advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about politics, economics, and more…

On Starving In Prison, Or, Who Gets Pardons In Florida? December 30, 2010

If you were with us on Christmas Day you heard the story of Betsie Gallardo, who, unless something changes quickly, is going to be intentionally starved to death in a Florida prison after being convicted of spitting on a cop.

In fairness, the State did not decide simply to starve her; instead, the Department of Corrections (DOC) first chose to withhold any further treatment for her inoperable cancer…and then they decided to starve her to death.

Her adopted mother is trying to get her released on humanitarian grounds; the DOC recommended in October that she be allowed to go home and die, the Florida Parole Commission refused.

Governor Charlie Crist chairs the Executive Clemency Board, who could also agree to let her go…and so far, they’ve also refused to take action.

Funny thing is, the Governor and his Board have been more than willing to step in when other Floridians requested pardons and commutations, even in situations that seemed a lot less dire.

Today, we’re going to look at that history—and to be honest, as with many things in the Sunshine State, from the outside…it all looks a bit bizarre.

“Forgiveness, particularly at this time of year, is a very worthwhile message for all of us to be reminded of…”

–Florida Governor Charlie Crist, December 9, 2010

So right off the bat, if you’re 21 years old and you’re having sex with a 15 year-old, you’re looking at some trouble if the police find out. In fact, you’re going to be regarded as a sex offender in the eyes of the law if you’re doing something like that and you get caught.

But as it turns out, in Florida, if you marry the young person in question, you can get a pardon. In fact, it comes up often enough that they’re called “Romeo and Juliet” pardons, and the Executive Clemency Board actually handed out a couple of them in 2009 to John Kemp and Virgil McCranie, who were dating 14 and 15 year-olds when they were originally convicted.

Actually, you don’t even have to marry the minor in question if you can obtain their consent for the underage sexual encounter and demonstrate a reasonable degree of remorse: that happened to Gregory Allen, who was 40 when he was convicted of having sex with a minor.

Describing the events that led to Allen’s conviction, Alex Sink, who was not elected Governor to replace Crist:

“…later expressed frustration with the state’s classification of people as sex offenders even though they may have been convicted of having consensual relations.”

Suzanne Squires killed her own daughter and seriously injured another woman while driving drunk, and just this month the Board commuted 12 years of her 23-year sentence so that she could return home to her family.

18 year-old Jennifer Martin was driving way too fast, and in the eventual crash she killed one of her passengers, and injured another, although she was sober when she did it; she received the second commutation granted by the Board under Crist’s chairmanship when her 16 year sentence for manslaughter by culpable negligence was cut in half in 2009.

The Doors’ Jim Morrison, who is not at risk to die in prison, was posthumously pardoned by the Board just this month for an indecent exposure “event” that took place in 1969. Reached for comment, Morrison suggested that these were strange days indeed when he could be pardoned in death and Betsie Gallardo can’t be pardoned in the final days of her life.

Donald Keehn lent a neighbor $7,000. When she couldn’t repay the debt, he drove by her house and shot up the place—five times.

He was 88 at the time, she was 66, but instead of starving him to death because of his cancer, congestive heart failure and kidney failure, the Board chose to commute half of his five year sentence in 2009 and set him free.

Remember when I suggested that Florida, to the outside observer, seems a bit bizarre?

Well…consider this:

If you date underage girls in ”Chain Gang Charlie’s” Florida you can get a pardon or a commutation. In fact, if you do…they even have a special name for it.

If you kill someone drunk driving—or even driving sober—there might be a commutation for you, too.

Did you ever wag your penis onstage 40 years ago, then die, and now you’re having trouble finding a job because of your besmirched reputation? Governor Crist wants to help—and the Board has his back.

Have you ever committed a series of drive-by shootings, and then developed a series of serious physical problems that make you seek a commutation so that you can go home and die? Florida will find a way to let you out.

On the other hand, if you spit on a cop, and then you develop inoperable cancer…and your name’s Betsie Gallardo…Florida not only won’t let you out of prison to go home and die—they’ll starve you in prison, just to make your death come a bit faster.

