DHS has issued a new advisory system

March 31, 2007

Bert & Ernie Terror Level
Originally uploaded by Kier42Seems that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a new Homeland Security Advisory System. Just when I’d learned the old one; at least the colors haven’t changed.

Originally uploaded by soldiersmediacenterThere is talk in the blogosphere that the U.S. has a military operation in place to take on Iran and Iran’s nuclear endeavors. Called Operation Bite, the Russian media reports that the US has plans, along with an implementation dated, to bomb twenty targets in Iran. The talk is that this will be an air war only, striking at Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Now, I’m not sure that the Russian media and the blogosphere are on-the-mark with this. I have severe doubts that an operation such of this would be leaked through the Russian media. I place nearly no credence in the reports.

But it has gotten me thinking. Sure, I’m certain we have war plans and contingency plans and crisis plans in place for a move on Iraq. Had we not, I’d say the military isn’t doing their job. It is the job of planners to have, on-the-shelf, all sorts of plans. And, frankly, I’m more than okay with that.

Deploying that sort of plan now… well, I do have an issue with that.

Some readers will likely assert that there is a similarity between Iran now and Germany of the 1930’s. Some people would suggest that if we had moved against Hitler and Germany before 1940, millions of lives would have been saved.

Well, hindsight is an amazing thing, isn’t it.

What if we had gone nuclear against Russia and Cuba during the crisis of 1962. Hindsight says that would have been the wrong move. Again, hindsight is an amazing thing.

With the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy made the right move, and a move that was not necessarily the move recommended by his advisors, many of whom were avid hawks. Thankfully, Kennedy’s cooler head prevailed.

History is littered with such incidents.

We are now at a place in history, however, where cool heads, I suggest, are not prevailing. Was it necessary, truly necessary, to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein? From my vantage point, I’d have to suggest no. We achieved our outright military goal, but the accompanying political goal was not, and likely will never, be accomplished.

I’m not found of unfounded overseas adventures. When things are black and white, such as in Iraq I, sure, move forward. But, when things are gray, time, take time. Allow the other elements of DIME to achieve the political purpose.

What of Iran?

Well, if this coming Saturday proves the Russian media and the blogosphere to be correct, I predict we are more than a little ways in on a long, downward spiral.

Mess Hall at The Coast Guard Academy
Originally uploaded by FJ Gaylor PhotographyI’m not sure I predicted accurately the release of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Organizational and Climate Assessment Task Force Report. I’ve been out-of-pocket, and it seems the report may have been issued this past Thursday… I had thought it would be yesterday…

Okay, moving on to details… the report is posted here

According to the Chief of Staff’s report, the task force identified a number of opportunities for improvement, related to this principal themes:

  • Emphasize the concept of officership
  • Assess and improve cadet leadership and character development programs
  • Elevate respect in the cadet experience
  • Create a more diverse faculty, staff, and Corps of Cadets
  • Improve governance through external oversight
  • Plan and deploy long term programmatic requirements

More on this to follow, I’m sure.

Originally uploaded by soldiersmediacenterNo news here… but this is how some of the war in Iraq is waged.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich speaks to Sheik Ibrahim, the Muqtar of Mahuz, about ways to use government channels to solve infrastructure problems prior to the opening of the Sen Al Thebban water project March 20, 2007, in the Hawijah district of the Kirkuk province of Iraq. The project will support 10 villages north of Hawijah and is capable of providing clean drinking water for approximately 20,000 people. Meyerowich is the commander of 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Maria. J. Bare)

Of equal (or maybe more) note, the U.S. Army is using flickr to get pictures out to the public. Yes, the Army, as an institution, has joined a social network site. See their flickr stream.

Now, when are the other services going to get onboard?

A grey day
Originally uploaded by doc beeR 282043Z MAR 07
UNCLAS //N05360//
ALCOAST 170/07
A. FRI 30 MAR 07
B. SAT 31 MAR 07

Let us keep the Gill family in our thoughts and prayers.

Ron’s wife is pregnant with their first child…

Originally uploaded by The ClayTaurusScuttle has it that Petty Officer Gill was wearing the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) but was likely not hooked into the gun belt when the Seattle accident occurred. He was in the well of the bow of the boat (not “riding on the bow” as earlier reported; the well is an appropriate crew location), and was thrown when the coxswain made a J-turn. Not sure if the turn was at power. The boat might have dug-in during the turn, putting more force on the crew.

This is all pure scuttle and speculation, of course.

As to more speculation & prognostication, I see the full report from the recent CG Academy study being released on Friday.

At the moment, across from the Federal Courthouse in Norfolk is nothing but a mostly empty lot. Soon, however, construction on Granby Tower will begin.

Harry Minium from the Virginian-Pilot wrote in an article published today:

The final step before construction begins on downtown’s tallest building was taken Tuesday night when the City Council approved a $22 million subsidy for the 34-story, $181 million Granby Tower.

Mayor Paul Fraim said financiers were waiting on final approval for the city subsidy before releasing money to begin construction of the often-delayed project. After an 8-0 vote approving the $22 million performance grant, financing papers will be signed next week and full construction will begin by early May, Fraim said.

This isn’t evidently money coming from taxpayers (unlike the whole Broadway at Chrysler fiasco). As Mr. Minium noted,

A loan will be taken out to pay the developer, and it will be repaid from a portion of the $5 million in annual local tax revenues officials expect will be generated by Granby Tower.

It’s a loan against portions of future tax receipts.

In the past, I’ve been a little hesitant about things like this. There was the money the City gave to Hooters to put a restaurant in Waterside. There was the whole “golf course as collateral against MacArthur Center” thing. Both of those paid off, and the City more than reaped back what it put out. They were, looking back now, sound investments by the City.

I can only figure this will pan out, too.

Photo with this post lifted from Thalhimer

If I had a Hammer
Originally uploaded by DenimNo one would suggest a carpenter only needs a hammer in their toolkit.

A carpenter with only a hammer would be like a nation only using military force to achieve her goals. The US Joint Forces Command identifiesfour areas of national power that are leveraged in “effects-based” operations against an adversary’s vulnerabilities and targeted against his will and capability to conduct war.

That’s four, not one. It’s like a carpenter having a plane and a router and a saw in addition to the hammer.

