Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sotomayor re Discrimination Cases

I have been criticized for skimming the MSM and blogs for my information, rather than doing original research, but (a) I am back to work and so my time is limited and (b) I am not a law school graduate and (c) I have no law clerk (although I know who could fill in on a part time basis).

Now here comes the SCOTUSBLOG with an examination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's record on discrimination cases during her 11 years on the Second Circuit.
In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times.  Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred.  (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims.  Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.
So, in light of that, let me more specifically state my case.

The Republicans in the US Senate should take the strategic♠ view and while asking serious questions that go to the root of her judicial philosophy, treat her with the respect and dignity that has been so lacking on the part of Democratic Senators during hearings for people like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.  She is a freebee.  She is replacing a liberal, so nothing lost on the Court. She is going to be approved unless she upsets some of the Democratic Senators.  The Republicans in the US Senate should keep their powder dry and wait to see what is coming down the trail next.  The principle of "Conservation of Enemies"♥ applies here.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  From Wikipedia:  "In military terms, tactics is concerned with the conduct of an engagement while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked.  In other words, how a battle is fought is a matter of tactics: whether it should be fought at all is a matter of strategy."
♥  Andrew Krepinevich's law of the conservation of enemies: Don't make any more than you need to have at any given time. I lifted this from a post on Afghanistan by Tom Ricks.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Filibuster of Supreme Court Nominee?

So here we have Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper of ABC news saying "First President in US History to Have Voted to Filibuster a Supreme Court Nominee Now Hopes for Clean Process." As Instapundit says, "Heh. That’s their headline, not mine."

As you might have expected, Senator Kerry was tied up in this.

I post this for the irony.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  For the record, I think the Republican Senators on the Judiciary Panel should give her a firm but fair questioning and then vote for her, unless something really bad shows up, like sedition.  Same for the Republican Senators in the full Senate vote for confirmation.  No credit will be given, but it will be a base upon which to build for the next nominee, if that person should be left of Judge Sotomayor.

Out Back Question of the Week

When I walked into the Out Back Jess asked me what the question was and noted that she had checked the blog and had not seen a question posted.  I have been, I admit it, a slacker.  The fact that I have gone back to work should be no excuse.  One needs to have one's priorities straight.

So, I had to invent one on the spot. Of course, I went with the easy one.  Who was recently nominated to be the new Justice on the US Supreme Court?  Jess knew that it was not someone from the "Lower 48," but her guess of Sarah Palin showed awareness, but a certain lack of context.  I gave her the hint "from Puerto Rico."  In the mean time, another greeter, Britney was saying that she knew who it was.  You could see it right there on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't bring it forward. So, we had the person on the phone—the Other Cliff—pass along the name.

The name is Sonia Sotomayor, a Newyorkian.

The key here isn't that no one knew the name, but rather that young people are interested in what is going on and aware. Knowing the names—that is an insider thing.  Knowing that things are happening is what the voters need to know and then closer to the election more detail is required.  It is just like flying a low-level mission to a target.  At 420 knots (483.7 mph or 8 statute miles per minute) you need the right map for the right part of the mission.  You need a general overall map for starting out (maybe 1:2,500,000), then a map with some detail enroute (1:500,000), and then a detailed map (1:200,000) for when you get to the target area.

Regards  —  Cliff

Globe vs Wikipedia

Who do you believe, The Boston Globe or Wikipedia?  A couple of days ago, at work, I was talking to a couple of people who have school age children and whose children are expected to research subjects and report on them.  They reported (they were all mothers, as you might imagine) that their children told them that Wikipedia was not acceptable to their teachers.  But, is Wikipedia all that bad.  Let us compare it to The Boston Globe.

In today's edition of The Boston Globe Reporter Michael Paulson has an article on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, noting that she is a Roman Catholic.  What makes that interesting is that with her on the High Court, it would be six Catholics, two Jews and one Protestant.

Richard Howe has blogged on this giving it a regional historical spin.

The article in the print edition includes a very nice chart, showing the religious affiliations of all the Justices since the beginning.  The only problem is, I don't think it properly categorizes Roger B Taney.  No one remembers him any more, except the parents of children in an elementary school in Maryland, named after him.♠  A one time law partner of Francis Scott Key and married to Mr Key's sister, Chief Justice Taney had been in the Maryland Assembly and Senate and was the State's Attorney General. President Jackson made him the US Attorney General.  He also served as Secretary of the Treasury and then on the US Supreme Court.  Born into wealth, he granted manumission to his slaves and paid a small pension to those too old to work.

Chief Justice Taney is the person who swore in President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.  He was also the one who wrote the Supreme Court ruling saying that President Lincoln couldn't suspend the ancient Writ of Habeas Corpus without the OK of Congress.  The President ignored that ruling.  And, he wrote the Dread Scott decision.

At any rate, Wikipedia says Chief Justice Taney was a Roman Catholic.  The Boston Globe never mentions his name and while in the first sentence of the article there is mention of a Catholic justice 50 years after the ratification of the constitution, none is shown on the chart and this person is given no mention in the article.

I did give Reporter Paulson a head start.  I sent him an EMail on this a couple of hours ago.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  They are trying to get the name changed to one less offensive to them. My personal opinion is that they should first try to get the Jefferson Davis highway in Virginia renamed. President Davis, one of our less distinguished Democratic Presidents, deserves to have his name on nothing.

Fall of the Iron Curtain

Here is an interesting article on the fall of the Iron Curtain, way back in 1989.

The linked story is about how Hungary allowed East Germans visiting Hungary to escape to Austria (and then move on to West Germany).

Two interesting points.  The first is that the man at the point of action took action (in this case, no action) that allowed history to flow in a new direction.  Why that happened and why the central government did not get its plan out to him is interesting, and instructive about how things go wrong in Government (and industry and families).

The second point is about how elites tend to remain in power.  One of the bit players in the drama in the 1989 story laments:
The people in power today are precisely those former leaders of the Communist youth organization who would have ended up in the same jobs even without the fall of Communism.
The question is, have those people changed with the times or were they always really just apolitical and interested in just seeking power.

The border between West Germany and East Germany and Czechoslovakia was heavily defended, back in the day.  The border that Austria had with the East was also blocked as a means of moving easily from the East to the West.  In West Germany military forces patrolled the border, but stayed back from the actual point of difference.  The actual last few feet of West German territory, at least in the late 1960s, was policed by West German Federal Employees (Forestry People, as I recall). The US Army used to fly up and down the border, looking for changes that might indicate something was afoot.  I got to ride on one of those flights in 1968.  It was during the time that Soviet Tanks rolled into Prague to suppress the "Prague Spring".  At the time I was the "FAC of the Month,"♠ spending 30 days at Fulda with the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Border Legion."

The US Army UH-1 was armed with machine guns attached to the sides, so it could fight its way out of trouble.  As we assumed our patrol up the border a helicopter from the other side♥ joined us on the German side, keeping pace with us and making sure we didn't do anything untoward.  Back at Bitburg AB, the Air Defense Squadron, which I would soon join, had a mission called CREEK BALL, where fighters would be diverted (or scrambled) to support a NATO Helicopter which was being harassed by one from the Warsaw Pact.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  FAC—Forward Air Controller. The fighter pilot up with the ground forces, directing Close Air Support missions.
♥  I am thinking it must have been an Mi-4 HOUND, but it was a long time ago.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Positive Sign re Ms Sotomayor

Opinio Juris suggests that an early review shows indications that Judge Sotomayor may not be a transnationalist.  That would be good news.  The Blog Site even asks is she might not be a Closet Sovereigntist.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

This is looking like a nomination that we Republicans might do well to not oppose, maybe even support, baring some terrible revelation in Senate Confirmation Hearings.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More on Judge Sotomayor

This AM I was asked if I had read someone's EMail to me the previous day and I replied that I hadn't and I had been hung up trying to do the table for last night's post on the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the SCOTUS.♠  The response to me was something to the effect that it was probably another typical "Republican" lambasting of the lady.  Since I had actually said on the blog that I thought it was OK, pending the hearings, I felt that I had been stereotyped.  It was then suggested that maybe I am really just a Libertarian.

