Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Read

For John, BLUFEncourage people to be engaged in their community.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Mr Phil Klay, and the Brookings Institution:

The citizen-soldier:  Moral risk and the modern military

Very appropriate for Memorial Day.  Here is the lede:
The rumor was he’d killed an Iraqi soldier with his bare hands.  Or maybe bashed his head in with a radio.  Something to that effect.  Either way, during inspections at Officer Candidates School, the Marine Corps version of boot camp for officers, he was the Sergeant Instructor who asked the hardest, the craziest questions.  No softballs.  No, “Who’s the Old Man of the Marine Corps?” or “What’s your first general order?”  The first time he paced down the squad bay, all of us at attention in front of our racks, he grilled the would-be infantry guys with, “Would it bother you, ordering men into an assault where you know some will die?” and the would-be pilots with, “Do you think you could drop a bomb on an enemy target, knowing you might also kill women and kids?”

When he got to me, down at the end, he unloaded one of his more involved hypotheticals.  “All right candidate.  Say you think there’s an insurgent in a house and you call in air support, but then when you walk through the rubble there’s no insurgents, just this dead Iraqi civilian with his brains spilling out of his head, his legs still twitching and a little Iraqi kid at his side asking you why his father won’t get up.  So.  What are you going to tell that Iraqi kid?”

What ARE you going to tell that kid?  With luck the kid doesn't speak English, but there are still the gestures that speak to the kid.  These things are hard.  War is hard.

Here is the conclusion, and it talks to the divide between those who served in the military and those who didn't, but are still citizens.

The divide between the civilian and the service member, then, need not feel so wide.  Perhaps the way forward is merely through living up to those ideals, through action, and a greater commitment by the citizenry to the institutions of American civic life that so many veterans are working to rebuild.  Teddy Roosevelt once claimed a healthy society would regard the man “who shirks his duty to the State in time of peace as being only one degree worse than the man who thus shirks it in time of war.  A great many of our men … rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties.”  That seems right to me.  The exact nature of those additional duties will depend on the individual’s principles.  What is undeniable, though, is that there is always a way to serve, to help bend the power and potential of the United States toward the good.

No civilian can assume the moral burdens felt at a gut level by participants in war, but all can show an equal commitment to their country, an equal assumption of the obligations inherent in citizenship, and an equal bias for action.  Ideals are one thing—the messy business of putting them into practice is another.  That means giving up on any claim to moral purity. That means getting your hands dirty.

When we talk about voting in Lowell we are talking about those who do their duty and those who do not.  That is between good citizens and those who shirk their responsibility.  I am willing to allow that those who came from other countries may be reluctant about civic engagement and that it is the responsibility of the rest of us to ease that pain, that fear.

All need to be involved, in peace as well as in war.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Wash Post take on the DOS IG Report

For John, BLUFWhen you have lost The Wash Post you are in trouble.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

State Dept. inspector general report sharply criticizes Clinton’s email practices

The Washington Post Reporters are Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger and the dateline is 25 May.

The State Department’s independent watchdog has issued a highly critical analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email practices while running the department, concluding that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private server and that agency staff members would not have given their blessing if it had been sought because of “security risks.”
Here is the lede from the Wash Post Editorial Board:
HILLARY CLINTON’S use of a private email server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 has been justifiably criticized as an error of judgment.  What the new report from the State Department inspector general makes clear is that it also was not a casual oversight.  Ms. Clinton had plenty of warnings to use official government communications methods, so as to make sure that her records were properly preserved and to minimize cybersecurity risks.  She ignored them.
Regards  —  Cliff

The Down Stream Implications of the Bathroom Bill

For John, BLUFJobs bill for lawyers.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On 24 May of this year Harvard Law Professor Jeannie Suk had her article published in The New Yorker.  It is a good article and worth the five minutes to read it.  Because the issue is not totally straight forward.

The Transgender Bathroom Debate and the Looming Title IX Crisis

We need a very quick review of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  If you are not yet 44 it was before your time.  The act states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
At the time it was about things like girls sports teams getting equal treatment.  More recently, on 4 April 2011, the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent a Dear Colleague letter, which said, about Title IX, that sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment and is therefore sex discrimination.

