Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why Mayor Nagin Fired 3,000 Employees

On October 4, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin announced that the city of NOLA was going to lay off up to 3,000 employees. This announcement has been reverberating across the malignancy known as Rightwing America ever since. Usually it goes something like this:

"Ray Nagin left the city during the flood, and went to Texas! Then when he came back, he callously fired 3,000 employees!" This is typically said with the quivering lips and bugged eyes of your normal, everyday raving Bush cultist-dittohead.

This nugget comes as part of a much larger package apparently titled, "Rightwing Talking Points Against Nagin and [Louisiana governor] Kathleen Blanco".

I assume this garbage was cooked up in the usual sewers associated Karl Rove, dittohead talk radio and the criminal gang called the Republican Party. The package seems devastating towards Nagin and Blanco, but apparently a lot of is just crap or sophistry of one type or another, as we expect from the Liars Brigades.

Now, when I first heard this, I was mystified. I still can't answer a lot of the charges, you can go here to see a lot of the tidal wave of BS Rush Limbaugh has been defecating lately.

Meanwhile, how about the troubling issue of why Nagin fired 3,000 employees. In a previous post, I suggested that this was because the city was flat broke. My theory has been confirmed in an excellent letter I just received, which I will republish below. The author shall remain anonymous.

Mr. Lindsay, in your post on October 19, you state:

Apparently, these unfortunate layoffs are being done because Hurricane Katrina caused a financial hurricane in the the NOLA city government - the city's finances are simply devastated. In such dire financial straights, perhaps mass layoffs are understandable.
"Apparently"? "Perhaps"? Look, the city of New Orleans, like almost all cities, gets its income from taxes. It taxes the port authority. It taxes the hotel rooms. It taxes liquor. It taxes property. It taxes sales of nearly everything. It taxes for violations of various laws (we call them tickets and fines).

It is the sole provider of garbage and sewer and water, and it gets paid for that. New Orleans also gets money from gambling, unlike some other cities and states. Surprisingly, this is also how Louisiana gets its income. Taxes and gambling. It gets the vast majority of its sales tax from (surprise) the largest city in the state--New Orleans. It gets most of its gambling revenue from (shock) New Orleans.

It also taxes the port of New Orleans, and gets a cut of the import taxes, I imagine. The only thing it doesn't get that New Orleans gets is utility income (and it probably got a cut of NOLA's).

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, that tax base was completely wiped out. Not just one section of it. All the sections simultaneously. No more ticket revenue (which is substantial for any city). No more sales tax. No more gambling, or liquor taxes, or topless bars to "regulate" with taxes.

No more guests staying in hotel rooms (although apparently FEMA is taking care of that at $90 a night in a city with zero other guests, can you imagine?). No more utilities. No more anything . For the next five years.

Now you may say that all of that income is still occurring, and most of it is. On a tiny scale. But the infrastructure of the city is set up for a huge scale. It's like a family of four, that has a two earner income of $300,000/yr, and both of them get laid off.

They still have a mortgage and two car payments, and tuition, and a living standard consistent with a $300,000/yr income, but their income is bupkis. Or $200/wk unemployment.

Only, it's actually worse than that.

Not only have they lost their jobs, not only do they have to continue making payments on a $300,000/yr lifestyle, but that lifestyle has disappeared (the house has blown over, the cars are wrecked, the pool is underwater) and they have to pay for a new lifestyle elsewhere in addition to making payments on the old lifestyle, all with no income.

So not only is New Orleans still trying to pay for a $300,000/yr lifestyle on a $200/wk budget (so to speak), but they've actually picked up additional expenses, on a massive scale.

Even downsizing all non-essential personnel, they still can't make it. What do you need a municipal court staff for if no one drives a car there, and the cops are far too busy to write a ticket for running a non-existent stop sign? Even downsizing, their expenses far, far outstrip their income.And Bush isn't going to pick up the slack either.

Not only that, but they can't look to their own state government for help, because it is in trouble. Because its cash cow, the jewel in its crown, its primary revenue source, New Orleans, has been slaughtered.

The state, and all the southern cities, not just New Orleans, and not just Louisiana, really, are hemorrhaging money. These entities are actually bleeding out faster than money can possibly be pumped through.

They have run through all their resources, all their reserves, and are now stealing or "borrowing" from the resources of their employees, many of whom are working for free (or on a very reduced schedule while their own bills pile up), on Bush's empty promise that someday in the future, he'll make them whole. While big fat government contractors (including the Red Cross) soak up all the available cash.

