Monday :: Mar 14, 2005

Suppurating Our Troop


by pessimist

We all know that those who serve in our military make many personal sacrifices. We on The Left Coaster do honor those who make that choice, and would greatly prefer that the lives of these wonderful people not be wasted in a criminal action like imposing oily Tex-@&& justice on a foreign sovereign nation.

But the risk to their lives isn't the only risk our service people face. There is also the risk to one's livelihood:


Did his duty - then lost his job

Michael Warren, a native of Port Jefferson, L.I., is suing International Business Machines Corp. for firing him because since 9/11 he's been called up too often by the Army Reserves.

And IBM has HOW MANY Pentagon contracts?

"The most egregious part of this ruse is that IBM allowed Warren to keep working until a big $6 billion Chase-J.P. Morgan deal was completed," says Warren's attorney Brendan Chao. "They needed him on that deal."

Thanks for the good work, Warren! Now - what have you done for us lately???

In 1986, at age 19 and in college, Warren joined the Army Reserves. In 1991 he was called up and served as a master sergeant military policeman in the Gulf War.

In 1994, he was hired by IBM as an Internet security specialist, while remaining in the reserves, in which he's served for 19 years. Warren worked for eight years at IBM in the global security unit, earning a six-figure salary, winning raises, bonuses and favorable annual job performance evaluations.

"But after 9/11 my bosses started getting frustrated with me getting called up by the reserves more frequently," Warren said last week.
"I was getting what we call 'popup' missions without a lot of lead time. Iraq is essentially a police action. It calls for a lot of MPs, which is the most overtasked branch in the army. I train MPs, which are in very short supply at base camps across the country. We just can't produce enough MPs to meet all the mission requirements."

Not long after the smoke cleared from Ground Zero, Warren said, his superiors at IBM discussed his reserve status with him 15 or 20 times. "When I told them I had a popup activation they'd say things like, 'You gotta be kidding me,'" says Warren.

"One manager even said, 'You're killing me. How am I supposed to support this?'
I can't even describe how frustrating this was. We'd been attacked. We were at war. I was an American in the United States Army Reserves. My country needed me because I had the skills to teach other MPs. And I was catching flak at work. On a fairness scale it was just very frustrating."

That's an understatement, soldier!

Chao says IBM is in violation of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, laws that protect reservists from being fired for military service.

Situation Normal: CYA

After Chao filed suit on behalf of Warren, IBM moved for dismissal in summary judgment. IBM says Warren, an Internet security expert, was fired as part of a "zero-tolerance policy" after leaving a "threatening" voice message for a female co-worker in London.

"Liz, this is Michael Warren," his message said, after playing phone tag involving a big bank deal. "I'm gonna try you on your mobile. Pretty soon I'm gonna hunt you down and kill you. I'm gonna get on a plane. ... And I'm going to, um, errrrh, I'm going to track you down. I'll talk to you in a minute. Bye-bye."

As someone who works for a large corporation with an extremely tight policy concerning interpersonal communications, I can see where IBM might feel like they needed to act here. I can even see siding with IBM over this termination.

But - our soldier should be glad that his record is good enough to convince the judge that his job is worth saving, most likely in recognition of his service to the nation.

"A reasonable jury could find that Warren was joking when he left the voice mail," Chin wrote, "and that discharging an employee with an excellent eight-year employment record was exceedingly, and irrationally, harsh."

Without this good record, could he really stand a chance of keeping his job after such statements? He wouldn't at my employer! This following dismissal of what could be considered a serious verbal threat wouldn't work where I do! He'd still be out of a job:

The co-worker said that although she thought the message might be inappropriate, she never felt threatened by it, and records show that she and Warren exchanged several cordial IBM-related E-mails after that message while he was on reserve duty.

After listening to the tape, Manhattan federal Judge Denny Chin ruled in favor of Warren, and scheduled trial for May 9. In fact, Chin, in his ruling, also said: "Under these circumstances, a reasonable jury could surely find that the most likely explanation - indeed, the only logical explanation - is that IBM discharged Warren because of the continued absences caused by his membership in the reserves and the possibility that he would be summoned to additional and possibly extended service."

Kevin Lauri, IBM's attorney in the case, declined comment, referring inquiries to the IBM communications office, which didn't return a phone call.

I'll try to keep an eye out on this story for further developments.

Meanwhile, out west in Montana, it seems the Governor is exercising his State's Rights by asking for his National Guard wildfire fighters back - and is getting flak for it!


Montana Governor Sets Off Fight With Call to Bring Guard Home

Gov. Brian Schweitzer has touched off a political fight with Montana Republicans after calling for the return of National Guard troops serving in Iraq to help out in what many fear will be a record-setting wildfire season. Mr. Schweitzer, a newly elected Democrat, infuriated Republican lawmakers who see his request as a way to criticize the Bush administration over Iraq.

