Flip-Flop, Part 2

January 31, 2007

Interesting reader comment over at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. You may remember that yesterday I wondered about flip flopping on the war. Well, now there’s more.

A reader writes about what happened when he saw the photographs from the Abu Ghraib scandal

When I saw those photos, the moral center of the war completely collapsed for me. My support for the war was grounded in my pride as an American, in my belief that America’s only source of strength was its ideals and that these ideals were available to all. Abu Ghraib and the administration’s shameful response to it made clear that, whatever other justification it might have, the Iraq War was not a war for American ideals.

Wow. Mr. Sullivan then writes about what impact the photographs had for him:

I knew immediately that the deeper war – for democracy and decency – had been lost at that moment. The enemy didn’t win. Through the torture policies he enacted, Bush surrendered.

Hard core from a former supporter.
Alone?
Originally uploaded by Kay84Well, not really, but a Calgary author says bloggers are a “lonely bunch unlikely to change the world.” And, since I blog, then, according to this University of Calgary professor, I’m lonely.

What’s he know? He claims

Bloggers are living in a world where emotions may be real but everything else is make-believe…

From Bill Graveland of The Canadian Press, we learn,

Michael Keren, who has written “Blogosphere: The New Political Arena,” suggests individuals who bare their souls in blogs are isolated and lonely, living in a virtual reality instead of forming real relationships or helping to change the world.

“Bloggers think of themselves as rebels against mainstream society, but that rebellion is mostly confined to cyberspace, which makes blogging as melancholic and illusionary as Don Quixote tilting at windmills,” the author says…

“In this world of blogging, which the whole world can read, you have a personal expectation about a readership that’s just not there for the millions of bloggers who are writing their personal feelings.”

Keren praises the Internet as a great place for self-expression, but he also suggests that blogs often have the opposite effect by creating feelings of loneliness for those who aren’t lucky enough to reach “celebrity” status.

“Many of us end up like Father McKenzie in the ‘Eleanor Rigby’ Beatles song, who is writing a sermon that no one is going to hear,” he suggests. “Some of us are going to be embraced by the mainstream media, but the majority of us remain in the dark, remain in the loneliness.”

Oh, spare me the philosophizing, please.

But, I feel so alone. Not. It’s not about the number of readers, it’s about the quality of the writing.

Did you hear about the agents from Germany’s intelligence agency, the Federal Intelligence Service, or Bundesnachrichtendienst, sometimes known as the BND, who kidnapped an American citizen who was vacationing in the Republic of Georgia at a spa on the shores of the Black Sea?

Simon Andrews, a sales representative for Microsoft, was spending time between presentations looking for a vacation home in Georgia. Agents of the BND found him on the street, stuffed him in a car, and flew him to an undisclosed location for interrogation. He is suspected of being a supporter of Al Qaeda. His fiancée, Mariyah Muhammad al-Jamil, a recent graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, was in a nearby cafe when the kidnapping took place, and witnessed three men place a black hood over his head and push him into the back seat of an SUV with tinted windows.

Both the Secretary of State and the President have commented this evening on this infringement on the rights of an American citizen who was legally visiting a sovereign country by agents of another country. President Bush called the alleged kidnapping “a blot on relations” between Germany and the United States.

Oh, wait, I have the story all wrong. It was American agents who kidnapped a German citizen in a sovereign nation. That makes it okay.

From Craig Whitlock at the Washington Post

German prosecutors on Wednesday said they have issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA operatives suspected of kidnapping a German citizen in the Balkans in 2004 and taking him to a secret prison in Afghanistan before realizing several months later that they had the wrong person.

The German arrest warrants, filed in Munich, are the second case in which prosecutors have filed criminal charges against CIA employees involved in counterterrorism operations in Europe.

I do find it interesting that we seem to have a strong set of double standards; we do things that we’d never sit down for if they were done by another country.

And, please, don’t tell me that’s the American way.

Today, the Commandant of the Coast Guard was on the Hill, testifying before members of the House of Representatives. You can find his prepared statement here, thanks to CG Information. Pretty clear that Admiral Allen is taking the heat, and the blame. I wonder if he has now spent all his political capital on this issue.

Today I was speaking with a senior CG officer, someone who had intimate knowledge of the Deepwater program. He suggested to me that “It’s worse than you can imagine” and that “the whole truth has yet to come out.” Boy, I hope that’s not the case. The scuttlebutt is that this could ruin Admiral Allen’s tenure as commandant; it could “take him down” and forever scorch his legacy.

That would suck, plain and simple.

I believe Admiral Allen is being above board, transparent, and honest. I hope I’m not naive.

Over at Govexec.com, Katherine McIntire Peters notes that Admiral Allen wasn’t involved in many of the decisions that led to the current state of affairs.

Coast Guard technical experts warned of design flaws as early as 2002. In March 2004, then-Assistant Commandant Rear Adm. Erroll Brown outlined several major areas of concern in a memorandum to then-Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. P.M. Stillman. Brown wanted to halt the program until technical concerns could be addressed after ICGS “unilaterally closed the structural comments and concerns and ended any collaborative effort … without reaching a resolution.”

Senior Coast Guard leaders decided to go ahead to prevent the schedule from slipping and further driving up costs. They planned to address the technical problems by retrofitting the first cutter. Delivery of the first cutter is scheduled for August; the second is under construction and scheduled for October 2008. Brown and Stillman, along with other key decision-makers at the time, have since retired. Allen became commandant last May.

That he wasn’t in the position of key decision maker didn’t stop Admiral Allen from taking the blame; he didn’t attempt to pass the buck, at all.

In his prepared remarks, Allen discusses a bit on pre-Deepwater history:

By the mid 1990s, most of our ships and aircraft were approaching the end of their service lives. Our cutter fleet was then, and remains, one of the oldest among the world’s naval fleets. Some of our cutters are old enough to be eligible for Social Security! In light of a looming block fleet obsolescence, it wasn’t sensible to attempt piecemeal, one-for-one replacement of each class of assets. We also didn’t have the capacity to manage that many projects in parallel.

Because of anticipated funding constraints and competing requirements, we knew an innovative approach was required. And because maritime threats were evolving in the post-Cold War environment in which Deepwater was conceived, we knew expectations for maritime security were changing as well, so our asset mix would need to support these dynamic requirements. We determined, therefore, that it would be most cost effective and efficient to acquire a wholly integrated system of ships, aircraft, sensors and communications systems, or, as it is commonly called, a “system of systems.” The idea is based on the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; all elements combine to generate greater capabilities across the entire system. Given that, our goal is not to replace ships, aircraft, and sensors with more ships, aircraft, and sensors, but to provide the Coast Guard with the functional capabilities required to safely achieve mission success.

Okay, I buy that. I also know that our level of competence for acquisition likely wasn’t up-to-snuff to take this one. Many people in the field suspected as such, at least anecdotally.

This wholly-integrated acquisition strategy called for progressive modernization, conversion and recapitalization using a mix of new and legacy assets, replacing those that are obsolete, while upgrading existing ones until a new fleet is acquired. This complex strategy, and the fact that the Coast Guard had not built a ship the size of the National Security Cutter for over three decades, drove our decision to engage the services of a system integrator with proven technical expertise in the acquisition of large systems. Following a rigorous, multiple year selection process, the result was our contract with Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Adding to the program’s complexity was adoption of an innovative performance-based acquisition strategy. Compared to more traditional methods, performance-based acquisition is designed to promote innovation and spread risk more evenly between government and industry. However, it is still a relatively new discipline, with an accompanying learning curve, that continues to invite appropriate scrutiny from our overseers, including Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG).

