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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list


SUNDAY and MONDAY, February 27 and 28, 2011

>
> Senior citizens are constantly being criticized for every conceivable deficiency of the modern world, real or imaginary. We know we take responsibility for all we have done and do not blame others.
>
> HOWEVER, upon reflection, we would like to point out that it was NOT the senior citizens who took:
>
> The melody out of music,
> The pride out of appearance,
> The courtesy out of driving,
> The romance out of love,
> The commitment out of marriage,
> The responsibility out of parenthood,
> The togetherness out of the family,
> The learning out of education,
> The service out of patriotism,
> The Golden Rule from rulers,
> The nativity scene out of cities,
> The civility out of behavior,
> The refinement out of language,
> The dedication out of employment,
> The prudence out of spending,
> The ambition out of achievement or
> God out of government and school.
>
> And we certainly are NOT the ones who eliminated patience and tolerance from personal relationships
> And interactions with others!!
>
>
>
> And, we do understand the meaning of patriotism,
> And remember those who have fought and died for our country.
>
> Does anyone under the age of 50 know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner?
>
> What about the last verse of My Country 'tis of Thee?
>
> "Our father 's God to thee,
> Author of liberty,
> To Thee we sing.
> Long may our land be bright,
> With freedom's Holy light.
> Protect us by Thy might,
> Great God our King."
>
>
>
> Just look at the Seniors with tears in their eyes and
> Pride in their hearts as they stand at attention with
> Their hand over their hearts!
>
>
>
> YES, I'M A SENIOR CITIZEN!
>
> I'm the life of the party...... Even if it lasts until 8 p.m.
>
> I'm very good at opening childproof caps.... With a hammer.
>
> I'm awake many hours before my body allows me to get up.
>
> I'm smiling all the time because I can't hear a thing you're saying.
>
> I'm sure everything I can't find is in a safe secure place, somewhere.
>
> I'm wrinkled, saggy, lumpy, and that's just my left leg.
>
> I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
>
> I'm a walking storeroom of facts..... I've just
> Lost the key to the storeroom door.
>
>
>
> Yes, I'm a SENIOR CITIZEN and I think I am
> Having the time of my life!
>
> Now if I could only remember who sent this to me,
> I wouldn't send it back to them, but I would send
> It to many more too!
>
>
> Spread the laughter
> Share the cheer
> Let's be happy
> While we're here.
>


SATURDAY, February 26, 2011

Those of us old enough will never forget Kate Smith!  (Look for Reagan in the clip)

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under." - R. Reagan

In early 1940, Kate Smith, a fiercely patriotic American, and the biggest star

on radio, was deeply worried about her country.  
  
  She asked 
Irving Berlin if he could give her a song that would reignite the spirit of American
  patriotism and faith.  He said he had a song that he had written in 1917, but never used it.

  He said she could have it. 
 
  
  She sat at the piano & played it and realized how good it was.  She called Mr.
Berlin and told him that she couldn't take this from him for nothing. So, they agreed that any money that would be  made off the song would be donated to theBoy Scouts of America.  
  
  Thanks to Kate Smith and Irving Berlin, the Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties. 
  
  This clip is from the movie "You're in the Army Now".  You will see a 
familiar facein this-one that we are all very proud of. 
 
  
  
Frank Sinatra said that when Kate Smith, whom he considered the greatest singer of his age, first sang 
  this 
song on the radio (there was no TV), a million guys got 'dust' in their eyes and had to wipe the tears the 'dust' caused.    
  
      Sit back and enjoy a Real Star.   
   
  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnQDW-NMaRs



FRIDAY, February 25, 2011

Regarding Libya and President Obama.
Does the name "Nero" come to mind?  Of course I don't know what "black-ops" or "special-ops" activities are taking place...if any.  What I do know is that we are beginning to witness another genocide by another homicidal maniac; we are not acting as the world's great beacon of democracy should act, and we are talking about that good-for-nothing organization...the U.N.
What would I do, you ask?  We have American citizens in harm's way right now in Libya.  We need no other reason to station an aircraft carrier off Libya's coast, deposit a regiment of Marines in Tripoli, neutralize the pro-government armed forces with or without firing a shot (their option), and give Gadhafi an offer he can't refuse.  Also, transport another regiment of American forces to the Libyan oil fields to help the insurgents protect the Libyan peoples' family jewels. 
"Reckless", you say.  "Craven Idiot", I say.    Can you hear me know?

GS


THURSDAY, February 24, 2011

On My Mind: 
THESE ARE TRULY "TIMES THAT TRY MEN'S SOULS."

GS


MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, February 21 through 23, 2011

Greetings,

Interesting and heart warming view.  Considering what is going on in Wisconsin, and elsewhere at this point I am not so sure it is still as clear.  It is true that we pull together when we are under attack, but I am not so sure that we understand that what has made us great is what we are rapidly giving away (our freedom)...

---

From a Romanian Newspaper :

We rarely get a chance to see another country's editorial about the USA

Read this excerpt from a Romanian Newspaper.  The article was written by Mr. Cornel Nistorescu and published under the title 'C'ntarea Americii, meaning 'Ode To America ') in the Romanian newspaper Evenimentulzilei 'The Daily Event' or 'News of the Day'.

~An Ode to  America ~

Why are Americans so united? They would not resemble one another even if you painted them all one color!  They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations and religious beliefs.

On 9/ll, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart.   Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the Army, or the Secret Service that they are only a bunch of losers.  Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts.   Nobody rushed out onto the streets nearby to gape about.

