Thursday, July 26, 2007

Order of precedence - America's seating chart

The order of precedence is the official government list of the social rank of various current and former U.S. government officials, foreign dignitaries and, curiously, cardinals and archbishops, put out by the office of the President. There seems to be some slight disagreements in ranks between the various copies of the list I found because they do or don't include certain people, like spouses, but the top usually goes:

  • President of the United States
  • Vice-president of the United States
  • Governor (in own state)
  • Mayor (in own city)
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Chief Justice of the United States
  • Former Presidents of the United States
  • American Ambassadors (at Post)
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary General of the United Nations
  • Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Foreign Powers accredited to the United States (in order of the presentation of their credentials)
  • Widows of former Presidents of the United States
  • Ministers of Foreign Powers accredited to the United States
  • Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
  • Retired Chief Justices
  • Retired Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
  • Members of the Cabinet
  • President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  • Senators (according to length of continuous service)
  • Governors (when outside own state)
  • Former Vice Presidents
  • Members of House of Representatives (according to length of continuous service
Socially, at least, Hillary Clinton outranks all other Senators when attending a function with Bill.

Retired military officials seem to retain quite a high social ranking. Retired 4-star Generals and Admirals rank directly below active duty officers of the same rank and above active duty 3-stars.

State Governors are ranked by the order of their state's admission to the union, but Senators and members of Congress are ranked by personal senority.

Wikipedia has a nice (but incomplete) order of precedence page that shows which retired officials and widows are still around, plus how long each member of Congress has held office here.

I couldn't find where ordinary American citizens rank socially...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Partisan politics and the 10-point must system

Boxing judges use what's called the 10-point must system to score fights. Each round, a boxing judge has to award 10 points to the fighter they think won, then score the fighter that they think lost the round a number less than 10. The worse they did, the lower the number (a tie is scored 10-10).

It's hard to find any non-partisan political commentary these days. Pundits will always claim their side "won" an issue, no matter what the facts say...they always give their side a 10.

What's important is how they "score" the other side.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Guano: Oil of the 1800s

Guano, though no saint, works many miracles
-- Peruvian proverb

One of the stranger U.S. laws on the books is Guano Islands Act of 1858. Guano (dried bird poop) became a much-prized commodity to farmers around the world in the 1840s due to the efforts of some clever businessmen from Peru, Britain and France. Guano, a natural fertilizer, greatly increased the crop yield of farmland.

Guano accumulates in deposits hundreds of feet thick on oceanic islands with little rainfall and large fisheries nearby. Fairly easy to "mine" and ship, with the added bonus of being nearly odorless, the huge income its export generated for Peru and her trading partners drove explorer/entrepreneurs on a mad search of the oceans to find their own guano islands. Budding American guano merchants like W.R. Grace and Alfred G. Benson enlisted the aid of Congress, the act allowed the U.S. Navy to defend any guano islands discovered claimed by Americans.

The guano trade was quite profitable until the early 20th century, when the invention of chemical fertilizers largely killed the demand for this dwindling commodity. Or did the dwindling supply of guano (the mining process tended to kill off the birds that produced it) fuel the development of chemical fertilizers?

Some historians feel the Guano Islands Act played a part in turning America into an international economic and military actor after the conclusion of the Civil War.

A few of the more famous islands claimed by America during this time were Midway and Howland.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Iraq War and the Ruhr Crisis

When supporters of the Iraq War or those who want America to attack Iran want to bolster their position, they frequently cite British and French appeasement of Hitler in the run up to WWII. Not only is this a bizarre analogy to make when America has already been at war for almost six year now, but it misses one very important but largely forgotten pre-WWII incident:

The Ruhr Crisis.

Following WWI, Germany struggled to make its reparation payments imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. France thought Germany was wealthy enough to make the payments and also thought they might be secretly hoarding resources to rebuild its military with. Britain was busy elsewhere at the time and tried to delay action on the repayment issue. But, on January 11, 1923, using the excuse of a delayed shipment of telephone poles, France, along with Belgium, invaded the Ruhr Valley, home of Germany's coal and steel industries.

The French didn't find any secret military stashes, and efforts to directly extract reparations proved to be disastrous. Strikes by the coal, steel and rail workers of the occupied Ruhr region slowed the region's output to near zero. The German government supported the strikers with payments in cash that they simply printed and sent, which led to hyperinflation. A series of insurgent attacks further destabilized the region and the German government, which led to several coup attempts, including the Nazi's failed Beer Hall Putsch.

The Ruhr Crisis was ended by the Dawes Plan in Spetember of 1924. It called for France and Belgium to withdraw their troops, Germany to renew its reparation payments with the help of an eased payment schedule, foreign loans, new taxes and an allied reorganized central bank.

Less than a decde later, the spectre of the Ruhr Crisis haunted Britain and France during the rise of German military strength and aggression under Hitler and played its part in their decision not to engage Germany militarily.

I think the occupation of Iraq may prove to be America's Ruhr Crisis. Once we finally withdraw from Iraq, it's doubtful that America will be willing invade another Middle Eastern country for decades to come.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Selected FY2008 Defense expenditures

I've been looking over H.R. 1585, the House's version of the next fiscal year's (starts Oct 1, 2007) Defense budget. It has to be agreed to by the Senate, but I doubt the numbers will change much.

