Friday, May 01, 2009

Dell Service Support

 9:32:31 PM   



You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat

 9:32:31 PM   



Connected with LIBs_Nadonga_52491

 9:33:04 PM   



Thank you for contacting Dell. My name is Rommel. How may I help you today?

 9:33:45 PM   



Hi, my hard drive died and I want one that has been formatted with the right programs as soon as possible.

 9:34:11 PM   



I'll be glad to assist you with that issue. Please give me 2-3 minutes to pull up and check your account. Also, can I have the phone# that I should be calling in case we get disconnected?

 9:34:25 PM   




 9:34:56 PM   



Just to make sure that we are working with the correct system, I see here that the computer you are having problems with is Inspiron 1420. Is that correct? If this is not the correct system that we should be working on, can I have the correct Service Tag or Express Service Code of the system that you need assistance with?

 9:35:16 PM   



It is a different system XXXXX.

 9:36:46 PM   



The problem is with the Inspiron E1505?

 9:36:52 PM   




 9:37:31 PM   



To give you an update, your Hardware Warranty and Technical Support contract expired last 2008-03-21. As much as we would like to help you regarding your issue, we can no longer pull up your records in here. I would have to refer you to the Dept. which can help you best.

Please contact this number: 1-800-4563355 ext 7238587.

You will be required to purchase a one-time phone incident support fee of $49 for any troubleshooting assistance that you may need. For further clarifications, please feel free to course it to them.

 9:39:58 PM   



Please feel free to tell your supervisors that we have many dells, here and at work, but this will probably be the last ones we buy. I find it incredible that I can't get anything resembling support from a company that I have purchased so many computers from. I recognize I have to buy the part, I should not have to buy the time to order it. I am very unhappy with this system.

 9:40:37 PM   



I hope that you do understand that each computer has its own contract.

 9:41:32 PM   



No kidding. I hope your company understands that each computer has a customer who probably buys many computers. I know this is not your fault, but it is unacceptable from my perspective.

 9:44:22 PM   



We are aware of it sir. No company cannot give lifetime warranty to any device, right?

 9:45:01 PM   



I am not asking for a warranty, I am asking for customer service so I can buy the part I need.

 9:45:57 PM   



You need to contact 800-915-3355 (Spare Parts Department) to buy a new hard drive.

 9:46:27 PM   



Is there anything else that I could help you with? Are there any other issues that you have encountered with your system that you would like to address?

 9:46:57 PM   



No, thank you for your time.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cottage Cheese is a Super Food

Bellevue:  According to knowledgeable parents in the Lakemont Highlands area, Cottage Cheese is an official super food.


No scientists dissented from this proclamation.



Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pizza Mangulation

Term:  The destruction of Pizza through multiple passes of a pizza cutter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Election Boycotts

If a candidate decides to boycott an election, should the election be void? As a matter of law, the States of Michigan and Florida held, at taxpayer expense, elections for the democratic primary. Should the states allow the parties to ignore the state election?

It seems to me that the elected governments of the states should trump the party apparatus. I see no reason why a state legislature should allow a party to ignore the law and votes of the population that the legislature represents. There are various ways to enforce acceptance of the results: for example, barring parties from the general ballot if the state primary election is not honored.

I fail to see any reason that Obama’s boycott of the Michigan election should be rewarded.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Caucus v. Primary

I think Hillary has a valid whine about caucuses, based on the results from Washington. Both Hillary and McCain did significantly better in the Washington Primary than they did in the Caucus just a few weeks ago.
Obama 259,323 50% Delegates: 0
Clinton 243,306 47% Delegates: 0
Obama 21,629 68%  Delegates: 53
Clinton 9,992   31%  Delegates: 25

McCain 187,051 49%    Delegates: 14
Huckabee 82,253 22%  Delegates: 0
Romney 75,548 20%     Delegates: 0
Paul 28,260 7%           Delegates: 0
McCain 3,191 26%     Delegates: 13
Huckabee 2,898 24%  Delegates: 0
Paul 2,666 22%          Delegates: 0
Romney 1,903 15%     Delegates: 0
Uncommitted 1,662 13%
I think based on "momentum" you can explain away McCain's increase in the primary (plus the Republicans actually had delegates at risk), but Hillary has had 3 more weeks of bad news, and yet did significantly better, even in a contest that had no real meaning.
This appears similar to me how Romney won almost all of the Caucus states, but not the primary states (except his own and Utah). When actual voters are involved, McCain or Huckabee typically did much better. Obama, like Romney, does great in Caucuses, and though better than Romney in Primaries, he has a much tougher fight with Hillary (despite results from Wisconsin). I think it is something like 10 to 5 in primary states for Hillary, while she has been trounced in the caucuses, winning only (I think) Nevada.
And, of course, nuts like Paul dissapear in a primary, but can look respectable in a Caucus system.
While I am not a fan of Hillary, I think primaries do a better job of indicating who actual voters want to represent them. After this election, I would like to see Caucuses go away.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Viability Wars

