Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When Quoting the Constitution, Quote The Constitution

There are a host of Republican candidates and officials speaking about the Constitution. Most of them demonstrate absolutely no understanding of its text or how it has been interpreted by the courts. But once in a while, one of them raises the ignorance quotient to a new level

Such was the Case with Herman Cain who admonished his audience recently
We don’t need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America, we need to reread the Constitution and enforce the Constitution

Understanding that his audience was not comprised of Constitutional scholars of his calibre, he went on to quote what he thought was the critical part of the Constitution,
And I know that there are some people that are not going to do that, so for the benefit of those that are not going to read it because they don’t want us to go by the Constitution, there’s a little section in there that talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And the Mr. Cain quoted the Constitutional coup de grace

"Because that’s when it says when any form of government becomes destructive of those ideals, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it

Unfortunately, those words are not in the Constitution. They are in the Declaration of Independence. So apparently Mr. Cain's Constitutional studies stopped at the year 1776, when we were declaring our right to separate from Britain.

He hasn't yet learned that in 1781 we set up a country under the Articles of Confederation, a Government where the Federal government was very weak and most powers resided in the states. It was the kind of weak government that he, the baggers and the rest of the Republicans love.

He also doesn't appear to know that within a few short years there was a widespread view that Governmental structure of the Articles was unworkable. That concern led to a Constitutional Convention, and in 1787 a new Constitution was adopted, the one we have today. And this Constitution established powers in the Federal Government that were sufficient strong that it would be able to "establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

I really should not pick on Cain. He is not alone among the Republican candidates and many Republican office holders. They live in a fact free cartoon world of people who dress up in 18th Century costumes. Their statements do not demonstrate a level of knowledge about our government or our history that would be sufficient to pass an Eighth Grade civics or history class. And all the while they lecture each other and us on the fine points of our Constitution.

"Netanyahu has no plan; he is leading us to a conflict with the world"

One thing you won't read in the US press very often and you definitely will not hear from members of Congress is the type of discussion of Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli policies that you hear every day in Israel. So while Congress was treating Netanyahu like a rock star cross between George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Elvis Presley, this is what members of the Israeli Knesset were saying about his speech, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.

From the Kadima Party, that opposes Netanyahu's Likud, MK Shaul Mofaz said
Netanyahu didn't say anything new. . . He has no plan; he is leading us to a conflict with the world in September and if the people of Israel have a choice between conflict and elections, I'm confident that they will choose elections.

Another Kadima Member of the Knesset explained the raw political context of the speech,
"Netanyahu's speech to Congress was an election commercial ... an attempt by Netanyahu to present a false impression that he is willing to enter negotiations," Hasson said. "The people of Israel should not be enticed and should understand that Netanyahu's policies will lead not only to international isolation, but also to a binational state."

And on the much discussed 1967 borders,
MK Zehava Gal-On of Meretz did not mince words in her reaction. Calling the Prime Minister "dangerous" and "extremist," she said, "They cheer in Congress while in the Middle East the catastophe goes on."

Gal-On condemned Netanyahu's stance that Israel would never return to 1967 borders. "Even Netanyahu knows that there is no such thing as peace that is not based on '67 borders and dividing Jerusalem. [His views] reject peace and will lead Israel to international isolation."

Of course, Netanyahu did have his supporters among his own party such as Gidon Sa'ar, who said
There's no statesmen in Israel or the world who could present the case for Israel as strongly as Netanyahu could . . . [Netanyahu] expressed willingness for concessions with a real Palestinian partner but the Palestinian response to his speech indicates that there isn't one."

Then, there was the extreme right wing of Israeli politics represented by National Union MK Aryeh Eldad who said
Netanyahu received the greatest applause when he said that Israel is the land of our forefathers and that Jerusalem will not be divided. So there was no need for him to declare that he is willing to give up large portions of our homeland to the Arabs. Saying that he is willing to abandon settlements will only encourage the Arabs to ask for more and we are liable to pay for this in blood.

These are but examples of the differences of opinion and sometimes scathing denunciations of Israeli policies that come from Israeli politicians but are somehow off limits in the US Congress.

And on the dispute between Obama and Netanyahu the newspaper Haaretz didn't pull any punches when it said that Obama was on the side of Israel and Netanyahu was not,

Obama stressed that only a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines can ensure that Israel will continue to be a Jewish and democratic state and prevent unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly. Yesterday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, backed Obama, as did the other members of the Quartet.

The refusal by Netanyahu and his political allies to recognize the 1967 borders as a starting point leads permanent-status negotiations into a dead end. From there, the road is short to violent confrontation with the Palestinians, diplomatic isolation and perhaps even economic sanctions.

