a Someone should care, maybe not you....: May 2006 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

30 May 2006

Memorial day fun

Yesterday, for Memorial day I decided to do something that I have been meaning to do for the last year more or less. I pulled my kayak out from underneath the guesthouse and took it down to the Canoochee River. The Canoochee river is a small river in south east Georgia. It runs for about 100 miles more or less before it joins the Ogeechee River shortly before the Ogeechee hits the ocean. The Canoochee is a blackwater river. That means the water is dark. Not from pollution as many non local think but from Tannic acid leached into the water from the oak and cypress trees. It also has a bit so a sulfur dioxide smell (rotten eggs) again, not from man made pollution but "sulfur water" is a naturally occurring condition down here. Many springs and wells bring up perfectly drinkable but vile tasting water. (for a great horror, imagine strong grape koolaide with salt added to it made from sulfur water. That was what filled the coolers at football camp when I was young)
The river is shallow, very shallow now that it is summer and we are down on rain.

In this pic you can see the brown tint to the water as it flows over the sand in a shallow spot near a bend in the river.

The trees along the bank grow up to arch over the river in many places. So it is sort of like paddling in a tunnel. At times the top is open allowing the sun through, at other times it is all shade. The current is so slow in most places that the water is glass like and it is like floating on a mirror.

The river is full of life. I passed several fisherman on my way although they didn't go up as far as I did due to the vast numbers of fallen trees blocking parts of the channel. YOU can catch, bass, bream, catfish, redfin pike and more on the river. The biggest fish you are likely to see are the gar, long nosed, toothy, pre-historic looking monsters that are pretty much inedible unless you are REALLY REALLY hungry. MUdfish can also be found which are almost as ugly as the gar. The down side to those trees arching over the river is snakes. Snakes, including Cottonmouths, will climb up into the trees to sun themselves and drop back into the river if disturbed. Now if they happen to be disturbed by some human in a boat when they drop they may land in said boat causing no small degree of excitement to both the snake and the human(s). On this trip I did not see any snakes but I have in the past. I didn't see any alligators either but I know they live in the area. A friend of mine almost had one dive into his kayak from a high bank as the gator dashed to the water. He said he didn't know who was more terrified, him when he saw the gator coming through the air at him or the gator when it saw him in the landing zone. He did say it was rather funny afterwards when he thought back the gator trying desperately to backpedal in mid air to get away.
I did see fish, frogs, squirrels, ducks, a crane, and fresh water clams. These last are a good sign because they are very sensitive to pollution so the fact that there are a bunch of them in the river means the water is still pretty good. On a good note I was very pleasantly surprised by how little trash I saw out along the river.

One last photo, my trusty kayak sitting on a sandbank while I took a short break. I was actually carrying the boat over this bank because despite the deep water in the pic at eh head of the bank there was a tree lying across the river and at the end of it was a stretch of water about 3 inches deep. Portaging is fun.

28 May 2006

Is it just me?

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

How many of you know what that is and where it is from???

I use that quote as the sig file on my primary email account. It has engendered several very widely varied responses. I have had a person tell me that it was vastly inappropriate for a forum where children might read it. (a mailing list concerning fencing) I have had one guy launch into a tirade about me forcing unwanted "socio-political opinions" on him while conducting business. (He bought something from me off Ebay) Lastly I had someone ask my father if I was suicidal because it was so depressing and talked of killing yourself.

Gads. For those who don't know it is a stanza from Kipling's poem The Young British Soldier

Do people just not read Kipling? (Foolish question I know, people don't read much anymore) Sigh. I just liked it after my time in Afghanistan.

Interestingly enough, I didn't use it as a sig line while I was in the country. Then I took this quote from a letter that a Roman Centurion wrote home while off Campaigning in North Africa.
"We hear that there are tumults and riots in Rome, and that voices are raised concerning the army and the quality of our soldiers. Make haste to reassure us that you love and support us as we love and support you, for if we find that we have left our bones to bleach in these sands in vain,then beware the fury of the legions."

Which seemed quite appropo for the time and a pretty good one for any soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan now.

23 May 2006

RIP Yugoslavia

The last vestiges of the Yugoslav Republic died this past weekend when Montenegro voted for independence. More than 86% of the eligable voters turned out with 55.5% of the people voting for independence which was .5 percent over the amount required. There was a demand by some pro union elements for a complete recount but it was overturned and now Serbia has announced that it has accepted the results.
Montenegro briefly had independence at the end of the First World War after the Austro-Hungarian Emprire broke up but it was soon absorbed into the new Yugoslav Republic.
The European Commission has already said that Montenegro can begin the process to join the EU.