Does the leading candidate from one party impact voting in the other?
If Hillary looks likely to win the democratic nod, does that make McCain a stronger candidate for the Republicans?
Primaries are often an opportunity for "vanity candidates" to do well, and sometimes win (see GWBush), while more capable people are pushed away (see Biden, Bradley, Richardson, McCain in 2000). Especially when the opposing party is an incumbent or nearly (VP), it seems that parties do not send their "A material" to the slaughter (see Dole, GWBush, Mondale, Bill Clinton). And while sometimes the second tier candidates win against the incumbent/near incumbent (GWBush, Bill Clinton), parties seem to use that opportunity to air out their preferred positions rather than actually jockey for a win.  Vanity candidates like GWBush and Bill Clinton only won because of intervening factors, in both cases a strong third party that siphoned off votes from the incumbent/near incumbent.
But in an open election where both parties have a real chance of winning due to no incumbent running, I think voters may take viability more into account, and be concerned with the opposing party's likely nominee. If that person is someone that is wholly unacceptable (see Hillary, Huckabee), I think many voters will look at their candidates differently, and try and pick the one who is best positioned to win rather than the one closest to their own position.
In other words, if I were selecting a democrat to run against Romney or Huckabee, I would select the one who is the best bet to win (Hillary, in my opinion), whereas as a Republican selecting a candidate to run against Hillary, I would select McCain. McCain does not engender the hatred on the left that Hillary does on the right, so his success should provide room for vanity candidates (Edwards, Obama) more room in the next round.
In a general election, I think Hillary has the best bet to siphon off female voters from republicans, and McCain has the best bet to siphon off independent voters from the democrats. McCain also has the best bet to get hispanic support. That is the race that would be closest. I think Hillary would easily beat the rest of the Republicans, and McCain would easily beat the rest of the Democrats.
Interestingly, neither is the favorite of the party base, Hillary is too conservative for Dems, and McCain is too liberal (or at least random) for Republicans. But I think there is a good chance that Hillary will drive voters in the primaries to McCain's camp because as much as conservatives don't like McCain, they hate Hillary. But McCain's success will not be similarly beneficial to Hillary, leaving room for Obama to come back and be the Democratic nominee against McCain.
So in the primary viability war, I think it is advantage republicans, and the general contest will be McCain v. Obama...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2nd Amendment and the Application to the DC Case

In the DC case, however, the USSC does not have an out based on State v. Federal Power. All DC legislation is the direct power of the Federal Government:
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.
If the 2nd Amendment is an individual right applied against the Federal Government, it would have to apply against any political entity derived from that power: Congress cannot delegate what it does not have.
The Miller case, as the only 2nd Amendment ruling we can point to, never says that the 2nd Amendment is a collective right: what is says is that the 2nd Amendment only protects weapons that can be used by the militia (and was factually wrong that sawed off shotguns have no use in the militia, especially since this was the interwar period and trench warfare was still considered the likely outcome of future wars). If the Court had notice that sawed-off shotguns were useful military weapons, it would not have ruled the way it did (and it might have reached the issue of individual or collective rights).
There can be little doubt that handguns are useful in the militia, since soldiers carry 9mm Baretta handguns in Iraq and Afghanistan today. DC's rule that not only bans "bearing" but "keeping" these weapons fails under the plain meaning of the text, and the ruling in Miller.
But the breadth of the potential ruling is minor: while the Federal government will be out of the business of banning weapons, the states will be untouched as the issue does not impact Incorporation.
And perhaps DC will gain some impetus toward a Constitutional Amendment that changes its status, and provides its residents both Federal representation, and removes Federal control.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bill of Rights and the States

Did the founders intend to apply the Bill of Rights restrictions on the States?
In 1833, the USSC heard a case called Barron v. Baltimore, in which the plaintiff argued that an action by Maryland violated the 5th Amendment takings prohibition.  While the ruling itself was that the 5th Amendment did not apply to the states (and specifically the takings clause), the dicta in the case indicates that the entire bill of rights was intended as a restriction on the federal government only:  the states were free to set up their own restrictions, as they had before the Constitution.
Since that decision, no case applied any of the restrictions in the Bill of Rights against the states, until long after the 14th amendment, and only did so through the Selective Incorporation Doctrine.
The Selective Incorporation Doctrine itself is one of the more convoluted steps of jurisprudence in our history.  The USSC missed the opportunity in the Slaughterhouse Cases to say that the 14th Amendment Privileges and Immunities Clause is the basis for incorporating the Bill of Rights, which at least seems to make linguistic sense (though the post civil war era Congress could easily have written "the 1st through 8th Amendments are applicable against the States if that is what they meant"), and instead have interpreted a nebulous "Due Process" clause to mean that the USSC gets to determine which Rights are incorporated, and to what degree.
In Barron, Marshall said:

The judgment brought up by this writ of error having been rendered by the court of a State, this tribunal can exercise no jurisdiction over it unless it be shown to come within the provisions of the 25th section of the Judiciary Act. The plaintiff in error contends that it comes within that clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which inhibits the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. He insists that this amendment, being in favor of the liberty of the citizen, ought to be so construed as to restrain the legislative power of a state, as well as that of the United States. If this proposition be untrue, the court can take no jurisdiction of the cause.


The question thus presented is, we think, of great importance, but not of much difficulty. The Constitution was ordained and established by the people of the United States for themselves, for their own government, and not for the government of the individual States. Each State established a constitution for itself, and in that constitution provided such limitations and restrictions on the powers of its particular government as its judgment dictated. The people of the United States framed such a government for the United States as they supposed best adapted to their situation and best calculated to promote their interests. The powers they conferred on this government were to be exercised by itself, and the limitations on power, if expressed in general terms, are naturally, and we think necessarily, applicable to the government created by the instrument. They are limitations of power granted in the instrument itself, not of distinct governments framed by different persons and for different purposes.


If these propositions be correct, the fifth amendment must be understood as restraining the power of the General Government, not as applicable to the States. In their several Constitutions, they have imposed such restrictions on their respective [p248] governments, as their own wisdom suggested, such as they deemed most proper for themselves. It is a subject on which they judge exclusively, and with which others interfere no further than they are supposed to have a common interest.


