The State Department and the Afghan Interpreters

November 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Conceited, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | Leave a comment
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Lithograph of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Currier & Ives, 1865.

Lithograph of the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Currier & Ives, 1865.

Afghani’s who served as interpreters for US forces in Afghanistan knowingly exposed themselves to risk by doing so.   They now face dramatically increased risk as the US presence winds down.  The Taliban have a long-established record of making examples of those who have cooperated with US forces.

After all, the Taliban have assassinated Afghanis who have cooperated with outside humanitarian groups, or even with the Afghani government.  They will surely attack those who helped US forces.

Realizing the danger to themselves and their families, some Afghan interpreters have applied for visas to the US.

The State Department has denied visas to most, even though the visas have already been allocated by the US Congress.  According to articles (here, here, here, and here) in the Washington Post, “the State Department says there is no serious threat against [the interpreters’] lives.”

This should remind you of the judges in civil courts who refuse to grant restraining orders, pooh-poohing the fears of those who are begging for protection from a spouse or ex-boyfriend.  Those judges are the enablers of the events you later read about when the newspaper reports the murder of the person who asked for the restraining order.  The judges are never the ones who suffer for their bad judgement.

In exactly the same way, the State Department employees whose magical source of infallible knowledge tells them that “there is no serious threat” are not the ones who will pay the price of being wrong.

Denying these visas is both cruel and unjust, and extremely harmful to US efforts in all future conflicts.

These brave interpreters accepted a huge risk in helping us.  Their help saved many US lives, and were essential to anything we achieved over there.  We owe them gratitude and protection.  If we do not shield them, no one will be foolish enough to help us in any similar situation.

Chuck Hagel, as the Secretary of Defense, would be well advised to urge the State Department to reverse the decisions made by its incompetent employees.

President Obama, as Commander in Chief, should issue an Executive Order establishing a policy to admit those who have exposed themselves to local hostility by helping us.

Congressional committees in both the Senate and the House should ask the State Department why it has taken actions that are completely contrary to US interests, to fairness, and to the expressed desires of Congress.

The State Department should identify the incompetent employees who are making decisions that are so unjust and so contrary to US interest, and revisit their decisions.  Those employees should be moved them to more suitable positions, where they will have no discretion over matters like these.

Decisions on this matter need to be made by people who have hearts and brains.  Those currently making the decisions have neither.

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A Blogging Award

January 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Climate change, Global warming, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I feel doubly honored to have been selected for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, first, because being selected says that others find my blog to be interesting and useful, and second, because docreedy, who selected my blog, has a blog of very high quality, in which she provides vivid insight into a culture that has become important to us, but is difficult for us to understand except via personal experiences such as hers. So my double thanks to Dr. Reedy.  I highly recommend her blog, which goes well with the first blog in the list of nominated blogs below.

The  rules for accepting the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are to
Display the award logo.
Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
State 7 interesting things about yourself.
Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Here are seven interesting things about me:

1. Near the end of a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, my wife and I decided that we wanted to ride in a horse-drawn carriage.  Our carriage turned out to be the one that Lafayette had used in Williamsburg during one of his two celebratory visits to the US (1784 and 1824-1825).  Most of the interior was still original.  We admired the way that the windows could be raised and lowered.  We then drove home in our car.  The next morning, we discovered that we had fleas.  We like to think that we were bitten by the descendents of the fleas that had bitten Lafayette.  (By the way, the true story of how Lafayette managed to cross the ocean to help the American Revolution, despite the King’s opposition, would put most novels and movies to shame. )

The Marquis de Lafayette

The Marquis de Lafayette

2. When I was a baby, the landlord’s dog would get under my crib when I cried, and move her back up and down to rock me, until I stopped crying.

A Rough Collie.  Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003.

A Rough Collie. Photo by sannse at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show, 30th August 2003.

3. My earliest memory was of the arrival of my newborn younger brother, when my mother returned from the hospital after giving birth.  I was a little over three years old, and was given a toy helicopter to distract me while so much attention was being showered on the new baby.  I somehow sensed that I was being deliberately distracted.  I looked at my new brother, and thought, “Oh, is that what all the fuss is about.”  If I had known how to say “hrummfff!” to myself, I would have done so.  (But he worked out well.)

4. We lived the the Rockaways, on Long Island.  From many places, you could see the ocean when you looked in one direction, and the bay when you looked in the opposite direction.  After one hurricane, the streets flooded.  My mother was standing on the porch, contemplating this novel sight, when she saw a neighbor swimming home after his commute.  (The streets had flooded while he was at work.)  A very polite man, on previous occasions he had always tipped his hat to her as he walked by.  This time, he paused in his swimming, tipped his hat, and then swam on.

Rockaway, Long Island, in Queens, in New York City, photgraphed by Jorfer on a senior trip on 22 May 2007.

Rockaway, Long Island, in Queens, in New York City, photgraphed by Jorfer on a senior trip on 22 May 2007.