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t such a big secret we were missing some corporate knowledge.

Anyway, Admiral Allen later notes that “recent media coverage has overlooked significant Deepwater accomplishments.” The downside to his list is that most of the items are aeronautical in nature. Deepwater has had pretty decent success on the aviation side; it’s the naval side, with the 123’s and the NSC, that things are looking damn awful.

Admiral Allen also notes some “challenges in program execution.”

The innovative Deepwater program is large and complex and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the challenges we have faced in the areas of program management and contract execution. Our performance-based acquisition strategy has created unique contracting and management challenges for the Coast Guard and our industry partners. In my view, some of these come from the need for an integrated Coast Guard, that unifies our technical authority, requirements owner, and our acquirers in a way that allows early and efficient adjudication of problems and ensures transparency so that Coast Guard would be capable of working successfully with ICGS on a simultaneous and complex acquisition of this size. We knew early on that this acquisition would be transformational for our Service, but we have to actively manage that transformation and not allow this acquisition to manage us. We are aggressively tackling and correcting these problems.

And clearly, we have experienced some failures in the Deepwater Program. The planned conversion of 110-foot patrol boats to 123 feet as a bridging strategy until new assets came online to fill the patrol gap has failed.

In Capital Hill speak, “we have experienced some failures” and “has failed” are more than just words. He’s owned up.

But, he’s not letting it just stay put. Like the whole study following the recent dive deaths, Admiral Allen is showing his desire for organizational learning:

The failure of the 123-foot patrol boat project is unacceptable. I have established a group of legal, contracting, and engineering experts to examine the process at all stages, from beginning design work until we tied up the boats. I have directed this group to establish responsibility and propose measures to prevent similar problems in the future. We will work aggressively with ICGS to reach resolution and put this behind us.

I’m all with that, but I’m wondering why we are giving the Deepwater contractor the chance to build the quick-fix, off-the-shelf, patrol boat replacement. I say we go with another contractor; let ICGS eat cake, frankly.

We’ve learned from this experience. Adjudication of technical concerns within the Coast Guard could have been accomplished more efficiently. Existing organizational barriers made it harder for us to jointly address concerns and develop mutually acceptable solutions. We also could have been more proactive in informing Congress–and this Subcommittee–about fatigue concerns. One of my axioms is that “transparency of information breeds self-correcting behavior;” I assure you that as we move forward that transparency will be my watchword.

I just hope that everyone else has the same watchword. We have years and years of culture which is anti-transparency; it’s hard to cut through all that culture to create something new. Not everyone agrees with this notion of transparency, and I can imagine that some people may work to keep secrets and box people out.

Well, do read Admiral Allen’s full testimony; don’t rely on my take for what he said… or didn’t say.

And, while you’re at it, do read the Inspector General’s report that started the latest hail storm; you can find it here

BARBARO/NBC
Originally uploaded by suzannahFrankly, I haven’t understood all the attention paid to the death, as sad as it was, of Barbaro, the winner of last year’s Kentucky Derby. Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post has a suspicion about the reactions:

In diagnosing the public’s unreasoning love for Barbaro, maybe it comes down to the fact that he never lied to us.

Evidently, this is more than can be said about our presidents. Carl M. Cannon notes, in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly that “presidents have always lied.”

In 1944, Harry Truman was asked by his friend and Senate colleague Owen Brewster what Franklin Roosevelt was really like. Truman hadn’t gotten to know his running mate very well, but the Democratic vice-presidential nominee had spent enough time around FDR to provide a succinct answer.

“He lies,” Truman replied.

You can hear six lies here
There’s an interesting post over at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. It seems that Mr. Sullivan, who is now opposed to the war in Iraq, wasn’t always so inclined. After a reader pointed out he’d changed his tune, Mr. Sullivan wrote,

My own doubts about force levels, expressed soon after the invasion, didn’t really morph into “getting off the bus” until the end of 2003, beginning of 2004. But you can raid the archives and see the shift for yourself.

So, here’s the question: Where did you stand back in 2002/2003? Where do you stand now? Why the shift, if there’s been a shift?

For those of us in blogosphere: what does this flip-flopping mean? And, what does a change-of-heart mean for politicians?

More on the we-can’t-seem-to-get-along sectarian violence in Iraq. From Damien Cave and John O’Neil of the Washington Post:

The gunmen who battled Iraqi and American forces near Najaf on Sunday were members of a Shiite cult that planned to storm the city during a religious festival and kill the nation’s top Shiite clerics, Iraqi officials said today.

About 200 members of the group, which called itself “Soldiers From Heaven,” died in the fighting, which lasted until about 4 a.m. today. Iraqi officials said that 60 others were wounded and as many as 120 were captured.

Yeh, I had to read that twice. Shiite gunman were planning on killing Shiite clerics.

What a %^&*$ mess.

I recently came across a list of ten web 2.0 services you shouldn’t live without; what a great list. GMail, flickr, and Wikipedia top the list. Check it out.

This got me thinking: just what are we talking about when we say Web 2.0? Was 1.0 the bubble that burst? Or is there something else?

I found this on Wikipedia:

Web 1.0 : the “readable” phase of the world wide web, denoted by static flat data presentation. i.e. HTML, XML, etc.

Web 2.0 : the “writable” phase, denoted by interactive dynamic data and client-server synchronization. i.e. PHP/JS, AJAX, etc.

Web 3.0 : the “executable” phase, denoted by dynamic web applications and composite interactive services. i.e. Online Operating Systems, SaaS, etc.

This defintion is actually on the “talk” page of the Web 3.0 article. What’s interesting about the Web 3.0 article is that it has been closed/deleted. Why? Vague speculation on a vague idea that doesn’t yet exist.

Okay. But what’s 2.0? Google comes up with this

Web 2.0 is a term often applied to a perceived ongoing transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to a full-fledged computing platform serving web applications to end users. Ultimately Web 2.0 services are expected to replace desktop computing applications for many purposes.

I think Web 2.0 is, perhaps, about user content. Perhaps that’s what defines 2.0. Web 1.0 was using tools, like banking & airline ticketing; Web 2.0 is about users creating content, like blogging and tagging.

Or am I off base?

Meanwhile, a little something more to gnaw on: a list of the top 100 alternate search engines. According to Charles S. Knight of a search engine optimization company headquartered right in the Commonwealth of Virginia in Charlottesville, market research shows that people actually use four main search engines for 99.99% of their searches: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask.com. Mr. Knight might know a thing or two about Internet search; he claims that he has “discovered that in that .01% lies a vast multitude of the most innovative and creative search engines you have never seen.”

Lead on MacDuff. Lead on.

I saw this somewhere… (Sidebar: I really have to do a better job of keeping the feeds straight)… and thought it looked like fun.

You Are Most Like John F. Kennedy
image
You live a fairy tale life that most people envy.
And while you may have a few dark secrets, few people know them.

What Modern US President Are You Most Like?And, no, I didn’t gundeck it.
ubuntu
Originally uploaded by leighblackallSaw this cartoon and just had to chuckle, particularly since today is the day of Vista’s launch to consumers and every-day-joes.

Click here to see it larger (so you can read it).

And you can go here for Ubuntu, a superb, and free, operating system.

Yesterday I posted a bit about a report due out this week on global warming. James Young noted that the picture I used was less-than-stellar. Actually, he wrote, “Here’s a little news flash: a single glacier that has retreated 35 meters (about 100 feet) in three years proves utterly nothing.” True enough. I guess I didn’t look long and hard enough for pictorial evidence. I usually use the first decent picture I find that is either in the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons License. So, taking Mr. Young’s challenge, I now direct us all to better examples.

