Charlie Gard’s Parents Demonstrate British Fortitude

July 22, 2017

Americans  support Charlie Gard partly because his parents demonstrate the fortitude in the face of adversity that  Americans have long admired in the British.  Unfortunately for Charlie his doctors don’t have that fortitude.   The doctors prefer a white flag of surrender to a “stiff upper lip”.

If Charlie’s parents had been in London during WWII they would have come out of the shelters between bombing raids and taken  care of business.  I don’t know about his doctors.

The decision by Charlie’s parents to ask for American help repeats   another British behavior.  During the last century when “Mother England” needed help she turned to her powerful “child” the United States.

Old Medicine vs. New Medicine

July 16, 2017

Poor baby Charlie Gard and his parents are caught in the old battle between compassionless medical traditionalists who are satisfied with existing medical knowledge and the experimentalists who are trying to advance medical knowledge to reduce the number of disorders that cannot be successfully treated. Traditionalists who don’t know how to treat disorders tend to deny the possibility that patients like Charlie whom they don’t know how to treat can be treated by anyone. They are like selfish little children who don’t want to let other children play with toys they aren’t playing with at the time. Traditionalists would rather have a patient die than allow someone else to treat and cure “their” patient.

Traditionalists often call themselves “experts”, but they are incapable of being experts because experts must be familiar with the latest knowledge as well as the traditional knowledge. Development of new treatments can intimidate traditionalists because they don’t know if they can learn the new knowledge.

Traditionalists don’t understand that parents can accept a child’s death more easily if they know they have tried every possible treatment. Parents can accept death more easily if they know doctors have gained knowledge from their child’s death that might help other children in the future.

Do British Understand Importance of Medical Research?

July 16, 2017

The efforts of British medical personnel to prevent Charlie Gard from receiving experimental treatment implies they don’t understand how important participating in medical research is. All medical treatments begin as experiments. Someone had to be the first to be treated for rabies. Someone had to be the first to receive a heart transplant. Sixty years ago my grandfather had experimental treatment for skin cancer on his face that didn’t work as expected because, according to my dad, The doctor applied the radiation for too long. Decades later doctors used the knowledge they gained from treating my grandfather and others to successfully treat my father and his brother as well as myself for facial skin cancers.

Sometimes treatment developed for one malady can be used to treat another. American entertainer Jerry Lewis helped raise millions to develop treatments for muscular dystrophy. Doctor used one of those treatments to save Lewis from a potentially fatal heart problem.

We cannot tell in advance if Charlie Gard will benefit from experimental treatment. If he does not his parents will know that their son’s life served a purpose because knowledge gained from treating their son will eventually benefit the lives of other children just like knowledge from efforts to treat my grandfather’s skin cancer benefited his sons and grandson.

Was “Russian Hacking” a CIA Sting?

June 30, 2017

Until I found stories about FSB’s [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] arrest of Col.Sergei Mikhailov, I thought the claims about Russian hacking during last year’s presidential
election  were probably false.   I know  the FSB is unlikely to be as effective as the legendary KGB, but  I wouldn’t expect it to engage in the amateurish activities attributed to Russian hackers.  The CIA’s connection with Col. Mikhailov raises the possibility the CIA was operating a sting to discredit Donald Trump.
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For example,  the KGB wouldn’t have been satisfied with using hacking to get some emails from the Democratic Party headquarters.  The old KGB would have planted an agent in Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters.  This agent  would have occasionally downloaded documents, including summaries of meetings,   onto a zip drive.   Russians have been planting people in American organizations for 70 years. Why would the FSB switch to  a less productive means of acquiring  information?  A human agent can overhear conversations that contain information that doesn’t get into the computer.

The CIA could have used Col. Mikhailov for more than just a  source of information about Russian activities.  The association potentially allowed the CIA to use Russian hackers to spy on Americans or on “friendly” governments like Britain or Germany.  Those detecting  the hacking would blame the Russians rather than the Americans.  European governments would complain if they caught the CIA spying on them.  Using Russian hackers potentially allowed the  CIA to gain information risk free.

CIA could also have had Mikhailov send Russian agents to try to compromise American politicians.   Spy agencies sometimes have trouble resisting an urge to become power brokers.  The CIA has a history of involvement in other countries, particularly in the Middle East.  An agent of the World War II OSS [predecessor to the CIA]  admitted before he died that he was responsible for killing American World War II General George Patton.  Many Americans believe the CIA was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

The following statement is not intended to accuse the CIA of attempting to interfere in the process of determining who is the President of the United States.  I merely want to point out its actions are consistent with that possibility.  The CIA could have used the Russian hackers to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the election and then used other Russian agents to discredit her opponent Donald Trump and make him appear to be responsible for the Russian hackers.

