Another shipmate crosses the bar

November 27, 2006

Perhaps you heard about the motorcade accident when President Bush was in Hawaii last week… One of the motorcycle officers who crashed died this past weekend.

A Honolulu police officer died on Sunday from injuries suffered when his motorcycle crashed while escorting President George W. Bush during his Hawaii visit last week.

Steve Favella, 30, of Ewa Beach on Oahu, died at The Queen’s Medical Center, said Honolulu Police Department spokesman Captain Frank Fujii.

Favella had been in critical condition with internal injuries following the crash on November 21 as the presidential motorcade left Hickam Air Force Base. Favella had been with the Honolulu Police Department for eight years.

Perhaps you didn’t hear that Officer Favela was also Petty Officer Favela, a First Class Port Security Specialist with the United States Coast Guard Reserve.

P 271939Z NOV 06
UNCLAS //N01000//

I’d missed this link; my thanks to the Brown Hound for his posting today.

* And, yes, I’m using the Brown Hound’s own post title, my own creativity having been sucked dry.

Question: Have I become so cliched that I not only don’t come up with original things to blog about, but I’m using the same words as everyone else?

If I can’t be original, perhaps it is time for me to hang up my blogging keyboard?

Pictures-11262006 191
Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseWell, the question of life fire on the Great Lakes remains for the Coast Guard. Or, at least that’s what we’re being told. The latest official word is that the Service is reviewing input received from the round of public hearings.

From the Associated Press

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has to go over reams of public comment before it decides whether to resume target practice with machine guns on the Great Lakes.

The target-practice proposal didn’t sit well with public officials, boaters and environmentalists. Some worried about the safety of boaters — and others raised concerns about lead contamination in the lakes.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Ryan Barone says the Coast Guard will spend as long as it takes to thoroughly review the more than one-thousand comments submitted.

Would I be a cynic if I suggested that no matter what the thousands of comments said, the Coast Guard will still decide in favor of live fire on the Great Lakes?

This morning, The Daily Press in Escanaba, MI, published this op/ed piece by Representative Bart Stupak:

Earlier this month, at my prompting, the Coast Guard held a public meeting in Charlevoix to discuss its proposal to establish 34 live gunfire training zones on our Great Lakes.

The Charlevoix meeting brought to my attention a number of reservations held by my constituents. While I recognize the importance of ensuring adequate training for Coast Guard personnel, these concerns should be addressed before this new proposal is adopted.

The Coast Guard’s initial plan to notify the public via marine band radio and the Federal Register demonstrates a bureaucratic mindset that is out of touch with the boating public. For many boaters, marine band radio is not their primary source of nautical information, and few people read the Federal Register.

To address this problem, I worked to include a provision in this year’s Homeland Security Appropriations bill that requires that the Coast Guard put the word out by notifying harbormasters and local media of upcoming live fire exercises. While this minimal requirement is a step in the right direction, it is disconcerting that it required an act of Congress for the Coast Guard to provide adequate public notification.

Beyond notification, I am concerned that these zones are located in high traffic areas and will affect boating, fishing, and other activities on the Great Lakes. One of the zones covers part of the route used by the Beaver Island Ferry. Requiring the Beaver Island Ferry, as well as other boat traffic, to divert their course could increase fuel costs and travel time, possibly increase ticket prices and even reduce tourism to Beaver Island. Placing live fire zones in other heavily trafficked areas will also further endanger commercial and recreational mariners.

There are also environmental concerns. The training exercises will result in 7,000 pounds of lead being dumped into our Great Lakes each year. That is more lead than the entire state of Michigan and all of its industries and pollution sources emit to surface waters every year. The Coast Guard should conduct additional studies on the consequences of significantly increasing the amount of lead in the Great Lakes before moving forward.

We should also examine using “green ammunition,” which is an environmentally friendly alternative to lead bullets. The environmental effects of the Coast Guard’s plan might be mitigated if the Coast Guard used this substitute to lead bullets.

Other excellent points were raised during the Charlevoix meeting. For instance, representatives of Native American tribes have not been consulted. The Coast Guard is required to consult the tribes because Great Lakes waters are held in trust for the tribes by the federal government. We must also be careful that the Coast Guard does not run afoul of international treaties regarding the use and amount of weaponry allowed on the Great Lakes.

The citizens also asked the Coast Guard, “Why now?” Why, five years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, does the Coast Guard need increased fire power on the Great Lakes? Is there an imminent threat that requires increased weaponry on the Great Lakes? Does the Coast Guard really need all 34 zones on the Great Lakes? As these citizens’ questions were left unanswered by the Coast Guard, I will be following up with the Coast Guard.

As co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus and founder of the Law Enforcement Caucus, I understand the need for security at our nation’s borders. Our government has no greater responsibility than protecting its citizens. To the extent the Coast Guard’s live fire proposal helps prepare them for that task, it is worthy of discussion. Nonetheless, there remain a number of unanswered questions that the Coast Guard should address before rushing to begin live fire training on the Lakes.

Indeed, unanswered questions. I wonder if we’ll ever hear the answers.
Maybe it is as easy as Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit. Is it as simple as just not worrying? Turns out, maybe it is.

As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Caroline Adams Miller knows a few things about using mental exercises to achieve goals. But last year, one exercise she was asked to try took her by surprise.

Every night, she was to think of three good things that happened that day and analyze why they occurred. That was supposed to increase her overall happiness.

“I thought it was too simple to be effective,” said Miller, 44, of Bethesda. Md. “I went to Harvard. I’m used to things being complicated.”

Miller was assigned the task as homework in a master’s degree program. But as a chronic worrier, she knew she could use the kind of boost the exercise was supposed to deliver.

She got it.

Check out this story by Malcolm Ritter, a science writer with the Associated Press, and don’t worry; be happy.Thirty years of service, and long-time fire chief Peter Stinson has retired from the LaCrosse, WI, fire department.

We’re all getting older, I guess…

From Edward Wong and the New York Times, by way of the International Herald Tribune:

Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of U.S. and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq in every way meets the standard definition of civil war.

The common scholarly definition has two main criteria. The first says that the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second says that at least 1,000 people must have been killed, with at least 100 from each side.

American professors who specialize in the study of civil wars say that most of them agree that the conflict in Iraq is a civil war.

More to follow, I’m sure.Dr. Martin Holland (right) leaves a patient who has a head wound after an evaluation at the Balboa Naval Medical Center where he is one of four Navy neurosurgeons. He would like to serve in Iraq if only for a short time. Special to The Chronicle; photo by Sandy Huffaker

I have written before about how people of privilege haven’t been signing up to join the armed forces. This was, if you remember, prompted by an essay from a Yale law student, who had served in the military, I heard on NPR. And then I saw this

If Dr. Martin Holland had his way, he’d be in Iraq right now. In Fallujah or Ramadi or Baghdad. Up to his elbows in blood and brain matter, operating on Marines and soldiers with severe head injuries.

