Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here are some more resources for you. Come on, I know you're fixated on this election, just as we all are. Might as well pass the time productively...
Rasmussen Reports, Presidential Election Polls
USA Today's Presidential Poll Tracker
After you've spent half your day looking at statistics, take a look at this article: General Election Polls: A History of Inaccuracy; The Sad History of General Election Polls, and How They Have Repeatedly Failed to Predict the Outcomes of Presidential Elections. It was written in February, 2008 by Nithin Coca, a free-lance writer for Associated Content. Note that this website is an "open content network," allowing anyone to submit content, so you might check Nithin's stats.
Wait, you probably just want to cut to the chase, so I'll quote the entire article right here for you.
I'm sure you've noticed all the political campaign touting general election polls. Unfortunately, these polls have a terrible history of actually predicting who will in the fall. So what is Barack Obama leads everyone in Zogby, woop-dee-do! Does John Edwards leads in Rassmussen, oh my lord! Clinton leads in ARG? Yowsie!
I'm going to explore how the polls have failed repeatedly, and show you the real margin of error. So next time you see a poll, read it with caution!
Here are some of the worst disasters of General Election polling from the last 24 years of Presidential elections.
After this January's debacle in New Hampshire, can we just argue on the issues and the REASONS why to support a candidate, and ignore faulty polls?
1976Late July - Gallup
Jimmy Carter 62%
Gerald Ford 30%
Average MOE - 14.95% This sort of shift would make it a blowout for either side of the aisle.
1980 (this one's for those of you who say - "polls shift over time") Nov 1980, Gallup Pre-Election Poll
Average MOE - 5.85% = the margin of error in every GE poll this year. This really embarrassed the pollsters, so of course, they went ahead and did it again.
5/17 - NYT/CBS
Michael Dukakis 49%
George Bush 39%
Average MOE - 7.9% A shift like what occurred in 1988 would make any Democrat the winner or the loser by a healthy margin.
June 1992 Time/CNN
Ross Perot 37%
George Bush 24%
Bill Clinton 24%
Average MOE - 20.1%. Imagine if Bloomberg's runs, I foresee similar dynamics.
Sept 2000 Newsweek
Al Gore 49%
George W. Bush 39%
Average MOE - 4.8% So all the undecided went for Bush, eh? Polls are worthless in close races. Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn't it?In conclusion, the only poll that matters is the one on election day.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
My intention with the colors was to evoke an ice cream sherbet kind of combination--orange, peach, and raspberry. I want you to know that these combinations appear everywhere in New Mexico--in gardens, as well as in clothing. I don't know--the yarns were all very nice when separate, but I'm not sure I like what the peach does to the raspberry when they appear in the same garment.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I've completed these baby afghans (numbers 11, 12, 13--I like to keep track of these things) for a local charity in the last few weeks. I have more in the works, but they haven't been washed and blocked yet.
Now, this pattern is an old, old one, and you will see many variations of it. Once I figured out the right size needles for me, I just kept making the same thing over and over again, only with different colors. The pattern is relatively simple, as long as you keep a little row counter on a piece of yarn around your neck so that you will always know which of the four rows you are on.
Row 4: Knit
Repeat rows 1 to 4.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The Knit for Kids organization apparently needs sweaters in larger sizes and more sweaters for boys, with blue being the favorite color. You'll see I knitted several plain blue ones, all in size 8.
In the next couple of posts, I'll share some other photos of recently finished knitting projects. I need a little break from the election and maybe you do, too.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
First, they explain our own existing electoral college, a confusing concept to many. Then they explain how they set up the theoretical world electoral college and how they apportioned the votes. Here are those explanations, quoted in full.
America's electoral college
All democratic systems have their quirks, and America's is no exception. The electoral college is a 200-year-old institution. According to its rules, Americans do not vote directly for their presidents. Instead they cast a ballot to decide who wins their state's electoral-college votes. The number of these votes is fixed by the number of people the state sends to Congress, which in turn is based on its population. All states have a minimum of three votes and there are 538 electoral-college votes up for grabs in total. The presidential candidate who secures the most electoral-college votes ends up in the White House. The loser invariably ends up on day-time television shows.
Critics of the electoral-college system say it can produce a president who has lost the popular vote, as happened in 2000. They also complain that the winner-takes-all system employed by most states leads candidates to focus on a small number of "swing states" and ignore more reliably partisan ones. There have consequently been many attempts to reform the electoral-college system—over 700 so far—though until now nobody has suggested that the entire world be included.