Wanna discuss any of this with the Board? Here’s some handy contact information for Crist and the other three members:

Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida
(850) 488-4441
E-mail: charlie.crist@myflorida.com
http://www.flgov.com/contact_governor

Bill McCollum, Attorney General
(850) 414-3300
Click here to e-mail Mr. McCollum
www.myfloridalegal.com/contact

Charles Bronson, Commissioner Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
(850) 488-3022
commissioner@doacs.state.fl.us
http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/

Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer Florida Department of Financial Services
(850) 413-3100
Alex.Sink@myfloridacfo.com
http://www.myfloridacfo.com/

I don’t know how many of you remember the show “Daria”, but all of this reminds me of an episode of Sick Sad World—except that in this case the application of outside pressure is having an effect on the DOC…and that means we need to keep the pressure coming.

If we drag them to it, kicking and screaming, I’m sure the State of Florida will be just as compassionate and humane toward Betsie Gallardo as they were to all the other fine folks you read about here today—and with your help we’ll be able to write a happier ending to what has been, so far, a rather unhappy story.

Advertisements
 

On Actually Ending DADT, Or, “Could It Really Take Another Year?” December 20, 2010

So we got the good news that legislative repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that kept LBGT folks from openly serving in the military has occurred, as the Senate voted Saturday to first cut off debate on the question (that’s the vote that required 60 Senators to pass) and then to pass the actual repeal legislation (which also garnered more than 60 Senate votes, even though it only needed 51).

Most people would assume that once Bill (remember Bill, from “Schoolhouse Rock”?) made it out of Congress and over to the President to for a signature that the process of repeal will be ended—but in fact, there’s quite a bit more yet to do, and it’s entirely possible that a year or more could go by before the entire process is complete.

Today we’ll discuss our way through why it’s going to take so long; to illustrate the point we’ll consider an actual military order that is quite similar to the sort of work that will be required from the Department of Defense (DOD) before the entire “DADT to open service” transition is complete.

“You cannot eliminate even one basic assumption, one substantial part of this philosophy—it is as if it were a solid block of steel—without abandoning objective truth, without falling into the arms of bourgeois-reactionary falsehood.”

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)

To set things up, let’s define, exactly, what “transition” is: the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President all have to certify that the military is ready for the change; 60 days after that certification is made, full repeal occurs.

Soooo…now that Congress has cracked the block of steel, why is it going to take so long for full repeal to take place?

The answer, I’m afraid, is all about being way too organized.

In order to make the move to open service, there will have to be a series of official actions taken that will include developing an entire infrastructure around identifying new standards of conduct, deciding who exactly will be the “evangelizers” that go out and talk to commanders and troops, and who will be involved in supporting enforcement of the new policies.

You may recall that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was associated with a sudden spike in sexual assaults among servicemembers; this required the military to develop solutions (and yes, the controversy around how effective those solutions have been could easily be their own story, but not today).

The reason sexual assault interests us today is because the kinds of orders that were created for commanders then are quite similar to what will be needed now, and we have one of those orders readily available so that we can really visualize what kind of thing we’re talking about.

It’s too long to include in its entirety, but here’s a selected sample:

6. THIS PARAGRAPH PROVIDES DETAILS FOR APPOINTING AND TRAINING DEPLOYABLE SARCS.

A. COMMANDERS AT BRIGADE LEVEL AND HIGHER ECHELONS (DIVISION, CORPS, AND ARMY COMPONENT COMMAND) WILL IMMEDIATELY APPOINT, ON COLLATERAL DUTY, A MINIMUM OF ONE SOLDIER/CIVILAIN TO SERVE AS THE COMMAND S DEPLOYABLE SEXUAL ASSAULT RESPONSE COORDINATOR (SARC). COMMANDERS WILL SELECT QUALIFIED PERSONNEL FOR DUTY AS DEPLOYABLE SARC IN ACCORDANCE WITH PARAGRAPH 7 OF THIS MESSAGE.
B. DEPLOYABLE SARCS SHOULD NOT BEGIN RESPONDING TO SEXUAL ASSAULTS UNTIL THEY RECEIVE TRAINING. INITIAL TRAINING FOR DEPLOYABLE SARCS WILL OCCUR THROUGH ONE OF THE FOLLOWING METHODS.
1. FROM THE INSTALLATION SARC. THIS IS THE PRIMARY METHOD FOR TRAINING DEPLOYABLE SARCS. THIS TRAINING SHOULD OCCUR AS SOON AS INSTALLATION SARCS ARE IN PLACE AND OPERATIONAL, BUT NOT LATER THAN 30 JUNE 2005 FOR ALL ACTIVE COMPONENT UNITS.
2. BY A MOBILE TRAINING TEAM (MTT) IN THE CENTCOM AOR. DEPLOYABLE SARCS ASSIGNED TO UNITS ALREADY IN THE CENTCOM AOR WILL RECEIVE TRAINING BY A MOBILE TRAINING TEAM AT VARIOUS LOCATIONS DURING MAY AND JUNE. SPECIFIC DATES AND LOCATIONS HAVE BEEN COORDINATED BETWEEN CFSC AND ARCENT.
3. BY SPECIAL REQUEST OF UNITS SCHEDULED TO DEPLOY THAT WILL NOT BE IN THE CENTCOM AOR PRIOR TO THE MTT TRAINING CITED ABOVE. UNITS THAT ARE IN THIS CATEGORY AND ARE UNABLE TO HAVE THEIR DEPLOYABLE SARCS TRAINED USING ANY OF THE METHODS LISTED ABOVE SHOULD CONTACT THE CFSC POC AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE TO COORDINATE A SPECIAL MTT.
4. DURING DOD SPONSORED SARC TRAINING CONFERENCES SCHEDULED FOR THE FOLLOWING DATES AND LOCATIONS: 28 JUN 1 JUL (CHARLOTTE, NC); 12-15 JUL (SAN DIEGO, CA); 19-22 JUL (HAWAII); 27-30 SEP (ATLANTA, GA). PRIORITY FOR ATTENDANCE AT THESE SESSIONS WILL BE GIVEN TO RESERVE COMPONENT UNITS. ALL INSTALLATION SARCS, AND AS MANY ACTIVE COMPONENT DEPLOYABLE SARCS AS CAN BE ACCOMMODATED, MAY ALSO ATTEND THESE JOINT SERVICE EVENTS AS ADDITIONAL TRAINING. SPECIFIC COORDINATING INSTRUCTIONS ARE BEING WORKED WITH DOD BY THE ARMY COMMUNITY AND FAMILY SUPPORT CENTER (CFSC). UNITS SHOULD CONTACT THE CFSC POC AT THE END OF THIS MESSAGE TO SCHEDULE DEPLOYABLE SARC ATTENDANCE AT ANY OF THESE SESSIONS.

As you can imagine, the way that you end up with this sort of work product is for the Secretary of Defense to begin talking to his most senior Generals and Admirals, who will then will gather their paperwork forces and convene working groups, they’ll start passing drafts around and getting approvals; and the output from that process will be delivered to unit commanders all the way down the chain.

If these regulations are a model, conference centers will have to be made available, advocates and trainers will have to be appointed, and then unit commanders will have to train their troops to the new standards.

It is likely that there are regulations to be written that will impact the civilian world; if that’s the case, those regulations generally require, after they’re written, a 90 day public comment period, and that will also add to the total time that will be needed. If the regulations need to be rewritten after the comment period, there will be a bit more delay.

To add to the issues to be addressed, some of the forces are today “combat deployed”, and for the most part I wouldn’t expect a lot of effort to train any of them to new standards until they’re rotated out of combat.

It is possible that certification could occur even if those forces are not yet trained, but the training infrastructure is in place for them when they return; if that’s the case things would obviously move faster.

In addition to managing the conduct of servicemembers, the military issues standards of conduct that affect “dependants”. Some of those dependants live in base housing, and their kids often attend base schools; all of this will likely create the need for more rules and training, especially since there will be people in the military community who will be intolerant of the new regime.

Now this story actually grew out of a comment that I made at The Bilerico Project after the DADT cloture vote. The response to that comment, if I might paraphrase, was that it’s amazing that we can move tens of thousands of troops all the way to the Middle East and commence to killing everyone in sight faster than we can teach our own troops to accept each other equally.

That’s a well-focused observation, I think (and it wouldn’t surprise me if there are those in the service making the same comment), and in the end, the way the services deal with the issues behind that complaint (and the host of other issues that surround this transition) is going to be the marker by which we determine if the military will remain an institution that commands as much respect among Americans as it does today.