Instead the Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand.


After the first moments of panic, they raised their flag over the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag.  They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a government official or the president was passing.  On every occasion, they started singing: 'God Bless  America !'

I watched the live broadcast and rerun after rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player, who gave his life fighting with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that could have killed other hundreds or thousands of people.

How on earth were they able to respond united as one human being?  Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes.  And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put into collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit, which no money can buy.  What on earth unites the Americans in such a way?  Their land?  Their history?  Their economic Power?  Money?   I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace, I thought things over, I reached but only one conclusion... Only freedom can work such miracles.

Cornel Nistorescu

SUNDAY, February 20, 2011

More about the arrogance of the "Revisionist in Chief".

GS

Rumsfeld's self-serving revision of history
By DAN SENOR and ROMAN MARTINEZ Special to The Washington Post
Publication: The Day
Published 02/20/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 02/20/2011 04:54 AM

Donald Rumsfeld's memoir repeatedly distorts or ignores the facts as reported by others involved in the key Iraq blunders.

What went wrong in Iraq? According to Donald Rumsfeld's memoir, U.S. difficulties stemmed not from the Pentagon's failure to plan for the war's aftermath - or Rumsfeld's unwillingness as defense secretary to provide enough troops to secure Iraqis after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Rumsfeld pins most of the blame on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) for its alleged mishandling of Iraq's political transition in 2003-04, which "stoked nationalist resentments" and "fanned the embers of what would become the Iraqi insurgency."

We were Defense Department officials through the early phases of the war and worked for the CPA in Baghdad. We have defended many of the difficult decisions Rumsfeld made and respect his service to our country. But his book paints an inaccurate and unfair history of U.S. policymaking concerning Iraq's political transition.

Rumsfeld's basic theme is that the CPA erred by failing to grant Iraqis "the right to govern themselves" early in the U.S.-led occupation. Rumsfeld claims that he favored a "swift transition" of power to an "Iraqi transitional government" and that the Bush administration formally endorsed this strategy when it approved the Pentagon's plan for an Iraqi Interim Authority in March 2003. He writes that the head of the CPA, L. Paul Bremer, unilaterally decided not to implement this plan.

But Rumsfeld's own contemporaneous memos undermine this notion. The 26 "Principles for Iraq - Policy Guidelines" that Rumsfeld gave Bremer in May 2003 said nothing about handing real power to Iraqis.

To the contrary, Rumsfeld's instructions endorsed the top-down approach his book condemns. The CPA should "assert authority over the country," he wrote, and should "not accept or tolerate self-appointed (Iraqi ) 'leaders.'"

There should be "clarity that the Coalition is in charge, with no conflicting signals to the Iraqi people," Rumsfeld wrote. He directed Bremer to take a "hands-on" approach to Iraq's "political reconstruction," noting that "the Coalition will consistently steer the process to achieve the stated objectives" and should "not 'let a thousand flowers bloom.'" The "transition from despotism to a democracy will not happen easily or fast," he concluded, noting that "(rushing) elections could lead to tyranny of the majority."

If Rumsfeld's goal was to quickly empower an Iraqi government, this was a strange way to communicate that objective.

Rumsfeld also claims that the Bush administration decided, before the war, to hand over power to an unelected sovereign Iraqi government.

In fact, shortly after the end of major combat operations, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith testified before a House committee on May 15, 2003, that the administration planned for the CPA to govern Iraq. The CPA would establish an Iraqi Interim Authority (IIA), Feith explained, whose most important responsibility would be to design the process by which Iraqis would create a new Iraqi government after drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

The president and his top advisers explicitly decided not to make the IIA a fully empowered Iraqi government. As one declassified Pentagon memo explained, the IIA would "take responsibility" for overseeing certain government offices and ministries - but only as determined by the CPA. And Pentagon officials envisioned that the CPA would retain an absolute veto over any IIA decision. The IIA would lack independent authority to control Iraq's security forces, run Iraq's oil sector, appropriate Iraqi funds or enact legislation.

Rumsfeld claims that it was "startling news" when Bremer wrote on The Post op-ed page in September 2003 that a fully empowered sovereign Iraqi government would take power only after elections were held under a new and democratic constitution.

But Bremer had confirmed this exact sequence of events repeatedly in the summer of 2003, in private memos to the president and Rumsfeld, public speeches and the CPA strategic plan that he shared with Rumsfeld for comments in early July. Rumsfeld criticizes the plan now, but he agreed with it at the time: "You're on the mark," he wrote to Bremer in September 2003. "I agree with your memo and will send it to (the president) and members of the (National Security Council)."

Rumsfeld now argues that a speedy handover to a sovereign Iraqi government would have prevented the (largely Sunni) insurgency from taking hold. But a sovereign Iraqi government established in the spring or summer of 2003 would have empowered the Shiite leaders of the Iraqi opposition movement in exile before the war (most notably, Ahmed Chalabi and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Republic of Iraq). Chalabi has said that such a government would have invited the radical and violent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to become a member. These figures unflinchingly advocated policies such as aggressive de-Baathification and the use of sectarian Shiite militia groups that antagonized Sunnis after Saddam Hussein's fall.

A government led by these figures would have deeply alienated Sunnis, who harbored fears about the Shiite exile leadership, its ties to neighboring Iran and its desire for payback after decades of dictatorship. It likely would have made the Sunni insurgency worse.

