John, BLUFStay calm and carry on.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Barack Obama wants you to be angry.  The Democrats NEED you to be angry.  So don't be.  Smile, shake your head ruefully, and say no.  Nicely.
This is from Moe Lane, who blogs and does the twitter dance.

Moe is right on the money.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Hits Keep Coming

For John, BLUFThis doesn't look good.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I sure hope there is a lucid explanation for the EMails uncovered by Judicial Watch which entangle the Department of Justice and former CBS News Reporter Sharyl Attkisson.  The sense of it is that the DoJ Flacks and the White House Flacks were talking about getting CBS News to spike stories on Operation Fast and Furious.  Oh, and to encourage National Journal reporter Susan Davis to target Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), a critic of the DoJ and Operation Fast and Furious.

The source of this revelation is Pajamas Media writer Bryan Preston.

Hat tip to my Wife.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tennessee County Shows the Way

For John, BLUFCivil Asset Forfeiture is right up there with NSA in stepping on the rights of Citizens.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a vido [I hope] of a Tennessee DA saying that they are going to restrict civil asset forfeiture to cases were there is a conviction for criminal activity.  That is novel.  And a step in the proper direction.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

President Obama's Gamble

For John, BLUFI tend to think of President Obama as cautious, but this latest move has risks.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

I am not saying that I fully agree with Chris Muir in his characterization of President Obama's actions yesterday, but I think he does catch a part of the truth.

For those who don't know the three folks in the background, contact me off line.

As for the President's actions, probably legal, but he did go out of his way to stick his thumb in the eye of House Speaker John Boehner.

More important is the question of (1) if this is all legal and by the Constitution, (2) why did he wait lo these five plus years to make this happen?  Was it neglect or dereliction of duty?  That is the question the Main Stream Media should be asking today, not recommending adding to the Mickey Mouse Copyright Laws to include a tax on single works of art to be paid back to the original artist.  That is not nearly as important as the question of what the President is up to and not up to.

Is The Boston Globe just slow off the mark or are their Lordships in the Editorial Office unable or unwilling to speak truth to power, at least to Democrat Party power?  And the Dynamic Duo at The [Lowell] Sun?

Regards  —  Cliff

A (Foreign Policy) Realist Primer

For John, BLUFThere are limits to what we can do.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Out at Real Clear World Mr Robert Kaplan gives us "The Realist Creed".  It is a series of very short aphorisms to describe how a "Realist" views the world and what American can and can't do in its foreign policy.  Here is one of them.
Every Problem Does Not Have a Solution.  It is a particular conceit that every problem is solvable.  It isn't.  Mayhem and human rights violations abound, even as the United States cannot intervene everywhere or take foreign policy positions that will necessarily help.  That's why realists are comfortable doing little or nothing in certain instances, even as they feel just as bad as idealists about heartrending situations.
It is a tough world out there.  A Realist view of the world helps prevent additional disappointment above and beyond one's normal moral values.

I commend the other six to your quick perusal.

Regards  —  Cliff

43 Missing College Freshmen

For John, BLUFThey didn't kill and incinerate themselves.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Mexico's missing students:  Mass protests due, per the Beeb.
Mass protests are expected in Mexico for a group of 43 students who disappeared in September.

Caravans containing relatives of the missing are due to converge on Mexico City. They have been travelling around the country rallying support.

The Mexican authorities say local police handed the students to a drug gang who then murdered them.

Here is an article from 8 November talking about what happened.

The disappearance of the 43 students in Mexico would be like the local police arresting 43 students at Middlesex Community College and shipping them off to New Hampshire and handing them over to drug dealers in Nashua.  Not a nice thought.  Not even in the realm of possibility.  But, that is what happened.

The article Bottom Line:

More than 100,000 people have been killed and 27,000 have disappeared in Mexico in the last decade.
How do those drug cartels earn their money, so they can stay in business?  They sell drugs to people in these United States.  Thus, the United States bears some responsibility for those 43 students.

Regards  —  Cliff

"The Struggle to Erase Saudi Extremism"

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

That is the title of an OpEd in Thursday's edition of The International New York Times, by Dr Janet Breslin-Smith and Caryle Murphy.

The OpEd talks about how Saudi Arabia has been trying to revise its education process to reduce extremism and how they are trying to do more.  Victory over ISIL and radical Islam will depend upon education.  A good read.

Regards  —  Cliff

  I coauthored a history of the National War College with Janet.
  Ms Murphy, a former Washington Post reporter, is author of A Kingdom’s Future:  Saudi Arabia Through the Eyes of Its Twentysomethings.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stop Investing in Energy

For John, BLUFClimate Change.  It is time to get serious about Dive Toss.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a look at electricity production in Massachusetts.  Lots of natural gas.  In fact, mostly natural gas.