At any rate, Law Professor Ann Althouse had a post on the nomination and the first comment to the blog post was:
Her family obviously loved its children.  To be born and raised in that family, and to be educated in Roman Catholic schools, would have created in her soul a great respect for mercy, for children, for a womens great value, and for submission to legitimate authority.  The opposition forces to Sotomayor may turn out to be the Progressives who hate all of those character traits. Stay tuned.
Hat tip to Instapundit.

We need to first gather the facts on the nomination, then make the decision.  I still maintain that she does not represent the kind of diversity that we would get from someone who had graduated from a law school different from the few that producted the current set of Justices.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  Supreme Court of the United States.

PS:  I have been told I have a number of "Non-Breaking Space" tags that are malformed (some combination that includes most of these characters—& n b s p ; and maybe something else).  If you note one, please EMail me at crk@theworld.com and tell me which post.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Supreme Court Nominee

We have President Obama nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the US Supreme Court.  Here is an article, with video, from The Boston Globe.

Yesterday George Anthes, on the Local Access show "City Lights," said that he believes she was one of those who is opposed to the increase of Presidential Power.  As a "federalist" and someone who believes in the separation of powers, I find this a very strong point in her favor.
  • I am not so keen on her position on copyright (I am against the Mickey Mouse extension and the all encompassing urge to copyright everything and extend it for ever).
  • I like her stance on the First Amendment, which is vital to the success of democracy.
  • I am not so sure about her position on employment discrimination, given her position in the Hartford Firefighters case.
  • On the other hand, her property rights positions seem on the right side of the issue.
The one thing I wonder about is the quote from her delivery of the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001 at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.  In the lecture she brought up Justice Sandra Day O'Conner having said:  "wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases." Ms Sotomayor then went on to say that she was not sure there can be a universal definition of wise and then she said:
Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
I found comments on this in a Washington Post article here. Another version is here.

I am assuming that this is essentially a "throw away" line.  But, even so, a careful reading suggests that the key is "who hasn't lived that life."  So, if the case involves issues to which the background of an observant Latina might be relevant, then she may have a better shot than some "white guy."  On the other hand, if the issue turns on issues our observant Latina might not be familiar with, but the "white guy" might, then it would go the other way.

However, this raises two issues for me.  The first is, does the US Supreme Court decide issues based primarily on the law or on empathy?  This question springs from a comment President Obama made on the campaign trail and has reiterated recently, as noted in this Wash Post article.
... want people on the bench who have enough empathy, enough feeling, for what ordinary people are going through.
This is not to say that he is not looking for a strong grounding in the Constitution; he is.  But this is additonal qualification.  In fact, Washington Post columnist E J Dionne, Jr, refers to Ms Sotomayor as the Anti-Roberts.
He was drawn to her not simply because the politics of naming the first Latina justice were irresistible, but also because he saw her as the precise opposite of Chief Justice John Roberts.
The second question is, what constitutes diversity?  As the table below shows, we have not been seeing much diversity on the US Supreme Court.

JusticeUnder GradLaw School
John RobertsHarvardHarvard Law
William RehnquistStanfordStanford Law
Sandra Day O’ConnerStanfordStanford Law
Sam AlitoPrincetonYale Law School
Potter StewardYaleYale Law School
John Paul StevensU of ChicagoNorthwestern
Anthony KennedyStanfordHarvard Law
Antonin ScaliaGeorgetownHarvard Law
David SouterHarvardHarvard Law
Clarence ThomasHoly CrossYale Law School
Ruth Bader GinsburgCornellColumbia Law
Steven BryerStanfordHarvard Law
Sonia SotomayorPrincetonYale Law School

John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are what passes for diversity here.  Aside from Justice Ginsburg, where is the person who is a graduate of some land grant college?  My wife is a graduate of a Land Grant University—Purdue.  I work with several people who are graduates of UMass Amherst (Land Grant), and while I would never give ground on the fact that UMass Lowell is much better than that school on the other side of the Quabbin Reservoir, they seem to have benefitted from a very fine education and speak well for that institution.  We also have an MIT PhD in the office.  Excellent chap, from a Land Grant University.

And, that doesn't even talk to Law School.  There we have even less diversity.  Five different law schools and eight different undergraduate schools.

I am reminded in this of a speaker at the Army War College in late 1982 or early 1983, who denigrated President Reagan's understanding of Foreign Policy because he was from the wrong part of the country, i.e., he wasn't from the East Coast, and thus just couldn't understand that all things revolved around the Atlantic relationships.  (As North Korea and Mexico keep pointing out to us, they don't.)

So, at this point—pending the Senate Confirmation Hearings—I find the nomination of Ms Sotomayor acceptable, not that anyone much cares what I think.  On the other hand, I would like to see some diversity in background as Presidents pick future justices.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saluting Veterans

OK, this was last week, but I finally rebooted my other computer and my printer and was able to scan this photo in from the Monday, 19 May edition of The Lowell Sun, page 1.













Yes, that is "A New Englander" in his "choker whites."  The rest of us bloggers don't get that kind of photo coverage.

And, I like seeing those Air Force Junior ROTC Cadets out in uniform. Makes you proud to have worn the "Blue Suit" once upon a time.

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Yes, I did blog this a week ago.

Memorial Day Thoughts

Someone I know sent along this video link, which is of a (now-aging) French singer named Michel Sardou, who took a somewhat unpopular pro-American stand in France.  That got me to thinking.

When we think about Memorial Day, it isn't just about us and ours.  It is about, in my mind, all who have fallen trying to obtain or preserve liberty.  It includes the dead of General Rochambeau's army, marching from Newport, in Rhode Island, to Yorktown, in Virginia.  There they participated, along with General Washington's Army, in the seige that basically ended our American Revolution.  I wonder who tends their graves here in the United States?

Yes, we went to France in 1917 and again in 1944, but I am not one of those who says, "We're even, go away."  Our freedom is precious and it will be hard to thank the French People enough.

And, we are part of a larger democratic "band of brothers," to quote King Henry V:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

William Shakespeare's, King Henry V
Act IV, Scene III

Of course, that wasn't the real speech.  But it is the speech we would wish to hear.  Here is the whole speech as written by Shakespeare.

In the pursuit of democracy, freedom, liberty, and human rights there is a band of brothers out there and it includes France, and Britian, and Canada, and Australia, and Little New Zealand.  That is our inner circle, along with nations like Japan and Korea and Germany and Italy and Denmark—especially Denmark—and others.  I include Denmark because they not so long ago came under attack because of their freedom of the press.  (I apologize to those from other freedom loving nations, whose homeland I did not include—space and not neglect has resulted in your home nation not also being honored.)

Sure, the French irritate us, they irritate us a lot.  But, in the quiet of government interaction, we are working closely together in the current war on terrorism.

So, here are the words to the song by French singer Michel Sardou, in French and then in a translation by my friend, who told me about it.
Les Ricains
Arnaud SCHUSTER

"Si les Ricains n'etaient pas la
Vous seriez tous en Germany
A parler de je ne sais quoi
A saluer je ne sais qui

Bien sur les annees ont passe
On est devenu des copains
A l'Amicale du fusille
On dit qu'ils sont tombes pour rien

Un gars venu de Georgie
Qui se foutait pas mal de toi
Est venu mourrir en Normandie
Un matin ou tu n'y etais pas

Bien sur les annees ont passe
Les fusils ont change de mains
Est-ce une raison pour oublier dis?
Qu'un jour on a eu besoin

Si les Ricains n'etaient pas-la
Nous serions tous en Germany
A parler de je ne sais quoi
A saluer je ne sais qui"
Zeig Heil

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

If the Yanks were not there
You would all be in Germany
To speak of I do not know what
To salute I do not know who

For sure the years have passed
We have become friends
With those with the weapons
It is said they died for nothing

A young man came from Georgia
Who did not think badly of you
He came to die in Normandy
One morning that you were not there.

For sure the years have passed
The guns have changed hands
Is this a reason to forget?
That one day we had a need

If the Americans were not there
We would all be in Germany
To speak of I do not know what
To salute I do not know who
Zeig Heil
So, that is my take on Memorial Day.  It is about honoring our fallen dead and being thankful for the sacrifices they made, and thankful for the sacrifices those who survived also made.

But, it is also about remembering what they died for and that we have often joined with others to achieve those goals of democracy, freedom, liberty, and human rights.