Exhibit A is posted here. While I didn’t get this particular image from Time, this article has the same picture, crediting it to Greenpeace. Here’s the cutline:

The photograph taken in 1928 shows how the Upsala Glacier, part of the South American Andes in Argentina, used to look. The ice on the Upsala Glacier today, shown in 2004 below, is retreating at least 180 ft. per year.

The Time article, by Jeffrey Kluger, is pretty good. I recommend it.

If Exhibit A doesn’t do anything for you, like my earlier picture, you could check this comparison photo of Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana. Or perhaps you’d rather just surf this global warming site for more pictures that might be compelling.

And, I recommend Gary Braasch’s global warming site which is stock full of pictures Mr. Braasch has taken around the world. On his site, he notes,

Global Warming is a wide-ranging, and urgent problem. People in the U.S. and around the world are already suffering from its effects. The truth is we all must begin reducing global warming, and fortunately there is much to do.

The report that started this thread came from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel is an international organization headquartered in Switzerland. From their website:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been established by World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is currently finalizing its Fourth Assessment Report “Climate Change 2007”. The reports by the three Working Groups provide a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the current state of knowledge on climate change. The Synthesis Report integrates the information around six topic areas.

I first learned about the IPCC in an English publication. I’m thinking the Europeans are a little more interested in this.

David A. King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Government, wrote in 2004,

In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today — more serious even than the threat of terrorism.

Janet L. Sawin noted in a 2005 article,

The parallels with terrorism are compelling. Traditional responses to security threats cannot address the root of such problems, and related impacts could persist even if global emissions are cut dramatically over coming decades because of the significant lag time between cause and effect. As with terrorism, we know that changes will occur, but not when or where they will strike, nor how damaging and costly they will be. Climate change already claims more lives than does terrorism: according to the World Health Organization, global climate change now accounts for more than 160,000 deaths annually. By the time the world experiences the climate equivalent of September 11th, or the 2004 Madrid bombings, it could be too late to respond.

So, the question remains: What are we going to do about it?

And I don’t want to hear mumblings of “I’m just one person.”

Update @ 1225: Reposted, this time with the photograph attached… 😉

I’m on the road, and arrived this morning here in Boston. A quick cab ride to my hotel, Residence Inn Boston Harbor on Tudor Wharf, to stash my stuff before heading out to meet my client. I’m there in the lobby and it is before 10AM… and they check me in. I hadn’t told them I’d be early, but they had the key and everything all made up and ready for me.

But that wasn’t the part that really got me raving. Then I asked the woman at the counter where there was a store nearby where I could get a charger for my cell phone; I left the charger at home. I’m always leaving something. And she said, not to worry, that they’d get a charger for me. The manager came by, looked at my phone, and 20 minutes later he was at my door with a charger.

Now that is something to rave about.

I missed this solution posed by Stephen Colbert and reported by one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers:

First, we side with the Shi’ites to wipe out the Sunnis. Then we side with the Kurds to wipe out the Shi’ites. Then we side with the Turks to wipe out the Kurds and we give Iraq to the Amish.

This is the first bit of strategic thinking I’ve seen that actually makes sense.It seems that journalists always seem to focus on the negative or heart wrenching stories. We hear this a great deal from certain quarters about coverage in Iraq: “Hey, there’s great stuff going on in Iraq and all we hear about is death and mayhem.” It’s like the eleven o’clock news.

Stewart Payne of the Telegraph in England doesn’t subscribe to that only-bad-news format. No, Mr. Payne brings us the story of Nick Wallis, a young disabled man who lives at Douglas House hospice in Oxford, England. Mr. Wallis is 22 years old and was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating condition.

Mr Wallis told staff at the Douglas House hospice in Oxford that he wanted to experience sexual intercourse. He explained that he had hoped to form an intimate and loving relationship with a woman, but his disability had acted as a barrier.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “It was a decision two years in the making and I discussed it with my carers and my parents. Telling my mother and father was the hardest part, but in the end they gave me their support.

“There are many aspects of life that an able-bodied person takes for granted but from which I am excluded.

“I had hoped to form a relationship when I went to university, but it didn’t happen. I had to recognise that if was to experience sex I would have to pay for it out of my savings. My mind was made up before I discussed it with anyone else.”

The hospice staff, after taking advice from a solicitor, the clergy and health care professionals, decided to help him.

“I found an advert from a sex worker in a magazine for the disabled,” said Mr Wallis. “The initial contact was by email and then by phone.”

It was arranged for the prostitute to visit his home in Northampton. “My parents went out,” he said.

It’s nice to hear that everyone, including Sister Frances Dominica, the nun who runs the hospice, was supportive with his endeavor.

Finally, good, wholesome, uplifting news in the main stream media.

Global Warming
Originally uploaded by ianarridgeWell, just when you thought the news couldn’t get any worse…

Jonathan Leake at the London Times reports on the conclusions drawn from scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Scientists say rising greenhouses gases will make climate change unstoppable in a decade
THE world has just 10 years to reverse surging greenhouse gas emissions or risk runaway climate change that could make many parts of the planet uninhabitable.

The stark warning comes from scientists who are working on the final draft of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report, due to be published this week, will draw together the work of thousands of scientists from around the world who have been studying changes in the world’s climate and predicting how they might accelerate.

They conclude that unless mankind rapidly stabilises greenhouse gas emissions and starts reducing them, it will have little chance of keeping global warming within manageable limits.

The results could include the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, the forced migration of hundreds of millions of people from equatorial regions, and the loss of vast tracts of land under rising seas as the ice caps melt.

In Europe the summers could become unbearably hot, especially in southern countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, while Britain and northern Europe would face summer droughts and wet, stormy winters.

And, let’s see, rising sea levels will bring the Elizabeth River to my doorstep. I wonder it it would be covered by flood insurance?

Now, here’s my serious question: If we choose to not believe the science, and it turns out that it’s right, what sort of a world will be be living in? And, if we do make changes now, and are successful, will we really know we were right? And which is better: to be right and not know it, or to be wrong and know it?

DSC_0025
Originally uploaded by ONE/MILLIONThought I’d put a plug in for “The Guardian,” the Coast Guard’s “Top Gun” meets “Heartbreak Ridge” meets “An Officer and a Gentleman” meets, well, other movies about the military. The Coast Guard hasn’t had a full length feature film dedicated to the Service in a very long while. Er, perhaps forever.

Anyway, it’s a great story, although the film runs a little on the long side. For the most part, it was easy for me to suspend my disbelief; they got most of the technical details right-on.

Have you heard about Neil Havens Rodreick II? He’s the 29 year-old who masqueraded as a 12-year old so he could sexually assault them? I wasn’t going to blog about it as it just turns my stomach, and then today in Terry Greene Sterling’s special to the Washington Post, there was a post that just compelled me to write.

Here’s the gist: Rodreick passed himself off as a 12-year old to two guys (Robert James Snow, 44, and Brian Jay Nellis, 34); he lived with them. The newspapers have been calling the three of them “roommates.” How quaint.

Anyway, Rodreick went to school with Snow and Nellis pretending to be his guardian. Rodreick, Snow, and Nellis are all convicted sex offenders.

It turns out Snow and Nellis didn’t actually know that Rodreick was twelve.

Snow and Stiffler were angry that they had been having sex with a man when they thought they were having sex with a 12-year-old, authorities said.