Had the people of the several States, or any of them, required changes in their Constitutions, had they required additional safeguards to liberty from the apprehended encroachments of their particular governments, the remedy was in their own hands, and could have been applied by themselves. A [p250] convention could have been assembled by the discontented State, and the required improvements could have been made by itself. The unwieldy and cumbrous machinery of procuring a recommendation from two-thirds of Congress and the assent of three-fourths of their sister States could never have occurred to any human being as a mode of doing that which might be effected by the State itself. Had the framers of these amendments intended them to be limitations on the powers of the State governments, they would have imitated the framers of the original Constitution, and have expressed that intention. Had Congress engaged in the extraordinary occupation of improving the Constitutions of the several States by affording the people additional protection from the exercise of power by their own governments in matters which concerned themselves alone, they would have declared this purpose in plain and intelligible language.


But it is universally understood, it is a part of the history of the day, that the great revolution which established the Constitution of the United States was not effected without immense opposition. Serious fears were extensively entertained that those powers which the patriot statesmen who then watched over the interests of our country deemed essential to union, and to the attainment of those invaluable objects for which union was sought, might be exercised in a manner dangerous to liberty. In almost every convention by which the Constitution was adopted, amendments to guard against the abuse of power were recommended. These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the General Government -- not against those of the local governments. In compliance with a sentiment thus generally expressed, to quiet fears thus extensively entertained, amendments were proposed by the required majority in Congress and adopted by the States. These amendments contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them.


The Second Amendment, then, being part of the Bill of Rights that was intended only to restrict the Federal Government, was never intended to restrict State governments from regulating or even banning arms.  Whether the USSC will decide to incorporate the 2nd amendment using the 14th Amendment is not clear, but if it does, it will not be because the Founders of the Bill of Rights intended it to be so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

H.R. 1940: Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007: Blatantly Unconstitutional

Rep Deal's bill to strip citizenship from the children of illegal immigrants is blatantly unconstitutional.  There is simply no basis for believing Congress has the power to change the meaning of the 14th Amendment without another amendment.  The court ruled on this issue long ago, and anyone who is an originalist, or even simply believes in stare decisis must agree that this bill has no chance of surviving scrutiny.
This is the bill:
To amend section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    This Act may be cited as the `Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007'.

    (a) In General- Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1401) is amended--
      (1) by inserting `(a) IN GENERAL- ' before `The following';
      (2) by redesignating paragraphs (a) through (h) as paragraphs (1) through (8); and
      (3) by adding at the end the following:
    `(b) Definition- Acknowledging the right of birthright citizenship established by section 1 of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, a person born in the United States shall be considered `subject to the jurisdiction' of the United States for purposes of subsection (a)(1) if the person is born in the United States of parents, one of whom is--
      `(1) a citizen or national of the United States;
      `(2) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States whose residence is in the United States; or
      `(3) an alien performing active service in the armed forces (as defined in section 101 of title 10, United States Code).'.
    (b) Applicability- The amendment made by subsection (a)(3) shall not be construed to affect the citizenship or nationality status of any person born before the date of the enactment of this Act.
This bill is amending this section of current law:

§ 1401. Nationals and citizens of United States at birth

The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(a) a person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof;
The Court ruled on this in United States v. Wong Kim Ark in 1898, and gave the text its clear meaning. There is no basis to believe that the terms can be reinterpreted.
Below are the key sections of the ruling that explain why the 14th Amendment is interpreted this way.  It is a very detailed ruling, and I cut the clearest parts out below:

The real object of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, in qualifying the words, "All persons born in the United States" by the addition "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," would appear to have been to exclude, by the fewest and fittest words (besides children of members of the Indian tribes, standing in a peculiar relation to the National Government, unknown to the common law), the two classes of cases -- children born of alien enemies in hostile occupation and children of diplomatic representatives of a foreign State -- both of which, as has already been shown, by the law of England and by our own law from the time of the first settlement of the English colonies in America, had been recognized exceptions to the fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the country. Calvin's Case, 7 Rep. 1, 18b; Cockburn on Nationality, 7; Dicey Conflict of Laws, 177; Inglis v. Sailors' Snug Harbor, 3 Pet. 99, 155; 2 Kent Com. 39, 42.
From the first organization of the National Government under the Constitution, the naturalization acts of the United States, in providing for the admission of aliens to citizenship by judicial proceedings, uniformly required every applicant to have resided for a certain time "within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States," and thus applied the words "under the jurisdiction of the United States" to aliens residing here before they had taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, or had renounced allegiance [p687] to a foreign government. Acts of March 26, 1790, c. 3; January 29, 1795, c. 20, § 1; June 18, 1798, c. 54, §§ 1, 6; 1 Stat. 103, 414, 566, 568; April 14, 1802, c. 28, § 1, 2 Stat. 153; March 22, 1816, c. 32, § 1; 3 Stat. 258; May 24, 1828, c. 116, § 2; 4 Stat. 310; Rev.Stat. § 2165. And, from 1795, the provisions of those acts which granted citizenship to foreign-born children of American parents described such children as "born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States." Acts of January 29, 1795, c. 20, § 3; 1 Stat. 415; April 14, 180, c. 28, § 4; 2 Stat. 155; February 10, 1855, c. 71; 10 Stat. 604; Rev.Stat. §§ 1993, 2172. Thus, Congress, when dealing with the question of citizenship in that aspect, treated aliens residing in this country as " under the jurisdiction of the United States," and American parents residing abroad as "out of the jurisdiction of the United States."
The words "in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" in the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution must be presumed to have been understood and intended by the Congress which proposed the Amendment, and by the legislatures which adopted it, in the same sense in which the like words had been used by Chief Justice Marshall in the well known case of The Exchange and as the equivalent of the words "within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States," and the converse of the words "out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States" as habitually used in the naturalization acts. This presumption is confirmed by the use of the word "jurisdiction" in the last clause of the same section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids any State to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." It is impossible to construe the words "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" in the opening sentence, as less comprehensive than the words "within its jurisdiction" in the concluding sentence of the same section; or to hold that persons "within the jurisdiction" of one of the States of the Union are not "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."
These considerations confirm the view, already expressed in this opinion, that the opening sentence of the Fourteenth [p688] Amendment is throughout affirmative and declaratory, intended to allay doubts and to settle controversies which had arisen, and not to impose any new restrictions upon citizenship.
By the Civil Rights Act of 1866, "all persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed," were declared to be citizens of the United States. In the light of the law as previously established, and of the history of the times, it can hardly be doubted that the words of that act, "not subject to any foreign power," were not intended to exclude any children born in this country from the citizenship which would theretofore have been their birthright, or, for instance, for the first time in our history, to deny the right of citizenship to native-born children of foreign white parents not in the diplomatic service of their own country nor in hostile occupation of part of our territory. But any possible doubt in this regard was removed when the negative words of the Civil Rights Act, "not subject to any foreign power," gave way, in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, to the affirmative words, "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

This sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment is declaratory of existing rights and affirmative of existing law as to each of the qualifications therein expressed -- "born in the United States," "naturalized in the United States," and "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" -- in short, as to everything relating to the acquisition of citizenship by facts occurring within the limits of the United States. But it has not touched the acquisition of citizenship by being born abroad of American parents, and has left that subject to be regulated, as it had always been, by Congress in the exercise of the power conferred by the Constitution to establish an uniform rule of naturalization.
In a very recent case, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that a person born in this country of Scotch parents who were domiciled but had not been naturalized here was "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States" within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and was "not subject to any foreign power" within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act of 1866; and, in an opinion delivered by Justice Van Syckel with the concurrence of Chief Justice Beasley, said:
The object of the Fourteenth Amendment, as is well known, was to confer upon the colored race the right of citizenship. It, however, gave to the colored people no right superior to that granted to the white race. The ancestors of all the colored people then in the United States were of foreign birth, and could not have been naturalized or in any way have become entitled to the right of citizenship. The colored people were no more subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, by reason of their birth here, than were the white children born in this country of parents who were not citizens. The same rule must be applied to both races, and unless the general rule, that, when the parents are domiciled here, birth establishes the right to citizenship, is accepted, the Fourteenth Amendment has failed to accomplish its purpose, and the colored people are not citizens. The Fourteenth Amendment, by the language, "all persons born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," was intended [p693] to bring all races, without distinction of color, within the rule which prior to that time pertained to the white race.
The foregoing considerations and authorities irresistibly lead us to these conclusions: the Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and under the protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens, with the exceptions or qualifications (as old as the rule itself) of children of foreign sovereigns or their ministers, or born on foreign public ships, or of enemies within and during a hostile occupation of part of our territory, and with the single additional exception of children of members of the Indian tribes owing direct allegiance to their several tribes. The Amendment, in clear words and in manifest intent, includes the children born, within the territory of the United States, of all other persons, of whatever race or color, domiciled within the United States. Every citizen or subject of another country, while domiciled here, is within the allegiance and the protection, and consequently subject to the jurisdiction, of the United States. His allegiance to the United States is direct and immediate, and, although but local and temporary, continuing only so long as he remains within our territory, is yet, in the words of Lord Coke in Calvin's Case, 7 Rep. 6a, "strong enough to make a natural subject, for if he hath issue here, that issue is a natural-born subject;" and his child, as said by Mr. Binney in his essay before quoted, "if born in the country, is as much a citizen as the natural-born child of a citizen, and by operation of the same principle." It can hardly be denied that an alien is completely subject to the political jurisdiction of the country in which he resides -- seeing that, as said by Mr. Webster, when Secretary of State, in his Report to the President on Thrasher's Case in 1851, and since repeated by this court,
To hold that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution excludes from citizenship the children, born in the United States, of citizens or subjects of other countries would be to deny citizenship to thousands of persons of English, Scotch, Irish, German, or other European parentage who have always been considered and treated as citizens of the United States.
VI. Whatever considerations, in the absence of a controlling provision of the Constitution, might influence the legislative or the executive branch of the Government to decline to admit persons of the Chinese race to the status of citizens of the United States, there are none that can constrain or permit the judiciary to refuse to give full effect to the peremptory and explicit language of the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares and ordains that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."
The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, in the declaration that
all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,
contemplates two sources of citizenship, and two only: birth and naturalization. Citizenship by naturalization can only be acquired by naturalization under the authority and in the forms of law. But citizenship by birth is established by the mere fact of birth under the circumstances defined in the Constitution. Every person born in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, becomes at once a citizen of the United States, and needs no naturalization. A person born out of the jurisdiction of the United States can only become a citizen by being naturalized, either by treaty, as in the case [p703] of the annexation of foreign territory, or by authority of Congress, exercised either by declaring certain classes of persons to be citizens, as in the enactments conferring citizenship upon foreign-born children of citizens, or by enabling foreigners individually to become citizens by proceedings in the judicial tribunals, as in the ordinary provisions of the naturalization acts.
There is simply nothing that can change that short of an amendment, or revolution.  I don't think either are likely.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On Calls for General officers to Refuse Orders or Resign

The Military Profession attracts a "law and order" type of person, who is generally more conservative than average. The volunteer military exacerbates this by not drawing from a wider selection of the US, and allowing the military to self select. The Draft no longer "seeds" the military with more diverse viewpoints.
Universities then play their role, with schools that have a clear liberal population preventing recruitment and ROTC on campus. During Vietnam many schools closed their programs, others have made it difficult to enroll, refusing academic credit for courses, etc. Land Grant colleges are still required to allow ROTC, but they do not always make them welcome. Some major state universities with 50,000 students enrolled struggle to commission 10 or 12 army officers per year.
More conservative schools, however, welcome the military. Catholic universities, other religious universities, and of course military run universities have become essentially the primary source of officers.
It seems to me that if we want to have an officer corps that reflects the US, more liberal universities need to step up and try to get their students into the military system. If we are unsatisfied with the Flag officers serving today, lets look at where they were in their formative years as students: probably not Evergreen University.
The push to remove ROTC from a more representative cross section of American universities has, in large part, removed any liberal "vote" in military decision making. In order to get that "vote" back, the liberal community needs to start feeding their students into the officer corps, so 30 years from now they are represented at the highest levels.
In the mean time, advocating that officers get to choose when and where they go to war will just mean that democratic presidents will lose control of the military, and republican ones will still get their wars.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Private Security Companies in Iraq

Since Blackwater and private security is in the news right now, I thought I would add my two cents. From what I have read, it sounds to me like there was excessive force used.