This is a day for me to remember that when I was flying combat missions over Cambodia, there were Cambodians down on the ground fighting to resist Pol Pot.  Let them be honored also.  When my wife and I visited Normandy 40 years ago,we recognized that it wasn't just Americans who died, but Canadians and English, Welsh, Scots and Irish, and, of course French.  At Monte Cassino it was a hugh Polish Cemetery that attracted our attention.  God bless them all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanke

Professor Mia Bloom ends her short article on the demise of the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanke with this thought:
This is not how terrorism ends, but it could be an intermission.
Here is the link to this report on the Sri Lanke News First website.

Here is the same report on the website of The Washington Post.

In thinking about our counter insurgency efforts around the world it is the second most important thing to keep in mind—insurgencies don't end with military force, but rather with political agreement.  Everything else is an intermission.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the United States can't win a counter insurgency fight in another country. Only that country can win the fight.

All that said, we can help others fight groups like al Qaeda, who would deprive all persons of rights we take for granted.  If some woman you know drove a car to a store this week, by herself, and you think that was a good thing, then you are not interested in what al Qaeda has to offer.  If your Mother, Sister or Daughter has a college degree and feels free to work outside the home, then you would not like al Qaeda and what it has to offer.  So, you can understand why some others might wish to resist al Qaeda also.

Some of the countries we work with in the fight against al Qaeda are far from perfect.  It isn't a perfect world out there.  It is our job to try and make it better, step by step.

Regards  —  Cliff

Saturday, May 23, 2009

DOJ vs the Media

This has to be just wrong, doesn't it?

An article from the Reason blog suggests that DOJ is going after some newspaper in West Virginia because "... because it is dissatisfied with the editorial quality of one of the papers."
To that end, the DOJ is currently pursuing litigation against two West Virginia newspapers, who have been operating for decades under a joint operating agreement. The DOJ wants to dissolve the agreement because it is dissatisfied with the editorial quality of one of the papers, the Daily Mail.
Lets be fair, this started under the Bush Administration.

I am trying to figure this out. It is not that clear to me. I am looking for the original document from DOJ, but this is the best I can do at this point.

Let us hope that this is not what it looks like. Maybe one of the readers has a better understanding of this whole thought process.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Underground Economy

The Underground Economy. The Grey Economy. They have one of them in Italy. I bet we have one of these in Lowell.

Here is an article on the Underground Economy in San Antonio, Texas.

I wonder what the Econ Department at UMass Lowell has to say about this.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Nations in (Quiet) Conflict

At dinner this evening (we went to the Out Back) my wife and I were talking about what led up to World War One.  I mentioned the 1911 Agadir Crisis, where the Germans sent a "gun boat," the PANTER, to make a diplomatic point that eventually resulted in them obtaining colonial concessions in Africa.  I don't know why that event has stuck in my mind.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—"the more things change, the more they stay the same."  Today we have the Spanish and the British in a small dustup over who is in charge in Gibraltar—Gib, for short.

Gibraltar has been British since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, given to the British in perpetuity.  And, the 30,000 residents prefer British status to Spanish. But, if the apes (Barbary Macaques) crawling around the rock ever leave, then so will the British.  In the RAF members of the RAF Regiment, responsible for Air Base Defense, are known as Rock Apes.

Per the (London) Daily Mail, "Navy warships dispatched as Spain invades seas around Gibraltar."

This seems to be an on and off again sort of jockeying for position.

In citing the following from the article it is NOT because I don't trust the European Union (EU), but I don't.
The latest incident followed a day after Gibraltar's government vowed to block EU moves to give responsibility for the environment around the Rock to Spain.
There we have some bureaucrat in Brussels who thinks he knows better what is good for the mere mortals than they do themselves.  We are SO lucky to have the degree of Federalism we do.  No bureaucrat in DC can really issue a single ruling that covers the needs in each of the States and Commonwealths and Territories that make up the United States.  The same goes for Brussels and the EU.

Let us hope this goes quiet again.

Regards  —  Cliff

Fairness for All the Troops

Hey, a second scoop—but the originator is looking for feedback, so please feel free to comment, or send me an EMail at crk@theworld.com.

CBS Reporter Kimberly Dozier, who survived an VB-IED (car bomb) attack♠ in Iraq a while back, had a short mention today, as part of Memorial Day Weekend, of one of the medics who kept her alive after the attack, which killed four others on the foot patrol.
The other medic from that day has just been chaptered out of the military, after being outed as a lesbian on her second tour, as an act of vengeance when she turned in a superior officer who was dealing drugs.
Lets skip the question about DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) for a moment.

This is ugly because s Service Member turned in a drug dealer and vengeance was then extracted on that Service Member in a way that caould't be fought.  The individual's integrity required her, in this situation, to say, "Yes, I am a lesbian."  That the military, which should be a band of brothers (and sisters) should allow this to happen is flat out wrong.

Where is the commander who should have said, "Do you want to be discharged?  If not, get out of my office and back to doing the kind of job that would justify my ignoring this whole thing."  Did we not learn from Admiral Nelson about "turning a blind eye," as he did at the Battle of Copenhagen.

The issue of DADT has not gone away and likely won't during this Administration.  Already there are those who voted for President Obama who are upset with him for not tackling this issue.  Frankly, from a political point of view he is probably wise to put it off for a while.  The recession and the political issues surrounding the war on terror and especially "Guantanamo" are enough for his plate right now.  To change DADT, he will need the support of the US Congress and they may be a little skittish to reverse what is their own policy.  But, President Obama takes the heat for it.

Should we change our policy with regard to the military?  I am of mixed feelings.  The policy doesn't keep homosexuals out of the military. We need to be clear on that.  The policy may add to good order and discipline by providing a "bright line" as to what is acceptable behavior.  On the other hand, the trajectory of freedom in this nation is about letting everyone serve. In the early days it was the Jews in New York taking their local government to Court to be allowed to serve in the local militia.  Then it was the integration of Blacks into all combat units.  With women it was first deciding that they didn't need to be segregated in their own corps and then the realization that they could be allowed in combat units, e.g., becoming Air Force and Navy fighter pilots and Army artillery officers and serving at sea.  The fact is, Americans want to serve and serve proudly.

Frankly, I am totally NOT moved by administrations and professors in colleges and universities that rail against this issue and block ROTC on their campuses and try to ban military recruiters because of DADT.  They are like our Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice, Ms Margaret Marshall, who wrote the majority opinion on the Goodridge Gay Marriage ruling.  She reached into a grab bag of excluded classes and pulled out one and told the Great and General Court it could continue to discriminate against all the other classes.

On balance, I think that if the US Congress repeals DADT little will change and this irritant to some will go away.  My expectation is the change will go down with very little trouble in the military.  There will be, for a short period, some increase in discipline problems.  The smaller portion will be homosexuals testing the limits of what is acceptable under the rules against sexual harassment.  The greater portion will be people who want out of uniform and who might have taken the route of claiming a homosexual orientation, but now find that not to be an option.

In the mean time, there is a former Army medic out there who has been treated shamefully.  Can anyone make it right?

I expect we will learn more about this when Ms Dozier does her Sunday Morning report on the 2006 attack, on June 21st.

You might well ask why this is fitting for a Memorial Day Weekend.  It is about honoring those who serve, including those who serve in mufti.  The specific connection goes back to the day Kimberly Dozier was blown up, 29 May 2006.  CBS Evening New reported that evening that the crew had been working on a story about how Memorial Day "is like any other day" in Iraq.

Ms Dozier wrote about her experiences in Iraq in her 2008 book, Breathing the Fire:  Fighting to Report-and Survive-the War in Iraq.

UPDATED

I misspoke (mistyped?) in describing the bomb that injured Ms Dozier and killed her four companions—I should have read her book. Appropriate paragraph is updated above.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  All five were within 20 feet of a 300-500 pound car bomb.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

GITMO

Chris Matthews is saying on TV that Democrats in the Senate are afraid of having prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp (GITMO, for short) housed in Supermax Prisons here in the United States.

This morning both President Barak Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney talked about their views on GITMO and the use of torture (which I talked about in the last post).

My view is that there is a lot of bad thinking on this whole issue.

