Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Thursday, August 30, 2007
  Getting Righteous
John performs an editorial bitch-slap on the idjits who have been passing out racist tracts in Berkshire County:
From my point of view, whoever spreads this sort of bile around is a coward, content to deposit the hateful publication rolled up like a grocery store circular and thrilled to hide behind the loathsome Dr. Fields' contact information. I say, if it's important enough to purchase and distribute it, then it's important enough to stick your own name on it and give it your personal, local seal of approval.

If you are so proud of it, why hide? Why not let your neighbors know that if they are immigrants or if they are blacks or if they are Jewish, you don't want them in North Adams? Besides, as the person who is passing on "the truth at last" on a local level, shouldn't you get the credit you deserve?
Unfortunately racism is alive an well in North County. We've all seen it. We've all heard it. The least you can do the next time you witness someone ranting against "them" is not to let it pass unchallenged.
  Somebody needs to teach that boy a lesson!
I am, of course, referring to Karl Rove who remains a penultimate jack-ass even when the door handle is hitting him in the arse. From the NY Daily News:

Moon Karl Rove, and you'll be arrested. When the politico spoke on American University's campus in April, he was met by a throng of angry Democratic students' behinds as they dropped trou and blocked Rove's motorcade. Most of the kids were given 40 hours of community service by the university, but on Friday, the cheeky group was notified that the Secret Service has issued warrants for their arrest. Details are bare, but the students are reportedly being charged with crossing a police line and disorderly conduct.
There appears to be truth to the rumor that Karl is a vindictive little snot. The fact that almost 5 months have passed since the event and the kids involved were disciplined by the college, you might think that Rove would have ignored that last little thing on his "To Do List" and not called the Secret Service to "take care of" those damn-hippie-kids who ruined his night. What a friggin' jerk!
  I'll never understand
Maybe Michigan vs Ohio State gets me a little riled up but this whole Yankees vs Red Sox thing just leaves me shaking my head.
After reading Paul Harsch's letter to the editor about the supposedly moderate voices of David Brooks and Thom Friedman, aside from slight nausea, I feel the need to highlight this insightful commentary from someone who knows better:
We've been seeing, hearing and reading a lot of pseudo-funny churlishness from Brooks – a lot of Brooks, period. Maybe NPR, PBS, and Times audiences have been calling in, demanding, "More David Brooks!" More likely, editors and producers think him a conservative congenial to liberals like themselves. It doesn't hurt that many conservatives think him a traitor. But could a sophist be a conservative at all? Can't we have a conservative with integrity? The latest Brooksian overkill forces that question.

Sophistry is clever but misleading reasoning. The conservative historian Russell Kirk described the ancient Greek Sophists as I'll shortly portray Brooks: "'realistic,' sardonic," able to pass off trickery or intimidation as righteous persuasion. They were "impelled by their passions and low interests, their illusions, even at the moment they claimed to speak as practical logicians and champions of common sense…. Sophists taught the young men of Athens… the way to material success, especially through public speaking before the assembly or in cases at law." Too few students noticed (or regretted) that Sophists led them "not to truth but to worldly success."

The alternative to sophistry isn't really pure leftism or conservatism. Demanding either would let Brooks off the hook, for no American-republican thinker with integrity can be ideologically consistent. What we need is clarity about which principles you're advancing and about your difficulties in reconciling them. Sophistry puts great intelligence and rhetorical charm at the service not of reasonable truth-seeking but of perversity and power. People like Brooks are drawn to it not intellectually but characterologically.

But what about his editors, producers, and on-air interlocutors? The most memorable portrait of Brooks' sophistic evasions is by Nicholas Confessore in 2004 in the Washington Monthly. I've occasionally sketched his evasions myself. The old saw about New York editors is that they don't think; they "do lunch," and there they learn what to think. But it is unfair. They simply don't have time to read and think about pieces like the above.
There is a reason why the blogosphere has great contempt for Mr. 'I understand middle America because I am smarter than them' Brooks and Tom 'dead Iraqis are fine as long as the Arabs learn a lesson' Friedman. The reason is simple. They are wrong about the big issues far more often than they a right, but they count on the collective amnesia of editors, producers and readers to ply their "wisdom."

