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1.  Exactly who came up with the (newspeak) term, “Enhanced Interrogation?

(I suspect it was Donald Rumsfeld, a Newspeak master, but who knows?)

2.  Does Enhanced Interrogation really work?

(Remember the Spanish Inquisition did find a number of heretics and the Gestapo and Kempeitai did save lives.)

3.  Do we owe Germany and Japan an apology for the WWII War crime trials?

4.  Are we still bound by the Third Geneva Convention?

(We did sign it you know, but maybe our signature don't mean all that much anymore. "Articles 13 to 16 state that prisoners of war must be treated humanely without any adverse discrimination and that their medical needs must be met.")

5.  If Enhanced Interrogation Techniques are not torture, why can’t police legally use them?

(Interrogator: “Come on Mr. Wilson, You didn’t really come to a full stop at the sign did you?”  Splash, Splash.
Wilson, barely audible: “I can’t breathe.”)

6.  Can playing with words destroy the U.S. Constitution?  

(Please add your own questions, if any, in the comments and make my day.)  

Discuss

Wed Dec 10, 2014 at 12:14 PM PST

O ye generation of hypocrites!

by This old man

At the end of WWII the Military Tribunals, set up at Nuremberg Gremany and Sugamo Prison in Tokyo by the Allies, prosecuted thousands of war crimes which resulted in executions for some and long prison terms for others, of those convicted.  I closely followed those events day by day as they unfolded.  I was proud of my country’s actions.  There was a background rumble in both Japan and Germany that these trials were simply “Victors Justice”.   “NOT SO!” I thought, “We are better than that.”
   One of the common teams at these trials was, “We were just following orders” which according to the Tribunals was not a legitimate defense at all.  Both the Governments of Germany and Japan approved of the actions that were later deemed war crimes and claimed they were legal.   At the result of their approval, some of them (Lawyers and Judges) were convicted of war crimes.
    The release of the Senate Torture Report summery makes the WWII War Crimes trials, a big obscene joke.  

Discuss

  As I understand it, the main problem in the Mid-East is the schism in the Islamic faith that occurred sometime in the middle of the 7th century AD.  At that point in time Islam separated into the Shia and Sunni denominations.  The division was not equal; the Sunni are in the majority so far as population is concerned but not necessarily in enthusiasm.  Now, all of the major religions have experienced schisms of one sort or another during their history and some of them have generated a period of violence, but Islam has been, by far, the most aggressive and persistent in prosecuting the differences.  Like all religious denominations, each has its own fanatics, and that further complicates one’s ability to understand the issues.  Be that as it may, if the schism is indeed the cause of all the troubles in the Middle East, it would seem to me that Americans should have at least some idea of what the specific problems are and what course of action our government should take.  

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 The first real pandemic to hit the United States occurred a few years before I was born.  That being said, it was still fresh enough in people’s minds that it was talked about all during  my teen years.   The Spanish Flu, according to statistics,  is reckoned to have killed more people worldwide than the Bubonic plague.  My Great Grandmother, our family matriarch, acted as the area wise woman and was frequently called on for medical advice or assistance.  By the time I reached some  extent of social awareness she had stopped riding her old white mare to households that summoned her.  I remember riding that old mare myself however.  Grandma brewed up a syrupy stuff made primarily of elderberries and dosed all her family as well as others in the area, as a defense against the flu.  I was dosed with the stuff a good many times during my youth.  Did it work?  Who knows?  One of my Great Aunts died of the Spanish Flu but she lived over in Ohio and did not partake of the syrup.  All her brothers and sisters survived.  Some people who took Grandma’s elixir died anyway but the theory was they did not take it soon enough to do any good.  Yeah, well there’s that.
 

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Sun Oct 05, 2014 at 06:07 PM PDT