As it happens, it’s unlikely the doctor will find himself hovering over a battlefield operating table. But he has a strong desire to serve — to do something for the troops suffering severe combat injuries. Instead of teaching residents and interns how to stop intracranial bleeding in San Francisco, Holland is wearing Navy whites and operating on sailors and Marines in San Diego.

Holland is not an 18-year-old who joins the Marines fresh out of high school. He’s 44, and he quit a prestigious job as director of neurotrauma at UC San Francisco. But there are similarities: Both put aside personal lives to enlist in the military.

I think there might be something about his age and his grade, however. The Navy offered him the rank of Captain (O-6), but he felt without prior military service he shouldn’t be that senior. He came in as a Commander (O-5).

But, the point is that he is a person of privilege and he stood up to volunteer. He certainly didn’t have to stand, and he is certainly not necessarily doing himself any favors, professionally (he’s taken a huge salary cut and he has taken himself out of the realm of teaching and research which is where he has, up to now, spent his career).

What other examples do we have of privilege signing up? Or, are we really a military made up of the offspring of the middle and lower class?

Batter Up!
Originally uploaded by emilyltWikiHow suggests that to loose weight, exercise. Seems the Wii game designers have decided to help. Jamin Warren from the Wall Street Journal notes,

A videogame maker has finally succeeded in getting kids off the couch and moving around. But the new approach is turning out to be more exercise than some players bargained for.

These surprisingly vigorous workouts are being triggered by Nintendo’s new Wii videogames. The Wii game console, which went on sale last weekend, competes with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s new PlayStation 3. One of the Wii’s distinguishing features is a motion-sensitive technology that requires players to act out their character’s movements, wielding the game’s controller like a sword or swinging it like a tennis racket.

Wii will be the new exercise machine, leaving the PS3 and Xbox 360 to the couch potatoes.

Buy Nothing day poster
Originally uploaded by _Poe_If I stay home, I have no trouble with the concept… it’s when I step outside that the will seems to drain away. Some would say I’m like a drunken sailor… others would say I am a drunken sailor, with or without the alcohol in my system.

For help on buying nothing, check out this wikiHow which has great suggestions to carry us through until Buy Nothing Day 2007 since we seem to have missed this year’s event.

I note, however, I never left the house and never went to any shopping sites online… so, without conscious effort, I did buy nothing on Buy Nothing Day.

Iraqi Killings
Originally uploaded by Kier42While I’m trying to keep the lights on, it seems the Iraq insurgents are having no problems paying the bills.

As reported by John F. Burns and Kirk Semple in the New York Times

The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

Evidently the report writers believe the insurgents are generating upwards of $200 million a year to finance their efforts. And their income generating efforts are all current and inside Iraq.

This is no home grown, small scale, goon operation.

I don’t know… could it… maybe… demonstrate some structure & C2 capabilities… might it be an indicator of, er, civil war

Oh, say it ain’t so, please.

Chalk this one up to strange tales… From the Associated Press:

A woman’s body was found wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in the home she shared with relatives who had spent nearly two weeks looking for her.

A spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Mariesa Weber’s death was not suspicious. Family members said they believe she fell over as she tried to adjust the plug of a television behind the bookshelf.

I think the message here is always have a safety officer to spot you.

Took her family eleven days to find her; it was the smell that finally prompted them to look behind the bookcase.

Just bizarre.

Originally uploaded by daninho_ibk… So it might not make the ideal vacation spot for a quick weekend getaway, but Montenegro might be great if you have huge swaths of weeks you can spend at your holiday retreat.

Bernard Condon at Forbes notes that Montenegro is paradise, sort of. He writes, “Montenegro is the new magnet for people seeking picturesque villas on the Mediterranean. Property comes cheap, but with some cautions attached.” Condon notes one lucky holiday home owner who purchased a 14-room stone mansion overlooking the Adriatic for only $90,000.

Now, if I could just find a job that gives me six months off a year…

I seem to have missed that Congress tightened down on charitable deductions. Clothing donations: no longer deductible. From Ashlea Ebeling over at Forbes:

Toss a $20 bill into the church collection basket this Sunday and you can still claim a charitable deduction for it. But come January 2007 you’ll have to write out a check or get a receipt if you want to deduct your weekly offering.

That beat-up dining room table you gave to the thrift shop? If you made the donation on Aug. 18 or later you can’t claim a deduction–unless it was worth more than $500 and you get a professional appraisal attesting to that fact before filing your 2006 tax return.

This summer Congress passed the broadest revisions in the charitable tax laws since 1969. “The changes will have a very large impact on a low number of taxpayers and are a low-level annoyance for everybody else,” says Laura Peebles, a director at Deloitte Tax in Washington, D.C. To add to the annoyance and confusion, some of the new rules were effective last January, some Aug. 18 (the day after the changes were signed into law) and some won’t kick in until next year. These changes are in addition to the congressional crackdown, effective in 2005, on inflated deductions for car donations. And there could be another round of legislation next year.


Do read the entire article… Guess I’ll be creating a better system to keep my receipts….

This is how I’m going to go:

H. Donald Wilson, 82, under whose leadership the commercial database service LexisNexis introduced electronic research to law firms and news organizations, died of a heart attack Nov. 12 in front of his computer at his home in Mitchellville.

Emphasis is mine.

Although, maybe I’ll go like Private Benjamin’s groom…

Seems I’m not alone in the blogosphere in pondering about Iraq and what makes a civil war. I realized this when I read a posting in The Virginian. Says “Moneyrunner,”

To call something a “civil war” simply because there is a high level of violence is lazy thinking. Is the genocide in Darfur a “civil war?” There is certainly a high level of violence but no one seems to call the violence in Darfur anything but “genocide.”

Lazy thinking? Now that’s an ad hominem argument, subtle, but still, if I’ve ever seen one. Anyway, I digress.

Patterico, over at his Pontifications, notes the LA Times is calling the Iraqi situation a civil war. Patterico notes, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, that the debate on what to call “it” is over.

For the record, the LA Times piece, by Solomon Moore, opens with this paragraph:

Iraq’s civil war worsened Friday as Shiite and Sunni Arabs engaged in retaliatory attacks after coordinated car bombings that killed more than 200 people in a Shiite neighborhood the day before. A main Shiite political faction threatened to quit the government, a move that probably would cause its collapse and plunge the nation deeper into disarray.

As an aside, I was partial to Steven R. Hurst’s Associated Press article, New savage twist to violence in Baghdad:

Revenge-seeking Shiite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive, and Iraqi soldiers did nothing to stop the attack, police and witnesses said.

Now that’s a lead that will knock your socks off, if you know what I mean. And, staying away from the loaded language of “civil war,” it sticks with less troublesome language like “drenched.” Sorry; I digress, again.

John Keegan and Bartle Bull suggest in their opinion piece at Prospect that “Lessons from history suggest that Iraq, though in chaos, has not yet reached civil war.” Their piece is worth a read and is a worthy strategy & policy essay. I take issue with their conclusions, however. For instance, they claim that what we’re seeing in Iraq is not a “war.” If not a war — armed conflict to achieve an end by measures other than political (to paraphrase, poorly, Carl von Clausewitz) — what is it? A gang conflict?