For me, the prime issue is how we treat these people captured on the battlefield.  As previously noted, most of these people are not covered by the Geneva Convention, but the United States, being the nation we are, should grant those people such rights.  Plus, beside the idea that we are who we are and grant these rights due to our natural generosity, it is good politics. We should make it part of our strategic communications plan to point out they don't merit those rights, but we grant them anyway.

Now, which of those prisoners do we try?  That is a good question.  Those who committed war crimes, as defined by the Geneva Convention, should be tried.  And here is where I think we need a reorientation in our thinking—detainees aside, we should change our Constitution so that the rights we demand for ourselves against our Government we grant to all others who fall into our control.  It is illogical that we provide a Fifth Amendment protection to ourselves but not to someone we have swept up elsewhere.  Human rights are human rights.  This current approach, confirmed by the US Supreme Court, reminds one of the days when Black slaves were considered 3/5ths of a person.

I am not advocating that we bring all the prisoners in GITMO to trial.  Remember, we counted them to be subject to the Geneva Convention.  Thus, they are POWs for the duration, unless we believe they have committed war crimes.  If they committed war crimes then we should try them, unless, of course, we have fumbled the evidence and can't prove the guilt with untainted evidence or without releasing highly classified information.  If we can't or won't try them and convict them in an open court, then like the rest of the detainees, we keep them for the duration of the war on terror, or we find some other nation to take them.

Closing GITMO and moving the detainees makes sense.  The idea that we are afraid to move them to prisons in the United States is astonishing.  The President today said there were 240 people in GITMO, who need to be dealt with.  Maybe there are a few supermen in that crowd, but very few.  They are often people caught up in a war that passed through their area without converting them to the takfiri views of Osama bin Laden, but drew them in because the fight impinged on their province, their valley or their village.  There are others who were swept up in Afghanistan who were there training to fight for liberation in their home nation, such as the Uyghur detainees, who are no longer classed as "enemy combatants."  But, even so, Senator James Webb and Representative Frank Wolf, both of Virginia, reject the idea of settling some 17 of these people with their fellow Uyghurs in Virginia.

The President quoted Republican Senator Lindsey Gram as saying:
The idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.
Here is President Obama's prepared remarks.  And here are the prepared remarks of former Vice President Cheney.

Fresh air is the best disinfectant. Lets disinfect GITMO and move on.  Let us give the lie to those who talk like we have Dr Josef Mengele down in GITMO running the program.

This is about helping to win the war against terrorism.  We need to be smart and not just reactionary to the idea that we have terrorists in our custody.

TRANSLATION of my position:  I support President Obama on shutting down GITMO and think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has caved in to political pressure in a manner unworthy of a Senate Majority Leader.

Regards  —  Cliff

Torture

This will be my one and only "scoop" on this blog.  I understand that basically the following story will appear on CNN tomorrow.  This is an excerpt and includes comments by fellow fighter pilot Ken Cordier (who I knew in a previous incarnation), who was shot down over North Viet-nam in late 1966.  So, he spent some time up north.  The other is the Rev Robert G Certain (who I did not know in that previous incarnation), who was a B-52 crew member shot down over North Viet-nam in 1972.  They both are being presented as bringing their Christian ethics to bear on the issue of torture.  NB:  Those of you with good memories will remember that Ken Cordier was the one Air Force person who supported the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" during the 2004 election.  Those looking for my opinion on that issue may EMail me and put their question(s) to me.  The excerpt follows:
The debate over the uses of torture among people of faith doesn't end with its practice.  It also extends to its definition.

The Geneva Convention says that "no physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war." The 1985 U.N. Convention against torture defines torture as any act by which severe pain or suffering, "whether physical or mental," is inflicted on a person.

Cordier, the Vietnam POW, opposes torture in all circumstances—even the "ticking bomb" scenario.

"Once you're in a pain situation, you'll say anything to get it to stop," Cordier says. "It's not as reliable as more sophisticated methods."

But he doesn't consider waterboarding and other "enhanced techniques" torture.

"Loud music, sleep deprivation, waterboarding—does it leave permanent damage and cause extreme pain?  No," Cordier says.

Rev. Robert G. Certain, another Vietnam vet who is now an Episcopal priest, says waterboarding isn't torture because "it doesn't cause grave, bodily harm.  "See CIA interrogation methods authorized during the Bush-era."

Certain was captured by the Vietnamese in 1972 after his B-52 bomber was shot down.  He wrote about his experiences in the book, Unchained Eagle.

Certain says his faith teaches him to oppose torture under all circumstances.  His military background, however, tells him that it can be easy for interrogators to cross the line.

"To use torture is morally impermissible," Certain says.  "But when we place somebody in uniform into a place of moral ambiguity, there are likely to be times when their judgment is going to step across into the morally impermissible.  They're living in a fog. It's not black and white."

Certain remembers how easily his Vietnamese captors justified crossing the line with him.  They said American prisoners weren't covered by the Geneva Convention.

"They said we were not prisoners of war because there was no legal declaration of war," Certain says.  "Therefore we were air pirates and they could treat us anyway they felt."
My first point is that I am opposed to torture and to actions which seem to come close to torture.  I think that other approaches are more effective.  And even if they weren't, that would still not make torture acceptable.

My second point is that the whole issue of who falls under the Geneva Convention comes up again and again.  We know that the guerrillas in Afghanistan and Iraq don't fall under the Geneva Convention—they don't wear uniforms and they are not serving a nation that has acceded to the Geneva Convention.  And, I agree that that is true.  The North Viet-namese said that our captured airmen were not entitled to treatment under the Geneva Convention, since they were fighting an undeclared war.  This is a key reason I think that while we should assert that the guerrillas are not entitled to Geneva Convention protection, we should state that we will extend it to them anyway, because we are the United States and that is how great powers really operate.

Next I will talk about GITMO, taking another opportunity to show my ignorance and naiveté.

UPDATE

Here is the CNN URL for the interview.

Regards  —  Cliff

Luck and Success

My youngest brother sent along this quote:
Man blames fate for all other accidents, but feels personally responsible when he makes a hole-in-one. (Bishop Fulton J Sheen)
It is amazing to me the number of people who think that they are influencing events when they are just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and manage not to mess it up—not messing it up is a capability not to be belittled.

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Out Back Question of the Week

Answer to last week's question is open to whatever you think, but I am going with Michael Steele, at least for now.

This week's question is, who is telling the truth, Ms Nancy Pelosi or Mr Leon Panetta?

That is to say, the Speaker of the House or the Director of the CIA?

For bonus points, should the CIA be allowed to lie to Congress?

Regards  —  Cliff

Speaker vs CIA

Over at Left in Lowell there is some discussion of the Nancy Pelosi vs Leon Panetta issue.  I put it on the CIA chief since he is in charge and one assumes that when in charge, take charge; and take responsibility.

The Left in Lowell "spin" is that the Bush administration lied (to everybody) and thus Speaker Pelosi is innocent.

OK, lets take that the Left in Lowell view is the God given truth.  Now what?  If the CIA lied to Congress, there needs to be consequences. If nothing else, hearings in public and people brought forward and chastised.  What we don't need is a CIA that thinks it is right to lie to the US Congress, or at least the "Gang of Four" designated to received classified briefings.  If there are not going to be consequences, then Ms Pelosi should either resign for not being sufficiently in control or apologize for suggesting that Mr Panetta has been untruthful.  Or, Mr Panetta could resign.

Or, Ms Pelosi could have invited Mr Panetta over for a chat and told him that his outfit is out of control and she is going to cut the admin budget by 5%, so he better plan on laying off people.  Sort of a spanking in private.  Then Mr Panetta can apologize or he can say, no, you are wrong and take it to the President or take it public.  Maybe that is what happened recently.  Having gone public, it is time to settle this properly.  While it may be Democrats vs Democrats on the surface, below the surface it is the US Congress reasserting itself against the Executive Branch, which has been arrogating to itself more and more power over the last eight decades.

When will it be time for someone to take responsibility down there in DC?

Regards  —  Cliff

War and Society

Out there in the world of military theory is a debate about where our future military requirements rest.  Is the future just more Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency or is it back to conventional operations or is it "fourth generation" or something else?  For us the question boils down to how big an Army we need and how much it will cost.  And, how big of a Navy and Air Force, and they cost a lot.

Here is an article from the blog Kings of War.  This is a blog maintained for various faculty and research students at the Department of War Studies, King's College, London.

