Friday, October 29, 2010

Just Mailing it In

Ok, sure.  There's a whole lot we don't know, and a whole bunch more we'll never be told.  But if we are to take this latest "terror" attack at face value, there's a lot that's pretty hard to understand.  As we understand it at this point, explosive devices (that's 'bombs' to you and me, but maybe not to Obama) were sent via UPS from Yemen to targets in the US including a Chicago Synagogue.  Man.  That's a whole lot of lame, right there, in one sad sentence.  Ok, quick disclaimer.  I'm glad the attack was disrupted, and I want these assholes to lose, but as a fan of operational efficiency, I have to give this a D-, where the explosive underpants guy was just an F.

Let's just set aside for a moment the obvious questions one might want to ask about a package sent from Yemen to a Synagogue in Chicago.  I'm pretty sure that's a shipment that was flagged for additional security, and if for some inexplicable reason it was not, it is now.  That, as they sing endlessly in the commercial, is Logistics.  The only advantage that mailing a bomb in a box from Yemen has over a more traditional terrorist attack is that it is safe.  Now, I don't know about you, but when I listen to the American Political Right these terrorists are brilliant, lethal, they can't be bargained with. They can't be reasoned with.  They don't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever. But safe?  They told me they WANT to die, to die in jihad is something something something.  And, of course, it's all bullshit.

Nobody wants to be caught.  You can convince people to die for your cause, but it's important to remember that most of the 9/11 hijackers had no idea they were on a one way mission.  But its another thing entirely to sit in Yemen and put a ninety dollar bomb on UPS and say, hey, let's see what happens.  That's pathetic.  Dudes.  You'll have to engage America from American soil, and you'll have to be willing to die or spend your life in prison.  But beyond that, the tactics available are obvious.

I'm going to assume two things here.  One, even at this point, they don't have trustworthy operators on US soil, and two, they want to carry out a real attack, not just some symbolic threat.  So, first, getting your operators to US territory.  The one thing the jihadis have, and really, the only thing they need is money.  Money will get them everything else.  Come on, they HAVE to know this, don't they?  Having trouble getting operators on US shores?  The North Koreans will happily make you a Cambodian or Thai or even  Japanese passport for US dollars.  You can buy virtually everything you need IN the US, weapons, ammunition, operational gear, communications gear, surveillance gear.  You can buy Norinco AKs that are not difficult to convert to full auto.  If you need to bring in specialized equipment, pre-built suicide vests, grenades, RPGs, Semtex, detonators, you can easily pay the Mexican cartels to bring it in.  And weapons and explosives are cheap.  If your shipment gets interdicted, hey, it was a cash transaction, just try it again.

If you game it out from the terrorists viewpoint, it's pretty easy to figure out how to approach it.  And there are a million variations, from Canada to Montana transfers to freighters offloading off a deserted Oregon beach.  But they chose, instead, to cross their fingers and ask that eternal question "What can Brown do for you?"  There's really only two possibilities at this point.  Either they are WAY smarter than we think, and they are walking a fine line of keeping the American population fearful without actually DOING something that might invite massive retaliation, or they are just hopeless, so beaten down by years of relentless American violence and vigilance that they just don't have a Plan B.  It's hard to know, but given what we've seen, we have to arrive at two simultaneous conclusions.  One, it's harder to attack America than it looks.  And two, they may not realize how vulnerable we are to a few coordinated, small bore attacks.  As long as they think they have to bring down giant skyscrapers to make a point, we're safer than we think...

We have now been informed that the bomb was built into a small desktop laser printer, with the toner cartridge packed with PETN explosive and wired to a cellular phone.  Now, I have no idea what systems UPS has in place, but you can buy a laser printer in Chicago for less than $100.00.  I can think of NO scenario where it would make any sense to ship one from Yemen to the US.  Shipments like this, that are unreasonable on their face, certainly should require some additional security, it seems to me.

The additional question is why a cell phone detonator instead of just rigging the package to explode when opened?  Wouldn't someone have to be quite nearby to actually observe the delivery in order to time the detonation correctly?  That's got to be extremely difficult to coordinate.


Bicameral Disorder

The midterms are almost upon us.  Widely expected to be a major Republican victory, the combination of a weak economy with high unemployment, an unusually large Democratic majority and a long history of losses for the President's party in the midterm election will likely result in a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.  There's even a slim possibility that the Republicans will win BOTH houses of congress.  Democratic activists are panicked by the very thought of these outcomes, fearful of what might come to pass with only the veto pen of their 'post partisan' President, Barack Obama standing between wingnut legislators and the future.  And with Obama's history of preemptive capitulation, they find cold comfort there.

But perhaps this concern is overblown.  Certainly, the combination of an extreme far-right Congressional majority whose overheated rhetoric leaves them unable to compromise on anything and a President who's entire relationship with the legislature is predicated on compromise or outright surrender might, in theory, lead to some fairly unpleasant consequences.  But the American political system has evolved a firebreak, a body thats function might best be described as 'sand in the gears', a group of individuals so invested in the status quo, so dedicated to personal aggrandizement over public policy, so unwilling to take any political risk that it seems their true role is to actually prevent any real legislative accomplishment.

Yep.  I'm talking about the United States Senate.  A legislative body that has, over time, evolved a set of rules giving any one of the 100 Senators the power to bring virtually any governmental function to a halt.  From secret holds to objections to unanimous consent to the filibuster, they have placed 100 powerful people with outsized egos in complete control of every last bit of American governance.  In the last two years, the House of Representatives has passed no less than 420 bills that the Senate never even took up. Cap and Trade, Jobs, additional Stimulus, a veritable smorgasbord of important, progressive legislation passed the house, in some cases on extremely contentious votes not without political risk, only to die in the self-absorbed funhouse mirror that is the US Senate.

So, with the Senate fully committed to preening in front of the cameras and refusing to do anything that might appear to be capable of altering the status quo, the concern that some nefarious or destructive legislation might be sent to the White House for the President's signature or veto is somewhat farfetched. Of course, with the number and complexity of the problems facing us, this kind of institutional inaction cannot really be seen as a sort of 'benign neglect'.  Rather, all the problems will get worse as they go unaddressed, new problems will develop without hope of a solution, and regular people will suffer as the delivery of government services becomes increasingly difficult.