Without basic security for ordinary Iraqis, it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve lasting progress in Iraq, especially with respect to a political transition that required negotiation and compromise among competing factions. Establishing public safety was what we failed to do during Rumsfeld's tenure. Only after he resigned and President Bush deployed more troops and a traditional counterinsurgency approach did things begin to turn around.

Policymakers in Washington and Baghdad did their best to craft workable solutions under extreme circumstances. We at the CPA certainly made our share of mistakes. We only wish Rumsfeld would accept responsibility for his.

The writers were based in Baghdad in 2003-04 as officials of the Defense Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority.


SUNDAY through SATURDAY, February 13 through 19, 2011

ANOTHER EDITION OF "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 OPINIONS".
GS


FRIDAY and SATURDAY, February 11 and 12, 2011

EGYPT: "BIRTH OF A NATION". Now: "What's It All About, Alfie?

GS

Mubarak’s departure: What it means, what’s next

By Yahoo! News yahoo! News – Fri Feb 11, 4:51 pm ET
By Steve Clemons

Pro-democracy protesters celebrated in cities across Egypt on Friday after forcing President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Mubarak, who had announced Thursday night in a televised speech that he would keep his title and give some of his authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman, suddenly handed over power to the military and left Cairo. (Latest developments)

Mubarak's resignation, which ends three decades of authoritarian rule, raises numerous questions about what led to his decision, what happens next and what the transition means. Here are some answers.

What does the change in Egypt mean for the United States?

Mubarak's resignation and the uncertainty facing Egypt are serious issues for American foreign policy. Mubarak's Egypt was a longstanding American ally that cooperated with the United States on a long list of issues, ranging from combating terrorism to assisting U.S. military operations in the Middle East to helping secure shipping lanes to facilitating Arab-Israeli negotiations. The tectonic shift going on in Egypt, and in the broader Middle East, may have dramatic effects on the future price of oil, the extent of American regional influence, Israeli security, and a host of other key questions. With Egypt in a state of transition, the United States might see some of its interests suffer and some remain secure. Whatever ultimately happens in Egypt, the process has only just begun. The fate of America's regional influence and its diplomatic, economic and military ties to the Middle East is a part of that process.
[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

Who is in charge of Egypt now?

Around 11 a.m. EST, Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president for almost 30 years, resigned. In a 30-second statement, his vice president, Omar Suleiman, announced that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would manage the state's affairs. The military now appears to be fully in control of the country. Suleiman, Mubarak's ally, is still part of the governing body but with potentially diminished influence.  It is a fluid situation, and how power ultimately will shake out is unclear. The Supreme Council is made up of the heads of the different branches of the military as well as the Minister of Defense and the General Chief of Staff.  Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi chaired the most recent meeting of the Council in Mubarak's absence.

What happens next?  How will the transition work?

What is clear is that a process will begin in which the opposition parties will be involved, though how it will work has not been defined. Much depends on how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will structure the tasks ahead.  The military already has said it will not accept the legitimacy of the state, meaning it has no intention of maintaining power for the long term. The Army probably will now step back to establish a playbook by which the nation moves to both change laws in the Constitution that have hindered democracy—and set up a process by which new political groups get a role in determining collectively how a fair election needs to be structured.

Where is Mubarak now, and where is he likely to go?

Earlier this morning President Mubarak's presidential plane reportedly left for and landed in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort city in the south of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. There are some rumors at the moment that he has left the country, but that has not been confirmed.  If he has not yet left, it is very possible that he will try to leave Egypt for a safe haven in one of the Gulf States, Europe, or perhaps in the United States, but any nation that accepts Mubarak will have to deal with the anger of the Egyptian public.  Mubarak also might have to worry about legal challenges and extradition.

What happened between Mubarak's speech last night and his decision to resign today?

Totalitarian regimes don't fall very neatly and predictably.  There were 18 days of pressure that finally produced a resignation, but there was no certainty that Mubarak would in the end give in.  Mubarak's ability to stand against the headwinds facing him was impressive on one level.  The military most likely had some divisions between those who believed Mubarak should go and those who remained loyal or fearful.  This might have been a "soft coup" in which Mubarak was forced by the military to announce the suspension of his presidency.  It is important that we did not hear Mubarak resign; we heard Suleiman announce the words that Mubarak refused to utter.

Did the White House play a role in Mubarak's decision to step down?

Yes, the White House mattered but certainly did not play the decisive role.  The Egyptian public catalyzed the events that brought Mubarak down.  The White House defined the core principles that it most cared about—no violence, respecting the right of people to assemble and protest, and calling for meaningful, inclusive transition—and these became the frame for many other key nations and commentators.  This principle-driven pressure from the United States made a difference but was not what mattered most.

What will the relationship be between the United States and the interim government and the civilian opposition leaders now?

This is unclear. The military continues to have robust communication with the Pentagon,  and the White House and State Department are in increasing communication with representatives of opposition leaders.  The future course of this communication is unclear — but United States can be expected to reach out at the appropriate time to a broad array of leaders in Egypt who themselves are committed to democratic principles.  The United States will not, however, attempt to select political winners or losers.  This would backfire and undermine America's ability to have a healthy relationship based on mutual interests with Egypt's next government.

What will the repercussions be across the Middle East?

Egypt is a major anchor in the Arab world, in the Islamic world, and a key nation of Africa. The effects of this earthquake may be substantial but also hard to predict.  The governments in the region that may be most vulnerable immediately might be Jordan, Morocco, and Yemen, but the political and government dynamics in those countries are not the same as that in Egypt.  The dynamic we have seen unfold in the Middle East probably is not done unfolding.

