Monday, October 30, 2006

Project Valour

"Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, provides voice-controlled laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at home or in military hospitals. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse. The experience of CPT Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered severe hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important this voice-controlled software can be to a wounded servicemember's recovery."

Enrevanche writes: "These folks are good at what they do. They've got the cost down for the complete rig to $800 - that'll buy a laptop setup for a wounded vet. But unfortunately, demand for these units is outstripping supply right now, and there's a fund drive on."

It doesn't matter what you think about the war, enabling another person's ability to communicate with his friends and family, especially for a person who has sacrificed his body for his fellows, is the essence of being humane. If you can, please donate to this worthy cause.

Click here to go donate. Or use the DONATE button in the upper right hand corner of this blog if you want to credit this blog. The counter is pretty cool -- it did immediately update after I donated using PayPal. And checking email, you will receive a receipt for your friends at the IRS.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pimp My Kid: Cocaine & Pole Dancing...You Know...For Kids

I think I have the raw material to germinate for the next Coen Brother's flick: a high-caffeine drink labled Cocaine and a strip-tease accessory/toy/sport's equipment gizmo, both aimed at the kids' market.

From the Daily Mail:

The high-energy drink is being billed as a "legal alternative" to the class A drug, using a massive hit of caffeine instead of cocaine.


The drink's inventor, Jamie Kirby, said: "It's an energy drink, and it's a fun name. As soon as people look at the can, they smile."


Mr Raynes added: "The fact is that subliminally, it is making the image of drug use cool and that's what kids what to be, cool.

"Kids will be drinking Cocaine and will inevitably link the two. The drink is relatively innocuous, but they will be linking it with cocaine use and the market, which is far from innocuous."


The company has received inquiries about selling Cocaine in Britain and throughout Europe. At the moment it is being sold only in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas - mainly to teenagers.

It's a "fun name?" It won't be high schoolers for the most part who will be drinking this crap -- it will be the middle-schoolers passing it around on the bus, catching a serious caffeine and sugar buzz, and then come into their class bouncing off the walls. Once they get to high school, they'll want, and will be able to score, the real deal, or more likely, score some meth. Now, that would really be a cool name for a soft drink Meth -- "Gets you buzzed and rots your teeth just like the real thing." Mmmmmm.

And of course, Little Sally will want a way to burn off those extra Cocaine calories. If her step daddy really loves her, then he can show his love with just a web click, thanks to toy site Tesco's recent offering of the Peekaboo Pole.

Also from the Daily Mail:

The Tesco Direct site advertises the kit {in their toy section} with the words, "Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!

"Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars".

The £49.97 kit comprises a chrome pole extendible to 8ft 6ins, a 'sexy dance garter' and a DVD demonstrating suggestive dance moves.


Tesco today agreed to remove the product from the Toy section of the site, but said it will remain on sale as a Fitness Accessory, despite the fact that the product description invites users to "unleash the sex kitten inside".

Also on sale on the Tesco website is a strip poker game, "Peekaboo Poker" which is illustrated by a picture of a reclining woman in underwear.

The card game is is described as a game that "risks the risque and brings a whole lot of naughtiness to the table.

"Played with a unique pack of Peekaboo Boy and Girl playing cards, the aim of the game is to win as many Peekaboo chips as possible and turn them into outrageously naughty fun."

The pole dance kit is the latest item to fuel allegations that major retailers increasingly sell products which "sexualise" young children such as T-shirts with suggestive messages.

In recent years Asda was forced to remove from sale pink and black lace lingerie, including a push-up bra to girls as young as nine.

Next had to remove t-shirts on sale for girls as young as six with the slogan "so many boys, so little time."

And BHS and others came under fire for selling padded bras embellished with a "Little Miss Naughty" logo and t-shirts with a Playboy-style bunny that said "I love boys...They are stupid."

Tesco last night denied the pole dancing kit was sexually oriented and said it was clearly marked for "adult use".

If that Tesco spokesman could say that last bit with a straight face, then Denny Hastert might want to hire him. Notice the Monopoly money in the ad pic. What "adult" would want to play with phony money? Uh huh.

"That's it darlin', you dancin' really nice fer Uncle Diddly, that's it baby, now swing over here and let me give you a Benjamin in yer garter. Did you open yer Lap Dance kit yet, sweetie?"

I know they sell thongs for six year olds. Might as well get 'em a pole. How else they gonna make the double-wide payment? Getcha a six-pack of that there Cocaine and you can pole-dance all night. Just like the big girls.

Let's all Pimp Our Kids, after all, they're just another plaything like a car or a living room.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Our Children Learning....Grammar?

From the Washington Post:

Mike Greiner teaches grammar to high school sophomores in half-hour lessons, inserted between Shakespeare and Italian sonnets. He is an old-school grammarian, one of a defiant few in the Washington region who believe in spending large blocks of class time teaching how sentences are built.

For this he has earned the alliterative nickname "Grammar Greiner," along with a reputation as one of the tougher draws in the Westfield High School English department.

Or, as one student opined in a sonnet he wrote, "Mr. Greiner, I think you're torturing us."

Greiner, 43, teaches future Advanced Placement students at the Chantilly school. Left on their own to decide where to place a comma, "they'll get it right about half of the time," he said. "But half is an F."


Several factors -- most notably, the addition of a writing section to the SAT college entrance exam in 2005 -- have reawakened interest in Greiner's methods.

Nationwide, the Class of 2006 posted the lowest verbal SAT scores since 1996. That was the year the test was recalibrated to correct for a half-century decline in verbal performance.


For a half-hour one recent morning, students repaired broken sentences, one after another, an exercise with all the glamour of a linguistic assembly line. When one young woman read right past the proper noun "southwest" without stopping to capitalize, Greiner politely reminded the class: This very word, or something like it, is bound to show up on Virginia's Standards of Learning exams in spring.


"Other teachers in this county say, 'Fix the writing, and the grammar will come along.' Not me," Greiner said.

I'm all for Greiner's content. I remain thankful for the entire year of diagramming sentences I did in the 8th grade. We would get a set of sentences and then be called up at random to diagram them on the board about 4 or 5 students at a time. The remaining students were expected to maintain a vigilant watch. If one spotted an error, your task was to go to the board and write your initials. After the student making the initial attempt had his/her say as to why he/she made the particular decisions, then you could suggest your alternate approach...and then be open to correction yourself. At the end of the year, we diagrammed the Declaration of Independence.

What's lost with holistic anything in the educational setting is stringent accountability. Slickness or any other overcompensation is supposed to balance out schlocky writing. So we get PowerPoint presentations which are aesthetically pleasing but are jammed with distracting misspelling and grammatical errors. Understanding the guts of a sentence, its mechanics, empowers the writer to better manipulate words to best express his thoughts.

Comma, placement, matters.