But it should provide some peace of mind in January, when you see this new crop of arguably insane, ignorant extreme right wing fundamentalists take their seats as United States Senators and Congressmen and women.  For all their frightening rhetoric, they will be confronted and stymied by the same institutional dysfunction that so seriously constrained the actions of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.  In a very real sense, it no longer matters who controls congress - the Senate is a truly bi-partisan catastrophe.

It's the Bullpen, Stupid

Long, majestic home runs arcing dramatically through the night sky.  Steely - eyed hitters fouling off pitch after pitch.  Grim - faced starting pitchers, trying to stay one step ahead of hitters as they face the lineup for the third time.  Brilliant defensive plays of balletic athleticism.  The perfect sacrifice bunt, the timely stolen base, a well - executed hit and run.  These are the things that win ball games.

But they are not, however, the things that win series.  A best-of-seven series is a very special thing.  The longest series a Major League team plays against a single opponent throughout the regular season is four, and four-game series' are rare.  The vast majority are three.  And while baseball insiders speak of "winning series", it's not something that gets talked about a great deal from April to October.  But then, in the win-or-go-home playoffs, it becomes all about winning a series.  But not a three game series.  Not even a four game series.  Suddenly, players and managers are asked to figure out how to win four out of seven - against the same team.  More than any other time in baseball, tactics are supplanted by strategy.  Winning the game is no longer an end unto itself - rather, winning games becomes the means to an end - winning the series.

The 162 game season is a crucible, a brutal proving ground not just for talent and skill, but for consistency, athleticism and not a little bit of luck.  Teams that make it into the playoffs may not be the teams you'd expect to be there, but are more often than not teams that deserve to be there.  Lineups, batting order, pitching rotation, things that are set for mundane reasons during the summer become the strategic decisions that can make a champion, or end the dream.

And very often, when the starters get pounded, when the hitters take an 0 for 4, when the infielders hands turn to stone, it comes down to the bullpens.  Just as games are won or lost in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, series are won or lost in the bullpen.  Whether your team is clinging to a slim lead, or is hoping to come from behind, the outcome depends on the odd breed of people who sit on a bench in the outfield, half watching the game and playing silly games to amuse themselves until the call comes down.

So it's been kind of funny.  The analysts have talked about the Giants starters, the Rangers bats, trade-offs in hitting and defense, managerial acumen, team speed - everything you think about when the important thing is to win the game.  Left out of the conversation, whether by force of habit or lack or recognition, is the relief corps.  Which, this year, is odd.  Because if you try to think about the Giants - Rangers World Series in these more traditional terms - Giants pitching, Rangers hitting, Bochy and Washington - you arrive at no conclusions at all.  It's just circular, the questions leading nowhere but back to themselves.

But if you look at the bullpens - the Giants amazing, record setting collection of power arms, guile and experience, the Rangers patchwork quilt of very good, but inconsistent relief pitchers, you easily arrive at an obvious, if somewhat surprising conclusion:  From the very outset, the Texas Rangers were going to have a very hard time winning this series.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Eighteen and Life to Go

Omar Khadr was fifteen years old that July day outside of Khost, Afghanistan in 2002 when American soldiers and Afghan mercenaries attacked the family compound.  After a lengthy firefight, the compound was strafed by Apache helicopter gunships, bombed by F16s and then a pair of A-10s made the rubble bounce. Most of the residents were killed in the aerial bombardment, but young Omar found himself alive in the rubble as the American troops assaulted down the alley.  In an exchange of grenades, he was struck by shrapnel and blinded in one eye, kneeling in the dust surrounded by collapsed walls.  An American soldier shot him twice in the back as he cleared the alley.

All that summer at Baghram he was tormented, deprived of care and forced to work.  He was interrogated repeatedly, under various forms of abuse, threat and coercion.  In the fall, a few days after turning sixteen, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay.  Having been born in Toronto, the Canadian Cabinet and Court demanded their government ask the US to treat Khadr the way US and Canadian law required them to treat minors, but in those post 9-11, pre Iraq invasion early days of the Bush Administration, the Canadian government was silent.  As was the world.

Over the next eight years the US has struggled to deal with the debacle they had created.  They charged this child soldier with war crimes, although no one could quite explain how it was that in this one isolated case, killing a soldier on the battlefield was a war crime.  The original explanation, that he was not in uniform, was quickly muted when the prosecutors were asked what uniform the Northern Alliance mercenaries were wearing when they fought alongside US troops in the battles to depose the Taliban government.

There was no obvious way to try him, as the evidence he provided came during or after abusive and coercive interrogations.  The US found itself holding a child soldier, something that is universally considered to be unacceptable, for a war crime that didn't seem to actually BE a war crime, on evidence that couldn't be admitted in a trial.  The obvious thing to do here is to let the kid go, give him a couple million dollars in compensation and deport him to Canada.  But in the US, if there's any overarching unwritten rule of governance, it is this:  "Never Admit You Were Wrong".

So they held Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay for years, devising one new legal system after another, trying to come up with the impossible:  A way to try Omar Khadr for war crimes that would guarantee a conviction and still look legitimate in the eyes of the world.  As the years passed and the young man became an adult, he waited for the US to decide his fate.  And though it took many years, the Americans finally became convinced that there was simply no way to convict this former child soldier without using tactics that would have looked very similar to the old Soviet "show trials".  So they played their very last card.  They would threaten to just hold him forever, essentially taking his entire life away, if he didn't plead guilty.  The utterly indefensible war crimes charges went away, and he ultimately pled to murder and terrorism charges.  He would serve eight more years, seven of them in Canada.

The whole process has been ugly, stupid and unnecessary.  Nobody came out whole.  Khadr lost his sight, his innocence and decades of his life, the US lost any credibility it might have had as it stumbles through the legacy of repeated human rights violations under the Bush/Cheney Administration, the Canadians have been absent, and human rights organizations have been powerless to affect the process.  It's a demonstration of everything that's wrong with the American response to 9/11, from using armies and air forces against terrorists to throwing everything we believed about civil liberties, due process and the rule of law out the window to manipulating the judicial system itself to try to control the outcome has been not just wrong, but completely counterproductive.