Will the protesters leave Tahrir Square?

Tahrir Square probably will remain a heavily populated site for weeks to come, not because of protesters but because of celebrations that the people there on that site changed their history peacefully and powerfully.  Some also might remain in Tahrir Square so that the interests of the public remain visible to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Steve Clemons is founder and senior fellow of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. He is part of a group of foreign policy experts that the White House has consulted with concerning the situation in Egypt. He also is publisher of  The Washington Note.


THURSDAY, February 10, 2011

I had not seen that statement.  But here are some related thoughts, documented and repeated many times by me over the last 35 years, orally and in print. (See the relevant sections of my web site, particularly the "Health Law" and "Managed Care" sections). (www.asthma-drsprecace.com).
GS




SUNDAY trough WEDNESDAY, February 6 through 9, 2011

ABOUT DONALD RUMSFELD: I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG, SEE MY RELATED POSTINGS ON RAPID RESPONSE IN THE SUMMER OF 2003 AND THEREAFTER.

GS

Rumsfeld Was the Iago to Bush's Othello
Posted By Kori Schake   Wednesday, February 9, 2011 FOREIGN POLICY
http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/

I had been hoping Donald Rumsfeld's memoir would fall like the proverbial tree in the forest, allowing conservatives to focus on the problems of today. But supportive coverage in the Wall Street Journal suggests the former defense secretary's revisionist "slice of history" is gaining credence and needs to be rebutted. Reading the Rumsfeld memoir was like watching the 2003 documentary about Robert McNamara: Both men are still so convinced they were superior that they are incapable of understanding just how damaging they were. But there should be no doubt that Donald Rumsfeld was the self-aggrandizing Iago to the president's Othello in the Bush administration.

Rumsfeld criticizes the consensus-building approach of Condoleezza Rice as national security advisor, and he's right that the administration attempted to operate collegially long after it was apparent that wasn't working. Yet it never occurs to him that this could be one of his "unknown unknowns" and that the national security advisor was carrying out the president's instructions. And he neglects to acknowledge that approach was unsuccessful because he himself would repudiate agreements reached, even after meetings at which the president presided. No decision was ever final unless it was the position taken by Rumsfeld. The Executive Steering Group (ESG) on Iraq he maligns was established to supervise DOD implementation of agreed policies because the White House lost confidence that Rumsfeld would carry them out. Even in the ESG, DOD was routinely represented by people who claimed no knowledge of agreed policy or professed themselves powerless to implement it because Rumsfeld disagreed.

Beyond throwing sand in the gears of interagency cooperation, Rumsfeld just wasn't a very good secretary of defense. The secretary's paramount responsibility in wartime is to translate the president's political objectives into military plans. Bush's objectives for Iraq were clear: regime change, control of nuclear weapons. A military plan that bypasses Iraq's cities and has no dedicated plans or forces for WMD control is poorly aligned with those goals, and that was nobody's job but Donald Rumsfeld's. Rumsfeld spent his time challenging individual units assigned in the force flow -- work that majors should be doing -- instead of concentrating on the work that only the secretary can do.

By treating the military leadership as an impediment rather than the chieftains of a very successful organization, he unnecessarily alienated an important constituency for any president, especially in wartime. Moreover, he incurred an enormous amount of risk with the "rolling start" plan he spurred Centcom into adopting, without giving the president a full appreciation for the costs and benefits of that or other approaches. Military leaders typically want a wide margin of error in campaign plans because they have a rich appreciation for how much can go wrong, how many elements come into play in unexpected ways. In his determination to show that agility had overcome quantity, Rumsfeld accepted an enormous amount of risk to achieve the president's goals. When military leaders tried to draw attention to the masked risk or increase force levels to reduce it, they were excoriated. This does not just apply to the Iraq war, either: Chief of staff of the Army, Eric Shinseki, was vilified by Rumsfeld as early as August 2001 for questioning the intellectual honestly of the QDR that would have cut two divisions from the Army.

And let us speak of command climate. Rumsfeld defends his constraints on the size of the force in Iraq by claiming the military didn't ask for more. That may well be true, but this was more than two years into Rumsfeld's tenure, in which he had promoted officers to top positions because they shared his vision of a transformation of warfare in which the judgment of ground combat officers was considered "industrial age thinking." After the punitive treatment of Shinseki and promotion to top positions of "pliant" (James Kitfield's term) generals, the military might be forgiven for thinking the civilian leadership didn't want to hear it. It is the civilians' prerogative to determine what resources to commit to wars, and the military believed they were operating within established constraints. That doesn't excuse military leaders not asking for what they needed to win the war, but it also doesn't exonerate Rumsfeld from creating an environment hostile to any disagreement with his well-known views.

His "snowflakes" -- the personal queries from the secretary that came in abundant blizzards -- were a terrible way to manage a large organization. They give staff the impression that the issue at hand is of paramount importance to the secretary, causing major diversions of resources. For example, in the month before the start of the Iraq war, Rumsfeld sent a snowflake to the director of war plans in the Joint Staff asking why we needed a Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) -- a link in flow of plans that addresses apportionment of forces among competing demands. What the secretary was likely demanding, in his abrasive way, was an explanation of the function of the document. No one in either the civilian or military chain leading to Rumsfeld could give the J-7 any idea what the secretary actually wanted, so the staff had to divert attention from refining the Iraq war plans to build a 60-slide briefing justifying continued existence of the JSCP. Rumsfeld threw them out of his office when they came to deliver it, claiming to have no idea why they were wasting his time with the issue. Good executives establish clear priorities for an organization; Rumsfeld ran DOD with scattershot directives that kept everyone off balance.