Of course, if everything the carpenter sees appears to be nails…

And we know that’s not the way it really is. The world is more gray than black and white.

Received via email; I’m glad the Service is getting the word out, albeit later than I would have wanted. Message also was posted on the CGR site.

R 271814Z MAR 07 ZUI
UNCLAS //N01000//

For Coastie readers, let’s remember to be safe out there. No operation is without risk, particularly the ones we think of as no-brainers. Complacency is the enemy.

For everyone, do keep Ronald Gill’s family and shipmates in your thoughts and prayers.

Last Day of Cruise
From tribewantedgilliganOkay, I’m still wondering about the couple who fell from the balcony of the GRAND PRINCESS. I’m thinking it was a balcony off a room, perhaps like at the bottom of this picture.

And then we get this from the Associated Press

The rescued passengers were not married and did not come aboard together, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday. Both were cooperating with investigators, Benson said.

Benson said the railing around the cabin balcony is at least 4 feet high and meets all standard safety requirements.

“What we’re looking at is how they went over,” she said. “That’s all part of the investigation.”

Er, ah, do we need to spell it out to the investigators?
CG OPCOM to {{snip}}.

Done deal.

As to looking into my crystal ball:

The {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}} (which will be a {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}} unit) will locate to {{snip}}, {{snip}}, or maybe Ft. {{snip}} or Ft. {{snip}}… and the {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}}, currently out of {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}}) will {{snip}} within {{snip}}

Update 04/05/2007: This morning I received an email from {{**snip**}}. The email said


“The below website has a short snippet on the {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}}, specifically regarding {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}}, which I know for a fact is close held info at present. I’m wondering what type of clearance review this type of thing must undergo? The author works at LANTAREA, Peter Stinson.”

Why whomever it is didn’t call me direct or, since they know where I work, call my boss, I don’t know.

And, I find it interesting what the writer took issue with. The {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}} issue as posted is mostly prognosticating on my part. Perhaps I came close to the truth. The FORCECOM/OPCOM issue actually was close hold and not prognosticating on my part and, was, at the time, likely over the line.

Just goes to show something about rice bowls, I guess. And something about the level of transparency within the Coast Guard. We are truly not an organization that promotes or encourages transparency. As I noted in an email to {{**snip**}}, Admiral Allen is losing that battle.

Nonetheless, I have censored — see {{snip}}s above — the original post. For those who are truly interested, I’m sure there’s a version of the original out there in cyberspace.

And, in the mean time, I have decided to not post anything here related at all to the Coast Guard. Maybe I’ll just have to start another blog and post subversively and anonymously… 😉

Update 04/06/2007: Portions of the above redacted with {{**snip**}}. Not much more to be said.

Update #2 04/06/2007: The first redaction today was a result of an email received. Following receipt of even another email, more portions of the above redacted with {{ **snip** **snip** **snip**}}. Fairly soon, this post is going to look like a document provided by the federal government under a FOIA request.And, if you are wondering why the picture of Petty Officer Gill (below post) looks as if he’s a SWAT team member, well, welcome to the new Coast Guard.

As a CG website notes

Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs) are a new Coast Guard rapid response force assigned to vital ports and capable of nationwide deployment via air, ground or sea transportation to meet emerging threats. MSSTs were created in direct response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and are a part of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered strategy directed at protecting our seaports and waterways.

MSST personnel receive training in advanced boat tactics and antiterrorism force protection at the Special Missions Training Center located at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Read the entire background sheet here.

Also of note, if Petty Officer Gill has been at the MSST since August 2004, he’s a plankowner and was part of the commissioning crew.

Interesting that he was a reservist… which means the Service didn’t have enough active duty personnel to fill the billets and filled some of the MSST billets with Reserve personnel. If it was just our DOD brethren who think they alone are burning it at both ends, they’re wrong.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that the Coast Guard is currently going through a reorganization. I learned today that from 1789 through 1999, the Coast Guard (and her predecessor agencies) conducted major reorganizations 26 times. This current reorg, then, makes 27 and is right about on time.

If we can’t do anything else right, we can certainly reorganize.

Photo with this post is an official USCG photograph

From Seattle PI and the pen of Casey McNerthney:

The King County medical examiner identified Ronald Gill as the Coast Guard petty officer who died of injuries he suffered falling out of a fast-response boat Sunday.

Gill, 26, of Cranston, R.I., was on Puget Sound north of Vashon Island when he fell from a 25-foot-long boat at about 2:15 p.m. The medical examiner said he hit the boat’s propeller, which caused skull fractures, cerebral lacerations and cerebral contusions.

The vessel was one of two such boats from the Coast Guard maritime safety and security team involved in the exercise. Gill and other officers were doing security patrols and training when the accident occurred.

A Coast Guard spokesman said he thinks Gill may have been sitting on the bow, but on Monday did not disclose exactly what caused the fall.

A third response boat was operating in the area and came to the petty officer’s aid, taking him to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal in West Seattle.

People waiting for a ferry to Vashon Island watched as the Coast Guard brought Gill back to the dock. Emotional officers hugged each other as he was put on a gurney, and paramedics took over rescue efforts.

The Seattle Fire Department rushed him to Harborview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The fast-response boats are nicknamed “defenders” and have become highly visible symbols of the Coast Guard’s security efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Washington State Ferries Spokeswoman Marta Coursey said Monday there were no ferry delays because of the accident. Coast Guard security operations were not interrupted Sunday, a spokesman said.

The Associated Press is reporting:

Gill was assigned to the Marine Safety and Security Team of Anchorage.

Gill was a reservist on active duty who had served in the Coast Guard since October 2003. He was a native of Cranston, R.I., and is survived by his wife, his parents and a brother.

And on further surfing, of course the AP is reporting that… while the Coast Guard had been slow in posting official information, looks like they’re up to speed now. If I’d checked out the official news first… well, never mind; there are details in the top article you will not find here. From a CG press release:

The Coast Guardsman who perished in Sunday’s tragic accident north of Vashon Island has been identified.

Petty Officer Third Class Ronald Gill of Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) Anchorage, based in Anchorage, Alaska, was a native of Cranston, R.I., and is survived by his wife, his parents and brother. He was a reservist on active duty who has served the Coast Guard since October 2003. His previous assignments included Marine Safety Office, Providence, R.I. and Port Security Unit 301 in Cape Cod, Mass. He had been assigned to MSST Anchorage since August 2004.

