mm326: Go figure! Even our robot forces are undermanned!

March 23, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© is always intrigued when one of its obsessions interests pops up as news.

Danger Room is a military affairs blog (part of Wired.com) we don’t check into sufficiently often, but today we were rewarded with a new Predator tale.

The changing face of military aviation

ninth in an occasional series

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

U.S. pilot helped clear the fog of war

mm142

2

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

3

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

4

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

5

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

6

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

7

A shared obsession is a satisfying thing

mm225

8

Videogames. Real warfare. An unsettling

mm288

predatorfromdangerroom

Read the rest of this entry »


mm315: Blast from the past No. 2

March 14, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our very earliest days, originally posted May 28, 2007.

mm016: Unimpeachable?

When do we impeach?

Saturday’s Washington Post drove it home once more:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it would be likely to spark violent sectarian divides and provide al-Qaeda with new opportunities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Analysts warned that war in Iraq also could provoke Iran to assert its regional influence and “probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups” in the Muslim world.

The intelligence assessments, made in January 2003 and widely circulated within the Bush administration before the war, said that establishing democracy in Iraq would be “a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge.” The assessments noted that Iraqi political culture was “largely bereft of the social underpinnings” to support democratic development….

Read the rest of this entry »


mm231: mudge deserves some topical credit

December 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We’re not a news organization here at Left-Handed Complement nor do we aspire to be.

But, we can be quick. We posted the following at approximately 8:05pmCST on Wednesday, 19-December-2007, in response to that day’s news of the fire in Dick Cheney’s ceremonial offices in Washington.

mm226: Tricky Dick’s burn bag blew out of control…

… tell me you didn’t think of that!

White House Office Building Catches Fire
Blaze May Have Started in Utility Closet

By Allison Klein, Debbi Wilgoren and Michael Schmuhl

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 3:11 PM

The historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House caught fire this morning, and D.C. firefighters broke windows and doused the second and third floors with water to extinguish the two-alarm blaze.

At an afternoon news conference, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said security concerns prevented them from saying exactly where or how the fire started.

So here’s a member of L-HC’s blogroll blogroll2 The Raw Story, pointing out that we were hardly the only curmudgeonly comedian on the story:

rawstoryinvestigates

Post columnist jokes: What was Cheney trying to hide with that office fire?

Nick Juliano  | Published: Friday December 21, 2007

Conspiratorial wheels started spinning in plenty of people’s minds this week when a fire broke out in Dick Cheney’s ceremonial offices. The vice president is known for his penchant for secrecy, and between destroyed CIA tapes and missing e-mails, the government he helps run hardly lacks precedent for getting rid of potentially incriminating evidence.

For one Washington Post columnist, Wednesday’s fire sparked reminders of an abandoned plot from the Watergate era, when a young Cheney was cutting his teeth of government service.

“Arson might seem a bit far-fetched to folks outside the Beltway, but it would not be the first time a small conflagration was planned by a White House official,” writes Al Kamen Friday in his “In The Loop” column. “We recall that Watergate burglary mastermind G. Gordon Liddy plotted firebombing the Brookings Institution — ‘as a diversion,’ he writes in his memoirs — to get into the security vault and steal Daniel Ellsberg’s Vietnam War papers.”

Is it a joke?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Raw Story | Post columnist jokes: What was Cheney trying to hide with that office fire?

Remember how we finished up the other day?

… in advance of impeachment, right?

I know there’s only a year left, but you have to send a message to the evangelicals and the neocons that they’ll remember, and you can’t get to George III until you remove his even worse alternative.

We’ve had occasion to make this point previously: the only scenario for which impeachment is really practical eerily mirrors the situation in 1973, when the vultures started circling around our first nefarious Dick; the Senate and Congress couldn’t seriously consider impeachment of Nixon with slimy Spiro Agnew ready to succeed.

They got Agnew on tax evasion charges from his Maryland governorship days, and then the path toward Nixon’s impeachment was clear.

Thus it could be for George III.

Maybe our present Dick is feeling some heat… and feels compelled to do some inflammatory housekeeping.

Faithful reader heard it here first, or at least could have, as early as 8:05pmCST on 19-December.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm226: Tricky Dick’s burn bag blew out of control…

December 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

… tell me you didn’t think of that!

White House Office Building Catches Fire

Blaze May Have Started in Utility Closet

By Allison Klein, Debbi Wilgoren and Michael Schmuhl

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; 3:11 PM

The historic Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House caught fire this morning, and D.C. firefighters broke windows and doused the second and third floors with water to extinguish the two-alarm blaze.