Shock on my part. I’m not even sure what route to go down, but the irony doesn’t escape me. I guess it does escape them.

Anyway, may they all rot in some Arizona prison until they die. And perhaps the prison’s general population will sharpen their shivs before the three musketeers show up. Not that I’m suggesting it or hoping it, but rather that I’m making an observation. Right.

I noted yesterday how the Sunni/Shiite conflict was tearing Iraq apart. Well, good news today.

From Reuters

US and Iraqi forces have killed 250 gunmen in a fierce battle involving US tanks and helicopters on the outskirts of the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

The day-long battle was continuing after nightfall on Sunday, said Colonel Ali Nomas, as tens of thousands of pilgrims converged on the nearby city of Kerbala for the climax of the Ashura commemorations.

A US helicopter was shot down in the fighting. The US military declined comment. A reporter for news agency Reuters saw a helicopter come down trailing smoke.

Oh, right. Sorry. That’s not the good news. That’s the sh*tty news. Here’s the good news:

Shiite political sources said the gunmen appeared to be both Sunni Arabs and Shiites loyal to a cleric called Ahmed Hassani.

Great. Now we’ve got them so they’re not knocking off each other but teaming up to take out American forces.

I don’t think that’s what we were really hoping for.

Wouldn’t it be easier to be dealing with a single dictator and a strong central Iraqi government. Oh, right, we were, until we took him down. The cynic in me says this is one of the cases of be careful what you ask for.

Looks as if the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program is in hot water.

Renae Merle and Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post report bad news is headed toward the Deepwater catastrophe, er, I mean, program.

The Coast Guard’s newest cutter, the flagship of a $24 billion plan to modernize the nation’s coastal fleet, suffers from significant design flaws, and the service has failed to properly supervise the contractors doing the work, government inspectors have found.

The 418-foot National Security Cutter is the largest ship the Coast Guard has ever commissioned, but as designed would be limited in its ability to venture far from U.S. shores in search of drug smugglers and terrorists, according to a report scheduled to be released Monday.

Technical experts said the design of the vessel was likely to result in “fatigue cracks” that would sharply increase maintenance costs and shorten the ship’s useful life. The report also said the Coast Guard appeared ill-equipped to supervise the project’s contracting team, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which had been given wide latitude in running the program.

I’ve heard rumblings. And for years I’ve heard scuttle of secrecy inside the program and cozy relationships between program individuals wearing blue and wearing suits.

I find it interesting that the prospective Program Executive Officer for Deepwater is Rear Admiral Ronald J. Rábago, who, before he was promoted to flag rank, was the deputy commander for the Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic. Yes, I might have seen him on a daily basis. Anyway, what I find interesting is two-fold. First, what a shitty job to be walking into. I’m afraid the chance for a “win” is four to one, against. The Service has too much invested to walk away, and yet I don’t see a way to successfully execute the program to meet the desired goals. It’s a little too ambitious, and, frankly, I think we trusted the contractors too much. Perhaps that’s what happens when you get into bed with someone.

Having said that, Rear Admiral Rábago has never before gotten into bed with Integrated Coast Guard Systems, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman which was designed to suck millions of dollars from the Coast Guard. Er, belay that. I meant to say “was created to deliver to the Coast Guard the assets needed to successfully prosecute her varied missions over the next three decades.” The closest Rear Admiarl Rábago came to ICGS were his tours at the MLCA and at the Coast Guard Yard… and I know even in those roles, he didn’t come to close to the Deepwater we’ll-tell-you-as-little-as-we-can Program.

The Coast Guard cutter report laid much of the blame on the Coast Guard’s relationship with its contracting team.

The ship’s “design and performance deficiencies are fundamentally the result of the Coast Guard’s failure to exercise technical oversight over the design and construction of its Deepwater assets,” the report said.

He’s got his work cut out for him. But, he’s the right person for the job.

More troubling than the design problems and the contractor/government relationships, which are very troubling, mind you, are the reports indications that the Coast Guard and the contractors have not been forthright — and transparent — with the auditors.

The inspector general also faulted the Coast Guard and contractors for imposing restrictions on interviews with employees and “hindering” the audit. The contractors, for example, wanted lawyers present during interviews with their employees. The meetings never took place.

The Coast Guard initially required that contact with the auditors be reported, that interviewees submit documents to the service before turning them over to auditors, and that an agency official be present during any interviews. The inspector general suspended fieldwork for five weeks in 2005 because of the agency’s demands.

The Coast Guard’s lawyers found some of the restrictions violated employees’ rights. Auditors eventually interviewed some agency officials, but continued to have problems obtaining documents, according to the inspector general. In December 2005, auditors requested a copy of a briefing detailing the results of a structural analysis. The Coast Guard submitted the document, but omitted several pages of technical information, including notations “in large red lettering” stating that the ships would not meet their 30-year service life requirement, the report said.

Why do I find this more troubling? I find this more troubling because transparency, while it has not been a word the Commandant has actually used, is what he is trying to do with the Service. He is pulling and pushing the Service and her members to be more transparent. We must be open. Hiding from auditors is not being open.

Now, the good news, at least as I read the article, is that the stonewalling came in 2005. Admiral Allen took the helm in the summer of 2006. Yes, from 2002 to 2006, he was the Service’s Chief of Staff, but he was unable to make the cultural changes from that seat. And, I have it on pretty good authority, that he may have been stonewalled about certain things or, even, boxed out.

We learned earlier this week that Admiral Allen met with senior executives of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman on the 19th to discuss the Deepwater Program.

Patricia Kime of Defense News writes

Allen held the two-hour meeting with Lockheed Martin chief executive officer Robert Stevens and Northrop Grumman chief executive officer Ron Sugar to discuss the program’s objectives, as well as the Coast Guard’s ongoing efforts to overhaul its acquisition management office.

It was the first meeting between Allen and the senior executives responsible for overseeing Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman that handles the $24 billion, 25-year Deepwater contract.

As is often the case, buried deeper in the article were some true nuggets of gold.

In the past six months, Allen has quietly been overhauling the Coast Guard’s acquisition management offices. He appointed an assistant commandant for acquisition and has embarked on a hiring frenzy, adding 40 contracting officers and courting more.

Deepwater has a backlog of funding that must be spent but has lacked the personnel to perform contract oversight, Coast Guard officials said.
The meeting between Allen and the two corporations’ top managers was designed to discuss Coast Guard initiatives to strengthen oversight, spokesman Cmdr. Brendan McPherson said.

In a statement, Allen said he envisions having continued, routine meetings with Stevens and Sugar to ensure “executive level oversight” of Deepwater.

“This renewed effort will require a significant investment of time at the most senior executive level of each of our organizations,” Allen said.

Significant investment of time? No sh*t.

ICGS spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell-Jones said Jan. 24 that the Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman systems integration team has always maintained communications with the service and described the meeting between the chief executives and Allen as “not unusual.”

Bullsh*t. If this was the first meeting between Admiral Allen and Messrs. Sugar and Stevens, then I would say it is, by definition, unusual, or perhaps I’m missing something here. Here’s a question ripe for a FOIA request: If this was the first meeting between the Commandant and senior executives of Deepwater, how many times did the previous Commandant, Admiral Tom Collins, meet with Messrs. Stevens and Sugar, or other senior executives of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. If, over the course of four years, the answer is once or none, then I’d say Ms. Mitchell-Jones misspoke.

So, going back to my earlier prediction. I do think if Admiral Allen stays in the game and Rear Admiral Rábago maintains his professional distance & rides the oversight like a crusty ol’ naval engineer, the Coast Guard just might beat the odds.