Well, at least we’re having the conversation, although there’s a part of me that wonders if finding the answer will make a difference. We seem to all agree that things are for shit in Iraq. However, making the correct label would allow policy makers and strategy creators to focus on the correct centers of gravity.

Question to ponder: what difference does it make if what we’re seeing is a civil war or if it’s not?

Imam Omar Shahin
Originally uploaded by sshiiqThere’s certainly going to be more about this incident in the days and weeks to come. This past Monday, Dr. Omar Shahin, a Phoenix resident, was removed from a US Airways flight in handcuffs. The charge? Praying aloud.

From an article at Newsweek by Jessica Bennett and Matthew Philips:

As a Muslim-American and president of the North American Imams Federation, Dr. Omar Shahin is no stranger to the heightened security of a post-9/11 world. On more than one occasion, the Phoenix, Ariz., resident says he’s been picked out of a crowd by the color of his skin—interrogated, finger printed or detained. So when Shahin headed to the airport Monday with five other imams for a flight out of Minneapolis—where the NAIF had met for a conference—the group did everything they could to avoid suspicion, according to Shahin. They wore Western clothes, he says. The men spoke only English. They didn’t book their seats together. And when it came time to conduct their sunset-time prayers, Shahin says, they did so quietly, and not all together—hoping to avoid any unwanted attention.

But when the group boarded their U.S. Airways flight bound for Phoenix, on which Shahin (a frequent flier on the airline) had been upgraded to first class, they would never leave the ground. After finding their seats and preparing for takeoff, Shahin and the other imams were escorted from the flight in handcuffs after a passenger handed a note to a flight attendant expressing concern over the group’s “suspicious activity,” according to the airport police report. After several hours of questioning by federal authorities, the group was released. Yet though the airline refunded their tickets, U.S. Airways—which released a statement Tuesday saying it does “not tolerate discrimination of any kind”—reportedly denied them passage on any of its other flights and refused to help them obtain tickets through another airline.

Now, there seem to be a number of he-said, she-said issues. Were they flying on one-way tickets? Were they loudly chanting “Allah, Allah, Allah”? Did they “seated themselves in pairs, two at the front of the plane, two in the middle, and two in the rear”? (This is US Airways, right, not Southwest Airlines. I mean, they had tickets for the seats; they didn’t “seat themselves.”)

Anyway, they were taken off the plane after a “passenger handed a note to a flight attendant expressing concern over the group’s ‘suspicious activity.'” What a great way for me to sit next to an empty seat; just claim my seat mate is acting suspiciously.

The Newsweek article asks an important and relevant question: Observant American Muslims—who must pray five times daily—are left with a dilemma. How do they maintain their religious faith without attracting attention in an environment of heightened fear?

I’m a little confused. From the Associated Press:

Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and seven Sunni mosques came under attack as Shiites took revenge for the slaughter of 215 people in the Sadr City slum.

With the government trying to avert a civil war, two simultaneous bombings in Tal Afar, in northern Iraq, killed at least 23 people. On Thursday, Sunni-Arab insurgents unleashed bombings and mortar attacks in Sadr City, the deadliest assault since the U.S.-led invasion.

Here’s my confusion: if someone is trying to avert something, doesn’t that indicate that the thing they are trying to avert hasn’t happened yet? From, I find this definition: To ward off (something about to happen); prevent. How can one ward off something about to happen when it has already happened?

Perhaps I need to reframe the question: When is an insurgency a civil war? What makes a conflict a civil war? Again relying on, a civil war is a war between political factions or regions within the same country

Is this not what we are faced with in Iraq right now, a war between factions within the same country? Is this not an Iraqi civil war? And, if so, what ought we, America, do about it?

I know plenty of pundits and policy makers have been focusing on this very question, but I also believe it is time for us common citizens to begin to grapple with this question, and to begin to let our elected officials know what answers we’re coming up with.

Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO and currently a senior fellow at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations has some thoughts worth considering. And, while you might disagree with much of what she says, Hillary Clinton’s comments before the Council on Foreign Relations are worth a read, also.

What are your thoughts on where we are and where we must go?

Gettysburg Address
Originally uploaded by Petey DWe live in an age of ever-growing technology, and, for the most part, we believe it helps us. We think clearer, we communicate faster, we make decisions quicker. Check out what Lincoln would have done had he had presentation technology.

And, yes, we’re headed quickly downhill.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been losing sleep of yet, fretting about the whereabouts of this year’s national Christmas tree. Well, seems I can now sleep well, as the information is as close as a click. As I write this, the tree is resting comfortably for Thanksgiving just west of Chicago.
Pictures-11222006 056
Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseWent out to check things out. Plenty of flooding; you can see other pics at flickr. Checked out the nTellos Pavilion; looked like the roof is, indeed, ripped, but couldn’t get a good view. Perhaps tomorrow.

In the mean time, the most exciting bit of disaster was this sailboat which went aground in Crawford Bay. Ouch. She’s taking a beating…

I’ve hidden inside… but reports are that Olde Towne is suffering…

Just when things were looking up for the city’s waterfront amphitheater, another storm has torn into the roof of the nTelos Pavilion.

The canopy roof was shredded in 2003 by Hurricane Isabel.

City officials have not been reached at this time, but there are reports that at least part of the roof is missing and there are some tears in the remaining part of the pavilion roof.

The city’s downtown area is getting hit with high water as well.

Time to head out and see what’s up…My eldest sons have been following, with anticipation, the launch of the three new gaming systems: Wii, PS3, and XBox 360. I haven’t, but then I’ve never been much for video games. Pong. Pac Man. Grand Theft Auto. Animal Crossing. I’ve never been captivated; what can I say?

With the violence reported for the PS3, it was clear that serious gamers wanted their toys. But which to buy, for those of us who just don’t get it?

Chris Suellentrop over at Slate claims Wii Is the Champion. Perhaps… but I’d like to see a head to head comparison. Luckily, there is one. Let us allow Wii and PS3 to speak for themselves:

Questions? 😉

Well, it seems that a student had a video camera at the UCLA library during the recent Taser incident. As I watched this, I was struck by two things. First, the camera man starts a bit into the incident, so we don’t see the beginning, and he doesn’t do a decent job of getting to the front of the crowd to record the scene, so we don’t really get to see a whole lot. But, we do hear a great deal.

Second, it appears the officers Taser the student when he doesn’t follow instructions to “Get up.” It’s clear he’s not a threat, nor is he doing more than passive resistance, but they shock him, anyway. And, they shock him more than once.

See the video here:

My question is simple: for what reason did the officer move up the use of force continuum, and why did he stay there? This diagram of the use force continuum clearly shows the officers not matched to the student’s behavior:
If the job wasn’t tough in years past — and it was — it’s certainly tough now with the proliferation of digital cameras and video recorders.

Turns out those San Francisco activists haven’t been spending all their time practicing: they have a blog!
the orgasm
Originally uploaded by Doug SchwarzFound this article by Marcus Wohlsen of the Associated Press today:

Two peace activists have planned a massive anti-war demonstration for the first day of winter.