The initial engagement is probably justified: Blackwater is paid to protect convoys from vehicle borne IEDs, and US military convoys would likely fire in similar situations. Unless the requirement for convoys is to wait until a car blows up, there is no way to be certain that a vehicle is a carbomb…you simply have to rely on the Iraqis to comply with the warnings to maintain a safe distance from the convoy, and use escalation of force to provide ample warnings…but at some point you have to stop the vehicle before it can blow up your convoy.

When the event mushroomed up to cause the deaths of 17 people, however, it sounds like a failure to control fire. Realistically the only time it is justified to fire is when you can positively identify the threat, but even then there needs to be a genuine risk if there are civilians in the area. Armored convoy vehicles are vulnerable to IED's car bombs, and RPG's, but are fairly well protected against small arms fire at 7.62 and below. Simply being engaged by small arms would not justify risking and killing unarmed civilians. In most cases, you can simply drive away. Since there is no evidence that anyone fired at the convoy, I don't think the rest of the engagement can be justified.

However, the Blackwater incident is not typical of private security contractors. I work with a couple private security companies, and the men I work with are professional, rational, and necessary.

For the most part they do work that would otherwise require a US soldier, but either the job is completely within the Green Zone such as guarding interior gates, is security for other private contractors delivering goods for the military or civilian agencies, or security for agencies seeking to distance themselves from the military such as the State Department or USAID. Some also provide personal security for General officers because there are not enough trained soldiers available (there are few trained PSD soldiers in the army, and they are in great demand).

Contractors are not allowed to take part in offensive operations, and can only use force for defense. They are limited to 7.62 or below for live rounds. To put that in context, my teams do not go out of the Green Zone without at least 2 mounted .50 caliber machine guns. The Blackwater bullets would not stop my truck: my bullets would cut theirs to ribbons. These guys are taking similar risks to US soldiers, but with far less protection.

One of the teams I work with has been in country for 3 years, and has not had a fatal incident despite traveling throughout the country as a Personal Security Detail for general officers. They have been engaged twice where they returned fire. The other team conducts interior security within the base and provides an excellent service for far less than it would cost to have soldiers do the work (and there are not enough soldiers available to do it anyway). When I go to sleep at night, Peruvian contractors are protecting me (the Green Zone is about 5 square miles, BIAP about 40 square miles: the exterior gates are manned by US and Iraqi troops, but interior patrols are mostly contractors, as well as most entry control points for interior FOB's.)

I think it would be a shame to paint all of the contractors over here doing hard, dangerous work with the same brush as the possible criminals involved in the Blackwater event. Assuming the Blackwater guys were wrong, that is a small number of the estimated 30,000 security contractors here. Most security contractors have shown significant restraint in a place with random violence, and since their job is generally one that requires they protect a person, place, or thing from that violence, the fact that the incidents are relatively rare indicates that most are following the use of force guidelines.

For the most part these contractors are keeping soldiers available for offensive operations. Most are doing very boring jobs for very low pay ($1,000/month or less). Those who go outside protected areas are paid well, but have resumes and skills that support the pay. Without them we would have effectively 30,000 fewer soldiers in country because their jobs would be performed by soldiers instead. We certainly need to ensure they are answerable to the law, but it would be foolish to eliminate them based on an event that could just as easily have happened with soldiers instead.

One of the intangible benefits of private security in that role is that they are not subject to military protocol, so there is no chance for a sergeant working a security detail to have a run-in with a senior soldier who tries to make him do something else. Sometimes well meaning leaders will not realize the soldier is involved in escort detail, and can distract the soldier from his mission. The contractors have no such responsibility, and can safely ignore anyone other than their boss.

As we drawdown, the role of contractors will go up...they will just be paid by the Iraqis instead of us (it is actually kind of funny to listen to the Iraqi leaders complain about security contractors when they use private contractors too.) Because despite being generally foreigners, at least contractors are not suspected of being part of the ethnic strife, and therefore can generally help Iraq while it tries to integrate factions.

We like the contractors that we work with, and trust them. They work hard and are good at what they do. We especially appreciate that they relieve us of doing duties that soldiers hate, like gate guard.

I think it is reasonable to debate the use/role of security contractors as a policy, we just need to know what it would mean to remove them all. I think it would be detrimental and require more US forces than we currently have available, but there may be some way to replace them without overwhelming the military personnel system…like maybe making a lot of Navy seamen gate guards. It would cost more, because those contractors are paid less than soldiers based on the simplicity and relative safety of their jobs, but as a policy matter it might be worth it.

The problem is that the high cost contractors can not be replaced with soldiers or sailors with simply minimal additional training: they are high cost because they have special skills that take a long time to learn and perfect. An army security detail that we trained at Fort Riley took 90 days to learn the basics. They are good at their job, but simply don't have the experience that most high cost contractors have. Very high profile leaders like Petreaus and the US ambassador really do need to have the best security we can provide, not some randomly assigned soldiers with some security training.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why Are Religious Converts Often Violent Nuts?