The ability to write well does not mean you have a damn thing to actually say. The sooner the cocktail party geniuses who allowed us to get to where we are in America realize this, the better off we will all be.

And ex-CIA agent, Larry Johnson, had a few choice words for Bobo, his neighbor, a little while back about Valerie Plame and the state of Brook's mailbox.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
How the hell did I miss this one? (While the language is a bit tedious and the type is too small, read the whole thing. It is an amazing piece of analysis)
The need for intelligent, creative and courageous general officers is self-evident. An understanding of the larger aspects of war is essential to great generalship. However, a survey of Army three- and four-star generals shows that only 25 percent hold advanced degrees from civilian institutions in the social sciences or humanities. Counterinsurgency theory holds that proficiency in foreign languages is essential to success, yet only one in four of the Army's senior generals speaks another language. While the physical courage of America's generals is not in doubt, there is less certainty regarding their moral courage. In almost surreal language, professional military men blame their recent lack of candor on the intimidating management style of their civilian masters. Now that the public is immediately concerned with the crisis in Iraq, some of our generals are finding their voices. They may have waited too long.[...]

If our operations produce more enemies than they defeat, no amount of force is sufficient to prevail. Current oversight efforts have proved inadequate, allowing the executive branch, the services and lobbyists to present information that is sometimes incomplete, inaccurate or self-serving. Exercising adequate oversight will require members of Congress to develop the expertise necessary to ask the right questions and display the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads them.

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.

And I found because of a NYTimes article citing fractures between the junior and senior officer corps:
On the lower end of the scale, things have changed — but for the worse. West Point cadets are obligated to stay in the Army for five years after graduating. In a typical year, about a quarter to a third of them decide not to sign on for another term. In 2003, when the class of 1998 faced that decision, only 18 percent quit the force: memories of 9/11 were still vivid; the war in Afghanistan seemed a success; and war in Iraq was under way. Duty called, and it seemed a good time to be an Army officer. But last year, when the 905 officers from the class of 2001 had to make their choice to stay or leave, 44 percent quit the Army. It was the service’s highest loss rate in three decades.

Col. Don Snider, a longtime professor at West Point, sees a “trust gap” between junior and senior officers. There has always been a gap, to some degree. What’s different now is that many of the juniors have more combat experience than the seniors. They have come to trust their own instincts more than they trust orders. They look at the hand they’ve been dealt by their superiors’ decisions, and they feel let down.

What immediately comes to mind are the WWII era officers whose understanding of the actualities of war itself helped keep the cold war cold. The modern generals described in Lt. Col. Yingling's article probably would not have been so prudent.
  Cracks in the Dam
This is exactly what I expected to happen:
Bridges' issue is just one of many hiccups those trying to comply with the ambitious state law have run into since it went into effect nearly two months ago. Many find they are earning just above 300 percent of poverty — right around $30,000 a year for a single-person household — and don't qualify for state-subsidized health care, but make too little to afford the monthly premiums.

One 67-year-old Lowell woman who falls into that category said she's unable to pay for the $608 monthly premium offered by the cheapest insurance provider and might have to take the $219 charge against her taxes instead of complying with the new law.
The argument has been that health insurance should be treated like auto insurance - you have to have it. That's a great approach to pooling risk, but a lousy way if you have very expensive premiums that kick in at $30K a year.

This approach needs *major* revisions if Beacon Hill doesn't want a huge revolt on their hands when the penalties for not having insurance become more and more draconian. Mark my words. That is going to happen with the current plan.

My biggest fear is that the plan will implode and set the cause of universal coverage back by a decade. Remember the political damage done by the failure of the Clinton healthcare task force in '93-'94? It bought us Speaker Gingrich.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
  Define "fought"
I just listened to the minority leader of the NY State Assembly, Jim Tedisco, refer to Rudy Giuliani as "someone who has actually fought terrorists."

Hell, W has better claim to defending the United States from Mexico while he was busy getting suspended from the 101st TANG.
Friday, August 24, 2007
  Thy food is such as hath been belch'd upon by infected lungs.
Check out the Shakespearean Insulter.