It seems to me that the Navy and the Air Force are getting rather large slices of the Procurement and R & D pies, considering the wars we're currently fighting and expect to be fighting in the future:

Procurement (in billions):

$23.4 Army
$36.8 Navy + Marines
$33.6 Air Force
$ 3.5 Defense-wide
$ 1.1 National Guard and Reserve

$98.4 Total

R & D (in billions):

$10.0 Army
$17.3 Navy + Marines
$25.7 Air Force
$20.1 Defense-wide

$73.1 Total

Does the Navy really need $15 billion worth of new ships next year when it is already larger than the next 17 biggest navies...and they are all our allies?

It also seems like the monies for Iraq and Afghanistan are finally being included in the regular Defense budget instead of being funded through "emergency" funding bills.

Interesting to note that if this bill passes, Congress will lose the ability to use Iraq funding as any kind of leverage as this bill provides money for the war through September 30, 2008.

The Senate begins their debate on this bill Monday, so if you wanted to let your senators know how you feel about this is the time.

Anyho0, here are the Procurement and R&D budgets by service, plus the upcoming fiscal year's budget for maintenance and operations for Iraq and Afghanistan:

Subtitle A--Authorization of Appropriations

SEC. 101. ARMY.

Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for procurement for the Army as follows:

(1) For aircraft, $3,928,139,000.

(2) For missiles, $2,114,902,000.

(3) For weapons and tracked combat vehicles, $3,311,117,000.

(4) For ammunition, $2,238,176,000.

(5) For other procurement, $11,465,456,000.

(6) For the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund, $500,000,000.


(a) Navy- Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for procurement for the Navy as follows:

(1) For aircraft, $12,750,767,000.

(2) For weapons, including missiles and torpedoes, $3,058,387,000.

(3) For shipbuilding and conversion, $15,744,120,000.

(4) For other procurement, $5,443,612,000.

(b) Marine Corps- Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for procurement for the Marine Corps in the amount of $2,580,257,000.

(c) Navy and Marine Corps Ammunition- Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for procurement of ammunition for the Navy and the Marine Corps in the amount of $1,060,484,000.


Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for procurement for the Air Force as follows:

(1) For aircraft, $12,356,270,000.

(2) For ammunition, $868,917,000.

(3) For missiles, $5,138,002,000.

(4) For other procurement, $15,441,762,000.


Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for Defense-wide procurement in the amount of $3,537,834,000.


Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for the procurement of aircraft, missiles, wheeled and tracked combat vehicles, tactical wheeled vehicles, ammunition, other weapons, and other procurement for the reserve components of the Armed Forces in the amount of $1,131,850,000.


Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for the use of the Department of Defense for research, development, test, and evaluation as follows:

(1) For the Army, $10,082,498,000.

(2) For the Navy, $17,333,601,000.

(3) For the Air Force, $25,738,960,000.

(4) For Defense-wide activities, $20,141,264,000, of which $180,264,000 is authorized for the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.



Funds are hereby authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for the use of the Armed Forces for expenses, not otherwise provided for, for operation and maintenance, in amounts as follows:

(1) For the Army, $45,350,964,000.

(2) For the Navy, $5,426,407,000.

(3) For the Marine Corps, $4,013,093,000.

(4) For the Air Force, $10,536,330,000.

(5) For Defense-wide activities, $6,098,990,000.

(6) For the Army Reserve , $158,410,000.

(7) For the Navy Reserve, $69,598,000.

(8) For the Marine Corps Reserve, $68,000,000.

(9) For the Army National Guard, $466,150,000.

(10) For the Air National Guard, $31,168,000.

(11) For the Strategic Readiness Fund, $1,000,000,000.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A new meme is actually an old joke

I've seen the It's not enough to be right, you must be right for the right reasons meme being floated on many right-wing sites lately in reference to the Iraq War.

The anti-war crowd may have been right about Iraq, but they're still wrong because they were right for the wrong reasons.

This line reminds me of an old Buddy Hackett joke:

A couple, on vacation in Las Vegas, is having an argument in their hotel room:

"How could you lose $200 playing slots!" he yells

"Why are you yelling at me," she says, "you lost $3,000 shooting craps!"

He says "Yeah, but I know how to gamble!"

I think the pro-war crowd is now working hard to pack away their remaining support for use in starting a future war.

Hence the "lucky guess/backstab" memes being trotted out once again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

One terrorist being tried in a U.S. civilian court

"In early 2005, Colombia extradited FARC leader Anayibe Rojas Valderama (aka "Comandante Sonia") and other criminal associates for drug trafficking and terrorism charges. Colombia also extradited Cali Cartel leader Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela in 2005. Other high-ranking drug trafficking targets arrested and/or extradited include Consolidated Priority Targets and members of the North Valley Cartel’s Top 10 list, such as Gabriel Puerta Parra, Jose Rendon Ramirez, John Cano Carrera, and Dagaberto Florez"

Anayibe Rojas Valderama was sentenced to 17 years in prison today on the drug charges.

The jury will now consider the terrorism charges against him.

U.S. civilian courts seems to be able to handle terrorism cases just fine.