Friday, February 29, 2008

An All-Stoner Iraqi Army?*

Apparently so. According to this article, the Iraqi Army plans on phasing out their existing stock of venerable old Kalashnikov-designed AK-47 to the, well, less-old but updated Stoner-designed M-16/M-4.
In a move that could be the most enduring imprint of U.S. influence in the Arab world, American military officials in Baghdad have begun a crash program to outfit the entire Iraqi army with M-16 rifles.

[. . . ]

So far, the U.S. military has helped the Iraqi army purchase 43,000 rifles - a mix of full-stock M-16A2s and compact M-4 carbines. Another 50,000 rifles are currently on order, and the objective is to outfit the entire Iraqi army with 165,000 American rifles in a one-for-one replacement of the AK-47.
Now I must admit that the first thing that jumped out at me in the article was this:
"We in the U.S. know that the M-16 is superior to the AK ... it's more durable," said Army Col. Stephen Scott, who's in charge of helping the Iraqi army get all the equipment it needs to outfit its forces.
Wait, what!?! Well, with regular maintenance it might (and that's a big "might") be a push, but c'mon. It's an AK, which has well over half a century of well-documented legendary resilience in the most deplorable conditions imaginable. However, there's a caveat to Col. Scott's statement, which hopefully will quell the never-ceasing, often-tiresome, and usually-good natured argument over which platform is better:
Scott added the mass of AK-47s from various manufacturers floating through the Iraqi army's inventory could cause maintenance and reliability problems. Getting both U.S. and Iraqi forces on the same page when it comes to basic weaponry is part of the argument for M-16 outfitting.

"I'm also a fan of AKs," Scott said. "But keep in mind most of these AKs have been sitting around in bunkers or whatnot for 30 or 40 years [and] are in various stages of disrepair."
OK, so it won't quell the arguments, but if it's true that the AK's the IA has now are falling apart (and a lack of maintenance and/or years of use/abuse will do that to any machine) then yeah, there's a need to replace exisiting arms. Why the M-16/M-4 family, though? First the positives, at least as I see them.

For starters, the M-16/M-4 is certainly more accurate than the AK-47 family; I've never talked with anyone who seriously disputes that. For the IA trainers on the ground, be they SF, Regular Army/Marine personnel, or civilian contractors, the task of training the IA is made much easier by having a universal platform with which the trainers are intimately familiar. For U.S. troops, knowing that the "good" Iraqis are the ones with M-16's will hopefully make friendly-fire incidents easier to avoid. . . at least until some of the new weapons fall into insurgent hands. Ideally, and this is touched upon in the original article, we or the IA will be able to trace any M-16's that fall into insurgent hands back to the units to which they were issued via serial numbers or other identifying marks. Additionally, and these points may be a bit niggling, the M-16 is lighter, easier to reconfigure for mission-specific roles, has less felt-recoil and better ergonomics (easier to shoot well), and, as mentioned above, uses the same ammunition and (obviously) parts that are already in the U.S. supply chain.

A further point, as Grim over at BLACKFIVE points out, is that this further cements a still newly-born modern Iraq with the west, at least as far as military-industrial supply chains and politics go:
Envision an army trained by the United States, with extensive counterinsurgency experience, an internal structure increasingly in line with the NATO standard (cf. the new NCO academy) -- an Arab, Muslim army that integrates Sunnis and Shi'ites in cooperation toward a goal of a modern state open to peaceful trade and prosperity. Now imagine this army in a future world with a happier Iraq, and no longer needing such large force numbers internally. Now imagine that army can tie into NATO supply chains, and partially deploy in support of future Coalitions dealing with further COIN operations -- an army that, like the army of El Salvador, remembers kindly American sacrifices that brought its people out of tyranny and chaos.

We've talked a lot about what future challenges face the world. Imagine what that army would be worth, in a decade or two. What investment would be worth having that army, that ally?
I admit I'm not too sure about such optimism; after all, I'm negative by nature. But hey, a future Iraqi army, well-trained and equipped by us, going on to help other oppressed peoples at least sounds good.

So that's the good; what about the bad things regarding the replacement of all IA AK's with M-16's or M-4's? There's the weapon itself; it's just not as well-designed from a reliability standpoint as the Kalashnikov family of weapons. Yeah, it's all that great stuff I mentioned above, but unless the troops are very well-disciplined regarding weapons maintenance, those slick new M-16's are going to crap out in a hurry in a small-parts-hostile environment such as Iraq. U.S. troops have to clean their weapons at least daily; after all, not having a working gun in a free-fire zone would really, really suck. Will the Iraqi Army be as diligent? I grant that this is a training issue; hopefully with the right kind of basic and refresher training, such problems can be alleviated, especially if the eventual withdrawal of U.S. personnel involves transitioning the IA into all Counter-Insurgency roles with embedded U.S. personnel advising IA units.

Then there's the much-derided cartridge/caliber of the M-16/M-4/AR-15 family: 5.56MM NATO. Yes, it's flat-shooting. Yes, it has a higher velocity than the AK-47's 7.62x39MM. Yes, it's an inherently more accurate cartridge than the 7.62x39. Yes, it has better range than the 7.62x39. Yes, under optimal conditions and good shot placement, it can instantly incapacitate or kill. . . though at shorter ranges the 7.62x39 has more inherent stopping power.** But is a 1/2 MOA difference in accuracy really worth the decrease in familiarity, the cost of procurement, decrease in reliability, and shorter-range stopping power?

And why the M-16, with it's rather notorious operating system? Why not use something along the lines of HK416 or any of the other piston-driven M16 derivatives that use the same magazines and most of the parts of the M-16? After all, if we ignore the ammunition issue for the moment, why not use an M-16 derivative that uses an operating system that plays a huge role in the AK's afore, and oft-mentioned reliability?

Well, the SECOND thing that jumped out at me in the article was something that wasn't there: who exactly is going to benefit from this armament transition? Well, considering Colt and FN make the majority of U.S. military small arms, I'd say Colt and FN. Especially in light of what Confederate Yankee found regarding Colt and The Hill:
Colt had relied on a series of lobbyists in Washington, but now [Colt President] Keys, a decorated veteran who played an important role in the 1991 Gulf War, has taken on more of those responsibilities himself.

"I knew a lot of guys up on the Hill," he said, referring to Congress. Among those is Rep. John Murtha, the powerful Pennsylvanian who is the highest-ranking Democrat on the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

Keys' uncle, Thomas Morgan, also represented western Pennsylvania in the House and served as mentor to Murtha when he first arrived in Congress in 1974.

"You couldn't have a better guy than him, with his experience," Murtha said of Keys. "When he tells you something, you can take it to the bank. No matter how good a lobbyist is, talking to the president of the company means more."

Oh, well, that's great. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for American businesses making money, but how much of the Iraqi Army decision was swayed by the U.S. Government and how much was the U.S. Government swayed by lobbyists? As Confederate Yankee says, it's not a smoking gun, but it's certainly something to ponder.

I'll adjust my tinfoil hat a bit here, but speaking of large government contracts and the Iraqi's switching out their small arms, what about SAW's and crew-served weapons? Are we going to be replacing all those RPK and PK machine guns as well? I wonder if FNH-USA is about to get a large order for M-249's and M-240's. Again, something to think about.

So, is the Iraqi Army getting the best tool for the job and are we getting our money's worth? Only time will tell; but I can't help but get a sour taste in my mouth.

*No, I couldn't resist the horrible pun. I can't help it.
**I'm speaking of mil-spec, full metal jacket ammunition of course; the hollow-points et al. available to civilians in the U.S. is another matter entirely.

Chicken or the Egg

..."I have some news," McCain said a rally this morning. "Al-Qaeda is in Iraq. Al-Qaeda is called al-Qaeda in Iraq. My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base...they would be taking a country. I will not allow that to happen my friends. I will not surrender. I will not surrender to al-Qaeda."...

... "I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al-Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq," Obama said...
Un-huh. Very glib. Well, Obama may, as he boasts, "give a good speech," but isn't that a little like saying that there were no Chinese Communists, or Russia MiGs for that matter, in Korea before America invaded?

The evil Islamofacist we drove from power in Iraq didn't have armies of foreign forces roaming his police state? Shock! Even more shocking, when it appeared we would conquer territory previously held by said Islamofacist they entered the fray, seeing it as a major front in their global war.