MSST Anchorage was performing an operation in Puget Sound Sunday when Petty Officer Gill was ejected from a 25-foot fast response boat. He was transferred to a waiting ambulance at Fauntleroy Cove and transported to Harbor View Medical Center where he was declared deceased.

VADM Wurster, the Pacific Area Commander stated, “Petty Officer Gill was a dedicated Coast Guardsman and patriot. He was performing Coast Guard Homeland Security operations, a mission he genuinely enjoyed. The entire Coast Guard is deeply saddened by this accident. Our prayers, thoughts and sympathy are with the family, friends and shipmates of Petty Officer Gill.”

MSST Anchorage was deployed to Seattle to conduct Maritime Homeland Security operations during the month of March. Sunday was the final scheduled day of operations. MSST Anchorage is preparing to return to Alaska.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

A sad time for the MSST community and the Coast Guard Reserve. Petty Officer Gill’s family will be in my thoughts and prayers; please hold them in your thoughts and prayers, too.
Originally uploaded by samrmaddenA bit more from the MSM; this time KING5.com:

An investigation is underway after a U.S. Coast Guardsman died in a fall at the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal in West Seattle.

The accident occurred while the 25-year-old petty officer was performing homeland security operations on board a rapid response boat, which routinely accompany ferries on sailings across Puget Sound.

Somehow the officer fell overboard.

“They said that they did a turn and somehow he fell off,” said witness Nathan Thomas. “They didn’t know how he hit his head. Somehow he hit his head so they pulled him out of the water.”

Passengers waiting for the next ferry watched as an urgent rescue unfolded.

“When they finally got him onto the gurney and the paramedics took over, all the Coast Guard guys kind of got away from the scene and were hugging each other and one was crying,” said Thomas.

The officer was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he died.

“Whether it’s helicopter patrols, boat patrols, offshore, we’re out here day and night and it’s a very dangerous mission, and unfortunately today we lost one of our own,” said a Coast Guard Spokesman.

I’ve only been underway once in the RBS; from my one afternoon underway, I’d say it packs a pretty punch and, if you’re not hanging on for dear life, going overboard while outside the cabin would be fairly easy.

Originally uploaded by The ClayTaurusFrom KOMO-TV in Seattle:

A U.S. Coast Guardsman has died after falling overboard during on a routine mission on Saturday, Coast Guard officials said.

Three 25-foot vessels were at work off the coast of Vashon Island when one of the men fell over the side. Officials believe he may have been sitting on the bow, but said they do not know exactly what caused the fall.

The man was in the water for less than a minute before divers pulled him out. He was rushed to the Fauntleroy ferry dock and ambulanced to Harborview Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries.

The man’s identity has not been released. He was reportedly a member of an out-of-town crew.

First I’ve seen of the incident. If he was “a member of an out-of-town crew” and he was working from a 25-foot boat, he was likely a member of an MSST. I think this would be the first line of duty death for the MSST community.

I have camera envy.
Arlington Cemetary
Originally uploaded by Dirty MartiniNewsweek magazine has a thoughtful series about the human cost of our ongoing war in Iraq.

As Jon Meacham notes

No matter where one stands on the decision to invade or on the conduct of the conflict over the last four years, the Iraq War is indisputably a curious thing. For the first time in the experience of any living American, we have sent an all-volunteer force overseas to advance our interests for a prolonged period, and virtually nothing has been asked of the vast majority of those who do not have loved ones in the line of fire. The bargain is hardly fair. If we take the president at his word, the men and women of the armed forces are fighting and dying over there so that you and I will not have to face mortal danger over here.

Do read the entire series of articles, and be prepared, no matter your own beliefs about the war, to be impacted by the men and women who have chosen to serve, by the men and women who are instruments of national power, by the men and women who willing to act no matter their own political beliefs and biases.

Grand Princess
Originally uploaded by .: sandmanOh, I can only imagine… From the AP:

A man and woman fell overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday, but both were rescued after a four-hour search and appeared to be in good condition, a cruise line spokeswoman said.

The 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman fell 50 to 60 feet from a cabin balcony, said Julie Benson, spokeswoman for Princess Cruises.

The cruise line is saying they don’t know how they fell… I just want to know what they were doing that friends would have been watching…

Nonetheless, they ought to thank their guardian angels that they were found in the open ocean; they were 150 miles from shore when they decided to go for a swim.

Karl Rove Thumbs His Nose
Originally uploaded by billy_pilgrimAnd now it appears he & the rest of the White House staff have thumbed their collective noses at the requirement for the Executive to maintain records of all correspondence by using non-governmental email servers.

It appears that being accountable, following the law, and being transparent are not things the current administration sees as important.

Start with this MSM article and then slide over here to this blog, The Richmond Democrat, for a quick overview and more links.

The story of Attorneygate is going to merge with Plamegate and be a huge flaming mess; perhaps it will be Rovegate or the End-of-43-gate. We are going to see that both the “gates” are linked and the picture is not pretty. The White House staff has forgotten they serve the country and the Constitution; the realm of political operative belongs elsewhere.

Pat Tillman
Originally uploaded by partickAs reported today by Lolita C. Baldor and Scott Lindlaw from the Associated Press:

Nine officers, including up to four generals, should be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, a Pentagon investigation will recommend.

Senior defense officials said Friday the Defense Department inspector general will cite a range of errors and inappropriate conduct as the military probed the former football star’s death on the battlefront in 2004, said one defense official.

For perspective and analysis, I call your attention to Jeff Huber over at Pen and Sword:

As I’ve said before, one of the largest casualties we’ve suffered at the hands of the Bush administration has been its near total pollution of the information environment. It pains me to say that I don’t believe a single thing the administration or its supporters say, and that includes information from any official military source.

The Pat Tillman saga is just one small example of the kind of denial/misinformation/disinformation machine the military has become under the present political regime. But don’t think this atmosphere of duplicity started when Donald Rumsfeld took over as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. The origins of this web of deceit go back a long way.

Read the full post

Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseA personal note: Silence from the Muse. I’ve been OBE these last couple of days. Job interview & now heading to Delaware to pick up my mother-in-law for an extended visit to Hampton Roads.

My previous mother-in-law didn’t need me to provide transportation; the broom was good enough.