Those who said that Tito was the only real Yugoslov turned out to be correct.

19 May 2006

LRA update

That is the Lord's Resistance Army for those not in the know. I did a post on them HERE.

In the latest news Pres. Museveni of Uganda has given them a two month ultimatum to
peacefully end terrorism
or face the combined wrath of the Ugandan military and the military forces of Salva Kiir, the president of southern Sudan. Museveni has previously offered amnesty to rank and file members of the LRA but this time has promised Joseph Kony safety if he got serious about a peaceful settlement. This could pose some problems as Kony has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Unfortunately ultimatums have been issued before in this 20 odd years long war and Kony is still running about in the woods kidnapping and killing people. Odds are he won't accept a peace deal now and that the joint effort to crush him will fail. But maybe not. He has in the past been able to hide in Sudan when it got to hot in Uganda. If Kiir is serious about helping Museveni end this scourge then maybe, just maybe something good will come about and Kony and his LRA will become nothing but sad chapters in a history book. But I'm not holding my breath.

17 May 2006

More of my thoughts on e85

I looked a bit more at how Brazil implemented it's conversion ethanol. They started off by mandating that all gas stations have an ethanol pump.
I am opposed to the government telling people that they have to sell something. I think the market should drive the issue. It would be an interesting ride but I think it could be done if one (or more) of the auto makers would make flexfuel engines standard in all of their cars. Or even in all of one or two classes of cars. (all minivans maybe, or all SUVs (that should drive the econuts crazy))If people have cars that can burn e85 easily then they will look to buy it as soon as they see that it is cheaper than the unleaded they have been using. Most places selling e85 do so at a substantially lower cost than the unleaded. Not all but most. See for yourself.e85 Costs As soon as other stations start seeing people lining up to buy the e85 because it is cheaper they will want to have a pump too. Now I know someone out there will say, "people aren't going to drive out of their way and sit in line to get e85." Maybe not if it is only a penny or two difference, but if for example the cost is 2.499 for e85 and 2.949 for unleaded as it was on May 16 at the Marathon food mart in Urbana IL, they yes, people will go out of their way for that kind of savings. Heck, people go into Wal-Mart and put money on their cash card before they go to the Gas pumps just to save 3 cents on their gas. A .50 difference will get a lot of folks. So e85 pumps will spread. Now of course the downside to this is that as demand goes up for e85 so sill the price because at this time there is a very limited supply. If I were the guys at GM I would sell the flexfuel vehicles and start investing in some ethanol plants. Actually, a lot of ethanol plants.
It could work, it will take some people making some pretty bold decisions but it could be done.
WILL it work? Who knows? Frankly the guys at the big three automakers haven't impressed me as being very forward thinking. But maybe Honda or Toyota will do it. VW is already making flexfuel vehicle in Brazil, they could do it here too.
We shall see.

15 May 2006

A return to gas mileage...

Some time ago I did a small rant on gas mileage. (miles-per-gallon-rant
It was annoying me that it seems that mileage wasn';t getting any better and the the car companies seemed to be saying that 25 mpg was really good. Well, now that gas has gone up and people are complaining about the costs I decided to review the issue. It was brought to mind when I saw a commercial for the new Toyota Yaris that gets 40 mpg highway. So I thought I would see what else is good out there. Of course the Honda and Toyota hybrids are the best. The Toyotas at about 51 and the Honda Insight at 63. VW has several in the 40-47 range, Saturn's ION runs in the low 40s. The Honda Civic Non hybrid) can get up to 51 and isn't a horribly expensive car.
So the mileage is coming up a bit.

On a related issue, I saw a thing about E85 ethanol the other day. One of the issues to it's use nationwide is that many cars need to be modified to burn it effectively. GM makes some cars that are called Flexfuel.
starting in 2006, GM will produce more than 400,000 flexible fuel vehicles annually -- vehicles that can also operate on gasoline or E85 ethanol without any modifications or special switches
is what it says on the GM webpage talking about it. (flexfuel) My question is this. If GM is serious about promoting e85 ethanol, why aren't ALL of their new cars Flexfuel? If every car GM made could use E85 ethanol, gasoline or any mixture there of that would SERIOUSLY help the spread and development of ethanol in the US. This is what Brazil did and they expect to become energy independent this year. (they make ethanol from sugar cane instead of corn) So we see that it can be done.
I think that if they Auto companies just made all engines flexfuel then Americans would soon be demanding the E85 because it it so much cheaper. The market would drive the issue.