Will they succeed?

Starting next week, it looks like we’ll be finding out.

 

On Honoring A Legacy, Or John Edwards, We Need To Talk December 17, 2010

So it has come to pass that Elizabeth Edwards has died.

Despite having more things thrown at her than anyone I’ve ever had the chance to support in my entire political life, she managed to represent, in her very presence, a sense of grace and kindness and concern for those who were looking to have a better life than the one they had now, and I don’t know that I could ever live up to the quiet courage she showed as her life came to an end.

And, bless her heart, it appears that she took the time to make sure that her kids knew her, and that she helped them put away enough “past” to, hopefully, ease some of the pain of the future.

But now the time has come to look beyond death, and, John…that’s why I want to talk to you today.

Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
This life cannot be All, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were!
One may not doubt that, somehow, Good
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A Purpose in Liquidity.

–From the poem Heaven, by Rupert Brooke

I am required to start this story with a great big “Full Disclosure”: I was very much a John Edwards supporter during 2007, for reasons I laid out after seeing him in a small room in May of that year, and I was a contributor to the Edwards campaign website’s “blogging community”. I did not, and do not, contribute money to candidates, including Edwards—and that’s so that I can write more dispassionately when it comes time to consider the endgame.

That said, let’s move on.

One of the reasons I supported Edwards was because his campaign was the one that was, in a big way, talking about making poor people into middle-class people. Remember the “Two Americas” messaging? If you don’t, he’s famously quoted from his 2003 stump speech in which he describes a country where we have…

“…One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life.”

In fact, I have often suggested that conversations like this from the ’08 Edwards campaign forced both the Obama and Clinton ‘08 campaigns farther to the left than they would have been otherwise—and I would further suggest that the effort to “grab” Edwards voters after he dropped out led Obama to say things about the reforms that he wishes he could walk away from now.

In addition to operating the campaign’s web presence, the Edwards folks also provided the Internet “organizing ground” for OneCorps, which was intended to be a way for supporters and friends to do “politically agnostic” good works for the public good.

Sadly, as the Edwards campaign wound down, so did much of the inertia of OneCorps.

And so has much of the interest in doing something about those “Two Americas”.

And that’s what I want you, John Edwards, to come back and do something about.

Here’s the thing, John: while you might see your personal troubles as something that keeps you from being a public figure, I don’t.

I see what’s happened to you as liberating.

You aren’t running for anything anymore, and you have Elizabeth’s legacy to advance—and you no longer have to suck up to the Paul Begalias and Ed Rendells and Donna Braziles of the Democratic Party…and you damn sure don’t have to suck up to any Republican legislative leaders or the Doug Feith crowd to advance an agenda in a lame-duck session.

You are free, Mr. Edwards, and if you want to start doing some work to help broke people get organized again, or if you want to start asking hard questions about why banks and billionaires need subsidies and why those who are neither have to cover the bills…or if you want to do something that combines the civility aspect of “No Labels” with the energy of OneCorps and the policy direction of “Two Americas”…this is your chance.

In fact, by having no interest whatsoever in running for office, you may actually be in the best political situation of your life: you have a chance to be one of the few truly “honest brokers” in American politics, you have a chance to do truly good work, at a time when America truly needs the help, and you have the chance to do it in a way that bypasses both political establishments and taps directly into the giant well of “unrepresented” that is out there in every city and town in the Nation.

There are millions of Americans who want to see jobs coming back to this country, who are afraid that Social Security is looking more and more like a giant pot of money to be sold to the highest bidder, and who are worried that their kids won’t be able to do better in life than they did—and you are now in a position to do them a lot of good by getting out there and telling some hard truths about who’s winning and who’s losing—even when it’s Democrats who are having to endure some of the truth telling.

Beyond that, you can help to advance a legacy that I know means more to you than you could ever say—and it would give you and the kids a chance to honor someone that I know you miss more than you could ever say.

Look, I know you screwed up…badly…but this is America, the land of the second chance—and if you approach this as a chance to perform a public service, and ignore all the “professional” politicking that will pop up as we move forward, you could do something truly great.

Hold our politicians accountable.
Demand action on “Two Americas”.

Use your insight to point out exactly how the hustle is going down—and, once again, be the voice that stands up for those who want more from this country than just getting trickled on.