On to the article, here is the lede plus one:

This month, regional battles over the right of transgender people to access public bathrooms were elevated to national legal theatre.  First, the Justice Department told North Carolina that its recent law, requiring education boards and public agencies to limit the use of sex-segregated bathrooms to people of the corresponding biological sex, violated federal civil-rights laws.  Governor Pat McCrory responded with a lawsuit, asking a court to declare that the state’s law doesn’t violate those federal laws.  Meanwhile, in a suit filed on the same day, the Justice Department asked a court to say that it does.

To top it off, on May 13th the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (O.C.R.) and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division issued a Dear Colleague letter announcing to the nation’s schools that, under Title IX—the 1972 law banning sex discrimination by schools that receive federal funding—transgender students must be allowed to use rest rooms that are “consistent with their gender identity.”  The threat was clear: schools that failed to comply could lose federal funding. Protests of federal overreach immediately ensued, including from parents citing safety and privacy as reasons for children and teen-agers to share bathrooms and locker rooms only with students of the same biological sex.

Then Professor Suk gets into the details and the back and fourth and why this is more complicated than it looks.  There is the question of whose rights triumph when there is a conflict.  Well worth the read.

Here are the last two paragraphs of the article:

The debate around which bathrooms transgender people should use has given rise to deeper questioning of why we even have a norm of gender segregation for bathrooms in the first place.  But a push to make those spaces open to all genders comes up uneasily against feelings of female sexual vulnerability and their effect on an equal education or workplace.  To make things more complicated, the risk of sexual assault and harassment of transgender females in male bathrooms is a salient reason for providing access to bathrooms according to gender identity, while many worry about transgender males being sexually bullied in male bathrooms.

The common denominator in all of these scenarios is fear of attacks and harassment carried out by males—not fear of transgender people.  The discomfort that some people, some sexual-assault survivors, in particular, feel at the idea of being in rest rooms with people with male sex organs, whatever their gender, is not easy to brush aside as bigotry.  But having, in the past several years, directed the public toward heightened anxiety about campus sexual assault, the federal government now says that to carry that discomfort into bathrooms is illegitimate because it is discrimination.  The sense that the Education Department has not looked down the road to consider the conflict is only confirmed by its penchant for announcing bold and controversial rules in letters, rather than through lawful processes.

Did I mention a great, quick, read.

The transgender bathroom issue isn't going away just yet, no matter what the Massachusetts General Court decides.

And, on City Life this last Friday State Representative Colleen Garry said that the Bill’s actual meaning is being left up to the Attorney General.  Frankly, we didn’t elect the Attorney General to write legislation.  Nor do we want State Bureaucrats deciding what it is the Bill says.  The SJC having that authority is sufficient for me.

One thing that could happen, with this recent Dear Colleague letter and the one from April 2011 is that campus life will become more complicated for boys and more of them will drop out or fail to get a higher education.  Even today the ratio is not good.  From a Forbes article in 2012 the ratio was 43.6 males for every 56.4 females.  Interestingly, the UK is about the same, at 45/55.

We need to be thinking of the long term impacts of these statistics, not just in economic terms, but in sociological terms.

Regards  —  Cliff

  Ms Jeannie Suk is a contributing writer for, and a professor at Harvard Law School.
  This had led to colleges and universities punishing (male) students, without due process, when female students accuse them of assault.  If Ms X says she was sexually assaulted then Mr Y can be dismissed from school, based on the findings of a kangaroo court.  That said, a number of Mr Xs are pushing back, in court.  Violation of Civil Rights.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Espionage and the Start of the Korean War

For John, BLUFI always wonder why we focus on Hitler and the Nazis, when Stalin is more recent and killed more people.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the Blog site We Are The Mighty we have "This US Army sergeant started the Korean War by selling out to the Soviets".  The author is Mr Blake Stilwell and the dateline is 24 May 2016.

Here is how it starts out:

For more than 60 years, only seven people on Earth knew that the Soviets broke U.S. military and diplomatic ciphers.  One of those people was former KGB Berlin bureau chief and master Soviet spy Sergei Kondrashev.  Kondrashev and his peers searched desperately for American code clerks as they came and went from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  The KGB knew next to nothing about American ciphers, the code room in the embassy, or even the personnel who worked there. That changed in the early days of the Cold War.