So yeah. I'd say that there's nothing "apparent" about it, and there is no "perhaps." The city of New Orleans, the surrounding parishes and cities, and almost certainly Louisiana, are bankrupt.

They have no asset base, no income source of any moment, huge past debts that they cannot service, and more current expenses than you or I can even imagine. I can't even begin to understand that people couldn't see this would be true from the instant the levees broke.

I would like to point that the media has not shed any light at all on this apparently obvious truth about why the city and state are broke. This exemplifies the extreme rightwing corporate nature of what is really the US controlled propaganda (read: totalitarian-like) media.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Counselor Project

Updated May 3:

Well, had my first therapist appointment in quite a while the other day. I didn't even want it, and I was totally paranoid about it.

Why had I been given this appointment, anyway? I wanted an appointment with a neurologist, and instead I got the damn psych. How the Hell did that happen?

I've been going nuts for days here analyzing possible plots. Although I have been to the clinic many times, perhaps everything has not been on the up and up here. I am wondering if somehow my behavior has been so totally frigging weird that maybe patients and doctors have been complaining about me. "Wow man! Send that guy in to a shrink!" Whoa! This dude gets sent to the shrink or I ain't workin' here no more!"

I start analyzing all of my behavior lately out in public. Some people have not wanted to talk to me. I start talking to them, and then they just kind of walk away or they give a short, curt response that says end of conversation.

But some of these same people are females who are now strutting around in front of me, posing, smiling, trying to get in the spotlight, walking up right next to me and standing a few inches away from me for way too long, in short, flirting, flirting, flirting, in the most innocent way possible.

So the Woman Project is actually improving. Instead of turning most beautiful females into stone cold statues, I am turning them into preening, smiling, booty-shaking, tit-shaking exhibitionists living it up in the spotlight. Well, some anyway. Try to say hello, and they tell you to buzz off.

Women, I really do hate them sometimes.

I went back inside a doctor's the other day after my visit was over and a secretary said wearily, "What is it now, Robert?" like I'm some miserable idiot who can't stop worrying, which is quite likely true.

All this fueled the paranoid thoughts and I restarted the Get It Together Project again.

So I went in. Middle aged Hispanic female, and I do hate female therapists. In fact, I typically refuse to ever be seen by one.

I actually do really love therapy, and I have been in it off and on for 29 years. I realize most think that is stupid, but there were really only nine or so significant years in there, and even there I was often not seeing one for months on end, or once a month. You get something out of it or you do not, and I always try to. I encourage therapists to be completely honest with me and even to attack me when I am acting like a complete asshole.

Whenever you get meds for a psych thing, and I do get Lexapro, you have to see a psychiatrist. I have been seeing these guys for about 17 years now, and they are interesting people, though they are often wrong, and they mostly just love to push their pills.

My favorite one was a woman who was pretty well crazy herself and used to sample the meds herself. She also wanted to do "behavior therapy" with me over at my place. This is where Mentally Ill Project (if you actually want to call it a Project) can actually get kind of fun.

You get to meet all these totally brilliant people like psychologists and psychiatrists and talk to them, and it's basically free. Once you figure out their whole game, it is kind of fun, and you can actually learn tremendous things about yourself in therapy, but I doubt that most do. You both work. If you don't do anything yourself, nothing gets done, really.

Anyway, no, no one was complaining about me, and my behavior in the clinic was completely normal. I got sent to counselor due to being on meds and admitting to smoking weed a few times last fall. Real easy.

I'm convinced that I am insane.

"So, do you think that I act strange, weird, bizarre, odd?" I actually believe that all of this is true.

"No, not at all, you seem quite normal. Why do you ask?"

"Do I seem really nervous, anxious, wiry, can't settle down?" I actually believe that I am way too nervous and non-relaxed.

"Actually, no. You really do seem quite relaxed here." Points to relaxed posture.

"Hmm, so do I seem hostile?" I actually believe that I am totally hostile, cruel, evil, mean and low down, like a bipedal 6-foot rattlesnake with a permanent bad hair day.

"No, not at all. Actually, you seem friendly, and if you were hostile, I would simply order you out of the room."

"Well, I would never do that, you know. I'm a neurotic who never really does anything much. We don't act out in any way. We just go nuts in our heads..."

"So, do I seem unfriendly and not warm?" I am convinced that this is the main problem these days. See other posts.

"No, not at all. You actually do seem like a friendly person."

I am thinking WTF? Is she lying or what?