Imagine that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nine Of The Ten Highest Paying Jobs Are Doctors

Nine of the ten highest compensated jobs in America are in the healthcare field. Yes, nine out of ten. And those compensation levels are far above the levels paid in other countries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just issued the 2010 OCCUPATIONAL EMPLOYMENT AND WAGES Report which lists all the jobs in America, how many people work in them and their median and mean annual and hourly wages. Here are the top ten
Surgeons - $225,390
Anesthesiologists - $220,100
Oral Surgeons - $214,120
OB-GYN - $210,340
Orthodontists - $200,292
Internists - $189,480
Other Physicians - $180,870
General Practitioners - $173,850
Chief Executive Officers - $173,350
Psychiatrists - $167,610

Now these are national median wages. Some will be lower and some much higher. But they clearly demonstrate how high the compensation of doctors is when compared with the rest of the jobs in the country. By way of comparison, the median wage for lawyers was $129,440, for airline pilots was $115,300, Engineering Professors was $$96,480 and for all occupations in 2010 was $44,410.

So how do U.S. doctors compare to their counterparts in the rest of the world. The New York Times published an article providing those comparisons and doing it in a most useful way. Rather than just doing dollar comparisons, they adjusted wages for their relative purchasing power in each country,which appears in this graph. For General Practitioners, the US figure was $161,000, the highest other country was Great Britain with $118,000 and the median wage was $80,000. For Specialists, the U.S. was not first at $230,000. The honors went to the Netherlands at $$253,000 and Australia at $247,000. But the US was far above the median of $83,000.

Remember, these are not straight dollar comparisons. They are adjusted for purchasing-power parity — that is, adjusting the numbers so that $1,000 of salary buys the same amount of goods and services in every country. This provides a general sense of a physician’s standard of living in each nation.

No one would suggest that doctor salaries are the only contributor to the high cost of health care in this country compared with other countries. But it certainly is one of the factors. And I certainly hope than any doctor inclined to whine about how much he earns should take a moment to consider how well of he is compared with the average worker, including other professional workers, in the US and to his counterparts in other countries.

Monday, May 09, 2011

April 18, 1943 - May 1, 2011

An elaborate plan is hatched. Using the most sophisticated technical resources available the United States pinpoints the location of one of its most hated enemies. Employing the most sophisticated military resources available that person is targeted and killed. At the time of his death he was unarmed and not aware of the attack until it was too late. His death caused great rejoicing in the United States and was a severe psychological blow to the enemy.

While this may sound an awful lot like the May 1, 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, it is also a description of the April 18, 1943 death of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. No analogies are perfect. There are always differences. But in all significant respects, the killing of Admiral Yamamoto is mirrored by the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Before discussing those similarities and differences, this is a brief rundown of Adm. Yamamoto and the operation titled “Vengeance,” that resulted in his death.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the commander of the Japanese Navy. He was responsible for planning and executing the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States to war against Japan. He also planned and executed the all of the Japanese naval engagements between United States and Japan until his death. He was highly respected as a military tactician but he was a truly hated man in United States for both bringing about the war and for the death and destruction caused as a result of the war.

In April, 1943 United States Naval intelligence intercepted messages that gave detailed accounts of his upcoming travel plans in the South Pacific.

Yamamoto, the itinerary revealed, would be flying from Rabaul to Ballale Airfield, on an island near Bougainville in the Solomon Islands, on April 18. He and his staff would be flying in two medium bombers (Mitsubishi G4M Betties of the 205th Kokutai Naval Air Unit), escorted by six navy fighters (Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters of the 204th Kokutai NAU), to depart Rabaul at 06:00 and arrive at Ballale at 08:00, Tokyo time.

With that information in hand, President Roosevelt was approached about a plan to kill Yamamoto. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to "get Yamamoto."

With the go-ahead of President Roosevelt, a plan was developed that was highly secret and totally audacious. While there was no certainty that they would actually be able to target Yamamoto's plane but they had a high degree of confidence in their chances.

To avoid detection by radar and Japanese personnel stationed in the Solomon Islands along a straight-line distance of about 400 miles (640 km) between US forces and Bougainville, the mission entailed an over-water flight south and west of the Solomons. This roundabout approach flight was plotted and measured to be about 600 miles (970 km). The fighters would therefore travel 600 miles out to the target and 400 miles back. The 1,000-mile flight plan, with extra fuel allotted for combat, was beyond the range of the F4F Wildcat and F4U Corsair fighters then available to Navy and Marine squadrons based on Guadalcanal. The mission was instead given to the US Army's 339th Fighter Squadron of the 347th Fighter Group, Thirteenth Air Force, whose P-38G aircraft, equipped with drop tanks, would have the range to intercept and engage.

As with the attack on Bin Laden sixty-eight years later, the mission was not flawless.