His ability to cleverly redirect attention to the failures of others does not get Donald Rumsfeld off the hook for having served the president and the country poorly. Conservatives need to repudiate the profligacy of aspects of the Bush administration if we are to regain the public trust, and that is as true for the political and military capital Donald Rumsfeld squandered as it is of the deficit spending conservatives are already at work repairing.

Kori Schake is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and holds the distinguished chair in international security studies at the United States Military Academy.


FRIDAY and SATURDAY, February 4 and 5, 2011

Perrin, what do you think about this?  America is almost totally dependent on fossil fuels - mainly Middle East fossil fuels - for our economy and our "modern civilization".  A conversion to nuclear fuel (if we could ever solve the storage problem and our inordinate fears), and to the various forms of renewable energy would take at least a generation, if not longer.  Meanwhile, to what extent should we permit the rape of our environment for the "short-term" solution of accessing our own fossil fuels -  abundant oil, natural gas and coal - in order to rid ourselves of dependence on the Middle East crazies and the consequent constant threat to our national security and economic stability?  This is one of the foundational questions of our age.  It is also another one of those questions that is being fumbled by our "leaders". 

And why should we, you and I, be discussing this: just plain folk with minimal influence on such momentous events going on around us?  Because "if not we, then who?"  Are we not the WE, THE PEOPLE who were entrusted with this country? Were we not given in our Constitution the tools with which to inform and motivate our fellow citizens?  And do we not owe it to ourselves to "aspire to inspire...before we expire"?  That's how I have always lived my life: play my role maximally in the process...and then observe and learn from the outcome.  I'm very comfortable with that.

Love, Dad


Dad,
 
I'll answer the second question first.  As I mentioned to David earlier this week, I, you, and everyone else who observes, contemplates, discusses, and/or attempts to deal with issues such as these are curious, if nothing else.  We are people who wonder how things can be the way they are (good or bad), how we feel about them, and what, if anything, we think we can or should do about them.
 
I think it's called . . . participation in the Human Race.  Even if nothing concrete is accomplished from these discussions, isn't it better than sitting in front of the TV all day?  And, this is coming from someone who both produces and loves TV, at least some of it.
 
Anyway, I simply reject this notion that nuclear power is safe, notwithstanding the fact that we have had only one plant accident as well as the fact that the U.S. Navy has never had (or has never publicized) a nuclear accident on any of its vessels.  And, who cares if France produces 80% of its energy from nuclear?  What do they do with the waste?  Burying it is not an option, at least not for me.  If it could be re-used, recycled, or anything other than simply thrown in the garbage, I would support it.  Then again, to me the idea of using something as complicated and dangerous as nuclear power to do something as simple as heating water reminds me of those Rube Goldberg machines that engineering students make as a lark or to let off steam (no pun intended) at the end of the school year.  You always talk about "risk-to-benefit" ratio.  This ratio simply sucks, as far as I'm concerned.
 
And, I reject the notion that alternative fuels are unviable because they are "at least a generation away."  Jeez Louise, they're ALWAYS a generation away.  In fact, when opponents of alternative energy (usually the petro-chemical cultists) started using that phrase, it WAS a generation ago; at LEAST.  That was in the early 1970's.  That's almost TWO generations ago.  Let's get with the program.  This is what pisses me off to no end with staunch conservatives and business-types.  They are so myopic on this issue to the point of appearing literally mentally retarded; that, or blinded and rendered motionless in the inertia of their greed.
 
I can hear it now, as I have since I first became interested in this issue about thirty years ago.  "The sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow."  Really?  Thanks for that revelation, Einstein.  And, THAT'S your explanation for living in the Stone Age of energy resource development?  Uh huh; so let's just flush all that study, entrepreneurial, and energy independence potential down the toilet.  Plus, I love the claim that "any new invention of REAL value never comes from the government.  It comes from private innovation and a demand in the marketplace.  It's just not wanted in the market, so there's no point in continuing it ."
 
Hello?!  Can anyone identify for me a company WHOLLY-OWNED by the U.S. Government that is in the alternative energy business?  And, have the following technologies NEVER received any taxpayer support during ANY phase of their development and/or incorporation into the economy at large: Aeronautical, Agricultural, Astronautical, Automotive, Nautical (surface and sub-surface), Meteorological, Radio/Television (and all multi-media storage and transmission technology associated with them), Water De-salination, and innumerable other technologies that we use every single day in this country and around the world?
 
And, guess what; I, and many other Americans (even if it's only the Western and Southwestern THIRD of the entire nation) live in an area where there is abundant wind for six months between October and March.  Then, when the horrible, horrible inconsistency of the wind rears its ugly head, we have six months of sunshine during the middle months of the year.  Would tapping this scenario be a panacea?  No, but it wouldn't leave your patient stuck in the hospital, reliant on pumps, tubes, and gauges to stay alive; as every single person who needs some form of power to live their lives has become by our nation's criminal (NOT tragic) forced, yes forced, reliance on Middle-East oil and fossil fuels in general.
 