Shuttle Launch From Perspective of ISS


Delta House Medicine

Bluto to Flounder: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."

Otter: "Better listen to him, Flounder. He's pre-med!"

From MSNBC/Reuters:

Even healthy men may benefit from a drink or two daily to help lower the risk of heart attack, medical researchers reported on Monday.

“Our results suggest that moderate drinking could be viewed as a complement, rather than an alternative,” to lifestyle interventions such as regular physical activity, weight loss and quitting smoking, said the study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The report said previous studies have linked moderate drinking to a lower heart attack risk, compared to the risk run by those who do not drink at all. The apparent protective effect may be that alcohol appears to raise the level of so-called “good” cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

UPDATE: W's Moment of Unclear Clarity

It now appears that W has also had a moment of unclear clarity.

The President also gave his lukewarm assent to Friedman's Tet analogy to ABC's George Stephanopoulos:

Stephanopoulos: "Tom Friedman wrote in the New York Times this morning that what we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. ... Do you agree?"

Bush: "He could be right. There's certainly a stepped up level of violence, and we're heading into an election."

What's happening? Is this prep for the Baker Plan? Has AQ taken over the White House kitchen? Surreal times fer sure.

Follow the discussion over at Chap's and at Mudville.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tony Snow's Unclear Moment of Clarity

Get ready for a mental backflip, with a double-twisty, extra-crunchy, triple-axel.

Writing in today's New York Times, columnist Tom Friedman, observing the current spike in loss of American blood, opined:

..."I’d suggest that in time we’ll come to see the events unfolding — or rather, unraveling — in Iraq today as the real October surprise, because what we’re seeing there seems like the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."

What does White House Press Secretary Tony Snow think about Friedman's analyis?

From ABC News:

Snow: "I think Friedman may be right, but we'll have to see."


Where to start?

First of all, I think Friedman's analogy is off the mark. The Tet Offensive was the signature turning point in the war in terms of American public opinion, underscored by Walter Cronkite's uncommon editorial comment at a conclusion of a broadcast that the United States was "mired in a stalemate in Vietnam."

Some important differences:

(1) Even with Uncle Walter's comment, American support for the war still hovered between 45 - 50%. It would appear that threshold was passed for the current war last December and unlike Vietnam, never bounced back in terms of public support.

(2) The US actually won the Tet Offensive -- the VC were routed. The only debate was and remains, whether if a huge, immediate troop increase could have decsisively won the war inside of 18 months or would have merely brutally prolonged it. There is no substantive military victory that the US can point to in the past 12 months of which I am aware. It seems that we have the ability to rout out insurgents/jihadists in a particular area but that troop levels and/or insurgent/jihadist levels make all gains highly transient. Again, given the fact that we are unable or unwilling to increase troop levels and/or the gazillion Iraqi troops appear to be unwilling to "stand up" in such a fashion as to ensure security tells me that we passed the Tet marker at least a year ago if not two.

So what's going on?

Well, for Friedman, he's out of "Friedman's". For those of you who don't hang out in Left Blogistan, that's the term we've satirically hung on a period of six months. Friedman, famously and fatuously, kept counseling that the positive turning point in Iraq was six months away. It appears after two years of issuing these ill-fated prophecies, he's given up: "It's Tet, baby, it's over, fat lady singing, yada, yada, yada."

So much for Captain Obvious (copyright enrevanche).

But Snow? Snow is saying "ballgame, it's over, fat lady's singing...?"

Was he just being his old flippant FOX self?

Was he trying to court some in the GOP who hate the war three weeks before the election?

Was he trying to prep us for the Administration's upcoming embrace of the Baker recommendations?

What's up with this?

UPDATE - I originally missed the last graf of the ABC piece - sheds a little light:

Asked several hours later to clarify his remarks, Snow said he does not believe that a Tet-like offensive will have the same result this time. The difference, he said, is that "Johnson … had uncertainty and the White House was not projecting a sense of confidence." Snow said today "you have a president who is determined to win and there isn't going to be any dampening of the will."
Plenty of ammo and Viagra....

Brother Snow might want to reconsider the Johnson White House not projecting confidence comment -- it wasn't up to Johnson and it won't be up to W either. The Tet Offensive started January 31, 1968. Three weeks later, the American forces had the upper hand on the VC and PAVN. Three weeks after that, unknown Eugene McCarthy polled 42% to LBJ's 48% in the New Hampshire primary, opening the door wide for the RFK challenge. It was game over for LBJ and in retrospect, it's tough to make a case that there was anything, once Tet started, that could have reversed his fate.

And other than allowing for some sort of re-working of strategy in the form of the Murtha/Baker paradigm, I don't see how either President Bush escapes the same fate, if it already isn't too late.

Support for War in Vietnam, by Age

Under 3030-49Over 49
May 1965615943
August 1965766451
November 1965756857
March 1966716348
May 1966625439
September 1966535639
November 1966665541
May 1967605342
July 1967625237
October 1967505035
Early February 1968514436
March 1968504635
April 1968544431
August 1968453927
Early October 1968524126
February 1969474331
September 1969363725
January 1970413725
March 1970484126
April 1970434025
January 1971413820
May 1971343023

Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom

June 21, 2005

CNN -- Nearly six in 10 Americans oppose the war in Iraq and a growing number of them are dissatisfied with the war on terrorism, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Only 39 percent of those polled said they favored the war in Iraq -- down from 47 percent in March -- and 59 percent were opposed.


October 16th, 2006 5:44 pm
Poll: Support for Iraq war at all-time low

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A poll conducted for CNN over the weekend suggests support among Americans for the war in Iraq is dwindling to an all-time low. Just 34 percent of those polled say they support the war, while 64 percent say they oppose it.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Free Speech Transgressions

I recommend you take five minutes and hop on over to Kevin Drum and Washington Monthly. He's got a brief round-up of recent free speech transgressions with the bad actors coming from every conceivable corner: the French National Assembly, the Turkish government, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, a German opera house bowing to the religiously sensitive, the Secret Service, a Pakastani terrorist group (though their actions went far beyond mere petitioning attempts to stop the offending speech -- they blew stuff up), and a group of lefty kids at Columbia University who obviously know nothing about the art of politics.

Gagging Defense Lawyers & Another Swift Update

A single story in yesterday's LA Times has two major items of interest:

MIAMI — The U.S. Marine Corps has threatened to punish two members of the military legal team representing a terrorism suspect being held at Guantanamo Bay if they continue to speak publicly about reported prisoner abuse, a civilian lawyer from the defense team said Saturday.

The action directed at Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and Sgt. Heather Cerveny follows their report last week that Guantanamo guards bragged about beating detainees, said Muneer Ahmad, an American University law professor who assists in the defense of Canadian suspect Omar Khadr.

The order has heightened fears among the military defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners that their careers will suffer for exposing flaws and injustices in the system, Ahmad said.