But they don’t want you marching in the streets. They’d much rather you just stay home.

The Global Orgasm for Peace was conceived by Donna Sheehan, 76, and Paul Reffell, 55, whose immodest goal is for everyone in the world to have an orgasm Dec. 22 while focusing on world peace.

You can find the official website here.

So, folks, mark your calendars and make your plans; participate in the First Annual Solstice Synchronized Global Orgasm for Peace. Start your preparations now…

I heard today that Norm Heller, a long-time Coast Guard Auxiliarist and the consummate SAR Dog, had a heart attack yesterday after a game of tennis with a friend.

Norm worked with the SAR controllers at Sector Hampton Hampton Roads; he’d been volunteering at the Sector since its inception; he was a member of the last crew at Group Hampton Roads, having served for years. He stood the SAR Command Duty Officer and SAR Controller watches, and was one of the key currency maintenance trainers. He kept everyone sharp and honed. Norm also taught at the National SAR School in Yorktown… all this as a volunteer.

The pictures with this post were lifted from Norm’s website. I knew he had a large family; I didn’t know how large. Norm was certainly blessed, and we were blessed to know him, serve with him, and learn from him.

Services for Norm are this weekend; I don’t have the details at the moment.

He will be missed. I pray he have fair winds and following seas in this final journey of his.
Update, posted Friday, 17 November 2006, at 0850: The Virginian Pilot’s servers were down last night; this morning, I was able to find Norm’s obituary posted in the Pilot. I post it here, in its entirety:

Norman G. Heller, 74, died suddenly Nov. 15, 2006, while enjoying a life well lived.

Norm was a well-known and widely respected resident of the Northern Neck. He was a retired railroad executive who served in the United States Coast Guard during the 1950s. He was, in addition, a very active and dedicated volunteer to the U.S. Coast Guard, pillar of the community, and a devoted and generous husband, father, grandfather and friend.

Born in Bay Shore, N.Y., son of Meyer and Dorothy Heller, Norm grew up in both New York and Florida. While enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in New London, Conn., he met Betsy Elfenbein whom he married in June of 1956. They soon moved to Atlanta, Ga., where Norm graduated with distinction from the Georgia Institute of Technology with degrees in electrical engineering. Following various career paths, he joined The Southern Railway Corporation, now Norfolk Southern Corporation, and retired after 30 years of service where he held an executive position in marketing.

Betsy and Norm retired to White Stone, Va., in 1994, where they enjoyed all aspects of the Northern Neck, most especially cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Norm was an avid sailor and boatman and loved both hosting friends on his boat and especially teaching his children and grandchildren about all things nautical. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Northern Neck and became an active volunteer in many U.S. Coast Guard activities including becoming a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue School staff in Yorktown, Va.

Norm touched the lives of most of the search and rescue controllers in the field. An expert in mathematical search theory, he developed most of the training materials used today for its study. He was well-known for his teaching of search containment theory and used his humor and creativity to develop classes unlike any other. He voluntarily taught courses at various U.S. Coast Guard stations and seminar events around the country. He was perhaps the most active volunteer to the U.S. Coast Guard in the country, and his talent and teaching skills are legendary at the Hampton Roads Center.

His time and energies were generously spread throughout the community in other ways as well. Over the 12 years since he moved to the Northern Neck, he served with enthusiasm on many boards and committees, including but not limited to the Foundation Board at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury, the Board at the Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club, the Board of the Norfolk Chapter of the American Heart Association, and he was active with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33, serving as commander for two years.

The yacht Serendipity with Norm at the helm will long be remembered for their enthusiastic presence in the Irvington Lighted Boat Parade each year.

His dedication to his family knew no limits. He would do anything for them and did. He lived well, and inspired others to do the same. He will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife, Betsy; his children, Jeffrey and Joyce Heller of Norfolk, Randall Heller and Frances McManus of South Strafford, Vt., and Kathy and Jim Pomer of Grantham, N.H.; his grandchildren, Scott, Nicholas, Jack, Kevin and Ellen; his sister, Charlotte Kornahrens of New York; and his brother, Edward Heller of the United Kingdom.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Currie Funeral Home, 116 E. Church St., Kilmarnock, Va., (804) 435-1077. A reception will follow at the Indian Creek Yacht & Country Club also in Kilmarnock.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in Norm’s name to the American Heart Association.

I’ve been a civilian employee for the federal government since 23 December 1996. In this near decade, I’ve made 149 official trips costing the American taxpayer $146,720.44.

I’m not going to be so bold as to ask if the taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth.

Seems the next Secretarey of Defense has some thoughts on transparency in government.

From Robert M. Gates’ 1996 memoir From the Shadows, as cited at Secrecy News and The Daily Dish

I sat in the Situation Room in secret meetings for nearly twenty years under five Presidents, and all I can say is that some awfully crazy schemes might well have been approved had everyone present not known and expected hard questions, debate, and criticism from the Hill. And when, on a few occasions, Congress was kept in the dark, and such schemes did proceed, it was nearly always to the lasting regret of the Presidents involved. Working with the Congress was never easy for Presidents, but then, under the Constitution, it wasn’t supposed to be. I saw too many in the White House forget that.

Hmmm… is he prophetic, perhaps… or does history just repeat itself, over and over and over again.

You can find the quote by searching inside the book at Amazon; try “awfully crazy schemes.” Of course, it might be helpful to actually read the whole bloody thing…

… we couldn’t get any lower in terms of moral authority or taste…

Last night, I went to sleep thinking we’d reached a new low here in America with Mr. Simpson’s upcoming TV show. I was wrong. I discovered we could still go lower

I’m wondering about the folks who choose what to put on the tube. Some of them have a grain of sense I guess. This from the NY Times article about the Fox If I Had Done It special:

At least one other network said it had passed on the chance to bid on the TV special because it thought the content was of questionable taste.

Rebecca Marks, a spokeswoman for NBC Universal Television, said the network passed because “from an advertising point of view, from a public relations point of view, everything, it was impossible.”

Although, at least some TV executives are upfront. This is from the Washington Post:

TV industry executives yesterday expressed shock and awe, and the certainty that everyone in this country would be outraged that O.J. will make big bucks off his ex-wife’s murder and Fox will run a promo for the book as a sweeps stunt.

Except for their Hollywood colleagues.

“No, not in Hollywood at all, because we’re all whores, but in the rest of the country where they have morals — sure,” guessed one such exec, who conceded that the moral, non-Hollywood segment of the country probably would nonetheless tune in by the millions.

“They’ve really kept this way under wraps,” he continued. “Holy [expletive], is that a coup!”

Which pretty much summed up everyone’s reaction in TV Land.

“Everybody here in town believes he did it, period, but to have framed the discussion the way Judith has is pretty unique,” said the exec, who wants to be anonymous because O.J. is a free man.

And not one of the TV execs was worried Fox might have trouble selling the show to advertisers.