At an afternoon news conference, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said security concerns prevented them from saying exactly where or how the fire started.

White House Office Building Catches Fire – washingtonpost.com

… in advance of impeachment, right?

I know there’s only a year left, but you have to send a message to the evangelicals and the neocons that they’ll remember, and you can’t get to George III until you remove his even worse alternative.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Technorati Tags: , ,

mm096: Bush’s non-exit exit strategy

August 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Completing today’s war trilogy is this excellent commentary…

salon

Bush’s non-exit exit strategy

Not only is the “surge” not working, it’s destabilizing Iraq. Yet military leaders say troops should stay for the long term.

By Joe Conason

mullen

Aug. 03, 2007 | To read the prepared testimony of Adm. Mike Mullen, President Bush’s nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to understand that the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy requires U.S. troops to remain in that country for a long time, perhaps permanently. With unusual candor, the admiral explained in answers submitted before his appearance in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that he and the president believe in the necessity of a “pragmatic, long-term commitment that will be measured in years not months.”

How many years Mullen did not say, but he did offer a suggestion in this tangle of redundancies: “We must commit to a long-term security relationship with Iraq that facilitates political reconciliation, supports development of a stable Iraq, and is directly tied to our enduring long-term interests in the region.” American forces will be there for the long term, just in case that wasn’t clear the first few times.

Mullen forthrightly admitted that there is no “purely military solution” to Iraq’s problems, and his testimony was refreshingly honest about the catastrophic errors committed by the Bush administration over the past four years, from disbanding the Iraqi army and purging all Baathists from government to the failures of war planning and diplomacy. As he noted during his live testimony, the prospects for “victory” are mixed at best because Iraq’s political leaders have made so little headway toward a political settlement among the country’s warring ethnic and religious communities.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!] Salon.com | Bush’s non-exit exit strategy

Adm. Mullen is well respected by MUDGE‘s own military advisors, his son and daughter-in-law, both former Navy lieutenants with front line experience, and his testimony this week is a clear demonstration that at the Joint Chiefs level, politics always trumps military excellence. Think Colin Powell.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. have led us to the point where there are only bad choices, where the only sure bet is that many, many more of our daughters and sons will die, fighting battles that everyone now understands are unwinnable in a country that will blow itself apart even if our troop strength was an order of magnitude greater.

As Conason writes:

But at this late date, as the political structures in Iraq fall, the war’s advocates cannot pretend that their strategy is working, either. The way to encourage compromise, if not reconciliation, among the Iraqis is to place our withdrawal on the negotiating table — and to warn those we have brought to power that we are leaving, sooner rather than later, and that their only hope for stability is to dither no longer. That was the essential recommendation of the Iraq Study Group, and it is still the only plausible exit strategy.

Plausible, of course. But if there’s one sure fact that emerges from six years of war, it’s that logic will never budge this administration. Only the next election, or given a gutsier Congress, impeachment.

January 20, 2009 can’t come soon enough.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm094: Point/Counterpoint: A War We Just Might Win – New York Times | Why the latest good news from Iraq doesn’t matter. – Slate Magazine

August 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Were you as bemused as I was by the story early this week in the NYTimes?

nytimes

July 30, 2007

Op-Ed Contributor

A War We Just Might Win

By MICHAEL E. O’HANLON and KENNETH M. POLLACK

Washington

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A War We Just Might Win – New York Times

How could I make sense of this? Well, a couple of days later, Slate.com helped put this odd story into perspective.

slate

war stories

Irrelevant Exuberance

Why the latest good news from Iraq doesn’t matter.

By Phillip Carter
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, at 3:02 PM ET


In 1975, Army Col. Harry Summers went to Hanoi as chief of the U.S. delegation’s negotiation team for the four-party military talks that followed the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. While there, he spent some time chatting with his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, an old soldier who had fought against the United States and lived to tell his tale. With a tinge of bitterness about the war’s outcome, Summers told Tu, “You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.” Tu replied, in a phrase that perfectly captured the American misunderstanding of the Vietnam War, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