5. In the first grade, we were sent home for lunch.  It was implicit that were were supposed to return to school afterwards, but no one had told me that explicitly.  I suspected that we were supposed to return, but decided not to until someone told me I had to.  Day after day I enjoyed the freedom of wandering  the streets after lunch, often convincing another kid to join me.  Eventually, as I expected would happen, I was scolded.  For my playing hooky – or for something similar – the school’s Principal, Mr. Ritter, said that he would spank me.  According to my parents (and I vaguely remember saying it), I told him that if he hit me, my parents would sue him.  He backed off.

6. We moved to Far Rockaway a couple of years later, and my elementary school became PS 39, the same school that Richard Feynman had attended long before me.  Hurricane Sandy probably destroyed that school building, and all of the houses I had lived in before going away to college.

7. Throughout elementary school and junior high, I was terrible at math, and hated it.  I liked English, history, science (which at that level had no math), and art.  I could perform the steps of long division, but only dimly glimpsed what the result meant, and didn’t care what it meant.  I was so bad at math that when I read that an astronomer had to be good at math, I sadly gave up my ambition to be one.  Naively, I decided to be a chemist instead.  Despite my mathematical incompetence, at the urging of a teacher I was sent to a high school that specialized in preparing students to go on for college majors in engineering.  I was so bad at elementary algebra, that during the first Parent-Teacher conference day the math teacher told my mother that I had to either improve dramatically or return to the local high school.  He gave her the names of some supplementary textbooks, and somehow she managed to obtain them.  I went through them, working all of the problems, but this time determined to become skilled at algebra.  Then I worked through the problem book for the New York State Regents exam for elementary algebra.  By then I was doing fairly well in algebra, but was afraid of having something thrown at me that I wasn’t ready for.  So I went through the problem book for intermediate algebra, and then the one for trigonometry.  I was beginning to hear the music in math – the counterpoint and multiplexing that could be discerned in each answer.  If an answer was ugly, it was usually wrong.  Working a problem had a kinesthetic aspect: it felt like dancing.  Mathematics had become intensely enjoyable, and I was now good at it.  Still in my freshman year, I then went through the problem book for advanced algebra.  It included an introduction to differential calculus: a huge number of calculations of derivatives, via inserting small increments and then taking a limit.  That had me really excited, because I had been talking to another student in my home room who also wanted to be a chemist, and he had told me that the kind of chemistry I liked was called ‘physics’.  I had gone to the school library to see whether that was so, had read de Broglie’s Revolution in Physics, and Einstein and Infeld’s Evolution of Physics, and saw that he was right.  Those books said that calculus was a main tool in physics, so working problems in calculus was sheer bliss.  I finally understood arithmetic, especially the significance of division, from doing algebra and from those increment+limit calculations in differential calculus.  I had also discovered that most mastery comes from being self-motivated and teaching yourself, with school viewed as just an adjunct.  Mathematics had become so enjoyable that I couldn’t stop doing it.  I acquired college books on calculus and worked the problems.  During my Junior year in high school, a neighbor, an electrical engineer, complained that he had been unable to work out a formula for the length of a single cycle of a sine wave, which he needed for his work.  By then I thought that if an integral could be performed, I could do it.  I wrestled with it for a while, then recognized that the difficulty was that this integral was of a special type called an elliptic integral, and gave him the answer in terms of a complete elliptic integral of the second kind.  I also began asking and trying to answer my own curiosity-driven questions about mathematics.  Ever since then, a major component of my life, and of who I am, has been self-driven research in mathematics, physics, and now also astrophysics.  The more you know about those subjects, the more fascinating they become.

Here are 15 other bloggers that I nominate for this award, and links to them:

1.  Together, this and the blog that nominated me give eye opening insights into the daily life and views of ordinary Afghans, who thereby become far less puzzling, very human, and very diverse.

2. http://broadsideblog.wordpresscom/    Fresh insights into politics, into living and loving, and into earning a living.

3.    The bump refers to a ‘baby bump’, but the topics are diverse, and the commentary is heartfelt.

4.        Wildly creative and imaginative, perceptive and humorous, and very frank looks at human nature.

5.            Wonderfully humorous, perceptive, and frank insights into what really goes on inside our heads.

6.    You never know what topic will come up next, but it is always interesting.

7.    Remarkable insights into the environmental tug of war in Australia.  Lessons for everywhere.

8.    Dramatic photos and comments on environmental damage in a beautiful environment.

9.        An up-close, careful analysis of politics and education in the UK.  Instructive for anyone.

10.    Novel insights, mostly on international politics, but sometimes on changes in culture and technology.

11.    Postings by diverse people who want to help others.  Glimpses of worlds you otherwise would not see.

12.    A sharp-eyed, appreciative walking observer of Toronto, who adds it to your neighborhood.

13.        Spectacular photography, mostly of dramatic scenery, but some of water drops and smoke, and photography tips.

14.        Striking close-up photography.  The rarely noticed beauty nearby.

15.    How to tell whether a widely repeated claim is just an urban legend.  A WordPress site, despite the URL.

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