“This is not about advertising — it’s a news coup,” one exec said. “It’s also great scheduling. Fox is hurting big-time” in the ratings, “getting killed with all their new shows. They’re sitting around ready to commit suicide until ‘Idol’ comes back.”

We’re all whores? Well, that’s honest, at least.

And, I suppose everyone in middle America will tune in to hear how Mr. Simpson would have done it if he had done it. Well, that is, unless they’re tuned in to William Shatner and Show Me the Money, which the Washington Post notes has an “exhaustive” set of rules, but “all you need to know is that it involves money and dancing girls and is hosted by William Shatner, who spontaneously boogies.”

Yes. That’s all I need to know.

Today just seems like it’s going to be full of not-so-good ideas. Here’s the next one… and I swear to you, I’m not out actually looking for these; I stumble over them… so here it is…

Gerald Fraller, 28, from Tampa Florida, is “selling his soul.” I’m reminded of the Simpson’s episode where Bart sells it soul; it doesn’t go too well for ol’ Bart. I hope it goes better for Mr. Fraller.

From his website

Hi there! I’m Gerald and I am offering you a chance to own my soul. Now I know what you’re saying… how can someone sell his soul.

Let me start by saying this is not a publicity stunt. This is a real contest. The winner of my soul will enter into a binding contract that offers them specific benefits of soul ownership.

It’s really a very simple business proposition that goes something like this:

1. You donate funds for a chance to win my soul. Each dollar donated gets one entry in the drawing. The proceeds go towards helping me change my life – a life you’ll soon find that really needs changing.

2. In return, I offer the winner certain control over various aspects of my life, such as deciding the names of my kids, sharing in the profits of my endeavors and inheriting a portion of my estate.

There will be a definite winner and that winner will receive among other things:

* A percentage of my taxable income for the rest of my life with a guaranteed minimum of $500.00 per year.
* The right to choose the first name of all of my children. The name has to be gender specific and cannot contain profanity or derogatory words.
* A percentage of profit ownership of any intellectual works that I create.
* The option of planning my wedding, including selecting the date.

I’m not sure how long he’s been hawking his soul, but he’s only had 435 entries, so far. That’s $435…

How much does a soul go for these days?

We all know I’m a little slow, and I don’t have the ability to really figure out what’s going to play well and what’s not going to play well… but, I have to tell you, this just doesn’t look like a good idea:

Fox plans to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which the former football star discusses “how he would have committed” the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, for which he was acquitted, the network said.

No matter how you slice it, this just isn’t a good idea.

This is one of those times when I think it ought to be mandatory to seek counsel before agreeing to some public stunt.

Reminds me of the time I caught a student thief in the dorm. He’d been taking checks from classmates and spending them at local stores. He wouldn’t admit he’d done it, but we did have a long conversation about “why he would have done it, if he had done it.” He left the school the next day, never to return.

Fox reports,

O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes. In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade.

Again, say it ain’t so; say it ain’t so.Two op/ed pieces in today’s Washington Post. (I know, I’ve already lost the conservative readers by claiming that insight could come from the Washington Post; bear with me, please, I’ll be talking about the Washington Times below).

The first piece is by Anne Applebaum and begins with a quote attributed to the spymaster Markus Wolf: I did of course know of many of the terrible crimes of the Stalin era even while they were under way; anyone who says he knew nothing is a liar. She ends by writing,

Indeed, in retrospect, Wolf’s intelligence “achievements” hardly seem to matter: The significance of a few moles pales beside the larger and more important cultural struggle between East and West. Even as he fought on behalf of the Soviet Union and its client states, Wolf — who had spent his boyhood in Stalinist Moscow — knew perfectly well that the West was more just, more affluent and more humane than his own cramped, repressive society. Most ordinary people knew it, too.

As we now debate torture, or domestic spying, or other dubious methods that will allegedly help us defeat radical Islam, it’s worth remembering that the West won the Cold War not by matching the nastiness of Markus Wolf — though some certainly tried to do so — but by being, and remaining, a more open society.

Catch that ending: we won by being, and remaining, a more open society.

The other piece is by Richard Cohen. He writes,

There is something refreshing about George Stephanopoulos. After George Bush announced that he was firing Don Rumsfeld, Stephanopoulos — on the air at the time — actually seemed shocked that just a week earlier the president had said he would do no such thing. Stephanopoulos not only suggested that the president had lied but that he was wrong to have done so. In Georgetown, where the ABC newsman lives, such innocence must be considered quaint.

Washington’s easy acceptance of lying, especially presidential lying, is beyond lamentable. It has cost the country plenty, including, of late, a war in a godforsaken place, which we are losing and are fighting for reasons that we no longer remember or that even matter.


Okay, I promised the Washington Times, in order to ensure equity between right and left. I already linked to this earlier today, but it’s worth another round.

A piece by Nat Hentoff, who writes

Is there any wonder why — among citizens of countries who are U.S. allies — our leaders are regarded as hypocrites when they preach democracy and such American values as the rule of law?

Okay, that wasn’t quite fair of me. Aside from leading with Mr. Hentoff’s last sentence, Mr. Hentoff is, according to Wikipedia, an

American civil libertarian, free speech absolutist, pro-life advocate, anti-death penalty advocate, jazz critic, historian, biographer and anecdotist, and columnist for the Village Voice, Legal Times, Washington Times, The Progressive, Editor & Publisher, Free Inquiry and Jewish World Review

My question to you, gentle reader: How do we hold our elected officials accountable? How to we ensure they follow the law and the Constitution? How to ensure truth and transparency in government?With Secretary Rumsfeld leaving the Department of Defense, some people are worried that the transformation he has been driving the last six years will whither and die. I don’t think we have anything to worry about; the Air Force has just introduced it’s new “flight demonstation team” which is replacing the Thunderbirds; I’d say we’re well on our way to total transformation.

Pic taken from here. Kudos to the Austin Chapter of the IFMA for this scoop. 😉

Perhaps not as much as a root canal, but it’s still going to hurt.

While the Coast Guard is working diligently to examine the climate at the Coast Guard Academy, in light of this past spring’s courts martial, it seems some of the cadets haven’t exactly figured out that this might not be a good time for shenanigans of a sexual assault nature.

From the Associated Press as posted at The Boston Globe

A Coast Guard Academy cadet has been charged with sexual assault at a party in a room at the Navy Lodge, a local motel.

John K. Miller, 19, was charged with third-degree sexual assault, unlawful restraint and breach of peace Sunday after Groton Town police responded to a late-night party at the Navy Lodge.

Police found Miller with a broken nose and said someone had punched him in the face, but they would not say whether it was the victim.

Police said Miller prevented the victim from leaving a room at the Navy Lodge and forced sexual contact by threat of force.

The charges against Miller come while an academy task force is reviewing policies, partially in response to last summer’s court-martial of a cadet for sexual assault.

Webster M. Smith, 23, is serving a six-month prison sentence for extorting sexual favors from a female classmate.

The Navy Lodge is strictly reserved for military personnel, their family and guests, Senior Chief Steve Strickland, a public affairs officer, said.