Getting back to the alleged consistency of fossil fuels versus sun and wind technology (just to name two), am I the only one who notices that when somebody sneezes within a thousand miles of the Middle East the stability of fossil fuel prices and/or supply is interrupted or otherwise altered, sometimes wildly?  On a sidenote, we're always told that it takes six weeks for oil that is pumped out of Mid-East ground to be refined and make it to the gas pump.  Then why does a crisis such as the present one in Egypt (and too many others to remember or list here) INSTANTLY spike the price of gasoline at my neighborhood station?  You did just tell me that this gas came from oil pumped out of that region six WEEKS AGO, right?
 
Fossil fuels have a lower cost/unit of energy than ALL other sources?  Really?  Every single one of them?  Are you sure?  When you did your math, did you incorporate the economic, social, political, and environmental figures into your data, such as the cost of building the monumentally huge vessels required to "cost-effectively" transport that oil halfway around the planet?  Did you also figure in all the myriad costs of that gum-like bunker fuel that powers those bohemoths?  Speaking of which, I know you calculate dollar losses of the thankfully decreasing number of oils spills into your figures, but did you add in all the other obvious affects and costs of them?
 
Bear with me.  I'm on a roll.  I also love how alternative energy nay-sayers love to point out to electric vehicle enthusiasts that the electricity for their cars "has to be generated SOMEwhere, usually from a FOSSIL FUEL, ha ha ha; got'cha."  Hey, you can go ahead and add those above-mentioned costs for the electricity for the mammoth generators and pumps that extract oil from the ground, load it onto tankers, and cook the shit out of it once it gets to the refineries.  Don't forget to add storage costs for the extra gasoline that you deliberately keep off the market during those rare stable times in the Mid-East so that you can keep the price jacked up.  How's that for lowest cost/unit of energy?  Lowest cost for the producer, maybe.  Not for the end-user.
 
I canNOT be the only person on this planet who thinks of these things.  I was 14 years old in the 1970s when everyone was bitching and moaning that recycling would bury the glass-manufacturing business, as well as unnecessarily harm the garbage-hauling business.  I'm still laughing that someone would worry about having not ENOUGH garbage.  I remember thinking something along the lines of: "Hey, jack-asses in the glass-making and garbage businesses; do you think it's time to diversify to incorporate the new business of recycling?  There's gold in them thar piles."   
 
I was 15 years old when I saw the opening credits to The Blues Brothers and noticed that the towering flames from the oil refinery on the screen was natural gas from the refining process.  I wonder how many homes that, and all the other refinery burn-off around the world could heat.   
 
I am aware that you cannot fully incorporate new technology like flipping a switch.  Nor do I think that drilling for oil is necessarily the "rape of our environment", unless it is performed in a manner like the BP debacle.  This includes regulation and monitoring forms submitted by government regulators who used to work for the same companies they now regulate.  This includes giving forms to the regulaTEES to fill out in pencil how they want them to legally appear by the regulaTORS.  It also includes the repeated warnings by those working in the trenches countermanded by paper-pushing executives who don't want to cut into their massive profit margin.  Look up just the QUARTERLY net profits from the BIGGEST CORPORATION IN THE WORLD, ExxonMobil, over the last decade or so and you'll know what I'm talking about.   I'm certainly not a communist, but puh-LEEEASE.
 
Our "leaders" are in name only.  The only thing they lead is their own way to their own wealth and influence.  The more self-reliant people can maintain themselves against these "leaders" (in the micro and macro) the less power they will wield over us.
 
So, there's my take on this issue.  I don't think anyone can rationally counter any of what I said because I keep a balance.  I'm not steeped in the worship of the almighty dollar, nor am I a disciple of the notion that the Earth is better off without humans.
 
Is this thing on?
 
P-

Perrin,
Wow, this is really a "wake-up call", as you can see from the time of my reply.  Makes all kinds of sense. 
However, if we change "would" to "will" in my sentence about taking "at least a generation"...which was my original intent...the question remains: are you in favor of allowing the negative impact on our environment of a short-term (10-20 years) crash program in domestic fossil fuels in order to solve our current and short-term serious vulnerability to the Middle-East crazies and the oil-baron oligarchs? And how would the tree-huggers in California and elsewhere (myself included, to a substantial extent) feel about that?  What would John Muir say?

Dad

Dad,
 
Even changing the "would" to "will", my answer is virtually the same.  The exponential increase in computing power since this "at least a generation" claim was first leveled is just one factor making such a claim highly dubious.  Since computers are used in almost every aspect of technology development these days, this is a significant point.  Also, since the U.S. has an even larger workforce than it did when alternative fuel tech was initiated, this could be a huge starter for the economy.  And, I'm not talking about FDR coming to the rescue with hiking trail employment and other make-work programs.  I'm also not talking about re-training people in their 50's and 60's who were hit in the Great Recession.  There is a tremendous number of younger people out of work and/or looking for careers, many of whom could be part of this technological revolution, as many were in the computer tech revolution of the 70's and 80's.
 
I am in virtual agreement with the business community regarding the fact that government intervention in business does little more than add interference and inefficiency to economic development.  Safety regulation is obviously important, but even that has to be balanced.  But, don't forget my laundry list of technologies that the government aided in one way or another during the last century.  I expect nothing to spring from government, but I'm not willing to put total trust in the business world just because they say there isn't a market for technology X.  Believe me, if they can make a buck on something, they will, especially if they can get help doing it.
 