I’m still beating the horse because I’m pretty sure it’s not really dead yet.

Yesterday, I wrote about performance evaluations. I wanted to pass along a great resource from the Center for Creative Leadership: their Ten Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback. This three-page paper provides good down-to-earth suggestions on providing performance feedback.

The reason most of us don’t do a good job at providing feedback is that we don’t know how it should be done and we don’t practice good skills. Even the good folks at Mercenary Audio ought to be able to learn a thing or two so they don’t find themselves being torn apart in the blogosphere again… well, unless they are truly bumbling idiots or just plain evil…

Bush State of the Union
Originally uploaded by Stephen VossPerhaps this is bigger than just a little hanky panky between the White House and the Justice Department.

Last October, Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen wrote an essay, “Bush’s Lonely Election Season,” for Time Magazine:

If lame-duck Presidents are to achieve anything, they often have to look for ways to go around Congress, especially when it is in the hands of the other party. Clinton used Executive Orders and his bully pulpit to encourage school uniforms, impose ergonomic rules on employers and prevent mining, logging and development on 60 million acres of public land. White House press secretary Tony Snow says Bush may take the same bypass around Capitol Hill. “He told all of us, ‘Put on your track shoes. We’re going to run to the finish,'” Snow said. “He’s going to be aggressive on a lot of fronts. He’s been calling all his Cabinet secretaries and telling them, ‘You tell me administratively everything you can do between now and the end of the presidency. I want to see your to-do list and how you expect to do it.’ We’re going to try to be as ambitious and bold as we can possibly be.”

In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush’s understanding of the presidency, the President’s team has been planning for what one strategist describes as “a cataclysmic fight to the death” over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is “going to assert that power, and they’re going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation.”

You did catch that, didn’t you. Let me repeat it:

when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush’s understanding of the presidency, the President’s team has been planning for what one strategist describes as “a cataclysmic fight to the death” over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is “going to assert that power, and they’re going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation.”

Got that? And it’s playing out today… it’s only coincidence that the cataclysmic fight to the death is over the Attorney General’s office canning a few federal prosecutors. We could be here over pretty much anything.

And, frankly, I’m not surprised. This has been brewing since President Bush and Vice President Cheney took office. Yes, I include the VP here, as I believe that empowering the Executive is one of the key things that Mr. Cheney wanted to accomplish during his tenure.

Last July, Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker that Vice President Cheney was working on a New Paradigm, a strategy that

rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share-namely, that the President has the authority to disregard virtually all legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside.

Way back in January 2005, Bob Woodward wrote

The vice president has been at the forefront of an effort by the Bush White House to promote an expansive view of presidential power by frequently invoking constitutional principle in refusing to hand over documents to Congress or allowing administration officials to testify before congressional committees.

J. Andrew Morrison and Larry Jordan suggest that Mr. Cheney is a pompous ass. I’m sure others do, too.

But that aside, do we really want an all-powerful Executive, or do we want checks and balances?

Hat tip to Kagro X and his What’s Bush’s game?

the wartime president
Originally uploaded by spampy106…is the total lack of transparency.

The blogosphere is swirling with commentary and innuendo and partisan attacks, bolstered by the President’s comments in support of the Attorney General today.

I’m going yo go out on a limb here. All this posturing on the part of members of both the Executive and Legislative Branches is BS. Let’s just get it all out in the open, unadorned and in plain view. Government works best with transparency… Okay, perhaps when something is pre-decisional, it’s okay to keep it under wraps, but after the decision is made, everything — and I mean everything — is fair game to be seen. We’re not talking national security here; we’re talking leadership & management.

Mr. Rove ought to testify, under oath. All the emails and notes ought to be released. This isn’t the Soviet Union; no secrets.

Transparency, plain & simple.

And let the chips fall where they may.

Originally uploaded by dhoff73When I posted a bit earlier today about the conditions of the American miltiary, I’d forgotten that several days ago, Raising Kane had raised a similar issue or two.

Can someone please explain to me how it is that the Republican are better on national security than the Democrats?

Well, I’m afraid the answer is simple: the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is too slight to really be seen.

Although, some data suggests there really is a difference. Hat tip to The QandO Blog for pointing me to the Heritage Foundation

Blackwater Gunner
Originally uploaded by WoodkernThis week the buzz seems to be less on the surge in Iraq and more on how we’re going to continue. I’ve seen two interesting threads which, at least in my own mind, have come together. First, there’s the overall condition of the American military; second there’s the continuing use of contractors to provide what, in the past, were military services.

In the Washington Post, Ann Scott Tyson recently wrote about the state of the American military.

Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a “death spiral,” in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

Military officials say training is limited to counterinsurgency skills, such as those needed in Baghdad, above, at the expense of training for other missions.

Military officials say training is limited to counterinsurgency skills, such as those needed in Baghdad, above, at the expense of training for other missions.

The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula. Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said.

“We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it,” Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

For me, it was General Schoomaker’s comment that was most disconcerting: “We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it.” That ought to be a red flag, a warning flare, a scream in the middle of the night. Things are not looking good, and we are using up the future, now. This is not a balance between what Stephen Covey would call “production” and “production capability.” No, we are killing the golden goose.

One possible solution is to grow the American military, and we are headed in that direction. Another possible solution is to out-source military might to the private sector, and some would suggest we are already doing that.

Jeremy Scahill has recently published a book about Blackwater USA, a North Carolina-based company that bills itself as “the most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world.” Scahill, whose book’s subtitle is “The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” is less enthusiastic about Blackwater’s mission,

To support national and international security policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for all with a dedication to providing ethical, efficient, and effective turnkey solutions that positively impact the lives of those still caught in desperate times

than Blackwater and many in the current presidential administration.

Dr. Michael Forbush at Bring it On! has some interesting comments where he proposes that putting civilian contractors on a military mission is not the best for America, in the long term.

It turns out that Blackwater isn’t under the military code of conduct. The company argues that private contractors shouldn’t be subject to military laws, because they are a private contracting firm. They are actually paid through the state department, and other government departments instead of the Pentagon which stands to bolster their argument. But, they act like a roving band of mercenaries with only Erik Prince to answer to.