Well, take her word for it, though I should have ordered her not to lie.

Therapy goes on.

She knows more about this therapy stuff than you might have thought.

There are people around all the time, most of the day and night, but I am still "isolated", says the therapist. I have friends, but not enough friends, she says.

Apparently a couple of friends is not enough, but to me that's about all you ever need in life. Hell, I considerable myself extremely fortunate to even have anyone who will hang out all the time and tolerate me. If I have even one or two humans in my life, things are going swell.

My friends are losers and scumbags. And they are taking advantage of me, and I am way too nice. My relationships are all take, no give from my friends. I need to tell them to take off. Yeah, but then I will be alone.

I protest that's usually how things go, and that I set harsh rules on the mooching leech-things called friends, and that severe discipline works wonders on using, manipulative friend-things. In fact, my best friend-thing has only stolen $10 from me in a year, which is incredibly good behavior for this neighborhood.

My best friend-thing has taken to calling me an asshole all the time. This is because I have been employing bondage, discipline and sadism to the friend-thing, because you give it an inch and it takes a mile.

There has been much firm boundary-setting and revocation of privileges, frequent threats to remove the friend-thing from the premises, and occasional trips to the locked front door to inform the friend-thing that it is not welcome at this time, or possibly ever, unless it pays me back X and X it stole.

Other friend-things, both male and female, are also described as leeches. It is suggested that I jettison all of the friend-things and go to the store and buy new ones. I have been told this my whole life, but making friends is never easy for me, so I tend to hang on to whatever flotsam and jetsam I pick up in life as long as it is not too pathological or harmful to me.

I am told I must become even more of a prick about lending money. Therapist informs me that she is a total bitch when it comes to lending money, and demands repayment on banker's terms, on time or with penalty of never again. And here I thought all these Hispanics had tight families.

I tell her I am worried about checking out hot young chickies because I am afraid they will think I am a dirty old man and they will file a public complaint against me.

"Go ahead and look all you want! You are a single man, of course you want to look at all of the pretty women!"

You know, sometimes I just love Hispanics. They are so backwards on all this sex stuff, and they just assume that all males are total pigs when it comes to sex, but they figure that it is hopeless and we are incurable, so they just chalk it up to nature.

She then informs me that I may be lacking in social skills.

"So, do you think that I am lacking in social skills in here in right now?" I am convinced that I am one of the biggest social idiots on the globe.

"No, no, not at all, your social skills are excellent. Why do you ask? But perhaps elsewhere, there are problems in the social skills."

Ok, now my head is really spinning. I need to stop doing weed. I need to stop drinking. Why do I have two glasses of wine a night? Why do I go to the bar? Well, I quit? Oh, the bar, the bar, why do you go to the bar? I don't anymore, but I am broke.

On and on it goes.

She points out that I'm hardly even trying to meet anyone. I think I'm busting butt night and day on the Woman Project. Really, where are you going? I tell her I am going to the Catholic Church Project to work on the Woman Project.

She almost starts laughing. "You expect to get laid in church?" I think she says.

"Sure." I say, "I just tell em I am God and they worship at my cross. Works every time. Plus most women who go to Catholic Church are in religious ecstasy, and they usually means they are also horny," I offer pitifully. "They want to have sex with God. Just tell them you are God to them, and you're in like Flynn," I suggest dubiously.

She's laughing. "You expect to get laid at a church? What are you, a fucking idiot? No ever meets anyone in church. Church is one thing, fucking is another. Two different planets," I hallucinate, hearing voices.

It's very nice to meet a woman who is aggressive about sex and has a man's best interest at heart, which is getting laid. Most female therapists are totally insane about sex, which is why I never want to deal with them.

Doctor wrote I was depressed. Was I depressed? Course not, I scoff. She looks surprised.

I'm fine, then, I need Dialectical Behavioral Group Therapy with county, which is full of Borderline PD's, but also there are a lot of other folks in there. I've never really done group in my life, but it sounds awful scary.

Why have I made a webpage full of lies? As a joke, I say. She doesn't get it. But it's your life. Why isn't it serious? Because my life is a great big joke, I offer. She doesn't get it again. I start bragging like a fool. "I am the biggest blogger in this whole city!" I crow. She smiles.

Have I ever been arrested? Twice for pot, possession. Have I ever been in prison, as if this is the most normal thing to do? No, thank God. Have I ever been charged with child molesting? No, I have not, nor have I ever been investigated for it by the police. Have you ever attacked anyone? No, not really.