What has been accomplished by bringing the full might of America to bear on Omar Khadr?  After we bombed him, blew him up, blinded him, shot him twice, tortured him and held him without due process for the best part of a decade, did we really need to show him once more how powerful we are?  Where is the line, where Justice crosses over into Vengeance?  Where is the threshold, where we decide that the things we believe, the things we ARE, have become insufficient, our lives more desperately important than the lofty ideals of a great nation?  When did we decide that Patrick Henry was a crazed extremist, and we would accept any amount of indignity, any level of injustice, any act of corrupt power our government might choose to commit, if only they might keep us safe?  Is there NO amount of risk we are willing to take on in the name of our Democratic principles?

In the Stygian blackness at the bottom of 21st century America, Omar Khadr was the last, best canary we had.  There for any and all to see, he's telling us time is running out.  If not already too late, it's a long way back to the air and sunlight of a fearlessly free America.  Is anybody watching?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Don't Take the World Serious!

And in a turn of events so unlikely as to have been predicted by absolutely NOBODY, the National League will be represented in the 2010 World Series by none other than that perennial powerhouse, the San Francisco Giants.  As recently as June, sports talk radio in the bay area was filled with the keening lamentations of the fan base, calling for the head of Sabean, the public flogging of Bochy and a trade of whatever it might take to get a real power hitter that might come up with two on and one out and do ANYTHING other than hit a two-hopper to second.  The pitching rich Giants did what they were expected to do, keeping opponents at bay while scoring runs rarely and inconsistently.  Many one-run games were decided in the late innings.  But oddly, many of those late-inning heroics came from the Giants.  First Uribe, then Burrell, then Posey, then Torres, one after another somebody stepped into the glare of the spotlight and simply refused to lose.  It was a season of amazing highs and lows, of heroics followed by squandered chances, every night adding to the epic torture of a team unlike any we'd ever seen.

We knew they were pretty good.  We knew they were fun to watch.  But we also knew they couldn't win with these hitters.  We knew it was going to be another couple years, watching them pitch their hearts out, only to lose a few too many torturous one-run games in the late innings.  But a couple unexpected things happened to this team on the way to another third place finish.  First, Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell took over the clubhouse, and showed a bunch of kids and last-place castoffs how to play like a big leaguer.  The bullpen, almost invisible behind the ups and downs of one of the most remarkable starting rotations in modern baseball history, decided that they could be even better than the starters - and then they proved it.  Brian Wilson provided a highly unusual kind of spiritual leadership, always leading from the front, never taking a step backward - call it the Church of Fearlessness.  And then, against all odds, or perhaps inevitably, the San Diego Padres, who spent the whole year leading the division, never losing three in a row, never having to absorb a crippling injury or lineup gone cold, suddenly collapsed in one of the great late - season train wrecks of all time, losing ten in a row, their confidence and in the end, their chance to play in the post-season.

Much will be written about this team.  The way they were assembled, piece by piece, on the fly, from the waiver wire, from the trading deadline, from the couch at home.  The way they came together, an unlikely chemistry that welcomed each new piece, that absorbed players like the Borg, that created a sense of family, an unwillingness to quit, and finally, an unlikely but lovable League Champion team.  The TV will tell the easy stories, of Posey and Molina, of Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez, of Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen, of the 32 year old overnight sensation Andres Torres, the struggles of the beloved Panda and inexplicable magic that is Cody Ross.  But that's not the whole story.  That's not even the real story.  That's a fiction, a legend, built on bedrock truths and outlandish personalities and all the little stories from a grueling 162 game season.  People around the nation will see this team, the smiles, the bonds, the outrageous characters and the larger than life personalities, and they will very likely embrace them, for they are something rare and fine.  But I hope, in watching a team of misfits and castoffs play for all the marbles, they don't miss that other part.  That flinty stare from Pat Burrell, that steely determination from Aubrey Huff, that once-in-a-generation grace of Buster Posey, that competitive fire that is Licecum and Cain, and that utter mad fearlessness of Brian Wilson.  There is more to this team than the stories and anecdotes you'll hear from Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.  To watch them play together is to understand the timelessness and elegance of baseball, and to remember why we love this game.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vote for Me! Why? Uh, Oh! Because I'm Delusional and Incompetent!!

With the election just days away, debate season is in full swing.  As difficult as they are to watch, they are providing us with insights we've been unable to gain previously, particularly into the mind of the Teabagger candidates and the affirmative reasons they believe they should be elected to statewide or national office.  Up until this point, they commonly provided their messaging only through friendly news outlets, social media and paid advertisements.  As such, there was no demand or requirement that they state their qualifications for office or provide any insight into their policy agenda.  They were able to make their case on the basis of vague generalities and platitudes (smaller government, low taxes, free markets, the constitution) and negative statements about their opponents and their opponents party leadership.

But now they find themselves on the dais, at the mercy of debate moderators who prefer that they answer the question that was actually asked, in some detail if possible.  Now it's true that it's very difficult, even, in some cases, impossible to make them provide an actual policy position, but you can draw some conclusions from their dogwhistle responses.  Privatization?  No, no, certainly not.  Personalization.  Not just health care repeal, but repeal and replacement with something even better.  Something unspecified, but something, for sure.

Things become clearer, however, when they start to talk about their core beliefs.  Not just clearer, but frightening.  Frightening because virtually ALL their core beliefs are demonstrably false, and belief in them is delusional and often paranoid.  Not a single Teabagger candidate believes global warming science.  Every single last one thinks it's natural, cyclical, sunspots or some other natural process.  Many state fearlessly that it is a hoax, perpetrated by thousands of scientists and researchers from every corner of the globe, for vague but nefarious purposes of world domination.  Or something.  They all believe some version of the theory that reducing tax revenue actually increases government revenue.  This process goes broadly unexplained, except that it's predicated upon incentives and economic growth.  Sure, a second grader could easily demonstrate that the math doesn't work, but they solve this problem by avoiding any discussion of the math.  They tell you they'll cut the deficit by reducing "non-defense discretionary spending", without mentioning (or even, in some cases, actually understanding) that this amounts to 15% of the Budget, a little over $500 Billion, and includes things we really don't want to cut like the FBI, NIH, Centers for Disease Control and NASA.  They'll tell you that government regulation unnecessarily impedes private enterprise, without apparent concern for consumer, employee and environmental health and welfare.

