Sunday, January 20, 2002

A Cheesehead is Me

Go Pack!

A Cunning Warrior

An old friend of mine wrote something quite remarkable. Perhaps he should get his own weblog...

I've been asked by several people just what exactly my political affiliation is. Liberal? Moderate? Conservative? Democrat? Republican? Libertarian?

To paraphrase my Dog Tags, I'm "American: Non-Denominational"
Liliputians of the Cosmos

Steven den Beste writes this over at his weblog:
And then the earth bestirs itself and shows us who is really boss. Then we discover that we're passengers on a rock, an unimportant part of a thin layer of slime on the surface of a pebble floating in space, circling a third-rate star. We are nothing. If we are wiped out, the universe won't even notice that we are gone.
Oh, I don't know about that. Yes, scientists like to point out that because of their work, man has gone from being the center of the Universe to being a mere component of it, but I think they go too far in their assessment of our unimportance.

At the very least, we are the Universe made aware of itself. That's not something to take lightly and our extinction would be a very sad loss indeed.
Woodrow Wilson, Scourge of Europe

Perry de Havilland from Team Samizdata critiques Steven den Beste's exemplary analysis of why American's dismiss European Advice. So, let me critique the critique, if I may.
As for Britain and France dictating its own terms, what about Woodrow Wilson's role in dismembering the Austro-Hungarian Empire and trashing all vestiges of the potentially stabilising old order?
"Stabilising old order"? You'll have to explain to me how a "stable" Empire could engulf the whole of the European continent in a horrific conflagration because a single archduke was assassinated. If that represented the old stable order, then I don't blame Wilson for trying something else. I refer you to his Fourteen Points, almost all of which reflected American principles that were seemingly incompatible with European thinking, and as a result were doomed from the start due to the efforts of the various Prime Ministers and their advisors during the peace talks. Wilson, as head of state, outranked the Prime Ministers and as a result could dictate the terms of peace in public, but the Europeans worked behind his back in private to make their own deals and sabotage his "naive" efforts in direct violation of Point I:
Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.
You need not look any further than all the private deals and backstabbing that went on between Britain and France over the Middle East. If they were carrying on behind Wilson's back in that matter, then it is logical to conclude that they did the same when it came to Europe.

Wilson was also a strong proponent of self-determination. He thought that the people themselves should decide what they wanted as outlined in Points V and X:
V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

X.The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.
These two points, along with questions dealing with the Poles and the Balkans, stemmed from Wilson's abhorrence of Empire and Colonialism. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, the former Russian Empire and Germany all held together various peoples of different ethnic origins. Wilson believed that if these various ethnic peoples were freed from what he viewed as "foreign occupiers" and given the chance to govern themselves as they saw fit, Europe would be the better for it. Was it not a Serbian nationalist, advocating a separate Serbian state, that had assassinated the archduke and started the whole mess in the first place? Perhaps Wilson believed that by removing the European sickness of colonialism and empire that had caused the war in the first place (from his point of view), another catastrophe could be averted.

Now, to continue with the rest of your statement:
America shares some of the blame for the instability in Europe in the 1920's and 1930's.
America's share of the blame is meager compared to that of the European Powers. From my understanding, the War itself was unpopular with many people, most notably the Socialists. Russia fell to the Communists, and Germany nearly so. The war destroyed monarchies and governments everywhere. I may be mistaken, but I think that there was no government that started the war that survived the war. Also, I'm sure you are more aware than I of the huge social, political, and philosophical upheavals caused by the war that persisted well after its end. America left Europe to its own devices after the disastrous Versailles Treaty (which I believe the Senate never ratified). If there is any blame for the instability left in the war's aftermath, then the vast majority of it is shouldered by the Europeans.
And the 'second time' was better for who? I don't think too many Poles, Czechs and Hungarians would agree with Steven as they ended up with nearly half a century of communist rule.
1. There wouldn't be any Poles, Chechs and Hungarians were it not for Wilson's supposed, "trashing all vestiges of the potentially stabilising old order."