Have you ever attempted suicide? No, we OCD'ers don't do that. Have I ever been suicidal? Not for 23 years! I say proudly. She looks dubious. Sure, I'm not lying. Have I ever been hospitalized? No, we OCD'ers don't get hospitalized in general, and I will never be hospitalized, unless I get about 20 times crazier than I am now, and I just can't function at all.

The Hospital Project is never going to happen. Nor is the Kill Myself Project. The Kill Others Project has, sadly, been put on indefinite hold for the time being. The Molest Kids Project never even got going, thank the dear Lord above. The Criminal Project is way back in the hippie dope-dealing past.

My whole life, nothing really grievous or monumental or devastating or audacious has occurred. Truth is, I have been a bit of a bore, the guy who lives in town 15 years and the cops yawn when someone asks them about him.

The Counselor Project is over. I'm fine, nothing is wrong, except I am "isolated" while surrounded by people most of the time and I don't get out enough and I hang out with a bunch of complete losers who are using me like an old jacket. As if that doesn't describe half the country.

The Counselor Project will be continued into the future, with uncertain results. This is never really a satisfactory project, as too often the counselor is a little bit of an idiot. Plus you have to play a role, the sick patient, and the counselor has to play the role of got it together person whipping you on the back.

And they don't believe in chemical good times, because they only see the bad end that I have almost never seen in my entire life.

The Counselor Project is just something to be played, like everything else in life. You play the Counselor Project or it plays you, one or the other. It's nothing, really. Anyone can do it.

Katrina Death Toll Lowered to 1,356

Updated December 19, 2008:

The unofficial death toll for Hurricane Katrina fell by six to 1,356 on Thursday, October 26. The total number of bodies received in Louisiana mortuaries from the storm is now at 1,062, however, it has been determined that 12 of those people were not killed by the storm, but instead died from other causes.

Louisiana is continuing to discover about one new body every day on average, but they body recovery rate is clearly declining rapidly. My previous posting noted that relatives of some supposed Katrina victims, including a fellow named Jason Zito, were upset because their loved ones were included in the death count, while the protestors said that in fact, the so-called hurricane victims had died from other unrelated causes.

Just under 50% of the bodies have been identified, a sorry figure, but quite a bit higher than previous tolls. It looks like major progress is finally being made in identifying bodies. Also, the cost of Hurricane Katrina, a little-reported story, is now estimated at an incredible $200 billion.

Furthermore, the city of NOLA seems destined to be devastated far into the future, as I noted in a previous post recently. Estimates are that the future population of NOLA will be reduced by an astounding 50% and the city's budget will be hammered by a 2/3 reduction. 250,000 homes are uninhabitable, a surreal figure.

Republican talking heads continue to hammer on the issue of the initial death toll being inflated. But as the "Numbers Guy" column in the Wall Street Journal notes, such overestimates are commonplace in the early days after a disaster and also occurred after 9-11.

An earlier column by the same author deals with the whole array of issues surrounding of death tolls and tolls of the missing after wars and disasters.

Topics include how accurate they are, counts of the missing, why tolls vary, how long it takes to get a real count and how they determine if someone actually died in the storm. The first column notes that the inflated dead, missing and evacuee totals after the storm were reported by various outlets ranging across the political spectrum.

It is simply not appropriate to use the excessive initial death estimate of Katrina as a liberals-are-evil-liars talking point, and it's vaguely disrespectful to the victims and their loved ones anyway as the suggestion is,"Hey, Katrina wasn't so bad after all." Recommended reading.

The roundup:

Louisiana:   Thur., October 27:  1,050
Mississippi: Wed., October 19:   228
Florida:     Wed., October 19:   14
Alabama:     Wed., October 19:   2
Georgia:     Wed., October 19:   2
Ohio1:       Fri., September 23: 2
Kentucky2:   Fri., September 23: 1
Evacuees3:  Tues. October 4:     57
Total:                           1,356
Footnoted totals are controversial. Explanations for controversial totals follows:

1The Ohio victims are Cassondra Ground, 19, of Monroeville, Ohio and Thelma Niedzinski, 84, of Norwalk, Ohio. Both were killed in a car accident near Monroeville, Ohio on August 30, 2005. The Ohio State Highway Patrol felt that a wet road caused by Hurricane Katrina caused the car accident. See Ohioans Focus on Helping Katrina Victims, by Jay Cohen, Associated Press , August 31, 2005

2The Kentucky victim was Deanna Petsch, 10, of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. On August 29, 2005, she fell into a Hurricane Katrina-swollen ditch in Hopkinsville and drowned. See Storm Surge: State Gets Soaked, City Avoids Major Flooding, Homes, Life Lost in Hopkinsville , Sheldon S. Shafer and James Malone, The Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, August 31, 2005

353 of the 57 hurricane evacuee deaths occurred in Texas after evacuating the storm; the total includes two suicides in Texas. Two more evacuees died in Tennessee. Two other evacuees died in an unknown location.

