12 January 2005

Tailhook & Ethics--A Blind Eye for the Straight Guy

I was a student in the senior class (College of Naval Warfare) of the United States Naval War College (NWC) the autumn after the Tailhhook scandal broke. There were at least three of my fellow students who were identified as having attended the Tailhook convention in question and who were somewhat under a shadow while their specific activities were being 'investigated'. Ultimately, no action, that I knew of, was taken against anyone in my year .

During this year at the NWC the entire Navy "stood down" for a day in order to conduct sexual harassment training. The training turned out to be the best sexual harassment training that I ever encountered in my 30+ years of military and civilian government service. One reason for that was an excellent sexual harassment video produced by the U.S. Coast Guard. It gave very clear guidelines about what could constitute sexual harassment and clearly delineated what the person or persons who perceived that they were being harassed should do and how supervisors were required to handle any incident.

In addition to the sexual harassment one-day stand-down, we also had a two-day ethics mini-course during the year. It consisted of a series of presentations and panels that were conducted in our auditorium in front of the entire student body. The event was organized by a Navy Jewish chaplain who also had served as a Naval line officer in and during the Vietnam conflict in river warfare in regular combat. Who, consequently, had excellent "street creds" with the O-6's & O-5's in my class.

One of the panelists was a legislative assistant to the late Indiana Congressman Frank McCloskey from Bloomington. She had been an Army captain and was openly lesbian. She was also both articulate and intelligent. I was surprised at the vitriolic reception which she received from many of my classmates. What most surprised me most, however, in my naivete, was how so many of my male, minority classmates appeared to be the least tolerant of this panelist. I would have thought, as a son a Jewish father and Catholic mother who had seen a modicum of prejudice in my day, that those who had experienced discrimination would be more sensitive to prejudice and resist it in ourselves and others. The opposite appeared, in general, to be the case.

Homophobia is a very powerful force especially, it would seem, in those not completely comfortable in their own sexual orientation. Similarly, there were many of my male classmates who showed little concern for the types of behaviors that came to the public's attention as a result of the Tailhook scandal and often showed a lesser respect for or tolerance of their female confreres. These old attitudes are slow to die out.

11 January 2005

Walkin' the Dog

When I retired from the government in October of 2004, I had a lot of plans and projects that I thought I would work on and finally get done--rework a monograph on the 1592 war between Japan and Korea, get the deck stripped and restained, and such.

One of the things I hadn't envisioned and one of the things I've most enjoyed is walking the dog. My best friend, after my wife, is Minnie. We found her through petfinder.com. She was in an animal shelter on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We had been looking for a smallish dog that would be on the low end of allergenicity since our grown son has some degree of dog and cat allergy. We were looking for a bichon or poodle combination and were delighted to find Minnie (called "Teacup" at the time).

In our daily lives filled with TV and people from morning to night, the hour or so out with Minnie walking around the edge of the golf course by which we live is the best time for thought and introspection. I just enjoy the daily miniscule changes in nature which I can see and Minnie can smell. Walking the dog, being out with my friend, is one of the least expensive and most valuable times of my day. Try it, you'll like it.

Doc Rock

Studyin' War

I received my doctorate from Princeton in 1981. In 1992-1993 I was lucky to have the opportunity to go back to school for a year at the United States Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island. I was in the College of Naval Warfare (sometimes called the "senior college" since it was comprised largely of Navy and Coast Guard Captains and Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps colonels with a smattering of upper mid-level civilians from various government agencies as well as a few commanders and lieutenant colonels).

The year's studies were divided into three trimesters--National Security Decision Making (NSDM), Strategy & Policy (S&P), and Joint Military Operations (OPS). NSDM was taught using the case study method. In it we looked at burning defense issues of the times such as avoiding a "hollow" army, maintaining a dynamic and vital defense industrial base, integration of forces in joint operations, etc. S&P was devoted to studying a different war every week and analyzing the tactical and strategic strengths and weakness of the opposing sides while focussing on issues such as command & control, use of intelligence, civilian vs military goals and objectives, opponents' centers of gravity, exit strategies, and the like, taking the precepts of
Clausewitz as our basic analytic tool. NSDM and S&P accounted for 350-500 pages of reading assignments per night! (It was oft repeated by some of the students that that is only a lot of reading if you do it--I tried to do it every night). OPS was designed to satisfy the Joint Military Training required under the Goldwater-Nichols Act and was much more of a practicum of employing command skills in a joint military environment than the other two, more academic, trimesters. The year culminated in a war game with students playing various roles.

In addition to the three main courses of the respective trimesters, we also took one elective each term. My electives during NSDM and S&P were War Gaming (the design and conduct of war games) and Antisubmarine Warfare.

My year class was around 220 people. Lectures were conducted generally with the whole class together--220 folks in an auditorium, but we spent most of our class time in seminars of fourteen people each. The seminars were arranged to have representative numbers of students from each service and gender. Also during these two trimesters we had international officers, naval officers from a number of foreign countries, spread out throughout the seminars.

For me, a dyed-in-the-wool academic, the NWC was a bit of a shock. It was a really super education and my classmates and colleagues were as bright, as deep, and as interesting as my university and teaching colleagues--which did a lot to raise my respect for, and appreciation of, the men and women who lead our armed forces.

There is also a program at the War College called the Advanced Research Program which "exists to provide exceptional students in the College of Naval Warfare and College of Naval Command and Staff an opportunity to engage in funded research on a full-time basis for a trimester in lieu of taking one of the Naval War College's three core curriculum courses." I was lucky enough to have my research proposal accepted and to write a monograph on the war between Japan and Korea 1592-1598.

One of the important lessons which I brought away from my War College year was a heightened appreciation of the fact that the vast majority of our miltary leaders are much more reticent to, and mindful of, not expending the blood of our youths and our national treasure except in the most severe extremity. I think we saw that measured judgment in the action and positions of Secretary of State Powell, but not in the cases of Secretary Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, nor the Chief Executive himself in the run up to our ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. And so we came to be bogged down in a
no-win war in Iraq with no realistic exit strategy and NO weapons of mass destruction let alone ones that could be launched in less than an hour!

Doc Rock
13 Jan 2005 (in my 64th year)

09 January 2005

Sexing Flies

In the summer of 1964, just after I got out of the Army, I got a job as a lab assistant at the USDA, Entomological Research Division's Insects Affecting Animal and Man Research Laboratory in Gainesville, Florida--just on the south edge of the University of Florida campus.

An old curse goes, "May you live in interesting times!" Those were interesting times. I had grown up in New Jersey, attended college there for three semesters and then spent three years in the Army--one in Monterey, California, and two on a U.S. Air Force Base in Japan.

While in Japan I had heard and read about racial tensions and the civil rights movement, but that was fairly far removed from my reality. So then I was a civilian and heading off to Florida to make my way in the civilian world. I took a Greyhound bus from my folks' home in New Jersey down to Gainesville. On the way, when we stopped at a terminal in North Carolina, I became acutely aware, for the first time, for real, of "separate, but 'equal.'"

When I got to Florida, I found that the bus terminal in Gainesville was also segregated as were many places including the movie theater. I had not grown up unaware of racial tensions, fights, and discrimination in the North, but this was altogether something new to me. I had seen a modicum of discrimination and race hatred in school growing up, but the total institutionalization of race discrimination was something different for me. This is something to explore in other posts, though.

Interesting times, as I said, but I digress from sexing flies.

Flies! Flies! Flies! I was assigned to work under a principal investigator-an entomology PhD--who was doing research on Florida dog flies, AKA stable flies (Stomoxys calcitrans). These flies look very much like the common housefly (Musca domestica) except if you look closely at their mouth parts. The common housefly has a mouth that sort of hangs down in a loop and is like a sponge for sopping up wet stuff. The stable fly, on the other hand, has a sharp pointed mouth that sticks straight out like the front of some jet fighters which it uses for biting and sucking blood. The female stable fly requires a blood meal in order to lay eggs. The bite of the fly stings, but there is no lingering itch. We were doing the research because this fly had become an economic pest on the beaches of Florida, particularly around Panama City.

What we were about then, in the laboratory, was determining which products and/or processes would be the most effective for controlling this pest. One of the things we did was to test various pesticide agents on the flies to see which gave the most effective control and what were the LD-50's and LD-100's of the toxins (LD = lethal dose and LD-50 is the dosage at which 50% of the targeted species would be killed). Nothing with insects (or life!) is ever simple, however. Females, due to their natural superiority over males, appear to be several times more resistant to most agents than males of the same species.

Consequently, the duty fell to me to segregate the flies which I raised in our lab into males and females. Raising the flies was an adventure in and of itself. In the lab we had large screened cages with thousands of flies in them. One of my job was to feed the flies daily. This was done by soaking cotton balls in a honey-water mixture and sticking these on the screening of the cage. The flies would then come and feed by sticking their sharp mouths into the cotton and drinking their fill. When we wanted them to lay eggs, however, I had to go to a local slaughter house and get several gallons of cow's blood which we mixed with an anti-coagulating agent. The cages with females to lay eggs got cotton balls soaked in the cows' blood rather than honey- water so they could lay eggs. Pleasant job, eh? Once the eggs were laid, they were put in jars of growing media where the eggs turned into maggot-like creatures that ate up some of the media and then turned into pupae [ insects go through a number of different life stages]. At the end of the final larval stage, the once soft-bodied larva develops a hard outer shell and becomes a pupa. Inside the pupa, the insect begins reforming itself from the breakdown and rearrangement of larval tissue. It is growing eyes, wings, and legs. When it emerges from the pupa, it will be an adult insect. Once the pupae are ready to hatch, they were transferred to screened cages and the cycle began anew.

How does one sex stable flies? I would get into an Arctic parka (in Florida, in the summer), take a columnar screened cage about a foot in diameter with a height of about three feet filled with flies, and walk into a walk-in refrigerator and put the cage in front of a blower that blew very cold, refrigerated air through the cages--the flies would fall like flies! The flies were not dead, only asleep, just like in cold weather. I then sat at a large lab table in the refrigerator with a large magnifying glass surrounded by a fluorescent lamp. I would pick up one fly at a time gently and carefully with tweezers and inspect its abdomen for tell-tale signs of its respective sex.

I would then sort them, like Shakers coming down two stairways, and put the segregated sexes in groups of 25 in small screen cages about 2 inches in diameter and maybe a foot long with a hook on the top. These could then be used in laboratory tests to evaluate kill rates from exposure to various chemicals in various ways.

Those were interesting times while I was in a refrigerator dressed like Charlie Brown in the dead of winter in the Florida summer heat staring at fly abdomens and segregating males from females, but change was in the air--demonstrations against more insidious segregations were breaking out all over the South while we struggled to make the beaches a better place to be.

Doc Rock
11 Jan 2005 (in my 64th year)

At the Outset--Hank Snow and the Brooklyn Mind

Country music legend Hank Snow was born in Brooklyn, Queens, Nova Scotia. Hank Snow recorded the song, "The Squid Jiggin' Ground," The vivid images of the lyrics--

Says Bobby, "The squids are on top of the water,
I just got me riggers 'bout one fathom down";
But a squid in the boat scuddered right down his throat,
And he swam like mad on the Squid Jiggin' Ground.

There's poor Uncle Louie, his whiskers are spattered
With spots of the squid juice that's flyin' around;
One poor little boy got it right in the eye,
But they don't give a darn on the Squid Jiggin' Ground.

--somehow evoke the pandemonium of my mind as I try to jig up old memories and thoughts replaying against the backdrop of the present. Moreover, since my mom's ancestors were in Brooklyn, Kings, NY, from the outset, I feel some sort of special connection with young Hank who paid his dues jiggin' squids off Nova Scotia.

So as I start to blog out this series of essayettes on whatever comes squirtin' up onto the squid jiggin' grounds of my mind, I thank Hank and Brooklyn
's everywhere. If, on occasion, I write about something of passing interest to someone out there spattered with the squid ink of our times, I'd like to hear about it.

Doc Rock
9 Jan 2005 (in my my 64th year)