Nobody does it better - "Thou wimpled pox-marked barnacle!"
  Imagine That!
Reducing US Troops in Iraq's Anbar Province appears to be resulting in reduced violence in that region.

Who woulda' thunk it?!?!

Oh yeah, the 60%+ of the American people who think that our continued presence in Iraq makes things worse.

Too bad W ain't one of them. He's too busy trying to finagle these numbers so they look like they are the result of the troop escalation. I guess he hopes that Americans don't know how to read a map.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
  The Amusing Local Quote of the Day
Armand Delisle's conservative viewpoints have been strangely missing from the letters to the editor section for the past year or so. Today, He's Back! In an otherwise predictable but respectable rant against Dr. Peter May's latest, Mr. Delisle offers up a new tidbit of wisdom while referring to talk of impeachment:
"What does all this [liberal] hate rhetoric do? It contributes to our losing standing in the world community."
Hahhahhaahhahaahahahhahahhahhaa! MAKE IT STOP!!!

Then again, Pic says something interesting a little further down:
"I surely don't agree with everything the president is doing."
My sides hurt! Oy!

If you remember Mr. Delisle's published commentaries from 2003 and 2004, you will remember that saying something similar would have been 'emboldening the terrorists.'

I appreciate other perspectives, but give me a break with the not-so-subtle co-opting of your opponent's language and points of view.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
  If you thought North Adams' politics were hardball...

check out the twists and turns going on in Albany.

It seems that NY State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R - Whiny little punk) has hired the nastiest, most disgraceful of all the GOP henchmen, Roger Stone (See pic on left), to try and keep the NY State Senate in GOP hands. Stone's dirty tricks range from Nixon '72 to an active role in the Miami recount riot of 2000 to accusations that he provided the forged Texas Air National Guard Documents documents regarding President Bush's flight suspension to Bill Burkett, who then turned them over to CBS.

Evidently the relationship between the Majority Leader and Stone was supposed to be kept on the down-low while Joe Bruno cried foul about the state police reporting his trips to the executive branch. However the NYTimes now has the story (I guess it took threatening an 87 year old man to catch their attention) and I'd bet a 6-pack that Roger Stone and Joe Bruno will soon be parting ways.

No matter how disillusioned I am with Spitzer regarding his staff's monitoring of Joe Bruno, nothing he has done comes even comes slightly close to the contemptuous actions of Stone and now, by association, Bruno.

This one is going to get really really ugly.
Monday, August 20, 2007
  It's no wonder that North Adams Teachers will only speak off-the-record.
Read this and be a little disgusted.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I am breaking copyright law by pasting this entire op-ed written by active duty members of the 82nd Airborne and published in the NYTimes. This piece is far too important, simply because of its existence, to selectively quote and hope that readers click through the links.
Op-Ed Contributors
The War as We Saw It

Published: August 19, 2007

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

Tell Aurthur Sulzburger to have his attorney call me if my actions bother him too much.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
  Fire, Beer and Chatter
Tomorrow night, Monday, August 6th, 8 pm 'til ?

Around the backyard fire pit - All viewpoints welcome.

131 Marion Ave (4th house from the end)
Click here for a map.

The last impromptu Monday night gathering was a good time.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I am presently watching the news reporting on the horrific bridge collapse in Minneapolis. It is rather numbing to see a structure that I have driven across many, many times twisted and crumbled in the Mississippi River.

I used to live just south of downtown Minneapolis and my brother and his family still do. While the odds are overwhelming that no one I know was involved in the collapse, the fact that I can't reach my family members by cell phone has me slightly anxious. It's odd how in 2007 we have grown so used to being able to 'reach out and touch someone' that when technology fails it sends a shudder down the spine.

It was only a couple months ago that I mentioned another historical bridge collapse that happened very near to another former residence. Strange coincidence. Oy. But given my track record, hopefully the Hadley Overpass will get rebuilt soon.

I'm not really joking. If this episode demonstrates anything at all, it is the need to maintain civil infrastructure. It's just too damn bad that it takes tragedies like breached levies and collapsed bridges to remind people that nothing lasts forever.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with my brother. He was with the kids at Valley Fair south of the Twin Cities and had not even heard the news. It's sad to think that at least a few people will not get similar phone calls.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

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