In praise of SOS

by This old man

  It is written, (in a prior diary) that in the late winter of 1947, I had grown so discontented with my lot in the U.S. Army that, I QUIT!  I was stationed at Fort Knox Kentucky, 3rd Armor Division at the time, and for some reason that escapes me at the moment, after donning the ruptured duck in January of 48, I made my way (via Greyhound Bus) to a little town in western Pennsylvania, the place  of my birth.  When I left in 43, I had been living with my widowed mother on our small rented farm, but she had remarried in my absence to a man I loathed and the feeling was mutual.  I had not factored the lack of a domicile in my reckoning of future expenses, and discovered shelter was indeed a very big and costly item.  I had accumulated the sum of 200 dollars to see me through any rough patches I might encounter before finding employment.  200 bucks was a princely amount back in 48.  The 200 dollars however dwindled at an alarming rate as I looked for work.   Hotel rooms were 2 to 3 dollars a night, and after a couple of weeks I realized I was going to have to find cheaper shelter.  I started staying in 50 cents a night rooms that offered a cot, blanket, and chair and often even a pillow.  In those establishments a chair was an essential piece of furniture.  One used the chair as a brace against the door to prevent invasion and robbery, (or worse), in the night.  Often one was awakened in the by brawls in the hall or drunks singing bawdy ballads at the top of their lungs at 3 AM, but for 50 cents a night you can’t have everything, right?  If the room had running water that was an added luxury.  One could wipe down one’s body with a damp cloth and rinse out underwear and socks.   Keeping clean was a big problem.  Shaving could be accomplished at a Greyhound or Trailways bus terminal restrooms during the day with no ill consequences but if one attempted to spend the night in the bus waiting room, the cops would often chase you out into the cold and sometimes bust you as a vagrant if you returned later.  I spent a number of nights at Greyhound to conserve my dwindling supply of cash.  I was very conservative in those days.    
   In 48 there was no such thing as a fast food restaurant, a fact that astounds my grandchildren.  I found a quaint little one man restaurant called Joe’s.  Joe served you one egg, one strip of bacon, two slices of toast and a cup of coffee with one refill for 60 cents.  I ate at Joe’s a lot, often my only meal of the day.  
   Another problem with the lack of a domicile that I failed to consider prior to leaving the Army was where to keep my personal possessions.  I have a lot of empathy for homeless people nowadays with their shopping carts.  Of course there were no shopping carts in 48 so I bought a cardboard suitcase in which to transport my worldly goods.  I had underwear and socks, all in a lovely Olive Drab color, a civilian shirt and a pair of blue jeans, an Army sweater plus a wool OD hat as well as a pair of knit Army gloves.  I sold the miserably heavy wool Army overcoat and most of the other uniform stuff and used those funds for civilian outfits.  Jeans and shirts, 2 each.  When all ones possessions are contained in a single small suitcase, if you are prudent, you keep the case with you at all times, which in itself can be a pain.  
   I did not consider myself homeless because I still had some money but when the weather mended enough, I did sleep under the stars some nights rather than pay for a flophouses repose.  Three months after leaving the bosom of the Army, my funds were down to $2.83 when I finally found a job.
   I hired on as a laborer in a steel mill at minimum wage which, at that time, was 40 cents an hour.  I hocked my watch and a jade ring in order to come up with the cash for the first two weeks rent in a boarding hotel that offered rooms but no food.  I pretty much lived on peanut butter and stale bread for the first two weeks, till the first payday.  I redeemed my watch after the third payday but let the ring go.  My income just covered the cost of my room and the restaurant bills if I was careful.  If I shaved my food budget a little, or skipped some meals altogether, I could occasionally go to a movie but other than that my social life was nil.  I worked as a laborer for six months then took a hard look at my situation and discovered I was anything but happy.  I thought about my days in the Army and could not recall exactly why I had quit.  I went to see the local Army recruiting sergeant who greeted me like a long lost brother.  He offered me coffee from the pot he had brewing and donuts from a large cardboard box on his desk.  He promised me my E4 rank back and gave me a list of schools I could attend.  How could I refuse?  I signed up, quit my job that very day, and was off to Ft. Mead, Maryland for processing the following day.
   I arrived at Mead in time for breakfast and was marched off to the dining area.  SOS was on the menu that morning.  As a matter of fact SOS was the only thing on the menu that morning.  I almost wept with nostalgia.  My very first Army Breakfast was also SOS.  One of my table mates said; “Christ its f**king SOS again!”  That also strummed my heart strings.  You can’t spend an hour in the Army without hearing someone bitching about something.
    It is said SOS was first created by an Army Chef, early during WWII whose name now is lost in time.  I have always imagined the creator to be of someone of French decent.  Since its origin, other Army Chefs have made subtle changes to the dish, but it has retained it basic ingredients during all those years.  Slivers of savory beef swimming in a delicious salty white sauce, generous spread over toast.
   I once heard Julia Childs say she could not imagine a civilization without onions.  In the same vain, I cannot imagine a U.S. Army without SOS.    

Discuss

Mon Dec 30, 2013 at 01:06 PM PST

Of Airplanes and Funny Papers

by This old man

   Back during the Thirties, everyone, urban and rural, read the newspaper comic strips.  It was one of the glues that helped hold our society together.  If you mentioned Boob McNutt or Joe Palooka everyone knew exactly what you were talking about.  I couldn’t wait till someone, usually an Uncle or a Grandfather, had time to read me the adventures of Felix the Cat who had this magic bag of tricks and about Alley Oop and his pal Foozie, and the dinosaur he rode in on. (I think maybe that’s where the Christian Team Park guys got the idea of humans and dinosaurs existing at the same time.   Who can blame them?  At age 5 I believed it. Do they still call newspaper comic strips, “The Funny Papers”?)  It was an incentive for me to learn how to read.  Who gave a crap about Dick and Jane when the adventures of the Katzenjammer Kids waited in the folds of the evening news?  The Kids flew around the island in their very own helicopter and I thought that was the best thing ever.  They called the helicopters Auto Gyros back then.  I really wanted one of those.

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Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:46 PM PST

Benghazi V. Afghanistan

by This old man

It is indeed regrettable that 4 Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September, 2012.  Any violent death is regrettable, regardless of who or where.  18 American GI’s were killed in Afghanistan that same month.  Is anyone in Congress looking into those deaths?    