This is your chance to do right by someone you cared very much for, and a chance to do right by an entire Nation, both at the same time—and if I were you, I might just make this my New Year’s resolution.

 

On Pushing The Unwilling, Or, Laughter: A Tool Of Asymmetric Warfare? December 9, 2010

So here it is, almost halfway through this President’s first term, and it’s starting to become abundantly clear that there is no way Obama is going to pursue the same agenda that he ran on in 2008.

In fact, as the President announces a deal that even he agrees the majority of the American people do not support, and he prepares the Nation for the news that we’re going to have to borrow money for the very tax cuts he said we couldn’t afford a few weeks ago, it’s starting to look like Obama isn’t even going to pursue the same agenda he campaigned for in October.

Now it is true that a lot of the problem here is the President’s—but it’s also fair to say that we Progressives have failed to force the President, and certain reluctant Members of Congress, to govern in a way that promotes that agenda.

That’s a real problem, and it needs a real solution; before we get done today I’ll offer a suggestion that could be not only highly effective, and a lot of fun besides, but a great chance to release your artistic muse as well.

“…Private Pyle has dishonored himself, and dishonored the platoon. I have tried to help him, but I have failed. I have failed because you have not helped me. You people have not given Private Pyle the proper motivation.”

–R. Lee Ermey, as “Sergeant Hartman”, from the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket.

Now before we go any further, a quick comment on that Presidential news conference: if this President was this passionate about his positions before he made deals with his opponents, maybe he wouldn’t have to pick so many fights with his own side…and, to use his own words, he wouldn’t have to do so much “negotiating with hostage takers”. But then again…what do I know?

And speaking of fights: we assume there will be no effort, in the 112th Congress, to advance “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, because this President is unlikely to want to pick a fight with Republicans, and Democrats no longer have the ability to control the House legislative calendar.

We will probably be pressured by our Republican friends to make some decision about Social Security, right now (well, in 2011, anyway), and we can assume that among the demands they’ll make will be to raise the retirement age and break the connection between the cost of living adjustment and the actual rise in the cost of living.

And it wouldn’t surprise me if this President also finds himself forced to make unwanted compromises on health care; all of this because the House threatens to refuse to fund something else that he wants at the time.

And all of that means we’ll constantly be “fighting to catch up”, instead of framing the messages and defining the issues ourselves—and that means we’ll always be facing a tactical disadvantage.

However, it may be that there’s another answer to be found—and it’s possible that the answer might be found in, of all places, Bhopal, India.

It was in Bhopal that Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary operated a chemical plant that produced the pesticides Sevin and Temik. The process to make Sevin involved the use of chlorine, methyl isocyanate gas, and phosgene, which makes either a dandy reactive compound for industrial use or a dandy nerve gas, depending on how it’s applied.

Over the evening, as December 2, 1984 turned into December 3rd, some or all of these gases leaked from the plant into the neighborhood that had sprung up around the plant (that’s the bad way to apply phosgene); it’s estimated by the local government that 3787 people died that night. Others have estimated that as many as 15,000 died as a result of the events of that evening. Almost 575,000 people were compensated for losses related to the event.

Many are frustrated that neither “American” Union Carbide nor Dow Chemical, who eventually absorbed the company, have ever stepped up to acknowledge their own liability…but on the 20th anniversary of the leak, a window of opportunity had appeared, thanks to a realistic looking fake website that “reframed” Dow’s intentions in a subtle, but very unflattering manner.

That website got “Jude Finisterra”, a fake Dow representative, invited on BBC World Television, where he fake announced that Dow was now going to take full responsibility for the disaster and begin cleaning up the site and providing the medical care that the survivors could badly use.

Naturally, this forced Dow to publicly come forward and deny the whole thing, which created lots of new awareness around the issue.

This “identity correction” tactic is the specialty of “The Yes Men”, who have also done this to the WTO, when they fake proposed slavery for Africa at a Wharton Business School conference they got themselves invited to, and to Exxon, when they posed as Company representatives attending a Canadian energy conference and distributed “Vivoleum” candles, which was a proposed new fuel made from the human bodies of the victims of climate change.