Here is the main thesis, without the preparatory words:
The West has evolved a way of war ideally suited for fighting amongst itself.  Michael Howard tells the story succinctly:  In the first phase, the rise of state bureaucracies, allowing for large standing armies; next the rise of nationalism and the passionate commitment of whole peoples to war, allowing still greater mass; then industry, and a dramatic increase in destructive power.

Finally in recent decades, a new trend, as further societal and technological changes increasingly estranged the wider population from its small, professional military cadre.  The resultant postmodern societies are for the most part happily isolated from pre-modern violence, and have the liberty to demand a uniquely liberal way of war.  They rightly demand the increasingly stringent use of force by their armed forces, and are able to foot a huge bill for the technology to achieve that.  This view of postmodern societies and armies is well described in some of Christopher Coker’s writing.

And so, as throughout recent centuries, much of what is new to warfare is being driven by the West, in particular by the evolving relationship between its citizens, states and soldiers.
There are useful embedded links, which can be viewed in the original.

What makes this interesting to the average audience is the fact that it relates the changes in society to how we act in war and perceive war.  Here is another person's take on this:
The author's point about the estrangement of modern society from the realities of warfare is key, although I would argue it has been building for well over a century now and has only gathered momentum in the past two or three decades.   The psychological ignorance of post-modern civilian populations from the essentially violent aspects of human nature—as integral part of our humanity as our capacity for love and compassion—is absolutely unbelievable by pre-modern standards, and it really has all been enabled by technology.
So, the point is that modern information technology is bringing us war at the same time our sensibilities are changing.  Thus, this comment applies:
This reminds me of a story my wife told me.

She's originally from the Leesburg, VA, area, and grew up when there was one traffic light between there and Tysons Corner.  (For those not familiar w/ the DC area, there are now several dozen lights between the two locations, and the farmland out there has been raising crops of townhouses for the last decade.)

When she was growing up, a local restaurant (Johnson's Charcoal House, which we went to several times before it finally closed a couple of years ago) would buy the prize beef cattle from that year's class of 4-H kids at the Loudoun County fair.  As the area suburbanized, more and more suburbanites frequented the fair—folks who were not familiar w/ farming.

So, one year, the prize-winning cow was on display, w/ a sign saying that Johnson's Charcoal House was proud to have purchased it, to show support for the 4-H Club. And one of the new kids asked what they were going to do w/ the cow.  The owner smiled, and said that they would be serving it at the restaurant, that coming week.

The kid was appalled, and asked, "You mean THAT cow?!"

And the mother, who was nearby, promptly rushed over and said, "No, no, dear. That's just the DEMO cow."

It's a great story, but it also underscores that, even when it's not about war, more and more folks have lost psychological touch w/ the grim realities of life.  Like where meat comes from.
The take away is that we are becoming increasingly disconnected from the hard facts of life.  I know I am and I like it that way.  But, it can impact how we view what our Armed Forces are doing for us out there.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Wave of Illegal Immigration

Apparently the value of the Chinese currency, the Yuan, is quite good.  Chinese wishing to enter the US illegally are spending tens of thousands of dollars, at least according to this report in the Government Security News website.
The U.S. Border Patrol has noticed a "huge increase" in the number of Chinese nationals who are paying top dollar to be smuggled across the border from Mexico into the U.S. in recent months.
This seems to be the result of tightening up the security at ports, per the article.

In the mean time, the US Government does not know how to secure the border with Mexico and is now considering alternatives to the building of a fence.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), along with at least 18 House co-sponsors, has introduced what he calls the Border Security and Responsibility Act of 2009, intended to give greater priority to the use of remote cameras, sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and other “low impact border enforcement techniques,” rather than the continued construction of a physical fence along the southwest border.
What we don't have is an overall plan to:
  • deal with those who are here and are illegal (or undocumented, if you prefer),
  • deal with the needs of US firms, small and large, for workers in several categories of labor,
  • deal with families (with some members US citizens and some members illegal immigrants) that have been or are afraid of being separated, and
  • deal with the continuing influx of people into the country who are not going through the established procedures.
One of the big problems with illegal immigration is that it is unfair to those who have or are trying to immigrate to this country the regular way—following the rules as laid out by the US Congress.

We have a mess and we need the leadership in DC to fix it pretty soon.

Regards  —  Cliff

Canadian Handrails

My advice—use them.

At least use them on subway escalators in Canada. The alternative is a fine of $100 (we presume $100 Canadian), and, if you are not immediately responsive, an additional fine for obstruction.

The Globe and Mail of Toronto, Ontario, carries this story about 38 year old Bela Kosoian, who was cuffed, dragged into a small holding cell and given a couple of tickets for not holding the escalator handrail in the Montreal Metro and for not responding to police direction.

The spin by the police of the town of Laval, Quebec, can be found here.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jogging

I have never been a runner, and now I am a walker, but I have been a jogger. So, this story out of the Wall Street Journal attracted me.  The article "Running for Lean Times: It's no accident that jogging took off in the 1970s" tells us about jogging and suggests it is a "recession" form of exercise.

I bring it to your attention because of this paragraph
Of course, some people "jog" purely for fitness purposes and hate it.  This might explain why the French were recently in an uproar after photos surfaced of President Nicolas Sarkozy in shorts and a T-shirt breaking a sweat in the Tuileries.  Running is an American activity, the French press claimed, a fascistic act designed to manage and control the body.  Not an intellectual pursuit at all.  "It is about performance and individualism," one writer wrote, right-wing values antithetical to everything cherished by the country that gave us foie gras.
I think we undervalue the French as friends and allies, but they can sometimes be a little "stuffy."

Regards  —  Cliff

Sue Your Defense Department

I thought this item out of London (Daily Telegraph) was pretty interesting.
A decision by the Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a High Court ruling that troops serving abroad are protected by the Human Rights Act despite the challenge by the Ministry of Defence.

The families of soldiers killed as a result of poor or outdated equipment are thought to be most likely to use the decision against the MoD, including the 37 soldiers who have died in the Snatch Land Rover, which has been criticised as too weak to withstand roadside bombs.
Can you image what that might mean for us?

Think of all those people who died in HUMVEEs that were not up-armored, or died in up-armored HUMVEEs when there might have been an MRAP around.  Now think of their wives and parents taking this all to court.

Now, for contrast, think of those people who died while patrolling villages and having their loved ones sue because an over-emphasis on force protection resulted in the development of a flourishing insurgency because soldiers were not getting out of their vehicles and walking around, reassuring the local population and gathering intelligence.

These are the same scenarios, just viewed from a different perspective.

Going back to the article:
Military commanders also fear combat operations could be hamstrung by soldiers using human rights legislation to allow them to question orders.

A former commanding officer of troops in Basra told The Daily Telegraph that the decision would make it extremely difficult to lead "soldiers who are going to question your orders suggesting 'you are breaching my human rights'.

"I think the business of us getting on with the job is going to be extremely difficult.  We are going to be spending a long time risk assessing, whereas our energy should be applied to solving the intellectual problems of winning the campaign."
Sometimes what seems legally reasonable can be operationally unreasonable.

This is not to say that there have not been dumb decisions and bad designs.  It is to say that in making things perfectly safe, we can make then dangerous in combat.  Early on in the F-16 program there were a couple of fatal accidents due to spatial disorientation.  A wife sued the Air Force after her husband died in such an accident. I don't remember the outcome.

I am prepared to say that getting spatial disorientation in the F-16 is easier than in other aircraft.  The low canopy rails and the big bubble canopy with no metal canopy bow in front of the pilot are key contributors.  On the other hand, these are the things that allow the F-16 pilot to see the other person first and thus achieve a position of advantage.  I am not sure about today, but in the "old days" it used to be said that for 80% of all air-to-air kills the target never saw the shooter.

I am hoping this legal approach out of the UK does not jump the Atlantic.  But, then I am leery of Judges who say that we should look to the legal precedents found in other nations.

Regards  —  Cliff

Dead Speaker Walking

No, not Nancy Pelosi, Michael MartinThe Telegraph, which yesterday incorrectly claimed the Speaker of the House of Commons was going to resign, again makes that claim, based upon the thrashing the Speaker received last night in the House of Commons, where the, The Telegraph reports:
"I can confirm that the Speaker is making a statement this afternoon and that it is about himself," his spokeswoman said. It is unclear whether he will resign immediately or stay on until the next election.