2. You seem distraught that these peoples lived under 50 years of Communist rule; yet having them live under the rule of a foreign Hereditary Monarchal Empire is just fine with you because it would bring stabilization. Yet the Communists, for all the wrongs they committed, did stabilize Eastern Europe. All those Eastern Europeans were for all intents and purposes under the domination and influence of a non-democratic foreign power. So what, I ask, is the difference between Communist foreign domination and Monarchal foreign domination that makes the latter more pleasing to you and the former an abomination?

3. The Second Time was definitely better for Western Europeans, and by extension Eastern Europeans, because there was never another catastrophic war on the European continent. I think that many British, French, Germans, Italians, Belgians, Netherlanders, and Danes would agree that the Second Time around was much better. Then again, I tend to see the glass half-full in this matter.
Does Steven think Yalta was America's finest hour?
Yalta was making the best out of a bad situation. Unless you share Patton's opinion that we should've just kept on going to the gates of Moscow, Yalta was the best compromise we could reach given the circumstances of the time. Europe lay in ruins, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and we were in no position to halt a Soviet advance should Stalin have ordered it. I would also hazard a guess that the people of that generation were sick of war and would have risen up should the war had been continued to be prosecuted against the Soviets.

Given that the Western Powers were in no shape to fight the Russians, they had to allay Stalin's paranoia through concessions in an effort to contain him. Also, the Soviet Union had suffered extensive losses at the hands of the Germans, so one could make the argument that as one of the victorious Allied Powers, it was entitled to its share of the spoils. It was not a perfect solution, but it was one that prevented the potential domination of Europe by the Communists by buying time for the West. The fact that a Third World War was not fought on the European continent is a testament to the success of Yalta.
Switching gears back to WWI:
All of which may never have happened if the US had stayed out of the Great War and a negotiated settlement had been reached in 1917 or early 1918. [In response to den Beste's point about the drastic reparations loaded onto Germany by France and Britain]
This is the first I've ever heard of this. From every book and paper I've ever read on WWI, I gathered that the war would continue unabated into 1919 and beyond. In fact, the Allies were preparing for another campaign in the Spring of 1919 when the Germans suddenly surrendered. From my reading of history, it seemed that the Allies were always exasperated by American neutrality and when America did enter the war, were always complaining bitterly that we weren't coming over fast enough. If America hadn't entered the War, for what reason would Germany have to surrender? Russia was out, leaving the whole of the German army to fight on the Western Front. It could have prosecuted the war well past 1918 and could conceivably have captured more French real estate before negotiating an armistice on its own terms. If that would've happened, what in Europe would've changed? All the old Empires save the Russian and most likely the Ottoman would have remained intact with no significant change of their borders. All of the old rivalries and animosities would've remained and it would've only been a matter of time before they were at it again. The French and British reparations were a complete dismissal of Wilson's 3rd and 4th points:
III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.
The French and British completely ignored Point III and cynically applied a malevolent interpretation of Point IV on the Germans. It's no wonder the American people considered our involvement in WWI to have been a colossal mistake and remained adamant in their opposition to entering WWII. The Europeans took Wilson's 14 Points and ripped them to shreds in their exuberance for acquiring more colonies and making sure Germany would forever be in poverty.

You say that it was Wilson and American involvement in WWI that led to a great deal of Europe's troubles in the Inter-War years. I respectfully disagree. Had the Europeans applied Wilson's 14 Points (and the principles implied by them) in good faith, I believe that the chances of a Second World War occurring would've been quite low. I also believe that the colonial peoples around the world who were under the domination of the Europeans would've been better off had the principle of self-determination been faithfully applied, but that's another discussion.
More Dumb Headlines

Compare and Contrast. Here's the headline from the New York Times:
Volcano's Lava Engulfs a Congo Town, Killing Up to 40
Now, the headline from Reuters:
Congo Volcano Eruption Will Hurt Wildlife - Experts
Snow Day

Got some snow around here today. It started early in the morning around 9:00 AM and continued on through most of the day and afternoon. It turned to freezing rain later on, which amazingly enough melted alot of the snow on the trees and the ground around here before it all turned to ice. If the weatherman's right, all this stuff will be gone by Monday when it hits 50 degrees.