And it’s not just The Yes Men who are following this path of “awareness refocusing”:

Remember “Billionaires for Bush?” (“Make Social Security Neither!”) They were a very effective visible image that made the Bush folks look like what they really were—and when people saw them marching, they got the point.

Why isn’t Sarah Palin Vice-President today?
Tina Fey clearly deserves at least some of the credit.

So how do we apply this kind of thinking to our current problems?

Well…suppose you live in Oklahoma. Why not put on a “Coburn For Global Warming” BBQ, with blackened birds and burned corn? Then get the video out to the Web—and if you do it right, you’ve got a shot at getting noticed nationally.

Do it every month, maybe even with new victims (“Oklahomans For 1959!”) and it becomes a symbol both the Republicans, and the national media, will find harder and harder to ignore.

Texas? How about an LBGT “Big Bad John” Cornyn drillteam that follows the Senator to public appearances and campaigns for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—and then moves on to address the Senator’s unwillingness to tackle the bullying issue?

Feel like doing something for the unemployed in Ohio? Why not organize a “Where’s My Job, John?” campaign to start sending thousands upon thousands of job applications to John Boehner’s offices in West Chester and Troy…and then, start dropping by in groups, cameras in hand, to check on the status of your applications?

By the way: this kind of project would be a great way for someone to “organize with allies”, and if there’s a labor union or social justice activism group or loosely organized gang of Merry Pranksters around you might want to make an effort at email and in-person contacts to see if you can grow the impact of the idea.

Do you live in the Bible Belt? How about taking the cameras to a megachurch with your petition to ban divorce in order to protect the sanctity of marriage?

Arizona? How about “Tamale Tuesday” immigration reform parties at John Kyl’s and John McCain’s and Jan Brewer’s offices, with dozens or hundreds of Hispanics and friends showing up every week to make the point that political power in Arizona ain’t always lily-white.

Are you Liberal and live in Mississippi?

Well…you may have to move.

But what about all that buildup where you were talking about pushing the President back on a leftward tack?

Ok…how about this: set yourself up with a couple of desks in a very public place, with a “rope line” in front so that it looks like a bank line.

Then use a “greeter” to grab members of the public and get them to “apply” for the loans that we’ll have to take out to pay for the tax cuts for the rich.

Do that, or something along the same lines, somewhere in Washington, DC—or do it in a bunch of cities, either all at once or “tour style”, meaning week after week after week—and all of a sudden it’s a lot tougher for Obama and reluctant Congresscritters to ignore the symbolism, and, once again, Americans get a bit of their voice back.

Of course, the big trick here is to get ahead of the issues, not to have to constantly react to constant attacks—but the way to do that is to get behind an issue with a strong symbolic campaign (and the more absurd the thing is that needs the reform the better) and repeat the reform message so often that it becomes absurd not to support reform, placing the opponents on the defensive, and forcing them to become the ones reacting to events, instead of driving the narrative.

So how about that?

We do have tools, even in unlikely places, that can apply some of the proper motivation to this President and the reluctant Members of Congress, and they’re the kinds of tools that can be used by a few people or hundreds.

And I think we have reached the point where it’s become clear that, without constant outside pressure from us, we cannot depend on this President or many of those who represent us in the Houses of Congress to promote a Progressive agenda.

It’s true: we are going to have to be the ones who force what we want out of these people…and if it takes a whole lot of comedic embarrassment to drag them along, kicking and screaming, to join the effort to advance the Progressive agenda…then let’s get to it, let’s get creative about how we do it—and most importantly of all, let’s create a situation where the political risk of fighting for causes that work against the American people becomes more costly than fighting for the American people.

 

On Asking And Telling, Or, 115,000 LBGT Troops? How Many Is That, Exactly? December 2, 2010

I took a couple of weeks off, as Thanksgiving and snow came around (a subject we’ll address in a day or so), but we are all again occupied as lots of things we’ve been talking about either will or won’t come to pass, and it seems like all that’s happening all at once.

Today we’ll take on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT); this because the Pentagon’s top leadership just came out and reported that revocation of the policy, following a period of preparation, would be their preferred way to go.

There will be lots of others who will take on the question of what’s right and wrong here, and exactly how implementation might occur; my interest is, instead, to focus on one little fact that makes all teh rest of the conversation a lot more relevant.