Speaker Martin has become the highest-profile victim of the Westminster expenses scandal, which claimed another scalp today.

...

This morning a motion calling for his immediate resignation appeared on the Commons order paper signed by 23 MPs from across the political spectrum.

Douglas Carswell, the Tory MP who tabled the motion, said he hoped Mr Martin's successor would have the moral authority to push through reforms that would "restore dignity to politics".
The Speaker of the House of Commons is not like the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, in that he or she is a neutral party and the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition drive the operation.  The Speaker keeps everything civil. Ah, for the good old days, when Betty Boothroyd (now Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell) was Speaker and you could hear her "Order, Order, Order in the House" as she reined in the more active members.

The current expense account scandal is not the only problem in Mr Martin's Speakership.  A while back he allowed the police to rifle through the papers of a Member of Parliament—the member had received back channel information from a civil servant showing government incompetence.

Would that our chaps on Beacon Hill would show some spunk and clean up their act.  This just shows the problems with reform when you live in a place where single party rule is the rule.

But, not to let Speaker Pelosi off the hook, while they may be able to fudge it down in DC, the fact is, she has said that the CIA lied to her and the Director of the CIA, Mr Leon Penatta, says they did not. To lie to Congress is to commit a crime.  Further, when you are a secret organization of the US Government you need to be accountable to some public official or officials who are accountable to the People. If the CIA lied, then Mr Panetta and those involved need to go.  If they did not, then ... It is as simple as that.

Well, maybe not.  Maybe it was her evil colleague, Porter Goss, who left the House of Representatives to run the CIA who caused all the problems.  That said, the briefings were in 2002 and George Tenet, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was in charge then.

At any rate, problems of integrity need to be solved on both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill/Langley and soon and the best way to do that in a democracy is to have the parties who made mistakes take a "time out," and maybe just go away into retirement or work in another field.

UPDATE

I need to type faster. Even before I got this post published Wikipedia was announcing that Mr Martin would resign as of 21 June.  The BBC webpage has a spot on it, noting Mr Martin is the first Speaker to resign in 300 years.

Now, let's see a little of that action here in the US and especially here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Regards  —  Cliff

Monday, May 18, 2009

Auto Repair Costs

My Daughter, out in the Ohio area, has a second car, which she is loaning to her Daughter.  Problem is, the radiator has a hole in it and it has sat still for five or six months and now one of the wheels seems to be frozen.

So, Midas has given her an estimate of $1850 to put it back on the road with a new battery, two new tires, a new serpentine belt, a new radiator and new brakes all around.  That sure seemed like a lot, especially with the battery being $103.99 right off the top.

So, I went comparison shopping.  The first place I stopped was CAP Discount Auto Parts, on the VFW Highway, by Bridge Street.  There I was assisted by Clive Reid, Jr, who was very helpful.  He took my list and looked up all the items and wrote down all the prices for me.  I was the only customer in the store at the time—someone walked in as I left—but still, it was good service.

I also drove up to Advance Auto Parts, 1190 Bridge Street, where Carlos was very helpful.  One of the things that Carlos pointed out was that there were a number of auto parts stores in Lowell and that has an good impact on prices from a customer's point of view.  He also said that with the recession he is getting a lot of calls for parts from repair shops.  Looks like people are keeping cars that break down, rather than trading them in for a newer model.

Thanks for your help, folks.

Regards  —  Cliff

New Englander on Front Page

There he is on the front page of The Lowell Sun, in his choker Whites, our own GP, who blogs as the New Englander.

Of course you can't find it at the web site for The Lowell Sun, or at least I can't.  But that is he, bemedaled for his service to the Nation and to us.

Over the right chest are the unit citations (being a high performer, helping to make your outfit a high performer).  The ones on the left are personal awards.

Congratulations to you GP, and looking good.

Regards  —  Cliff

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Afghanistan and Supplemental Funding

I just came across the fact that our Congresswoman, Niki Tsongas, voted against legislation to approve supplemental funding for our operations in Afghanistan.  In her EMail she said:
Yesterday the House of Representatives voted on legislation to approve supplemental funding to support the President's new strategy in Afghanistan as well as to help draw down our forces in Iraq.  While I supported many provisions in this bill, a vote in favor of this legislation is fundamentally an acceptance of an open ended military commitment to a regional strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan whose cost in terms of American lives and billions of dollars has not been sufficiently articulated to the American people.  Because of this fact, I could not support the legislation at that time.
While I do not agree with her vote, I do note that she is asking the right questions and further, she is showing the spunk that all of the US Congress, Democrats, Republicans, Socialists and Independents alike, need to show.

During the Presidential Campaign we were told that Iraq was the bad war and Afghanistan was the good war. Little did we realize that it wasn't Afghanistan, it was Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the western part of Pakistan being the center of Taliban and al Qaeda operations.

Thus, it is right and proper for Congresswoman Tsongas to withhold her vote until someone tells her, and the rest of the US Congress and the US People, the "plan."  Back in early 2003, when we had just invaded Iraq, then Major General David Petraeus would ask Washington Post reporter Rick Atkinson, "Tell me how this ends."♠  It was a fair question then and it is a fair question now.

Asking how something as complicated as war will end is to ask for several different answers, based upon several different scenarios.  It is like asking if Niki Tsongas will be in the US House in 2014.  She will, unless there are only nine seats after the Census in 2010, but even so, she still might be if either of our Senators step down, and depending on if Martha Coakley or Marty Meehan elect not to run, and if she doesn't become the Ambassador to Greece in President Obama's second Administration.  So, if Congresswoman Tsongas is looking for a straight line, there is none.  But, she is right to ask such questions.

Congresswoman Tsongas tells us that so far her best answer is from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen:
'I think it's going to be a while.  At what level of combat, what level of troops, that's difficult to predict right now.'
That is still a pretty squishy answer.  I think the Congresswoman is correct in wanting a better answer.

That said, we have to ask ourselves about what happens if we pull out.  This is not just a political question, it is also a moral question.  We have to ask ourselves what we owe the people of Afghanistan (and Iraq).  For example, do we owe anything to the women of Afghanistan, who we encouraged to step out and claim full citizenship?  Do we owe anything to those school girls in Kandahar, who had battery acid thrown in their faces for going to school?  If we hadn't thrown out the Taliban they would never have thought of going to school.  (My vote is yes we do).

Then there is the question of if al Qaeda is finished and with them all the takfiri, believing in compulsion in religion and the duty to kill those whose beliefs differ from their own.  If we pull out of Afghanistan and leave it to the Taliban, it is not a big deal to us.  If we pull out of Pakistan, and the nuclear weapons are controlled, it is not a big deal to us if the Government falls to a military dictatorship.  However, if we stop pressing al Qaeda, they will be back looking for us, including looking for us in the United States.

If I liked the expression "Bottom Line," and I elected to give one to Congresswoman Tsongas, it would be to invite Dr David Killcullen in for a one-on-one discussion of the issue.  And, as a next best option, she could read his book, The Accidental Guerrilla. If someone calls from the Lowell Office (or EMails me), I will personally pay for a copy to be dispatched to the office via Amazon.

We all need to engage in this discussion.

UPDATED:  Added a footnote to reference a quote.

Regards  —  Cliff

♠  Robinson, Linda, Tell Me How This Ends, Page 68.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

NPR and All the News

Last week I heard two NPR news spots that made me think they were not giving us the full story.

One was about airline baggage.  It was the comparison of Southwest Airlines, which takes your baggage without asking for more money, vs the airlines that are charging extra for checked luggage.  Missing from the discussion was:
  • The fact that such airlines are using this to make their tickets appear cheaper
  • That they get to lay off some baggage handlers, or perhaps reduce hours for some.
  • The limits in overhead storage means that people will be encouraged to carry their cloths on board, but be discouraged from carrying too much.
  • By discouraging people from packing larger bags they can reduce the gross weight of the aircraft and if they save a pound of fuel a flight and have 500 flights a day, in 365 days that is 182,500 pounds, or 27,239 gallons of jet fuel, or about $55,000 at the current cost of gasoline.  No big deal you say.  Well, I am betting they are saving more than a pound of fuel a flight.  More like 10 or 20 pounds per flight.  It all adds up.  Remember, no meals any more—less weight at takeoff.
  • On the other hand, Southwest is still taking care of you.  Reminds me of that advertisement for Western Airlines—"The only way to fly."
The reporter missed a lot of that.