The Global Electoral College
The Economist has redrawn the electoral map to give all 195 of the world's countries (including the United States) a say in the election's outcome. As in America, each country has been allocated a minimum of three electoral-college votes with extra votes allocated in proportion to population size. With over 6.5 billion people enfranchised, the result is a much larger electoral college of 9,875 votes. But rally your countrymen—a nation must have at least ten individual votes in order to have its electoral-college votes counted.
There are few countries whose votes in the Global Electoral College are a foregone conclusion. So the winner is unlikely to be decided by a small number of "swing countries". Rather, they will have to cobble together a coalition of small, medium and large nations. (A campaign stop in Beijing is recommended, as well as a tour of Africa.) Voting in the Global Electoral College will close at midnight London time on November 1st, when the candidate with most electoral-college votes will be declared the winner.
Click here to see who is ahead in the worldwide voting.
Friday, October 24, 2008
This morning I see that three days ago the American Civil Liberties Union filed this request under the Freedom of Information Act. The complete article, together with the PDF file of the entire request, can be found on the ACLU website here. The following is quoted from their summary.
Posse Comitatus Act - FOIA Request (10/21/2008)
Description: The American Civil Liberties Union demanded information from the government about reports that an active military unit has been deployed inside the U.S. to help with "civil unrest" and "crowd control" – matters traditionally handled by civilian authorities. This deployment jeopardizes the longstanding separation between civilian and military government, and the public has a right to know where and why the unit has been deployed.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Vlad and Friend say:
Hello Sarah Palin we wrote this song for you because we see you from Russia! Plz respond to our emails!! We like to hear from you!!
words 2 song
soon as i wayk up in the morning
i go to my window
i made this teliscop myself out of duck tape and the thing that holds the rapping paper
so i can see if ur there
i fix it on ur howse in Alaska
my next door neybor here in moscow
what r u doing rite now lets see
r u and todd ok?
u say u can see me and my country from ur state well im looking at u evry day!!!
i want to fly into ur Airspase!
i want to reer my little Head!
why wont You reply to my Emails?!!
I made a teliscop for YOU and i luv u so
we share a small merry-time border but the borders of r harts is thick
u dont like news-papers well neether of us can say or reed english
we are madw for eachuther!!!
so fly ur playn my way
i live at 45454 RUSSIA AVE
repeet misses palin chorus
I say dog gone it you betcha you betcha dog gone it you betcha dog gone it say it aint so joe you betcha dog on it etc
i luv u
Eight Years After Bush v. Gore, Why is There Still So Much Election Litigation and What Does This Mean for Voter Confidence in the Electoral Process?
By RICHARD L. HASEN
Monday, Oct. 20, 2008
With Election Day just a few weeks away, newspapers and blogs are filled with reports about election litigation. In Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and other battleground states disputes are working their way through state and federal courts-with one already leading to a Supreme Court decision. Why is this happening, eight years after the 2000 Florida debacle in which public officials promised to fix the way we conduct elections? And what does it mean for future public confidence in the electoral process?
The short answer to why this is occurring is this: We haven't made some important changes in election laws that should have been made soon after Florida 2000, and some of the post-2000 changes that were put into place have actually made things worse. Add to that some very heated partisan rhetoric about voter suppression and voter fraud, and we have the recipe for continued legal battles over election administration. These battles are troubling, as they undermine voter confidence in the process, and pose a small, but serious, risk of election meltdown in the case of a close election.
What Happened After 2000: Only a Partial Fix, and Some Changes for the Worse
In Bush v. Gore (2000), as readers will recall, the United States Supreme Court put an end to a statewide recount of undervotes ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, thereby insuring the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore for president. In that opinion, the Court expressed the hope that "[a]fter the current counting, it is likely legislative bodies nationwide will examine ways to improve the mechanisms and machinery for voting."
In some ways, things did get better in the wake of the Court's call for change. Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), providing money for states to get rid of their antiquated voting machines, such as those inaccurate punch card ballots (Goodbye, hanging chads!). One study found that there were 1 million fewer lost votes in 2004 compared to 2000.