Is Special Counsel Robert Mueller obstructing justice?

June 22, 2017

American prosecutors often treat the concept of obstruction of justice as if the concept only meant efforts to prevent them from successfully prosecuting a case.  That concept of obstruction might be acceptable in a country like  Nazi  Germany or the Soviet Union, but it is not acceptable in the United States of America.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees rights to American citizens accused of illegal actions.

A prosecutor who uses illegally obtained information in an investigation is guilty of obstruction of justice.   The Constitution guarantees those accused of crimes the right to confront their accusers in court because the British government had allowed convictions based on anonymous claims that might have been fabrications. Government agencies wanting to obtain information by electronic eavesdropping must first obtain approval by a judge.      Eavesdropping information obtained without court approval may be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and thus unusable by the prosecution.  The courts may prevent prosecution of individuals whose possible involvement in an activity is learned from “fruit of the poisonous tree”

Should American Military Employ “Comfort Women”?

June 11, 2017

“Make love not war” was a popular slogan in the late sixties.   Soldiers in many wars  have found that “making love” is a way to forget the realities of war.

Sex and war have been connected since the first time men from one village attacked another village to kidnap women.    Invading armies often have a problem with soldiers sexually assaulting local  women.
American military forces have an ongoing problem with male personnel sexually assaulting female personnel.

Although genes don’t control human behavior the way genes control the behavior of other animals,  genes do influence human behavior.    It may be significant that in species in which  males may fight each other to the death, the fighting is over acquisition of females.

During World  War II Japan decided to try to  prevent the rape problem by hiring women  to serve as “comfort women” who would provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers.   The size of the Japanese military hampered the effort to have an all volunteer unit.  Japan dealt with this situation by conscripting  women in the countries Japan conquered.  The controversy over the practice continues to  hamper relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Although I would not advocate the use of “comfort women”, I recognize “comfort women”  could provide an option for reducing rapes by male personnel.

Women providing sexual services would probably have a military job title like “personal therapist”.  The men they provide services to would be officially listed as “patients” and the “treatment” they receive would have the same privacy protection as other medical treatment.  Patients would have to pass some basic physical exam to make sure they don’t have contagious diseases or medical conditions that sexual activity might affect.   Therapists  would inform patients that a doctor or nurse might monitor their treatment by video.  Any monitoring  would be for quality control as well as to protect the therapists.   There are rare cases in which even young seemingly healthy athletes have heart attacks during strenuous activity because of undetected heart conditions.

Therapists  would receive  training as counselors and be expected  to watch for problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so men could  receive treatment as early as possible.
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Outside  the building where the services are provided therapists would wear the same uniforms as other female personnel during the time when they are expected to be in uniform.     To guarantee personal privacy their living quarters would be separate from where the work area even if the living quarters are in the same building.    Therapists would receive hazardous duty pay because of the disease risk.   They would have a clothing allowance for their “work clothes”.

I realize that some people will question  having the military encourage what they consider an immoral practice.   I would ask these people if they  consider war a more moral activity than making love.   What many ignore is that prostitution is a business relationship rather than a personal relationship.   Although some prostitutes enjoy their work,  they don’t become involved with their clients.  The “personal therapists” I’m proposing would be providing a therapeutic service to those who are asked to risk their lives for their fellow Americans.  How can that be immoral?

Part of the rape problem is the failure of   American culture to teach men that they should learn to control their sexual nature.  Instead American culture encourages men to expect women to serve their sexual desires.   Unfortunately it isn’t practical for the military to change men’s sexual attitudes.   The most practical alternative is to employ women whose profession involves serving men’s sexual needs.

A Hero’s Last Mission

May 24, 2017

This is the city, Fallujah, Iraq. When insurgents took over the city, elements of the 3rd Marine Regiment went to work to force them out.

It was Monday November 15th. It was hot in Fallujah. As part of Operation Al Fajr Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment was clearing houses of insurgents.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta volunteered to join an undermanned squad participating in the operation even though he wasn’t required to. Although Peralta wasn’t born in the United States, he was so grateful for being given a green card he decided to enlist in the Marines.

[Psychology professors often conduct an experiment in which someone enters the classroom does something and then leaves the room. Students typically give a variety of different accounts of what happened. If this happens in a stable situation, imagine the difficulty of recognizing and remembering what happened in a chaotic situation when someone is shooting at you and all are moving.