Now, one might say that this is proof that the alternative technology out there doesn't work, right?  Why wouldn't I take government support for my new alternative fuel business regardless of whether it works or not?  The answer is that usually, but not always (unfortunately) you have to invest some of your own money in the process; some of which you may lose because you are entering new technological territory.  Then again, if the gains do come, you get to keep most of them.  But, sadly the business climate has changed to preclude such risk these days.  Far fewer businesses are willing to change their status quo, especially in the skittish environment we have been and will be in for the next few years.
 
Part of that is the ridiculous level and redundancy of regulation foisted on them by multiple levels of government.  Hell, in a way I don't blame them for wanting to stay the course.  If I've got a nice business, and I'm paying my bills and putting my kids through school, why would I want to mess that up?  But, part of that is also the lack of a risk-taking, pioneering attitude that this country once had.  But, look on the bright side; poverty is a great motivator, as expressed by all those immigrants in the 19th and 20th Centuries who came here and helped generate all that wealth and technology.  When China calls in its U.S. bonds, maybe we'll have that motivation again.  Sad, but possibly true. 
 
Regarding the tree huggers, I certainly consider myself an environmentalist, but not to the extent of the ones out here and increasingly in your part of the country who, as I mentioned in my first reply, would probably tell you under truth serum (if not consciously) that the Earth is better off without humans.  California had an oil spill from one of the platforms a few miles offshore of Santa Barbara in 1969.  Drilling in this, and every other coastal area of California, has been banned since then; 1969.  Forty-two years ago.
 
My jury is still out regarding the efficacy of shale and oil sand drilling, which is required to tap the huge deposits of oil in the Western U.S. and Canada.  The 'fracking' technology that is used to separate oil from its shale and sand media is far more difficult, expensive, and possibly more environmentally detrimental than traditional 'punch a hole in that big pool of underground Texas Tea' drilling.  Until and unless the technology exists that can ensure that the high-pressure water injection currently used does not contaminate fresh water for millions of people in these regions, this should be absolutely last on our list of remedies for our energy needs.
 
Even you said years ago that "there is a difference between conservation and preservation".  Look at the Gulf Coast.  As angry as I am with BP for what they did for a quick buck, look at what the government did.  They decreed an outright ban on drilling EVERYWHERE in the Gulf (regardless of how different the drilling depths and requirements are throughout that region) and were enjoined by one of their own, a Federal judge, from extending it.  They then arrogantly issued the SAME order banning drilling, and just yesterday the same Federal judge issued a contempt order against them.  That ballsy; that, or true belief.  Either way, we need to implement changes to these draconian, totally unproportional reactions to the environmental impact of drilling etc., before the "almighty" government permanently sticks its nose in our business (literally and figuratively) depending on its position on the political spectrum by either banning drilling, or forcing it wherever THEY decree on the basis of "national security".
 
Again, it's about balance.  You have to look at that magic risk-to-benefit ratio.  It rarely wants to be far away from some factor of even.  That's just the way the physical world works.  And, human nature rarely wins when it tries to force the issue too much in its favor.  No free lunches, remember.  That means that as the benefit of U.S energy independence (regardless of technology) rises precipitously (as it would if or when the Middle East truly melts down), balance dictates that the risk must be that much greater.  And, we aren't even talking about the natural economic hit that comes when risk to anything increases.  Make hay when the sun shines, right?
 
We'll see what happens.  But, unfortunately nothing will change until enough people's backs are against the wall.  That's human nature, at least on the macro level.
 
P-


THURSDAY, February 3, 2011

Board members critical of Fischer's comments
By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day
Published 02/03/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 02/03/2011 04:10 AM


Several New London school officials find superintendent's reaction to assault surprising, ask for improved communication

New London - The recent violence on city streets is sparking passionate debate among Board of Education members who are worried about students who may be out of control.

Some school board members are proposing measures they hope will help students who may be acting out. But they are also upset over recent comments by Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer, who defended some of the students involved in a Jan. 16 incident in downtown in which a man was assaulted.

While one board member wants Fischer to leave before his contract is up in 2012, others won't go that far but say his comments, which they did not know about ahead of time, underscore the need for better communication.

Member Ronna Stuller said she wasn't upset as much as surprised by Fischer's comments, in which he also disputed the victim's account of the assault.

"A defensive response is not helpful when we have problems,'' she said. "We need to face them, discuss them and figure out what to do. It doesn't do anyone any good to minimize what happened."

Helping the students

Board member William Morse will call for a report from the superintendent at the Feb. 10 board meeting on all violent incidents on school grounds and around the city involving students.

"Obviously these students need more attention than they are getting,'' he said, responding to the arrest in January of a 14-year-old high school freshman who randomly hit a man on a downtown street.

In a separate incident, six teenagers have been charged with the random attack and murder in October of Matthew Chew, a downtown resident who was walking home from his job at a pizza restaurant.

"The board will be looking for, and not just assurances but actual details of intervention on the high school and middle school levels,'' Morse said. "I'd like to see if we can prevent these attacks from happening again.''

Stuller agreed.

"It's clear to me there are violence issues that need to be addressed,'' she said. "We've had too many young people involved in violence."

She said that not all students in the school system are dangerous, but if there are individuals showing signs of violence, it has to be addressed.

"If we are having 15-year-olds on the streets late at night, who seem to be threatening people, that amounts to a risk for some of the student population," she said.

Fischer's comments

Board members also are concerned about the comments Fischer made to the City Council in January and in an opinion piece Sunday in The Day.

Member Barbara Major is upset that Fischer disputed the account of the victim in the Jan. 16 incident and defended the students who were involved but not arrested.