But we still have seen a number of balloting snafus since the changes, including a ballot design problem in a 2006 congressional race from Florida that likely led to a change in the outcome of the election. As a response to public lack of confidence in electronic voting, Florida and other places have now junked the machines they recently purchased. With places like Palm Beach County on their third set of voting machines in three elections, we should not be surprised that we are now hearing horror stories of missing votes and botched recounts in Palm Beach-stories that chronicle events occurring now, in 2008, not back in 2000.
HAVA itself also is partially responsible for the new mess. The law was a compromise between Republicans who voiced concerns about "ballot integrity" and Democrats who were worried about voter access. Some of the provisions of the law are (unsurprisingly) unclear---representing the kind of fudging necessary for legislative compromise. But some of the most important lawsuits from 2004 and this cycle concern alleged violations of HAVA. Significantly, on Friday the Supreme Court ruled that at least one provision of HAVA likely does not create a right for individuals to sue when it is violated.
As Partisanship in Election Administration Has Heated Up, Election Law Litigation Has Also Risen
One of the other lessons from Florida 2000 is that there is a danger when elections are being run by people whose allegiances are to the political parties to which they belong, rather than to the political process itself. Since 2000, however, partisan battles over election administration have only become more intense.
Consider, for example, the partisan debate over whether voter identification should be required to prevent voter fraud. The 10 voter ID bills proposed in state legislatures from 2005 to 2007 were supported by over 95% of Republican legislators and about 2% of Democratic legislators. Meanwhile, the current disputes over voter registration fraud and ACORN only fuel the partisan mistrust.
Election law has become part of a political strategy; every campaign needs an election lawyer in case the election is within the "margin of litigation." Candidates are not shy about suing to overturn close election results. For this reason, and because of uncertainty regarding the changes in election laws, the number of election cases has gone up from an average of 96 cases per year before 2000 to about 230 cases per year since 2000:
Voters Now Increasingly Lack Confidence in the Fairness of the Electoral Process
The upshot of all of this litigation and talk of voter fraud and voter suppression is that many voters are losing confidence in the fairness of the electoral process.
In 1996, a study by the University of Michigan's National Election Studies found that about 10% of voters thought that the way the presidential election was conducted was somewhat or very unfair. Unsurprisingly, the number spiked at 37% in 2000, and it fell to 13.6% in 2004.
But we now see a partisan and racial skew. In 2004, 21.5% of Democrats saw the system as unfair, compared to just under 3% of Republicans. And according to a Pew study, the number of African Americans not at all confident that their votes would be accurately counted has more than doubled from 11% in 2004, to 24% in 2006.
Part of what is going on here is a loser's effect: If my candidate wins the election, it must have been conducted fair-and-square, but if my candidate loses, there must have been some chicanery. The point is reinforced by a survey done after the contested 2005 Washington state gubernatorial race: In that election, the Republican was initially declared the winner, only to have the results reversed by the state supreme court after an election contest. After that election, 68% of Republicans thought the election process was unfair, compared to 27% of Democrats.
Accordingly, we can predict with confidence that if Sen. Obama wins the election next month (as current polls show he is likely to do), our figures on voter confidence will be reversed: Many Republicans will believe that the election was "stolen" and the results somehow tainted by fraud, while Democrats will believe the rightful winner prevailed.
If the election is very close and Senator Obama is ahead, I expect that Republicans will raise voter fraud as a reason to contest the election. Thanks to the prevalence of overheated rhetoric on the issue, many people will be tempted to believe that voter fraud is rampant and can affect the outcome of the election - even when the evidence is all to the contrary.
Solving the Problem: An Election Administration "Bailout"
What can be done about these problems? The answer, I believe, is that we need a government bailout of our broken electoral system -- just like the one we've seen for our broken financial system. But this bailout won't be about money, or at least won't be primarily about money. It will be more centrally about ensuring uniformity and fairness in the election process.
We can start with a uniform ballot for federal elections, applicable in all elections. To eliminate voter registration fraud and incompetence, we can move to a national, universal voter registration model. More ambitiously, too, states should consider creating the conditions for nonpartisan election administration, and cleaning up ambiguities and holes in the rules for running our elections.