"In one fell swoop, the government is gagging a defense lawyer and threatening retaliation against a whistle-blower," Ahmad said. "It really points out what is wrong with the detainee legislation that Bush is scheduled to sign on Tuesday: It permits the abuse of detainees to continue, immunizes the wrongdoers and precludes the detainees from ever challenging it in court."

The Marine Corps said the gag order had been issued to ensure the legal team's actions were in compliance with professional standards. "The Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps, as Lt. Col. Vokey's direct supervisor, has directed him not to communicate with the media on this case pending her review of the facts," said 1st Lt. Blanca E. Binstock of the Marine public affairs office.

Defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners say the personal stakes are high and point to the Navy's failure to promote Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift after he successfully challenged the legitimacy of the Pentagon's war-crimes commissions. Two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled the commissions unconstitutional and lacking in due process, Swift was passed over for advancement and will be forced by the Navy's up-or-out policy to retire by summer.

At least three other military defense lawyers for the 10 charged terrorism suspects have also been passed over for promotion in what some consider a subtle reprimand of their vigorous defense of their clients.

"We've all known that representing folks in these kind of circumstances would have consequences, but to actually see Charlie passed over after he takes his case to the Supreme Court and wins — that certainly put it in the forefront for me," said Army Maj. Tom Fleener, who represents Ali Hamza Bahlul of Yemen.


Swift declined to comment on not having received a promotion.

"As a defense attorney, I don't like allegations without evidence," he says of the widespread view among his colleagues that he was punished for challenging the administration's tribunal process.

"What you sought in any career was an opportunity to make a difference. I got that opportunity, and for that I will be forever grateful," Swift said.

He said the new commissions legislation appears to preclude defendants' getting a fair trial.

"A zealous defense is essential to any process that works," Swift said. "What has given the commissions any integrity so far is the ability of defense council to raise the case and concerns in all federal forums and the commissions themselves, and when necessary, in the media."
Four passed over for promotion. Coincidence? The honorable LCDR Swift counsels not to see a conspiracy until there is evidence for such. OK, then. We'll just keep watching.

Swift appeared on Friday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: Not to downplay the significance of what happened to you, but were you at all surprised by this decision?

SWIFT: Well, I knew that when I’d taken the Hamdan case they I’d stepped off the normal career path, and that that would make it more difficult to get promoted. As far as the outcome of the Hamdan decision in the Supreme Court, I was confident we would win it, it was the right decision.


OLBERMANN: Two questions about this case—is it true access to your client was conditional upon his admission of guilt?

SWIFT: Yes, it was. The original part, when I was—the letter that asked me to be assigned to him, or for someone to be detailed said that access was only—or access to him was conditioned on working on a guilty plea. And that was the most difficult thing ethically was how to deal with that, taking the case. And I decided the only way I could do that was offer him an option B and that would have been and was to sue in the federal courts to try and get a fair trial, a second option, and, well, once I decided that that was—those were the two options, and I went down and talked to him, from then on, every decision was pretty easy.

OLBERMANN: Will you still be representing him, and regardless, what’s the next stage of this defense.

SWIFT: Well, his case is back in the district court. And I still represent him there. The Supreme Court sent it back down. and we’re now waiting to see what the government tries to does with the MCA. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement, Mr. Hamdan’s case, given the Supreme Court’s decision, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s unconstitutional.

It would constitute ex post facto and a bill of attainder and so, you know, if they try to try him in the new system then we’re going to, again, pursue action in the federal courts. There are alternatives, we could have a trial in the federal court. The Supreme Courts may clear that that would be legal and I would hope to defend him in either place, but you know, he’s my client I promised him I would defend him and that’s what I intend to do.

OLBERMANN: Some of us have been shaken to the core by all that we are seeing in the last few months pertaining to things like GITMO and detainment and the rest. How serious do you think all this is based on your experience with the Hamdan case at Guantanamo Bay and with what has happened to you. To what degree is the fairness of our legal system, even the preservation of our collective legal rights at risk right now?

SWIFT: Well, you know, the Supreme Court has taken six commission cases in their history and that’s actually a tremendous number, given the number of commissions, and in Milligan, the first commission case, this is the same court that decided Dred Scott, they said that no graver issue had ever faced them as a court than the question of the military commissions and executive entering into to be the sole decider of justice.

I think that continues to be true and it was true at our founding. Thomas Paine said famously that “He who would seek liberty must first defend his enemies from oppression, lest he set a precedent that will reach himself,” and when we say that you can have a full and fair trial without the accused present or you can use techniques such as waterboarding to extort a confession, and use that, and that’s fair, then inevitably, that’s going to haunt to us, and it’s going to haunt us and your children. We have a chance still to stop this, and I’m you know, dedicated to preventing that from happening.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Love & Courage

Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

From Yahoo:

A Navy SEAL sacrificed his life to save his comrades by throwing himself on top of a grenade Iraqi insurgents tossed into their sniper hideout, fellow members of the elite force said.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor had been near the only door to the rooftop structure Sept. 29 when the grenade hit him in the chest and bounced to the floor, said four SEALs who spoke to The Associated Press this week on condition of anonymity because their work requires their identities to remain secret.

"He never took his eye off the grenade, his only movement was down toward it," said a 28-year-old lieutenant who sustained shrapnel wounds to both legs that day. "He undoubtedly saved mine and the other SEALs' lives, and we owe him."

Monsoor, a 25-year-old gunner, was killed in the explosion in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. He was only the second SEAL to die in Iraq since the war began.


"He was just a fun-loving guy," said a 26-year-old petty officer 2nd class who went through the grueling 29-week SEAL training with Monsoor. "Always got something funny to say, always got a little mischievous look on his face."

Other SEALS described the Garden Grove, Calif., native as a modest and humble man who drew strength from his family and his faith. His father and brother are former Marines, said a 31-year-old petty officer 2nd class.

Prior to his death, Monsoor had already demonstrated courage under fire. He has been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions May 9 in Ramadi, when he and another SEAL pulled a team member shot in the leg to safety while bullets pinged off the ground around them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Temptation of George W. Bush

We thought State of Denial was the most withering literary attack W & Co. were going to face this political season, but apparently David Kuo has a legitimate shot at the title (heh).


More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities.

The office’s primary mission, providing financial support to charities that serve the poor, never got the presidential support it needed to succeed, according to the book.

Entitled “Tempting Faith,” the book is not scheduled for release until Oct. 16.

“Tempting Faith’s” author is David Kuo, who served as special assistant to the president from 2001 to 2003. A self-described conservative Christian, Kuo’s previous experience includes work for prominent conservatives including former Education Secretary and federal drug czar Bill Bennett and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Kuo, who has complained publicly in the past about the funding shortfalls, goes several steps further in his new book.

He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.


In fact, the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. “Finding these examples became a huge priority.… If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad at all.”