But, along come three really smart Harvard Law students and they have filed a suit against the Harvard Corporation for spoiling the future by investing in oil and gas companies.  All well and good, if you believe in Climate Change you see the problem.

But, why are the students not down on Harvard for its consumption of electricity, which comes mostly from fossil fuels?

Just asking.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Back in the old days, the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Air Force F-4D (Phantom II) aircraft had a system known as "Dive Toss".  It was notorious for not working and the manpower cost to keep it peaked was intense and detracted from all other avionics work.  But, when the Inspector General was about to conduct an Operational Readiness Inspection everyone in the target wing got serious about "Dive Toss".

Management vs Leadership

For John, BLUFI am not making a judgment here, just examining the facts.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

My differentiation between a Manager and a Leader is that a Manager takes over and brings in his own people to make it work.  A Leader makes it work with the people he inherited.

Based on that definition I would say new Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is more of a "Manager" than a "Leader", at least from this Boston Globe article.

Regards  —  Cliff

A Discussion vs An Ultimatum

For John, BLUFWe are all on the same planet  We should avoid the lower grades name calling.  Or one side or the other succeeds with a coup de main.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Ah, the Keystone XL Pipeline, again.

If I am to understand Letter Writer Miles Grant (The Boston Globe, 20 November 2014) all members of the GOP are "Republicans extremists" (two words, joined together, like "boa constrictor").

When we have to get together and compromise, as surely we will, will letter writer Grant expect or grant any civility?

As an aside, wasn't Saudi Arabia going to kill the XL Pipeline anyway, by producing more oil and thus lowering the global price to where the Canadian oil would not be cost effective to pump?

Regards  —  Cliff

Real Feminism

For John, BLUFThere are real feminist issues out there and real inequalities, at home and abroad, but sometimes it is hard to sort them out from the dross.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here, from The Washington Examiner, is an article by Reporter Ashe Schow, "Ayaan Hirsi Ali destroys American 'feminism' by discussing the real war on women".  Ayaan Hirsi Ali?  Yes, that troublemaker, MsAyaan Hirsi Ali.  The woman who was collaborating with the late Theo van Gogh.  Remember van Gogh, who was shot and then had his throat cut by Mohammed Bouyeri, ten years ago this month.  Why yes, it does remind one of the ritual sacrifices carried out by Da'ish thugs and reported as "executions".

At any rate, Ms Ayaan Hirsi Ali was speaking at the Independent Women’s Forum Women of Valor dinner.  Here is the lede from the article:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a harsh critic of Islam’s treatment of women, said Wednesday that modern American feminism is focused on “trivial bullshit” and needs to be reclaimed.
One of the things she was talking about was the brouhaha over the shirt being worn by the chap who controlled the lander Philae:
“What we are now doing with the victory, and I agree with you if you condemn that and I condemn whole-heartedly the trivial bullshit it is to go after a man who makes a scientific breakthrough and all that we as women — organized women — do is to fret about his shirt?”  Hirsi Ali said, referring to the controversy generated by the shirt featuring cartoons of scantily-clad women worn by the scientist who helped land a robot on a comet.  “We must reclaim and retake feminism from our fellow idiotic women.”
This was referring to one of the European Space Agency people responsible for the Rosetta space probe and its lander, Philae, which descended to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko earlier this month.  His shirt was not PC.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

National Security Workers on National Security

For John, BLUFThere is a certain restlessness amongst National Security Workers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Defense One we have an article by executive editor Kevin Baron, with lots of graphics, telling us that "Political Dysfunction Is a Worse Threat Than Putin, Say National Security Workers".  The lede:
The Obama administration has no strategy for ISIS, the Pentagon is not leaving enough troops to protect Afghanistan and Congress isn’t qualified to keep watch over the military and intelligence services, according to survey of federal workers and troops at the Pentagon, and other national security agencies.
There is one chart that lists how various presidential candidates are viewed.  Ten are listed, but only two of those are Democrats and neither is Senator Elizabeth Warren.  I think the author maybe isn't paying attention.  On the other hand, Ms Hillary Clinton gets more top rank votes (44%) than any other candidate, with Governor Mitt Romney being second with 34%.

As I say, lots of graphics looking at lots of issues.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

President Getting Ready for [Limited] Amnesty

For John, BLUFLet's look before we shoot.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is an item from The Hill on the anticipated Presidential action taking with regard to illegal immigration.  "White House prepares activists for Obama's immigration order."
One source said the White House sought to "temper expectations," on the executive action, cautioning that while some advocates have pushed for him to carry out the Senate’s immigration reform bill, Obama doesn't have the legal authority to go as far by acting alone.