Let’s hope so.

Oh, it all seems to be working out so well…

Sabrina Tavernise from the New York Times brings us a vivid account of the Sunni/Shite conflict in Iraq:

A PAINFUL measure of just how much Iraq has changed in the four years since I started coming here is contained in my cellphone. Many numbers in the address book are for Iraqis who have either fled the country or been killed. One of the first Sunni politicians: gunned down. A Shiite baker: missing. A Sunni family: moved to Syria.

I first came to Iraq in April 2003, at the end of the looting several weeks after the American invasion. In all, I have spent 22 months here, time enough for the place, its people and their ever-evolving tragedy to fix itself firmly in my heart….

The moderates are mostly gone. My phone includes at least a dozen entries for middle-class families who have given up and moved away. They were supposed to build democracy here. Instead they work odd jobs in Syria and Jordan. Even the moderate political leaders have left. I have three numbers for Adnan Pachachi, the distinguished Iraqi statesman; none have Iraqi country codes.

Neighborhoods I used to visit a year ago with my armed guards and my black abaya are off limits. Most were Sunni and had been merely dangerous. Now they are dead. A neighborhood that used to be Baghdad’s Upper East Side has the dilapidated, broken feel of a city just hit by a hurricane.

The Iraqi government and the political process, which seemed to have great promise a year ago, have soured. Deeply damaged from years of abuse under Saddam Hussein, the Shiites who run the government have themselves turned into abusers.

Never having covered a civil war before, I learned about it together with my Iraqi friends. It is a bit like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Broken bodies fly past. Faces freeze in one’s memory in the moments before impact. Passengers grab handles and doorframes that simply tear off or uselessly collapse.

I have the suspicion that no matter what we do, no matter what strategy we use or tactic we deploy, we’ve lost. We cannot win, at least as we have defined “win.” And this, frankly, saddens me. We have wasted an awful lot of international goodwill, and things will be worse than before we invaded Iraq.Heard on a talk radio show today: A caller suggested that like the American political leadership is setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet, the American people should set benchmarks for our elected leaders. His suggested benchmark: The President and Vice President walk down several blocks of a street in Baghdad without ruining their underwear.

Here’s a little something from CBS. Andrew Sullivan suggests this wasn’t shown on nightly news because it is a reality-check against the notion that the war for Baghdad is winnable, given the resources and tactics we are planning to confront it with

Here’s another topic I’d somehow missed. A Canadian who was wrongfully apprehended by American authorities and shipped off to Syria, where he was then tortured, has won a law suit against the Candadian government.

From Ian Austen and the New York Times:

Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer who was detained by American officials in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was kept captive for nearly a year and regularly tortured, will receive more than 10.5 million Canadian dollars ($8.9 million) in compensation from the Canadian government, under a settlement announced today.

The settlement, which also includes an unspecified additional amount to cover Mr. Arar’s legal costs, ends a lawsuit brought by Mr. Arar and follows a recommendation from a judicial inquiry into his case. That inquiry found that the expulsion to Syria was apparently caused by false assertions made by Canadian police to United States officials, saying that Mr. Arar was linked to Al Qaeda.

Well, I’m just thankful that we’ve never apprehended anyone innocent or sent anyone to a country where they’ve been tortured and that we are totally above board. Yup, good to know.Somehow I missed the details on one of the attacks on US soldiers last week. Four soldiers were killed in an attack in Karbala; what is just now coming to light is that they were abducted by people dressed as American forces… and then they were killed. From Steven R. Hurst and Qassim Abdul-Zahra of the Associated Press Writers

Four American soldiers were abducted during a sophisticated sneak attack last week in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and their bodies were found up to 25 miles away, according to new information obtained by The Associated Press.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad on Jan. 20, was conducted by nine to 12 militants posing as an American security team. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles _ the type used by U.S. government convoys _ had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English.

Brazen.

And, clearly, effective.

Read what happened, and it sounds as if the operation was well-thought-out, well planned, well-funded, and well-staffed.

I’m thinking that if anyone thinks another ten or twenty or thirty thousand troops is going to make all the difference, they’re mistaken. These are not people who just fell off the turnip truck or who will fade into oblivion at the face of a few thousand more American soldiers and marines. No, they’re in for the long haul.

The photo used with this post is in the public domain and was found on flickrCapt. Brian Roeder (center) leads his troops on a joint patrol with Iraqi army soldiers in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 21, 2006. Roeder is the commander of Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. DoD photo by Spc. Joshua R. Ford, U.S. Army. (Released)

With the President’s recent speech and the inclusion of a vision of a less-gas-dependent nation, all eyes seem to be turning toward renewable energy resources. Perhaps we ought to think about wind.

In my RSS reader skimming today, I somehow landed at this blog posting about how to build a wind farm. Check it out; the pictures are phenomenal; I’ve seen wind turbines, but nothing like these.

Perhaps we could put a farm up off the coast of Virginia? Is there enough wind to make it worth our effort?


scooter libby
Originally uploaded by mibajiThe entire Scooter Libby trial is interesting, with the prosecution painting a picture of a guy who worked to protect his boss and the defense arguing he’s been made a scapegoat by the administration. Could it be that both the defense and the prosecution are correct in many of their assertions? From Richard Willing over at the McPaper of American journalism:

Prosecutors allege that the Bush administration officials engineered the leaks to undermine Wilson’s credibility. The key issue in the trial, however, is not any attempt to damage Wilson but whether Libby intentionally lied when he told FBI agents and grand jurors in late 2003 and 2004 that he first learned Plame’s identity from NBC reporter Tim Russert. Russert, who is expected to testify, has already denied that.

During Tuesday’s opening statements, Libby attorney Theodore Wells claimed Libby was a scapegoat for the mistakes of other high-ranking White House officials, particularly Karl Rove, Bush’s key political adviser.

Hear Nina Totenberg’s story over toward the left at NPR for a well-balanced take on the activities in court yesterday.

My own take from the shores of the Elizabeth River: Mr. Libby likely lied, and he is likely being slaughtered to save others in the administration; they will not step to his defense, leaving him to hang in the breeze and serve as the scapegoat for all-that-went-wrong with that little let’s-avoid-transparency-at-any-cost spin before the invasion of Iraq.

What’s the state of Web 2.0 in America? What’s the state of relationships and marriages in America. I’m afraid the news is out:

65 percent of consumers are spending more time with a computer than with their significant other, according to new independent research commissioned by support.com.

Conducted by independent research firm Kelton Research, the “Cyber Stress” study confirmed consumers’ growing relationship with technology in their everyday lives. In fact, more than 8 out of 10 Americans (84%) say they are more dependent on their home computer now than they were just three years ago.

More time with their computer than their significant other. Oh, that’s just going to add fuel to the fire.
Tom Cruise at Paris MI3 Premiere
Originally uploaded by cunparisThis isn’t getting much play, yet, here in the US of A, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. I’ve seen bits about this from Europe and Asia.

From Matt Houghton (@ Digitalspy.co.uk) and as reprinted in the China Daily

Tom Cruise has been named the new “Christ” of Scientology, according to the leaders of the religion.

The Mission: Impossible star has reportedly been told that he has been chosen to spread the word of his faith throughout the world.

Leader David Miscavige believes that in the future Cruise will be revered like Jesus for his work in propagating the religion.

A source told The Sun, “Tom has been told he is Scientology’s Christ-like figure. Like Christ, he’s been criticised for his views. But future generations will realise he was right.”

Abraham. Buddha. Jesus. Muhammad. Cruise?