In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered “we were actually spending about $20 million a year less on them than before he had taken office.”

The money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda, Kuo claims.

This really does sound like the book "the nuts" ought to spend all of November 7th digesting in their Lazy-Boy at the house. I think it deserves that kind of thoughtful, patient attention. Really.

Comments on the Swift Update

Reddog kicks things off:

In CMDR Swift, a fighter for truth and justice has been created. More will be motivated to fight because of his treatment.

It is inexcusable that a career in the military is no longer about service to the nation but service to political expediency. Politics should play no part in the military estblishment. CMDR Swift was not making a political statement by doing the job assigned him. To fight against tyranny is also not political, but an act to preserve and protect the society in which we live.

Chap responds:


"In CMDR Smith, a fighter for Truth and Justice has been created...."
Ack. Come on. The man's a JAG who did a high profile case while on shore duty, not Superman.

Figures the NYT would screw this up this badly. And I've apparently wasted my time on addressing this; I've taken hours to clearly and specifically delineate how the promotion process works. Your commenter has presented nothing to show he has any idea what the man did before this, and most importantly how the man compares to the rest of the JAGs up for promotion. As far as I can tell he just knows one data point and doesn't even know what the scales are.

And he presumes to tell me what a military career is about from that, and tell me what to think.

Gravatar Hamdan v. Rummy is hardly any high-profile case. Andrew McCarthy of the esteemed National Review said it was "the most important case of the Court's term." Michelle Malkin said it was the "most important case on the War on Terror." For once, she and I were in agreement.

When Swift was handed the booger, W's numbers and the popularity of the War on Terra were near their zenith while the job of defending people who were portrayed (correctly or not) as wanting to blow up more Americans was described as being as unpatriotic as one could get as Matthews encapsulated perfectly:

MATTHEWS: What about the charge made recently, just a couple minutes ago by Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review,” that people who fight us who are not in uniform, who do not represent countries who are party to the Geneva Convention shouldn‘t be free riders? They shouldn‘t get Geneva Convention treatment. They should be treated like thugs.
Swift pulled Defend the Thug duty and did it beautifully, period.

And I'm not sure what the Times "screwed up". You wanted them to write that there were, quite possibly, reasons that weren't political, or issues of comparative competence, or unknown issues such as less-than-stellar fitness reports that may have thwarted Swift's promotion.

Fair enough, maybe they should have included that but those musings don't comport with what we *do* see and what we *do* know -- that the guy took a shit job, one that he and everyone else knew would win him no friends in the Navy and in the broader body politic outside us carriers of ACLU cards, and he kicked serious ass.

Every right-wing pundit railed against the Hamdan case, basically positing that scum like Hamdan shouldn't never be given standing in an American court much less be provided zealous counsel and a victory.

But forget the pundits, it's about Rummy/W/Cheney and their running rough-shod over the UCMJ, the Geneva Conventions, and the US Constitution. It's been their position since the first prisoners were taken in Afghanistan that these guys have no rights, not even the rights accorded POWs. It's ok to torture them and then use those confessions to convict. That was the philosophy that gave a whipped-up electorate a collective erection: "Hell, yeah, waterboard their towelhead asses!"

"But what if they're not guilty, what if they were accidently scooped up, what if one of their personal enemies pointed a finger just to get a reward?"

"They're ALL guilty man -- they don't need no stinkin' trial."

That's the philosophy that Swift opposed and the Supreme Court of the US agreed with him 5-3.

Now, given the INCREDIBLE political investment that the Bushies put into their moral righteousness in running Gitmo the way they did and creating the military tribunals the way they did it, it is reasonable to expect that they were, say, less-than-thrilled with the Hamdan decision. Their surrogates, both in government and in the chattering class described the Hamdan decision as a severe blow to Western Civilization. And more importantly, to Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld, the decision made them de facto war criminals.

And we are asked to believe that those gentlemen or more likely, the fear that those gentlemen inspire *had nothing* to do with the pass-over?

You're asking too much.

You made a great case (as usual) that another reasonable explanation does indeed exist for the pass-over. But no matter how high you stack the data and how eloquently you present it, you can't negate the more-than-just-barely-possible case that Swift was torpedoed by his own success in an environment that expressly didn't want to see him succeed. And that's all the Times piece is saying: " is no denying the chilling message it sends to remaining military lawyers about the potential consequences of taking their job, and justice, seriously."

Consider the case of John Adams who had a similarly odious assignment of defending the British Redcoats charged with homicide in the famed Boston Massacre. Adams succeeded in getting the soldiers acquitted or merely branded on the thumb, winning him no friends. Adams said of the affair:

"The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right."
obloquy OB-luh-kwee, noun:
1. Strongly condemnatory or abusive language or utterance.
2. The condition of disgrace suffered as a result of public blame, abuse, or condemnation; ill repute.
Adams bounced back ok, once cooler heads than the one of his cousin Sam prevailed.

UPDATE: Chap took the ball over to his sandlot if you care to follow....

Swift Update

Mountain Philosopher reader and attorney Danya Ledford Vanhook points us to an editorial in today's New York Times regarding the story of Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift:

{Swift} did his duty and defended his client. The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that the tribunals violated American law as well as the Geneva Conventions.

The Navy responded by killing his military career. About two weeks after the historic high court victory in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Commander Swift was told he was being denied a promotion. Under the Navy’s up-or-out system, that spelled the end of his 20-year career, and Commander Swift said last week that he will be retiring in March or April.

With his defense of Mr. Hamdan and his testimony before Congress starting in July 2003, Commander Swift did as much as any single individual to expose the awful wrongs of Guantánamo Bay and Mr. Bush’s lawless military commissions. It was a valuable public service and a brave act of conscience, and his treatment is deeply troubling.


The Navy gave no reason for refusing Commander Swift’s promotion. But there is no denying the chilling message it sends to remaining military lawyers about the potential consequences of taking their job, and justice, seriously.

Damn right.

New Blog Feature: Ask Mr. Pink

Mr. Pink is not a licensed therapist nor does she play one on TV. But she has mountains of pithy, common-sensical advice and the price is right. Email me -- -- and I'll forward the query on to her and the response will appear here at Mountain Philosopher so all might benefit.

Mr. Pink: Italian Train Strikes are Easier to Navigate than the Federal Bureaucracy

If you've ever been to Italy, you are brutally aware of the train strikes. If you haven't been to Italy, you've likely heard of the train strikes.

There are few experiences which match travelling through Europe via train. The scenery, the conversations, the wine you share -- it's a moving outdoor cafe'. Except, when it's not.

I was stranded in Italy twice in two different locations because of the notorious train strikes. I avoided 3 other strikes because I became a more savvy traveler. But, I was never savvy enough to protect myself from the fear of being stranded in an Italian train station. Some of that fear was the result of not speaking the language; some of that fear was because I was travelling alone; some of that fear was that I had checked out of my pension and knew I couldn't get back in because they were booked solid.