It turns out that Blackwater is sparing no expense to defend its right to be above the law. They claim that they don’t need to obey the military code of conduct because they are a private firm. They also claim that they shouldn’t be prosecuted in a criminal court, because they deal with military secrets that could put our troops in jeopardy. They also claim that they can not be prosecuted for any of the actions that they have taken in Iraq under the Iraqi courts, because they are Americans. In fact they seem to have an excuse for almost every possible way they that they could be held accountable for their crimes.

Yesterday, Fresh Air from WHYY and Terry Gross, had a long interview (iTunesFeedmp3) with Mr. Scahill. While one might take issue with his bias, I suggest we all need to at least consider his reporting and the questions he raises. What are the consequences of continuing to march down the path we march today?

Blackwater bills itself as a “professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions” and as providing “the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.”

In some ways, I liken Blackwater to the Coast Guard’s Deepwater contractor: Contractors are concerned first and foremost with ensuring a profit. All other considerations are secondary. Open Culture suggests this is an example of where “the ideology of privatization logically ends up.”

Do we want private companies which have to answer to no one to be “the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere”? I’d feel much better if that critical success factor was in the hands of the American military which is kept in check by democracy, the Constitution, and more than 200 years of tradition.

How does this link back to the Washington Post article and General Schoomaker’s comment? Says Open Culture,

As part of its occupation, the US government has flooded Iraq with private contractors. And while some build bridges and others help pump oil, a good number carry out military operations in America’s name to make up for the shortfall in soldiers, and quite conveniently they’ve positioned themselves to be subject to neither military nor civilian justice systems. Moreover, they have also steadfastly refused to handover information about their activities to Congress.

Combine Blackwater’s imperative to “carry out military operations in America’s name to make up for the shortfall in soldiers” with the General’s comment about production & capability, “We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it,” and we’re in for a long ride.

Didn’t I see a movie or two with this theme?

Some days, it would seem better to just stay in bed. I’ll bet Reginald Richard from Miami is thinking that.

Mr. Richard is a Coast Guard Reservist who allegedly decided to impersonate a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy.

From Stephanie Slater at the Palm Beach Post

A U.S. Coast Guard reservist who authorities said posed as a police officer and ordered a 20-year-old woman out of her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot on Old Boynton Road on Monday night has been arrested.

Jessica Kanov told Boynton Beach police that she stopped her car at about 11:35 p.m., when a black Acura with red and blue police lights on the dashboard pulled up behind her.

Reginald Richard, 20, of suburban Boynton Beach walked up to the driver’s side door, said he was a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy and ordered her out of the car, according to a police report.

Jerone Burdi in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Ms. Kanov, 20,

told police she thought the Acura was an unmarked police car but feared Richard might harm her when he repeatedly asked her to get out of the car, police said. Richard was wearing a holster and tank top. No weapon was visible, police said. Kanov drove away, and called police, reporting his license plate number.

Is this the latest way to pick up women? Pretend to be a cop and pull them over in the Wal-Mart parking lot? “I’m a federal law enforcement officer; heave to and prepare to be boarded” has always worked for me… 🙂

Young Mr. Richard was not serving in any Coast Guard capacity at the time of the incident. He is a watchstander at one of the command centers in south Florida according to the Post article. Mr. Richard was charged with “fleeing and eluding, assault on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence,” and he is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail.

He can try that “prepare to be boarded” line with his cell mates at the Palm Beach jail… I’m sure it will be well received.

The Mercenary Audio story of the fired blogger has me thinking. Fletcher from Mercenary Audio has responded here and elsewhere. Fletcher claims the blogging was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Perhaps. But it’s also a classic example of poor leadership.

The incident is getting a great deal of play in the blogosphere. The fire-ee, Drew Townson, has told his side of the story now on his blog. Other bloggers have started commenting.

And, it seems that blogging might actually be a protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

And, I’ve discovered that getting fired for blogging has its own term, dooced. As in, “Drew got dooced from Mercenary Audio.”

But all of this pales in comparison to what the incident reminds me about leadership and performance evaluations. From both Fletcher’s tale and Mr. Townson’s comments, it’s clear that, whatever the reason for the firing, it came fast and furious.

Sure, Massachusetts is a right-to-work state; so is Virginia. As I understand it, this means that I can get fired in an instance and I can quit in an instance, and there doesn’t need to be a reason. But that doesn’t absolve leaders and managers from providing decent performance feedback.

And that appears to have been key here. Mr. Townson did not receive adequate performance feedback. I’d suggest that any person who has received adequate performance feedback isn’t surprised by getting canned. And both Fletcher and Mr. Townson acknowledge there was surprise here.

Here are some thoughts to consider in performance feedback.

Performance feedback is not an event, but a process. We’ve all worked in places where we get the once-a-year feedback. And that’s all we get. Well, that really doesn’t work for either the organization or the employee. Organizations should have a performance feedback process in place that ensures employees receive formal, documented feedback throughout the year. Quarterly is probably a good target.

Performance feedback needs more than just the formal, written evaluation form. Feedback on performance needs to come in more ways than just the formal evaluation form. Leaders, managers, and supervisors need to provide feedback on a nearly-daily basis. I’d say that if an employee isn’t getting some sort of feedback at least weekly, than the organization is missing the mark. That feedback doesn’t need to be written. It could be as little as a quick uttered sentence or two. It could be a handwritten note or an email. It could be a sit-down.

Performance feedback needs to encompass the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many of us think of performance feedback as providing only negative feedback. When the boss calls you into the office, do you automatically figure you’re going to get chewed out; that’s human nature, but it’s based on conditioning. Too many leaders only call us in to the office to gnaw on our butts. Performance feedback needs to include the stuff we do well and the stuff we don’t do so well.

Performance feedback must be delivered appropriately. Firing someone by voice mail just shows poor leadership. All feedback must be delivered in a appropriate form and medium. We don’t can people by email or voice mail. We don’t draw someone up short in front of their peers.

Feedback on negative performance can’t remain unsaid. If the manager or leader doesn’t provide feedback on negative performance, how is the employee supposed to know they’re not doing well. I’m willing to bet that in the Mercenary Audio situation, Mr. Townson was never given direct feedback on perceived negative performance. Many of us don’t like to confront so we avoid. And when we avoid, things just fester and grow. And then, all of a sudden, it pops like a balloon… or, in this case, a straw on a camel’s back.