Tennent Bagley was a CIA agent working around Eastern Europe, including Berlin.  In the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, he was to be featured on a German television show to discuss Cold War intelligence with former KGB agents.  In preparation for the show, he met Kondrashev, his direct KGB counterpart . Kondrashev told Bagley things that the CIA never knew, including the story of “Jack,” a U.S. Army Sergeant who single-handedly sparked off the Korean War.

In 1949, the memory of World War II and the existential threat to Russia was still fresh in the mind of Soviet Premiere Joseph Stalin.  Tensions with the U.S. were higher than at any time in recent memory.  The Soviet Union needed a way to predict American behavior.

They thought they lucked out when Sgt. James “Mac” MacMillan, a U.S. Army code clerk in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, began dating a Soviet national, nicknamed “Valya.”  Kondrashev was the intelligence agent assigned to Mac.  He persuaded Mac to give him any details of the code room and of anything else he knew.  In exchange, the KGB offered to set him and Valya up with an apartment in Moscow and money to start their lives.

It was only a few weeks after their first meeting that Mac defected to the Soviet Union.  Kondrashev soon learned Mac’s knowledge of the American codes was limited and the Russians were no closer to breaking the codes.

The Russians watched the U.S. embassy intently.  Based on the information provided by Mac, they knew what the code clerks looked like, but after Mac’s defection, the Americans were on alert.  The KGB’s got lucky again when agents reported an Army clerk visiting a local apartment, staying long into the night, and then returning to the embassy a few nights a week.

This is a sad situation.  But, the "honey pot" is a typical part of spy craft.  On the other hand, the Army Specialist formerly known as Bradley Manning gave up our secrets without such inducements.  We do provide young men and women with a lot of important information and expect them to take good care of it.  Almost all of them do an excellent job.  They are very careful of our nation's secrets.

However, there is another lesson to be learned here.  You think you have a conduit to what the other side is thinking, but that doesn't mean the other side might not turn on a dime.  In this case Uncle Joe (Stalin) was being cautious, but then learned that the US didn't much care about Korea, so he sanctioned the Kim Il-sung invasion of South Korea in 1950.  Then that terrible Harry Truman decided South Korea was important.  The rest is history.

Regards  —  Cliff

Kim Family In NYC

For John, BLUFThere are a lot of Kims in the world, but only one Kim Jung-un.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

The secret life of Kim Jong Un's aunt, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998

This Washington Post article is by Reporter Anna Fifield.
NEW YORK — Wandering through Times Square, past the Naked Cowboy and the Elmos and the ticket touts, she could be any immigrant trying to live the American Dream.

A 60-year-old Korean woman with a soft perm and conservative clothes, she's taking a weekend off from pressing shirts and hemming pants at the dry-cleaning business she runs with her husband.

But she's not just any immigrant. She's an aunt to Kim Jong Un, the young North Korean leader who has threatened to wipe out New York with a hydrogen bomb.

They sound like great citizens and we should be glad they are here amongst us.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Chinese Economy

For John, BLUFThey don't know which way to go, which is almost as bad as going the wrong way.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is a headline from yesterday's Business Insider:

It sounds like a dispute is taking place at the highest levels of China's government — and it could have big implications for the economy

A dispute at the top of China’s government may signal a policy shift ahead. But until that becomes clear, the main risks are policy paralysis in the world’s second-largest economy and heightened uncertainty about growth.

For the third time in the last year, the People’s Daily, China’s authoritative Communist newspaper, published an interview with an unnamed official who said policy change was necessary to avoid a financial crisis and recession.

This time, the official interviewed—identified only as “an authoritative person”—said China can’t rely on debt-driven stimulus to restore its economic health.

I think it is at the point that Professor Paul Krugman should call the Chinese Embassy.

Either way, we in the rest of the world should consider what happens if the Chinese Economy implodes.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Donald and Islam

For John, BLUFHere is a different spin on Mr Trump and Islam in the Middle East.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Over at PJ Media Author Roger Simon gives us "Trump, Ryan and the Islam Problem".

I love the picture.  It is The Donald reading Submission, by Michel Houellebecq.

Regards  —  Cliff