Okay, I’ll refrain from making anymore of my usual cynical, ironic, sarcastic comments. This is one case where I don’t think I need to as it all just speaks for itself.

This is funny on so many different levels…

Where Do You Think You

For me, it’s not my mother laying down the law, it’s my conscience. Or maybe that’s an addiction.

Is there a problem when I have 383 feeds and feel compelled to check them all? daily?

I’m afraid I might miss something; I’m like the kid at the top of the stairs; I’ve been sent to bed, but I’m afraid I’ll miss something exciting at my parents’ party downstairs.

For many years, I’ve thought that the best gift anyone could purchase for me was something for someone else, something that someone truly needed. We’ve all heard about giving a duck or a cow or a water buffalo to a family in a developing country. Several years ago, my mother gave her grandchildren a goat; I don’t think they appreciated it. I don’t think I would have at their ages, either.

Turns out that many of those “give a goat” programs isn’t really giving a goat; the money might get to a family in some form, but its not in the form of what the gift purchaser thought it would be. Robert Thompson posts an awesome movie about really giving a needy family a water buffalo. This is worth the eight minutes it will take to view the film; see it

You Are a Pundit Blogger!
image
Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.
Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few

What Kind of Blogger Are You?I’ll let the Onion speak for itself:

BETHESDA, MD—According to sources at the Allstate Insurance Company, CIA Director Michael Hayden purchased nuclear-attack insurance Wednesday, paying a $100,000 monthly premium for his homes in suburban Washington, Pittsburgh, and near Cheyenne Mountain, CO. “It’s a typical nuclear policy that protects the insured from damages caused by fallout—pretty straightforward, though at that monthly rate, I don’t usually sell too many of them,” said Bethesda, MD–based Allstate agent Gary Rutter, adding that Hayden paid for the first premium with a certified bank check to guarantee that the policy would take effect no later than next Monday. “After he purchased the insurance, he asked again if everything was set for Monday. I assured him it was, and then he left.” Insurance agents throughout the D.C. area reported selling 35 such policies in the last week, all to high-ranking government officials.

I wonder if I need a policy here in Hampton Roads?Saw that the US is sending another aircraft carrier, and her associated task force, off the coast of Iran:

A second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington’s way of warning Iran to back down in its attempts to dominate the region, a top U.S. diplomat said here Tuesday. Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, ruled out direct negotiations with Iran and said a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was “not possible” until Iran halts uranium enrichment.

“The Middle East isn’t a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn’t a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That’s why we’ve seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region,” Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank.

“Iran is going to have to understand that the United States will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us,” Burns continued.

Last week I received a phone call from a political operative who was trying to get me to send some money. During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that the current administration is attempting to create another Tonkin Gulf incident.

Is it possible?

Perhaps the new paradigm is single-issue news sources… The Politico comes online today.Silence here at the Muse’s spot along the Elizabeth; busy, but still thoughtful.

Here’s my question for the day:

I’ve been thinking about this notion of the political center. Does the center mean compromise? I don’t think so, although I think that is the popular thinking.

I think the center is the place to find what Stephen Covey calls the third alternative. The third alternative is not my way or your way, but rather a third way which we discover together and is better than my way or your way.

Can we find the center, the third alternative? Or will we continue to be torn apart by partisan hacks? Will we continue to suffer ad hominem attacks from the both sides of the political spectrum?

Let’s look for solutions to these crucial issues

  • global terrorism
  • our national debt
  • our dependence on foreign oil
  • the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies
  • nuclear proliferation
  • global climate change
  • the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system
  • the education of our young, the health care of all
  • the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people

These are issues we can, I believe, find the center and create the third alternative. Let us.I’m excited about the prospects for Unity08, but I wonder if the center can really hold.Unity08 has an interesting perspective on “the issues.” And, I suspect that, when people sit and think for a quiet moment, they’ll come to the same place.

Unity08 divides issues facing the country into two categories: Crucial Issues – on which America’s future safety and welfare depend; and Important Issues – which, while vital to some, will not, in our judgment, determine the fate or future of the United States.

In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.

By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.

In our opinion – since the disintegration of the Soviet Union – our political system seems to have focused more attention on the “important issues” than the “crucial issues.” One result: The political parties have been built to address the interests of their “base” but have failed to address the realities that impact most Americans.

The problem with the center is that many in the American political system enjoy a good fight, and the middle isn’t about a good fight, but about doing what is correct and in finding the third alternative. Could we focus on the crucial rather than the important?

I’m brought back to a poem by William Butler Yeats titled “The Second Coming.”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of “Spiritus Mundi”
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

I am particularly drawn to the imagery of the first eight lines. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold… The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity…

Can the center find a place in the American political spectrum? I pray so.

Great article by Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. over at GovExec.com about military awards and how the numbers have slipped in Iraq II: Medals for military valor rarely in the spotlight.

From the article:

To a civilian, the “ribbon rack” on a dress uniform is at once impressive and unintelligible, like poetry in a foreign language. To the discerning military eye, however, those decorations spell out a coded message with the wordless precision of signal flags.

“You can have someone walk into a room in uniform, and to a civilian he looks like Idi Amin, festooned with ‘fruit salad’ everywhere,” said Bruce Gudmundsson, a retired Marine major who is a military historian. “But the cognoscenti look at that and say, ‘Aha, this guy has never seen a shot fired in anger.’ Another guy might be wearing only a couple of decorations, but you look at those and go, ‘Wow.'”

And the SAT word for today is cognoscenti, which means people who have superior knowledge and understanding of a particular field. Right; you knew that; got it.

Anyway, read the article and learn a bit; even those in uniform will pick up a tidbit or two, I’m sure.

Over at Sam Smith’s Undernews, I saw this wondered what the implications are… Evidently on the Senate floor this morning, Senator Dianne Feinstein from California alleges that President Bush is canning federal prosecutors across the country.

Recently, it came to my attention that the Department of Justice has asked several U.S. Attorneys from around the country to resign their positions — some by the end of this month — prior to the end of their terms not based on any allegation of misconduct. In other words, they are forced resignations.

I have also heard that the Attorney General plans to appoint interim replacements and potentially avoid Senate confirmation by leaving an interim U.S. Attorney in place for the remainder of the Bush administration.

How does this happen? The Department sought and essentially was given new authority under a little known provision in the PATRIOT Act Reauthorization to appoint interim appointments who are not subject to Senate confirmation and who could remain in place for the remainder of the Bush administration.

To date, I know of at least seven U.S. Attorneys forced to resign without cause, without any allegations of misconduct. These include two from my home State, San Diego and San Francisco, as well as U.S. Attorneys from New Mexico, Nevada, Arkansas, Texas, Washington and Arizona.

In California, press reports indicate that Carol Lam, U.S. Attorney for San Diego, has been asked to leave her position, as has Kevin Ryan of San Francisco. The public response has been shock. Peter Nunez, who served as the San Diego U.S. Attorney from 1982 to 1988, has said, ‘This is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my 35-plus years.’

My gut tells me this is something of importance, but I’m not sure my mind sees what’s really going on. Anyone want to help me out here?Our favorite deputy assistant secretary of defense has broken his vow of silence:

During a radio interview last week, I brought up the topic of pro bono work and habeas corpus representation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not.

I believe firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel. I support pro bono work, as I said in the interview. I was a criminal defense attorney in two of my three tours in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. I zealously represented unpopular clients — people charged with crimes that did not make them, or their attorneys, popular in the military. I believe that our justice system requires vigorous representation.

I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs.

