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Saturday, September 29, 2007

In 2008, Gore v. Bush Redux?

Your columnist Bob Herbert should be aware that the Democrats hands are not clean when it comes to suggestions that a state's electoral votes be apportioned according to some other principle than the winner take all system used in most states (In 2008, Bush v. Gore Redux?, New York Times, September22, 2007).

In 2004 the local Democrats tried to change Colorado's winner take all system to a system based on the proportion of the popular vote in the state. In this year Democrats in North Carolina had to be forcibly told to stop trying the same ploy as that proposed in California (by Congressional district) because of the Democrats' opposition to the California initiative.

Both parties try to make electoral arrangements that will benefit themselves.

I am not a fan of the process being used by the National Popular Vote Campaign (an interstate compact), but a Constitutional amendment to make the President's election based on the national popular vote would set a level playing field for all parties.

Sent to New York Times

Habeas Corpus

What is it that the 42 Republican Senators (and Senator Lieberman) do not understand about the nature of suspicion (Senate Blocks Detainees’ Rights Bill, New York Times, September 19th, 2007)?

The people detained at Guantanamo are suspected of terrorism. They have NOT been proved to be terrorists -- many maybe are; but many may not be. The essence of suspicion is that it is rife with uncertainty.

That is the point of habeas corpus: to provide a hearing where suspects may challenge the basis of their being placed in that category. No government with right on its side need be afraid of habeas corpus.

Unless habeas corpus is restored in a timely fashion, the terrorists will have won another victory.

Sent to New York Times

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Condoleeza Rice

What on earth is the Secretary of State doing writing a book, The Strategy of Campaigning, which was published in August 2007 (Politics Starts at the Water's Edge, September 15, 2007)?

Surely she should have been minding the store as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.

Another case of the Bush Administration not "keeping it's eye on the ball."

Sent to the New York Times

The President's Speech

If the President is to be credible tonight [September 13], his speech has to include the following plans -- in addition to his plans for troop deployment and strategy.

First, he has to devise a plan to pay for the war. It is unconscionable to pile up debt for this war of choice and then put the burden of paying for it on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren -- the very people who are fighting the war.

Second, America must play its part in resolving the refugee crisis created by the Iraq war. We should immediately open the gates so that refugees can come to America. Over the past year or two, we have allowed in a few thousand refugees from Iraq, Sweden has allowed in about 20,000. For shame on us. Furthermore, people should be allowed to apply from within Iraq and not have to travel to Jordan to make application for refugee status.

Finally, we should provide an immediate infusion of several billion dollars to aid those countries that have taken in about two million refugees (Jordan, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States). Unless we do so their education, health, and welfare systems will collapse -- then, to use the President's Vietnam metaphor, the dominoes will fall.
Sent to the New York Times

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Career Structure for the Army

In his article on the failures in Iraq, Fred Kaplan (Challenging the Generals, New York Times Magazine, August 24, 2007 pages 34-39) states that the US Military has to change its career structure from one in which those promoted General come up through a single branch of the service and are rewarded for this narrow focus to one that encourages a person to take a broad view with an appreciation for the work of a number of different branches of the service and indeed other options including diplomacy and liaison with foreign military units.

These different career structures are well known in modern organizations. The first, where promotion occurs through the narrow focus, the manager moves through a series of assignments involving larger or more important units of the same type. This is called a command centered career structure. The second where promotion occurs by moving to different types of unit doing different types of things is called a constructional career structure.

Many in the US Army are hoping that the Army moves from the command centered career structure to the constructional career structure by changing the criteria used by promotion boards who select the men and women for promotion from Full Colonel to Brigadier General. That will be insufficient -- changing a career structure in a large organization is extraordinarily difficult.