Discuss

Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 01:41 PM PDT

Insurance

by This old man

  I am not an insurance expert and realize my views on the subject may be naïve.  I do however have a good many years of experience so these are my observations for what they’re worth, and like the Fox says, “You Decide”.
   I always imagined initial insurances formed when a group of people who had a similar risk, pooled their money and hired a business manager to increase the fund.  Each insured person owned a percentage of the fund and should he/she quit, could sell his/her interest back.  Mutual ownership makes a lot of sense it seems to me.
   The history of insurance is rather dim.  From what I could gleam from a cursory search, merchant shipping was the initial application of the insurance idea.  I do recall reading a rather dark English History that mentioned life insurance for children in the 1500s when the mortality rate was high and according the text, higher than it should have been because of insurance.  Dark indeed.

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Sat Jun 22, 2013 at 07:33 PM PDT

The Radio

by This old man

The little Pennsylvania town where our shack was located had, and this is a rough guess, a population of 40 families.  There was a grocery store with no electricity or refrigeration and a gas station that had a generator to work the pumps, and that was it, so far as businesses were concerned.  The town serviced the needs of the small farms in the near area, provided the requirement was not too special. Otherwise folks traveled to the city some 14 miles from our town.  In the fall of 1932 my mother and I, along with almost everyone in town, assembled at the Helwig place to listing to the presidential election results.  The Helwigs were a middle aged German couple who spoke English with a very heavy accent and we children mocked them when no adults were around to hear.    The attraction at the Helwig place that day was they owned the only operational radio within miles.  At the time I had no idea what a presidential election was all about, nor did I much care, but it was like a big party with pies and cakes, and potato salad that people had brought.  There was 55 gallon barrel of fresh apple cider and rumors that home brew beer could be had for a price.  Remember beer was illegal back then but the Helwigs were German.  (Think about it.)  Both mother and I hit the free food line like we were starving, because, well, we were.  Anyway when the election results were announced all the people cheered for at least 15 min.  It was perplexing for someone my age.  When the volume of noise finally dropped to a point one could talk again, I asked "Why is everyone so happy?".  A man said, “Hoover Lost!”  Still very perplexing, I had no idea who Hoover was.

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Actually, I’m not really sure of Jimmy’s gender but since his personal characteristics were bold and masculine, we called him Jimmy.  One of the very many positive things about our relationship was he never tried to sell me insurance.  As a matter of fact I never heard him make a sound.  I used to rent an apartment further up the mountain (mauka) where the members of Jimmy’s species were all brown.  Not, mind you, that I have against being brown, (I mean this is Kos, right?) but the brown ones make a lot of noise in the silence of the night.  Mating calls or territorial warnings, who knows?  (Someone here probably does, but not me, nor do I really care.)  Anyway, they are loud enough to disturb ones sleep on occasion.  Jimmy was silent and green. He very much resembled the gecko who hocks insurance on TV.

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Sat Jun 01, 2013 at 06:35 PM PDT

Taxes and Corruption

by This old man

  I am not part of the 47%.  I have paid Federal Income Tax for years.  I am military retired and although many people think (for some odd reason) military retirement is exempt from Federal Income Tax, it is not. It is nicked at the same rate wages are, that is 15%.  I have a few thousand dollars of savings in Certificates of Deposits which currently pay me 3% interest but all are due to mature this year and that for all intents and purposes will be the end of that source of our income.  The average rate for savings interest seems to be about a half of one percent nowadays.  Not to worry.  The military retirement and benefits we receive are more than enough support our modest life style.  I do not mind paying Federal Income Tax!  I am happy to have enough income to be assessed at all.  
   During WWII our National Debt sored to way above what it is now and did not end in catastrophe.   Most of the Debt was financed in Country.  Taxes went up some, and remember War Bonds?  Kids bought war savings stamps with pennies and pasted them in a book.  When they had enough stamps accumulated the book was traded in for a War Bond.  Some people, who owed no taxes what so ever, sent what money they could to the Federal Government as a gift to support the war effort.

   

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Sun Apr 28, 2013 at 12:25 AM PDT

Military Uniforms

by This old man

For the past few years something had been bothering me when I visit a U.S. military instillation.  It was a nagging something  nudging the edge of my reality that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  Last week at the Airbase I finally realized what it was.   While I was walking from the BX to the Commissary, I happened to see two guy's in uniform other than fatigues.  A Marine Corporal in full dress and a few minuets later, and Air Force Staff Sargent in Class A's.  It occurred to me that I had not seen anyone in Class A's in the last several years.  That was it!  Every one, of whatever service seems to be waring Fatigues these days – at least that's what I call them because it's the uniform we wore in the field and for work details during WWII through 67 at least.  Of course they were not covered with camouflage design back then but it's basically the same uniform.  Some people who were assigned combat duty in South Pacific jingles did wear camouflage fatigues during WWII.  They were in the friggen jungle, and thats the reason!  Why would someone ware camouflage in an office in NYC?     When was the last time you saw a sailor wearing a uniform that looked like the guy on the crackerjack box?  What ever happened to bell bottom trousers?  

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