Josh White at the Washington Post wrote about Cully’s letter, and he also noted this:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales pointed at the detainees’ attorneys himself yesterday, telling the Associated Press that their numerous challenges have delayed trials for their clients at Guantanamo Bay.

In an interview with The Post later yesterday, Gonzales said the remarks were “not intended as criticism of defense attorneys doing their jobs” but were “a statement of reality.”

“We had to fight many legal battles to get where we are today,” he said.

While there will be many who don’t believe Mr. Stimson’s comment that his comments don’t reflect his core beliefs, don’t count me among them. I don’t discount that Cully is conservative and to the right-of-center. By the same token, I know his character, or at least I knew his character when we were in school together.

Surfing around this morning, I was reminded of another lawyerly incident that shows, I think, Mr. Stimson’s character. In 2004, as a prosecutor, Cully was involved in the case of Jonathan Magbie, a 27-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a childhood accident, who was arrested for possession of “a a marijuana cigarette.” He died in the custody of prison authorities after being sentenced to serve 10 days in jail.

During a four-day period, Magbie — who had a tracheotomy, a pulmonary pacemaker, and required a ventilator to breathe at night and smoked pot to ease the pain of a bone infection — was allegedly parked overnight in a locked infirmary cell. He could not reach the emergency button to call for help. While in the District’s custody for less than a week, he reportedly became dehydrated, contracted pneumonia and died during an acute respiratory crisis.

It was months before that when Attorney Stimson was on the scene.

Three months before he was sentenced, Magbie was called by [Judge] Retchin to a status hearing at which he was expected to plead guilty. Retchin said she wanted truthful answers. To make certain Magbie could be prosecuted for any false statement, she told him she was going to ask the court clerk to place him under oath. “Do you understand, Mr. Magbie?” Retchin asked. “Yes,” Magbie said.

“Mr. Magbie,” asked Retchin, “are you able to raise your right hand to take an oath?”

“No,” he said. Retchin then told Magbie, “Listen to what the court clerk is saying. I understand because of your physical limitations you won’t be able to raise your right hand, but you still will be under oath if you agree after she gives you the oath.” Magbie, five feet tall, his growth stunted since the accident that left him paralyzed at age 4, seated in the motorized wheelchair that he operated with his chin, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

After that there was no way Magbie’s condition could have slipped Retchin’s mind. Three times, Charles Stimson, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the Magbie case, saw fit to give the judge a reminder.

“Before I go forward,” Stimson told Retchin in open court, “I would like the record to be clear that Mr. Magbie is in a wheelchair. As I understand it from numerous discussions with [Magbie’s lawyer], he’s a quadriplegic. And that should be very clear on the record at this point before I go forward and the court makes further inquiry.”

Retchin merely thanked Stimson and moved on to accept Magbie’s guilty plea.

Stimson kept trying to get it through Retchin’s head that Magbie was no threat. During a confidential bench conference, Stimson cited Magbie’s condition as a reason why the government did not want to take the case to trial or to send him to jail. Stimson told Retchin that “the jury appeal to a person in a wheelchair . . . is very high because he can’t do anything for himself.” Moments later, Stimson explained: “We felt that if we took this to trial, the jury would acquit Magbie because he can’t really do much.”

Stimson informed Retchin at the bench conference, “Mr. Magbie is trying to live sort of the fast life or as fast as he can while being confined to a wheelchair, and he has various nicknames out in the street which aren’t relevant to this, but our opinion is that he likes to share his money to feel important but that he’s not involved in selling drugs on the street, he’s not involved in drug running.” Yes, he hung out with some questionable characters and liked having them around, Stimson said, “because it made him feel important.”

And, as reported two columns ago, three months before Retchin jailed Magbie, Stimson advised her that Magbie had medical needs that the jail couldn’t accommodate.

Personally, that sounds more like the Cully Stimson who came of age along the shores of the Bai Yuka.

So, what’s next? Well, I hope that Cully uses this moment-in-the-light to actually bring light to Gitmo, to do more than just ferry media to Gitmo for six-hour stays on the island

Cully, seize the moment. Make Gitmo truly transparent Don’t let your letter to the Washington Post be the last thing you do in your role as deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. Show, in this current role, what really is at your core beliefs.

Well, at least according to this report from Don Davis:

In a move that legal scholars are calling both stunning and long overdue, the American Bar Association (ABA) has issued a ruling prohibiting all lawyers from serving in, or representing, the Bush Administration.

Although this decision had been under consideration for some time, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the recent statement of Charles D. Stimson, a senior Pentagon official, who condemned lawyers at leading national firms for providing representation to prisoners at Guantánamo, and suggested that corporate clients should terminate their relationship with such firms. The same point appeared Friday on the editorial page ofThe Wall Street Journal

The decision by a special three-member panel of the ABA was based on a seldom-used disciplinary rule, DR-666, which provides that “a lawyer’s duty of zealous representation does not apply to being the devil’s advocate.”

However, the decision was not unanimous, as Professor Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard Law School cast a dissenting vote, on the basis that “the ruling did not go far enough, and should have included a proviso for the torture and rendition of these right-wing lawyers.”

Okay, yes, that’s satire. I wanted to be certain to spell that out, as I know that most readers of the Musings don’t have a sense of humor and are unable to identify satire and sarcasm.
Onions
Originally uploaded by biopotI recently added The Onion to my daily ration of RSS feeds, and let me tell you, it’s worth it for the chuckle. A “man-on-the-street” comment about the recent “botched hanging of Saddam Hussein’s half brother,” I would strongly disagree with the term ‘botched execution.’ It seems to me these guys went the extra mile.” Or maybe you don’t want politics; perhaps you’d prefer travel and entertainment news? From northern Wisconsin: There’s More To Appleton Than Our Acclaimed Escorts a little something from the “Fox Chamber of Commerce”

Have you thought about making Appleton, WI the destination for your next vacation, business meeting, or even place to live? It may not spring to mind right away, like Las Vegas or Sheboygan, but I certainly hope you’ll consider us. We’re not as big as Milwaukee, but we’re a terrific community with a lot of heart and plenty of fun activities. Sure, you could stay just long enough to be serviced by one of our regionally renowned escorts, but we also encourage you to look around and enjoy all that our riverside city has to offer.

Did you know, for example, that the country’s first ever hydroelectric facility was built right here in Appleton? That’s correct, back in 1882. I bet you didn’t even think that hydroelectric power was available back then, but it was, right here, and, interestingly enough, just around the corner from Appleton’s very first escort service, which opened shortly after the Peshtigo Fire of 1871.

Add The Onion to your reader. 😉
… and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson is still in the news. There’s a host of pieces, mostly op/ed in nature. My favorite: Constitutional law is apparently easy to forget from the Arizona Star in Tucson.

Not quite 240 years ago, John Adams, at the time a young lawyer, was asked to defend the British soldiers who had fired on a mob of demonstrators and mortally wounded five of them.

The event, which came to be known as the Boston Massacre, was as divisive as today’s question of what to do about suspected terrorists.

A lawyer with political aspirations — Adams would go on to be elected the nation’s second president — Adams could have refused to represent the unpopular British soldiers. But he knew that would have violated a fundamental principle — namely, that every person accused of a crime deserves a defense.

Adams took the case, at great personal peril, and in summation offered the jury some advice that remains especially relevant today in the cases against detainees at Guantanamo.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. . . . To your candor and justice I submit the prisoners and their cause,” he said.
We were reminded of Adams’ dilemma, and his choice, when we read recently the shocking remarks of Charles Stimson, a lawyer who serves as deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Something tells me Mr. Stimson’s brief interview isn’t going to fade away any time soon.The Seattle Times has an editorial today praising the Coast Guard for “candor” with the diving accident investigation.