That is the fact that about 70,000 LBGT troops serve in the military today, DADT notwithstanding, and, that if it wasn’t for DADT, almost 45,000 more troops would be serving that aren’t today.

And that one little fact leads to today’s Great Big Question: exactly how much military would 115,000 troops be, exactly?

“Dad, if I were you, I wouldn’t tell that story. Now I have no doubt that there might be a lot of truth in it, but you know how funny these people are. You know you always used to tell us when we were children: “Never smarten up a chump.”

–“Victoria Whipsnade”, to her father, “Larson E. Whipsnade”, in W.C. Field’s You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

As we so often do, let’s set a stage: we use the 115,000 figure because we have the academic work of UCLA’s Gary J. Gates informing our estimate, and that estimate was updated in May of 2010.

A stage having been set, let’s move on to painting some pictures:

These days the Army organizes themselves around Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), and a BCT might normally be assigned somewhere between 2500 and 4000 soldiers, and 115,000 troops could equal more than 30 BCTs.

It appears that more or less 12 BCTs and two more Combat Aviation Brigades are on the ground in Iraq today, which works out to about 49,000 troops in total…and that means 115,000 LBGT troopers could theoretically fill every billet in Iraq, and then replace themselves after a year, with about 15,000 left over.

The Navy is organized around Carrier Strike Groups, which each consist of one of the 12 aircraft carriers now in service and the additional ships they require to complete their missions.

Those aircraft carriers require crew to operate the ship’s basic equipment, Marines who provide security and other functions, additional crew to operate the “Air Wing”, which is the organization on board responsible for flight operations, and, because carriers also serve as the “traveling headquarters” for the Admiral who is commanding the Strike Group, a few more crew to serve as the Admiral’s personal staff.

Add it all up, and a carrier can have a crew of almost 6,000 on board…and that means there are enough LBGT forces available to occupy every bunk on every carrier in the Navy, from the actual bed in the Admirals’ Cabin all the way down to the “stacks of racks” way down belowdecks for the ordinary Sailors and Marines.

Even beyond that, there would be enough people left over to crew every one of the Navy’s 100 or so submarines—and you’d still have about 30,000 sailors left over to maintain the ships and their associated aircraft when they return to port.

The Air Force, as with the other Services, is composed of components drawn from Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard forces. As it turns out, the entire Air National Guard is 106,700 strong. Our 115,000 LBGT troopers could fill every one of those slots—and that would still leave enough personnel to completely fill the Air Force’s pilot training schools for seven years after that.

The Marine Corps’ fighting forces are designed to work with the Navy to combine a variety of capabilities into self-sustained “over the beach” units that can, if required, take and hold beaches, ports, or airfields, or build a base of their own and hold it, until a larger force can come in and expand the foothold, so to speak. (The Corps refers to one of these units as a “Marine Expeditionary Force”, or an MEF.)

To provide this capability worldwide, the Corps maintains three MEFs, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast, and one stationed in the Pacific, based in the Hawaiian Islands and Guam.

115,000 Marines would equal almost half of the entire Corps, Active Duty and Reserve, and that’s more troops than two of the MEFs combined, which might typically comprise 45,000 Marines each, more or less…which means if the LBGT Marines needed to, they could most assuredly take and hold some serious real estate, more or less anywhere in the world—and if they ran into trouble, they could send back home for another 25,000 LBGT troops to help make their point.

So there you go: the next time someone’s talking about how much national security might be threatened if we change DADT, you can tell them that there’s a cost to national security from keeping DADT as well.

How much of a cost? If you pulled those 115,000 potentially affected troops from the Army, DADT could cost us two Iraqs worth of troops, with 15,000 reinforcements left over, and if it was just the Navy, it could affect enough sailors to crew every aircraft carrier and submarine and 30,000 more besides.

If you removed that many personnel from the Air Force it would affect more people than the entire Air National Guard and seven years’ worth of new pilots combined—or, if you prefer to look at it through the prism of a eagle, globe, and anchor, it could be enough LBGT Marines to take and hold darn near anything, from the halls of Montezuma, to at least somewhere near the shores of Tripoli.

I don’t want to pay that price, and apparently the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t either…so hey, John Mc Cain…why don’t we just get over this imaginary Great Big Deal and move on to some real ones?