"They're setting expectations, making it clear he has the legal authority to do what he's going to do, but that he's not going beyond his authority, as some advocates would like," said one source familiar with the calls on Tuesday.

The source predicted that, given the timing of the calls, that the White House could announce the executive order as early as Wednesday, but cautioned the president could also wait for the government funding fight in Congress to run its course.

To cut to the chase, the President is either:
  • Going to issue instructions within his authority under Article II of the US Constitution and the laws already passed by the US Congress, or,
  • Going to exceed his authority.
If he acts within his authority the prime question, the only question, is why he didn't act sooner, act this last Summer, or within the last year, or the year before, or two years ago or four years ago or back when the Democrats dominated Congress?  Why has he waited to long?  It is that simple.  Why was he negligent.

On the other hand, if his actions exceed his authority, what will the US Congress do to regain its rightful place as the maker of the laws?  Impeachment is off the table.  What is available is the power of the purse strings.  The Congress can refuse to fund or can defund activities that it believes are illegal.  Simple as that.  From there it is to the Courts.  Building a case against a President who has acted outside his authority.  Of course the Democrats in Congress would have to recognize it is Constitution before Party, before Ideology.  Otherwise it is just the Civil War all over again, with the Democrats rejecting the Union and Prof Barack Obama the new Jefferson Davis.

But, we need to examine what President Obama does before we do anything.  It may all be perfectly legal, if somewhat tardy.

Hat tip to the Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Impeachment is off the table, if for no other reason than impeaching someone who is seen as the first "Black" President would just poison the well.  On the other hand, if and when Senator Harry Reid contacts the Speaker of the house and says now is the time, Impeachment may be on.

Age of Innovation

For John, BLUFWe need innovation and people who support innovation, from the tinkerers to the loan officers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

There is no doubt that we have benefitted from, the world has benefitted from, the innovation that has been generated in the last millennium.  Here is an article from The New York Times.  It has some thoughts that may be surprising.  The title is "Welcome to the Failure Age!"

Our relationship with innovation finally began to change, however, during the Industrial Revolution.  While individual inventors like James Watt and Eli Whitney tend to receive most of the credit, perhaps the most significant changes were not technological but rather legal and financial.  The rise of stocks and bonds, patents and agricultural futures allowed a large number of people to broadly share the risks of possible failure and the rewards of potential success.  If it weren’t for these tools, a tinkerer like Perkin would never have been messing around with an attempt at artificial quinine in the first place.  And he wouldn’t have had any way to capitalize on his idea.  Anyway, he probably would have been too consumed by tilling land and raising children.
I suspect the Plague also helped, making capital available to a now smaller group of people.

Here is a look toward the future:

To succeed in the innovation era, says Daron Acemoglu, a prominent M.I.T. economist, we will need, above all, to build a new set of institutions, something like the societal equivalent of those office parks in Sunnyvale, that help us stay flexible in the midst of turbulent lives.  We’ll need modern insurance and financial products that encourage us to pursue entrepreneurial ideas or the education needed for a career change.  And we’ll need incentives that encourage us to take these risks; we won’t take them if we fear paying the full cost of failure.  Acemoglu says we will need a far stronger safety net, because a society that encourages risk will intrinsically be wealthier over all.
I think this is an important thought.  We need to create opportunities for those evil old bankers to find new ways to finance innovation, and for society to absorb failure.  Failure is important in the area of innovation.  In the area of software, a third of projects fail or are abandoned.  If there is no failure that is an indication that folks are not innovating—and that would be bad.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The author is Mr Adam Davidson, a frequent contributor and a founder of NPR’s “Planet Money.”  He is working on a book about the future of the American economy for Knopf.

Chatham House Rules

For John, BLUFWhat happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Out in Hawaii, the Navy recently relieved the Pacific Fleet Chief of Intelligence, CAPT James Fannell.  From The Navy Times "Senior intel officer removed after controversial comments on China".

The thing is, Captain Fannell was probably talking to a group under "non-attribution", under Chatham House Rules.  That is, folks at the conference can take away the ideas, but should not attribute them to any one person.  It is the contention of the Staff Writer for The Navy Times, Mr David Larter, that someone leaked the identity of the speaker.  I am not certifying that that is what happened, but it is a possibility and may provide an example to explain how Professor Jonathan Gruber became to famous.

At any rate, here is part of how CAPT Fannell got into hot water:

Fanell warned during a February public appearance that a recent Chinese amphibious exercise led naval intelligence to assess that China's strategy was to be able to launch a "short, sharp war" with Japan, an unusually frank assessment about a closely watched region.