The previous day they talked about the Administration working on Health Care and especially hospital costs.  What they didn't talk about is "rationing."  We ration health care today.  I had a friend who collapsed while working on his car.   Turned out to be a brain tumor, but before anyone knew that his father-in-law, who had the money, had him medically evacuated by air to New York City and top notch care.  If it had been me, I would have been in the local hospital with someone less experienced and insightful looking after my case.  (Actually, at the time I was in the Air Force in Europe and would have gotten pretty good care, but if I had been in mufti, it would not have been so good.)

What we might expect to see is an adjustment to the laws governing suing your doctor (I can hear the howls in the Halls of Congress already), and a cutting back on tests.  Maybe dropping tests that are only useful in 1 or 2 percent of the cases.  The fact is, you can only stuff so much into a five pound bag and there is only so much reform out there.  Later there will be the switch to "the right to die" and then to "the duty to die."  I expect to have gone from more natural causes before we get to that point, so this is just a warning to you younger folks.

Why couldn't NPR have been up front about this information?  Are the reporters not asking the questions?

Maybe it is all because I don't pledge.  But, then I have to save my pennies so I can pay the new rates for The Boston Globe, as this person has noted.

Regards  —  Cliff

Former VP Dick Cheney

Today's edition of The Boston Globe has an OpEd by Derrick Z Jackson on Former VP Dick Cheney.

It was the opening sentence that bothered me.
PLEASE, Dick Cheney, keep talking!
I found that to be a little too partisan.

The rest of the OpEd tells us that Former VP Cheney lives in his own little bubble about what is America and what is the Republican Party.

I know that there are Republicans out there who like Mr Cheney.  I am not one of them.  In fact, I would like him to follow the example of former Vice President Dan Quayle and just disappear from sight (although Wikipedia does say that Mr Quayle writes a column, but then he is a former newspaper man, like his successor, Al Gore).  Mr Gore made it about 18 months before he jumped in.

But, my point is, I expect better of Mr Jackson.  We are in a crisis here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that is exacerbated by the fact that we are a one party state and have been for years.  Don't let William Weld as Governor fool you.  Mr Jackson's column continues the common assumption (wink-wink) that we are all just good Democrats here in Massachusetts. We aren't and it is bad for the Commonwealth to encourage that kind of thinking.

Just to help us think through this thing, name your favorite "one-party" nation and then place it on your list of all nations in order of quality and democracy.  Then post it to the comments.  (If you are having a hard time posting to the comments, call me.)

Thanks

Regards  —  Cliff

PS:  Do you realize, dear reader, that you and I are the only people in the whole United States who do not have their own pages in Wikipedia?

2010 Census

I am hoping we are all going to hear a lot more about the 2010 Census. It is very important to us.

Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of our Constitution calls for a census to be taken every ten years.

I attended a meeting of different organization around the city at the City Council Chambers on Wednesday of this week.  Mayor Edward "Bud" Caufield spoke to us and said that the census was a "Very Important Issue."  The census is important for a couple of reasons.
  1. It determines how many Representatives Massachusetts has.  We have been on the bubble of losing one of the ten for at least the last ten years, as people leave the Commonwealth for elsewhere.  Only our immigrant population causes us a net increase each year.  If we undercount and some other states go up enough, one seat will go away and since Representative Niki Tsongas is the most recent Rep, it could well be her district that is divided up to get us down to nine. That would be bad for the Greater Lowell area.  And don't think the Great and General Court can't Gerrymander.  Look at the current districts.  There are a few towns and citys that look like they belong to no one.

  2. Then there is the apportionment of Federal monies.  Money for education, for example, or for fighting the current downturn. Look at it this way. Last guess had us at about 104,000 people.  Some, to include our Mayor, believe the true number was close 130,000.  That is a 25 percent increase in what me might be getting in terms of monies returned to us.  That is not peanuts.

  3. Finally, an increase in Lowell population of that magnitude might help for Chelmsford get back its own State Representative and thus undue the damage done by former Speaker Tom Finneran, when he broke the town up like a soda cracker and give it four representatives.  It was an evil thing for Mr Finneran to do.
At the meeting at City Hall we got a briefing, presented by Mr Vong Ras, on process.

Since we are a City with a large immigrant population, Mr Vong made the point that Census is NOT about law enforcement.  Some of those who have come to our nation worry about things like the Census being a hidden move by the police. That is NOT the case in this country.

Another point made was that the form, which has ten questions, is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. BUT, at Assistance Centers, which will be set up, there will be guides in 59 languages.  So, one way or another, we should be able to break the language barrier.

Mr Ras told us that the expected "Hard to Count" populations include:
  • Renters
  • People in Crowded Housing (Fear of code violation consequences)
  • Immigrants in General
  • Non-English speakers
  • Female-headed households
  • People on public assistance or living in poverty
  • People in high unemployment areas
  • People with low educational attainment
Obviously some of these groups overlap.

It is not that these people won't be counted, but that we have to work extra hard to make sure it happens.

You may ask, why do I care, I mail in my form in March and am all done.  The reason you care is that you can have an impact when you come in contact with someone who you think might be in a "Hard to Count" population.  You can gently ask today if their home address has been registered in the pre-survey.  You can gently ask them next years if they got their forms and filled them out and turned them in.  It isn't that hard and I am expecting Representative Niki Tsongas to be on my doorstep in March, checking up on me—her job may be riding on it.

The theme for this decade's count is "It's in Our Hands," and so it is.

The Census Bureau webpage is here.  Be warned, it has an annoying little one second click, as it counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to 1 April, the official Census Day.

Your organization can become a "partner," helping to encourage people to be counted.  Check that out here.

There will be a Lowell kickoff.  Mayor Caufield suggested Lowell's Memorial Auditorium, where many new citizens have been sworn in (I have attended such a ceremony there myself).  A good idea.  However, Ms Mercy Anampiu, of the Lowell Community Health Center, suggested an outdoor affair, which also recommends itself.  If you have any ideas, speak up.

Remember it is in all our hands.

Regards  —  Cliff

North Korea's Direction

The Night Watch tells us that food is again a priority for North Korea. The 11 May reports states (note, we have two spelling of Dear Leader Kim Jong il's name. Both Jong and Chong seem to be acceptable):
The government has declared food security its most pressing priority; Kim Chong-il has called for a “decisive turning point” this year to end chronic food shortages, Agence France-Presse reported on 11 May, citing the state-run Rodong Sinmun daily. As rice-planting season begins this month, Kim outlined a campaign “to bring about a renovation in cereal production and to make a decisive turning-point in solving the food problem,” the Communist party daily reported.

Food security is the North Korean term for ensuring a good harvest. This might be one of the key goals of the 150-day battle, announced last week.

This announcement is significant for several reasons. It is the first indirect admission by the government that food supply shortages have become a national priority. Kim has tried to hide the country’s agricultural catastrophe for years. Thirty years ago, North Korea was capable of feeding its people, supplying wartime needs and the army and feeding animals and industry from its agricultural surpluses. That capability was lost primarily because of mismanagement by 1993. Apparently whoever is in charge has reached the conclusion that the problem can no longer be ignored.

The admission that food is a major priority exposes a strategic vulnerability. The country still adheres to the Military First policy that Kim Chong-il instituted. Statements of national priority mean that the condition also affects the armed forces.

Finally, the irony of the announcement is that in 1993, Kim’s father, Kim Il-sung made a similar announcement. In announcing the end of the communist planning system as a failure, Kim Il-sung stated the national priorities were to be food security, consumer goods, goods for export and goods for the armed forces, thereby reversing the historic precedence of the armed forces.

Kim Il-sung died in July 1994 before he could implement the new priorities. His son and successor, Kim Chong-il, restored the historic military first priority after several assassination attempts by disgruntled soldiers in 1994 and early 1995. Kim Chong-il essentially has restored the North to where it was in 1993, relative to the priority of food production. The demographic data from the latest Supreme Peoples Assembly election indicate the number of mouths to feed is also the same as in 1993.
Not the comment about "whoever is in charge." I guess that means there are questions about the Dear Leader, Kim Chong-il and his control of the nation.