But by far the most egregious, and paradoxically the most broadly accepted at face value, is the statement that they are not politicians, not "insiders", not experienced in public policy like the elitist technocrats that have brought us to this precipitous point.  If only people would spend some time thinking about how stupid and incoherent this actually is.  The claim is, essentially, that your primary qualification for the job is that you are entirely unqualified for the job.  No doubt a key part of the general anti-intellectualism so common among American movement conservatives, this feeds into a classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" allegory, a widely believed fiction that a "regular guy" can go to Washington with nothing but good old common sense and set things right.  In no other endeavor is this a persuasive argument.  You certainly wouldn't select a doctor on this basis, or an auto mechanic, or even a landscaper.  Companies screen candidates carefully in order to determine their true qualifications for a position.  Why would we assume that professional politician is a job that requires essentially no skills?  No understanding of economics, of law, of policy?  No negotiation, conflict management or managerial skills?  No experience in project management, arcane procedure or budgetary processes?  Why on earth would we allow a candidate to claim these were the fundamental basis for his or her qualifications for office?  It's not just insane, it's absurd.

But that's what they're telling us.  They're telling us that they don't actually have a plan, but trust them.  They're telling us they believe ridiculous, incoherent and impossible things but that shouldn't disqualify them from election.  And they're telling us that the fact that they are utterly unqualified for the office they seek not only shouldn't disqualify them from being elected, but indeed is precisely the reason they SHOULD be elected.

Between Senate procedure and the Teabaggers, American politics has become something approaching farce, a laughable circus of idiots and charlatans.  I'd be lying if I told you it didn't make me fear for my future, but even so, I can't help but laugh at their antics.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Giants vs. Phillies Game Six - Eternal Hope Struggles Against the Lessons of History

It was never a realistic hope to close out the series in San Francisco.  The hope was there, certainly, but it was a hope driven by a general lack of confidence.  If they could just pull out that one last win at home, there would be no return to Philadelphia, no desperate need to win one out of two, no looming fear of watching it all slip away.

The Giants are not that good a baseball team.  The Phillies are.  The Phillies have been to the World Series the last two years, while the Giants set tee times and took their kids on vacation.  The Giants have the pitching, but they don't have the bats.  The Phillies have both, in abundance.  The Giants had to massively overachieve just to get to where they are, while the Phillies had to underachieve to find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Game 6.  Sanchez vs. Oswalt.  But that's not the real matchup.  Oh, if the Giants are to have any chance at all, Jonathan Sanchez will have to be great, putting up zeros and keeping his pitch count low.  But this is going to be all about the Giants hitters.  The size of their hearts, their ability to get good pitches from Oswalt and not miss them when they do.  This is about Torres, Huff, Burrell and Uribe.  Freddie Sanchez and Buster Posey we know about - but if they once again are asked to serve in the role (along with the inexplicable Cody Ross) of the Giants offense, we'll be having this same conversation again tomorrow before a Game 7 with all the momentum in the Phillies dugout.

Certainly, the Giants fan can take hope from the last time they faced Roy Oswalt.  With Lidge and the rest of the Phillies bullpen regulars sitting and watching, Oswalt demanded the ball from Charley Manuel, and went out and quickly and efficiently lost the game.  An optimist would say that now, not only is Oswalt left to question his ability to get the Giants out when it matters most, but the rest of the Phillies relief corps is left wondering why the manager has so little confidence in them he left them on the bench and rolled his number 2 starter out there in the ninth.

But that's what we're presented with today.  Sure, it could be a blowout, either way.  Heaven knows we're due for one in this grinding, torturous low scoring series.  And if it is, well, so be it.  More likely, the pitching will be great once again.  And that's when it will come down to beating the Phillies the only way there is to win baseball games in the real world:  By scoring more runs than they do.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Somebody's Gotta Do It

Ciudad Juarez is a crowded, chaotic city of over 1 million population on the banks of the Rio Grande across the border from El Paso Texas.  It is a terribly dangerous place, ground zero for a bloody war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels for access to drug smuggling routes into Texas.  Ciudad Juarez is the seat of the Municipality of Juarez, in which over 7000 homicides have been committed in the last couple years, making Juarez the most dangerous place in the world not considered an active war zone.  There are almost 150 towns and villages in Juarez Municipality, many of them with their own small police forces.  And in these small, underfunded police forces, life expectancy is short and state and federal support limited or non-existent.  

One of those little towns is Praxeids G Guerrero, a blood-soaked town of 8500 souls on the US border.  Two years ago, 8 of the 11 police officers in Praxeids Guerrero quit after receiving threats from the cartels. So in this cauldron of violence and despair, it's fair to ask, who would be crazy enough to take the job of Police Chief?  

Let me introduce you to Marisol Valles Garcia.  She hasn’t finished her studies in criminology quite yet, but the Mayor, Jose Luis Guerrero is effusive in his praise, calling her the best candidate for the job out of several candidates.  Why, you might be wondering, has she yet to finish her degree?  Ms. Valles Garcia is 20 years old.  And now she is the Chief of Police in one of the most violent, dangerous places this side of Mogadishu.  She’ll command a force of 13 agents, nine of them women, equipped with a single patrol car, three rifles and a pistol.  She says she won’t carry a gun, freeing up the pistol for one of the agents.

Courage is an interesting thing.  It can take many forms, and yet is invariably instantaneously recognizable.  As a species, we can’t help but admire courage.  We seek it in ourselves, embrace it in our tribes and respect it in our enemies.  Marisol Valles Garcia has the courage to step up and say “I will serve”.  A small thing, perhaps, and no matter what she does, nothing will truly change.  The war will go on, spilling the blood of innocents and monsters on the same dusty streets.  Edmund Burke probably never actually said it, but it rings true nonetheless.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  

Marisol Valles Garcia chose to do something.  And I’m pretty sure the world is just a tiny bit better for it

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Use Your Head

To the extent I got to watch some football over the weekend, a great deal of the sturm und drang was around "big hits" and the new-found concern that they are much more dangerous and destructive than previously thought, and can lead to seriously debilitating and even life-threatening conditions.  While this is a serious issue, in that people's lives are being put at risk or even wrecked in slow motion, I have to admit, for any number of reasons I find the whole thing laughable.