Those of us who have watched videos of football plays which last only a few seconds know it is sometimes necessary to rewind the video a few times to tell what happened and what order various actions occurred. The entire incident in Iraq from the opening of the door to the explosion of the grenade might have taken six seconds or less.]

After clearing several houses the Marines entered a house where they found two rooms. After clearing the first two rooms the Marines found that the two rooms were linked at the other end where they found the closed door to a third room. .

Sgt. Peralta opened the door to the third room and they were met by gunfire. In the confusion that followed. combat correspondent Lance Corporal T.J. Kaemmerer thought that Peralta was hit in the face with gunfire,. However, this claim is inconsistent with the pathologist report that his fatal head wound was in the back of the head rather than the face. The statement that “he jumped into the already cleared, adjoining room”indicates Peralta was not seriously wounded by the initial gunfire.

I doubt Kaemmerer’s description of a grenade “bouncing” into the room Peralta was in. Grenades don’t bounce very well and a grenade coming in like that wouldn’t have gotten much past the door. I think it is more probable that Peralta followed the grenade into the room. Peralta was in the best position to see the grenade come through the doorway. His view of the doorway could have allowed him to see the grenade as it left the insurgent’s hand. His movement after he opened the door might have been intended to help him try to catch the grenade or deflect it. If the insurgent noticed Peralta he likely tried to throw the grenade so it would be difficult for Peralta to catch.

Gravity would have caused the grenade to hit the floor less than half a second after it was thrown. The insurgent would have had to throw the grenade at a speed of at least 30-45 mph [44-66 feet per second] to get it into the room with the Marines It likely would have exploded in four seconds or less. It would have been difficult for someone who didn’t see the grenade coming toward him to see it until it was on the floor.

Peralta wouldn’t have had time to think about what he was doing. He would only have had time to react. Peralta might have tried, and failed, to catch the grenade. The grenade could have hit him in the face if he had gotten in it’s path. In this case, others might have interpreted his motions as an indication he had been shot.

Based on Kaemmerer’s description of the rooms,I am wondering if the grenade could have landed where the Marines saw it unless Peralta deflected it, possibly while trying to catch it. If he had deflected it to an area with other Marines he would have felt an obligation to follow it. He would have “jumped into the room”, as Kaemmerer says, to save time. When he thought he was close enough he would have tried to dive onto the grenade to save time. This motion would have drawn the attention of the other Marines to the grenade. They would have seen him first and then the grenade and assumed the grenade arrived after he was on the floor. If his dive had left him short of the grenade, he would have had to reach for it.

Peralta could not have pulled the grenade under his body directly if he had been lying face down on the floor. He would have had to have rolled onto his side to get enough clearance so the grenade would fit under his body when he rolled back onto it. The other Marines describe him as pulling the grenade to his body which is how it would have looked to them even if he used his hand to “bat” the grenade toward his torso to save time. The time required for this maneuver would likely have meant the grenade would have exploded before he could have rolled onto it. He still could have protected those who were behind him. If the grenade exploded as it was moving the fuse might have hit his body armor with the fragments hitting another area of the body. The grenade might even have bounced off the body armor as it exploded.

As I noted above, I doubt that Peralta received the controversial head wound when he opened the door. If he had been wounded at that time he would have fallen in the doorway rather than moving into the adjoining room. It is unlikely he could have been hit in the back of the head at that time. Insurgents bullets would have hit him in the face. “Friendly fire” at point blank range would have dropped him where he stood. Insurgent fire would have been unlikely to have hit him directly once he moved away from the doorway. However, there would have remained the possibility of a ricochet off a hard wall. .

The most likely time for him to have been hit in the back of the head was after he was on the floor. One of the Marines might have fired accidentally in the confusion after seeing the grenade. [Although my duties in an army post office in Vietnam didn’t involve clearing buildings there was always the possibility that the enemy would have gotten inside the perimeter at night. In that situation I would have kept my finger on the trigger in spite of the danger of accidentally putting just enough pressure on the trigger to fire a round.] If the floor where Peralta lay was hard enough a round could have ricocheted off the floor and hit his head. The Marines probably would not have noticed the sound of a rifle fired nearly simultaneously with the explosion of the grenade. A Marine who reflexively placed a little too much pressure on the trigger might not have noticed what he had done if he had been preoccupied with the grenade.