Two of the P-38 Lightnings assigned to the killer flight dropped out of the mission at the start, one with a tire flattened during takeoff and the second when its drop tanks would not feed fuel to the engines.

Yamamoto was flying in one of two medium bombers, known as Betties. They were escorted by six fighters. The Americans did not know which Betty Yamamoto would be flying in and also didn't know that the other was carrying Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki and part of Yamamoto's staff. On May 18 both of the Betty bombers were shot down and crashed on the island of Bougainville. Yamamoto was dead. His body was recovered by the Japanese and eventually shipped back to Japan. But the fact of his death was so devastating that the Japanese government did not disclose the information for over a month.

So how does the killing of Yamamoto compare with the killing of Osama Bin laden. Both involve the death of military leader of an enemy against whom we were at war. Japan declared war on us on December 7, 1941, and we reciprocated on December 8th. In 1996 Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda declared war on the United States in a Fatwa entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places."

When it first issued there was concern about the Al Qaeda declaration but no one knew with certainty what it meant. We found out on August 7, 1998, with the bombings of the US embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Those attacks were followed with the October 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. Then, eleven months later, New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville PA were attacked on 9/11. That caused the US to issue the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists on September 18, 2001, which granted the President the authority to use all "necessary and appropriate force" against those whom he determined "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups. There are reasons why the AUMF was used rather than a "Declaration of War" but in all respects relevant to engaging the enemy, it gave the President the same authority as a war declaration.

While Adm. Yamamoto and his forces wore uniforms and identified themselves as our enemy, Bin Laden and his forces did not. Rather they use secret, disguise, and stealth, to confuse us as to their identities and their intentions.

In the case of Yamamoto we attacked him over foreign soil. Bougainville had been placed under the jurisdiction of Australia after WWI and Australia was our ally in WWII. In the case of Osama Bin Laden, he was attacked while illegally residing in a country which was our nominal ally.

In the case of Yamamoto no advance warning was given of the attack just as with the attack on Osama Bin Laden. At the time of both attacks neither man was armed. At the time of both attacks, neither man was given the opportunity to surrender. Certainly the United States could have attempted to force the plane carrying Yamamoto to land but it did not. If it had landed somewhere and he was taken prisoner that would've been fine but that was not the primary goal. The same was true with Osama bin Laden.

In both cases these actions are governed by the Laws of Armed Conflict, also known as the Rules of War, which have three basic elements, military necessity, distinction and proportionality. In both cases, "military necessity" is clear. Both men were military leaders of the enemy. " Distinction" speaks to the need to minimize affects on non-combatants. No non-combatants were killed in 1943. We can't be sure about 2011 because at this point we don't have details on what roles, if any, the three other persons who were killed had played in instigating or facilitating attacks on us. "Proportionality" relates to only using a level of force necessary to achieve the objective. In the case of Yamamoto there was significant but reasonable collateral damage to planes that were shot down together with all of their occupants. In the case of Osama Bin Laden, the choice of bombing it from the air was specifically not chosen, in part because of the other damage it could cause.

It is possible that some Americans in 1943 were outraged over the killing of Yamamoto. A few may have thought he should have been captured and not killed. Or maybe they thought the attack should not have occurred under any circumstances. Yes, there may have been a few. Similarly there are a few who may have the same sentiments about the killing of Bin Laden today. Thankfully, most do not. There is no legal or logical reason the leader of an enemy who declared war on you cannot be killed wherever and whenever you find him. The country he is hiding in may be embarrassed and complain about its sovereignty being violated, but those are separate issues. They are not comfort to the enemies who have declared war on us.

Today, as in 1943, we don't need to revel in the event. But we can still be very happy about the prospect that it will hasten the end to this war and bring our troops safely home.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Yorktown, Appomattox, Armistice Day, VE Day, VJ Day, Abbatobad

Yorktown, Appomattox, Armistice Day, VE Day, VJ Day, are all days that my forefathers, and mothers, celebrated. They signaled the end of wars or significant events leading to the end of wars. The death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbatobad is also such a day. It marks the closest thing we will experience to the defeat of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda. I celebrate that day with full voice.

Al Qaeda's military and political leader, Osama Bin declared war on the United States in a 1996 Fatwa entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places." From that day until May 1, 2011 he lead his organization on a fifteen year war that killed thousands of Americans, caused billions of dollars of losses and terrorized may Americans. His war was also against other peoples, in fact anyone who disagreed with him, and he caused immense death, destruction and suffering worldwide.

When the 1996 fatwa was first issued there was concern but no one knew with certainty what it meant. We found out on August 7, 1998 with the bombings of the US embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. Those attacks were followed with the October 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. Then, eleven months later, New York, Washington DC, and Shanksville PA were attacked on 9/11.