The Coast Guard undertook a commendable and unflinching review of a last August’s fatal diving accident in Arctic waters. Sadly, the same professional rigor would have kept the two divers out of the frigid water and spared their lives.

I’ve been reading Admiral Allen’s Final Action, and am struck that while there were failures at every level of the Coast Guard, I wonder if we don’t put too much on our junior personnel and set them up for failure. And, I hope that the macro lessons of this mishap are not lost on those outside the dive program; there is plenty here for everyone to learn from. We must be better.
Bat Boyz han!
Originally uploaded by .John B.More on the Charles Stimson incident. Seems he’s catching it from both the left coast and the right coast.

From the west coast comes an editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle asking if there are Too many — or too few lawyers?

What eats at Charles Stimson, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for detainee affairs, is the free lawyering supplied by a string of the nation’s top law firms. It’s “shocking” that these top-drawer practices offer pro bono advice to prisoners at the remote U.S. base on the southern tip of Cuba.

And then, from the hallowed halls of Harvard and the pen of Charles Fried comes this:

That some of the law firms Mr. Stimson singles out represent large employers defending discrimination and disability suits, major corporations accused of price fixing, securities fraud and pollution is not because the right hand — so to speak — does not know what the left is doing, nor because these firms are major-league hypocrites. On the contrary, they act in the best traditions of the profession — traditions that are ignored in today’s China or Putin’s Russia.

It is the pride of a nation built on the rule of law that it affords to every man a zealous advocate to defend his rights in court, and of a liberal profession in such a nation that not only is the representation of the dishonorable honorable (and any lawyer is free to represent any person he chooses), but that it is the duty of the profession to make sure that every man has that representation.

We’ll never know what pushed Mr. Stimson to his utterance, but Professor Fried makes a guess:

And the hapless Mr. Stimson may also have fallen victim to that lawyers’ occupational disease, Acquired Conviction Syndrome. It is too bad that lawyers in this country feel bound not only to submit the best possible arguments for their clients — virtuous or deplorable — but also to stump for them in the press, before legislative bodies and in professional organizations. Debate in the American Bar Association and American Law Institute, for instance, has been degraded in recent years by their members carrying their representation of their clients’ interest into fora in which their best independent expert judgment is asked for. How unfortunate that in this country we have plaintiffs’ lawyers and defendants’ lawyers, lawyers who represent only unions and others who represent only management. One looks with nostalgia at the British bar, where barristers will prosecute one day and defend the next.

It may just be that Mr. Stimson is annoyed that his overstretched staff lawyers are opposed by highly trained and motivated elite lawyers working in fancy offices with art work in the corridors and free lunch laid on in sumptuous cafeterias. But it has ever been so; it is the American way. The right to representation does not usually mean representation by the best, brightest and sleekest. That in this case it does is just an irony — one to savor, not deplore.

Now, who’s hammering him from the heartland?
Well, I wonder if the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs is going to actually weather this burst of passion from disparate members of the American public and media.

From USA Today, the McPaper of America,

It’s easy to understand how annoying these pesky lawyers and their challenges must be to the Pentagon, which runs a prison camp that has given America an international black eye. Deriding their firms, many of which represent Fortune 500 companies, and trying to instigate retribution is certainly one way, albeit a pretty sleazy one, to discourage more challenges.

Perhaps a few facts need to be called to Stimson’s attention.

While holding hundreds of prisoners in Kafkaesque legal limbo at the camp, the U.S. government has transferred or released about 380. After labeling prisoners the “worst of the worst,” it has admitted that some pose no long-term threat. No doubt, defense lawyers helped bring about some of those just releases.

But Stimson, a lawyer who should know better, doesn’t seem much bothered by facts. In his interview with Federal News Radio, he suggested darkly that some of the firms “are receiving monies from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.”

Oh, really?

According to a spokesman for the Center for Constitutional Rights, which recruited the lawyers, the firms are donating their time and expenses; one firm representing Kuwaiti detainees has received some payment and donated it to 9/11 charities.

I was truly saddened by the note at the bottom of the editorial:Charles Stimson did not respond to a request to reply to this editorial. To keep his job, Cully is going to not directly answer his critics, but he’s going to need to show he was wrong, repent, and do right. Making things at Gitmo truly transparent would be a good start.

As an aside, one of the reader comments posted on the editorial was an interesting read:

If Iran was rounding up Americans and placing them in detention camps on suspicion of terrorism without any proof, we would all be up in arms and demanding military strikes on Tehran.

I don’t have a problem with the government arresting suspected terrorists. But they need to be charged with a crime and place on trial or they need to be released immediately. People should not be held in prison for years without charges. It’s not only inhumane, it’s un-American.

Well, after interring Japanese-Americans during World War II, I’m not sure it’s un-American, but it is clearly not-what-we-want-America-to-be.

Anyway, it’s time for us to set this whole Gitmo thing right; Mr. Stimson, assuming he doesn’t get canned this week, is in a position to do right. I hope he draws on some of those lessons he learned along the shores of the Bai Yuka and does right.

John F. Burns over at The Washington Post reports that the Iraqi executioners of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti used a drop length of eight feet of rope… What, he weighed only 120 pounds? Had they kept him on a starvation diet? Doubtful, since he’s been in American physical custody; we’ve likely been feeding him ham & cheese sandwiches and bacon burgers with steak fries.

After executioners in full-face balaclavas pulled black hoods over the two men’s heads, tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like weights. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and the momentum needed to snap their necks — a grim science that has produced detailed “drop charts” used for decades in hangings around the world — appeared, in Mr. Ibrahim’s case, to have gone seriously awry.

No sh*t.

Iraqi officials who attended the hanging said the calculation in the case of Mr. Ibrahim , 55-year-old of medium height and build, had allowed for a “drop” of eight feet — too much, according to at least one United States Army manual — and about that amount of thick yellow rope could be seen coiled at Mr. Ibrahim’s feet before the hanging.

The video showed his head being snapped off as the rope went taut, and ending up, still inside the hood, lying in the pit of the gallows about five feet from his headless body.

Perhaps they were using the metric system for either his weight or the length of the rope?

Whatever the case, perhaps they ought to re-think the whole hanging thing.

Hangmans Rope
Originally uploaded by SlimShady2007So, wondering how they messed up the hanging yesterday and turned it into a beheading?

From Stephen Farrell and the London Times

Through his black hood, Awad al-Bandar’s lips are still moving in prayer. Barzan al-Tikriti stands beside him, immobile, in an identical orange suit. The double trapdoor swings open. Both ropes jerk to a halt, but al-Tikriti’s body keeps falling, the empty noose swinging in the air.

Even though we knew what was coming it was still a shock: a judicial decapitation live on video. Just when you thought that every ounce of drama had been wrung from this ill-starred judicial process.

The last moments of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and the chief of his Revolutionary Court are a gruesome piece of footage, showing what appears to have been a miscalculation by the executioner, one of six men in balaclavas. The Iraqi Government seems to have screened the film — only once, and only to a small number of journalists — to avoid the outcry that built throughout the day across the Arab world about Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti’s last moments.

I think the executioner hadn’t checked my blog from back in November. Turns out that if the rope is too long… well, we’ve now seen what can happen.

This is why when you’re going to hang someone, you should always check the U.S. Army droptables

Perhaps next time they’ll check the tables, first.