His comments, which ran counter to the Pentagon's talking points on building ties to the increasingly assertive Chinese navy, were picked up by media outlets from The New York Times and Reuters to London's Financial Times and Daily Telegraph.  Top defense officials, including the 4-star head of the Army and the Pentagon spokesman, were forced to respond to his comment in the following days.

And, we have this from the story in The Navy Times:
Coverage of the comments, which broke in early 2014, came at an awkward time, coinciding with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno's trip to Beijing in February, when he was asked by a reporter to respond to Fanell's analysis.

So, that brings us to a blog post by the Instapundit, which points us to a blog post by Mr Keith Hennessey:

KEITH HENNESSEY: ObamaCare Architect, MIT Economist Dr. Jonathan Gruber’s Honesty About Lying. Quoth Gruber: “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass. It’s a second-best argument. Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.” See, they have to lie about their policies, because if they told the truth no one would support them.

Question 4 from Keith Hennessey:

If so, is it ethical to hide and obscure large cross-subsidies (or large costs), in ObamaCare and elsewhere, so they can be enacted into law?  Does the end of greater redistribution justify the means of obfuscation, of lying to voters?
Answer 4:
No. I think this tactic is repulsive and unethical in a representative democracy.
Bottom Line from Keith Hennessey
When these same elected officials, and those who advise them, deliberately construct policies to hide value choices that would be unpopular were they transparent and explicit, we end up with two terrible outcomes.  We get policies that do not reflect our values, and we re-elect representatives who are lying to us.
Or, as someone noted about the CAPT Fannell case:
I trust that others may learn from this experience that what one may say in private isn't necessarily the same thing that one may say in public.
When I was assigned to the Pentagon I was told I needed to ask myself how my memo would look on the front page of The Washington Post.  I got a senior Civil Servant involved in looking at Strategic Warning and he was accused, in the Press, of trying to set up a "Guns of August" situation with the Soviet Union.  He wasn't, and it blew over, but it was a stressful couple of days.

Yes, we need whistle blowers, but whistle blowers also work to shut down frankness and intercommunication within the bureaucracy.

That said, on balance, I think it is better that we found out about Professor Gruber and his belief that transparency is bad and the voters are stupid.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Relieved means that he was fired from his current position, but he continues as a Navy Captain and retains his pension, if he elects to retire.  That said, his next assignment may not be all that wonderful.
  Rumor Control suggests this is not, in fact, the reason, but it is too murky to know.  So, I am going with the Chief of Police and the DA, in saying the information is "not releasable at this level".

More Boots on the Ground in Iraq

For John, BLUFEscalation is often the option of choice.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

My wife tells me that Captain Louis Renault references ("I am shocked.") are too obscure, so I will just go with No Surprise Here.

"U.S. may significantly hike number of troops in Iraq - sources".  That is the headline from Reuters, a week ago.

(Reuters) - The U.S. military has drawn up plans to significantly increase the number of American forces in Iraq beyond the current total of around 1,400, as part of the effort to bolster Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.
If history is any indicator we could soon go from four digits to five.

On the other hand, the authorization for the trainers runs out in early December.  What will the President, what will the Congress, do?

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Public Safety Subcommittee—18 Nov 2014

For John, BLUFThings are OK, you just don't understand.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The Public Safety Subcommittee met at about 5:00 PM, with Chairman Dan Rourke and Councilors Rita Mercier and Corey Belanger.  The Mayor, Rodney Elliot, is also present, as is Councilor Jim Milinazzo and Councilor William Samaras.

First testimony is by Chief Taylor, with an overview.  Also present are the Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian and the Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan.

Then Council Mercier talks.  She mentions truth in sentencing and he one year mandatory sentence for having a gun.  She asks the Sheriff if there is room for criminals.  The Sheriff says there is room in the Middlesex County Jail. Chairman Rourke asks the DA to talk about collaboration with the police.  No new and startling information.  Captain Taylor talks about liaising with the FBI Office down in Boston. Chairman Rourke asks about arranging bail and the mike for the DA is not turned on, so we can't hear her.  Rita catches it.  Then the Sheriff talks about his operations.  Those awaiting trial are a different population from those who have been sentenced and are on a path to return to their home, and thus have certain motivations.  Some talk of opiate addition and also of warrant serving here in Lowell.

