Friday, September 09, 2005

Thank you! I'll be here all this week!

Babble on.

Having the Canadian blogosphere rely on Babbling Brooks for humourous content would be like having residents of New Orleans rely on any level of government for competent help in a hurricane. Badoom boomp. Wocka wocka wocka.


Yes...well then...For significantly less lameness in your diet of politically-minded yuks, I'd suggest Gnotalex instead:

Natural disasters do not strike Canada, because Canadians are universally loved, especially by Mommy Earth. But should she (or more likely the Portland Hills Fault) slip up and accidentally level Vancouver with a 9+ Richter quake, our worries will be few, because our Government has been extensively preparing for this for years.

Unbeknownst to most Canadians, the authorities have been busy building an exact copy of Vancouver, complete with cars, house furnishings and heroin addicts, deep in the interior of B.C. And here's the genius part: the whole thing is mounted on millions of caster wheels, like on a dessert-cart.

Need I tell you to read the rest? Much as I'd love to steal his punchline, I'm afraid I wouldn't last long after incurring the wrath of the sharp-tongued blog québécois.

I will steal his idea though: I think I'll set up a kickback scheme to fund my opulent waterfront villa disaster replacement shelter. Forced donations to this project - in the form of excessive taxes, of course - are welcome.

Babble off.

From Washington

Babble on.

Out of the U.S. capital come two excellent pieces from two different newspapers today.

Charles Krauthammer plays the blame game in The Washington Post, but in a non-partisan way:

In less enlightened times there was no catastrophe independent of human agency. When the plague or some other natural disaster struck, witches were burned, Jews were massacred and all felt better (except the witches and Jews).

A few centuries later, our progressive thinkers have progressed not an inch. No fall of a sparrow on this planet is not attributed to sin and human perfidy. The three current favorites are: (1) global warming, (2) the war in Iraq and (3) tax cuts. Katrina hits and the unholy trinity is immediately invoked to damn sinner-in-chief George W. Bush.

Some would say that's defending Bush, that it's completely partisan. Those people should remove their heads from their rectums so they can hear this next part clearly. Krauthammer specifically lays blame at Bush's feet later on in the piece when he labels the President's response "late, slow, and simply out of tune with the urgency and magnitude of the disaster."

What Krauthammer is saying is that pointing only one finger, and that finger at GWB is asinine. As you might have gathered already, I agree with this assessment.

In their myopic, obsessive focus on Bush, windbags like E.J. Dionne let everyone else - many even more responsible than the man in the White House - completely off the hook. That in and of itself isn't enough to get my blood boiling - people get stuck with more blame than they deserve all the time. No, the problem is that this time, if people like Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco and their administrations get off scot free then there's absolutely no motivation to fix the problems that pervaded their levels of government and crippled evacuation and relief efforts.

I've called into question Bush's decision to appoint an incompetent FEMA head and to disappear through the critical opening stages of this tragedy, and I'm not alone. Why can I not see a blogger or columnist from the other side of the political divide ask why Nagin didn't follow his own disaster plan? Or how Blanco dropped the ball because she thought Nagin was taking care of the evacuation? Or why the state Homeland Security Department - Blanco's purview, again - wouldn't let the American Red Cross into NOLA after the hurricane? These are important questions, and they shouldn't be ignored because they can't be tied back to the White House.

The other piece, an editorial from The Washington Times, says something many of us in the blogosphere have been saying for a week now, but it says it well:

In assessing the events on our Gulf Coast over the past fortnight it is necessary to note that thousands of Americans in News Orleans showed almost no sense of self-reliance and personal responsibility. Some, of course, were sick, infirm or otherwise helpless. But many were not. This malfeasance of citizenship is as damaging as the failures of government officials, and rectification is just as crucial.

It is worth noting, as Michael Novak has shrewdly observed, that a majority of the 80 percent of the citizens of New Orleans who took personal responsibility for getting themselves out of New Orleans before the certain danger were African American. Few were rich. Many were surely poor.

Nor was courage and self-reliance the province of merely the young and strong. There was the heartbreaking account of what rescuers found at a nursing home where 31 elderly, infirm patients died. As the end grew near, these feeble old men and women valiantly, if ineffectively, started moving furniture to try to block out the death water that was soon to consume them. God bless them all. Surely their noble souls are safe now in His hands.

To their shame, thousands of New Orleans residents who don't deserve the honor of being called citizens utterly failed to show personal responsibility. They heeded neither common sense nor a respect for their own human dignity, nor the warnings of government, to move out of danger's path.
How did so many Americans come to such a degraded condition? And what is to be done about it? This is not a matter of race, or class, or innate intelligence. It is largely the product of a mental state of dependency induced by deliberate government policy.

Franklin D. Roosevelt knew and feared the debilitating effect of putting a man on a dole. So he put millions of hungry, jobless Americans to work building roads, bridges, national park facilities -- and character. Many of those young WPA men went on to demonstrate their self-reliance and dignity carrying rifles on distant battlefields only a few years later. Many of those young women went on to be the human force in our arsenals of democracy.

Yet today, the remnants of the liberal welfare state continue to subsidize the degrading human condition of giving the down and out a check without demanding in return the personal responsibilities that develop self-reliance.

It seems you can't talk about personal responsibility without being labelled some sort of unfeeling right-wing radical these days. This absolutely boggles my mind. We're not talking about Randian philosophy here, or survival of the fittest. We're talking about common sense: if everyone's looking to everyone else to bail them out, who's left to do the bailing? The system only works if we all pull as much of our own weight as we possibly can.

When exactly did the idea of responsibilities become a solely conservative value, and rights a solely liberal one? How did we get so confused?

The people of New Orleans most certainly had a right to help from beyond city limits. But they also had a responsiblity to help themselves and others less able than themselves, and a significant proportion of them abdicated that responsibility in a most spectacular and depressing fashion.

Babble off.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Risk management, civil society, and where we go from here

Babble on.

Last night I began my latest professional development course: Essentials of Risk Control. For those of you who aren't in the Property & Casualty (P&C) insurance business, insurance risk managment is comprised of two fundamental areas. Risk financing looks at ways to pay for accidents. Risk control looks at ways to prevent or mitigate the damage from accidents.

Predictably, discussion gravitated towards the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and specifically to New Orleans. We all agreed that the Risk Manager for the City of New Orleans - if they have one - has most likely lost his or her job. Gallows humour. None of us, including the instructor, are disaster relief specialists, but all of us get paid to think about bad things - how to prevent them, and what to do when they occur. That's a large part of what the insurance industry is all about. Average experience in this class is over ten years in the business. I think some of what we discussed might be relevant to the tail-chasing many of us in the blogosphere are doing on the Katrina issue.

One of the approaches to Risk Control involves dividing methods into pre-loss and post-loss categories. A pre-loss measure for Katrina might have been to build better levees - preventing the flood. A post-loss measure could be to airlift stranded residents out - reducing the negative effects of the flood. I think in looking at who was responsible for what in this entire tangled mess, it might be useful to follow this division: what could have been done better before Katrina hit, and what could have been done better during and after the storm? From what I've read so far - and I'm fully aware there is a lot of conflicting information flying around out there right now - it seems the feds will shoulder much of the blame on the pre-loss front, but that the state and local governments bear much of the responsibility for the post-loss mistakes. There will undoubtedly be an inquiry or two (or twelve) into this incident, and I look forward to a little bit of clarity on what the plan was and how that plan was executed, because that will tell us much about where the mistakes occurred.

One of the big points of discussion in our class last night was whether a centralized or decentralized Risk Management approach was best for large organizations. The instructor and most of the students work in the private sector - only a couple of the students work for the government. The class was generally of two minds on this point. While everyone present understood the value of having local people who know their own situations intimately drive Risk Control at ground level, we all also agreed that some aspects have to be top-down initiatives. For example, it's reasonable for a head office or a federal government to insist branch offices or local governments have a risk management plan that covers the major bases, but it's counterproductive for the central authority to write that plan. Local people know local problems and are the best resource to deal with those problems. Pretty much everyone in the class agreed that oversight and support are the most important functions of a central authority, but that management of the loss has to be done at a local level if it is to be effective.

I mulled this problem and our discussion around in my head on the way home, and I think it can be boiled down to this: centralization is the easiest way to address risk managment, but decentralization done right is more effective. A decentralized model is more flexible, more responsive, and more creative. The catch is that decentralization is tougher. It requires communication, calm, and the subordination of egos to the greater good. Again with the caveat that we don't know the exact chain of events yet, it seems the decentralized model broke down in Louisiana with a lack of communication, some ill-placed panic and choking by some officials (federal and local), and at least one ugly political turf war.

Of course, the circumstances of this particular disaster have to be taken into account. Other than a WMD or hazmat accident, flooding is the most difficult situation to manage. In New York after 9/11, relief teams were able to be based blocks away. Not so in a flood zone, especially one this large. After an earthquake or a snowstorm or an electrical grid failure, it's much easier to stage rescue and relief efforts. Deep water poses unique problems, and it would help if more people understood that.

I said it in a previous post, and I'll say it again: I wonder how much better this entire disaster could have been handled. That is to say, it could obviously have been better prepared for and relief efforts could have been better run, but by how much? Damage and suffering couldn't have been entirely avoided, but they could undoubtedly have been mitigated. Shoring up the levees years ago is the most obvious measure, but once you get beyond that, good answers become more difficult to settle upon.

Some people are suggesting that the one good thing to come out of all this is that more cities and companies will take a serious and critical look at their own crisis management and continuity of operations plans. I'm not so sure. People said the same thing after 9/11, and since then we've had a major electrical grid failure that was miserably prepared for, and a flood that was dealt with even more poorly. And we haven't yet experienced the major earthquake in the Vancouver-Seattle area that every expert expects. Who knows how well-prepared we are for an incident like that?

I'm concerned that most people I talk to expect government to figure it all out for them. Those of us who can prepare - each individual, each family - should prepare. You're better off to volunteer for a local fire department or St. John's Ambulance, or the Red Cross than you are waiting for some faceless bureaucrat in Ottawa to wave his magic wand. Goverment has a role to play, no doubt about it, but civil society - which means you and me - can be far more effective in both the preparation for and execution of disaster relief. We should demand a great deal from our elected representatives and the machinery of state that they control, but we should not excuse ourselves from that demand. Volunteer. Prepare. And let there be no more fiascos like New Orleans.

Babble off.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A smattering

Babble on.

I wish - wish! - I had time to delve into all of these items in more detail, but I don't. Sucks, yes. 'The serenity to accept those things I cannot change', and all that.

  • Since I slagged her last week, it's only fair that I point out Kate's fantastic rant, and her endorsement of a simply awesome post at Eject! Eject! Eject! 'Grey and Pink' makes a lot more sense than 'Red and Blue' or 'Black and White'. Especially when I can point to a number of Dippers I trust implicitly and a number of fellow Tories I'd like to see taken out to the woodshed for a sound thrashing.

  • As someone who has loved military flying as both an observer and a participant for as long as I can remember, it pains me to say this: the more fighting we can do with drones, the better.

  • My Chief Ottawa Correspondent directed me to this piece of good news from the nation's capital:

    "It's huge. This issue of building a government-wide view is something I have been on about since I got to government and ... this will be the big legacy item as far as I am concerned," Mr. Alcock said. "If we make this change, it will do more to improve the management of government than just about anything else we do."

    At the heart of the strategy is a new approach to service that would effectively separate operations from policy-making.

    All external services to Canadians, from Canada Pension Plan to passports, would be hived out of departments and given to Service Canada -- a new "one-stop-shop agency" -- to deliver. At the same time, internal services, such as pay, staffing and contracting, which bog down the bureaucracy in red tape and delays, could be put in the hand of new agencies -- known as Shared Services Organizations.

    Eventually, all internal and external services could be handled by these new agencies, saving billions in duplication while putting a much-needed focus on "customer service" and freeing departments to concentrate on policy and programs.

    I trash the Liberals when they deserve it. I tend to do it a lot because they tend to deserve it a lot. But Reg Alcock's vision deserves praise, not criticism.

    I'm not saying it will work - institutional management sclerosis and public service unions might scuttle it, as might pork-barrelling and governmental bloat, as might political leadership that changes halfway through or pursues it only half-heartedly, as might any one of a number of other factors. It's still worth tilting at this windmill because the idea is transformative, and heaven knows the public service desperately needs transformative change at this point.

  • Sean Maloney's articles are always worth reading, and I don't just say that because he teaches at my alma mater:

    Are not all Canadian military personnel "peacekeepers"? Has UN peacekeeping not been the stock in trade for Canadian soldiers since Lester B. Pearson invented peacekeeping in 1956 during the Suez Crisis? Isn't our national identity based on the fact that we do peacekeeping while others fight wars? Are we not morally superior because Canada engages in peacekeeping? Will we lose that moral superiority if we engage in operations other than peacekeeping?

    There are inherent dangers in an unhealthy adherence to mythology. Mythology distorts. Mythology pigeonholes. Mythology produces blinders, it limits action. In the 1990s, the mythology of Canadian peacekeeping produced unrealistic expectations that, when they could not be met, merely produced obfuscation and disillusionment.

    Images on television readily distorted the complexities of military operations in the 1990s. If it wore a blue helmet and drove around in a white vehicle with black UN markings on it, it was a "peacekeeper." If it handed out teddy bears to starving children, it was conducting "peacekeeping." How, people asked, could UN peacekeepers in Rwanda not stop the carefully organized rampage against the Tutsis? How, the people asked, could peacekeepers be handcuffed to Bosnian ammunition dumps and used as human shields? How, they wondered, could the peacekeepers not bring peace?

    What the people didn't understand, and nobody was willing or able to tell them, was that UN peacekeeping as it emerged during the Cold War was obsolete, ineffective, and inoperative in the post-Cold War era. It was as "done" as the Soviet empire, except nobody had stuck a fork in it until Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda.

    Do I really need to tell you to read the whole thing?

  • Again from my Chief Ottawa Correspondent, a reminder that the report "Governance in the Public Service of Canada: Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial Accountability" by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts is a worthwhile read, especially the Conclusion and Recommendations section starting on page 36 of the pdf version:

    The Committee is in full agreement with Mr. Kroeger and is firm in its conviction that ministerial responsibility and the doctrine of ministerial accountability must be retained. They are cornerstones of our parliamentary government and in most respects have served Canada extremely well. It is worth recalling that the struggle for democratic government in Canada was largely a struggle to achieve responsible government, and that responsible government (of which ministerial responsibility and accountability are an integral part) is what allows Parliament — and ultimately citizens — to hold government to account for its actions.

    Nevertheless, the current interpretation of the doctrine of ministerial accountability dates from a time when government was small, and ministers knew (or ought to have known) their departments with some intimacy. These circumstances have changed, as both the Lambert Royal Commission and the authors of the McGrath Report recognized, and while the doctrine remains as valid as ever, its interpretation and practice no longer correspond with contemporary parliamentary or governmental realities.

    Ambiguities in the doctrine, perhaps tolerable in the past, are now contributing to a situation in which those with responsibility are able to avoid accountability, as the Sponsorship Program has so clearly and so sadly demonstrated. What is needed, therefore, is not the wholesale abandonment of the doctrine of ministerial accountability. Instead, the doctrine needs to be reaffirmed and its interpretation and practice refined and clarified to assure its continuing relevance and utility to our system of government. The adoption of the U.K. accounting officer model would achieve these goals.

    This report was composed in the wake of the Sponsorship Scandal, but given recent events in New Orleans, we would all benefit by reading it from a broader perspective as well. Accountability in government is essential, and not just for elected officials.

  • The best one-line rebuttal of the blame-GWB-for-everything-on-the-gulf-coast phenomenon: "In short, an efficient federal lead would require converting our sovereign states into administrative subdivisions of the national government." If that's what you want, go ahead and make it a Democratic plank. Personally, I think the Republicans would love to have a presidential election that doubles as a plebiscite on state rights and the division of powers.

That should slow you down for awhile. At least keep you off my back until I get my chin above the waves again here at work.

Babble off.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Flank speed

Babble on.

From the Globe and Mail, via the quirky but indomitable Alan McLeod, we learn that a Canadian task force of four ships, including an air detachment of three Sea Kings, will be sailing for New Orleans on Tuesday next:

Naval crews were busy Friday loading gear and supplies on to three warships and a coast guard vessel as 1,000 personnel prepared to head to waters off New Orleans on Tuesday, a week after hurricane Katrina devastated the area.

"We are really prepared to operate on all fronts as requested and as co-ordinated by the United States," Prime Minister Paul Martin said in Saskatoon.

"There are a large number of Canadians who are on their way down there to help."

Commodore Dean McFadden, who will command the deployment, said they were consulting with their American counterparts to determine what they will do during the expected month-long mission.

However, he broadly suggested their duties would involve reconstruction, health care and humanitarian aid.

"We will have the capacity to move people. We'll have the capacity to bring medical supplies and fuel capabilities," he said as he stood on the dock next to destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, the command and control ship for the mission.

"The specific jobs we're going to do, I'll wait until the Americans tell us what help they need."

The vessels will work with the U.S. navy and U.S. Coast Guard and carry Canadian Forces personnel, some of them military engineers who might be able to help restore power and generate electricity.

About 40 navy divers from both coasts were also expected to deploy with the mission, which got clearance after American officials accepted a Canadian offer of help.

In a place where dry land is at a premium, it's good to bring your own floating base. In a place where violent anarchy reigns, it's good to bring folks who know how to protect themselves and others. In a place where airborne rescues are ongoing because roads remain submerged, where pallets of relief supplies need to be put down very precisely on the scraps of land available, it's good to bring helos (yes, even Sea Slugs - I've been hoisted out of the Atlantic by one, and they'll get the job done). In a place where expertise is badly needed, it's good to bring engineers, medics, and divers. In a place where the essentials of life are in short supply, it's good to bring water, food, blankets, and shelter.

In a place where hard work is required, it's damned good to bring 1,000 of the most dedicated individuals you'll ever meet.

In short, it's good to bring the Canadian Armed Forces.

Credit where it's due: to General Hillier and his staff for putting this together on the fly, and to his boss Bill Graham and the Liberal government for approving it.

I couldn't be happier, or more proud.

Babble off.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The horse's mouth

Babble on.

If you're interested in the perspective of a man who knows something of planning for incidents like Katrina, then you should read what John Donovan has to say:

My thoughts on the subject are informed by the fact that I spent two years as one of those guys in the Army whose job it was to do the generic plans for incident responses (from a DoD perspective, and *ALWAYS* subordinate to FEMA - they're the Big Dog), designing and executing training events to rehearse the plans, and, now and then, implement them, though during that time there was no event ever approaching the magnitude of what's happening in Louisiana right now.

John's points regarding the logistics of quick response, his experience with FEMA, and the complicated National Guard issues are typically insightful. Unfortunately, he doesn't flesh out why he's so fiercely critical of both the Louisiana Governor and the President of the United States. So for what it's worth - coming from a guy with no expertise in this area - here's why I agree with The Armorer.

To some degree, a breakdown of the social fabric is expected in situations like this, and is inevitable. Even if the storm damage hadn't been so severe, when you take most of the population out of a city, you can't expect what's left to function normally. But for the lawlessness to escalate, as it has, those taking advantage of the situation must not expect order to return at any point soon. In other words, the less people believe the law will return, the more likely they are to fall into lawlessness themselves or to become emboldened in their anarchy.

This is where the politicians, by getting out in front of cameras and microphones and laying out exactly what's happening and thereby calming fears, can mitigate the inherent tendency towards chaos. And John's right: the politicians whose job it is to do that simply haven't perfomed as they should have.

As far as the relief efforts themselves are concerned, I wonder how much better they really could have done? There's a practical limit to the amount of suffering you can prevent in situations like this - there will always be some. It will be interesting to see what the professional after-action assessment of those with the expertise to know will be in the end, and what lessons will be learned. Which of those lessons are acted upon, and which are ignored will also be instructive.

Of course, as John says, don't expect much serious reflection or analysis from our all-blame-and-crying-all-the-time media. Too bad. They can do more to shape the public's expectations and preparedness with one prime-time or front-page piece than the whole blogosphere can with a week of non-stop posting.

Babble off.

Update: From the comments, where John has informatively weighed in once again, comes a line that should be tatooed on each and every journalist's and pundit's forehead - including the blogging ones:

And Wonderdog - After Action Reviews are conducted After Action. I've actually got that t-shirt. This is more an IPR, in-progress review or 'hot wash' - which will feed into the AAR.

What has actually happened (right and wrong), who to credit and to blame, and what could have been done better (including managing unrealistic expectations, and investing in infrastructure beyond the scope of disaster relief) won't be clear for awhile.

But if you hate George W. Bush, don't let that stop you from jumping the gun. Any port in a storm, and all that.

Since nobody else has dredged it up yet...

Babble on.

"Is there a point where we are allowed to stop feeling sympathy for these people, seal off the borders and just let nature take its course?"

Just asking.

Babble off.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

What is it with weasels named Martin?

Babble on.

If it's not one Martin cutting funding to our military, it's another Martin bashing it in our "national newspaper":

Last we heard from General Rick Hillier, he was calling the enemy "detestable murderers and scumbags." Since our military chiefs are usually a few shades less colourful, Redneck Rick triggered a storm.

Now the good general has got the town buzzing again -- this time with a big-bang plan to overturn Ottawa's sloth-ridden procurement practices and fast-track the acquisition of a new fleet of 50 planes at a cost of $6-billion.

The plan is to ram a deal favouring mainly American companies -- no other bidders need apply -- through cabinet before Christmas.

Oh, he pretends he's just kidding around by the end of the article, but in the meantime he's scored his cheap snicker points with the grandé latté crowd. And there are a lot of cheap snicker points: calling our top soldier Redneck Rick, invoking the American defence contractor bogeyman, impugning the motives of the CDS because he's worked with the retired generals who head up the group proposing this deal, and more.

Once you cut through the condescending pettiness though, Martin's point seems to be that a competitive bidding process would be better than a sole-source contract for a $6B military aircraft deal. In a perfect world, I'd agree with him. Martin's problem is that, although he pays it lip service, he doesn't really understand the magnitude of the mess our Air Force is dealing with.

Each of the aircraft replacements proposed will fill an operational gap that is growing every day, or a role we unwisely abandoned years ago. Our C-130 fleet is among the oldest in the world. Two of the airframes have logged over 50,000 hours - which is roughly analagous to owning a car with half a million kilometres on the odometer. Eighteen of the thirty-two C-130's are being pulled off-line to inspect their wings for cracks. Our C-115 Buffalos came into service in 1967, and suffer similar age-related problems as our overworked Hercs. Our heavy-lift helos were sold off to the Dutch in 1991, and we've been fiddling around since then with the woefully underpowered CH-146 Griffon, which means we've effectively gone without that capability for almost fifteen years now.

Our need for replacement aircraft is urgent. Martin notes in passing a DND study that showed average time to complete a purchase from start to finish for our military was seventeen years. That's not a typo: seventeen years - and Martin just brushes it off. In fact, even an attempt to fast-track a recent contract has ended in failure. If there was to have been a competitive process for these three aircraft requirements, it should have been started years ago.

Our intrepid columnist says it might save up to a billion dollars to hold a bid competition, but he doesn't support that number. Nor does he say how much the CF will save in maintenance costs by buying new now rather than later. I guess inconvenient facts don't merit mention for this hack.

Besides, even when the military dots all the i's and crosses all the t's, the Liberals are perfectly capable of manipulating a competitive bid process for political reasons and screwing our folks in uniform in the process. The Maritime Helicopter Project anyone? The Upholder purchase?

If Martin's going to write on military matters, he'd do better not to take his story tips from lobbyists for disgruntled rival manufacturers. The C-130J (in either the short or long form) is the best replacement for the C-130E we fly today. Our aircrew and maintenance personnel are already familiar with the most proven tactical airlift platform on the planet, and will require minimum retraining. We don't need to reinvent the wheel here. The C-27J Spartan is a collaboration between Italian and American firms, and is like a mini-Herc. While perennial Liberal favourite Bombardier is pushing the Dash-8, and CASA is pushing the Spanish CN-295M, the Spartan offers advantages in performance over both those competitors. And again, given the similarities to the C-130's, training and maintenance would be much easier with the C-27J's. As far as the CH-47's are concerned, I'd argue we never should have gotten rid of them in the first place. The Dutch are currently upgrading the 47D's we sold them into 47J's - which we could have done if we'd kept the damn things to begin with. To those who think other platforms such as the Blackhawk should receive some consideration, I'd ask whether you want a true heavy-lift helo or not. Even with Blackhawks, the U.S. still fly Chinooks. The CH-47 is the proven big kid on the block - they don't call it the Heavy Hooker for nothing.

All of which goes to show that Lawrence Martin is just stirring the pot. Like all too many of his fellow journalists and pundits, he gives no thought to the real-life consequences of his words. He will suffer no pangs of regret should a Buff plow into a mountainside next year, or a Herc fall out of the air due to metal fatigue, or a simple soldier die on an Afghan hillside due to lack of helicopter evac. No, our pompous columnist is sniping for the malicious pleasure of it, to make himself sound important.

Luckily, he is not.

Babble off.