But, sometimes, there was on a loophole with the strikes: Sometimes. you could find a train going to another country. This may have not been the country you chose to visit next on your itinerary, but if it got you out of the country, that's all you needed. Because once you escaped the Italian border, you could find a train which would take you where you wanted to go.

In other words, with some stamina and some research, I was able to press "O" and talk to a representative for assistance.

What has been a great disappointment to me over the past few years is that I've been unable to press "O" with government agencies I've dealt with. They are all underfunded and understaffed.

It's quite a surreal experience to realize you have a better chance to escape Italy during a train strike than to reach a U.S. government agency representative (person-to-person) you pay for with your tax dollars.

Every year, since 2002, dealing with INS has become a bigger and
bigger nightmare. You can't reach them. Tricks I used a year ago or
6 months ago no longer work. I need to make an appointment with them for the kids, but I can't reach them. I wrote a letter hoping that
will work.

While INS were the one who let the hijackers in, they were also the ones who helped me adopt foreign children. I can't begin to express the difference since 1998. It was always a red-tape nightmare, but at least you could reach a PERSON. And, that person really wanted to help.

I'd love to see the stats on foreign adoptions over the past two years. I bet it's down to nothing. I couldn't do all the stuff I needed to do in this current system. I guess everyone has to use an adoption agency who knows how to bypass the horseshit, and I know how expensive that is.

I just want to get my Proof of Citizenship papers from the jerks and be done with them. Luckily, the kids don't need them right now. It's only something which will be required later (in theory -- that could change, too).

Anyway, I couldn't even reach Congressman Taylor's office (they're all on Lithium!) and I started to feel tears fill my eyes, and I thought, "Jesus Christ! Am I in Italy? Am I dealing with a train strike?!"

Then I realized the train strike was EASIER. And, I'm not lying.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Silliness and Accountability

"I now have Bushaccrountrabrillitry! North Korea controls the world!!"

Does the fact that President Bush has done nothing about North Korea other than to issue bellicose and grandstanding statements and to engage in magical thinking about how the Chinese were going to keep the nuclear genie in the bottle in any way entail that he bears any responsibility whatsoever for North Korea being a kinda nuclear power?

That, is a silly question.

From today's press briefing with the former (cough) FOX News purty-boy and current White House Press Secretary Tony Snow condescending to the Great Unwashed Press Corps:

Q Looking back, is there anything that the President would have done differently? Does he believe he has made any mistakes in this?

MR. SNOW: Oh, my goodness, that's -- you know --

Q It's a fair question.

MR. SNOW: No, it's a silly question.

Q Why is that a silly question?

MR. SNOW: Yes, yes, it is a silly question because --

Q You just talked about --

MR. SNOW: Well, let me ask you -- give me some characterization of what you might think. Because what typically happens is that any answer to that question is spun into, "President Made Mistakes, Regrets."


Q The notion that that's a silly question, when you have a President who draws a red line three years ago and says, we will not tolerate nuclear weapons, and now you have a country that just tested a nuclear weapon -- you don't think it's fair to ask for some accountability as to what happened, or that there were mistakes made?

MR. SNOW: David, the accountability lies in North Korea, not in Washington.

And now a word from the Mountain Philosopher. As a social studies teacher, I have a passing awareness of world geography as well as civics. And I could have sworn that Accountability did indeed lie in Washington, DC. But I checked my updated, Pentagon-issued maps this evening, and DAMMIT!.....Tony Snow is RIGHT!!!...Bush Accountability does indeed lie in North Korea!....see for yourself:

We now return you to your regularly scheduled BS-fest already in progress....

Q That's it? There's no accountability for when this country engages in diplomatic activity or warfare, it doesn't have anything to do -- there's no accountability within this government?

MR. SNOW: This government is held accountable all the time. As a matter of fact, the President even gets held accountable when gas prices fall beyond his ability to influence --

Q You just said it was silly --

MR. SNOW: You know what, okay, let me --

Q -- it was silly ask whether lessons were learned --

MR. SNOW: Thank you. No, no, no -- it was silly to say, does he think he made mistakes and that kind of thing.

Q Right. You think that's a silly notion, a silly question.

MR. SNOW: I think what it is, is a gratuitous question in the sense that when it is asked, it is not asked in the context of, what are your strategic considerations, what is brought to bear. Instead it is asked -- and maybe I'm being unfair, Cheryl -- in the context of a "gotcha" question that is designed to paper over the immense difficulties that are involved in the activities of dozens and dozens of people who devote their lives to trying to get this right.

And then Mr. Snow walked out.....

Ralph Peters gives the finger to the Iraqi Government (and the back of his hand to W)

Uber-hawk, Operation Iraqi Freedom Cheerleader, and NY Post columnist Ralph Peters -- a Jacksonian Oracle if there ever was one -- has read the tea leaves and the bloodstains in the streets of Bagdad and has made the following pronouncement to what passes as the Iraqi central government: "No more troops fellas and you guys get one year to get it together or we're all outta there."

From the NY Post:

WITH 26 American troops dead in Iraq in the first nine days of October, the combination of bad news and pre-election politics has those on one bench arguing for bailing out immediately and those on the other bench frantic to pile on.

Neither position is realistic. We're not going to pull out of Iraq overnight - no matter what happens in November. The "bring the troops home now" voices always blended arch political cynicism with willful naiveté - it's always been about Bush, not Iraq.

But remaining in Baghdad requires a new sense of reality. "Stay the course" is meaningless when you don't have a course - and the truth is that the administration still doesn't have a strategy, just a jumble of programs, slogans and jittery improvisations.

Our Army and Marine Corps urgently need increases in personnel strength. They've been stripped to the strategic and tactical bone. We need more boots. But not on the ground in Iraq.

Peters ain't an oracle of the caliber Walter Cronkite circa 1968. But you add him up with Baker and Warner and you almost get a Cronkite. Peters attempts to put distance between himself and the pathological Bush detractors ("guilty, your Honor"). But the fact that he's issuing this call when W is on the ground already in deep political pain, less than four weeks before a crucial mid-term election speaks of the column's deliberate and calculated aims: Peters and his ilk want a mandate for a change of war management policy. One that's based on reality.

A Perfect Storm of Reality

"Good God! With the war cover-up gone, our dysfunctionality exposed, and with the nation's Ambien supply running out, there's just no way we're gonna make it!"

How did the Dems shoot up so quickly in the polls from just a little over a month ago? The folks at Firedoglake have the correct diagnosis -- a perfect storm of reality:

Even if you're a determined pessimist like Markos, you have to admit that things don't seem quite so bad now. What happened to undo the seemingly indestructible Bush PR juggernaut? Reality happened, that's what. Karl Rove and his minions can build the Shrub-in-Chief up as a king all they want, but ultimately he can’t command the waves of reality — and whether those waves erode his sand monument to himself slowly (as in the agonizing, gradual disintegration of Iraq) or suddenly (as with Hurricane Katrina last year), eventually people can see for themselves how little substance is really there.