Obama's right, al-Qaeda wasn't fighting for a foothold in Iraq under Saddam. And German Panzers weren't moving en masse through Italy until they started getting routed. Now, true they seem to be 4GW fighters with different tactics, but if the ideas is that Iraq was some completely neutral state, not connected in anyway to the tide of radical Islam that fuels a world-wide network of NGO and rogue states fighting a fourth generation war--that seems a pretty glib. Is he really saying that Iraq, Iran, Syria, Liberia; Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ansar al-Islam (to name a few) were not part of the problem? Just a bunch of Switzerlands?

Doesn't al-Qaeda mean "the Hub?" I wonder what they connect to? Surely, not Saddam! I mean, Saddam supported Hamas, attacked Israel, claimed to be a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammad, and tortured/murder those who opposed his totalitarian rule, especially religiously--but he's definitely not linked to any sort of source ideology or extremism from which all these groups draw. Scoff! Once the last card-carrying member of al-Qaeda proper is tried in federal court, found guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and sent to a prison with the necessary facilities to cater to their religious beliefs everything will be super!

For some reason the evil conservatives don't get what is so clear if you watch the MSM. So, what do I think of Obama? Barrack Obama is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Corporal's View

Via BLACKFIVE comes "Iraq and the Marine Corps" - a Corporal's View. It's not just the normal moaning and groaning of the grunts on the ground (not to imply that moaning and groaning is unwarranted), but a well-reasoned series of observations by someone who has been there, done that, and is going back for more. I anticipated some of his points (media reports are way behind what's actually happening on the ground; the lack of power of the [mil-spec] 5.56mm) and was surprised by others (bringing back the M-79). Again though, the points are well-reasoned and based on actual experience, not second or third-hand accounts. For example, on body armor:
We have no lightweight fast infantry anymore. Here is another situation where technology has improved our casualty situation at the extreme expense of our killing ability. Thousands of troops are alive because of their flak jacket and body armor, but how many more thousands of enemy are alive because the Marine wearing 50+ lbs or armor could not chase the insurgent more than 500 yards without having a heart attack? I consider myself in pretty good shape, but having a flak jacket with ESAPI armor plates, side SAPI plates, a Kevlar, a standard magazine load, and rifle is very cumbersome. I could not conceivably chase down a determined insurgent who wanted to run away over any appreciable distance. The body armor situation I think represents a microcosm of larger trends happening in society and/about the military. Our society has placed so much emphasis on protecting the troops that our military has acceded to it. My job is to defeat the enemy, not protect myself. Although I have no way of proving it, I am willing to bet that if we had adopted a lighter weight form of body armor (even at the expense of protection), increased mobility would have offset increased casualties with the killing of more enemy. When you fail to kill the sniper because you cannot run his position down, he returns to kill more of your friends the next week. When you fail to kill the AQI cell leader because you cannot climb over a wall in your body armor, he lives to organize a SVBIED that detonates on your friends along an MSR several days later. Our sense of force protection projected from the top-down is so misguided and permeates every aspect of our training, fighting, and mission. It disgusts me. I accept that I am expendable so why can't everyone else?
And on the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police:
The Iraqi Army (IA) and Iraqi Police (IP) in Anbar are tremendously better than they were in 2006. The IP's in particular are much better in AO Raleigh. In 2006 they were infiltrated by insurgents and AQI and could not be trusted. The ones that could be trusted were afraid to leave their bases and do any policing, which to be fair essentially amounted to military style patrolling. The IP's are now out on the streets, proud and unafraid. They look more professional, have better weapons and vehicles to include flak jackets, interact with a grateful population that respects them (the old Sadaam-era civilian disdain toward police officers has evaporated), and will not back down from a fight. In the city of Fallujah, the IP's are largely running the security show and the US presence has been reduced to MITT/PTT teams and essentially one company of grunts. They more and more act and gradually look like a professional force, largely because they are becoming one. IP's maintain an overwatch position in front of the main exit of CF and guard the most important bridge in Anbar for coalition convoy traffic. These jobs could not have been provided in 2006, and I would have laughed should someone have suggested them. My 2007 deployment was in many ways emasculating because of increased ISF presence, and I could not be happier.
I encourage you to go read the whole thing. Hopefully the people on high in the USMC and elsewhere will read it as well.


Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of days (a video doesn't count); genie and I were busy yesterday and my ISP suffered a temporary outage that lasted from last night until this afternoon sometime. Posting will resume as scheduled as soon as I catch up with the mass of email, RSS-delivered articles, and missed regular website reading. Unreal how much stuff one misses online when there is no online.

Also, during the outage, I discovered this whole "outside" thing. Why was I not informed earlier? Now I have what one of my newly-discovered "neigh-bors" calls a "sun-burn." She looked at me funny and shooed her kids away when I inquired further into this "sun" business. Of course, now my net's back up and I'm able to find all my answers on Wikipedia. Thankfully, there is no need for that messy and social-interaction-generating (shudder) "outside" again, at least until my ISP fails me again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Supermen and the World of Tomorrow

Science Fiction is a new literary form historically speaking. Pure Sci-Fi, in the Wells/Roddenberry vein, is a form of prophecy. Sci-Fi stories tell us “of things to come,” and transpose our issues onto worlds to which “no one has gone before.” So what’s the connection to comics? Well, arguable the big six: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Spider-man, and Captain America (along with their nemeses), are all Sci-Fi characters. Hulk, Green Lantern, the Human Torch--the list of Sci-Fi superheroes goes on.

The superhero, the colorful man-god, is modern idea. The similar archetypical heroes come to mind: Robin Hood, Odysseus, or Hercules, but these heroes are not regular people who transcend humanity with science and technology. Unlike the Campell-ian hero of a thousand faces, the superhero promises a new world.

Technology is a word often used to sum up the 20th Century. Many technological milestones could be the comic book superhero’s origin, like the atomic bomb. One less earthshaking milestone nonetheless captures the superhero’s spirit: the 1939 World’s Fair.

The Fair’s theme, “the world of tomorrow,” was punctuated by the Perisphere and Trylon, a huge sphere next to a towering spike, symbolically shouting, “the world going up.” This message of technology transforming the world was the new creed of the 20th century. But the message was more than optimism in the face of the past decade of world-wide depression. The Fair comes just before an era of superstars and the promise technology will propel common people to god-like versions of themselves.

In this era people, regular people could become epic figures, and their stories could be told to millions. Think about it: Einstein, the super-genius; Hitler, the super-monster; Hughes, billionaire and fastest man alive in his H-1 Racer. Not surprisingly, the ‘30s host the first superhero movies, like Superman. Mass communication brought forth a superstar generation to the world stage.

The man of tomorrow would be an exulted power-house. Though cliché now, back then the future held jet-packs and robots and life under the sea. The man of tomorrow is a dream with wide appeal, even for those not suffering from an adolescent male power fantasy. The World’s Fair seems to be a crystallizing event for this idea. The man of tomorrow would transcend the mundane day-to-day life--Nietzsche’s ubermensch, or superman, done New Deal style.

Superman, sometimes described as a super New Deal figure in the Golden Age, epitomizes the Fair’s themes. Superman’s nickname “the man of tomorrow,” cites the Fair as much as the ubermensch. Metropolis is the city of tomorrow, and its biggest landmark, the globe atop of the Daily Planet, is just a spinning Perisphere. The Fair actually hosted "Superman Day," with a public appearance by Superman, played by actor Ray Middleton. Superman may be the ultimate man of tomorrow, literally transforming from a mild-mannered nobody into the most powerful superhero in every adventure.

The Fair was a celebration of the “art deco” style, which is central to the look of the Fleischer Studios’ Superman cartoon. In fact, that Fleischer look would get a revamp in Batman: the Animated Series, with the so-called “dark deco” style. In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm many items at the Gotham World's Fair were inspired by the real World’s Fair. The rocket and planet centerpiece echo the famous Trylon and Perisphere exhibit. In the movie, many bat-gadgets and the bat-mobile spring from the exhibits Bruce Wayne encounters as a young man. Even the Bat-cave is a fair-like exhibit with dinosaurs, computers, and a gigantic penny.

Batman is a more difficult “man of tomorrow” than Superman. Originally a weird figure of the night or a hard-nose detective, Batman is also a super-willed, gadget wielding power-house. He moves with surprising ease from depression-era vigilante to a superhero standing with Superman fighting aliens. As a James Bond meets Sherlock Holmes meets Howard Hughes, Batman becomes a one man, city-wide guardian. Batman is superhero even without any powers, Sci-Fi or otherwise.

But some heroes are odd fits. Wonder Woman, the magical Amazon is not exactly a Sci-Fi superhero. She’s a person from a lost-city, a mythic-figure from a lost-world. Technology will let us discover these lost mysteries. The technology finds her, originally by downed fighter pilot, and brings her into the world she now protects. Sub-mariner is similar in his lost-world origin. Wonder Woman and Namor are Jules Vern Supermen, science-fantasy characters. They are mythical figures but in this world—the world of tomorrow—fighting Nazis and flying in jets.

The 1939 World’s Fair was just before WWII and Captain America. Turned from weakling into the perfect human specimen, who is oddly Aryan-looking, Cap is a classic WWII superhero. Some of the Fair’s visions had turned to nightmares in the war. In one of Cap’s early adventures the Red Skull drives a huge mechanical worm/drill through a skyscraper, destroying it. Something that could have been an exhibit at the Fair becomes a WMD. Cap was the war-time super-soldier; the superman embodying democracy and the war effort.

After the war a new superman, a new man of tomorrow, would suffer in the moral confusion of the cold war. Spider-man was bitten by the atomic spider (ironically enough at a science fair) and became a superhero. He is misunderstood and slandered in the media. Peter Parker and post-war America learn with great power comes… well, you know. Spider-man is the 1960s, the kid America—powerful beyond knowing, but faced with problems beyond power, the American superman reborn. Actually, both Spidey and the Hulk were also viewed as counter-culture icons: hounded by authority out of fear and hate. In these books superheroes transcended humanity, but it only created more problems.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Wolverine appeared as the super anti-hero, rejecting the man of tomorrow. After Vietnam, everyone knew good didn’t always win, the government is evil, and “heroes” kill without mercy—at least, that seems the idea behind Logan. A tough, murderous, tortured mutant; Logan is experimented on by the government. The mutants were minorities, and Wolverine, when rewritten, eventually became the quintessential “oppressed by the government" character. Weapon X is like John Rambo: both made powerful and also betrayed by the military/industrial complex. The Fair gave us the super-soldier, and the ‘70’s and ‘80s give it back with cynicism and bitterness.

Today the question is what's next, what after the superpowers? When the “Persons of Mass Destruction” arrive will it kick off a new level of conflict? Will wannbes and psychos respond with “escalation?” Will we be ruled by a small group of super-beings from their watchtower far above? Will the government reign in these supermen by legislation and put them to work for Uncle Sam? Regardless, the technological dream lives on in “microscopic make-out sessions,” and a “planet of the capes,” or even an “illuminati” round-table.

The man of tomorrow’s story is the first superpower’s story. The comic superhero is the depiction the power and the pain technology brings; a Sci-Fi prophecy for the America. Superheroes are the 20th century mythology, and they might be summed up by same word as the century: “technology.” The techno-myth, the 20th century Sci-Fi prophecy, was embodied in the World’s Fair. This vision of the future gave birth to superheroes who explore and herald this world of tomorrow. Superheroes promise us that, much like the 1939 World’s Fair, we can become supermen. We can transcend mere mortality to become fantastic: for good or for evil.

Mrs. Obama Goes to Washington

Recently, Mrs. Obama's Princeton thesis was forked over to the media in a rare act of transparency. This was the right thing to do when Princeton pulled the work because of the political season. Now, let's punish that good deed by tearing it apart.
To research her thesis, the future Mrs. Obama sent an 18-question survey to a sampling of 400 black Princeton graduates, requesting the respondents define the amount of time and "comfort" level spent interacting with blacks and whites before they attended the school, as well as during and after their University years. ... In addition, those surveyed were asked to choose whether they were more in line with a "separationist and/or pluralist" viewpoint or an "integrationist and/or assimilationist" ideology.
This thesis was fueled by a nagging feeling:
"no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong."
Is it in any way telling that in 1985 she felt there was a massive gulf between whites and blacks--so large even at the Ivy League leftist epicenter she was an outsider? Suggesting that as a black in America she is a member of some underground nation/culture, barely comfortable with only the most hardcore leftists; existing inside, but not part of, America. The first quote in the thesis is from Stokely Carmichael's Black Power suggesting blacks must withdraw and close ranks to gain the power to re-enter society as full members. The next quote is about black political candidates needing to communicate they are for all people not just black people. Ironic, huh?
"I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility."
The question is does she see herself as an outsider to America. Does Princeton represent "white-America" now, and does she harbor some black-separatist viewpoint? The notion in the thesis was something like:
"at Princeton I'm detached from the black community and soon I'll never be truly accepted in either world. And furthermore, my fellow black alumni are losing their identification with the black community and seem not to care"
So then, if in DC will she have to be the outsider navigating white-America? This and some of her other comments may give some unease. Maybe she's right, but something just hits the gut as wrong. "I'm not one of you, and being one of you is a betrayal to my community," is that a fair interpretation? Not exactly equals from creation judging each other by the content of their character, eh?

By the way, FNS is reporting that Mrs. Obama made the same "proud" comments twice in one day, which runs opposite to a minor misspeaking.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Walking Out Across the Line

Avi Green over at the Four Color Media Monitor has an interesting post about a glowing review of yet another anti-bush/anti-war comic book.
Black Summer began with an issue #0 that was one of the most shocking single issues published in years. In this essential preview to the 7-issue series, superhero John Horus storms the White House and executes the President. Minutes later, Horus goes live on national television to explain why he has done this: Because the Commander-in-Chief had committed severe criminal actions including election fraud and starting an unnecessary, illegal war for the benefit of his oil conglomerate cronies.

...those who have long been angered, frustrated, and ashamed of the way things have gone in this country were probably cheering on this fictional avenger.
Avi rails against this idiocy:
The reviewer is actually insulting even his own side by suggesting that the liberals are so frustrated, they'll be literally willing to condone what this Ellis-created monster has done. Just how does he know that they really want that to happen? Or, is he doing the right thing to make it sound as though he doesn't care if they take the risk of condoning violence against American politicians?
As in Punisher: the End, I'm always surprised at how the "anti-war" left seems to secretly long to murder their enemies (whose true inhumanity is something they alone fathom). The reviewer called Horus's actions "political murder." That is, I imagine, murder premised on politics. That particular homicide is more like killing the heir to the throne or the Night of the Long Knives. What I read about was a President that had committed crimes--so, why is that a "political murder?" Either he doesn't understand the meaning of political or, more disconcerting, he doesn't understand the meaning of murder.

He seems to revel in the politicized comic book, writing "everything is political," but he seems to be some what smitten with the fantasy of politicized murder. What he seems to fail to see is that, from the Manchurian Candidate to JLU's alternate universe President Lex, the evil politician is killed after it is shown he's a monster. You might not like Bush, but he isn't a genocidal maniac nor in league with the Soviets. I mean, LOL, the left doesn't really believe he should be executed--excuse me? ... 78% according to Zogby? ...uh, anyway--fantasy can be fun, but let's not go over board.

Furthermore, it seems interesting that libs don't really seem to notice war crimes and death unless somebody they are politically against is in power (cough-Rwanda-cough).

4GW Part 5: Pros and Neo-cons of Fighting 4GW

As previously mentioned, the 4th Generation Warfare that is the GWOT was wrinkled when we went into Iraq. It seems that the idea was to respond, not on their terms, but to swoop in and undermine the elusive nature of 4GW fighters by taking down an evil like Saddam and replacing it as an example of an alternative to Islamofacists.

Nowadays, this "rise of democracy" stuff is laughed at. In fact, any weekend on Book-TV you can find folks railing against this ego-driven neo-con failure (and shocked that neo-cons are allowed to walk free--even though "neo-con" is kind of an unclear term). Some even start fondly remembering Bush I's realist policies, ironically enough. But Iraq is as generally accepted as a blunder as it is ignored during the recent months of steady progress.

So, what is there to learn from Iraq?

Well, one thing is that people don't care. The didn't care about Saddam's evil, they don't care if Iraqis are free or even dead, and they just want ignore this 4GW. Now, sure, lots of people care, but are making careful calculations with their realist tape-measures. However, most people just want things to be quiet again--like they were on 9/10/01. I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying don't expect most people to support big, messy counter-attacks like Iraq in 4GW or if they do, don't expect support for long (since staying in a "non-war" status is one of the major shields of 4GW fighters).

Obviously, this means speed is everything on big offensives. Get in and get out twice as fast your best estimate. If you're going to do nation building, your going to need "surge" right after victory. Decapitation strikes with pottery barn rules may be like getting toothpaste out of a tube all at once. First, you take off the top, then you squeeze as hard as you can with both hands instantly. We'll see more as Iraq goes on.

Anti-war movements are really "war on war" movements that are empowered by their own "war mobilization." They cannot be won over. Their goal is to declare the war lost (the why is another post). They will be joined by political enemies, foreign rivals, and celebrities. Some think the mistaken war gave them ammo, I'm more inclined to say mishandling gave them ammo. The crux is mistakes are going to be used to lose the offensive for you. Try to avoid naked pyramids.

Never let the purpose of the war or the offensive get away from you. Nobody should care about WMDs. Saddam was evil, he could make WMDs, he had no problem with terror or terrorists, and he was a violating the terms of peace. But the reasoning got so nailed down to WMDs. Goals should be specific and secret, the public reasoning should be based on morality, ideology, and triggering actions--like a recent attack or a missed deadline. I'm not saying people shouldn't know why, but if the word "nexus" appears in your explanation you might as well let Helen Thomas write your quote for you. Like if we had to stop an Iranian nuke, forget the UN resolutions and the broken promises and the terrorist ties and the human rights stuff and say, "we're not letting these fanatics even get close to a nuke" or "we're not going to allow another holocaust." Nothing to dispute. Not saying they have nukes. Just that they are dangerous people that appear to be ready to do dangerous things. No real debunking that, right? What are people going to say? We went to war with Iran and we didn't find any dangerous fanatics?

The UN is pretty well useless. Squeeze what you can from it, but at a certain point it is just going be used to stop the offensive. Anybody that slows or stops your offensive (no matter the country) in an international organization has proven their power; anybody that is supporting you has proven yours. Nobody wants to prove your power. How's that for realism. Close calls will always go against you, unless they are watered-down. Get the easy wins and then take it to the mat one-on-one with whoever you really need to agree. If they want you to get the UN behind it, then they really just want to slow or stop you.

Never tell the truth about how the military works. The Army is obsessed with a professional soldier/Warrior caste image. But the reality is that they are government employees who get shot at. Soldiers are wonderful, but they aren't Mr. Rogers and they work for desk jockeys. In between the guys with their lives on the line and the Generals with their careers on the line are a bunch of guys with clip-boards and fruit-salad trying to avoid being on CNN. All of them deserve our thanks, but being honest with the media about what a "Charlie Foxtrot" war fighting can be will never go over well. People just don't understand that this stuff is messy and unwieldy. Get them lots of briefings and night-vision video so they think that a dozen people can micro-manage 200,000.

Never forget how the military really works. If a plan isn't working, it's time to change plans. In war, the people who can get the job done do it. Ultimately, facts are facts. Even if the media picks and choses their facts they can't ignore clear victory. Soldiers might have a tough, crazy, and messy job, but, unless completely demoralized (which I don't see in our forces at all), they will complete the mission. Make sure you don't let anybody ride that bucking bronco that doesn't understand it has to go from that to bloody well Mr. Ed when he's done.

Annihilate enemy forces. We never really got a big story on the Iraq War proper's enemy KIAs. I always wondered if there was fear of the "highway of death" thing, but really that's a good thing. We spent a large portion of the war taking out the commands and control infrastructure and getting generals to surrender the armies. All very nice. Call me blood thirsty, but shock and awe works better when you hit HARD and fast. Hitting all the war-fighting goodies in a few hours is cool, but nothing says the offensive is a success like a highway of smoking vehicles and jargon like "kill box." If you don't kill everything to see not surrendering, it will melt away into the environment and bite you directly on the ass. But this is not for nation-building apparently--that's more of a bear hug/group hug, and you can't hug anything with satellite guided arms.

Work with the people. Co-Opt them and let them co-opt you. Expect to be lied to, but remember that you can't be a little bit pregnant just like you can't be a little bit supported by the populace in an occupation. Whatever general Petraeus is doing is apparently working and this lesson seems to be part of it. All I know from reading Time (commie rag) is that "you can't kill yourself out of an insurgency," you have turn people. I hope that works out.

Whatever the number of bombing runs--double it. Whatever the estimated number of troops needed cut it in half. Air war makes ground war easier. Speed is more important than numbers. If your troops get into a fight they can't handle that's where the enemy is en masse, so, you know, bomb there. (talking about Iraq type armies here). See, the 4GW nations and multi-national organization aren't exactly rife with Red Barons or Pattons. The old 16 to 1 thing isn't as true, especially if they no real air force or defense. Light and lethal works against these JV armies--if you have gianormous air support.

Killing major leaders will get you a two week extension of support. But memory will fade fast. Terrorists using mentally disabled to kill innocents will only neutralize the thought that everything is going to pot and give you no extra support.

At a certain point of media saturation, nobody will want to support your offensive anymore. You can stave this off, but really it is a fact that even if you had rousing victory after victory people would get tired. Shelf life of the longest war these days is two to four years, and maybe merely 3 weeks. And I mean from first shot fired to most everybody home. Looking at you Israel.

Basically, any offensive needs to hit the objectives and go home before the 4GW attacks on the ground and in the Media can bog them down. Speed is so important it is actually a force multiplier, if you wait even a second they'll hide all high value targets (this means force readiness is big, too). If you're stuck with some nation building you better clear and hold like a maniac to create the stability to get out. Stay vague so you can declare victory and stick to moral justifications. Interestingly, it was the realist move of going to the UN that slowed things down and locked the justification as just WMDs. I have to think that it was realists wanting to keep causalities down that led to the previous, failed "fort apache" strategy. Realists were wrong about numbers needed for invasion, but right about it for occupation. Clearly, Neo-Cons were wrong about people being able shake off the past and move forward--but maybe they have made a change recently--too soon to say. Pushing the surge was kind of a Neo-Con move by Bush, but their ideas for fighting the 4GW don't address the media front very well at all.

[Ed. Note- Read genie junkie's other Fourth-Generation Warfare posts:
4GW Part 1: What is Peace?
4GW Part 2: The End of History
4GW Part 3: Losing Iraq, "non-war" war in home-front politics
4GW Part 4: Is There a There?
4GW Part 5: Pros and Neo-cons of Fighting 4GW]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Terminator: Rise of the Soccer Moms

Geek fans of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles are a given. Action fans are a given (plus you've got two hot chicks with guns). But soccer moms?

The creators of the new series tone down the feminazi Connor lady into a tough but beautiful woman, a departure from the no-holds-barred she-warrior portrayal of Connor by Linda Hamilton in T2. Think about the premise: Connor feels that her son is the savior of the human race, and she has to save the world to protect him. Plus, the girl that is interested in him is really some alien/monster thing that secretly plans to destroy him, she fears. She drives a SUV version of Jeep she drove off in at the end of T1. Oh, and she might have cancer. That's pretty good marketing.

Just like how Angel on Buffy is this dark, mysterious older guy that does Tai Chi and broods, but as soon as you sleep with him he turns into a bloodsucking monster that only wants to consume you and leave you for dead. I wonder if any girls can relate?

Whereas before, Terminator was a commentary on the fear of our own military/industrial complex and technology, now Sarah Connor goes from half-crazed survivalist to capri-wearing Amazon-mom (portrayed well by the former Spartan Queen). She couldn't marry her boyfriend because her son's future comes first; the salesman that tries to pick her up may be the biggest threat to her family. She has to balance her over-protective nature with allowing her son to become a man and a leader, not to mention the last, best hope of mankind.

Some may express dismay at this apparent softening of Connor, but really it just reflects the times. A lot of soccer moms probably feel like everyday is battle, and, really, this version lends itself to longevity while the T2 character doesn't really fit on the small screen, week-by-week thing: "tune in next week as Sarah stockpiles more weapons and does more pull-ups." TV's Connor frets as she does her pulls-ups on a swing-set--the metaphorical fountainhead of "mommy and me." She's not a militant radical sickened by the male war machine. In a present/past that seems to be teeming with sleeper cells, she's a security mom fearful for her child of future attacks by an invisible enemy .

How many soccer moms do you think can relate to and therefore will watch a character like that? Genius.


Netscape Navigator was one of the first WWW browsers I ever used, both on genie junkie's 486DX and my PowerMac 6100. Although I'd played around with BBS's and such during my Apple IIe days, going online and seeing all that HTML goodness was pretty awesome. 'Course, there wasn't much to actually DO, but still, cool stuff. So reading this produced a slight twinge of nostalgia:
AOL has released its last ever update for Netscape Navigator and is encouraging its remaining users to switch to Flock or Firefox.

[. . . ]

"When the Netscape upgrade is accepted and run, the following notice will appear, denoting the end of support date and the recommendations of Flock and Firefox."
Not that I've actually used Navigator in many, many years, nor do I know anyone who does, but I remember the first browser war and Microsoft deeply embedding IE in Windows (thus beginning my dislike for Microsoft; that and IE3 - what a piece of crap that was) well. Navigator lasted way longer than I ever thought it would. Netscape is a great example of how fast the Tech world can change; one minute Navigator has 80%+ market share, the next, BOOM, IE kills 'em. Oh well. At least we got Firefox out of the deal. Hooray Free and Open Source Software, a cross-platform browser, and user-created browser extensions. Talk about making my life better.

Now I wonder whatever became of my first two Apples? Now THAT takes me back. . .

Friday, February 22, 2008

Trust Your Government

From across the Pond:
My baby had cancer but social workers falsely accused me of child abuse and took all three of my children.
Holy crap, what a travesty. Remember folks: They're from the government and they're here to help.

This will end well, I'm sure

U.S. Orders Diplomats to Leave Serbia After Embassy Attack
WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday ordered nonessential diplomats and the families of all American personnel at the U.S. embassy in Belgrade to leave Serbia, following an attack on the compound.

The move, made at the request of U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter, came as U.S. diplomats across the Balkans went on alert, girding for more anti-American violence after Serb rioters stormed and torched the Belgrade embassy Thursday, causing as-yet undetermined damage and drawing fierce condemnation from Washington.

That's just great. Makes Tam's post from earlier today seem rather appropriate:

It seems some wogs got out of hand and torched buildings on our sovereign soil the other day. Once upon a time this would have been considered casus belli and occasioned parking a dreadnought in the nearest harbor, shelling some buildings, and offloading some marines with Maxim guns to sort the natives out. Instead we'll wring our hands and ask why they don't like us.
What with our removing all the non-essential personnel out of the embassy, I wonder if the more modern version of a dreadnought parked offshore and lobbing shells is imminent. We can only hope that the damage can be limited, if not avoided completely. Unfortunately, the peers of Franz Ferdinand were probably thinking the same thing at one point or another.

More Reason to Dislike the U.N.?

Words fail:
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed his predecessor's line on cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday, saying free speech should respect religious sensitivities.

"The Secretary-General strongly believes that freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly and in a way that respects all religious beliefs," his spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters.

[. . . ]

In a statement two years ago at the height of the cartoon uproar, the spokesman for then secretary-general Kofi Annan said Annan "believes that the freedom of the press should always be exercised in a way that fully respects the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions."
Guess I'm just spoiled by the Ol' Bill of Rights. Of course, the U.N. leadership is in the unenviable position of having to appease as large a majority of their member nations as possible. That being said, saying that there should be limits on freedom of expression is antithetical to expanding the basic human rights of all mankind. Yeah, that's a lofty sentiment, but being able to say "[insert deity name here] is a giant poopyhead" without fear of repercussions from the government is kinda nice. My rights, as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, are not never negotiable, not ever. Guess the U.N. doesn't feel quite the same way.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Moderately Stupid

The Moderates in the GOP are scratching their heads. Why would conservatives not like McCain? Well, maybe some people care about things you don't think are important. McCain has stepped on a few toes, oh, like, with the marriage amendment, the Gang of 14, the election law, immigration, opposing tax cuts, gitmo, aggressive interrogations, civilian courts for terror suspects, fairness doctrine, some gun control issues, and he said some nasty things about the evangelicals.

Now, of course, you might not care as Mods, but if you want him to pull some or all of the conservatives to the polls you better hope he starts wising up. Look, McCain is as pro-life as it gets, but nobody thinks he might try to outlaw abortion. That's the key. Nobody thinks anything he's conservative on is anything he really cares about. Or, more to the point, nobody thinks he cares about the voters who are really conservative on issues they really do care about.

Bush was a genius at nodding to the right and saying, look, I'm not going to really do anything, but you know my heart is with you guys. McCain doesn't even know where the off ramp is to that part of town. Why should Mods care?

You should care because you're not the only one who's opinion counts. Mods in the GOP just seems to scoff at people that disagree with their math. Newsflash, if you really want McCain simply because he can maybe win, you better get real comfy with him turning right on immigration, social issues (the infamous God, guns, and gays), and supply side economics. You're going to have to pretend you respect Huckabee supporters (which should be something of a task). You've got to get out and not defend, but deflect. Tell the cons they're right about issues and McCain is going to represent them, cheer hard when he starts in about being a true conservative; lie through your teeth. Because even if you think the cons are cooks, they aren't stupid. They know what they want; are GOP Mods at least smart enough to give it to them?

4GW Part 4: Is There a There?

Is there an Elephant? I think it is important to address the question whether this 4th Generation Warfare has any meat. I'm somewhat reminded of the Blind Men and the Elephant story. Many look at just one aspect of world affairs and do not put together the big picture. Some actually deny the connections. Look, the argument is simple. Islamic Terrorism has these characteristics:
Globally supported by radicalized Islamic populations that are both supremacists and militant. Regionally supported and sponsored by Islamofacist or extremist Islamic nations. -
Entrenched in several region's governmental bodies or very closely related thereto.
Uses classic "soft target" terrorism.
Does not openly hold territory, major military assets, nor any sort of battle-lines.
Uses media to propagandize the base and their enemies.
Openly, genocidal and expansionist.
Uses infiltration tactics.
Conflict occurs ad hoc with no time line or context.
Is the Elephant a problem? Well, yeah, duh: 9/11. But also no. People die everyday. A massacre occurs every decade or so. So, really, you can just sit back right? Well, no, because the Islamofacists tend to follow up. After Israel won the war in '48, the various militia/liberation groups were hard at work bombing and attacking and demanding concessions up through the Yom Kippur War in '74. And when the Egyptian President signed a peace treaty he ended up dead. During the Cold War this was sort of quaint, but with the proliferation of WMD it means that something different. These previously minor nations are now growing in power and WMD-terror is possible, along more conventional attacks. For example: mining the Strait of Hormuz combined with a chemical attack on a major US city.

So, how do you eat an elephant? Some say we need to use Law Enforcement. Some say we just need to calm the "Arab street," or go even further and launch into a far left, roundabout justification of terror and 9/11. Some say we just need to use (gag) "special forces." Some say Afghan war: yes, Iraq war: no.

Look, anyone that thinks the we are to blame for 9/11 is both wrong and irrelevant. We aren't switching to that viewpoint in America anytime soon I think (and pray). We can't use Law Enforcement to do intelligence work and, at least right now, we are playing catch-up. Some point to the take down of some terror group in Jordan as proof LE can handle the GWOT. I submit Jordan is different from Iran or Afghanistan. As for "special forces," I can't encapsulated into a few sentences how wrongheaded I find that notion. Ultimately, you have to accept that if you only feel comfortable with war when it is fought covertly, you're not going to pull the trigger 9 times out of 10 (and you're kind of weak, like in the 90s). So, the rejoinder comes back; I'm for the GWOT but Iraq was a bad move. Well, maybe, but, gee, Saddam was the next evil Islamofacist guy on the list and he was begging for it. Some say there's lots of bad guys out there; are we going to fight them all? How do you eat an Elephant?

One bite at time.

[Ed. Note- Read genie junkie's other Fourth-Generation Warfare posts:
4GW Part 1: What is Peace?
4GW Part 2: The End of History
4GW Part 3: Losing Iraq, "non-war" war in home-front politics
4GW Part 4: Is There a There?
4GW Part 5: Pros and Neo-cons of Fighting 4GW]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mark Her Well

Michelle Obama:
"What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback and let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I have seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues. It it's made me proud."
So, this is the first time you've been really proud of your country?! Mrs. Obama was born in '64! So, not really proud when the Berlin Wall fell? Not when we drove Saddam out of Kuwait? Not proud when we landed a probe on Mars? I mean, really, you've never in your adult lifetime been really proud of America. America wasn't happy on 9/11, but most people heard stories about the bravery of police and firefighters and they felt proud. Maybe nothing has happened since '82 that anybody should be proud of, but all I think of is this verse:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

Monday, February 11, 2008

4GW Part 3: Losing Iraq, "non-war" war in home-front politics

Last time, we talked about VMS and Fukuyama preferring stability to freedom. Well, what's going on in Iraq? Everyone says we've lost, but again the idea of defeat is the actual battleground in 4th Generation Warfare. Sun Tzu writes to change the game, win without fighting, cheat, and that leads naturally to 4GW. Can't beat the West in open war where capitols and resources and whole populations would be in play? Fine, change the game, make the war intangible, the violence quick, bloody and by proxy. The war is in the media, convince the enemy to give up, without actually going to war.

Warfare's only rule is to win, so take the war to a place where realities like nukes and wealth mean very little. Terrorism, meet the Internet, satellite TV, and the American extreme left, they'll be vehicles for war. Idiots say things like "terrorism is a tactic and we've used it, too." Terrorism is indeed defined by the type of attacks terrorists have committed--namely those meant to inspire fear, but ultimately terrorism is 4GW used by the genocidal and the depraved. I have no doubt that terrorist would love to have nuclear subs and stealth bombers, but they don't--so they use other means to fight a "total war" against those they deem targets.

Terrorism is just another way of saying they're evil and they aren't fighting fair. States have a lot to lose in conventional war and can be stopped, but if Iran gets a nuke, what keeps them from nuking Israel? If they could not be stopped, only hit back, what stops them? Right now, though, the terrorists are trying to kill us in the Media.

We invade Iraq, trying, in my opinion, to undermine militant Islam and reshape the world, but we bring the tanks. They hit the media. They gave our tanks a big dose of 4GW. Here's the kicker: We're not "losing Iraq" in the sense that advancing armies are pushing back our forces or every day we lose a hundred troops to guerrillas. We are being persuaded to lose Iraq, we are choosing. We don't want to be part of a civil war, if that's what you call what's going on over there, or maybe we think the Iraqis are lazy, or maybe we are just tired of hearing about it, or not willing to lose our souls crushing resistance and violence, or whatever. It's a choice and it will be influenced by the media. And the Media is where the terrorist substantial victories come.

The question is: now that they are fighting 4GW in full in the media, what happens to political media? Sure, we're fighting the back in the media, but when some dem gets up and says we can't win, either this year, or the one before that, or the year before that, are they moving the ball in the war? I think yes. Look it, 4GW blurs the line between war and peace. One bite at a time, they prep us for defeat and maybe even fall. So, now in the media war zone everything about the war is part of the war, blurring the line between war and politics. Politics by other means loses to war by other means. Last summer, you'd see a speech from Bin Laden, Iran, Bush, Murtha, and maybe some UN whimp, all in one night. All are trying to create the idea of victory for their ideas same as always. Except now somebody is going to blow up a bus.

Oh sure, attacks have been planned to effect politics before, but now is different. Global networks are blowing people up and beheading people and then getting the message out. You can't topple the West with a bus bombing, or even a 9/11, if you're not pushing a message and creating an idea of defeat through the media. Plus, one big change is that terrorism as we know it now has no home but the mind of the people--its a war of ideas with a body count. Gain support and weaken the people or government you mean to crush by any means with your propaganda and soft-target attacks. But then, what does that make those whose political message helps you? I don't know, but I worry.

[Ed. Note- Read genie junkie's other Fourth-Generation Warfare posts:
4GW Part 1: What is Peace?
4GW Part 2: The End of History
4GW Part 3: Losing Iraq, "non-war" war in home-front politics
4GW Part 4: Is There a There?
4GW Part 5: Pros and Neo-cons of Fighting 4GW]

Rise of the Blue Dog?

If McCain did win the general election would that make conservative democrats more powerful?

If McCain wins but can't unite the GOP in congress like Bush, wouldn't he turn to the "blue dog" democrats for votes? Or if the GOP minority hang together, won't those red-state dems be a huge swing vote? Seems like either way the blue dogs win with McCain. Perhaps this is a plus on McCain because he can draw swing votes that Bush can't because of his baggage. If Iraq keeps stabilizing the "Bush's war" issue stays off the table and blue dogs can vote for a a Judge's confirmation or a tax cut, right? Keep in mind, most of the southern democrats are "feel good" people, who loved Reagan's optimism. Thus the low approval Bush is not who they want to be around--but with a clean slate? Maybe the day of the blue dog is dawning.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Government: Here to Help

Problem: Social Security is running out of money.
Solution: Declare people dead, open up their bank accounts like a sardine can, and profit!
Just wait until we have Universal Health Care; problems like this won't be problems anymore, they'll be solutions. After all, with UHC, the government will have even more agencies than they have now with which to declare you dead and your money theirs. Hey, don't complain, your money should be the government's anyway.

A+ B Movies

"Never con a con-man."
Diggstown is one of the best lesser seen movies you will find. No, there won't be surprising production values or unique plot twists, but you do get James Woods and Louis Gossett, Jr., and every other remotely southern/rural character actor tearing it up.

Woods plays a Con-man convict named Gabriel Caine who hears about a little fiefdom called Diggstown. With the help of his nefarious prison buddies, Caine heads there after parole and sets up a bet: 10 Diggstown men beat by Honey Roy Palmer (Gossett) in 24 hours. Its hard to keep track of all the double and triple-crossing.

If you like boxing movies, caper movies, and movies where James Woods just gnaws on the screen give this title a rent and watch it do it's sweet thing.

Brady Scorecard

So, how did my home state, the great state of Georgia, score in the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence's State Scorecard '07?

Well, I'm proud to say that we scored a 9 out of a possible 100 points. Ha! Take that South Carolina, if that is in fact your real name! If you view the score as one does the game of Golf, as I do, that's pretty good. Heck, we're tied for 29th with Vermont, and, get this, Texas, the benchmark state for gun people. Not only that, but we're only 7 points behind Oklahoma and Kentucky, which tied for top honors this year.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ubuntu - Linux for Moms?'s Michael Reed describes his experience migrating his mother to Ubuntu:
The challenge was to not only build a working system, but also to maintain consistency with her old system. This meant migrating her data across, finding comparable equivalents for all of her Windows applications, and adjusting the desktop layout to one that was similar to that of Windows.
It's an interesting article (well, I think it is, anyway), and Reed describes well both the challenges involved and how truly easy Ubuntu is for a novice, non-power user to use. He concludes:

So, is Ubuntu Linux ready for this type of installation? Yes, provided they have someone with some Linux expertise at hand to help them.

I overestimated the difficulties that switching over to Linux would cause. I had planned to occasionally boot mum into the new Ubuntu setup for the first couple of weeks, gradually building up the amount of time she spent in Ubuntu. However, the transition to Linux was so problem-free that we both agreed that I should make the new system the default after the first two days.

My mother likes her new setup, but I don't think she understands how big a change her computer has been through. This is partly the result of my effort to maintain a layout that was comparable to her old one.

This a point worth emphasizing: one can't throw a novice, non-power Windows user into the relatively easy GNOME-based Ubuntu waters and expect them to start blissfully swimming away. You must give them some guidance and do what you can in order to make the transition as easy as possible. . . and fergodsakes, don't make them do anything requiring a command line, it scares people and makes them curl, crying, into a little defensive ball. Transparency is key. I recently acquired a not-too-old Dell PC loaded with a very screwed-up (virii, malware, etc.) WinXP installation. For fun, I decided to load it with Ubuntu and set it up in the guest bedroom so that visitors would have access to their own PC. I set up the desktop with large, easy-to-see icons denoting such things as "Internet Browser," "Word Processor," etc. and when I had people over I gave them specific tasks to accomplish. Nothing complicated, just things a normal user would do on a machine that wasn't theirs, such as "log on (the guest account name and password are printed on labels attached to the machine), and check your Gmail account, play a movie, load a document from a thumbdrive, edit it and print it," things like that. Without fail, all of my guests, all of whom are XP users, were able to do these things simply and easily.

I briefly thought about setting up a Ubuntu-loaded machine as my parents' primary PC, but dismissed the notion when I realized that The Parents of Garm are comfortable with using their mature XP machine for their normal tasks: surfing, email, word processing, occasional photo editing. Besides, their machine is reliable and as secure as a Windows XP machine can get, since I'm the family sysadmin who did the initial set-up and check/maintain it often. I was also *this close* to setting up The Paternal Grandmother of Garm (who is so computer illiterate, and I say that with love, that she "turns the computer off" by pressing the monito's power button) with a self-refurbished little Dell loaded with Ubuntu. Unfortunately, a family member unknowingly foiled my plans when they bought her a brand-new deal. . . thankfully loaded with XP instead of Vista, which I don't trust, security-wise, quite yet.

Oh well, guess I'll have to find another guinea pig in my quest to slowly migrate people over to Linux-based systems.

As an aside, I much prefer to use KDE-based Kubuntu as my primary OS; in my view, it's far more suitable for the power user, what with the multitude of configuration tools offered by KDE; besides, the vast majority of my preferred applications are KDE apps. However, GNOME-based Ubuntu, is, in my opinion, easily the best Linux OS for Linux novices. It's simple, quick, secure, and has good standard applications. Of course, there are many applications for both distributions that can be installed, for free, with just a couple of clicks. Both distributions can be had on LiveCD's, by the way, so if you're interested in trying them, you can just boot from CD and try them out without modifying your existing system. The LiveCD's are located in the distros' respective download areas on their websites and are the default download. Try 'em out. I swear you won't turn into this guy:Of course, if you're a woman who starts using K/Ubuntu and turn into, or are already using K/Ubuntu and look like this girl (mildly NSFW), please email me at GarmHowlingPublisher (at) gmail (dot) com, as I have a proposal for you.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Noble conviction

I got some mild amusement out of this:
Obama Girl Didnt Vote
By Jennifer 8. Lee

So, did the “Obama Girl” actually vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday?

Actually, no.

Last summer, the music video “I Got a Crush on Obama” was a Web hit, splashing a seductive performance by a 26-year-old model named Amber Lee Ettinger across millions of screens and prompting deep thoughts about candidates and sex appeal, the YouTube generation

On Tuesday night, City Room ran into Ms. Ettinger at an election-watching party in Greenwich Village and asked how things went at the polls.

“I didn’t get a chance to vote today because I’m not registered to vote in New York,” she said.

So where is Obama Girl registered to vote?

“New Jersey.”

Um, but didn’t New Jersey also hold a primary?

True. The problem, she explained, was that she was sick in New York City and was unable to get back across the Hudson River to the polls in Jersey City.

Heh. I'd have more sympathy but for the reason for her illness and her activities before and on Primary Day:
“I was in Arizona for the Super Bowl — every time I get in the airplane I get sick,” said Ms. Ettinger, who did manage to make it to the Svedka Fembot election returns party at Chinatown Brasserie.

[. . . ]

Ms. Ettinger said she had dragged herself out Tuesday night under duress only because she was scheduled to perform at the Bowery Poetry Club. The previous day she had hit the streets of New York to interview voters, where a Daily News photographer snapped her picture on Park Avenue.
Someone stop my eyes from rolling. I guess she thought her beau Obama wasn't talking about her when he spoke about sacrifice Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

A Thousand Words

Or: Completing Today's McCain Mini-Post Trilogy.

Y'know, I was planning on writing a decently long piece summing up my feelings on McCain being the probable GOP Presidential nominee, but then I checked my RSS reader and decided to just link to today's Day by Day strip, since it pretty much sums up my feelings.

I'll still have stuff about McCain sometime soon though. As a teaser, I'll just say that genie junkie and I disagree about McCain in a few ways, the main sticking point being that I hate McCain as a politician/elected official, to the point where voting for him would for me be akin to having a drunken gorilla shave my genitals with a rusty cheese grater.

Response to "McCain's To-Do List"

Hey genie, I'm sure you've seen this, but McCain's already taken care of #10 on his To-Do List. . . but by the looks of things, he ain't doin' so hot on taking care of #11. Where exactly is his right hand?

McCain's To-Do List:

1. Never oppose tax cuts again.
2. Stop trying to punish oil companies for having a rare but vital product.
3. Deregulate industries (not the other way around).
4. Keep terrorists as enemy combatants and not ACLU super-stars.
5. Kill OBL.
6. Stop Socialized Medicine.
7. Seal the Borders (then, and only then, worry about a deal on RAs).
8. Not be proud of McCain/Feingold.
9. Nuke the fairness doctrine from space.
10. Give Bush a hug.
11. Protect Marriage.
12. Pick a great, strong conservative running mate that isn't Huckabee (Is Colin Powell still alive?).
13. Get a web video titled "I've got a crush on McCain."
14. Send the Iranian Pres a "Get Better Soon" card just to mess with him.
15. Delete all LOLcats JPEGs from laptop.
16. Be seen firing an automatic weapon.
17. Swear talk of being Kerry's VP was a ploy to get close so as to force him to admit he's a commie.
18. Have Ron Paul sent to Gitmo.
19. Kiss the king of El-Rushbo.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Red-Headed Truther?

Willie Nelson: Twin Towers Were Imploded on 9/11
Willie Nelson appeared Monday, February 4, 2008, on the nationally-syndicated Alex Jones Show in a ground breaking interview where the country music legend said the twin towers were imploded on 9/11. "I saw those towers fall and I've seen an implosion in Las Vegas - there's too much similarities between the two, and I saw a building fall that didn't get hit by nothing," added Nelson, referring to WTC Building 7, which collapsed in the late afternoon of September 11.
Yeah, because making good music and smoking a TON of teh kine bud is equivalent to being a trained, experienced structural and/or demolitions engineer, like these guys. Seriously, there's no way the Bush Administration is the right combination of evil, intelligent, and conniving to pull off imploding the twin towers and other buildings, kill thousands of Americans, and cover it all up. That isn't to say that the Bush Administration didn't leverage events toward their own ends, but actually causing those events? Please.

Warm Up or Beat Down?

Did anybody notice that turnout for Dems seemed way higher than the GOP? Generally, there's talk in the Media of an amped-up Democrat base. Putting aside the GOP infighting and the glee in which the MSM is reporting on it, are the Dems just pumped?

Well, yes. Hardcore Hill' and 'Bama fans are ready to turn the US into a socialist paradise post haste. But if Hill' pulls it out, or even manages a slick move at the convention will that unite the party? Surely, a Clinton/Obama ticket sounds pretty unstoppable (although it may have either a depressing--likely--or simulating--unlikely--effect on the opposition).

Hill's nomination could turn the Barack Legions away from the polls--I mean isn't the point of the hard right's criticism of McCain that he is like Clinton, doesn't that make Hill' vs. Johnny a tougher call among Dems? Surely, this is against popular thinking, but maybe...

A much less likely surprise result would be the Clinton folks turning away from an Obama and towards McCain or just "staying home." However, Hill' isn't stopping until the end. She could, maybe, win enough to make herself just too strong going into the convention, but unless Obama starts crushing her in all states it will be a fight to the finish for her. So, if Obama beat her in the end, and if McCain managed to clinch it soon, and if the Dem fight got bloody enough--maybe, just maybe, the shine would be off the ring and McCain could be facing a battered big "O."

Ultimately, these are long shots, but with some predicting the Dems will be chucking mud until April us among the evil, evil right can fantasize before the commies (not counting McCain for you Levin fans) turn acid bath of hatred on whichever "old white guy" the GOP runs. God, I hate commies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The unboxing of a new-in-box 20-year-old Apple //c. Awesome. Don't know if I'd have unboxed it myself though; I'd rather leave it as is and try to find an already opened example to use, or whatever the hell you do with a 20-year-old Mac other than play Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, and some old space game whose name I can't recall.

Oh, and relearn BASIC:
20 GOTO 10

A reporter goes to gun school

This is a good great read and certainly worth reprinting in full:

Concealed-carry course graduates are armed but not dangerous

On a cold and early Saturday morning, the class at Scarlet Oaks in Sharonville begins the usual way. Students take their seats and the instructor introduces himself.

Then he makes an announcement: "No guns today."

"Did anyone bring their gun in?" he asks. Nobody raises a hand. Good. The shooting starts Sunday morning.

A few plan to bring .22 revolvers. A man with a neatly trimmed gray beard says he and his daughter will use .38s. Others mention Colts, Smith & Wessons, a .32 Beretta. A big man across the room says he's bringing a 1911 Colt .45, and he's not talking about malt liquor.

"That's a man's gun," says the instructor, retired FBI agent Dennis R. Lengle.

I don't have a man's gun. I don't even have a woman's gun or a "mouse gun," which is what serious shooters call .22s. I don't have any gun at all. But the Great Oaks Police Academy Concealed Carry Course has a great deal. For $25, I can rent a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver and get 200 rounds - cheaper than cartridges alone.

There's a 20-something couple in the back, but most of my classmates are 40s and 50s, I'd guess. A man in bib overalls wants to legally carry the gun he uses on his farm. A husband and wife own a business. One man tells me his kids are grown and he's interested in shooting. Another guy says during a break that he worries about being mugged when he goes for walks. He says he has no doubt he'd use a gun if he has to.

But a few hours later, after we've been through the legal minefield and gritty details of what "controlled expansion" hollow-points do to a body, someone half jokes, "I'm not so sure I want to do this anymore."

I understand.

The course is excellent. We start by naming the parts of a cartridge, a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol, then move on to 25 true-false questions on dozens of topics. "Being armed is a tremendous responsibility," it says. True.

And while police cadets open fire at the indoor range across the hall, making muffled bangs like someone pounding a file cabinet with a ball bat, Lengle targets safety, safety and more safety.

He tells true stories of stupid gun tricks by trained lawmen who shot the carpet in their office, or put a 9mm round into their neighbor's car - through their own house and the garage next door. Lengle has our attention. During the state-mandated 12 hours of instruction, all 17 students are riveted.

In cover and tactics, Lengle warns that a doorway is a "vertical coffin," a "fatal funnel" for anyone silhouetted in its frame. If an intruder ignores warnings and keeps coming, "immediate incapacitation is your only goal."

And that requires accuracy.

So Sunday morning we go to the range. I start out jumpy, but get the hang of it and pass all the tests, hitting paper outlines of bad guys from five, 10, 15 and 20 feet.

Safety is drilled in as loud and clear as that booming 1911 Colt, which barks with deep authority, even through ear protection.

Everyone passes. Nobody gets hurt. From what I can tell, legal concealed carry is nothing like the anti-gun crowd made it sound when Kentucky and Ohio passed laws in 1999 and 2004. There are no cowboys. No wild shootouts. No blood in the gutters, as gun-banners predicted. Just law-abiding adults who want to exercise their Second Amendment right to self-defense.

As we're leaving, classmate Jim Hansel, who lives "out in the country," tells me about the night he woke up to a break-in. He called 911, told his son to take cover and waited on his couch with a shotgun. He warned he would shoot, but the guy kept coming until the cops arrived, 40 minutes later. "He had seven outstanding warrants for automatic weapons use," Hansel says, shaking his head.

Now Hansel has a certificate to get a concealed carry permit from his county sheriff. "It gives me knowledge and confidence," he said. "Most people are afraid of guns because of what they don't know."

If every gun owner took a class like this, we'd all be safer. But meth-heads, crack junkies and street muggers don't take classes. They don't get permits or certificates like the one Lengle gave me Sunday. They just grab a "nine" and use it against defenseless victims.

Each month another concealed-carry class graduates from Scarlet Oaks. And the bad guys are a little less sure their next victim is defenseless.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

A firearm is a powerful thing, but a firearm and the knowledge of why, when, where, and how to use it is even more powerful. I firmly believe that owning and carrying a firearm is only one part of the self-defense equation; knowledge and a proper mental attitude are far more important parts of that equation.

(h/t - Xavier, Photo by Oleg Volk)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the GOP

Somebody called me the other day. "Who are you voting for?!" They said. "Umm, I guess McCain now that Giuliani is out..." I said. "Whew. Okay, good." Was the reply.

Wow. What an emergency. But then on the talk show side everybody is piling on McCain. Note, they aren't exactly pumping up Romney, just tearing out McCain's throat.

Whose fault is it? Mostly McCain's fault because he hasn't sworn a blood oath to conservative ideals. He's been on the wrong side some of the biggest conservative vs. progressive fights--and he's called it "standing on principle." Really, he comes off as somebody that thinks if they had the power everything would be fixed. This guy's got a principle for where to cross the street.

Still, Romney comes off as a phony. I don't know how somebody can claim to be the true conservative that has flip-flopped on abortion and other staple issues. Regardless, he couldn't beat John Edwards in a national election.

Hey, I don't hate either of them and I don't love either. But some people aren't indifferent.

Romney isn't some Nazi. And, hey, he's not terrible on the campaign trail. But every time he speaks I'm reminded of John Kerry if he had a personality. He's had some foot in mouth moments, but he's generally conservative--and that's a good thing. Bottom-line, if you wanted a conservative that could win that bad maybe you should have slipped some no-doze into Thompson's water.

McCain isn't a Marxist. McCain is good on security, abortion, and government spending. But let's be clear: he's been disloyal and mean in the past. If you could have dealt with a moderate but just not this one, maybe you shouldn't have scared the mods with that whole Huckabee fling.

Ultimately, Bush was not that far from McCain in a lot of policies. Immigration, the War (whatever that denotes), and (some) tax cuts. Bush isn't deconstructing big government nor spearheading prayer in school. But he's got most of the conservatives' faith. McCain probably never will, but who endorsed him? Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, the same guys that gave speeches with him for Bush at the convention. Yeah, that was a hint he was running.

Frankly, many people are scared. Scared the progressive are taking over (they are), scared the GOP will cut off it's nose to spite it's face; scared that non-social conservatives will give the party over to RINOs that care not for stopping the cancer of socialism.

Be scared, but not of losing the election or losing the identity of the party. Be scared of losing the people, because Obama, even if he loses, will be back in four years and maybe more. Here's a guy who thinks national health is a moral right. I'll take little comfort if we stay conservative or even keep the White House if the American people become commies in the meantime.

At least it's not U.S.

I can't say I'm particularly surprised:
Never, in the field of human ignorance, have so many known so little about famous Britons.

A quarter of the population think that Winston Churchill never actually existed, a survey suggests.

[. . . ]

According to the survey of 3,000 respondents, many believe the inspirational Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, Cleopatra and the Duke of Wellington are also characters dreamed up for films and books.

Some think Charles Dickens was himself a character in fiction rather than the creator of David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit.

In a damning indictment of the nation's historical knowledge, many of those surveyed said they believe Sherlock Holmes was a real person, along with the pilot Biggles and even the Three Musketeers.

That's pretty sad, but then again, 25% of the people with whom I interact are blathering idiots, and I only give that low a percentage because I'm feeling unusually magnanimous today. It is good to know, in a twisted sort of way, that it's not just U.S. education that, well, sucks. I'm sure there are good educators in Great Britain who genuinely care about what their students learn and the quality of their own teaching skills, just as there are here in the States, but I'm equally sure that such educators are being beaten down by a system that rewards mediocrity and the lowest common denominator at the expense of actual education, also just as it is here in the States.*

That being said, thinking Field Marshall Montgomery and Gandhi are fictional while believing Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood are real is pretty bad.

*Ms. S, I apologize for that run-on sentence; I swear I paid attention to you in fifth grade.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Choice? You don't have a choice, Citizen.

Hillary's version of Universal Healthcare? Garnishing your wages, and everyone else's, to pay for it. . . and you won't have a choice in the matter.
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC's "This Week," she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."

Clinton said such measures would apply only to workers who can afford health coverage but refuse to buy it, which puts undue pressure on hospitals and emergency rooms.
Ah, Personal Choice, Personal Responsibility, such wonderfully quaint, anachronistic ideals they are. It's good that we have Hillary Clinton to lead us into the glorious new future in which we don't have to worry about what we, as the dirty working class and the lazy economic elite, will do with our earnings. Mother Government has plans and strategies laid out for us, so we shan't worry anymore. Why, I once went over a year without health insurance and I could technically have afforded it! How silly and selfish of me! I wish Her Glorious Magnificence had been President then, since I wouldn't have had the opportunity to make such a self-serving choice; that decision would have been made for me by She Who Knows Better, and boy, wouldn't that have been a load off my shoulders.

I can only hope that Clinton has other plans for how I live my life, as I just can't make those decisions and choices on my own, and I certainly don't want to have to take any responsibility (ugh, just typing the word makes my skin crawl) for my actions. I have all this guilt for the plight of others, but I just can't do anything about it on my own. I hope she's elected; I won't have to worry about what I should do for others, since she'll have done all that horrid decision-making for me. Oh Glorious Day!

Shucks, I should vote for her just because she'd be the first female President of the United States, and electing someone based solely on their sex instead of their experience, their record, their ideals, or the content of their character isn't sexist or discriminatory AT ALL.

(h/t - Kim)