Miller has been turned over to the Coast Guard until his scheduled court appearance Nov. 22 in New London Superior Court.

The Coast Guard Academy said it will launch its own investigation into Miller’s case and says he is attending classes at the academy until his court appearance.

On a side note, it seems that Mr. Miller is a 2005 graduate of Wayland Academy, a small, independent, boarding school in northern Wisconsin.

And, yes, for those who are keeping track, Wayland is on my short list of possible schools at which to teach

Assault and Battery
Originally uploaded by Inky+Seems the most recent Portsmouth School Board meeting got a little out of hand. From today’s Virginian Pilot:

The Portsmouth Sheriff’s Department is looking to serve School Board member Jean Shackelford with a warrant after a fellow board member accused her of assaulting him.

Mark Whitaker filed a criminal complaint against Shackelford at 11:59 p.m. Thursday after last week’s board meeting, according to a police incident report.

Whitaker, 41, said Shackelford, 77, “grabbed him by his arm and pulled him over to her” as he attempted to leave the room. The report also says Shackelford got in Whitaker’s face, pointed her finger and yelled at him.

It’s come to this, eh?

And we wonder why things are the way they are?

Perhaps Ms. Shackelford and Mr. Whitaker ought to go back to school; perhaps middle school in Suffolk? This headline was also in the Virginian Pilot today: Anger management program started at Suffolk middle school

Discipline problems such as physical aggression, truancy, bullying, defiance and cursing at John F. Kennedy Middle School have motivated school officials to create an anger management counseling program.

The school wants counselors with therapeutic and clinical backgrounds to teach students how better to control their anger.

Yeh. Could we get a little of that for Portsmouth’s School Board?

Torture Bed
Originally uploaded by kookystarWell, not really, but it looks good as a headline. 😉

This from the Washington Post and the pen of Dan Eggen:

After years of denials, the CIA has formally acknowledged the existence of two classified documents governing aggressive interrogation and detention policies for terrorism suspects, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

But CIA lawyers say the documents — memos from President Bush and the Justice Department — are still so sensitive that no portion can be released to the public.

The disclosures by the CIA general counsel’s office came in a letter Friday to attorneys for the ACLU. The group had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York two years ago under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking records related to U.S. interrogation and detention policies.

But, I’m comforted by the report that even though these documents are not able to be released because they are so sensitive that, as has been widely discussed by senior members of the current administration, the United States does not use torture.

Commenting late last month, as widely reportedin the press, the President reiterated that “that the United States does not torture prisoners, commenting after Vice President Dick Cheney embraced the suggestion that a dunk in water might be useful to get terrorist suspects to talk.”

I feel better already, having heard the President make the claim We don’t torture, we don’t condone torture, we don’t do torture. Oh, that’s right, the President didn’t use those exact words; that was Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.

So, cutting to the chase, here, what do we have? As I see it, here’s where we stand:

  • The President personally authorized the establishment of secret detention facilities outside the United States so that what went on within those walls would not be subject to public scrutiny, Congressional oversight, the law of the land, or our Constitution.
  • Our Congress has passed legislation allowing the President to ignore international law.
  • The United States continue to hold detainees incognito, not even acknowledging we hold them.
  • Members of the Executive Branch continue to hide information about our interrogation techniques under the guise of national security, and yet whenever new information comes to light, it often counters whatever has publicly been said.
  • The United States can no longer claim the moral high ground, if it ever could, and it will be years before we’ll have even the slightest bit of credibility to say what is morally right or morally wrong.
  • The issue of fighting terror is not as black and white as “good vs. evil” as some senior officials are wont to say.

And all that is just for starters…

But, hell, at least we don’t torture, eh?

Originally uploaded by atomfotoWith elections, you see a lot of trickery. With elections, you see a lot of deceptions…

But do we want to condone it?

An interesting article from the Washington Post by Matthew Mosk and Avis Thomas-Lester. They report that two candidates in last week’s election used out-of-town homeless people to pass out deceptive campaign literature.

Dirty? Under-handed? Ethical? Legal?

I think what it tells me is to ignore candidates’ literature and do my own thinking and research.

Oh, and did it work? Well it appears that both Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele lost, handily… so, I’m thinking it was a tactic which was desperate and useless…

And perhaps voters will have long memories for when they next run for public office.

And, while I don’t know if the effort was legal, I’d say it wasn’t ethical, it was under-handed, and it was dirty pool.

I’m amazed that we can’t have a reasonable election.

Which reminds me; I heard President Carter talk recently about the elections in Nicaragua. He was asked about whether the Carter Center, which watches elections around the world to ensure fairness, would watch in the United States. He replied that the US doesn’t even meet the basic standards which must be met before they’ll go and watch.

That’s right… our processes don’t meet what we would consider appropriate for other countries.

Ah, doesn’t matter. After all, we rank 120th in the world in terms of voter participation…

Hmmm. I wonder if there’s a relationship there…

Bill & George 4
Originally uploaded by Andrea WoodhouseIf they can do it, I know there’s hope.

They’re separated by more than 20 years, they come from opposing political parties, and one evicted the other from the White House. But Bill Clinton and George Bush act like a team, a pair of touring comedians with a well-honed act.

The two former presidents even have their entrance down pat, striding in with arms aloft, music pounding, lights flashing, the crowd standing and going wild.

Read the full article by Mary Foster of the Associated Press.

And, I’m with George Sr. I can’t see Bill walking behind Hillary like Prince Philip behind the queen…

Seems I’m not the only one who thinks moderation is going to be key.

From Gail Russell Chaddock and The Christian Science Monitor

The terms of the Democrats’ narrow victory make a politics of the center even more imperative. Most of the new Democrats in the Senate won by running as moderates or fiscal conservatives….

While Senate Democrats are expected to lock arms over issues such as the minimum wage, there may be a new centrist coalition on issues including immigration, national security, and privacy rights….

Conservative activists say that the centrist base of the new freshman class will limit how far the national Democratic Party can advance a more radical agenda.

I just hope they get it right and don’t squabble to the point of gridlock.

Originally uploaded by Johnny HuhA burrito is a sandwich when you don’t want any competition for your business. Panera Bread Company, a bakery-and-cafe chain, would have us believe that a burrito is a type of sandwich. At least, that is what attorneys for Panera have been arguing in court.

Panera has a clause in its lease that prevents the White City Shopping Center in Shrewsbury from renting to another sandwich shop. Panera tried to invoke that clause to stop the opening of an Qdoba Mexican Grill

But Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke cited Webster’s Dictionary as well as testimony from a chef and a former high-ranking federal agriculture official in ruling that Qdoba’s burritos and other offerings are not sandwiches.

The difference, the judge ruled, comes down to two slices of bread versus one tortilla.

“A sandwich is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans,” Locke wrote in a decision released last week.

Panera’s website statesWith the skill of an artisan, the heat of the oven and a few fine ingredients, our bakers make bread that is simply delicious — and baked fresh in our ovens every day. I’ll be tortillas have never touched a Panera’s oven.

Said one chef who testified on behalf of Qdoba, “I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.”