09 May 2006

A couple of interesting events

On the international scale a couple of interesting things happened in the last couple of days. The first is that the President of Iran sent an 18 page letter to President Bush. Therewas a fair amount of initial hype from pundits about this. Those on the left saying "See, they are willing to talk!" Those on the right saying "Hah, it's a scam!"
Well, it turns out to be neither really. One cannot seriously accept the document as an opening for negociations when it starts off by telling Bush that Democracy has failed around the world and is hated by all. The document also accuses The US of a cover up on the issue of 9/11, lies about Iraq, and questions the validity of the establishment of Israel. It ends by inviting Bush to join the people flocking to the "Almighty God".
So it isn't a scam, it is a call to repentance. But certainly not a real opening for talks.

The second event was that Jacob Zuma, the former deputy President of South Africa was found Not Guilty in his rape trial. He had been accused of rape by the daughter of a now deceased colleague who was staying at his house. She is an HIV positive AIDS activist. Zuma says the sex was consensual. Ironically Zuma was the head of the South Africa's campaign against AIDS and violence towards women. Was he guilty? Who knows? It was a He said/She said event. It didn't help the accusers case that she had a reputaion for shouting rape. (falsely according to the judge)
One of the more sad/amusing/"HUH?" things seen in this trial is that Zuma, the man who headed the anti AIDS mission for SA did not wear a condom during this act and announced during his trial his taking a shower after the act who protect him from AIDS and that men really can't get AIDS easily from women anyway. That says a lot for why AIDS is so prevalent on the continent.
Oh Well.....

05 May 2006

The Law of Land Warfare

This is a post I have been thinking about ever since I started this blog.  It comes up in my mind each and every time I hear people talking about how we should grant the Al Queda detainees in Guantanamo their Geneva Convention rights.  This came to mind again today as I was listening to people talk on the radio about Zacarias Moussaoui being sentenced to life in prison instead of death.
(As an aside, I am pleased as punch that he got life in prison.  As I said in an earlier post  he wants to be a martyr and I am glad the jury didn’t grant him his wish.  Let him die a lonely miserable old man many years from now.)

Now, back to Al Queda, some Iraqi insurgents, and the Geneva Convention.  I have here sitting in front of me Dept. of the Army Field Manual 27-10:  The Law of Land Warfare.  i.e. The Geneva Conventions plus some commentaries and additions made by the US congress and such.
One of the things that people don’t seem to realize is that Al Queda fighters are not entitled to Geneva  protection.  Chapter 3, Section II paragraph 61 defines who is a Prisoner of War, they are “members of the armed forces”, members of “militias or volunteer corps  … provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following requirements:
  1. a. that of being commanded a  person responsible for his subordinates;

  2. b. that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;  

  3. c. that of carrying arms openly;

  4. d. that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

It can clearly be seen from that definition that Al Queda does not qualify as a P.O.W., nor do most of the Iraqi insurgents or the current Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.  So, if they are not entitled to P.O.W. status what do the Geneva Accords say can be done to them when captured?  There are two paragraphs that deal with this, 80 and 81 which deal with “Individuals Not of the Armed Forces Who Engage in Hostilities.” And “Individuals Not of the Armed Forces Who Commit Hostile Acts.”  Both of which say that said individuals “…may be tried and sentenced to execution or imprisonment.”  Who tries them?  Well precedent from WWII points to near summary Courts Martial with sentence being carried out immediately.    In fact, trials were often not held at all and executions were carried out by previous orders.  The book The Interrogator by Raymond Tolliver recounts the story of Hans Scharff, one of Germany’s top interrogators (whose techniques were adopted almost exactly by the U.S. Army Interrogation School) recounts Scharff’s tale of his surrender to US Forces at the end of the war.  He was traveling with three other soldiers and they approached a village occupied by Patton’s troops.  Scharff decides to change into his civilian clothes and go back to a nearby  village where he had relatives.  He was captured shortly after leaving his friends.  He is standing there with some other German soldiers who have been captured and overhears his guards talking, the squad leader tells the others to “Check them over closely.  The ones in uniform are no trouble but that guy in civvies has a military passport so he may be a spy.  If so we have orders to execute him.”  Upon hearing this Scharff took off running and escaped.  He changed back into his uniform, rejoined his friends and surrendered.  But this and numerous other accounts from the war make it clear that the summary, or nearly so, execution of people not fitting the Geneva definitions of prisoners was relatively common.  So really, most of the detainees at Guantanamo could have been executed instead of being detained.  And these executions could have been carried out not after a fancy trial like Moussaoui got but after a quick trial before a Court Martial in the field.

Just something to think about.

As a follow on though I feel obligated to mention that all Taliban prisoner captured during the initial invasion of Afghanistan and the immediately following time period are (or should have been) covered by Geneva Protocols as they were members of the military of the de facto government of the country.  Or were actual Government officials.