The bottom line: if we want to have effective and successful organizations, performance feedback must be something that is more than just random events. Without effective performance feedback, how can organizations align everyone’s efforts toward a common goal and performance excellence?

20030719 AL
Originally uploaded by jvonrI’d heard rumors for quite a while; I guess the news is public now. The Coast Guard, along with most of the Department of Homeland Security now housed in DC, will be moving to the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital site in southeast Washington.

From Stephen Losey in the Federal Times

The Homeland Security Department is moving to an abandoned insane asylum.

The department outlined its $4.1 billion plan to consolidate most of its more than 60 Washington-area offices into a massive headquarters complex to be built at St. Elizabeths Hospital compound in Southeast Washington.

This is one move that is not going to happen overnight.

The Coast Guard will be the first to move in 2010, Orluskie said. Homeland Security’s headquarters functions will follow in 2012, and all remaining components will move between 2012 and 2015.

I thought it was interesting that the new site provides 4.5 million square feet of office space, but the department and associated agencies currently has “22,000 Washington-area employees, who are now housed in 7.1 million square feet.” That’s about an average of 323 square feet per employee.

You’d think they’d hold out for a plan to get everyone in the same place…

British Airways
Originally uploaded by jdamershamDie during the flight.

From Jennifer Quinn and the Associated Press

first-class passenger on a flight from Delhi to London awoke find the corpse of a woman who had died in the economy cabin being placed in a seat next to him, British Airways said Monday.

The economy section of the flight was full, and the cabin crew needed to move the woman and her grieving family out of that compartment to give them some privacy, the airline said.

The first-class passenger, Paul Trinder, told the Sunday Times newspaper that he was sleeping during a February flight from India and woke up when the crew placed the dead woman in an empty seat near him.

“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. The stewards just plonked the body down without saying a thing. I remember looking at this frail, sparrow-like woman and thinking she was very ill,” the newspaper quoted Trinder as saying. “When I asked what was going on, I was shocked to hear she was dead.”

Well of course? What else would they do with the body? Moving to the first class cabin makes sense. The first class passenger probably didn’t actually pay for the privilege of sitting up front, and no where does it say his seat mate will actually be alive.

At least she wouldn’t talk his ear off.

A Hero in My Eyes
Originally uploaded by bsmith4815Last week I wrote about the coroners inquest following the friendly fire incident in the early days of Iraq II. On Friday, I heard a great essay by Ken Harbaugh, a former Navy pilot and current student at Yale Law School. In his essay, Mr. Harbaugh suggests pilots are overloaded with sensory input and that it’s amazing that they maintain any situational awareness at all.

This of course doesn’t speak at all to the issue of withholding information and a lack of governmental transparency.

ware church, side door
Originally uploaded by suttonhooI was visiting my son’s high school this afternoon and bumped into David King, poet & teacher. David is an accomplished poet (you can see some of his poems at Poetry 360) and historian. He’s merging these two interests in a project about colonial churches in the Commonwealth: he’s writing a series of poems, and he’s started a blog, Colonial Churches. I recommend adding his Colonial Churches to your reader; I don’t know how often he’ll be posting, but if you have an interest in Virginia history, this read’s for you

Iraq: US Marines
Originally uploaded by slagheapChecking out my RSS feeds, and I was glad to see the news reporting that President Bush has now outlined an exit strategy from Iraq.

As reported in the Onion

Almost a year after the cessation of major combat and a month after the nation’s first free democratic elections, President Bush unveiled the coalition forces’ strategy for exiting Iraq.

“I’m pleased to announce that the Department of Defense and I have formulated a plan for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq,” Bush announced Monday morning. “We’ll just go through Iran.”

Bush said the U.S. Army, which deposed Iran’s longtime enemy Saddam Hussein, should be welcomed with open arms by the Islamic-fundamentalist state.

“And Iran’s so nearby,” Bush said. “It’s only a hop, skip, and a jump to the east.”

According to White House officials, coalition air units will leave forward air bases in Iraq and transport munitions to undisclosed locations in Iran. After 72 to 96 hours of aerial-bomb retreats, armored-cavalry units will retreat across the Zagros mountains in tanks, armored personnel carriers, and strike helicopters. The balance of the 120,000 troops will exit into the oil-rich borderlands around the Shatt-al-Arab region within 30 days.

This is, finally, an acknowledgment that “stay the course” and “surge” really haven’t worked, and will not work, and a new strategy is needed to not only get us out of Iraq, but to bring peace and stability to the region.
From Oxfordshire, England, the coroner conducting an inquest into a friendly fire mishap has rendered a decision.

From Thomas Wagner and the Associated Press (by way of ABC News)

A coroner conducting an inquest into a U.S. friendly fire attack that killed a British soldier during the Iraq war said Friday that it was unlawful and criminal.

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker also criticized the U.S. military for failing to cooperate with his investigation into the incident.

“I believe that the full facts have not yet come to light,” said Walker, who has complained that he did not get all the evidence he needed about the U.S. A-10 “Tank-buster” plane that killed Lance Cpl. Matty Hull, 25, in an attack on his armored vehicle convoy.

Wondering how fast things can go to shit? Pretty fast. What follows is not for the faint of heart… Here’s the start:

And here’s more.

I’m sure some of my readers will chastise me for imbedding these videos. I’ll say it was a tough call, but it shows a little piece of what happens on the battlefield. It is, truly, a fog. And, alas, we are but mere mortals.

British Lance Corporal Matty Hull died in the incident

His widow, Susan, who has fought a long battle to establish the truth about her husband’s death, burst into tears as Mr Walker delivered his verdict. After the ruling, she said it was “very disappointing” that the US president, George Bush, who she met in 2003 and who promised to help her, had not “followed through” on his offer.

Notes Colby Buzzell in an article titled “Feeling a Draft,”

President Bush has twin 25-year-old daughters, Jenna and Barbara. I wonder what the war would be like if both of them were running convoy missions on dirt roads night and day, dodging IEDs on the outskirts of the Sunni Triangle. I have a gut feeling things would be a little different than they are currently.

Probably. As to the friendly fire incident, the US has not been forthcoming. From the Guardian’s article:

The US military has been accused of attempting to cover up embarrassing mistakes by classifying cockpit recordings of the incident as secret and refusing to make them or the pilots available to the inquest. Key passages of interviews with air controllers have also been kept from the coroner.