I have to give some credit to the drivers around here. Normally they're complete jackasses when it come to snow and rain, but the group I fell in with today while driving back from the hospital on base displayed patience, skillfull driving, and an awareness of safety that is usually missing from the MD-NoVa-DC region. Maybe they were from out of state.
Bomb Goes Off Outside Kabul Embassy

A bomb went off outside the walls of the U.S. embassy in Kabul last Monday. I haven't seen anything elsewhere in the media about this except in the Stripes.
A homemade firebomb exploded about 40 yards outside the walls of the U.S. Embassy on Monday, and military officials suspect it was a test to see how troops stationed there and elsewhere would react.
Nobody was injured, so I guess that accounts for the total non-reporting of the event.
Sullivan said that in addition to studying how the Marines and others reacted to the explosion, those responsible for placing the bomb may have been attempting to discourage U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from visiting the embassy.

He visited there Thursday.
You've gotta love Stripes reporters. Their knack for deadpan understatement is unmatched.
Smart People Say the Dumbest Things

Buried at the bottom of this Washington Post piece:
"There is no question that terrorism is the flavor of the month and that explaining something as an anti-terrorist action is the quickest way to get the United States on board," said Ralph Tagern, a researcher for the Institute on Middle Eastern Policy.
Replace the word "terrorism" with say, oh "fascism" and you see how stupid this guy sounds. After letting out enough rope, slinging it over the gallows and fashioning a rather nice slipknot, Mr. Tagern slipped his head into the noose, cinched it up, and said,
"But in truth, many of these struggles are not about terrorism. They are about long-standing fights for independence and other matters."
"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." You know Mr. Tagern, if you'd had perhaps used a trap door, your feet wouldn't be kicking around so much.
Odd Quotes

From a Town Hall meeting by Senator Bill Nelson in the Polk County Democrat:
"I have had the great privilege of being an elected public servant for most of my adult life," Nelson said.

Does anybody else find this statement disturbing? It's like a 50 year old taking pride in having never moved out of his parent's house.
Give Us Your Money, but Leave Us Alone

It only took a week for the Phillipine government to start up their crap again.
A political firestorm has erupted in the Philippines over the impending arrival of about 650 U.S. soldiers who are to be dispatched to help battle an Islamic insurgency. A few senators here are demanding the impeachment of the president just a year after she took office, and her vice president has said he feels uneasy about the policy.
Let me get this straight. Your military and politicians are absolutely impotent in the face of what is essentially a small time bandit outfit, but that's okay. A few hundred advisors come over to show you how to effectively deal with these bums, and you call for the impeachment of your president? Tell me again why you're still the ass end of the Far East? The Phillipine people deserve a hell of a lot better than you.
Influencing the debate is the experience a century ago of U.S. soldiers conducting bloody counterinsurgency campaigns to consolidate control over the Philippines, a former Spanish colony.
Not influencing the debate is the experience half a century ago of U.S. soldiers conducting bloody campaigns to liberate the Phillipines, an occupied country of Japan.
"Our military aren't just puppets of U.S. officials," said Rigoberto Tiglao, the presidential spokesman. "It is very clear that all U.S. personnel are under the strict command and supervision of Philippine officers."
I'll give everyone a moment to quit laughing.

