Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Interesting Tidbit

On the way out of work today, I noticed a small magazine -- mostly ads -- geared towards college students. One small column said that a student will spend approximately $3,000 on textbooks during their college years. It went on to tell us what else the money could be used for -- a down payment on a car, a trip to Europe, a flat-screen TV. The column went on to advocate for E-readers as a cheaper alternative.
I thought about this on the way home. First, $3,000 over four years is not a lot of money. Granted all textbooks are not of equal quality -- and many students won't pick up them up again after the class ends -- but books to me have more value, potentially life long value, than a car payment or a trip. I guess I just don't understand the comparison.
Second, I love books. I still have books from college that not only have moved with me through the years, but also have followed through all my years living abroad. They have notes in the margins, which I periodically look back on, and these scribbles remind me how my thinking has grown and changed as my experiences have accumulated. I have shared my books with colleagues and friends, both in the US and abroad, and have had books given to me by people from other countries that I still cherish.
While I was in Peace Corps in Liberia, where I didn't even have electricity for two years, it was a common practice that books sent to us were put in our main office library when we finished them. Then each time we traveled to Monrovia, the first stop for most of us was to the "library" to drop off our finished books and happily re-fill our packs with new books for those long hours of village life, where reading by candle light was a huge treat.

I understood the value of having a reader. I even have one. It does make travel easier -- you can carry a lot of novels in a case that fits easily in your briefcase. But, you cannot make notes in the margin, you cannot go back and re-think your assumptions and thoughts, and you cannot share them with others. For college students, who are just starting to explore their worlds and potential futures, books -- the old fashioned kind have value.

It Isn't Easy Being Obama

Some remarks on the latest nonsense coming out ot the pundit class, both MSM and on the Blogs, concerning he situation with General Stanley McChrystal and his insubordinate remarks made in an ill considered expose in Rolling Stone. Being a vet, and for all the vets out there, it is an easy call to state that this General not only crossed over the line, but turned around and spat on it. The chain of command in the military is like reverence to Jesus, and when you break that vow of disrespecting those who outrank you, especially at the level of POTUS and top field commanders, then something must be done

It goes to the heart of our separation of military from our civilian political leadership that is crucial to separate us from military juntas and the like. The constitution is clear that the military is subordinate to the whims and orders of the POTUS. No exceptions, ever. Historically, when commanders disagree to such a degree they cannot carry out POTUS commands or feel they need to criticize them publically, they resign, and then exercise their free speech rights as a civilian. These things cannot be tolerated in this society. The most famous example of this sort of breach of our constitution, was Harry Truman sacking General MaCarthur over Korea.

Obama does not have to remove, or accept McChrystal's resignation, but the general must submit it, and Obama will have to weigh the need, or relative critical need to maintain operational momentum in the Afghanistan theater of war we are currently bogged down in, and how the general's departure would effect that, and to troop morale.

But of course this is not the first time this general has pulled such a stunt, running his mouth in public concerning the Obama Administration and individuals in it. There is a pattern, and also McChrystal apparent role in the Pat Tillman cover up of the army putting out lies concerning the nature of Tillman's death in Afghanistan. For me, this should have kept him from ever being put in such a high command position  in the first place.

But on to Obama's no win decision in this problem, and his eternal political trap that has even military personnel matters polarized politically. On the one hand, he has a liberal activist base, mostly on the internet that hates us still being in Afghanistan, and many who thought we should have never gone, being reactionary and demanding McChrystal's sacking, mostly as a matter for objection to the war itself, and getting a scalp to further their cause. Then there are the wingnuts and neocons, who adore this particular general as being some kind of military wunderkind that can do no wrong. And if Obama cans the general, will cry that Obama and liberals hate the military, and it's mission. The cable teevee pundits will flop back and forth and stoke the controvery between these political tribes, all the while fanning the flames of partisan warfare for the drama that attract viewers.

I do not have enough info on the decision Obama has to make, but my instinct is that this guy needs to go. There is a principle here, that outweighs all the other considerations pro and con. And that is the sanctity of the military doing the bidding of our civilian leadership. There is pattern that has developed with Gen. McChrystal, and he has had his second chance, and maybe a third.