The other interesting point is that the population is pretty much the same as it was in 1993, 16 years ago. That suggests either a deliberate policy of population control or a fair rate of defections or deaths, or both.

As to the leadership issue, there is a report out of Korea on the 12th of May that talked to a special lecture session titled "Sagacious General Kim Cho'ng-un, the One and Only Successor of Great Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il."

The Sagacious General comes from a revolutionary family and is a graduate of Kim Il Sung University and Kim Il Sung Military University. He could be the successor to Kim Jong-il. Good luck to us all.

Regards  —  Cliff

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Advice

I was reading through someone's comment in another location and the author recounted being a newly minted PhD in DC and by happenstance running into Clark Clifford, who was polite enough and interested enough to engage in some conversation, which emboldened this person to ask "... what do think is the most important thing I should remember as I pursue my career here?"

Mr Clifford replied, "Never make an unnecessary enemy."

I think that is sage advice.  When in a disagreement with someone there is no need to make it a personal thing.  This is someone you might find, later on, that you really like (or would have really liked, if you hadn't made an enemy of him early on).

Regards  —  Cliff

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mayo Jar and 2 Beers

I thought I was going to bed and then this arrived from my Brother-in-Law.

Regards  —  Cliff

The Mayo Jar and 2 Beers

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full.  They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

He asked once more if the jar was full.  The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.

The students laughed...

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Spend time with your children.  Spend time with your parents.  Visit with grandparents.  Take time to get medical checkups.

Take your spouse out to dinner.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter.  The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.  The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.  The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

John Murtha's Arrogance

Here is an item from Fox News.  It is about Representative John Murtha's Chief of Staff acting in a high handed manner toward the Representative's most recent opponent, who lost by 16 percentage points.  The Chief of Staff, John Hugya, appears to have threatened Mr William Russell that the new Army Secretary would call him back to active duty and court martial him.  As Lieutenant Colonel Russell is now retired a court martial would require us as taxpayers to fund LTC Russell's time on active duty.

The charge suggested by Mr Hugya would be "campaigning while on active duty."

This threat to LTC Russell was also communicated to LTC Russell's former commanding officer, Colonel Gregory Ritch, who confirmed it to Fox News.

Children, don't we have better things to do?

Sure, if Candidate Russell campaigned while on active duty it might be a violation of some regulation.  The show stopper is the US Constitution, which would have forced him out of uniform, if he was still on active duty, if he had defeated Representative Murtha.

A roommate I had in F-4 training was the first Black to graduate from VMI (or was it VPI?).  About four years after graduation he was still in the Air Force, sitting alert at Hahn Air Base, in Germany.  Because of his success the board at his old school elected him to be one of their number, which was an appointed office of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A big deal and a smart move at a time (about 1969) when we were working hard to overcome past prejudices. However, when it hit the base newspaper the base JAG (Judge Advocate General—lawyer) spoke up and said that this officer was no longer an Air Force person, due to the Constitution.  That was a problem, in that F-4 Back Seat Pilots (PSOs, as we were known) were in very short supply for sitting alert and it was going to be a big burden on his squadron mates.  There was some quick action and things were fixed, but it shows that those little clauses in the Constitution can quickly trip up the unsuspecting.

Regards  —  Cliff

Out Back Question of the Week

The Out Back Question of the Week is a multiple guess question.

Who is the current leader of the Republican Party?

a) Michael Steele  (The poster had originally put David Steele)

b) Rush Limbaugh

c) Dick Chaney

d) Sarah Palin

e) Someone else

f) No one

Regards  —  Cliff

I Missed It

Yesterday, the 12th of May, was the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift.&nbasp; I caught it at this blog post. The link links to two web pages, one having narration from a news reporter.  You can here Berlin Air Traffic Control in the background.

Thanks to all those US and British Airmen who flew the corridors to keep Berlin going in those early days of the Cold War.

Regards  —&nbasp; Cliff

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

Apparently some earnest young man in the US House of Representatives is trying to protect us from bad reporting from the Arab world.

We are looking at H.R.2278
Title:  To direct the President to transmit to Congress a report on anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East, and for other purposes.
The Sponsor is Rep Bilirakis, Gus M. [FL-9], and he introduced the bill on 6 May of this year.

To quote from the bill:
It shall be the policy of the United States to--
(1) designate as Specially Designated Global Terrorists satellite providers that knowingly and willingly contract with entities designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224, to broadcast their channels, or to consider implementing other punitive measures against satellite providers that transmit al-Aqsa TV, al-Manar TV, al-Rafidayn TV, or any other terrorist owned and operated station;
(2) consider state-sponsorship of anti-American incitement to violence when determining the level of assistance to, and frequency and nature of relations with, regional states; and
(3) urge all governments and private investors who own shares in satellite companies or otherwise influence decisions about satellite transmissions to oppose transmissions of telecasts by al-Aqsa TV, al-Manar TV, al-Rafidayn TV, or any other Specially Designated Global Terrorist owned and operated stations that openly incite their audiences to commit acts of terrorism or violence against the United States and its citizens.
Instead of trying to harass and shut down Arab broadcasts transmitted over satellites, we should be working to encourage greater freedom of expression.  Remember, it isn't that al Jazeera is often wrong or slanted, but that al Jazeera is doing a better job than a lot of state run media.  We need to be building on success.  And, of course, we need USIA back!

The approach in this bill is going in exactly the wrong direction.

Heaven protect us from Washington and its efforts to protect us.

I hope our Representative, Niki Tsongas, is going to vote NO on this puppy, if it ever emerges, and encourage others to do the same.

Regards  —  Cliff

Round Up The Usual Suspects

Jan Freeman of the Sunday Boston Globe had a piece the week before last on expressions going out of date.  Here is her opening paragraphs:
A FEW YEARS ago, in a journalism class a friend of mine was teaching, one of the older students said he didn't get another writer's passing reference to a current movie.  In the ensuing discussion, my friend said they might want to stick to allusions that were widely familiar - "You know, like 'Round up the usual suspects.' "

Blank faces stared back at her.  Not a mile from the Casablanca restaurant in Harvard Square, where a huge mural depicts characters from the movie, sat a roomful of students who had never heard that famous line of dialogue from "Casablanca."

So we won't always have Paris, after all.
I would have thought EVERYONE knew "Round up the usual suspects," as spoken by Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault.  Well, we will always have it on video, or at least CD, or maybe Blue-Ray, or at least Wikipedia.

My surprise was when I showed up at the office the Wednesday before the Jan Freeman article came out.  Being Wednesday, it was time for an hour of Texas Hold'em and since we were moving the organization to a new location I asked the Business Unit Director if Nathan Detroit had found us a location.  Nathan who?  Casablanca was 1942, but Guys and Dolls was 1955. For those with a foggy memory, Frank Sinatra played Nathan Detroit in the movie.  You do know old "Blue Eyes," don't you?

So, for those who have forgotten, here is the song about Good Old Reliable Nathan Detroit:

The Biltmore garage wants a grand
But we ain't got a grand on hand.
And they now got a lock on the door
To the gym at P.S. 84.
There's the stock room behind the McCloskey's bar.
But Mrs. McCloskey ain't a good scout.
And things being how they are
The back of the police station is out!
So the Biltmore garage is the spot.
But the one thousand bucks we ain't got.
Why it's good old reliable Nathan!
Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Detroit!
If you're looking for action, his firm is the spot.
Even when the heat is on, it's never too hot.
Not for good old reliable Nathan!
Where it's always just a short walk
To the oldest established, permanent floating,
Crap game in New York

There are well-heeled shooters everywhere, everywhere
There are well-heeled shooters everywhere.
And an awful lot of lettuce
For the fella who can get us there.
If we only had a lousy little grand
We could be a millionaire!
That's good old reliable Nathan!
Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Detroit!
If the size of your bundle you want to increase
He'll arrange that you go broke in quiet and peace
In a hideout provided by Nathan
Where there are no neighbors to squawk.
It's the oldest established permanent floating
Crap game in New York.
Where's the action? Where's the game?
Gotta have the game
Of we'll die from shame.
It's the oldest established, permanent floating
Crap game in New York!

Regards  —  Cliff