Councilor Belanger talks all for being present and then talks to people with guns being let out without a year in jail.  A recent example was a shot into into a baby's bedroom and the shooter let out with a fine of a couple thousand dollars.  This has to stop.  Then he talks to the Sheriff about diversionary programs.  In a Gateway City such as Lowell the problem is bigger.  Sheriff starts by saying you have to speak to Judges about that.  There is the problem of people not being treated in local towns and cities for mental health issues.  Today the mentally ill housing top three are LA County Jail, the Cook County Jail and Rikers Island.

Councilor Mercier talks to the mental health problem and the need to monitor those with mental health issues.  The State has closed down needed facilities.  It isn't the fault of the mentally ill, but they need help.  We need 20 more Tewksbury Hospitals, and medication for the mentally ill.  We want to spend three fold to incarcerate.

Mayor Elliot says the buck stops here.  Local officials are expected to stop crime, shootings, drug abuse.  We do our job, and then they are released.  How do we get that message to the judges?  We had a terrible stabbing in the City today [last evening].  Chief Taylor says the investigation is ongoing.  Mayor Elliot notes the identified assailant is back out on the street from the stabbing last evening.  Chief Taylor attributes much of the violent crime and housebreaking to drugs.  We can't incarcerate out way out of this problem.  Mayor Elliot agrees we have to do this one bite of the apple at a time.

Councilor William Samaras notes the break ins and the fact that the perps were caught and back out on the street before the victim had finished filling out all the paperwork.  Hard to understand and hard to explain.  The DA, without specifics I can't talk, but we look at a number of factors.  I understand there is frustration but there is often a middle ground, like ankle bracelets.  Councilor Samaras asks if the DA needs more resources and she says we could always use more resources, but then sort of adds fluff.  Claims dramatic strides.  [Things must have really been bad 45 years ago.]

Jon Geer, Belvidere Neighborhood Association (  The judicial approach needs to be strengthened in terms of consequences for lawbreakers.  One of the challenges is fear of retribution for those who speak up in the even of crimes.

Ms Ann Marie Page says we have talked about a lot of things.  Recent 800 burglaries valued at $4 million.  The problem is not the Chief or the DA, but the revolving door.  Last Tuesday two burglars were let out without having to pay bail and happy at home.  Regarding the mentally ill, they need to be watched over, not by the police, but by mental health professionals.  We want to see the judges to get tougher.  People need to understand that in Massachusetts we are tough.

Councilor Belanger thanks those who attended, but notes we need help from the Judiciary.  Asks those present what can we do?  We are frustrated but we feel strongly we are not getting the help we need.  The DA says the first line of defense is having accurate information out there.  I see what is asked for happening, Judges and District Attorneys doing their best.  The one year has been extended to 18 months.  But, we need to find the gun to prosecute under the law.  Thus the proposed legislation re firing at houses.  Yes, some are released without bail, but others are held for thousands of dollars.  Yes, I have had my house broken into and there is nothing more invasive.  It is a collaborative piece of work and getting information out.  [If you knew what I knew you would think differently.]

The Sheriff says he doesn't deal with it from that end.  He doesn't sense that the Lowell Bench is soft on crime.  Lowell is really a very amazing community.  For its size it is head and shoulders above others around the state.

Meeting concludes at 1821.

Regards  —  Cliff

Mr Gruber and The Washington Post

For John, BLUFIt isn't the number insured (or uninsured), but the number of health care providers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From The Washington Post we have an OpEd by Mr Chris Cillizza, "Why Jonathan Gruber is conservative catnip".  Mr Cillizza suggests that those who are up in arms over Professor Jonathan Gruber see it confirming two points long believed about Democrats and about "Obamacare":
(a) The ACA was made purposely vague to keep the public in the dark about its depth and breadth, and
(b) liberals think conservatives are stupid.
Well, and per Professor Gruber, not just the public in the dark, but also the Congressional Budget Office.  Here is one exposition of this thought.  By the way, you can get the CBO report, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act:  Cost Estimate, from 18 November 2009.  The description is "Cost estimate for the amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 3590, as proposed in the Senate on November 18, 2009".

In his column Mr Cillizza includes:

Even David Brooks, no conservative bomb-thrower, writing in the New York Times on Tuesday about Obama's struggles in his second term, suggests:  "Maybe it’s Gruberism:  the belief that everybody else is slightly dumber and less well-motivated than oneself and, therefore, politics is more about manipulation than conversation."
Here is the exit question.  How is the PP&ACA doing with reducing the uninsured?  Here are the numbers of uninsured Americans per Wikipedia (2014 is from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey)  Almost as good as the last two years of the Clinton Administration.


And, it really isn't the number of insured or uninsured, but it is the number of providers (Physicians, Physicians Assistants, Nurse Practitioners) available to those needing medical help.  How are we doing on that?

Hat tip to Rush Limbaugh.

Regards  —  Cliff