Over the past couple weeks, a perfect storm of reality — the Mark Foley page-stalking scandal, the official National Intelligence Estimate that we're losing ground against terrorism due to the Iraq debacle, and the revelations of Bob Woodward's book State of Denial — came together so fiercely that even largely inattentive Americans couldn't shut it out, and the Bushites' grotesquely fabricated celebrations (ghastly as it sounds, that's what they were) of the fifth anniversary of September 11th were washed away.

This turn of events is both a lesson and a (hopefully) unique opportunity. On the one hand, we've discovered our ultimate weapon against the forces of mendacity, if only we can learn to make the best use of it. On the other hand, we'd best master it quickly, since it's horrifying to think how much worse things would have to get for Democrats to win if reality doesn't do the job on its own this time.

Go read the rest of their most excellent analysis.

Bankruptcy Judge Declares W's Policy and Proxy Morally Bankrupt

From via AP with a hat tip to First-draft:

WASHINGTON — A judge who usually constrains his opinions to the technicalities of bankruptcy law broke from habit last week and denounced U.S. policy on the detention of "enemy combatants" as "the tactics of the old Soviet Union."

In an e-mail message to National Public Radio that was read aloud on NPR's "Morning Edition" program Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leif Clark attacked the views of a former Bush administration official who had framed the White House policy on the detention of suspected terrorists. The official, John Yoo, argued that such prisoners are ineligible for the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

"The very idea of holding anyone without trial, without the right to see the evidence that was used to justify naming them an enemy combatant, and depriving them of the ability to challenge why they're even there, is so repugnant to a constitutional democracy that I'm shocked this man actually claims to be defending American values," Clark said in the e-mail. "These are the tactics of the old Soviet Union, not of a country that stands for freedom and the rule of law."

Mr. Pink: The Best Mechanic

I fail to comprehend the loyalty of many towards a Republican party currently held in contempt.

The rationale seems to be "I don't want to abandon my party. I've invested X amount of years in supporting them, and while I currently disagree with them, I will still vote for them because I hope to one day reclaim MY party."

Yes, it's important to find candidates with whom you agree. Yes, it's important to fight for your party. But, IF your party is failing you, don't vote for them until they have EARNED your vote.

Because as long as you continue to take your car to the service
station who doesn't fix it, your car will never run properly. The
ONLY way to get your car to work properly is to take it to a service station who WILL fix it, even if that service station does other stuff with which you don't agree. If your goal is to fix your car, then you should go to the best mechanic.

Sure, you feel bad leaving the service station you've gone to over the years, but if you and others don't quit getting your car fixed there, that service station won't realize they need to hire new mechanics. They'll keep thinking they're doing a good job.

And, IF that service station cares about you as a customer, they will work even harder trying to win back your patronage. Then, you can feel good about taking your car there again.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Meet the New Russia, Same as the Old Russia..

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A RUSSIAN journalist renowned for probing corruption and the brutality of Russia's military campaign in Chechnya has been gunned down and killed in the lobby of her apartment building.

Anna Politkovskaya, 48, who had chronicled nearly every major story in Russia in the past decade, was killed on Saturday. Her reports often clashed with official versions of such events as the hostage crisis at a theatre in Moscow in 2002 and the bloody end of a school siege in Beslan in 2004.

The mother of two drew a large crowd at the Sydney Writers' Festival in May, where she spoke about her book A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya.

She was a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin's rule and was working on a story about torture in Chechnya, where a Kremlin-backed strongman has all but routed a separatist movement that sparked two bloody wars, but at a cost to Russia that has yet to be measured. The article was to be published Monday, according to her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, one of the few independent media outlets in Russia.

The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who is said to be concerned about the increasing lack of pluralism in the country, recently became a minority shareholder in the newspaper.

"It is a savage crime against a professional and serious journalist and a courageous woman," Mr Gorbachev told the Russian news agency Interfax. "It is a blow to the entire democratic, independent press. It is a grave crime against the country, against all of us."

The attack was the highest-profile killing of a journalist in Russia since July 2004, when Paul Klebnikov, an American editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was gunned down outside his office. Twelve journalists have been killed since Mr Putin came to power in 2000, and most of the cases remain unsolved.

In a world filled with the distractions of AQ, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong Il, it's easy to forget some of the truly powerful and nasty bastards. It's too easy to forget that while $80 a barrel oil helped Chavez and Ahmadinejad, it REALLY helped ol' Pootie-Poot.

"Say, what if I faxed you a headshot of Helen Thomas...?"

Update: Been waiting for the nuclear test verdict all day and it still seems inconclusive. But if it's a success or close to it, I reckon I have to move Kim Jong Il from the category of "distraction" to "truly nasty and powerful bastard" -- the club he's wanted to be a part of all his life.

What Would Denny Do?


Joining Technorati

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Housekeeping. Nothing to see here move along.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift: Defender of the US Constitution

"Historically, it always depends on whether we make decisions out of fear or out of convictions. When we make them out of fear, we're rarely proud of them a hundred years later."
---Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, US Navy

Sometime in the spring of 1976, in the 8th grade here in Franklin, I was talking to schoolmate Charles Swift on the back steps of the old Middle School where the high school cafeteria and Media Center now stand. Charles told me he had been studying wrestling. My facial expression must have indicated my lack of awe: "Go ahead, try to take me down", he said.

I gave it a shot and in about two seconds Charles had me pinned.

"Let me try again", I asked.


This time I went low, grabbing Charles around both knees. Charles maneuvered quickly, I stood to reposition and in a flick, I was on my butt, looking up at his grin and his trademark winsome countenance.

As is the case of most of my former schoolmates, I never saw or spoke to Charles after graduation -- we had attended different high schools. All I remember was reading he had been accepted to the Naval Academy after graduating from Franklin High School in 1980.

He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1984 and from Seattle Law School in 1994. All told, Charles has 18 years in service to the Navy, 11 of them on the Judge Advocate General's Corps.

In March of 2006, Charles got to wrestle a most formidable opponent in the most august legal arena. The opponent, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; the arena, the US Supreme Court; the case: Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Hamdan vs Donald Rumsfeld.

Charles had been tapped for the tough duty of defending Hamdan in the spring of 2003. As he told Esquire Magazine: "The guy who gave me the job said he wanted fighters."

They got the right guy.

Civilian attorney Neal Kaytal actually argued the case in front of the Court but it was Charles who had gotten it that far. Hamdan, a Yemeni national (with a fourth-grade education who claims he never joined Al Qaeda and never fought anyone), was Osama bin Laden's former driver and was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism. The case was about the nature of the military commissions set up by the Bush Administration to try the Guantanamo detainees. Specifically, Swift and his co-counsels argued that the commissions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions.