The swings in voter confidence in the electoral process are troubling, and present a real national crisis. Once this election is over, we need to move to fix the process. Unfortunately, once the election is over, the press will doubtless stop paying attention to our election problems, only to return to election experts, just before the 2012 election, to ask us why things haven't been cleaned up yet. Part of our reply should and will surely be that coverage of these problems shouldn't follow the election cycle; it should persist until they are fixed.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
If you haven't visited her blog before, you're in for a real treat. Drop by and leave a comment. Bloggers love comments.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Here is an article, quoted in full, by Abed Z. Bhuyan in The Washington Post:
Powell Rejects Islamophobia
On NBC's Meet the Press this weekend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell formally endorsed Barack Obama in this year's presidential election
Pundits will spend the next few days debating whether or not this endorsement matters. In truth, his endorsement of a politician matters less than his strong rejection of the Islamophobia that has tainted this race and that continues to exist unabated in many parts of America.
In a moment that would have made Tim Russert proud, Secretary Powell firmly renounced the divisiveness that has been perpetuated by his own party. During his interview, Secretary Powell exhibited a gravitas that has been unmatched thus far by politicians and pundits alike when it comes to an honest discussion of the state of a presidential race that has increasingly gone negative.
Since the beginning of this way-too-long presidential campaign Americans of conscience have longed for someone of such stature to repudiate the blatant bigotry towards Muslims. On Sunday Colin Powell lived up to his billing as senior American statesman.
I know I was not the only one moved to tears by the following remarks of Colin Powell:
"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his counrty and he gave his life."
It is important that Secretary Powell's statement not be minimized to a political endorsement. It was so much more.
But despite the powerful imagery and language used by Secretary Powell, there are two unfortunate facts that accompany his statement. First, the fact that I was so moved by his statement highlights the fact that the many calls for denouncing bigotry towards Muslims have gone ignored. Many Americans, not only American Muslims, have been denouncing Islamophobia in the campaign for over a year, making comments from high-profiled public officials long overdue. Secondly, the portion of the endorsement that I chose to highlight above is likely to get lost in the news. That is because decrying Islamophobia, even though it seemed to be the most important reason for Powell's decision to endorse Obama, is simply not sexy. Very few in the media will give proper credit to Powell for rejecting prejudice towards Muslims. But of all the bigotries exposed in this election cycle, including racism and sexism, Islamophobia has been the most consistent and unchallenged.
Now, given today's political climate, not holding or seeking office makes denouncing Islamophobia a lot easier. Furthermore, it should be noted that Islamophobia is not something that exists only within the Republican Party. After all, the man who has been the target of these so-called smears himself has not issued as strong and direct a rejection as Secretary Powell did this weekend. When Senator Hillary Clinton was battling Senator Obama for the Democratic nomination, she certainly allowed the Obama-is-a-Muslim whispers to continue. Obama has frequently denied the claim that he is a Muslim only by presenting the fact of his Christian faith and not addressing the crucial subtext of the claim: that there is something wrong with being a Muslim.
With his endorsement coming largely as a result of Obama's ability to transcend party and race, Secretary Powell has raised the bar for whoever does win this historic election. Politicians of either party have been unwilling to denounce Islamophobia for fear of appearing both weak and willing to 'pal around' with 'terrorists.' By unequivocally attacking the bigoted tenor of the campaign, he struck at the heart of what politicians have for this entire political season felt a taboo subject to address.
In addressing the Powell endorsement in the coming days, one can only hope that both candidates Obama and McCain see it more as a rejection of heightened bigotry than as a mere endorsement of any one politician.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I'm mailing in my absentee ballot today. I've been reluctant to let it go, thinking that someone might lose or miscount it.
I wish that all the other democracies in the world would send representatives to oversee our election, to make sure that it is a fair one and to see that everyone has a chance to vote. We used to be the ones who brought democracy to other countries; now our own freedoms need some shoring up.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My son Ben lives all the way across the country in New York City. I'm sure he mostly eats take-out, but sometimes he calls up to ask about a recipe he remembers from his childhood. Writing this new blog will be the next best thing to cooking for him.
If you are a blogger, you will be interested to note that the feature that allows you to list your labels on the sidebar works really well for a recipe blog, eliminating the need for any other system of indexing.
One other note--I would love to include photos of the dishes that I cook, but my food photography is really, really bad. I study food blogs to try to understand where I am going wrong, but I haven't figured out how to make things better. Take a look at the blog, Desert Candy, for some very nice food photography done by the blogger, Mercedes; or Jane Brocket's tasty photos on the baking section of her blog, Yarnstorm. I'll keep admiring their photos, and working to improve mine.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Is he confused, or did I miss something? Comments are welcomed.
Assigning U.S. Troops to U.S. Soil and Other Presidential Power Grabs , by Chelsea Perkins, Utne Reader. 10/13/08.