"He's figured out how to use the wildfire season to protest the Iraq war," said Bob Keenan, the state Senate Republican leader. "It's an antiwar statement and condemnation of Bush's actions."

The governor and his supporters deny those accusations in a growing political battle that comes as weather experts say a seven-year drought and a severely reduced snowpack could lead to a devastating summer of wildfires.

Even the Missouri River is extremely low!

They also worry that limited resources stretched thinner by the National Guard's service overseas could make it hard to combat the kind of huge blazes that engulfed the state in 2000, when some 2,400 wildfires burned nearly 950,000 acres of mostly public land.

"Everything right now is pointing to the possibility of a large and damaging fire season," said Bruce Thoricht, meteorologist with the federal Northern Rockies Coordination Center in Missoula.

Governor Schweitzer said Montana would disproportionately suffer the pain of proposed cuts in the federal budget, with money allocated for firefighting cut in half.

As fire season approaches, about 1,500 of Montana's 3,500 National Guard troops have been deployed on federal active duty, said a Montana Guard spokesman, Maj. Scott Smith. The bulk of the Guard's helicopters - critical in shuttling fire crews and equipment to blazes - are unavailable, either because they are in Iraq or their aviation officers are absent.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Mike Milord, said in an e-mail message that deals with neighboring states would provide for more troops during emergencies this summer.

I wouldn't be su sure of yourself there, Colonel! Washington State has already declared an official drought and isn't going to have anyone to spare to help another state if they are burning down themselves! All it would take is a minor eruption of Mt. St. Helens and up it goes! Just like Iraq! Only MUCH closer to Washington - DC, that is! So I wouldn't make promises that others can't keep!

By the way, Condi, don't be asking other nations to support the Middle Eastern Petroleum Conquest by asking for firefighters to replace the National Guard troops you and your husb - er, the pResident keep sending away from their homeland to secure oil for SUVs. These foreign firefighters will be having enough problems of their own and won't be able to assist you very much. There are problems showing up here also.

But that's of no concern, is it? They don't have much oil in Asia that you haven't already gained some control over. The areas affected by the Himalayan glacial melt isn't known for oil rigs.

Besides - as Secretary of State, these next two potential conflagrations are more what your position is supposed to be dealing with and not putting out grass fires.

CHINESE ARMY ASKED TO PREPARE FOR WAR

The overwhelming vote of 2,886, with only six against, at the 10th National People’s Congress (NPC) of China approved President Hu Jintao on Sunday as the country’s official military chief. The scene of Hu bowing to the NPC delegates during their long round of applause was also shown on CCTV, the State television.

Later Hu Jintao addressed a meeting of People’s Liberation Army delegates at the NPC. He told the military to step up preparations for a possible war, and to safeguard territorial integrity, in apparent reference to reunifying with Taiwan.

"We shall step up preparations for possible military struggle and enhance our capabilities to cope with crises, safeguard peace, prevent wars and win the wars if any," Hu said.

Hu will confront a major challenge of maintaining a tough stand on Taiwan, to prevent the island from declaring formal independence. The legislature is expected to pass on Monday a law aimed at making it illegal for Taiwan to move towards independence [they did so - ed.] and providing a legal basis for the mainland to attack the island if it does so.

And if that flame isn't hot enough for you, you might try your hand at holding back the power of the sun:

NORTH KOREA WARNS US-S. KOREAN MILITARY DRILL COULD RESULT IN “ACTUAL WAR”

North Korea warned on Sunday that annual US-South Korean military exercises due to start this week and designed to deter any military threat from the Stalinist country could turn into “an actual war.”

The North’s cabinet newspaper, Minju Joson, said the week-long military maneuvers beginning on March 19 in South Korea should be called off. “There is no guarantee that the large-scale joint military exercises will not go over to an actual war,” Minju Joson said in a commentary carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“The US and the South Korean authorities should immediately cancel their plan for the provocative joint military exercises against (North Korea).”

The commentary said North Koreans would “wipe out all the aggressors” in the event of war.

The exercises come amid new diplomatic efforts to bring Pyongyang back into six-nation talks aimed at persuading it give up its nuclear weapons program.

'Giving up their nukes' isn't supposed to involve their actual usage, Condi, so you might want to rethink what you do with this smoldering ember. If it were to burst into flame, you'd need a whole lot more than Montana's National Guard to put it out!

But, Condi - you can call up Michael Warren again and save IBM a lawsuit defeat. I'm sure that they would be most grateful in an economic campaign contributional form!

Choose Wisely!


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