"Who does he think he is?'' said Major, who said she would like the board to vote against renewing Fischer's contract for another year in June.

"He knows more than our police chief?" she asked. "I have no confidence in him. ... It's time to put it out there. I'm not happy with him, but it's not personal. It's really not.''

Major said she will propose eliminating the assistant superintendent's position to save money, appoint the current assistant as interim superintendent and start a search for a new top administrator. Fischer is in the second year of a three-year contract and receives an annual evaluation from the board in June.

"I feel I'm not getting the information to be a good board member,'' Major said.

But Major doesn't have support from the rest of the board to oust Fischer.

Morse, Stuller and Jason Catala all said they were surprised at the superintendent's public comments. They agree there is room for better communication, but they are not ready to discuss changes in the administration.

"I think he was making excuses [for the students]. At no time in the field of education should we be making excuses. It seemed like he sugarcoated the situation," Catala said.

He added that if a motion were made against renewing Fischer's contract, he would listen to arguments on both sides before deciding how he would vote.

"I somehow feel the board president has more information than the rest of us,'' he said. "The way I feel, we need a little more communication."

School board Chairman Alvin G. Kinsall could not be reached for comment.

Stuller said the relationship between the superintendent and the board is "not very functional right now."

"I have concerns,'' she said. "Part of my concern is that the board has not asserted supervision. But I'm not sure I would place blame for that on the superintendent."

Susan Connolly said she found Fischer's support of the students "refreshing." She said Fischer has always been approachable and responsive to her questions and concerns.

"I agree, however, that perhaps the board needs more frequent updates and more reports on the day-to-day operations of the system,'' she said.

Louise Hanrahan said the board seems to spend more time talking about political issues than focusing on improving the school system. She said Fischer received a good evaluation last year, with the caveat that he needed to work on getting the community more involved with the schools.

"We could do a lot better,'' she said. "But every decision we make should be about students and student achievement."


TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, February 1 and 2, 2011

Amen.

GS

Accounts of NL assault differ
By David Collins

Publication: The Day
Published 02/02/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 02/02/2011 05:49 AM


It's interesting that two prominent public accounts of an assault that occurred on a recent Sunday on State Street in downtown New London are so different that it makes you almost wonder if the people are describing the same incident.


First, there is the account from Bill Dumas, a California filmmaker and musician, the victim, who says he was hit in the head while crossing State Street the night of Jan. 16.

Dumas says that, after being hit, he was followed across the street by a group of young people who had accompanied the person who assaulted him.

He says he found safe refuge after stepping inside Hanafin's Irish Pub, where he called police on his cell phone.

"What was amazing to me about this incident was just how brazen these kids were to be doing this in front of a bar full of witnesses. And how violent and wild they were. Really, like a pack of rabid dogs," Dumas wrote in some comments he posted on theday.com, after a news story about the incident appeared.

Then New London Schools Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer, strangely, weighed in with his own account of the incident, which he didn't witness, appearing before the City Council and writing an opinion piece for The Day.

Fischer told me this week he was troubled that someone referred to the city's youth as rabid dogs.

His account to city councilors and newspaper readers seems to put halos over some of the young people who so frightened Dumas that night.

"The investigation revealed that only one person hit him and that, in fact, the other young people questioned by our police department attempted to get the assailant to stop," the superintendent wrote.

"Further, I have learned that those same young people immediately identified the assailant to police . . . The young people who exhorted the assailant to stop and identified him need to be thanked, not vilified in the press . . . "

I also spoke this week to Dumas who said, in no uncertain terms, that he didn't hear anyone try to stop the assault and that when police took him that night to a group of young people whom they later identified as being involved, no one fingered the assailant.

Dumas also described, in an opinion piece in The Day, which followed the one by the superintendent, the scene outside Hanafin's.

He wrote:

"I was surrounded by several youths who were taunting me to come out in the street. They were yelling, 'Come into the street, take it to the street.' They were alternately charging towards me and jumping back trying to get close enough to take a punch.

"Only when I made it inside Hanafin's and took out my cell phone did the kids run off, but not before one of them grabbed the door and violently slammed it, trying to break the glass."

The superintendent admitted to me this week that he did see, in watching a surveillance tape made by the bar, that Dumas was taunted and that one youth did slam the door.

"One or two of the kids were taunting him, but that does not mean assaulting him," the superintendent said.

Evidently, those aren't the ones Dumas is supposed to thank for their good citizenship.

I can respect the superintendent's instincts here, to protect city school students and to make the point that New London is not so crime-ridden that people should not come downtown. I agree.

Still, he had no business publicly interfering in something in which he is not directly involved.

He is the schools superintendent, not the chief of police or the mayor. Maybe the Board of Education should remind him where his public responsibilities begin and end.

The other troubling aspect to the superintendent's surprise intervention here is that it provides yet another example of city officials seeming to be in denial over the problem of youth violence.

In the last year, many in the city have heard troubling reports about people being attacked by groups of young people. A well-attended fundraiser was held for the victim of one such attack. And, of course, Matthew Chew, a cook at a city restaurant, was apparently randomly attacked and murdered downtown in October by a group of young people.

Police, immediately after the Chew murder, issued a statement saying the crime was drug-related and that there was "no threat to the public."

It turns out the murder was apparently random and not drug-related.

It is worrisome to see police and the schools superintendent explaining away rather than addressing a serious problem.

And blaming the victim is never a good tactic.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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