First there's the obvious tension not just between the parties involved, but within the parties involved.  The players want to be healthy and live long, productive lives, but they also want a chance to get really rich, and that means standing out from your peers as a superior player.  In football that means extremely aggressive play, and hard hits.  Lots of them.  The owners and advertisers are well aware that much of the attraction of the NFL is the violence inherent in the game, to the point where every team has to issue an 'injury report' before each weeks play.  Think about that.  How many other industries are so dangerous that every workday some percentage of the regular workforce is out with a job-related injury?  But those same owners and advertisers know the other attraction of NFL football is the presence of the superstars and the resulting very high level of play quality.  If Tom Brady or Troy Polamalu can't take the field for a game, fans are going to be disappointed, and if it happens enough those fans will find a game that gives them what they want.  The fans have a similar disconnect.  They LOVE the big hits, but they don't want to see their favorite players unable to take the field for weeks on end.  Most of all, they want their team to win, which requires keeping their best players healthy.

Even more laughable is the approach Americans take to athletics and sporting events in the first place.  Much of what captures our attention and holds our interest, both as spectators and as participants, is dangerous or life-threatening.  From auto racing to mountain climbing, from boxing to hockey, we embrace high-risk endeavors even as we demand something be done to 'make them safer'.  So a given sport's governing body will engage in an odd combination of rule-making, safety R&D and elaborate theater to try to appear responsive to the safety concerns, while at the same time retaining enough of the risk and violence that originally attracted the audience in the first place.

At some level we're going to have to make a choice.  You can't entirely remove the risk of serious injury from the game of football any more than you can take that risk out of auto racing.  The current outcry over brain injuries in football will ultimately have to give way to the irrefutable realization that some level of risk, and some permanently injured and even dead players will have to be accepted as the nature of the beast.  Or you essentially put an end to the sport's popularity, thereby putting an end to the sport.

Campaign Finance Triage - You Can Safely Ignore a Broken Arm When You've Got a Sucking Chest Wounnd

Last week the Center for American Progress released a report accusing the US Chamber of Commerce of using money donated by foreign corporations and individuals to fund attack ads supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming mid-term elections.  Now, this is mostly just a case of Democrats and Progressives seeking an issue that would resonate with the public and peel some voter support away from the Republicans.  And boy, have Democratic activists jumped on this, shouting from the rooftops that the Republicans are taking foreign money and allowing foreigners to influence American elections.

Now, to me, there's a lot wrong with this Outrage of the Week™, most especially that to whatever extent this is a problem, it's both enabled and made possible, if not legal, by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.  Under that most undemocratic and destructive ruling, there is nothing wrong with the Chamber donating millions to Republican causes, and there is no requirement for them to disclose the names of the donors.  They're acting within the law as it exists today, and no one can stop them from continuing to do what they are doing.  As a result, this is one of those campaign "issues" that resonates with activists (who feel wronged) and pundits (who just want to consider the angles and implications) much more than with voters.  They just see the commercials the Chamber is buying.

I am also uncomfortable with the underlying concept, that "foreign" equates to "evil".  Sure, it's wrong for nations to interfere in the politics of other nations, but the message here is not that nuanced.  We just shriek FOREIGN over and over, in what appears to be a distinctly illiberal attempt to play into America's increasing xenophobia.  It's also worth keeping it all in proportion.  Under the Citizen's United decision, the Chamber is spending unprecedented millions on political campaigns, of which some very tiny percentage MAY be from foreign donors.

Perhaps, from a political values perspective, the most important issue to me is the partisan influence on opinions about ethics.  I have no doubts that if this were a case where the Chamber was donating exactly the same money to Democratic candidates, the outrage would be ALL on the other side of the aisle, with Democrats claiming both that there is nothing illegal being done and there is no necessity for disclosure of donors.  To me, in any case where I believe the ethical outrage to be partisan, I see the whole issue as false.  Ethics and outrage should apply to everyone in the race, equally.  And if they don't, there very likely is not an actual ethical issue.

But mainly, the outrage should be over the disease, not one of it's more benign symptoms.  In a world where campaign finance is ruled by Citizen's United, if the worst offense was a few hundred thousand dollars in foreign money, we'd be a LOT better off.  But instead, it's the torrent of corporate money flooding into the campaigns that is so toxic and destructive.  The outrage should be focused on the Citizen's United decision and campaign finance in general, loudly and continuously, in an attempt to force congress to pass meaningful campaign finance laws that at LEAST undo the damage the Roberts Court did with this ruling.  Of course, that's a forlorn hope, because, as always is the case with campaign finance legislation, the people who can fix it are the people who benefit from the status quo.

It's time to return to issues for the remainder of this political system.  Screaming about foreign money and Republican hypocrisy isn't going to win any votes, and there are REAL reasons why electing Republicans and returning them to power is a dangerous and destructive outcome.  There is a depressed economy, wars, failing, bankrupt cities and states, climate change, all manner of real issues reaching crisis stage that should be the topic of conversation in the run up to November 2nd.  Remember who benefits the more we are driven to talk about silly, unimportant side issues - it's the party that has no agenda to talk about.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Big Booms Come in Small Packages

So an internet friend had a run-in with a Mountain Goat near his Seattle home, and I was tempted, and actually came close to posting a link to this.  "This" is, believe it or not, a .500 S&W Magnum 4" Revolver.  Yep.  That's right.  A four inch five hundred magnum.  That's fucking insane.  On SO many levels.

So I didn't post it (you gotta be careful with firearm posts, people get eleven kinds of weird), but the joke is that this is almost inexplicably crazy.  The most powerful handgun cartridge in the world (Hmm, not sure, I find .454 Casull more violent, but we're all in the same neighborhood) in a little four inch hiptop carry piece.  Does that even make sense?

Now, I've shot .500 Smith, but I've never even SEEN one of these.  Even with the MagnaPort type muzzle brake, I can't even begin to imagine fighting for my life with one of these.  But that's what they're for.  In the deep backcountry, if you have to go up against a big brown bear, you'd be best served with one of these cannons on your hip.  You're not going to get anywhere with a nine millimeter.

Now look.  Shooting this thing isn't going to be fun.  This is not what we call a "plinker".  This is not something you play with all day, dropping targets and inventing shooting games for beers.  This is ugly, a beast, expensive to shoot and taxing.  Excruciatingly loud.  Pounding recoil.  Exhausting.

It's not something you or I can afford to buy, and it's something most people who buy it will never shoot  more than twice.  But hey, if you want to hang something approximating artillery on your hip and know that there is nothing on the planet you can't engage with a reasonable chance of coming out on top, hey, go ahead and write the check...