The Supreme Court agreed with Charles Swift.

The Court found that evidence gained through torture and unsworn testimony (including hearsay) was a violation of the UCMJ. The Court found that the commission mechanism which allowed for "secret evidence" -- evidence which could never be examined by a defendant and his attorney was a violation. The Court found that the prohibition on a defense attorney from even discussing certain evidence was a violation. The Court found that the lack of a true appellate process (all appeals would be heard within the Executive Branch only) was a violation.

The Court concluded that since the military commissions do not meet the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or of the Geneva Convention, the commissions are in violation of the laws of war and therefore cannot be used to try Hamdan or his fellow detainees.

What does Swift have to say about all this?

Before the case reached the Supreme Court, Swift told Esquire magazine, "What became clear is that the president had determined to deviate from past practices. They were determined to make up their own rules."

The day the decision was handed down, Swift was interviewed by Hardball's Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: What about the charge made recently, just a couple minutes ago by Kate O‘Beirne of the “National Review,” that people who fight us who are not in uniform, who do not represent countries who are party to the Geneva Convention shouldn‘t be free riders? They shouldn‘t get Geneva Convention treatment. They should be treated like thugs.

SWIFT: Well, you know, if you‘re looking at it from that way, we have a lot of criminals here in this country. And to prejudge anyone that we capture outside the country as a thug, why are we having a trial in the first place? We‘ve already decided they were guilty.

What the Supreme Court said is you have the trial first, you use the procedures that are set up under international law, and then you decide whether they‘re a thug. You don‘t make the thug determination going in.


MATTHEWS: I only have a minute here, sir, and I appreciate your position, and I‘m being tough with you because there is another side to this argument. Let me ask you, do you believe that people who fight us as terrorists deserve Geneva Convention treatment?

SWIFT: It‘s not whether they deserve it or not. It‘s how we conduct ourselves. It has to do where if we say that our opponent can cause us not to follow the rules anymore, then we‘ve lost who we are. We‘re the good guys. We‘re the guys who follow the rule and the people we fight are the bad guys and we show that every day when we follow the rules, regardless of what they do. It‘s what sets us apart. It‘s what makes us great and in my mind, it‘s what makes us undefeatable, ultimately."
Such eloquence and such passion for the rule of law are lacking in our present situation. And now it seems that the Department of Defense is trying to inculcate more fear in the hearts and minds of those who have such a passion and clear vision for right and wrong for today I read this sad footnote:

"Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift has been passed over for promotion and must soon leave the military according to the military's "up-or-out" promotion system."

Not one to be pinned, Charles effortlessly broke the hold that a morally derelict Secretary of Defense attempted by proxy as the Seattle Times informs us:
"It was a pleasure to serve," said Swift, who added that he would defend Salim Hamdan again, even if he knew he would have to leave the Navy earlier than he wanted.

"All I ever wanted was to make a difference — and in that sense, I think my career and personal satisfaction has been beyond my dreams," he said.

Swift, a Seattle University Law School graduate, also said he will continue to defend Hamdan as a civilian. The Seattle law firm of Perkins Coie, which provided pro-bono legal work in Hamdan's habeas corpus petition, has agreed to support Swift's defense of Hamdan in civilian life, he said.

In the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion," given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.

But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers "of tremendous distinction" who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely."

"He brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."
Well, maybe some in the Navy, or, more likely, some in the Administration don't love him but I have the deepest respect and admiration for Charles Swift, for his passion, for his service, for his sense of history, and for his abiding faith that the moral high ground is the only place to win this current war.

And I couldn't be more proud than to have been tossed on my can by this man.

Staff Sergeant Carlos Dominguez, Age 57, Husband, Father of Three, KIA Bagdad

Last week, when I was watching This Week with George S., I did what I normally do when the names of the fallen soldiers scroll by - I kept two questions in mind -- what are the ages and where are they from?

Nineteen hits harder than 35 because as a high-school teacher, I identify with the teens and I have former students who are in the theater of battle. Is a soldier less important if he or she is from California? Absolutely not, But, again, it hits harder when I see Anderson, SC and Seneca, SC -- two little towns who used to have a thriving textile economy and are right down the road from where I grew up but have fallen on tough times.

This weekly ritual did not prepare me for what I saw last week: a fallen soldier who was 57. I was stunned. Yes, I had seen the news accounts of older soldiers on reserve being called up. But this was different. A fifty-seven year old man was in one of the most dangerous of combat situations and was killed.

Looking over his official military bio, one sees that he was drafted in 1969 and served for 15 years in the U.S. Army Pacific, Republic of Korea, the U.S. Army South, Panama, the 2nd Infantry Division, Republic of Korea and the 3rd Armored Division, Germany all with no apparent combat. He then retired to civilian life with his wife in Savannah in 1984.

It would appear that September 11 did indeed change Staff Sergeant Carlos Dominguez as he, at age 52, in September 2001, "voluntarily enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserve as a chemical operations specialist assigned to the 366th Chemical Company, Fort Stewart, Ga., a subordinate unit of the 81st Regional Readiness Command. During his time with the 81st RRC, Dominguez mobilized with the 414th Chemical Company from Orangeburg, S.C., in support of Operation Enduring Freedom."

How does he end up in Bagdad? "In December 2005, Dominguez was transferred from the 81st RRC into the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) where he was trained as a civil affairs specialist. He deployed shortly thereafter to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terrorism."

And on September 23rd, his Humvee struck an IED and he was killed.

His daughter, Lisa, recounted that her father would sing her Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, changing "Lucy" to "Lisa", and said that her father ""gave with his whole heart."

"His wife said that as a civil affairs specialist, Dominguez was helping Iraqis rebuild and was proud of his work.

She says he knew his work was dangerous, but that he believed strongly in it."

There is a guestbook at where one can leave condolences. All the ones left for Staff Sergeant Carlos Dominguez were from the families of other fallen soliders. This one was typical:

October 1, 2006

To the Family of Staff Sgt. Carlos Dominguez:

My heart breaks again as I sign yet another guest book of another courgeous young soldier who gave their life so selflessly. I wish I never found myself in a position to have to sign another guestbook for the rest of my life. We lost a son 12/1/05 and it seems like yesterday.

I know first hand there are no words right now that will bring you the comfort and peace you need. Just know that you are not alone. My heart, thoughts, and prayers are with you all as you mourn this loss. We don't know each other, will probably never meet, but will forever be united in the loss of our Heroes.

We have, unfortunately joined a group none of us wanted to join, an ever-growing group of families in this situation. May God grant you peace and strength to get through this and be able once again to smile at a memory rather than have only the tears that flow so easily now. To be so proud of your loved one and so saddened at the same time is a mix of emotions very difficult to deal with.