At the beginning of this month, something quite extraordinary occurred in the United States, something that—despite its clearly controversial nature—went almost entirely unaddressed by mainstream media outlets. On October 1, the U.S. military assigned the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division to the United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM). This means that U.S. soldiers will be operating on U.S. soil, seemingly in direct contradiction of federal law.
The Army Times broke the story early in September, reporting that the unit “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack....” Since the story ran, NORTHCOM officials have backed off from the “crowd control” and “civil unrest” purposes. As Col. Michael Boatner told Amy Goodman on the Oct. 7 episode of Democracy Now!, “We’re proud to be able to provide this capability. It’s all about saving lives, relieving suffering, mitigating great property damage to infrastructure and things like that, and frankly, restoring public confidence in the aftermath of an event like this.”
Questions remain, however. Why here and why now? With Homeland Security funding already helping to militarize police forces throughout the United States, what additional purpose would a U.S. military unit serve? Well, consider this possibility: The country is facing its most frightening economic crisis since the Great Depression, and civil unrest is more than a looming threat for the government. Then there's the question of whether the maneuver is even legal. Critics of the unit assignment—including Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Amy Goodman, and author Naomi Wolf—cite a longstanding law that appears to be violated by the Pentagon’s recent assignment.
The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878 following Reconstruction, prohibits federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity in the United States, except if authorized by constitutional amendment or Congress. Also important to note is the Insurrection Act of 1807, which authorizes the president to deploy federal troops to quell lawlessness, insurrection, or rebellion, yet seriously limits his powers by indicating that a state government must first request assistance.
In 2007, Congress amended the act to include the authority to deploy troops in the instances of a natural disaster, epidemic, public health emergency, terrorist attack, or “other condition”—a vague phrase leaving open the possibility of wide-ranging interpretation. Although Congress repealed the amendment via the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, President Bush attached a signing statement essentially claiming his constitutional authority would allow him to act as he saw fit.
Since September 11, 2001, the executive branch has been slowly chipping away at civilian protections against martial law, possibly rendering both Posse Comitatus and the Insurrection Acts impotent. For example, as noted in 2005 on the Balkanization blog, a footnote in the 2005 book Torture Papers references a memo written by federal judge Jay Bybee in 2001 indicating his (and apparently Alberto Gonzalez’s and John Yoo’s) interpretation of the Posse Comitatus Act as not forbidding the use of military force for the purpose of preventing or deterring terrorism within the United States.
There's also National Security Presidential Directive 51, an executive order issued in May 2007 that defines the president’s unilateral authority to maintain continuity of the government in the instance of a “catastrophic emergency.” In the directive, a “catastrophic emergency” is defined as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function.” As Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive, points out, by using the word “or,” the directive could read “any incident... that results in extraordinary levels of... disruption severely affecting the U.S.... economy.” Sounds like a “catastrophic emergency” could be declared today, with a domestic military unit at President Bush’s disposal.
Although Wolf and others go so far as to argue that President Bush has executed a coup and should be arrested or that he could potentially call off the election in the name of an emergency, the chances that we’ll be living in a full-fledged military dictatorship anytime soon are probably slim. It isn’t that the soldiers will suddenly begin patrolling polling stations or shooting fellow citizens; it’s that this action and dramatic expansions of presidential power set a dangerous precedent that could be exploited through hazily legal means.
Because President Bush defined the whole world as a battlefield in the “War on Terror,” the United States is a battlefield, too. And as commander-in-chief, the president’s orders to the domestic military unit could theoretically supersede the law of the land. Whether a president with ill intentions would act on this authority remains to be seen, but even though it hasn’t occurred, we shouldn’t be any less frightened about the possibility of it occurring at any moment. And we should make sure our laws protect against such abuses of power.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
From the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2008.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Paul Krugman, poster child for the so-called liberal media, is getting the last laugh.
The columnist for the New York Times was awarded the Nobel prize in economics on Monday. Krugman, who has represented the Times since 1999, was lauded for his theories on how urbanization can have an impact on trade patterns.
That's the official explanation, anyway, of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The real story is ... the acknowledgement of the liberal media and its accomplishments at a time when Barack Obama is enjoying a solid lead against John McCain, his Republican rival, in the presidential-election opinion polls.