Before the 9/11 attacks it was difficult to attack Bin Laden because he was being sheltered by the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the Pakistanis would not allow us to launch attacks from their soil. Our retaliatory options were limited and we were only able to attack Bin Laden's Al Qaeda from a distance, as with the cruise missile attack in 1998. Things changed after 9/11 because of the horrific nature of the attacks and their effect on most of the world community. We were finally able to attack Bin Laden's organization directly because the countries surrounding Afghanistan realized they could no longer assist the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in giving him safe haven.

With the overthrow of the Taliban Bin Laden and his organization were on the run. They were wounded but still active. They were able to mount subsequent attacks in Madrid and London but were substantially weakened. However as long as Bin Laden, their military and political leader, their principle spokesman, their chief fundraiser, and their inspirational figure, was alive Al Qaeda would continue its war against the US. We could destroy as many safe houses as we could locate. We could kill as many of his soldiers as we could find. But as long as he was leading Al Qaeda it would always be there.

When this war started many people asked, "How will we know its over? There will be no final large scale battle. There will be no peace treaty." That is all true. The closest thing to an end point for this war, the closest thing to a moment of victory, was always going to be the death of Bin Laden.

Certainly there may well be some minor terrorist incidences that occur in the future. A few diehard Al Qaeda enthusiasts may try to reprise their old glory. But there is no infrastructure and above all there is no leadership for this pathetic group. The United States and the entire World are more secure than they were before May 1, 2011.

Like my father and mother who celebrated VJ Day, my father as a Marine in the Pacific and my mother as a Marine in Washington DC, I celebrated May 1, 2011, Abbatobod Day, the end of the leader of Al Qaeda. In doing so I was but echoing celebrations by long past relatives who fought in the Revolution, Civil War and World War I, who celebrated the end of those conflicts. We don't like war but we celebrate its end.

I should add that unlike the war against Bin Laden's Al Qaeda there was nothing about the Iraq war that was worthy of celebration. It was not only a fabricated war and illegal war, it was a dumb war that cause death and destruction to no good end. Such wars bring shame, and are never cause for celebration.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I Am Cheering For Two Reasons.

I am cheering, for two reasons.

Osama bin Laden was an evil man. A man who sought political objectives only through violence and death. The killing of such a man it is always reason for celebration. It is for the Lord to judge his fate in the hereafter, but I cheer his departure from our presence. He can do no more harm here on Earth.

But there is a second, more important reason to cheer. Contrary to what some say, Bin Laden's death marks the end of Al Qaeda. Bin Laden was Al Qaeda. He founded it, funded it, inspired it, and was its voice. The two were one. Al Qaeda was a snake that began to whither after it lost its sanctuary under a Taliban ruled Afghanistan. But until May 1, 2011, it was still alive. But it is no more. The head of the snake has been cut off. It may slither and squirm for a little longer but will soon disappear. I cheer that with full voice.

The tragedy of 9/11 was horrific with death, injury and destruction and lives altered forever. Bin Laden showed that he could harm us, causing death and damage, and heartache and tears for the memories of those who were its victims. But as horrific as 9/11 was Bin Laden's main objective was sowing fear, and on that score he was even more effective. He caused us to change the way we live, foregoing freedoms in the mistaken sense we were gaining security.

However, the main enemy of bin Laden was never the United States, it was always what he viewed as corrupt regimes throughout the Muslim world. The United States became a target for him after the Gulf War, following which we stationed troops in Saudi Arabia. And it was convenient for him to launch war against the United States because it helped generate support among those Arabs and other Muslims who were generally mistrusting of the West.

After 9/11 however, his power waned. But the fact that the United States could not kill or capture him always added an air of mystique to his cause. His physical base of support in Afghanistan was taken from him and his monetary resources were squeezed. Yet al Qaeda could limp on after that, albeit with decreasing efficiency, as long as Bin Laden was still alive.

His marginalization accelerated with the dawn of the Arab Spring. People throughout North Africa are rebelling against oppressive regimes and doing so without any involvement from Al Qaeda. The actions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria have demonstrated to the people of those countries that there is a future for them. They can overturn the dictatorial regimes that have been oppressing them and they can do this on their own, guided by principles of democracy and freedom of expression. Democracy and individual rights were anathema to Al Qaeda and its dead leader, Bin Laden, and those rebellions reflected a rejection of Bin Laden’s vision of radical Muslim theocracy. Now, the death of bin Laden has put in place the keystone, the final event, in the rejection of his and Al Qaeda's goals.

Certainly there may well be some minor terrorist incidences that occur in the future. A few diehard Al Qaeda enthusiasts may try to reprise their old glory. But there is no infrastructure and above all there is no leadership for this pathetic group. The United States and the entire World are more secure than they were before May 1, 2011. And I cheer that. I cheer that with full voice.