I consider all of these deaths to be storm-related, and it is my understanding that authorities felt they were hurricane-related also. The evacuees section is particularly controversial.

Critics have suggested that the evacuee death toll of 57 deaths is simply a normal death toll for the huge number of evacuees. Yet the figure of 57 dead is far lower than the number of evacuees who died after the storm - a very large number of evacuees died post-Katrina, but the vast majority of them are not included in this tally.

For example, this tally mostly includes evacuees in Texas, omitting the huge number of evacuees from Louisiana, for whom a dubious zero deaths are recorded. Furthermore, evacuees in very poor health or on the verge of death post-Katrina never even made it to Texas; they were evacuated to hospitals, often via airplane.

It is my understanding that officials consider the 57 deaths (mostly in Texas) that occurred very soon after the hurricane to be hurricane-related. Apparently most of the deaths were exacerbated by the stress of the hurricane. The two suicides in Texas have also been questioned.

However, they both occurred very rapidly after the storm and I understand that they are considered to be hurricane-related. There have been many more suicides post-Katrina that are not yet included in this tally.

This section needs further research. Critics with valid data helping to clarify the evacuee death toll are encouraged to email me at the email address at the top right of this page. See 57 Evacuees Reported Dead; At Least 2 Committed Suicide, Steve Quinn, Associated Press, September 15, 2005.

Rightwing talking point 1: Sure, Cuba can evacuate people well in a hurricane, but that's because they don't have a free society. In a free society such as ours, the Cuban evacuation model cannot be emulated.

A commenter named "flick100785" on the Usenet newsgroup answered this challenge better than I ever could on October 3. I quote (edited):

You see, the Cubans have stocks of emergency supplies for all because they have no class of redneck Yuppies who refuse to pay taxes.

And it happens to be progress for a state to grow from commanding people to leave land they've farmed to "forcing" them to accept help in fleeing a hurricane.

The very American idea that one is "free" sitting on a rooftop with your dawg and a cooler of rapidly warming beer is a redneck fantasy.

By definition, people in this group who post here to the effect that that is anything else other than a redneck fantasy are NOT in the situation which they seem to define as "freedom", because none of the people actually up s---'s creek in Nawlins owned laptops themselves, or, if they did, were able to connect to the Internet.

Indeed, we can more or less reconstruct the mental processes of clowns who here believe this crap. Basically, "government", to them, means the contemplation of their own wasted and degenerated super-ego, which, under the haze of their defective character, represents the super-ego's dreary commands to be a f-----g human being, like that of their long departed ex-wife.

In their fantasy life, they find it erotically charged to think of themselves partying on a roof like the "Cullud" people, but only in fantasy, and they defend therefore the freedom of shadows.

It is a uniquely American savagery to replace compassion by this content-less form of freedom.

I believe it was Baudrillard who shows how Disneyland has trained Americans to think in virtualized forms about real issues.

Or as T. S. Eliot, who happened to be an American poet after all, wrote:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed in white and brown
Til human voices wake us and we drown.
Rightwing talking point 2: Nagin's NOLA government failed to get the NOLA population evacuated in a timely manner.

I would like to request that someone please show me a single evacuation plan for any major US city that even claims that it is humanly *possible* to get 100% of the city's population out in only three days.

Because this is an impossibility, a potent federal response - in particular, a large federal search and rescue team that is on the ground and moving within 12 hours of the disaster -is necessary. If the National Guard or Coast Guard has a comprehensive plan ultimately supplied by the Commander in Chief, it is surely possible to get our men in uniform there and have them setting up basic operations within 12 hours.

Furthermore, attacks on Nagin's response need to note that the NOLA government did far better than any previous disaster run had predicted.

Rightwing talking point 3: Because Nagin failed to evacuate his city, the federal government is absolved of all responsibility for any Katrina deaths. And anyway, it's the residents' fault for not being prepared for disasters.

Is it really ok for NOLA citizens to have to wait for four whole days for any reasonable federal response to a disaster that the Feds knew about at least three days before it occurred?