It was five years ago that American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in New York City shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport for a flight to the Dominican Republic. We know now, at least according to the National Transportation Safety Board that a “crucial part of the tail fell off the Airbus A300, and the agency blamed pilot error, inadequate pilot training and overly sensitive rudder controls.” We certainly didn’t know that on the morning of November 12th, 2001.

Jennifer Peltz from the Associated Press writes

The crash on Nov. 12, 2001, in the quiet neighborhood of Belle Harbor further rattled a city still shaken by the attacks on the World Trade Center just two months earlier.

I have news for her; some of us miles away from the City were “further rattled.” I was on watch in the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Command Center and Rescue Coordination Center Norfolk when the crash occurred; I’d been recalled for six weeks or so, following the attacks of 9/11, and was sitting at the watch desk when we saw the news on CNN. We had no idea what the cause of the crash was, but all of us assumed the worst. I directed the launch of a Dolphin from Atlantic City, and sent the ready Jayhawk from Elizabeth City to Atlantic City. I also sent up the Herc from E-City with direction to fly north, loiter, and await further instructions. I don’t know what we could have had them do if it actually was a terrorist attack, but I knew it was better to have resources close than far away. Today, I think all the Coast Guard pilots have had training in air intercept, so we’d probably do better than just loitering…

Anyway, I’m struck by how different the world is today than it was before September 11th, 2001. Before 9/11, any watchstander would have watched the news with a detached sort of attitude. Today, every watchstander watches the news with a pessimistic view. In many respects, the terrorists have won: we are, by definition, terrified. I hate to admit this, but they have changed our behaviors and our thinking; they have made us look over our shoulders and queue up for searches; they’ve encouraged us to ignore our Constitution and our values. They have won. And, I’m not sure that we can win by military force. We must find another way to combat them, for without taking them on other fronts, they will have continued to win, no matter what tactical, military victories we have.

On my blog, there’s a button for an RSS feed through Feedburner which shows a running tally as to how many people are subscribed to the blog. Last week I was at 12; today, I’m at 4… And I think one of those might be me… 😉

So, what I have I done to drive readers away? Focus on drivel? Show my purple side? Write too much on politics? Write too much on the Coast Guard? Piss people off? Just wondering.

That’s one of the interesting things about blogging, at least for me. When I started blogging, I never actually thought anyone would read my rants. And then a few people did… In the spring, I actually met someone who knew me as “the Tidewater Muse.” And, now, I sometimes sit at the keyboard wondering what readers will think.

I ought to get back to just worrying about what I think. Or, maybe that’s my problem, as I usually discount what I think the readers will think. Even when I’m told to stop blogging, but that’s another story altogether.


We all have something to say. Some of us say it with words on a blog; some of us say it with words set to music.

I saw this on Vivian Paige’s blog, but she didn’t want to say anything… 😉

I say it’s time to join hands and move forward; cut the rhetoric and let’s move on, together.

Among the many op/ed pieces published tomorrow will be two of note in the New York Times. The first is from Leon E. Panetta — a former Democratic representative, director of the office of management and budget, and White House chief of staff — who suggests that the Democrats ought to stop gloating and start governing.

We govern our democracy either by leadership or by crisis. Last Tuesday, the American people sent a clear message that they are sick and tired of government by crisis. They elected Democrats to the House and Senate not to prolong gridlock, but to govern.

There are those who believe that the best political strategy for 2008 is for the Democrats to continue to confront President Bush and seal his fate as a failed president. The danger, however, is that if the Democrats become nothing more than a party of obstruction, it will be only a matter of time before they too will lose the trust of the American people. The lesson of this election is that the public will no longer tolerate incompetence and gridlock, whether it comes from the Republicans or the Democrats.

Mr. Panetta calls for those on both sides of the aisle to work together, find common ground, and meet in the center.

The second piece is from Lincoln D. Chafee, the current senator from Rhode Island. He’s not the senator from Rhode Island much longer. Senator Chafee writes,

Last Tuesday, I was one of the many moderate Republican casualties of the anti-Bush virulence that swept the country. Despite my having voted against the Iraq war resolution, my reputation for independence, the editorial endorsement of virtually every newspaper in my state, and a job approval rating of 63 percent, I did not win. Why?

And then Senator Chafee goes on to write about a meeting back in December 2000, “after one of the closest elections in our nation’s history,” between then Vice President-elect Dick Cheney and a small group of centrist Republicans, Senator Chafee among the group.

The Senator writes in his op/ed piece:

As we sat in Senator Specter’s cozy hideaway office and discussed the coming session, I was startled to hear the vice president dismiss suggestions of compromise and instead emphasize an aggressively partisan agenda that included significant tax cuts, the abandonment of international agreements and a muscular, unilateral foreign policy.

I was incredulous. Instead of a new atmosphere of cooperation and civility which, after all, had been the promise of the Bush-Cheney campaign, we seemed ready to return to the poisonous partisanship that marked the Republican-Congress — Clinton White House years.

Senator Chafee concludes by writing,

I hope the new Congress and the administration that received, in the president’s words, “a thumping,” can find common ground for the common good.

Damn straight.

But, I fear that the partisans will win out and that divisivenesses will be the rule of the day from both sides of the aisle.

May I be wrong. Please.

American Flags
Originally uploaded by Richard-Perhaps it is time for the 51st state, North Virginia?

From Reuters

More than 140 years after the Civil War raged across its tobacco fields, Virginia finds itself in a new north-south conflict pitting its northern suburbs against the rest of the state.

Democrat Jim Webb narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen in Tuesday’s election, thanks to strong support from the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia, tipping control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. The region’s voters also have sent two successive Democrats to the governor’s mansion.

It’s a sign that what was once an overwhelmingly conservative state is increasingly dominated by Northern Virginia’s racially diverse, densely populated suburbs across the Potomac River from Washington, experts say.

Those in the northern part of the state say their cosmopolitan outlook stands in stark contrast to the rest of Virginia, which was the home of the Confederacy’s capital during the Civil War in the 1860s.

“Folks there tend to be independent and by independent I mean not that affiliated with the rest of the world,” business consultant Tim Miller, 24, said at a Starbucks coffee shop in the restored historic district of the Washington suburb of Alexandria.

Webb drew 71 percent of the vote in Alexandria, as well as 73 percent in adjacent Arlington County.

Is it possible for cities and counties in Virginia to secede and form their own state?

Originally uploaded by POONDOGGreat article in the Washington Post by C. J. Chivers about Marines on patrol in Zagarit, Iraq. Chivers appears to be imbedded with a squad of Marines who have been on patrol all week. They’ve taken up “residence” in the house of an Iraqi in order to use the roof as an observation post & sniper position.

On learning from the Iraqi that Secretary Rumsfeld was stepping down, the sergeant went to tell his Marines.

The sergeant went upstairs to tell his marines, just as he had informed them the day before that the Republican Party had lost control of the House of Representatives and that Congress was in the midst of sweeping change. Mr. Menti had told them that, too.

“Rumsfeld’s out,” he said to five marines sprawled with rifles on the cold floor.