They also note that a US investigation acknowledged the pilots hadn’t followed protocol, but they didn’t do anything criminal.

A subsequent US investigation concluded that the pilots, a lieutenant colonel and a major with no combat experience at the time of the incident, were not to blame. In the tapes they were told by controllers that no friendly forces were in their vicinity but were not given permission to open fire.

Major David Small, a spokesman for US central command, last month said the inquiry concluded the incident took place in a complex combat environment; that the pilots believed they were engaging enemy targets, and that they followed the appropriate procedures.

A sad chapter, like many chapters coming out of Iraq. I just wish we’d be more transparent afterwards; let’s get the bad, and the good, out in the open. It is, I suggest, the only way we will get better.
Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseIn this morning’s email, a response from Mercenary Audio:

No, we didn’t fire anyone for “blogging”. We have two other employees that have personal blogs [where they even bitch about the company!!], and they are not a problem. What people do on their own time, how they express themselves is none of the company’s business.

Mr. Townson was dismissed for a very long list of very good reasons I feel no reason to share with you… the blog, much of which was created on company time, was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The problem we had with Mr. Townson’s blog is that it was created to be a “professional audio” blog, which is a direct conflict of interest to the goals of Mercenary Audio [a company that is in the “professional audio” industry].

When Mr. Townson asked the company C.O.O. if he could create a blog about the tools and techniques employed when recording music the answer was “no, you may contribute to the company website with this information, but you may not start your own site in competition and conflict with the Mercenary Audio website”.

The very first words you see on Mr. Townson’s blog are: “Mics, Drums, and Rock & Roll: A Music Recording Blog!”. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. There is a list as long as your arm of the other faux pas perpetrated by Mr. Townson.

There are at least two sides to every story… the “fired for blogging” part is merely the tip of the iceberg.

But the tip of the iceberg is the part we see…

And how does Fletcher from Mercenary Audio know how long my arm is?

Sorry, I digress…

Well, let’s see, I guess I could look for the other employees’ blogs…

Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseNo, not me.


From Joho the Blog, I learned of a blogger who was allegedly fired from his job at Mercenary Audio in Foxboro, MA, for blogging. That’s what D. Weinberger is alleging, anyway:

Drew Townson started a blog. Two weeks in, his fifth post was an announcement of the birth of his baby son, along with an adorable photo. (Mazel Tov, Drew!)

Then he was fired. For blogging.

He had asked his employer, Mercenary Audio, if he could blog on the store’s web site. Nope, said Mercenary, even though Drew has over the course of 25 years created a name for himself as an audio engineer and producer. (Check Google and the AMG All Music Guide.)

So, Drew started his own personal blog. On it he did not mention Mercenary, did not link to Mercenary, did not sell or offer any products or services that might be construed as competing with Mercenary. It just wasn’t about Mercenary. He didn’t even use his own name.

His boss learned about the blog when coworkers passed around the posting with the adorable photo of his newborn son. His boss then fired Drew by leaving him a voicemail that Drew picked up when he got home from the hospital.

Tell me, please, that this is a cock and bull story. Tell me that this isn’t the case… but then there is a reference to getting canned in the comments section of Mr. Townson’s blog.

Why would Mercenary Audio, of Foxboro, MA, do this? Is it because they don’t want their employees having children (see my youngest pictured here with this post; so far, all my employer has done about Jack is kid me about it. The standard, you know, “At 45 you ought to know how to prevent that” and that sort of, er, stuff) or having opinions.

My word, I have opinions — even about my employer — which I post here. I know that sometimes they’ll be seen. Mr. Townson was actually being nice… and still is, as he hasn’t commented on his firing. Me… well, we all know what I would have done by now… and what I have done… and what I have said… and Mercenary Audio should be glad I’m not one of their employees.

Oh, sorry, this isn’t about me, now, is it? This is about Mr. Drew Townson…

It turns out he has commented on his firing… at the Joho blog site. He commented,

Hey gang, it’s me, Drewcifer, the fire-ee. I have received legal advice directing me not to blog about this (yet) or talk about it in detail. Suffice it to say that the reason given to me for my dismissal WAS the existence of my blog. That’s all I can really say at this point. Mercenary DOES have a good reputation for treating it’s customers well, which was the main reason I chose to work there. Unfortunately for me, I was an employee, not a customer.

Maybe his boss has a satire-streak and wanted to compete with the Attorney General and the women of Delta Zeta?

Ah, he doesn’t strike me as the humorous type.

So, for all of us in the blogosphere, the gloves are off. It’s time to stand for our neighbors, our fellow bloggers.

I’ve posted a comment to Mercenary Audio’s feedback page. If they reply back, I’ll post the info here.

I encourage you all to spread the news, far and wide, and to comment on Mercenary Audio’s website.

I figured we hadn’t heard the full story.

Re/ Klalid Sheikh Mohammed ~~

From X Curmudgeon

It seems that Mohammed has now confessed to personal involvement in numerous additional atrocities. Mohammed described how he masterminded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, personally firing the fatal shot from a grassy knoll in Dallas.

Later, in 1972, Mohammed, posing as an Arab oil sheikh, suggested to President Richard Nixon that he bug the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate building, then alerted D.C. police as the break-in was occurring.

KSM also admitted that he is the long sought after Zodiac killer, responsible for a string of sensational unsolved murders in San Francisco.

The terrorist mastermind hinted at involvement in a number of other schemes in the U.S. and around the world as well. For example, he strongly implied that it was he who ordered the pizza that Monica Lewinsky delivered to President Clinton, and that he suggested to her that she expose her thong as a way to catch the President’s eye.

I believe I also read that Mr. Klalid Sheikh Mohammed was also involved in the USS MAINE disaster.

A big hat tip to Mr. Curmudgeon, X or not.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Originally uploaded by sarizzledizzleI was intriqued to learn that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has admitted to masterminding the 9/11 attacks. He admitted to a slew of other things, also, and I was waiting for him to admit to killing JFK, too, as he was on a roll.

You can find links to the transcripts here

I have yet to digest them all, but I will within the next few days. From my morning RSS scan, I learned that the 9/11 Commission considered him a braggart who tried to make himself seem bigger than he actually is, and I learned that he claims to have been tortured while in American custody. And, there was a post somewhere about his four-year-old son who was also taken by American forces and whose whereabouts and status is currently unknown.

