Minneapolis Mayoral Election; Vote For Your Favorite Three

Today is election day for Mayor of Minneapolis and there are thirty-five candidates and the system to be used to elect one of them is called Ranked Choice. This means you are asked to vote for your top three candidates, and that is why there are thirty-five candidates. Of course, a very small fee and simple candidate registration system also helped.  For more information from the newspaper look here.

Ranked Choice voting works like this. You vote for your top three candidates, or just one, if you wish. Then when no candidate has 50% plus one of the vote, the votes for the least popular candidate are thrown out and the second place candidate is advanced and the total taken again. That means if you vote for Alpha as your first choice, and Alpha is the least vote getter, then your vote for Beta in second place becomes your first choice. This process repeats until there is one candidate with the 50% plus one. This process is all computer generated so we will see who wins.

Remember that this is the state that prides itself on no voter fraud but where in 2008 a candidate’s supporters found 300 ballots in the trunk of a car, and then found a couple hundred in a living room and kept finding lost ballots until their candidate won. No one ever asked, like a judge, just how these ballots got in the car. How wonderful that all of those lost ballots were found so the people who cast those ballots would not be disenfranchished! This is the state where the Secretary of State just put up a web based voter registration system. This is so people in Uzbekistan can register to vote in Minnesota. How terrific! Remember, making a person show indentification before registration or voting is merely an effort to supress the vote!! No doubt, limiting the vote to residents and citizens does supress the vote.

The Real Effect of the Syrian Matter

The recent threat of military action against Assad’s Syrian forces because of the use of chemical weapons to kill 1,429 Syrian civilians raises more questions. The questions are why at this time, what was the result sought, how was that to be accomplished, and what is the effect on the US?

The first question is the one I find most disturbing. In the Syrian civil war, over 110,000 deaths have occured.  Prior to the use of chemical weapons, there was a lot of talk, but no threats of military action, so  why is the death of the 1,429 due to gas the trigger for Tomahawk missles? 

My first thought is that Obama realy did think differently over the use of gas. His “redline” reflected this feeling. He finds this particularly horrific, but how about the dead 110,000, isn’t this also horrific? (A friend suggested to me that if Obama thought killings by gun fire were horrific, he would bomb Chicago, but that’s a separate issue.)  I have a dislike for gas, as you can’t avoid it and the death is particularly painful. The President’s “redline” comment may have been a reaction to this same fear. So the answer to the question, Why at this time?, is that the President reacted visceraly to the use of gas and the photos of dead children. He shouldn’t have done so, but he did.

That raises the next question, What was the result sought?  It seems this was never figrured out at the White House or Foggy Bottom (State Department).  Launching cruise missles from destroyers does not change nations as the impact is, as John Kerry pointed out and Bill Clinton found out, incredibly small.   A Predator drone strike on Assad’s home would have sent a different, but more precise message. Furthermore, Obama said his goal was not regime change. So what was it? Was he trying to degrade the Syrian military so that the al Queda led opposition could prevail? I guess not as that is regime change. 

What has been the effect of this event? First, we have alllowed the clever Vladimir Putin to emerge as the alpha male in the Mid East and that is a major change. We want the US President to be the alpha, but American influence there and in the world, is vastly diminished. If the
President can threaten Assad cver his use of chemical weapons, be faced down by the Russians, and have his action rejected by the Congress, he has no power anywhere. This is a major threat to US influence and our world position. Obama said he would fundamentaly change the US, and he has done so.
Does this now mean that any leader, say in Venezuela, can use chemical weapons, and fear naught from the US? I think that is the outcome of this matter. The President conducts foreigh policy, but now that is subject to Russian approval and congressional agreement. A significant degrading of his regime.

What is the danger from this degraded position? A President will attempt to restore his luster and to do so, he must take action somewhere. His instinct ante is to not do anything that’s why he did not send aircraft to protect our Ambassador in Benghazi. His visceral reaction to the gassed kids in Syria put him in an image protection mode that was dashed on the rocks. He will think of something and that is problematic. He has already threatened the Iranian government, for example. There is also the domestic consideration that rattling sabers in the Middle East distracts from the real domestic problems we have to deal with.  That may be the major focus for Obama, who is first a domestic politician facing a congressional election in just over a year.

The Syrian threat is now over and Assad has prevailed and has empowered his Russian ally.  This story will end with the end of the Syrian Civll War but the effect on our Presidency will linger for a long time. Even our al Queda allies in Syria have voiced displeasure with Obama, and that is  something I never thought I would write.

Why the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are Politically Sustainable

The New York Times front page today, May 26, 2013, has a story about how the Afghanistan and, earlier, Iraq, war dead are treated on their return to the United States. There is a major difference between these wars and Viet Nam because of the effect of the Outer Tactical Vest and the new, Improved Outer Tactical Vest. This vest protects the torso from 7.62mm bullets and shrapnel, and there are many stories of soldiers being hit by multiple rounds and surviving. The effect of this vest on the politics of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is dramatic, as the KIA totals are politically manageable.
     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, and Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, are conditions suffered by war veterans. I am sure these conditions have afflicted war veterans forever, Odysseus maybe, but they have been magnified in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brock Hunter, a Minneapolis lawyer, represents Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who have criminal problems that are, in part, caused by traumatic events during their deployment.  In a recent speech, Hunter described Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
    Mr. Hunter cited statistics that indicate  the politics of the tactical vest. There have been 2,500,000 personnel that have served in the two wars. Of these, 300,000 suffer from PTSD caused by the emotional and physical stress of war. There are also 320,000 veterans who suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury caused by an explosion that would have killed them in an earlier war, only to have their brains and a good portion of their bodies devastated in their survival.  
    In Viet Nam,  2,100,000 served and  over 52,000 died. The long lists of  KIA made the war politically unsupportable.  Soldiers wore rudimentary vests in Viet Nam, but the new vest is so effective it allows combatants to survive events that would have certainly killed them earlier. A doctor friend who works at the VA told me of a patient that lost his arms, legs and eyes to an explosion. This casualty was a survivor of the tactical vest. There have been 8,000 US and coalition deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.  
    The politics of the vest means that because so many survive, KIAs remain relatively low and the war is politically sustainable. If just 15% of the Traumatic Brain Injured had died, deaths would  be at Viet Nam rates, and it would be impossible for a President to continue the wars. Hence, the new, improved, nearly impenetrable, tactical vest is making war politically possible by saving the grievously injured combatants, who only count as wounded.
    The vests are an important improvement to combatants’ equipment, but I do think we should know that Afghanistan and Iraq are as horrible for our troops as Viet Nam ever was, lest we think we have developed some sort of safer warfare and grow tolerant of its anguish.