I am sorry that I never knew your soldier personally, but none of these courageous men and women will be forgotten. They will never be able to be replaced, but sometime, someday your loving memories will help to sustain you. This courageous soldier will forever now be your Angel watching over you all for the rest of your lives. It's what brings me some measure of peace and comfort and I hope it will you as well. To his family and friends in pain, I offer this comfort: When you find yourself in that dark sorrowful place, think not only of how you will miss him, but instead recall the years, days, hours and minutes gifted to you by his presence. The one thing that cannot be taken from you is those wonderful memories that now will mean more than ever.

If you ever want to talk, I'm only an e:mail away and would love for you to tell me more about your Hero. God Bless this courageous soldier and family.
Pam Adams (SFC Brent Adams, KIA 12/1/05 Ramadi, Iraq)
(Millersville, PA )
So much anguish....

Enter the Grownups, Stage Right....

In my dreams, I am President. And I frequently assemble whom my actual cabinet and kitchen cabinet would be. I'd have to have Newt in a closet to come out and spar and provide some creativity -- as long as I could put him back in a closet. I'd keep a toe on the conventional and have David Gergen somewhere (four presidents can't be wrong). And I'd have to have this guy, James Baker, somewhere in the picture.

In Baker we have probably the best Secretary of State of the past 45 years. His assemblage of the coalition for Desert Storm was a masterpiece in diplomacy and persuasion, in stark, glaring contrast to the pretend coalition put together for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Is Baker slimy? Yep, he's slick, way slicker than Bill Clinton. He engineered a Presidency out of the Florida mess of hanging chads, butterfly ballots, and the busted voting machines as a gift to his long-time partner, George H. W. Bush. And a like a Corvette given to a 16 year-old boy, the father and the salesman have had second thoughts about the amount of power and muscle they jointly conveyed to a reckless pig-head.

And so now, the consummate fixer, like Henry Clay in the twilight of his career and life making his third successful attempt to keep the country from going to war in 1850, Baker is back for one, probably last, fix of a nation in crisis.

Yesterday, he spoke to George Stephanopolous as covered here by the NYTimes:
James A. Baker III , the Republican co-chairman of a bipartisan commission assessing Iraq strategy for President Bush, said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush’s call to “stay the course.”

In an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” Mr. Baker said, “I think it’s fair to say our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate, of ‘stay the course’ and ‘cut and run.’ ”

Mr. Baker, who served Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state and White House chief of staff, did explicitly reject a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, which he said would only invite Iran, Syria and “even our friends in the gulf” to fill the power vacuum.

While heading the commission, Mr. Baker has been talking to President Bush regularly and is unlikely to issue suggestions that the president has not tacitly approved. The independent panel was requested by Congress. Today, he was asked about statements last week by the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, who said Iraq was “drifting sideways” and urged consideration of a “change of course” if the Iraqi government cannot restore order in two or three months.

Asked if he agreed with that timetable, Mr. Baker said: “Yes, absolutely. And we’re taking a look at other alternatives.”

What really got my attention in the interview was Baker's rather plain account of telling the world that Junior has it quite wrong when it comes to diplomatic chess:

I believe in talking to your enemies,” he said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,” noting that he made 15 trips to Damascus, the Syrian capital, while serving Mr. Bush’s father as secretary of state.

“It’s got to be hard-nosed, it’s got to be determined,” Mr. Baker said. “You don’t give away anything, but in my view, it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”

Watch for the Baker Commission to make its move right after the election. And watch for most of the presidential candidates of both parties to try to grab the Baker-Hamilton-(Warner) baton first.

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Shoot Me First"

Chap and I rarely agree.

But the courage demonstrated by the Amish children this past week brings us together. Courage in its rawest, purest form.

The oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse is said to have stepped forward and asked her killer to "Shoot me first," in an apparent effort to buy time for her schoolmates.

Rita Rhoads, a midwife who delivered two of the victims, told ABC News' Law and Justice Unit that she learned of 13-year-old Marian Fisher's plea from Fisher's family.

What's more, Fisher's 11-year-old sister, Barbie, who survived the shooting, allegedly asked the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to "Shoot me second," Rhoads said.

"They were amazing," Rhoads said, "absolutely amazing. There was a tremendous amount of calm and courage in that schoolroom."

"Marian, the oldest one, did ask to be shot first," Rhoads said. "The faith of their fathers really was embedded in them. … How many adults are willing to do that? Not many."

One of Chap's commenters made the compelling point that the affected Amish community has set up a fund for the family of killer.

I can't remember nor fathom more powerful examples of love.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mr Pink: Breaking the Bondage of Either/Or

Victoria: Well, you're right. I'm terrible. I know I'm terrible. I look at the mirror and I'm ashamed. Maybe I should quit. I just can't seem to do anything right.

Joe Gideon: Listen. I can't make you a great dancer. I don't even know if I can make you a good dancer. But, if you keep trying and don'tquit, I know I can make you a better dancer. I'd like very much to do that. Stay?

Victoria: Are you going to keep yelling at me?

Joe Gideon: Probably

-- Bob Fosse/Joe Gideon(played by Roy Schieder) in

So often I have used a variation of that line with my children.

And, it has worked!!

I recently saw an interview with the guy who wrote, "Blind Faith." It was about a black boy going no where fast with very few options who was later adopted by a wealthy, white family. And, while it breaks my heart that it had to be a WHITE family who really helped this boy,
that's the fact.

But, this story is really about the power of nurture over nature. And I yammer on about that all the time. It's no secret that Bob and I took children who had experienced severe nutritional, intellectual stimulation, and emotional support deficits and helped them become two incredible, healthy, smart, and centered people, just by providing some basic stability, some good nutrition, some boundaries and some love. And, when I work with my children, I often say, "I don't know if I can make you great, but I do know I can make you better!"

And, now I wonder how often kids hear that. It seems like the options are either success or failure - no middle ground -- no chance to be rewarded for improvement. Kids are either 'great' or a 'disappointment.' That's what the kids see anyway -- that's how kids perceive their worth.

The Mountain Philosopher chimes in:

I totally agree with the sentiments of Mr. Pink here. As a teacher, I see that for so many students, they either see themselves as complete successes or complete failures -- they either see no need for growth or no possibility for the same. So many of my high achievers are intensely risk-averse -- they can't bear the thought that they might be less than stellar at something. And many low-achieving students, having accepted this devastating either/or paradigm, won't try, as a they want to relegate themselves to the "failure" bin.

Nothing is more rewarding to this teacher as getting the straight-A kid to see possibilities for growth and to throw caution to the wind in order to try new things. And nothing is more rewarding than to get the kid with low self-esteem to start to acquire new found analytical skills and knowledge and beam with pride when she's able to go toe-to-toe with the class star in an argument.