The MANPADS of October

In a speech to Likud MKs, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Hamas in Gaza had acquired anti-aircraft missiles, likely Russian Strella in either their vehicle mount or MANPADS configuration.  As one might expect, the hand wringing and recriminations around this announcement are extreme, with the concern and fear-mongering all out of proportion to the actual threat, per the standard response.

For me, I don't view this as a particularly worrisome development.  In fact, I can easily make the case that the introduction of this class of weapons into Gaza represents a positive step, for at least two reasons.  First, when nations find themselves at odds, and there is a real risk of conflict, a radical imbalance in military capabilities is inherently destabilizing.   The nation with the large qualitative and/or quantitative advantage in forces might be that much more willing to employ those forces, as the consequences seem less problematic, and the weaker nation is driven to unconventional or asymmetric methods such as terrorism or WMD.  Anything that can be done to bring the opposing forces into somewhat closer balance must, in the first instance, be considered to be a stabilizing action.  It is difficult to envision Israel as a viable partner for peace with the Palestinians when they regularly drop bombs on Palestinian land.  If they become more hesitant to fly their fighters over Palestinian territory, it only removes one more obstacle to peace.

The other reason is the specific nature of Israeli actions against the Palestinians.  As an instrument of policy, the Israeli Air Force is regularly used to assassinate not just Hamas fighters, but Hamas leadership including politicians and elected officials.  Air strikes are used to intimidate and threaten the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, and to regularly remind the Egyptian leadership, by bombing the suspected smuggling tunnels in the Norther Sinai, of what life is like when Israel is your enemy.

This is one of the under-discussed, and therefore under-learned, lessons of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  One of the primary incentives to make peace is the risk to your people and national infrastructure war represents.  When your adversary has no viable method for holding you at risk, there is much less incentive to end the conflict.  Israel firmly believes this, as demonstrated when they killed over a thousand civilians in Gaza in retaliation for the deaths of less than ten Israelis from indiscriminate rocket fire.  Israel's leadership, however, is not unaware of this dynamic, and fights bitterly to resist any small advance in the military capabilities of their adversaries.  The frantic diplomacy and political threats intended to keep Russia from delivering the S-300 anti-aircraft systems they had sold Iran was not widely covered in the US, but demonstrates the importance of every bit of military superiority to the Israeli government.  The only way this system could threaten even a single Israeli citizen is if that citizen was in an airplane dropping bombs on Iran, but even that made it unacceptable to the Israelis.

This premise is actually a stronger driver of Israeli intransigence than is typically noted.  Israel knows, for example, that unlike thirty years ago, if today the Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians presented a unified front in support of the Palestinians Israel would have to accept a peace agreement negotiated around fair, rather than entirely one-sided terms.  So they do what they can to keep the region unstable, encouraging, supporting and funding armed groups, secret police and intelligence agencies, various Islamic sects and groups to keep them at each other's throats.  They know that they cannot allow the region to become peaceful and prosperous, because then they would no longer be the vastly superior military and economic power, and something approximating a balance would lead to outcomes that would benefit someone other than Israelis exclusively.

The anti-aircraft missiles, if Hamas actually has them, give the Palestinians in Gaza a way to defend themselves against the ongoing, brutal imprisonment and collective punishment of their people, and a way to fight back against the Israeli military rather than civilians.  It's hard to see how this is anything but a small improvement in the status quo.

It's the Runs, Stupid

The Phillies evened the series up last night, in the most ominous and predictable manner.  The Giants pitching wasn't dominant, and Philadelphia's hitters reminded everyone what the term "Superstar" means in the game of Baseball.  You know how it goes.  Victorino, Utley, Howard, Rollins, Werth, Ruiz.  They've been quiet until now, but you just can't let them up off the mat.

The Giant's pitching wasn't awful, but against this lineup it has to be very, very good.  And it wasn't that either.  Sanchez got rattled by Fontenot's error in the first and walked in a run.  After that it was a mixed bag, with his usual awesome 'stuff' coupled with a lack of control that had him pitching from behind in the count all night.  And when you have to come in to these Phillies professional hitters, they're going to get their hits.

Which, once again, leads us to the reason why this entire series is an uphill fight for the Giants.  They don't, with the sudden exception of Cody Ross, produce any offense.  You can't win without scoring runs, no matter how spectacular your pitching.  Throughout the postseason, the Giants wins have been one-run squeakers, and their losses have tended to the 'thrashing' end of the spectrum.  Pitching and defense is all fine and good, but if you are to have any hope of winning the series you've got to score runs.

The lineup questions are louder and more insistent after last night's loss.  Torres looked lost, striking out four times at the top of the order.  Huff and Burrell were effectively contained by Oswalt, and Uribe was out with a wrist injury.  So what will Bochy do tomorrow in San Francisco?  Conventional wisdom has Rowand getting a start at leadoff.  He's essentially finished as a professional ballplayer, but right now Torres is a liability at the plate, and with Rowand in Center you don't give up much in the way of defense, so why not give it a try?  Sandoval looked serious drawing a walk as a pinch hitter last night, and with Uribe questionable it's probably worth giving him a start to get SOME power into the lineup.  But ultimately, it's going to come down to Huff and Burrell.  If they don't produce some RBIs, it's a forlorn hope that they can beat this Phillies team.

On the upside, Matt Cain is a bull, and he's probably a little incensed that his start was bumped for Sanchez.  He might very well come out and mostly shut down the Philadelphia hitters.  And in AT&T Park, lots of what we saw as home runs and wall-bangers in Philly will be routine fly balls.  The Giants still have a chance to win this thing, but it's time for some of their players to make a mark.  At this point, Cody Ross needs a little help in the hero department.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Comcast Hates Me

I don't understand what's going on.  In past years, you got two football games to choose from at 10, two others at 1, and a third at five.  Sure, and you never got any choice about WHICH games they would be, typically one would be the 49ers game and one would be the Raiders game (if it wasn't blacked out), but in any case, you could watch up to three out of five games on offer, or even all five with advanced clicker skills.

This year they've been stingy to the point where I wonder if they're just mad at me.  Last week we had no morning games, one afternoon game and of course the nationally televised night game.  Today I can watch Atlanta and Philadelphia (what IS it with Philadelphia these days?  For that matter, where the hell IS Philadelphia?) this morning, or I can not watch a football game.  That's all the choice there is.  On a rainy Sunday in October.  It would be nice if I could watch the Saints in Tampa or the Ravens against the Fighting Bradies, but Comcast is continuing to punish me.  This afternoon, the only option is the Alpo™ Awful Bowl featuring the 0-5 49ers and the always embarrassing Raiders.