Just the very act of choosing one myth over another indicates a troubled mind. It is easy to understand people born into a religion not questioning too deeply, but when you are an adult and you actively choose a new myth to believe, there must be something wrong with you.
It is like a kid suddenly deciding that it is a Leprechaun that brings presents December 25th, or a stork collects up his baby teeth. You could understand he believes that original myth, because it was ingrained his entire life, but with no empirical evidence he pitches the original brainwashing and shoves his head in another bucket...that is simply strange.
So I am not surprised that converts are more likely to be nuts: they are all nuts, so it is a self selecting sample.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On The Draft: The US Army is Built for Volunteers.

Introducing the draft today would be hard and detrimental to the force. It would not simply be a matter of bringing in several hundred thousand draftees every year like the pre-VOLAR days. Today's soldiers are expected to know a lot more, and be able to do a lot more. The volunteer Army has that luxury because it is able to train soldiers for much longer periods of time, and have a greater mix of experienced soldiers in units.

Returning to a draft would significantly reduce the average years of service soldiers have in any given unit. Instead of having most soldiers with 4 or 5 years of service at the platoon level, who would be able to mentor, train, and supervise new enlistees, we would be back to having NCO's with barely 2 or 3 years taking soldiers fresh from basic to war.

Much of the equipment and training is designed for a force that has the depth of experience available now. Much of it would be nearly useless if given to a platoon with just a few experienced soldiers. Simply maintaining the equipment properly often takes years of experience, years that would on average not be available in a draft army.

Either the draft would have to be for longer than 2 years (possibly 3 years like the normal enlistment, but maybe longer if draftees do not reenlist at the same rate as volunteers...which seems likely), a restructuring of the army to go back to simpler systems, or possibly having a draft service that does support roles rather than warfighting.

Currently, for example, much of the draftee type work is being done by contractors. We could replace the 100,000 kitchen workers, sand bag fillers, and gate guards with drafted soldiers and probably get something useful out of them. I don't think this would really help the manning shortage, since those jobs are already contracted out, and is probably cheaper and with better results than a draft would provide. But it is where 2 year involuntary soldiers would be most useful today.

Alternatively, the military could get away from bonus based enlistment drives, and provide a serious raise to actual wages. A $10,000 across the board raise, for example, would not only be an enducement to enlist, but to reenlist. Keeping experienced soldiers will almost always be cheaper and better than trying to produce new ones, and soldiers do face real world issues of paying bills once they leave the military: having the wages high enough for soldiers to find outside offers less appealing would keep the experience in the service. Bonuses for reenlistment work, but soldiers are smart enough to understand that the bonus system is used to keep them in until they have served long enough that they have little option but to finish. Then the military screws you and there are no bonuses. Real salaries would work better.

2 million active military personnel would cost an additional 20 billion dollars annually with that kind of raise. While that is a lot of money, it is probably not so much more than the cost of instituting and sustaining a draft, particularly when other societal costs are factored in. Bonuses would still be needed in some specialties, but for the most part that would be enough to keep a lot of soldiers chugging away in uniform rather than leaving the security of what they know for greener pastures in the civilian world.

Human Contrasts: A Comparison of Two Soldiers

A platoon makes a long run in uparmored HMMWV's to a facility outside baghdad to a remote training base.  In the 120 degree heat, the vehicles struggle with the 12,000 pound weight.  On the trip home, two vehicles stall, probably due to vapor lock.  The temperatures peg out on the gauges, and the platoon limps home, thankfully without any contact.

The platoon sergeant does not want to be caught like that again, and starts to think about what he could do to prevent it.  There is nothing in the army inventory designed to help.  He makes some metal hood scoops to force air into the engine compartment, and that helps some, but not in stalled traffic.  He visits DRMO (defense reutilization and maintenance organization), which is essentially a junkyard in Baghdad, full of blown up HMMWVs.  He pulls apart the heavy duty air conditioning units and takes the 14 inch 24 volt fans out, cuts holes in the hoods of the HMMWV's to install the fans, and the next time out the gauges never get above 220 degrees, with no difficulties or performance issues.  And he makes the trucks look like it was done by a professional.

The other soldier was initially assigned in that same position, but was fired by his commander for lacking leadership and soldier skills.   He was simply not capable of leadership of soldiers potentially under fire.  They are both Sergeants First Class.  He was assigned to the remote base the other soldier visited. 

There are only about 25 American soldiers assigned to this base, with about 500 Iraqi's, and deep in Indian Country.  The Americans are in a mini compound within the greater Iraqi compound.  The American compound has two radio commands that must be immediately followed by a battle drill:  one is "Mayday" which naturally means someone is in mortal peril, and everyone should drop what they are doing and find the person to help him.  The other is "Alamo" which means they are in danger of being over run, and everyone should go to their assigned battle station and prepare for the oncoming hoards.

The quiet of the work day was suddenly punctuated by "Mayday Mayday, Mayday!"  Everyone dutifully dropped what they were doing to search for soldier number 2, because they recognized his voice.  Very quickly they saw him in a HMMWV in the parking lot, with his face pressed to the window, with both hands near his head, screaming "mayday" in the radio.

They ran over to him, grabbed the door handle and opened it.  The soldier fell out, and said "I locked myself in."  He thought he was going to die from the heat.

If you are unfamiliar with an uparmored HMMWV, there are some things you should know: the doors are very heavy, and the windows are very small.  But there are 4 doors, and a gunners hatch that opens from the inside.  The doors open fairly easily on flat ground, which this was.  The only way to lock a door from the outside is to put a lock or piece of metal through the hasp.  None of the doors were locked, and though the windows are small, this particular soldier could have crawled out one.  Not to mention the gunner's hatch.