The rewards and encouragements must be incorporated much earlier in the individuals' careers, Right now, one of Kaplan's informants tells him that the Army promotes the "can-do, go-to people." Obviously this skill is important, but so are others. From the officers' earliest time in the military, both the goals associated with the current focus of the job must be set high but other learning goals about other units and their activities also need to be set. The young officer then needs to be rewarded and promoted for achieving both goals not just for one. These two types of goals then need to be instituted at all ranks between Lieutenant and Colonel so that mid level officers like Captain Kip Kowalski do not feel that if they take lateral moves to other parts of the military such as becoming Foreign Affairs Officer means that they can "never come back" to the regular infantry. This, of course, comes at the cost of lesser expertise: the more officers make these lateral moves, the more apposite becomes the old saying: "jack of all trades, master of none". But you can't have it both ways: as many large corporations have found. But this is the only way to develop top executives with a proper overview of their business.

Without this change in focus and reward at each of these levels, the high level promotion board will have few candidates to select with the breadth and knowledge required by today's General Officers

Hugh P Gunz & Martin G. Evans
Sent to New York Times Magazine

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Junior officers' disquiet over Generals' speaking out in 2006

In the magazine several weeks ago, Fred Kaplan, (Challenging the Generals, New York Times Magazine, August 24, 2007 pages 34-39) states that many mid-level officers "reacted with puzzlement and disgust" at the retired generals being critical of the conduct of the Iraq war. Why didn't they speak out when they were in uniform and affect the course of the war?

In your reporting of the Generals' criticism, I do not think you ever talked about their failure to speak out earlier nor did you report on the disquiet caused to lower level officers. Had you done so, opposition to the war might have occurred much earlier.

Sent to New York Times

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Universal Health Care

I do not understand why Secretary of Health and Human Services, JudyAnn Bigby, is so upset about changes in federal S-CHIP regulations (A fair shot at healthcare, Boston Globe, September 7, 2007, A19).

I thought that everyone in Massachusetts now had health insurance under the new law. I assumed that this included all children. In such a case, surely S-CHIP becomes irrelevant.

What is it that I am not understanding about the Massachusetts universal coverage plan?

Sent to Boston Globe

Lack of Compassion

Two columns on your op-ed page (Paul Krugman, Katrina all the Time, and Joseph Hoar, Abandoned at the Border, New York Times, September 31, 2007: A23) illustrate the depths to which we have sunk as a society. It is unconscionable that the President has not yet issued a waiver to local authorities in the Gulf Coast so that they do not have to contribute to the reconstruction funds. It is to be hoped that legislation pending in Congress will rectify that. But we are at fault for not demanding that he issue the waiver. In the case of the Gulf Coast, help delayed is help denied.

As for the Iraqi refugees, we should, at the outset of the war, have poured millions into the United Nations refugee agency to set up reception centers, hospitals and schools in the neighboring states of Jordan and Syria. We did not, so these countries, like our men and women in uniform, are bearing the brunt of the consequences of the Iraq war. Unlike the Vietnam war, these domino countries look very shaky and may fall into the anti-American camp unless there is a massive infusion of American aid to help the refugees. For these refugees, help delayed is help denied.

Those who work for the American in Iraq are in a "Catch-22." They cannot claim entry to the United States from Iraq -- they have to move to Jordan in order to apply. On the other hand the Unites States needs them to continue to work for us in Iraq as interpreters, laborers, and kitchen staff, so it is difficult for them to leave. In Iraq, we need to created protected enclaves where these people and their families can live. We need to change our policies so that these people can gain permits to enter the United States directly from Iraq without having to detour to Jordan. Once again, help delayed is help denied.

Sent to New York Times

Democratic Bumper Sticker

Today I received an e-mail from Democratic operative James Carville asking me to vote for one of four possible candidates for a Democratic Bumper Sticker Slogan (

The choices were:
- W is out. Send the Right Wing with Him.
- What have the Republicans done for you lately (with a picture of a stylized elephant upside down)
- 2006 was just the beginning
More Dems in '08

Have the Democrats learned nothing from the recent linguistic analyses of campaign utterances.
The first three of these choices fail because they focus on the Republicans. Two of them even give the Republicans face time on Democratic bumper stickers!. How stupid.

These three also focus on negatives. We want folk to vote FOR Democrats not AGAINST Republicans. So Democrats need a simple message that tells us why voting Democratic is a good idea.

How about: "Democrats Will Tell the Truth"
How about: "It's still the Economy"
How about: "Support the Troops -- Bring them Home"

Sent to New York Times