What sense does it make to demand that residents all keep "survival kits," or a three-day supply of water or a generator to keep their insulin cold? Just how long should we have to wait for a federal response to a disaster or terrorist attack, anyway?

Rightwing talking point 4: The examples of the city of Houston during Hurricane Rita and the states of Alabama and Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina show that large US cities and whole regions of states can indeed by evacuated very quickly.

Houston, Mississippi and Alabama prove nothing of the kind. In Houston, literally thousands of motorists ran out of gas on the clogged freeways, frozen to a near-halt, trying to get out. Many who were running out of gas decided to turn around and go back home before their gas tanks did run empty.

On the day before Rita hit, officials finally rounded up some gas tankers and sent them to the crawling highways to try to refuel all the stalled motorists. On the same day, Houston emergency officials told these same stranded motorists to please turn around and go back home (into the wrath of Rita).

Officials indicated it was too late for them to make it out of Rita's path to safety. Officials finally implemented contra-flow on the highways (both directions on a 2-way highway going the same day), but this was done much too late.

Regarding Alabama, residents of Mobile have informed us that most of Mobile was not evacuated; the vast majority simply refused to leave.

And if Mississippi did such a great job of getting 100% of its population out of the way, how did 228 Mississippians die in the storm? In fact, the available evidence indicates that NOLA did a much better job of evacuating people than Mississippi did.

This post was written with the assistance of valuable posts from "Robin" on the alt.politics.democrats Usenet group.

Halloween costume of the year for 2005

With this unique do-it-yourself costume that recreates an indelible image from the prisoner-abuse scandal at the US Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, your child will be the hit of the neighborhood this Halloween.

It's easy! Instructions:

Take a sheet of 24"x38" black cardstock paper. Next, fashion a cone from the cardstock. Cut a hole in the cone big enough for the face of your youngster. The cone with the face hole will go over your child's head. Now take two yards of black felt and drape it over your child.

For the finishing touch, see if you can round up some leftover wires you may have lying around the house somewhere and place one long wire in each hand. For an extra touch of reality, you can attach the wires to a box and have your child stand on the box. Done! Simple, quick and impressive! Who ever thought torture could be so much fun?

Total cost: Under $20.
Total time: Under two hours.

Image from The Stranger, a very interesting alternative paper from Seattle.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ted Westhusing An Apparent Suicide

Updated February 7, 2008: An update to this piece, discussing conspiracy theories on whether or not Ted Westhusing was murdered by contractors, is here.

Having followed the story of the death of Col. Ted S. Westhusing, the highest-ranking US officer killed so far in the Iraq, since June 5, the date he died, it is with a heavy heart and much trepidation that I have finally arrived at the conclusion you read in the headline, that Ted's death was a suicide. Westhusing was a professor in the English Department at the US Military Academy at West Point who volunteered to go to Iraq.

Officially, Ted died of a non-combat injury at Camp Dublin near the Baghdad Airport. As of June 16, the date of Westhusing's funeral at West Point, the military was still conducting an investigation into the death, which could have been caused by accident, homicide or suicide. A blog posting on the No More Apples blog on Wednesday, June 8, along with many other clues, leads me the suicide theory.

The posting stated that the blogger, Motherlode, had heard on CNN's American Morning show that morning that Westhusing died of a single gunshot wound.

Photo of Motherlode here. She is the Director of Communications at a Fortune 250 construction company in Dallas, Texas. The implication is that he may have committed suicide, which seems odd given his basic character and the lack of reports that he was depressed.

In a later post, On Col. Westhusing's Death, Motherlode attempted to explain why she felt that Barbara Starr's reports from the Pentagon on June 8 made her feel that Westhusing may have been a suicide. Motherlode apparently received several letters from irate people accusing her of maligning the memory of this fine officer.

I managed to find a transcript (no longer available online) of Barbara Starr speaking to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer on CNN's Morning Show on June 8. If you read it you can see why the CNN show got Motherlode thinking. Starr says:

"If it comes to it, they will conduct what they call a psychological autopsy. That will be conducted by Army medical personnel. That is the standard procedure in all of these cases. They will try and determine what factors were at play and what did happen here."
My comment on Motherlode's later post is on her site, followed by her response. An irate comment by a poster telling those of us reporting on his death to butt out follows. The irate poster makes some interesting points about the possibility of Westhusing dying of an accident, but unfortunately, if you read his post, he actually ends up also suggesting Westhusing may have been a suicide.