Ah well.  I guess it's what I get until I can find a way to make Comcast forgive me for my transgressions.  I'm unwilling to go out in the world to any degree on weekends.  I've been unemployed for so long all those people out running around just frightens me.

The announcer just informed me that he spent part of yesterday "talking to Philadelphia".  I'm trying to parse this.  But it just seems increasingly odd.  And generally unlikely...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Slogan that Destroyed an Institution

Fair and Balanced.

That's what Roger Ailes told us about his new cable news outlet in 1997.  He said they would do "Real Journalism", and that they would present it in a fair and balanced way.  We didn't recognize this for what it was, and we had no way to understand at the time that this slogan represented nothing less than a full-scale assault on the basic journalistic values.  They never said they would be accurate.  Then never promised any commitment to the truth.  Instead, they offered 'fairness', and even worse, 'balance'.

Here's the thing.  Journalism isn't about being fair.  And there's literally no room for balance.  There are facts, bits of information which can be established as being unequivocally true, and there is a historically acceptable methodology for determining what are and, perhaps more importantly, what are NOT facts.  When reporting facts, there is no requirement for fairness - the ideal is truth and accuracy.  But more toxic than trying to shoehorn fairness into objective reporting is the concept of 'balance'.  If every side of every story can be presented as equally valid, there is no way to establish what is true.  The industry line describing this kind of lowest-common-denominator debate has become "Earth: Flat or Round?  Experts Disagree".  Then everyone has a good laugh.  But at some point, someone needs to ask: If there are no facts, then isn't everything opinion?  And if everything is opinion, is that any different from nothing is?  And so now we can no longer know what is news, and what is something else altogether.

But this is what Murdoch and Ailes have wrought.  A weird, twilight post-modern world where everyone equivocates, and nothing is irreducibly factual.  When everything is subject to debate, when nothing can be established with certainty, when any position can be supported because no one has the courage to say it is false, then you have what we see in the US today.  Every issue is seen through the lens of debate.  No question can be answered, because no answer is definitive.  Write a big enough check and you can buy all manner of experts willing to go before the public and say demonstrably false and stupid things in the name of fairness and balance.

From evolution to vaccines, from HIV to climate change, everything we used to know is in dispute.  Everything has a political constituency and an economic impact, so at a time when operating from a shared set of established facts is critical to charting a course forward, nothing can be decided because nothing can be known.  And all because a dozen years ago two men with an agenda eschewed honesty, truth and accuracy in news for the more convenient fairness and balance.

Giants vs. Phillies, Initial Thoughts

So, the Giants start the League Championship Series tonight against the vaunted Philadelphia Phillies.  Billed as the battle of the aces, pitting Tim Lincecum against Roy Halliday, both coming off arguably their best performances of the season, game 1 holds the potential to be a pitchers duel for the ages.  But the series itself seems just as likely to be over quickly, ending another San Francisco season in disappointment and recriminations.

The last time they made it this far, the Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals and advanced to the 2002 World Series.  That was a completely different team, with a somewhat better than average starting pitching staff, a flawed bullpen and a dynamic, powerful offense.  Ultimately, though, they failed due primarily to appallingly poor game management by Dusty Baker.  Today's version is noted for the starting rotation, but it's real advantage is a stellar bullpen that can keep good hitters at bay in the later innings.  However, the problem all year has been offense.  With desperately low run production, the pitchers have no margin for error, and have often found themselves feeling that they have to be perfect with every pitch, only to lose 1-0 or 2-1.

The Phillies are the better team, and by all rights should win the series.  Their starting rotation is every bit as good as the Giant's, and although the Giants can take comfort in their superior bullpen, Philadelphia has good hitters up and down their lineup.  They just have to be patient and they'll score some runs, while the Giants will have to pitch nearly perfectly AND find a way to score runs.  They'll have to try to get into the Phillies bullpen and see if they can catch a break.

The key is the three games in the middle, the ones back here at AT&T Park.  The weather and dimensions in San Francisco goes a long way towards eliminating the power of the Phillies hitters.  If the Giants can open the series with a split in Philadelphia, they have a chance to end it in San Francisco.  But it will all come down to runs - torture is not a winning strategy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Strategic Defense, as Conceptualized by a Learning Disabled 9 Year Old

John Raese is the Republican nominee for Senator from West Virginia.  He has not demonstrated a profound understanding of public policy in general, but the level of understanding he demonstrated in remarks to the League of American Voters on Wednesday was nothing short of appalling.  On the topic of missile defense, he said:

"If there is a rogue missile aimed at our country, we have 33 minutes to figure out what we're going to do, We are sitting with the only technology in the world that works and it's laser technology. We need 1000 laser systems put in the sky and we need it right now. That is [of] paramount importance."

Now, the number of things that are wrong with this statement approaches infinity, but let's just consider three of them.  First, missile defense is hard.  The rule of thumb is every billion dollars of R&D you put into defense requires only a million dollars of R&D on countermeasures.  Second, directed energy weapons do not exist, and are a long way from existing.  If you assume you need a gigawatt-class laser to effectively destroy a hypersonic target from hundreds of miles away, the only way we know how to do that is using chemical lasers.  These are HUGE, heavy and expensive, requiring entire buildings and ongoing, careful maintenance.  There is a semiconductor laser technology being researched today called DPAL (Diode Pumped Alkali Laser) that may turn out to scale to the gigawatt range, but we're years from knowing if it will actually work.  And, of course, once we have a working prototype of a gigawatt defensive laser weapon, we'll be able to discover whether or not it works, at what range, and how vulnerable it will be to countermeasures.  Atmospheric attenuation, diffusion in clouds and particulate pollution, water vapor and other factors will reduce the effective range - there is no certainty that early generation directed energy weapons will even be effective from earth orbit.  Third, there's the small matter of diplomacy.  Although most Americans would be shocked to discover this, the fact is America does not own space.  Other nations have just as much interest in earth orbit as we do, and most of them would prefer not to see it militarized.  So far, any space-based weapons are limited in number and scope to secretive research projects (see X-37B), and any large-scale deployment would have to include negotiated international agreements and treaties.