More to follow, I’m sure.

Originally uploaded by Tidewater MuseOver at the Daily Kos, Kos writes this about the notion of “Fred Thompson, an Republican, and Sam Waterston, a liberal affiliated with the Unity ’08 group, could run together on the Unity 08 ticket:”

That ticket would split the Right while most Democrats would be left going, “Sam who???”

Of course we should all get a chuckle out of the notion that Thompson is an “independent” Republican…. Thompson told Wallace on an appearance on the Fox Propaganda Network that he would appoint Scalia-like judges, that he would pardon Scooter Libby, supports president Bush’s escalation of the war in Iraq, and so on.

So what part of this, exactly, is “independent”?

But hell, if Unity 2008 wants to become a vehicle to split the Right, then by all means they should go for it.

The Unity 08 ticket is not looking for an independent. The Unity 08 ticket is looking for a Republican and a Democrat to run together. The premise isn’t to divide; the premise is to build-up, to be bipartisan, to be nonpartisan. It’s about unifying; it’s about unity.

Unity08 believes that neither of today’s major parties reflects the aspirations, fears or will of the majority of Americans. Both have polarized and alienated the people. Both are unduly influenced by single-issue groups. Both are excessively dominated by money.

For most of the 20th Century, the contest for the U.S. presidency was waged over those “in the middle.” Recent Presidential elections, however, have not been focused on the middle but on the turnout of each party’s special interest groups – with each party’s “base” representing barely ten percent of the American people.

We believe that, while the leaders of both major parties are well intentioned people, they are trapped in a flawed system – and that the two major parties are today simply neither relevant to the issues and challenges of the 21st Century nor effective in addressing them.

As a result, most Americans have not been enthusiastic about the choices for President in recent elections, the key issues they ran on, or the manner in which the campaigns were conducted.

Therefore Unity08 will act to assure that an alternative ticket is presented to the American voters in 2008.

And, a Thompson/Waterston would certainly pull in the Law & Order vote, all kidding aside.

Kos thinks the whole thing is a joke; perhaps in his mind, but I suspect there’s more than just a little something here.

russian apartments
Originally uploaded by kaaripKill your roommate. Even if he’s your son.

From Reuters

A Russian woman paid a former convict to kill her 17-year-old son because she was fed up with sharing her small one-room apartment with him, the newspaper Izvestia reported on Wednesday….

The woman and her son shared the tiny apartment in the Moscow region with their respective partners and there were frequent rows, which became worse when the son’s girlfriend became pregnant.

“The woman decided that by snuffing out her son she could solve her housing problems,” the paper said.

Well, the good news is that she will not have to share her living space with her son… she’ll be locked away in the gulag when this is all over.

new dollar coins
Originally uploaded by rwb2112This is my luck… I haven’t even seen the new dollar coin (aside from pictures on the web) and yet, people are finding godless coins and faceless coins.

You perhaps heard about the coins that didn’t have “In God We Trust” struck along the edge. Well, now it seems the mint produced coins without President Washington struck on the face or Lady Liberty on the reverse. From Chase Squires and the Associated Press

Mary and Ray Smith can’t make heads or tails of a new presidential dollar coin they found last week. It doesn’t have either. A week after the revelation that some of the coins slipped out of the U.S. Mint without “In God We Trust” stamped on the edge, the Smiths said Tuesday they found one with nothing stamped on either flat side.

For those of you who are worried about God on coins, fear not.

It does have “In God We Trust” on the edge. What’s missing is the image of George Washington on the front and the Statue of Liberty on the back. Instead, the Smiths’ coin is just smooth, shiny metal.

I wonder if these mistakes were mistakes… or is this some ploy on the part of the Mint to drive up circulation. We all hear about the chance for easy money, go to the bank and get our rolls of coins, sort through and find no mistakes, and then spend them.

And people were worried about the coins getting circulated.

Blogger Beta
Originally uploaded by Travelin’ LibrarianInteresting… I followed the breadcrumbs left by my fellow bloggers here in the Commonwealth to Olympia Meola article, Politicians are casting the Net to catch votes, in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Online campaigning has surged on the national level in recent years and is poised to be a major force in the 2007 local and state elections. In Virginia, candidates are uploading pictures and scanning networking sites as bloggers field requests from hopefuls wanting a higher profile online.

McGuire calls his online efforts a bonus to supplement traditional campaigning because “this is untapped. I don’t know the outcome of this.”

Whatever effect it has, you’re going to see more of it this year.

More, I’m thinking. My word, can I handle more?

Blogs and other Internet sites will continue to be a force in politics because they can provide live, blow-by-blow coverage, take campaign contributions, run interviews with any number of primary contenders and post lots of user-generated content. But unlike mainstream media, there is virtually no filtering system.

Filtering. Not likely. Even the staff bloggers, think the John Edwards blogging fiasco, sometimes don’t filter.

[Lowell Feld, who blogs for Raising Kaine and worked as netroots and online fundraising coordinator for Democrat Jim Webb’s successful U.S. Senate campaign,] can recall few state political blogs in 2005. Now the list comes in around 150. As their appeal broadens, they will contribute to a more informed and in-tune voter base, suggests [Jesse Ferguson, political director for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, a potential 2009 gubernatorial candidate].

“And that’s going to force every politician to reach out in that medium. You can’t afford not to,” Ferguson said. “It really comes down to whether you want to be a candidate of the past or a candidate of the future.”

The future baby, the future.

“Everyone and their brothers are trying to get experienced bloggers on their staff,” said Shaun Kenney, communications director for the Republican Party of Virginia, who until recently also blogged about state politics. “It’s almost the new cause célèbre.”

Wait! Stop the presses. I blogged for a candidate back in 2005; see Blog for Patlak : Patlak for Congress. Okay, it was in a different state. And it was only for a primary. And it was short-lived. And he lost.

But I was there, blogging, cutting edge. And, yes, I likely have much to learn. But I’m cutting edge.

Now, who’d going to give me a job blogging for their candidate, Mr. Kenney? Nobody has yet been knocking at my door, so I either I suck or everybody and there brother isn’t really looking for staff bloggers. Too many Amanda Marcottes and Melissa McEwans out there, I guess.

In the mean time, ever hopeful, I stand by waiting for the call.