The next comment was just posted the other day by one of Westhusing's cousins, whom I am not going to name. Part of his (edited) comment is reproduced below (my comments are in brackets; the bolding of certain words was done by me):

Was it an accident? There is pure danger, as Anonymous mentioned, everywhere, yet that wasn’t what I think caused his death. Motherlode, you mention "accusations that you had maligned Col. Westhusing's reputation".

Seeking the truth is admirable, and we all can only sort through what we believe are true facts and come to a hypothesis, as Robert clarified. In all the press I have been searching, it is here in these blogs that I think the truth is closest to the honest answer that I am searching for. Thank you all.

In a letter my mother (RL: Possibly Westhusing's sister?) sent to me over a month ago regarding Ted, it mentioned that he was frustrated with all the distrust, lying and killing by the contractors and also by the Iraqi police amongst each other and in police cases where they were supposed to be protecting people.

He felt it was unsolvable. He had asked for prayers, saying they were "really needed now". The letter mentions that he was fed up with the Army and was getting out. I read this and then put more facts together …one bullet, non-combat, closed casket, no info from military to the public and it seems like the worst may have happened.
In a further (edited) comment (no longer available online) this morning by the same cousin on The Fulcrum blog, he elaborates further on his theory:
I am sad, too, that I think...and I am thinking out loud, to be frank and honest, and striving for the truth in this crazy war where facts are hard to get. I say it looks like he may have committed suicide, by piecing facts and emails and Internet news and blogs together.

I don’t want to cause problems by claiming this. I just want to know what happened. If it did happen, as I suspect, I would like to know why. Actually, I think the world might need to know the effects of what is going on. Thanks, Robert, for your well-covered blog.
A story on June 16 about Westhusing's funeral contained quoted Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd about the investigation into Ted's death:
"It's ongoing. When someone dies in Iraq or Kuwait that's not a combat death, the death is investigated. It doesn't mean there is anything criminally suspected here," she added.
Take note of that last comment, which definitely seems to rule out homicide. That leaves us with accident or suicide. And why conduct a "psychological autopsy" (see Barbara Starr's comments above) in the case of an accident? Rudd's comment rules out homicide, while Starr's seems to rule out accidental death. By process of elimination, that leaves us with only suicide as the sole remaining cause of death.

I recently found a nice, but odd, obituary for Ted on a site for the West Point Class of 1983 (Ted graduated from West Point that year), with a great picture of a young Ted. This obit has very nice eulogies of Ted. His obituary is on the same page as a classmate, Lori Good Loucks. Sadly, Loucks seems to be an obvious suicide.

Lori was bipolar (manic-depressive), and in the midst of an episode of psychotic depression when she died of an unstated cause in a mental hospital. Although Dr. David A. Nash (West Point '83), administrator of the website, has assured me in an email that Ted's obit was next to Lori's purely by accident, the site does have sort of a Twilight Zone feel to it due to the speculation about the cause of Ted's death.

On the morning of June 8, I started getting search engine hits for "Ted Westhusing suicide", some from military sites like Centcom. That's what first got me thinking along those lines. I have now received many more search engine hits like that, including some more from the military. I didn't get my first "Ted Westhusing homicide" until today.

At this point, after spending hours investigating this story, we can rule out everything except accidental death and suicide. After adding up the clues, including the excessive silence typical and suggestive of shame and the strange silence of the investigative team, my best theory is that Ted committed suicide. But we really need to wait for the full investigation to have a final say on the matter.

For a long time, I thought the suicide theory didn't make sense due to Ted's superior character and life, which seemed to be the ultimate negation of the death instinct. At first glance, Ted seemed one of the people least likely to commit suicide.

Charles, the author of the fine blog The Fulcrum and a former classmate of Ted's, echoed my sentiments on comments on his site (no longer online). But Charles had not seen Ted since West Point (Ted and Charles were students at West Point in the early 80's). But the comments of Ted's cousin, quoted above, show that Ted Westhusing, the man who seemed like Superman, was really just as human as measly you and me.

In a way, Ted's suicide is terribly disturbing. For if a man like Ted, a warrior who stood tall as the tallest of men, the last man in the world you would think of as a suicide, can kill himself, then the world is a stranger and scarier place. Suicide, always mysterious, is more baffling than ever. And far more, maybe even all of us, are capable of killing ourselves, even if we don't think we are, a thought that strikes terror deep to the bone.