The first soldier is a stellar example of American ingenuity and mission first thinking, coupled with great leadership.  Soldier number 2 was just promoted to Master Sergeant.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Army Recruiting Campaign Targets Key New Demographic

AP: Arlington, VA


United States Army Recruiting Command has unveiled a new strategy to attract soldiers to fill the ranks of the army.  Capitalizing on the success of fantasy camps and adventure vacations like Outward Bound, the military believes it has hit upon a sure fire pitch for urban commuters, that should bring in aggressive and willing soldiers for deployment to Iraq.


The Spot:


Setting- rush hour traffic, anywhere.


Man 1:  Sitting in his SUV, cursing the traffic, looking wildly around for a bypass, suddenly cutoff by a van full of hippies, with eco-garbage bumper stickers claiming SUV’s support terrorists.


Cut in video of a HMMWV convoy, cutting through heavy traffic in Baghdad, brandishing machine guns, shooting flares to move slow drivers, sergeant tells driver to “go up stream,” cutting across the median and driving against traffic, sirens blaring.


Man 1:  giving the finger to the hippies, who slam on their brakes, and slow down the traffic further.


Cut in of convoy “disabling” the engine of uncooperative driver who failed to get out of the way fast enough…with a 30 round burst.


Man 1:  calling his boss to say he would be late…again.


Cut in of convoy calling for close air support to “clear a lane.”


Man 1:  Man fantasizes of shooting the hippies.  Hears a recruiting spot for the Army, takes the next exit for a recruiting station.


Cut in of convoy, with Man 1, driving “up-stream,” wide smile on his face, gets to his destination on time.


According to sources, group testing of the spot identified a likely response rate of nearly 10% of all commuters choosing to take a break from the daily grind, and live out the fantasies that they have so long held.  Military planners have stood up special Basic training camps that focus on aggressive driving techniques, and will be able to create special driving units capable of ensuring timely delivery of troops and material throughout the area of combat.


White House Spokesman Tony Snow commented today, saying that this new program is another example of the Bush administration providing opportunities to its key constituents.  In coming speaker Nancy Pelosi released a statement saying that despite her continuing disagreement with the policies and objectives of the war, she expects many of the commuters in her district to respond to the campaign favorably. 



Monday, November 20, 2006

Scandinavian Origins of The Burqa

AP Trondheim

Scandinavian researchers at the Skraeling Institute have released new data to suggest the origins of the Islamic Burqa tradition for women. After painstaking reviews of thousands of delicate records kept by Scandinavian adventurers around 1000 AD, Tor Malverson and his team are publishing an article that indicates how the Koran was first interpreted to require Muslim females to wear head to toe covering.

According to the researchers, Viking adventurers first arrived in the Middle East as early as around 950 AD, and according to their inscriptions and captain's notes aboard ship, females in the region did not wear head to toe coverings, but were dressed merely conservatively, as we would understand the terms today. However, the adventurers and raiders who made the trips were less than enthusiastic about the reception they received from the feminine Middle East counterparts, and on future trips apparently chose to bring Scandinavian women along with them.

On a later trip believed to be around 1000 AD, The Vikings, along with their wives or girlfriends, made a trading trip to exchange polar bear furs for spice. One of their trading partners is thought to be Sheik Muhammad El Abdul, a powerful religious leader in what is now Syria. According to notes, Abdul struck up a friendship with the ship's captain, believed to be Erik Blackson, and his wife, Signe. After consummating the trade, Abdul invited Blackson to visit his home in Damascus. Blackson noted in his ship's log that upon entering Abdul's home with Signe, Abdul looked at his own wife, then at Blackson's, and said, "here, put this on," indicating a burlap rice sack.

On future visits to the region, Vikings noted that the fashion of covering Islamic women from head to toe spread like wild fire, especially when any Scandinavian women were within eyesight of Islamic men.

Draft Studies Indicate Various Lengths of Service Possible

AP: Washington

Representative Charlie Rangel (D, New York) has vowed to reintroduce the draft in order to ensure the necessary force and manpower to continue the current war, and he says to make future wars less likely. According to Rangel, Congress and the President would be less likely to commit troops if there was a greater likelihood that people they know would be involved in fighting.

Given the increasingly complicated fields among combat technicians in the Army, the draft would have to be for much longer than the two year period that is commonly accepted for the force to be able to utilize today's weapon systems effectively. A draft with a five year term of service would begin to provide enough soldiers with the level of experience to be effective, according to one study. Another study indicates that the US could institute a draft service that would utilize Vietnam era weapon systems and combative techniques that could rely on two year draftees, along with commensurate increases in casualties. Under that scenario, draftees would be shuttled solely to the Marine Corps, which in response to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's focus on modernization is currently studying the Vietnam model of warfare in order to transition from its current Korean War weapons and combat model. The United States Army has agreed in principle to donate to the Marines excess rifles and other weapons that it has been storing for the last 30 years, after the Foreign Military sales program was unable to unload them on Djibouti. The Army is also currently considering recalling retired Vietnam vets to active service to teach the Marines and potential draftees how to use those systems.

Military experts disagree over the potential impact of a draft, however. Rangel's intent of getting a cross section of America in the armed services would likely face similar systemic flaws of previous attempts at a fair draft. According to some, the institution of the draft would simply increase the number of bluebloods voluntarily joining the Coast Guard and Navy, while keeping the hard working and competent "blue collar" face of the Army, and "short bus" face of the Marines.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow was unavailable for comment, as he is still recovering from smoke inhalation due to the massive incineration of documents following the election November 7th.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bush Wins Greenpeace Award

AP:  Washington

In an unexpected move, Greenpeace has announced today that President George W. Bush has been the greatest impact on reducing current and future CO2 and other pollution production than anyone this decade.