Today, in Iraq, we face a similar conundrum. Our vaunted military has won every battle against insurgents and militias—from the march up to the “thunder runs” that took Baghdad; the assaults on Fallujah to the battles for Sadr City. And yet we still find ourselves stuck in the sands of Mesopotamia. In a New York Times op-ed published Monday, Brookings Institution scholars Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack argue that “[w]e are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.” They go on to describe the myriad ways the surge is succeeding on the security front. But in emphasizing this aspect of current operations, they downplay the more critical questions relating to political progress and the ability of Iraq’s national government to actually govern. Security is not an end in itself. It is just one component, albeit an important one, of a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy. Unless it is paired with a successful political strategy that consolidates military gains and translates increased security into support from the Iraqi people, these security improvements will, over time, be irrelevant.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Why the latest good news from Iraq doesn’t matter. – By Phillip Carter – Slate Magazine

Okay, I’m back on track here. Slate raises two excellent points:

  • Who chose what O’Hanlon and Pollack saw? “Potemkin village” indeed.
  • Carter points out the “fatal flaw” to the argument: that progress is only sustainable at the present troop levels, and that’s not in anyone’s plan.

And that quote from New Republic encapsulates it all, doesn’t it:

We have just plain screwed up too many times.

Our patriotic, courageous and determined children have died by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan because those ideologues in the White House, Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld, have just plain screwed up, over and over and over again.

And Congress continues to dither and fight its internecine battles.

It’s time to make the long march home to sanity.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm079: A refreshing change of climate — chicagotribune.com

July 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Back to the political world, after a couple of weekend jaunts into my professional world, which is political in the corporate politics context only.

From MUDGE’s hometown newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, comes this eye-opening report from its Sunday Perspectives section. The sidebar below it repeats a news story from earlier this week regarding congressional testimony from a former surgeon general in George III’s administration.

chitrib

PERSON OF INTEREST: ROGER PEDERSEN

A refreshing change of climate

Having left U.S., stem cell researcher finds British view is music to his ears

By Jeremy Manier a Tribune staff reporter

July 22, 2007 CAMBRIDGE, England

To see Roger Pedersen relaxing at a favorite spot beside the River Cam, it’s hard to fathom that this unassuming scientist helped spark America’s fiery debate over embryonic stem cells.

Pedersen stirred fears of a mass emigration of stem cell researchers in 2001, when he left his prominent research post in California for the University of Cambridge, citing Britain’s looser stem cell laws. To this day, backers of stem cell research invoke the specter of a brain drain to Britain and other countries as one reason for rolling back the restrictions President Bush placed on stem cell funding.

Yet Bush’s policy never drove away much American research talent, thanks in part to state initiatives that have compensated for the federal funding limits. These days, what’s most striking to an American observer in Britain is the utter absence of the intensity and rancor that have charged the stem cell debate in the U.S.

The calm scene in Britain may offer a glimpse at the stem cell conversation in a post-Bush America. Many of the current Democratic and GOP presidential candidates have pledged to loosen or remove Bush’s restrictions.

Pedersen’s move to Britain has led him to research success, a new marriage and a new hobby: violin-making. He said his home country would do well to copy his adopted nation’s stem cell consensus.

“I’m very happy to be in a place where the first thing that comes to your mind when you say ‘stem cells’ isn’t politics,” said Pedersen, 62, co-director of the Cambridge Stem Cell Initiative.

No one knows how the U.S. research scene might have developed had Bush not limited funding for embryonic stem cells — microscopic blank slates that can grow into virtually any type of tissue. But Pedersen’s experience illustrates just how pivotal the 2001 policy shift was for many scientists.

For Pedersen, the first American researcher to apply for federal funding of work on embryonic stem cells, Bush’s moral qualms about the field spurred a personal and professional crisis.

The administration often states that Bush was the first president actually to fund embryonic stem cell research, but that’s a bit misleading. In reality, President Bill Clinton authorized such funding for the first time in 2000, under a relatively loose regulatory scheme.

After Clinton’s announcement, Pedersen immediately applied for a federal grant to support his stem cell work at the University of California at San Francisco. For Pedersen, who in 1997 had lost the race to be the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells (to James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin), the federal money offered a measure of protection from the vagaries of private biotech funding.

But a few months after Bush took office, Pedersen received a phone call on April 12, 2001, from the National Institutes of Health saying it had suspended consideration of his grant.

“It was very disappointing because in the previous four years I had ramped up my lab to do research on embryonic stem cells,” Pedersen said. “On the day I was told there would be no federal funding, I knew I would either have to change the direction of my lab or leave. And I happened to have an offer from Cambridge literally simultaneously.”

The departure of a major figure such as Pedersen from UCSF, a citadel of the American medical research community, helped launch stem cells to the top of the national agenda. Many experts warned that other scientists were poised to follow Pedersen’s lead and leave for friendlier shores.