When he died, Ted was near the end of his deployment in Iraq, and was due to return to West Point this summer. Before he left, he was said to be very enthusiastic about going to Iraq to train Iraqi troops. Ted was also one of the nation's top experts on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he apparently felt was over-diagnosed. Sounds like Ted was a real suck-it-up type.

Camp Dublin, where Ted died, is a very poorly-known US base that is probably located just outside Baghdad Airport. Dublin is apparently located adjacent to Camp Sather, a large US Air Force base inside Baghdad Airport on the west side. Camp Dublin may be located somewhere just west of the airport.

An overhead photo of Baghdad Airport is here; Camp Dublin is possibly located to the left of the area sketched in red on the photo, near the solid white line that represents the large runway on the west side of the airport. An overhead photo of the airport in comparison with the rest of Baghdad is here.

Many on the ground photos of Baghdad Airport are here. Photos of Camp Sather. Here airmen at Camp Sather walk amidst blackout conditions - the camp went to blackout as a force protection measure - after a major guerrilla attack in Baghdad.

Here Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristina Baker and her dog Rex are seen searching a car carrying equipment to set up a coffee shop on Camp Sather. The airmen at Camp Sather live in a relative luxury that would make most US forces in Iraq jealous. See here for details on the "luxurious" Air Force accommodations at Sather.

There is another reason that Camp Dublin is not widely-known. The camp was apparently set up to train the emergency-response unit (ERU) of the Iraqi police, an elite force. The ERU's duties are to carry out high-risk missions like hostage rescues and searches and arrests of high-value targets. The program is very rigorous, with a dropout rate of 70%. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Dublin recently.

Here is a rare photo of Camp Dublin. At Dublin, Westhusing was serving as Senior Advisor for the Counter Terrorism Special Operations training program under the U.S. military’s Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT). That title apparently means he was in charge of training the ERU unit at Camp Dublin.

Here is the only photo I could find of Westhusing at Camp Dublin; in the photo, he is praising ERU forces for storming a training building and shooting targets of hostage takers without shooting the targets of the hostages or shooting each other. A hostage taker target peppered full of holes by Westhusing's ERU is here.

He had taught English at West Point since 2003. In his extremely distinguished career, he held a variety of staff and command positions in Army airborne units and in Army's 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea.

Westhusing was very highly educated, holding an incredible three separate doctorate degrees. His degrees were in philosophy, Russian language and military strategy. I do not think I have ever heard of any American getting three doctorates before!

Articles about Ted's unbelievable achievements, transcripts of his talks and presentations, and articles about him in general are here. Ted served as a consultant for the Discovery Channel's program on the Greek Trojan Horse. He also consulted on the movie Troy.

I realize I oppose this war, but Westhusing sounds like a fascinating guy, and I would have been honored to meet him. Great minds, great men, great souls and great spirits like Ted don't come along too often.

As noted above, Ted was buried at his beloved West Point, where he graduated, an incredible third in his class, in 1983. Ted leaves behind a wife, Michelle, of West Point, and the couple's three children, apparently two boys and one girl, all under age 12.

Anyway, tip of the hat and a toast to Colonel Ted S. Westhusing, an inspiration for all, and a prayer for his worldly soul, wherever it may be. As they say in Latin America when a great person, especially a fighter, dies, "Ted Westhusing, Presente!" Note: This idiom is not easily translated. It means something like, "Three cheers"; except it's said after the death of a hero, and it's often said in a tone of spirited defiance.

Those who are unconvinced and prefer conspiracy theories, there are theories out there on the Net (no longer archived) that Ted was double-crossed and shot dead by one of the Iraqi police he was training.

The shame of a top officer being killed inside a US base was so great that the military is covering it up. Lauren Westhusing, Ted's niece and a fine soul, doesn't believe Ted was a suicide in her comment here, but she may have her reasons for believing that.

Me? I am about done with this story. Surely, as Ted's death continues to percolate through the media, we will hear more moving eulogies, theories and counter-theories about his death, and accusations of tarnishing Ted's character. A lot more back and forth, in other words. Unless there is something really newsworthy that adds to this piece, I will not be covering all of that.

I may add some more about Ted's life and achievements, and will add the findings of the military investigation, assuming they eventually wrap it up and publicize the findings.

Let us now close with some eulogies for Ted. From Eric Alterman's column, look for comments by Joseph Alferio, Dr. James R. Goetsch Jr., Charles Perez, Bruce Henke and finally, Major Bob Bateman from Iraq. From The Fulcrum blog, a neat little eulogy.