One of the hallmarks of the McCain-Palin ticket has been to browbeat the "elite" media. Krugman's award underscores the credibility of the Times columnist and many of his like-minded colleagues.
Krugman, a Princeton University professor, is a relentless and articulate critic of President Bush's economic policies -- and he hasn't spared McCain, either, in his writing.
Krugman has written: "We've known for a long time, of course, that Mr. McCain doesn't know much about economics -- he's said so himself, although he's also denied having said it," Krugman wrote in a recent column. "That wouldn't matter much if he had good taste in advisers -- but he doesn't."
It is easy to discern where Krugman's personal political beliefs lie. The Nobel, however, is awarded on merit, not because of political opinions.
Krugman has done very solid work for a long time. He deserves the award -- on merit.
-- Jon Friedman, columnist
Monday, October 13, 2008
Here is the full text of the story as reported in The Army Times, Oct. 1, 2008. The red bolding was done by me. This is chilling stuff:
3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army
By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writerPosted : Tuesday Sep 30, 2008 16:16:12 EDT
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.
Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.
Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.
“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”
The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.
Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.
Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.
The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.
In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.
Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.
“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”
The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).
“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home ... and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”
While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.
“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.
Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.
Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.
Other branches included
The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.
Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.
A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.
In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.
There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services. “It is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability,” he said.
“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home.”
A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.
I have scouted around the Internet and through various newspaper indexes looking for any reports on this issue in the mainstream media. Other than what I am finding in various indie and student newspapers (basically the same story over and over quoted from some other place, I suspect), I see that Naomi Wolf of the Huffington Post has put together a "battle plan" to protect us against this deployment.
Before moving into panic mode (such an easy thing to contemplate these days) I would like to ask for your help. Can anyone track down any reports on this issue in the mainstream media? Do you have any ideas of where to find more real information?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
However, far, far away on the other side of the world in Australia, that intrepid June kept trying and discovered that it was working again. So, someone in "Oz" let a blogger in the strange land of New Mexico know that a video somewhere in Cyberland (or wherever YouTube is located) was once again available for the viewing pleasure of Sylvia in Washington and Linda in Oregon and Margie in Kansas and Ben in New York City and James (not a blogger) in British Columbia. Don't you just love the Internet?
As I said yesterday, part of this video is hard to watch. Please don't give up on it as I did the first time through. It will give you some idea of how we can get survive the next weeks until the election.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
P.S. This video was taken down at YouTube for a while, but it's back. Be sure to watch it.
Friday, October 10, 2008
When I grew up and began my work with children and books, I noticed that this was a widespread dislike among all the children I knew. The more I understood about child development, the more this made sense to me. Children don't pay much attention to their short pasts; they are focused on the life to come, always leaning a bit forward. It's no wonder that they prefer their stories to be linear, without strange and confusing jumps forward and back in time.
I can only speak for myself, but the older I get the more I look back at the past--hopefully gleaning lessons learned and applying them to what happens currently--so I am more tolerant of stories that "hop" from one time to another and back again. And that thought, finally, brings me to the book, Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (2006).
Actually, it's not so much that I've forgotten. It's more like I've stopped keeping track. We're past the millennium, that much I know--such a fuss and bother over nothing, all those young folks clucking with worry and buying canned food because somebody was too lazy to leave space for four digits instead of two--but that could have been last month or three years ago. And besides, what does it really matter? What's the difference between three weeks or three years or even three decades of mushy peas, tapioca, and Depends undergarments?
Circuses have always made me uneasy, and rightly so, it turns out. In Water for Elephants an old man living in a nursing home and dealing with his present infirmities remembers his past adventures as a young circus vet.
I know my children, don't get me wrong--but these are not my children. These are the children of my children, and their children, too, and maybe even theirs. Did I coo into their baby faces? Did I dandle them on my knee? I had three sons and two daughters, a houseful indeed, and none of them exactly held back. You multiply five by four and then by five again, and it's no wonder I forget how some of them fit in. It doesn't help that they take turns coming to see me, because even if I manage to commit one group to memory they may not come around again for another eight or nine months, by which time I've forgotten whatever it was I may have known.
You'll learn a lot about history and circuses and animals and cruelty and kindness when you read this book. That's really all I need to tell you, other than the quotes in this color that I have sprinkled here and there throughout this post. That, and the fact that this book kept me reading up into the early morning hours--always my test of a great read.
I open the orangutan's door and set a pan of fruits, vegetables, and nuts on the floor. As I close it, her long arm reaches through the bars. She points at an orange in another pan.