Lance Cpl. James L. Davis Jr. looked up from his cigarette. “Who’s Rumsfeld?” he asked.

I love it: Who’s Rumsfeld?

If history is any guide, many of the young men who endure the severest hardships and assume the greatest risks in the war in Iraq will become interested in politics and politicians later, when they are older and look back on their combat tours.

But not yet. Marine infantry units have traditionally been nonpolitical, to the point of stubbornly embracing a peculiar detachment from policy currents at home. It is a pillar of the corps’ martial culture: those with the most at stake are among the least involved in the decisions that send them where they go.

Mr. Rumsfeld may have become one of the war’s most polarizing figures at home. But among these young marines slogging through the war in Anbar Province, he appeared to mean almost nothing. If he was another casualty, they had seen worse.

“Rumsfeld is the secretary of defense,” Sergeant McKinnon said, answering Lance Corporal Davis’s question.

Lance Corporal Davis simply cursed.

It did not sound like anger or disgust. It seemed instead to be an exclamation about the irrelevance of the news. The sergeant might as well have told the squad of yesterday’s weather.

Another marine, Lance Cpl. Patrick S. Maguire, said the decisions that mattered here, inside Company F, Second Battalion, Eighth Marines, were much more important to them than those made in the Pentagon back home.

There are daily, dangerous questions: When to go on patrol, when to come back, which route to take down a road, which weapon to carry, and, at this moment, which watch each marine would stand, crouched up on the roof, in the cold wind, exposed to sniper fire.

His grandfather fought at Iwo Jima, he said, and his father was a marine in Vietnam. This was his second tour in Iraq. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “Someone points a finger at you, and you go.”

“The chain of command?” he added. “You know how high I know? My battalion commander is Lt. Col. DeTreux. That’s how high I know.”

Do read the full piece; it’s worth the three minutes.

And, I’ll add my two cents: the Corps does much right; we could all learn a thing or two.

Stone wall in Stonington, Maine
Originally uploaded by Sandy FordFrost wrote,

He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Seems a good fence is worth killing over, too.

A man apparently angry over a fence dispute fatally shot three men before committing suicide in front of police officers, authorities said Thursday.

Howard Hawthorne is believed to have shot his next-door neighbor and two other men, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Capt. Fred Cotton said.

He fired on them with a shotgun as one pulled up a fence post with a tractor, said Undersheriff Brian Edwards.

Hawthorne’s property just outside this Tulsa suburb shares a driveway with his neighbor, and the dispute was over a fence along the driveway, Edwards said.

Perhaps Mr. Hawthorne should have spent more time with poetry and less time with shotguns.

London Terror Drama
Originally uploaded by DarrenSI’m so surprised:

1. That this announcement didn’t come Monday to help the President and his Party.

2. That there aren’t more plots afoot.

From Reuters

Britain’s intelligence agency head was quoted on Friday as saying up to about 30 major terrorist plots were being planned in the country and that future threats could involve chemicals and nuclear technology.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, director general of MI5, said young British Muslims were being groomed to become suicide bombers and that her agents were tracking some 1,600 suspects, most of whom were British-born and linked to al Qaeda.

“We are aware of numerous plots to kill people and damage our economy. What do I mean by numerous? Five? Ten? No, nearer 30 … that we know of,” Manningham-Buller said in a speech in London on Thursday that was reported by British media.

Senator George Allen hisself.
Originally uploaded by mgarberI find it interesting that many people are thinking this is the end of George Allen’s political career. I wouldn’t be so swift to judgment.

The AP’s lead to the story about the Senator’s concession speach is a bit over the top:

Republican Sen. George Allen conceded defeat Thursday to Democrat Jim Webb, sealing the Democrats’ control of Congress and the political downfall of a man once considered a White House contender.

Political downfall? The man lost one race; he didn’t try and sleep with a male page.

I think Matthew Barakat, Associated Press Writer, ought to leave the over-the-top prose and punditing to us bloggers. He’d be better off sticking to documented facts and let us live in hyperbole, irony, and sarcasm.

Voting machine
Originally uploaded by khasanWhen I first voted here in Portsmouth, I was surprised at the ballot: an 8-1/2 by 11 piece of paper and a stubby felt tip pen to fill in the bubble circle to cast a vote.

I thought it was the dark ages.

I now realize somebody in City Hall has some smarts. Let us hope we never get rid of paper and pen. I saw the completed ballot of a neighbor as he went to put the paper in the ballot scanner doo-hickey; he’d circled the name of his preference for Senator. Perhaps his vote didn’t get picked up the first time through, but there’s no question as to who he cast his vote for, even if he didn’t follow directions (and, he is a very senior citizen who, likely never had to suffer through bubble-tests as a young student).

He never would have handled the new-fangled electronic voting machines… and his vote might never have been actually recorded.

Look south to Florida to see another debacle

The touch-screen voting machines Katherine Harris championed as secretary of state after the 2000 presidential recount may have botched this year’s election to replace her in the U.S. House, and it’s likely going to mean another Florida recount.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn’t have a vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than the rest of the district, elections results show.

Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb sent a team to Sarasota County on Thursday to observe the expected recount and audit the county’s touch-screen voting machines.

Of course, they will not find anything. Unlike my neighbor, who’s undercount would be counted in a hand tally, these 18,000 voters don’t get the chance.

To do a manual recount for touch-screens, officials go back over the images of the electronic ballots where the machine didn’t register a choice. But state rules essentially say that if the machine doesn’t show that a voter chose a candidate, the voter is assumed to have meant to skip the race — it would be tough to prove otherwise.

Bring back the paper, baby, bring back the paper.

Kudos to Deloris M. Overton, the Registrar in the City of Portsmouth, and her staff for keeping things simple and running a truly effective and inclusive election… And making decisions which ensure we’ll never have the eyes of the nation on us, an election hanging in the balance because of poorjudgmentt.

Breast Pocket
Originally uploaded by Lindsay BeyersteinPerhaps we will all be saved the pain of a recount which drags on and on, Florida style.

From the Washington Post and the pen of Michael D. Shear

Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) will concede that he has lost the election to Democrat James Webb at a 3 p.m. news conference in Alexandria, according to a source close to the campaign with direct knowledge of the senator’s intentions.

As of this morning, Allen trails Webb by 7,484 votes after a bruising reelection campaign. Republican sources said Allen had concluded that no amount of recounting would change the outcome, but members of the senator’s campaign staff would not publicly confirm his intentions.

A concession would spare the country from a recount that could have left control of the U.S. Senate in limbo for weeks. And it would make official what many have been saying since late Wednesday: that Webb will become Virginia’s junior senator, giving Democrats a 51-seat majority and complete control of Congress for the first time in more than a decade.

The Post puts the tallies at 1,172,670 (or 49.6%) to 1,165,436 (49.3%). This is another lesson that every vote counts and that everyone should take it upon themselves to vote.

Did you know that, worldwide, the United States stands 120th in terms of participation during national elections? That’s right: 119 countries have better participation than we do. That’s just sad.