Later in his remarks, Raese suggested his thousand space-based gigawatt lasers would cost $20 Billion dollars.  Now I don't know if his 1000 space-based lasers are each aboard their own dedicated platform, or if a satellite can support multiple lasers (neither does he, but that shouldn't come as any surprise at this point), but even if you assume 10 lasers per orbiter, you still need to build and launch 100 large, complex, heavy craft into earth orbit.  Anyone who thinks you can do this for $20 billion dollars should be automatically disqualified from holding elected office.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unkempt, Powerless Head of State Yells at Clouds, Frightens Small Children

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad traveled to Bint Jbeil, Lebanon today to shout at Israel.  It was a sorry display, by any measure and for any number of reasons.  But there are two very important things to keep in mind when observing this bit of theater.  First, Israel is much more militarily powerful than Iran, and even then, has the full support of the United States armed forces at her beck and call, and second, Ahmedinejad is a figurehead.  He has very little actual power within Iran, and none when it comes to international and military affairs.  He's not a little dog barking, he's an old videotape of a dog barking.  So everyone kind of shook their head and ignored the whole thing, right?

Of course not.  Iran is far too convenient a villain for the US and Israel to let this pass without responding with appropriate fear and anger.   The US State Department called his trip "a provocation".  Think about that, how sad and pathetic and SICK that actually is.  In 2006, the Israeli Army and Air Force destroyed literally every bit of Bint Jbeil.  With methodical precision, using jet fighters, tanks and artillery, they destroyed every building, every house, every place of business and every mosque in that blighted little village.  Now it's true that the Israelis also suffered serious casualties in the savage fighting around that little town, but let's not forget that it is in Lebanon, so yeah, aggressive war will get your soldiers killed.  Another argument for keeping them in your own country.

But here's the thing.  The houses and businesses and schools and mosques of Bint Jbeil have all been rebuilt.  As good as new.  How could that happen?  The Iranian government provided the money, the expertise and in some cases the raw materials to put back everything Israel petulantly wrecked.  And for the representative of that lone benefactor to come to the place where his people have done actual good, and built where the others only killed and destroyed, for that to be called a "provocation" is the worst kind of dehumanizing propaganda.  As an American, I completely and without equivocation would like to disassociate myself from that kind of rhetoric.  Anytime anyone in the middle east in general, and Palestine in particular, is building, and not destroying, that is something to be encouraged, not derided.  Shame on those who cheer on the killers, and make it harder for the builders and teachers.

And the Israelis are even worse.  When it began to become clear to Likud that the Palestinian Arabs were no longer an effective "existential threat", they began casting about for something to replace them with.  The intifada, for all the sound and fury, never touched most Israelis, and those vaunted rocket attacks that form the basis for so much violence and hatred, killed less than a dozen people over ten years.  A problem, but most would agree a completely manageable one.  With most Arabian governments unwilling to invest significantly in the Palestinian "Problem", the Iranians sponsored both Hamas and Hezbollah.  So the Iranians would become the new threat to the very survival of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, never mind how laughable that prospect might be here on planet earth.

The Israeli leadership called Ahmedinejad "Hitler" and announced that this is 1938.  It's all on the line, right now.  Think about this.  This laughable little man without political power or control, who could be removed from office tomorrow by Khameini if it suited the regime, who commands no tank divisions, who has no air force, who has no sway over the armed forces, is "Hitler".  Iran, who has never fought an aggressive war in modern times, who was bled dry by the Iraqis under Saddam with the support of the American Intelligence community, who's military expenditures amount to less than 2% of those of the US, is Germany in central Europe in 1938.  That the US government is willing to buy this ridiculous premise is embarrassing, more than anything else.

This is what we've come to. Powerless to make Israel behave like a real modern Democracy, powerless to influence China's currency manipulation, powerless to enforce the "crippling sanctions" we've placed on the Iranian regime, to the benefit of Russia and China, we rail and splutter at an oddly dressed, unshaven man calling us names in the South Lebanon desert.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how empires end in the twenty first century.  Not with a bang, but with stupidity...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How's the Sky Holding Up Today, Chicken Little?

Yesterday a California judge issued an injunction requiring the US Military to stop all Don't Ask, Don't Tell enforcement immediately.  Today, the American Defense Secretary, widely considered a moderate Republican serving a Democratic administration said this:

 Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that abruptly ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a federal judge has ordered would have enormous consequences.

Enormous Consequences.  If an official makes a statement like this, shouldn't there be SOME requirement that he explain just WHAT those consequences might actually be?  It just seems reasonable that this sort of doom-saying prognostication should be a little more specific.  Especially if the person saying it actually, you know, believed it.  Just as when a Teabagger splutters that Obama's policies are "taking away his freedom" he should have to stop, right there, and enumerate specifically what "freedoms" he is losing as a result of these policies.  The net outcome of this requirement would be to reduce the level of bombastic, over-the-top rhetoric and cause people to explain what their actual, real-world concerns about a given policy might be.  It would also serve a larger purpose, as a declaration that a given act of governance will end our way of life as we know it and lead to a desperate, dystopian future pretty effectively prevents any compromise on the issue.  You can't, after all, be expected to negotiate with Hitler, right?

It sure seems to me that Gates is not only wrong, he's ridiculous.  Nothing will change today.  Soldiers will train, march, eat, fight and do all the other things they did yesterday and last week.  They won't suddenly refuse to be soldiers because they want to watch Judy Garland films and have orgies of disgusting butt sex all over the parade ground.  They will be in the same units, with the same peers and the same leadership, in the same roles.  For that matter, as this is an injunction that can be overturned on appeal, it's very unlikely that gay soldiers, sailors and airmen will suddenly come out in large numbers.  This might have significant negative consequences.  Better to wait for a final resolution.

But that appeal makes me wonder about one other thing.  The Obama administration has claimed to be 100% behind the elimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell as a policy.  Sure, they have also said that they prefer a legislative solution, but it's still awfully hard to understand why the Obama DoJ would appeal this ruling.  The Judicial Branch has essentially agreed with the position of the Executive, and indeed, has found that the policy violated Constitutional guarantees.  Why would the administration seek to reinstate a policy they claim to disagree with vehemently, and that courts have found unconstitutional.  It would be so easy to simply issue a release saying that now that the courts have acted, it's time to move ahead with this unconscionable, counterproductive and illegal policy finally nothing but a sad historical footnote.