According to the release, George W. Bush has been personally credited with the reduction of over 700,000 Pollution Production Units (PPU), 650,000 of which were high value reductions.  Greenpeace methodology is to use a cumulative accounting system to quantify total impact over the lifetime of the individual units:  Some units in Western nations are equal in output to five times the output of the typical third world unit.

Total value output of each unit is a complex compilation of waste, biological waste, CO2, fossil fuel consumption, and reproduction.

Greenpeace spokesperson Hector Salvorson said in an interview that “it was a surprise to us as well, but after the John’s Hopkins Study, it was clear that no other person has had the overall impact on the reduction of individual Pollution Production Units than George W. Bush.”

Further background was provided in the release that indicates that because the reproductive rate in the third world is so high, reduction of individual units, particularly of those of child birth age, was most valued.  Bush’s progress in Iraq alone was over 60% in the age range of 18-42.  It is believed that the reduction was so massive, that even the CO2 released by recent document incineration will be dwarfed by the positive change.

A little known requirement of the Kyoto global warming treaty redesignated individual people as Pollution Production Units, and provides incentives for PPU reduction.  It is thought that the PPU credits the United States has received due to the Iraq War may make the Treaty more palatable for US involvement.

Greenpeace considered a Time Magazine-like award to "the American Soldier" for doing such good work for the environment, but decided that was cheesy.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow was unavailable for comment.


Significant Impact to the Environment Due to Democratic Victory

AP:  Washington


Despite being the party that generally supports environmental protection, leading scientists have noted a significant risk of increased green house gasses due to the ascension to power of the democratic party.


According to scientists, the risks inherent in the shift in power is equal in CO2 output and increased global temperature that would be associated with a major volcanic eruption.


The typical party change causes localized CO2 output in the DC area to nearly double for a short time based on biologically produced exhalation, but due to the inordinate amount of files that now need to be incinerated in the Bush administration, risks of irreversible harm to the environment are unavoidable.  Police and ambulance crews have been handing out paper masks to the elderly and infirm, and mobile treatment teams are opening oxygen tents on federal property throughout the region.


White House Spokesman Tony Snow was being treated for smoke inhalation, and was unavailable for comment.


Bush Fails Military

AP: Washington

Reports from front line troops in the military have provided a resounding rebuke to the current Bush Administration. According to surveys, soldiers are very dissapointed in the direction of his leadership.

An exhausting review of opinions in the military community lays blame squarely at the feet of President Bush himself. Staff Sergeant Frederick Pyle, from the 1st Armor Division put it this way: "President Bush had one function, and he blew it. Now our soldiers are dying in vain. I mean honestly, how hard is it to create a functioning plan to win?"

Further comments from Army Major General Tom Base illustrated the point. According to Base, "We expect our leadership to provide the tools we need to bring home victory. Bush handed our supply chain to the enemy, effectively cutting off future resupply. The last five years have been wasted. I should have listened to my father and joined the Coast Guard."

Democratic Chairman Howard Dean agreed with the troops assessment, indicating that Bush was in fact a failure to be beaten by his rainbow army, and plans were in the works to shift all future military outlays to embryonic and fetal stem cell research and baby farms.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow is being treated at Walter Reed due to a paper shredder accident, and was unavailable for comment.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bush Fails Military

AP: Washington

Reports from front line troops in the military have provided a resounding rebuke to the current Bush Administration. According to surveys, soldiers are very dissapointed in the direction of his leadership.

An exhausting review of opinions in the military community lays blame squarely at the feet of President Bush himself. Staff Sergeant Frederick Pyle, from the 1st Armor Division put it this way: "President Bush had one function, and he blew it. Now our soldiers are dying in vain. I mean honestly, how hard is it to create a functioning plan to win?"

Further comments from Army Major General Tom Base illustrated the point. According to Base, "We expect our leadership to provide the tools we need to bring home victory. Bush handed our supply chain to the enemy, effectively cutting off future resupply. The last five years have been wasted. I should have listened to my father and joined the Coast Guard."

Democratic Chairman Howard Dean agreed with the troops assessment, indicating that Bush was in fact a failure to be beaten by his rainbow army, and plans were in the works to shift all future military outlays to embryonic and fetal stem cell research and baby farms.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow is being treated at Walter Reed due to a paper shredder accident, and was unavailable for comment.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Democrats Risk More Global Warming

AP: Washington

Despite being the party that generally supports environmental protection, leading scientists have noted a significant risk of increased green house gasses due to the ascension to power of the democratic party.

According to scientists, the risks inherent in the shift in power is equal in CO2 output and increased global temperature that would be associated with a major volcanic eruption.

The typical party change causes localized CO2 output in the DC area to nearly double for a short time based on biologically produced exhalation, but due to the inordinate amount of files that now need to be incinerated in the Bush administration, risks of irreversible harm to the environment are unavoidable. Police and ambulance crews have been handing out paper masks to the elderly and infirm, and mobile treatment teams are opening oxygen tents on federal property throughout the region.

Additional concerns have been attributed to the effects of thousands of shredders running simultaneously, risking power failure, and causing inefficient back up power generation.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow was being treated for smoke inhalation, and was unavailable for comment.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It is Good To See that the Stem Cell Debate

is only about 2-4 day old embryos, and not fetal tissue that has implanted and been aborted...


Scientists used human fetal stem cells to strengthen spinal cords in rats. The cells, taken from the spinal cord of an aborted eight-week fetus, differentiated (specialized) into functional spinal neurons and slowed the rats' degenerative neural disease, postponing their deaths. Differentiation, which is difficult in adult spinal cords (as the researchers noted), may have been easier in this case because fetal stem cells are more differentiated than embryonic stem cells. According to Reuters, "A company associated with the researchers is incubating batches of the human cells, taken from an aborted fetus, and hopes to market them as a treatment for several sorts of paralyzing conditions." (For Human Nature's take on fetus farming, click here.)


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