Something strange happened that November morning in a Fallujah building. A grenade went off in a room with several Marines and only one of the them was killed. The Marines who survived said that the dead Marine. Sgt. Rafael Peralta, used his body to protect them from the grenade. A pathologist claims a head wound would have prevented Peralta from covering the grenade even though Peralta might have been wounded after he moved to cover the grenade. Unless someone can come up with an alternate explanation of why only one man died, the Pentagon should accept the explanation of the eyewitnesses and award a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor to Sgt. Peralta.

Amazing Grace: The Perfect Hymn

April 18, 2017

“Amazing Grace”  is one of the most popular hymns because it has a simple message and readily lends itself to being performed  in different ways. It can be sung fast or slow, loud or soft.  Reporter Bill Moyers once did a PBS documentary about the hymn “Amazing Grace” which included several different ways of singing the hymn.   When I was in college I learned a version sung to the tune of “The Wanderer”.

I have heard impressive performances played on a magnificent pipe organ and on a simple harmonica.  It can be played on a heavenly sounding harp or on a jazzy trumpet.  I don’t know of any song I would rather hear on the bagpipes.  Or, “Amazing Grace” can be sung acappella as  Judy Collins did in a 1970 recording.

Some call “Amazing Grace” a white spiritual because  it combines English words with an African melody.  I had never really thought about where the melody came from until Larnell Harris mentioned it on one of the Gaither music programs.  According to Harris the melody is an Africa sorrow chant.

John Newton, who wrote  “Amazing Grace”, likely learned the melody while working on slave ships and briefly being a slave himself in West Africa.  When Newton wrote “a wretch like me” he meant it literally.  Newton’s sailing career began when he joined the crew of his sea captain father’s ship.  Newton served on various ships after his father retired before ending up on the slave ship Pegasus. He had so much trouble getting along with the rest of the crew that they eventually sold him to a west African slave trader who turned Newton over to his wife who abused Newton in the same way as her other slaves.  After a friend of Newton’s father rescued him. he returned to sailing and subsequently became the captain of a slave ship.  A religious conversion eventually led him to become  minister.  Decades later he became a leading advocate for abolishing slavery.

Was ISIS Behind Syria Gas Attack?

April 13, 2017

Those who claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad  used poison gas against rebels need to consider the possibility that some members of his military are ISIS sympathizers.  Considering the reaction Assad generated when he previously used nerve gas, it seems unlikely he would use gas now.  He would be unlikely to receive any benefit from using gas.

ISIS could be the biggest potential beneficiary of  using gas because of the potential of an American response against Syria.  On the eve of World War II Germany created the appearance of  a Polish attack on a German radio station to justify  a German invasion of Poland.  ISIS could have had its operatives replace regular Syrian munitions with poison gas so that the Syrian government would appear to be responsible for using the gas.

I’m sure ISIS would love to get President Donald Trump to repeat President Barack Obama’s huge blunder in Libya.  Obama created  a political vacuum in Libya by overthrowing the government without the presence of a viable replacement.   Terrorists quickly took advantage of the opportunity to operate in Libya.   ISIS gained supporters from those upset about American and European “imperialism”.

Syrian rebels don’t appear any more capable of controlling the country than Libyan rebels were at the time of the Western invasion.   American overthrow of the Syrian government would give ISIS an opportunity  to replace the geographic base it is losing in Iraq.

Westerners sometimes ask why people in the Middle East hate western nations so much.   The people of the Middle East resent Western intervention in their countries.  The areas that today are the site of countries with names like “Egypt”, “Syria”, “Iran” and “Iraq” were  the locations of the capitals of great empires when Europeans were too primitive to have governments.   ISIS and other terrorist organizations claim they can restore a Middle Eastern empire.

Those who claim Adolf Hitler didn’t use poison gas in WWII ignore the gas chambers Hitler used to murder Jews.

Syria,  Bashar al-Assad, nerve gas, ISIS, President Trump, Libya, WWII, Germany

Do Gold Sellers Know Something Buyers Don’t?

April 9, 2017

Some of the tv channels  I watch have been inundated in recent years by people trying to get others to buy gold.  They tout gold as a great investment that will go up in value.

If they really believe gold will be worth more next week  why do they want to sell now?   Do they know something about future gold prices that others don’t know?  What will they invest the money they get from selling their gold in?

One reason they might want to sell is that they think the supply of gold will increase and cause a drop in price.  Some  people believe the Pebble deposit   in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska could contain a significant amount of gold.   Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.  hopes the Trump administration will approve its application to mine this region.  Approval of the application would likely cause  an increase in the price of Northern Dynasty stock and a reduction in the price of gold.