"That? You want that?"
She continues to point, blinking at me with close-set eyes. Her features are concave, her face a wide platter fringed with red hair. She's the most outrageous and beautiful thing I've ever seen.
"Here," I say, handing her the orange. "You can have it."
She takes it and sets it on the floor. Then she reaches out again. After several seconds of serious misgivings, I hold out my hand. She wraps her long fingers around it, then lets go. She sits on her haunches and peel her orange.
I stare in amazement. She was thanking me.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country. ~J. Robert Oppenheimer.
One has to look out for engineers; they begin with sewing machines and end up with the atomic bomb. ~Marcel Pagnol
Be sure to go to the Skywatch Friday website to see photos of skies all over the world. You can see the week's photos any time after 2:30 EST on Thursday.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Watching the debate last night, I found myself wishing that Senator McCain would stop making the same old accusations that Senator Obama has already answered again and again. Here was a chance for us to hear some substance from the candidates and the old man kept wasting our time.In the interest of wasting a little more, I'm sharing a couple of statements making the email rounds.
If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.
If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.
If you had purchased $1,000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.
But, if you purchased $1,000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you would have received $214.00.
Based on the above, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle. It is called the 401-Keg.
A recent study found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year.
Another study found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year.
That means that, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon!
Makes you proud to be an American!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
I contacted the McCain Campaign this morning, although they probably won't notice. They ask us to "spread the word," and that is what I am doing. Here is the message I sent:
Please stop the negative campaigning, that is not "Country First," but a way to divide us all.
Please allow Sarah Palin to answer questions (the ones that are asked) so that we know what she knows. Let her express her real opinions, not those disjointed phrases she keeps parroting (excuse me, parrotin').
Please try to act like the John McCain who campaigned in New Hampshire during the 2000 Presidential campaign. I don't understand what you've turned into.
Your campaign is acting in a way that makes me feel sad about my country.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
We've all been worried about how our country can heal the deep divisions so apparent during this long Presidential campaign. Analyzing how we got here helps; again quoting Biden, who was quoting Shakespeare, the "past is prologue."*
Take a look at this article from The Economist called Richard Milhous McCain. It's about the politics of cultural resentment--how "Nixon recognised that the Republicans stood to gain from 'positive polarisation': dividing the electorate over values." It recognizes “the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the baby-boom generation that has long engulfed all of us,” which Mr. Obama hasn't been able to overcome. And it points out that "the American electorate is still trapped in Nixonland: a land where Democrats and Republicans exchange endless gibes about who despises whom, where simmering class and regional resentments trump all other political considerations and where the airwaves crackle with accusations about lies and counter-lies."
I don't mean to imply that the Republicans are solely responsible for our "cultural resentments;" just that we can search our history to find how we got here and, perhaps, to begin to understand how to find a solution to our divisions.
The recent theme on this blog has been about reading primary resources and making up our own minds; so please read the entire online essay that I've quoted and don't take my word for it.
*Whereof what’s past is prologue, what to come
In yours and my discharge. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Friday, October 3, 2008
You can watch the entire video, which is almost an hour long, or you can choose shorter clips to view. My TV news station plucked around 30 seconds out of the entire interview in an attempt to show McCain's testy side. Watch the whole thing and you can decide for yourself.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
According to the Obama website debate-watching party finder, there are no parties scheduled within 50 miles of our house--this is the Bible Belt, after all, and people around us seem to believe that Senator Obama is part of a Muslim conspiracy to take over the world--so we'll just have to have our own party.
Be sure to go to the Skywatch Friday website to see photos of skies all over the world (you can see the week's photos any time after 12:30 EST on Thursday) .
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
A City of Bells (1936)
Towers in the Mist (1938)
The Dean's Watch (1960)
Three Cities of Bells (omnibus) (1965)
Eliots of Damerosehay series
The Bird in the Tree (1940)
The Herb of Grace (1948) aka Pilgrim's Inn
The Heart of the Family (1953)
The Eliots of Damerosehay (omnibus) (1957)
Island Magic (1934)
The Middle Window (1935)
The Castle on the Hill (1941)
Green Dolphin Country (1944) aka Green Dolphin Street (USA title)
Gentian Hill (1949)
The Rosemary Tree (1956)
The White Witch (1958)
The Scent of Water (1963)
The Child From the Sea (1970)