Instead of ordering a total ban, Bush restricted stem cell funding to exclude cell colonies made after 2001. That may have prevented a stampede of scientists, but Pedersen said the limits fostered an “invisible brain drain.” Many young researchers have told him that the field appeared so uncertain after Bush’s decision that they simply chose a less controversial area of medical research.

Most American scientists would have found it difficult to follow Pedersen’s example in any event. He said he took a pay cut of about 50 percent when he left the U.S. — a reduction that he could partially offset with retirement savings. But he still makes “substantially less” than the $200,000 salary an institute director of his stature could command in the United States.

Pedersen said he tries to snatch all the good American talent he can for his center, but it’s more of a brain trickle than a brain drain. He often competes in recruiting with Harvard, which has a large, privately funded stem cell program, and universities in California, home to the nation’s largest state-supported stem cell initiative.

What Britain can promise young scientists is a political climate that Americans would find unrecognizable.

All three of the nation’s major parties substantially agree about the value of funding work on embryonic stem cells. The government has successfully portrayed its investment in stem cell research as having a practical basis in the potential long-term benefit to patients in the state-funded health care system.

“It’s a culture shock now for me to go back to the States and be reminded what a political football stem cells are,” Pedersen said. “Here it’s much more about patient care for its own sake.”

The untroubled approach to stem cells is possible because most Britons see the underlying abortion debate as essentially settled. Parliament decriminalized abortion in the late 1960s, and subsequent attempts to change that law have been “flatly unsuccessful,” said David Albert Jones, a Catholic bioethicist at St. Mary’s University College Twickenham in London.

“Ultimately you do have quite a lot of consensus here, because the lines of debate are drawn differently,” Jones said. “Anti-abortion views that are common in the U.S. command about 10 to 15 percent support here.”

Pedersen said he does not regret moving to Cambridge, which has a rich store of researchers doing work on stem cells. He found Britain too expensive to pursue his old hobby of flying single-engine airplanes, but he discovered a different pastime more appropriate to the town’s medieval feel when he decided to take up violin-making.

“The variation that your eye can detect in an instrument is on the order of the size of a human embryo,” Pedersen said. Working on stem cells, he said, is “very much linked to this experience of making a violin, in the sense that you have to be precise, patient and persistent to make it all come out.”
———-
jmanier@tribune.com

– – – SIDEBAR – – –

In testimony before Congress earlier this month, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona bemoaned the “partisanship and political manipulation” that greeted him in Washington after being appointed by President Bush. Carmona said White House officials sought to silence him on such issues as mental health, secondhand smoke, contraception and embryonic stem cell research. Following are excerpts from his testimony:

POLITICAL SCIENCE

On being ignored
“The reality is that the nation’s doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas. Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried.”

On telling the truth
“I was often instructed what to say or what not to say. I did the best I could to speak out on issues. Honestly, I never lied, I never covered the truth, but it was a fine line that I walked all the time because often the particular issue already had a preconceived political solution. … I would see policy moving forward and I would scratch my head and think, shouldn’t the surgeon general have been involved in this discussion?”

On global warming
“The issue of global warming came up once … with senior officials, where they were heralding global warming to be nothing more than — you know, a liberal cause that had no merit, and they were kind of dismissing it. And then I — and I remember thinking — I said, ‘Well, I understand why they want me here now. They want me to discuss the science because obviously they don’t understand the science.’ And I had this scientific discussion for about a half an hour, and I was never invited back to the meeting.”

On speechwriting
“I was asked to say certain things at meetings, things were put into my speeches — in fact, I had two speechwriters who ultimately quit because they were so intimidated and browbeaten by appointed officials. … We’d play this game [of] taking things out, putting things in. And finally, I told the staff, ‘Let them put in whatever they want. I’m not going to say it anyway.’ ”

On public health
“The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds. The job of the surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.”

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

A refreshing change of climate — chicagotribune.com

I have become aware lately that stem cell research may be able to lead to cures for such wide spread, potentially treatable but currently not curable diseases as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. It’s criminal that such research has been stymied in the U.S.; galling that Roger Pedersen needed to emigrate to find the funding and academic freedom to pursue his vital research.

And, the testimony of Dr. Carmona is positively chilling. And except in our fundamentalized, right-wing politicized and downright lunacized era, it shouldn’t have to be said, as quoted above, “The job of the surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation, not the doctor of a political party.”

Congress, wake up! Start please by impeaching Viceroy Cheney. Then …

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE