Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Christmas Crossing

Having piqued our own interest in the 230th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, Number I, and it’s relation -- as an expression of ideals -- to General George Washington’s army crossing Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 and victorious attack on the Hessian cantonment at Trenton, we took the time this year to go to the site where McConkey's Crossing was, for the annual reenactment. It is now, of course, referred to as Washington's Crossing on both sides of the river.

The event involves a mustering of the troops, an inspection by the General and rowing one of the Durham boats across the river to the New Jersey side, weather permitting, of course! The analogy to the original crossing only goes so far! There is a movie offered at the center, and it is a great event for kids and adults. My guess would have been that a few thousand folks turned out, particularly if you counted the crowds on both sides of the river. That's pretty impressive for a mid-day educational trip on Christmas day. The rain held off until the end of the crossing.

We took several photos. The one above, as you can see, shows the docked boats in the shadows at the river crossing. It was actually taken a day earlier on Christmas Eve at sundown. By sundown on Christmas day, it was raining. The photo shows the width of the river, and in the background you can see the current bridge. Look closely and you can see one of the pillars is a different color. I believe this is from repairs to damage occasioned by impact from floating debris during a recent flood.

The second photo was during the “inspection” of the troops and officers by "His Excellency," and as you can quite readily tell, Colonel Knox is standing just behind him.

For several years now, Washington has been portrayed in these reenactments by Robert Gerenser, a local businessman and resident of nearby New Hope, Pennsylvania. It would almost be enough to convince you that you were there, were it not for the press photographers inching out from behind the sycamore tree to get the shot. That, and the fact that it was all conducted a little after mid-day.

The third photo, below, is of two of the boats as they are stored in a shed right there at the sight. It gives you a good idea of their size.

Thinking and reading about that event, the remarkable thing to me is that none of the rather significant obstacles that cropped up during the run-up to the crossing – and there were many – stopped Washington from moving forward with the plan.

Congress by law actually required that a “council of war” be held by leaders before any significant move was undertaken. Washington even called one right after the victory at Trenton, inquiring as to whether they should immediately continue on the offense. Maybe to some extent he thereby felt constrained to move ahead with the plans for the attack, in the absence of some extraordinary or unanticipated impediment.

Or, maybe he was a leader who simply rose to the occasion in the knowledge that any war undertaking has inherent risks, changing circumstances, and even petty personal intrigues, but that staying true to the cause was the thing. If it is worth fighting and dying for, it is worth taking every possible step to win.

Or maybe it was a combination of these and possibly other factors as well. We'll never know for certain what was in his mind in those moments, but we'll always be grateful for his perseverance and that of his courageous men, under extremely difficult conditions.

In a separate post, we'll examine some of those impediments that obviously must have crossed his mind that night as he waited for the crossing of the river to be completed.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Notable Anniversary - Paine's Essay

Two hundred thirty years ago today (12/19/2006) saw the publication in Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania Journal, of "Number 1" of Thomas Paine's famous Revolutionary War essays entitled, The American Crisis. Four days later, it was published at cost in a pamphlet and it spread like wildfire throughout a nation struggling to survive, and uncertain of its future. His most popularly known work, Common Sense, published in early January of 1776, had helped inspire revolutionary fervor throughout the American colonies, encouraging the inhabitants of America to "come to a final separation" from the British Crown with the issuance of our Declaration of Independence on July 4th.

But The American Crisis, the first draft of which was literally written by Paine during the retreat of Washington’s army across New Jersey, played an astonishingly direct role in the salvation of the teetering Revolutionary War effort, just prior to that fateful Christmas week, and indeed throughout the seven long years of that struggle. Washington’s Army was 90% gone and the remainder was on the run late that fall. Congress headed for Baltimore. Yet Paine spoke to all Americans during what was called that “December Crisis,” from Congressman to farm hands, and helped to galvanize public opinion at a time when, in darker moments, General Washington himself was wondering out loud to his aide, Colonel Joseph Reed, if he might eventually have to retreat with his troops beyond the Allegheny Mountains. It is a story we all know bits and pieces of, but a reminder of greatness, both of word and of deed, I suppose is always in order.

According to David Hackett Fischer in his wonderfully detailed work, Washington’s Crossing, (Fischer), Paine resolved to write the essay while the army retreat was crossing the Passaic River on November 22nd, and started work on it as they camped in Newark. By December 7th, Washington’s troops had reached the Delaware River (one day ahead of the British) and Paine headed to Philadelphia to publish what was at that point a rough draft. He finished it at Philadelphia. Congress fled for Baltimore a few days later on December 12th, along with many of the capitol City’s inhabitants in the face of a near certain British occupation. In all of the panic, it took 10 days or so for Paine to get it into print. (Fischer at 138-43)

That first issue of The American Crisis was published a scant one week prior to the Battle of Trenton. The battle commenced with the river crossing on the evening of Christmas Day in 1776, a surprise and victorious attack by the beleaguered American Continental Army, improbably launched in a Nor’easter under nearly unimaginable hardships against the British troop cantonment under Colonel Rall and the Hessians stationed at the Trenton Barracks. Having been chased across into New Jersey from Fort Washington at the northern tip of Manhattan, and then out of Fort Lee in New Jersey, Washington's troops had narrowly escaped across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania and relative but temporary safety. But for the apparent desire of General Howe, even after the battles in New York to yet persuade the Americans to come back into the fold, Cornwallis might have engaged the remains of that beaten army, vastly diminished in numbers and stores, many sick with small-pox and ill-clothed, losing numbers daily to desertion, retreating for their very lives.

During the retreat, Washington has given advance orders to gather up all boats along the Delaware and to destroy any that they could not take to the other side. The Continental army had been outflanked and beaten soundly in Brooklyn (Long Island), escaped by small boats under cover of a fog into Manhattan, thence moved to upper Manhattan, where, after a brief victory at Harlem Heights, they again went on the defensive and escaped by small boats across to Fort Lee New Jersey. They narrowly escaped again, and retreated across the State, again crossing a few waterways with the British in hot pursuit to the banks of the Delaware, where they crossed, with nearly all the boats in tow, and there set up their defensive positions.

Daniel Bray and others of the Hunterdon militia had collected the boats above the falls at Trenton along the Delaware, even up into the Lehigh, and the Pennsylvania Navy did the same along the southern reaches. Colonel Glover and his Marbleheaders knew boats and had enabled those various escapes in and around New York, as well as the Delaware crossing on Christmas night under the command of Colonel Henry Knox. Knox, a Boston bookseller, had taught himself about artillery from treatises in his store, and played an inestimable role in both crossings and returns, as well as the artillery placements at those December battles.

The Battle at Trenton we now know was a turning point in the American Revolution, and was fought a mere six days before the enlistments of many of Washington's troops would run out at the end of the year. Without that victory, and the subsequent victory at Princeton a few days later, it seems incomprehensible how the American Revolution could have been sustained. Washington's crossing of the Delaware was accomplished in those boats, many of which had been hidden from sight behind islands like Malta Island, just at the south end of what is today New Hope, Pennsylvania. Malta Island no longer exists, but the boats successfully hidden behind it in December of 1776 and the ability to transport men and material, including with Henry Knox’s cannons across that swollen and ice-floed river at night in a storm, allowed those men to change history. Approximately 2,400 men crossed that Christmas night, mindful of the secret password Washington himself had penned the night before, as witnessed by Benjamin Rush: “Victory or death.”

Those who stayed behind just north of McConkeys Crossing, finished the grim task of burying 23 soldiers, 22 of them unknown, whose simple markers today still grace the banks of the Delaware river near the Thompson-Neely House. They had died in camp of disease and exposure. They had not deserted or run in the face of such adversity, as many had, and they paid the ultimate sacrifice.

And so, Thomas Paine's famous beginning of that pamphlet, The American Crisis, famously summoned up not only so many of the feelings of patriotic Americans whose extraordinarily difficult formative struggle and sacrifice has inspired freedom loving people throughout the world. But most of all, it surely summoned up the amplified sentiments, the fears and the fierce pride of those hard, brave men who set out that night with their own, their families and their nation’s fate literally hanging in the balance.

To this day, no one has even come close to saying it better than old Tom Paine did back then and there. He was present, after all, on that retreat. He began . . .

"THESE are the times that try men's souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem to lightly:--- ‘Tis dearness only that gives every thing its value."

One can only imagine how wonderful, how poetically justified it was for General Washington to actually have copies of that pamphlet which he reportedly passed on to inspire his troops as they set out to cross the ice-flow-filled Delaware River that evening. Rutgers University lecturer, Bruce Chadwick, in his fascinating 2004 book, George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency, recalls the moment, at page 14.

Washington wanted to give the men some kind of inspirational speech before they boarded the boats, but knew that he was no orator. So, instead, he handed out copies of the latest patriotic essay by Tom Paine, The American Crisis.
. . .
It was perfect for his soldiers. The officers were told to read it to their men just before they began the crossing of the river. They stood in groups, the weather getting colder, the sun receding, the snow on the ground hard against their feet. They moved their legs up and down, as if marching in place, to keep warm. As the night descended upon them, they listened to Paine’s words:
. . .

UPDATE: In his seminal work, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, originally published in 1898, William S. Stryker noted at page 81 (of the Old Barracks Assn. Edition, 2001):
"This address was ordered to be read at the head of each regiment, and the effect of its string, patriotic sentences was apparent upon the spirits of the army."

For George Washington and his Continental Army, the victory at Trenton and days later at Princeton, grew out the convergence at that crucial moment in our American time of a whole series of decisions, placements, unanticipated events, and even clashes of personalities on both sides. Previously quite unrelated, each nevertheless contributed to the ultimate and unexpected success. David Hackett Fischer, for example, details the important effects of the recalcitrant occupied populace of New Jersey, and the militia on all sides, the Hunterdon Rising, Ewing’s Pennsylvania Raiders, and the South Jersey rising. (Fischer, 182-205). Even the British capture of the stubborn General Charles Lee on December 12th allowed for General Sullivan to bring Lee’s troops across the river and into camp as reinforcements in the waning days of December. Along too came the tardy arrival of 500 of General Gates troops, as well as other troop reinforcements.

But beyond those, how do we quantify the indubitable inspiration which men like Paine had --that night, that week, certainly on the mood of populace in general, and surely as the war moved on?

The carefully detailed plan of "multiple" crossings to have taken place that night, and finally approved in a secret war council on December 23rd, fell apart almost before it began. In part that was due to the foul weather. The crossing that did succeed was late, with the artillery finally arriving ashore, fully intact, at around 3 am, delaying the attack some 8 or so miles away, until well after daybreak. But the storm oddly worked in their favor as well. It allowed them cover to build fires on the Jersey side to warm up a bit, only to soak through again as they split up and marched, carefully hoisting the Knox's artillery across Jacob’s Creek, and on to Trenton . . . and into our hearts and minds forever.

In addition to the specific references above to details, such as to Wikipedia links, and to "The Battles of Trenton and Princeton," by William S. Stryker (Riverside Press, Cambridge,1898; Old Barracks Assn. Edition, 2001), “Washington’s Crossing,” by David Hackett Fischer (Oxford University Press, 2004), and George Washington's War: The Forging of a Revolutionary Leader and the American Presidency, by Bruce Chadwick (Sourcebooks, 2004), readers will enjoy “1776,” by David McCulloch (Simon & Schuster, 2005); “General George Washington: A Military Life,” by Edward G Lengel (Random House, 2005); and “His Excellency George Washington,” by Joseph J. Ellis (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), among others. General Stryker was the Adjutant General of New Jersey, as well as a prolific writer. His book, though over 100 years old, is still looked to as the primary work on the subject. It was reprinted in 2001 by the Old Barracks Association.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More On the Di Spy story

This story is just too damn irresistible for anyone, including us, to wait around for the facts. Powerline just posted this cartoon from cartoonist Glenn McCoy, via one of their forum readers. Heh.

Here are just a few recent highlights on the story we've gleaned from cyberspace.

In a story posted late yesterday by CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, the network was reporting that the NSA was going to claim that the files on her were not opened because we were directly spying on her, but because her name came up in conversations about others, and that none of the transcripts recording her conversations related in any way to her death. They are essentially saying that she was not being directly spied on.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the NSA in 1998, asking for any files the agency had on her, the official tells Martin. The response acknowledged that the NSA had files on her. However, the NSA will say it had files on her not because she was being monitored, but because her name was mentioned by other people in conversations that were being monitored.

British newspaper reports say 39 classified transcripts held by an unspecified U.S. agency contain no new information about how the princess died.
An update of that CBS story further clarified that the NSA statement when released added that, as they had stated in the past, Princess Diana was "never the communicant" -- CBS quoting NSA:

"As NSA has made clear in the past, the 39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents referenced in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request in 1998 only contained references to the princess and she was never the communicant," said agency spokesman Don Weber. "NSA did not target Princess Diana's communications. Furthermore, NSA has cooperated with the investigations into this news tragic incident to the full extent of the law."

And, this morning, Byron York over at the NRO has posted some intriguing speculation, which, based on his initial acknowledgement that the fact that British press accounts can be "notoriously inaccurate," he says we will likely know more about it when Lord Stevens issues the full British report on Thursday.

York notes that the Evening Standard filed a story indicating that the spying on Diana was related to her reputed relationship in the mid-90's to American billionaire, Theodore Forstmann, a New York-based Republican, who it seems gave at least some preliminary consideration to a run in 2000 for the United States Senate . . . you know, the seat that Hillary Clinton eventually came to occupy? Byron's focus is on the possible legal questions waiting in the wings for the Clinton crowd, if indeed there was any such wiretapping, given the fact that Mr. Forstmann is very much an American citizen. Per Byron York:

If the Clinton administration did engage in surveillance of Princess Diana and Theodore Forstmann, without a warrant, it would appear to run contrary to statements made by former administration officials during the Bush warrantless-wiretap controversy. After the existence of the Bush program was made public last December, some high-ranking veterans of the Clinton administration said they had not engaged in similar efforts to by-pass FISA. “Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton-Gore administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law,” former Vice President Al Gore said.

Some more interesting scrutiny comes from the neo-larboard set, Mickey Kaus, in a "second take" posted very early this morning at Slate somewhat sarcastically links to all the varying speculation about the Forstmann connection, such as, that it might have had something to do with his views on school choice, or Daily News gossip about (link via Drudge) Diana's reputed desire to become the new Jackie Kennedy. He also links to today's WaPo column by Kevin Sullivan & Walter Pincus, detailing how she met Forstmann, and containing much of the speculation about her having been interested in renting a home in the Hamptons -- which was allegedly nixed by the British for security reasons. From that story -- which Mickey naturally set out to poke at least a few holes in:

Wall Street financier Forstmann, 66, met Diana at an October 1994 dinner at the Georgetown home of the late Washington Post Co. chairman, Katharine Graham, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The two "really hit it off" that night and became close friends, but there was never a romantic relationship between them, the source said. They talked regularly by phone and Diana called Forstmann during her separation and divorce from Prince Charles, the source said.

In the spring of 1997, Diana called Forstmann to ask about renting a house in the Hamptons, the Long Island resort community, during the summer, and Forstmann put her in touch with a local broker, the source said.

Sometime later, Diana called back to say that British security officials would not let her bring her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, because of a "security problem." The source said Diana did not specify the nature of the problem.

Whew! What we seem to have so far from this juicy story, is what might be termed a series of intellectual stretch marks, none of which incidentally, detracts one whit from our original speculation that reference(s) or proof of this information could possibly have been one of the targets of Sandy Berger in his larcenous foray into the National Archives, and that even the Bush Administration, for the sake of a desired stability in our relationship with the British at the time, may have had an interest in keeping that part of the story on the back burner as well -- once, that is, the investigators got Berger to blurt out the truth.

That doesn't make it true, but there is something very, very curious about that Berger story -- it's not every day that someone can walk into the National archives, get caught intentionally pilfering national security documents, and walk away with a $50,000.00 fine and community service.

Byron York undoubtedly has it right -- we'll certainly know more on Thursday when the full Stevens report is issued.

But more is not all.

In fact, when you're talking about the world of intelligence, more might well be a move away from the truth. At least for now, however, our "theory" is still in the running.

UPDATE: Dean Barnett has sent us an interesting e-mail query, to wit:

"Is there any way they can blame this one on the then-governor of Texas?"


To which we replied:


Thanks for the note. The answer is . . . by implication. It is certainly not aimed at the Clinton Administration, where it truly belongs. You know as well as I do how people read newspapers, or even stories on line.

For example, if you carefully read yesterday's CBS story (including the header) here, or the later version issued after the actual issuance of the NSA statement, here, (both of which I posted) you will quickly note that there is not one single reference at all about this having occurred during the Clinton Administration. Not one single one. Not even a hint!

All references -- and there were many -- whether about the spying itself, the potential diplomatic embarassment, or the speculation as to the reasons why, or any other subject, were made variously by CBS News to:

a U.S. intelligence agency . . the U.S. . . the U.S. government . . U.S. Authorities . . U.S. officials . . the United States . . the National Security agency . . the NSA . . the Pentagon . . an agency . . U.S. agencies . . which U.S. agency . . an unspecified U.S. agency . . the American intelligence apparatus . . the CIA . . the Americans . . .

I think I got them all.

So, even if your average astute reader poured through both stories, he or she would not pick up any reference whatsoever to Clinton, and he or she might be inclined to gloss over the dates and blame everything on you-know-who.

It's a beautiful thing, no?


Dean replies,
"Indeed it is!"


UPDATE: Well, It looks like, according to the Lord Stevens Report, the whole angle breathlessly awaited which, according to recent British press reports was supposed to have detailed eavesdropping on the Princess with respect to American Republican billionaire, businessman Theodore Forstmann, was pretty much a non-starter. As Byron York puts it, the Report contains nothing on allegations of such spying targeting Diana and the man who once gave consideration to a Senate run from New York. Says he in the National Review:
"the Lord Stevens report contains no mention of Forstmann and no description of anyone like him, nor does it have any evidence that anything like the Forstmann scenario took place."

Mickey Kaus at Slate calls it the "Di Bug Bust," at least as related to the possible spying on Ted Forstmann by the Clinton Administration.

The inquiry results concurred with earlier findings that driver Henri Paul was drunk and the car was travelling about twice the speed limit when it crashed, also concluded that the Princess was not murdered and not pregnant at the time. and it also indicated and that there was no evidence that she was or about to become engaged to Dodi Fayed. Hopefully, this will finally put a fork in any credible basis for the insistent and continuing conspiracy allegations by Fayed's father, Mohamed Fayed. He, of course, will not stop. From the Washington Post:

Prince William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, released a statement Thursday saying they "trust that these conclusive findings will end the speculation surrounding the death of their mother." Mohamed Fayed told reporters that the report was "garbage" and a "coverup" and that Stevens was a "tool for the establishment and the royal family."

The NSA has refused to release any of the 39 tapes of intercepts that they had previously indicated either contain referesnces about the Princess, or caught portion of conversations of her with others. Again from the Post:

The report also states that the U.S. National Security Agency acknowledged that it had 39 files from "intelligence gathering of international communications" that contain "short references" to Diana. Gerald Posner, an American investigative journalist and author, told the British investigators that a source of his within the NSA had played him a recording of a telephone conversation between Diana and Lucia Flecha de Lima, wife of the former Brazilian ambassador to the United States and a friend of Diana's, in which the two discussed hairstyles. Posner said the call originated at the embassy in Washington. The investigators concluded that if the NSA had recorded the conversation, the subject of their interest was the embassy, not Diana. Both the NSA and CIA have denied targeting Diana.

So, it's back to the back burner for our speculative Sandy Burger scenario. It looks like we still do not fully know what motivated his baggy pants job at the National archives. Hmmm . . .

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Did the Spying on Diana Play Any Role in Sandy Berger's Raid on the National Archives?

As reported in The Guardian, per a report overseen by Lord Stevens that was just made public, Scotland Yard has concluded that the Clinton Administration was spying on Princess Diana, having taped her calls at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, France, on the very evening she was killed in a car crash.

That was on August 31, 1997, the crash having occurred in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel located within the city. She was traveling in a Mercedes-Benz being driven at a high rate of speed by Frenchman, Henri Paul, and was in the company of her Saudi lover, Dodi Al-Fayed. The report developed evidence that the Princess and Fayed were indeed likely to become engaged, as some have speculated.

The crash occurred when the vehicle hit the "13th" pillar in the tunnel. A fourth passenger in the vehicle, Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was riding shotgun. And, though injured -- he reportedly was closest to the point of impact -- he was the only survivor of the crash.

One new detail in the Stevens report is that Henri Paul was a French agent of some sort, though there is no suggestion that that had any connection to the crash. Stevens report concurred with prior conclusions that Paul was indeed quite drunk. From the Guardian:

The driver of the Mercedes, Henri Paul, was in the pay of the French equivalent of M15. Stevens traced £100,000 he had amassed in 14 French bank accounts though no payments have been linked to Diana's death.
Back in August, the French government concluded that they should take another look at the whole matter (via Wikipedia, above). No word on when that will surface.

But back to the spying. Let's set aside for the moment as highly unlikely the possibility that this was the only time we ever spied on her, or listened in on her conversations. And I say that only because it is so improbable that the night she was killed was the only time, not because I think spying on her made so much sense. Naturally, then the "why" of this story is something that will continue to spawn conspiracy stories, and bits and pieces of it will come out over time. One can imagine the pressure to get the inside scoop in virtually every newspaper in the world, coupled with a desire on the part of several governments to staunch the wound to their various public images. We can only guess right now at what will come out.

But here's a thought . . . a possibility. Just a possibility. Was any information regarding the taping of Diana regarding this escapade what Sandy Berger went in and yanked out of the National Archives and stuffed in his pants and socks during the run-up to his 9/11 Commission testimony, or, was it at least a portion of what he took from the records?

Its public "disclosure" at the time of the 9/11 inquiry would have frankly subjected the Clinton Administration to utter ridicule.

You can imagine the accusations: Osama bin Laden was plotting to take a second shot at knocking down the Twin Towers, destroy the Pentagon, and fly a third plane into either the Capitol Building, or the White House, and the Clinton folks missed all of that, but they did succeed in taping the likely salacious phone conversations of the Princess of Wales and her Saudi lover on the night he and she died whilst fleeing the annoying flash bulbs of the paparazzi!

The fact is that it would have potentially also soured our relationship with the British at a time when even the Bush Administration could have concluded we could ill-afford it coming out. So, Sandy's deal with the prosecutors could have included everyone buttoning up on that part of the "theft."

Reports over time have indicated that some documents -- mostly focusing on drafts of an "after-action review" regarding the so-called Millenium plot issued in January of 2000 -- remain missing, but also that certain "basic facts of the controversy" also remain unexplained. Berger was ultimately fined $50,000.00 and given community service for the theft.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Big and the Small of It All

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer) is back in the news here in New Jersey. She had a bill passed back in March, 2005 (it was signed back then by Acting Governor Richard J. Codey) providing for mandatory classes for Doctors in medical schools on "cultural sensitivity." And a continuing education requirement for those who missed it in med school.

Here's a surprise: We are the only state requiring such classes for physicians. And, according to a report by Pete McAleer in the Atlantic City Press dated November 30, 2006, Watson-Coleman sent out a letter at the end of October to medical groups recommending a woman named Sharmila Ghosh, who assisted her in writing that legislation, to help develop the curriculum and perhaps teach the course in our medical schools, as well as the update courses.

All physicians will eventually be required to complete the coursework as a condition to renewing their licenses. According to the Press report:
Once the State Board of Medical Examiners completes its regulations, cultural competency training will be part of the curriculum in all New Jersey medical schools and will be a requirement for obtaining a medical license. Physicians already licensed in New Jersey will need to complete the training to renew their licenses.

In a moment of inexplicable candor, Bonnie's legislative spokesperson, one Nikki Graham, conceded that there might indeed be teeny-weeny conflict of interest involved in making the recommendation:

Nikki Graham, a spokesman for Watson Coleman, said the letters were not sent as a way to “jump ahead” of the state board of medical examiners. Asked if it might be considered a conflict of interest for a lawmaker to recommend someone for a position he or she essentially created, Graham said, "Now that you're asking this, I'm beginning to feel there is a conflict of interest."

Here is more from the Press story on the little lady who Bonnie wants to teach doctors cultural sensitivity (my emphasis added).

Ghosh, who was born in Bombay, India, holds a master's degree in intercultural relations from Lesley University in Massachusetts. She said she taught cultural sensitivity courses to police departments in Rhode Island after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and to companies throughout the United States and Europe. Courses generally require six hours of training and involve a combination of games and role-playing, she said. The goal is to explain how cultures interact and the impact cultural differences can have.

In the case of physicians, doctors might prescribe a medicine that is against a patient's religious or cultural beliefs, Ghosh said.

In an article posted on Ghosh's Web site, written by Rina Bisawas, Ghosh is said to have described a class session in which African-American participants were prompt but Latino participants arrived late and then held up the class as they took their time getting settled and socializing. According to the article, Ghosh explained to the writer that "the concept of time has a different value to the Latino culture, and that many Latinos feel the relationship-building that takes place in speaking and conversing with people is more important than promptness and the rigidity of maintaining schedules.

"The difference in how these two groups of people valued time was a nice example of one of the course's main objectives — how concepts of "space" and "time" differ between cultures, and that in trying to understand different cultural viewpoints, you can avoid hostility," the article stated.

Started almost 100 years ago, Lesley College was predominently a school for girls turning out kindergarten teachers over the years. Lesley joined forces with the Art Institute of Boston in 1998, and it became a University in 2001. The school just went co-educational in 2005, and has campuses located in Boston and Cambridge, MA.

Their motto is, "Let's Wake Up the World!"

There is no specific indication as to whether that motto is related to the following priceless, and slightly irreverent, quote about Lesley students, which can be found on Wikipedia, here (again, my emphasis). (See UPDATE, at bottom).

"Lesley to bed, Wellesley to wed." common knowledge amongst Harvard male students, as well as the few heterosexual males at Lesley.

One thing is for certain: The arrogance of Sharmila Ghosh is manifest. When asked about the apparent conflict of interest, she did not hesitate to immediately brush off the suggestion.

"She saw all the work I had done," Ghosh said. "When you make a law, people ask you, 'Do you know anybody that can deliver on it?' I think some physicians are upset because they feel physicians should deliver the course. But to teach this course, you need a degree in cultural training. You don't need a medical degree."

Hey! Here's a thought: How about having convicted armed robbers or other such felons as teachers for mandatory cultural competency classes on understanding the commission of violent street crimes?

It could go right along with street gang legislative proposals providing for the creation of "a certificate of rehabilitation courts would issue to show felons have been rehabilitated."

Those who pass could get a certificate of victimology! The statement accompanying the legislation could make the point that the concept of honesty and adherence to the law has a different value to felons, and that they could teach people to understand that feeling of the need for forcefully possessing something that doesn't belong to them, is a different value than it is to others. By understanding their point of view, you could avoid feelings of hostility, and perhaps even avoid getting shot in the process of being robbed. Through a combination of games and role-playing (i.e., having them jam a gun in your face and say, "Gimme yer dough!") you could learn to just cheerfully give up and promptly turn over all your possessions to any robber, whenever they brandish a weapon at you.

All we've got to figure out now is who will be required to take the mandatory course, and when.

Of course, continually cooking up and implementing idiotic ideas like required cultural competency courses for physicians does make it a wee bit difficult to get a handle on the cost of government, doesn't it? Like figuring out, as a recent headline read,

"Who is going to pay for the property tax reductions?"

Think about the logic of that for a moment . . . Here's the latest example of that kind of logic, from the middle of a Star-Ledger story by Dunstan McNichol, entitled, Property tax relief expansion in works: 70% of Jerseyans would get 20% cut. Before you get too worked up counting all that dough, head for the following paragraph in the middle of the story.

The legislative leaders would not say how much the property tax plan would cost or where all the money would come from, saying those are among the details to be ironed out. Ending the current property tax rebates for most homeowners would pay for part of the program, along with money from the recent increase in the state sales tax. (emphasis added)

These are instructive examples, one small and one large, why certain "law-makers" will never, ever act to really control, let alone actually reduce the spiraling cost of government.

Now, harken back to that little proposal of Assemblywoman Watson-Coleman described above. And just for starters, think about the folks sitting around drafting the regulations to implement that ridiculous cultural competency course proposal.

It's been a year and a half since Codey signed the bill!

UPDATE: 12/05/2006

Since piecing together the portion on Lesley, above, there have been a few edits at that site on Wikipedia. The Harvard quote has been removed! But here is the link to the earlier version (Revision as of 00:51, 1 December 2006), just in case you had any doubts! Scroll down to the bottom. Heh!