Okay. Man, can you imagine what it would be like if that were true? Take the stunning succes in Afghanistan and imagine the exact opposite.
One recent public opinion poll, by Social Weather Station, a leading private group, found that 81 percent of respondents supported the idea of U.S. aid to the Philippines' fight against the Abu Sayyaf hostage takers.
This proves once again that Filipinos are great people at the mercy of a mediocre and corrupt government that keeps fighting off insurgency after insurgency.
Don't Spit into the Wind

The 101st is getting lessons in Afghan etiquette prior to shoving off. Among some of the rules:
Avoid wild dogs. Stay away from churches and mosques. Keep pictures of wives or girlfriends hidden. And absolutely no pornography.
Stock stuff, especially for people who've done some time in Saudi. Although the wild dogs thing is new.
"We want to respect the sensitivities of our host nation," said Maj. Paul Fitzpatrick. "It's important that we have an understanding of their ways of life. It makes for a better relationship with our friends and allies."
Exhibit A: The Saudis. Of course, we should give the Afghans a chance. They might actually be reasonable people, unlike our Saudi Masters whose asses we bend over backwards to kiss as their people blow us up.

In any event, once the situation is stabilized over there, I'm sure we'll start finding ways around the rules just like we do in Saudi. You can't take free Americans and expect them to bow down to bullshit in the name of "sensitivity" forever.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

This One's For You, Erik

At least you didn't land up like this guy.
Shut Down all the Garbage Mashers on the Detention Level!

Even if you're not a Star Wars fan, you have to check this out: On the Implausibility of the Death Star's Trash Compactor. Its gotta be one of the funniest things I've read in quite some time.
Dumb Headlines

This story get the Award for Most Banal Headline:
U.S. General Says Bin Laden Could Be 'Alive or Dead'

Well, until they discover a third state of being, I guess we're just stuck with those two choices.
And You Thought Carnivore Was Bad

The Chinese have enacted new laws to keep their people on a leash.
China has issued its most intrusive Internet controls to date, ordering service providers to screen private e-mail for political content and holding them responsible for subversive postings on their websites...Under the new rules, general portal sites must install security programs to screen and copy all e-mail messages sent or received by users. Those containing "sensitive materials" must be turned over to authorities.

Providers are also responsible for erasing all prohibited content posted on their websites, including online chatrooms and bulletin boards.

The new rules include a long list of banned content prohibiting writings that reveal state secrets, hurt China's reputation or advocate the overthrow of communism, ethnic separatism or "evil cults."
It's a good bet that the Daily Briefing will not be available for reading any time soon in China.

Hey Deng, did you know your name is synonymous with shit?
Islamic Charities at Work for You!

Six Algerians suspected of having ties to international terrorism have been handed over to the U.S.
The six, who were detained by local police in October on suspicion of terrorism and having links to the al-Qaida network, may have ties with an Algerian terrorist organization called the Armed Islamic Group, or the Egyptian terrorist organization al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

Most of the men worked for Islamic humanitarian agencies in Bosnia, Bosnian officials said. [emphasis mine]
How Surprising

The Anthrax Vaccine may cause birth defects now.
Officials think the study may have used faulty data and have ordered a review, said a bureau official, Lt. j.g. Mike Kafka.
Of course, because the Vaccine is totally safe, there will not be any problems with this vaccine, and that's an order. Yeah, so long as you bastards compensate me after I retire for any ill effects the vaccine causes. You guys do admit mistakes, right? Here, let me ask these Viet Nam vets exposed to Agent Orange, a totally safe defoliant, about all the great care and medical coverage and compensation they've recieved.
After the Persian Gulf War, some troops with symptoms of the still-unexplained Gulf War syndrome pointed a finger at the vaccinations, saying they might have caused their problems.

Scientists have repeatedly said the vaccine is not linked to Gulf War syndrome, and it has had FDA approval for use since 1970.
1. There were a hell of alot of shots administered to troops deploying for the war. A lot of guys I know who were around then say that when they went through the mobility line, they were just given a shitload of shots that were never recorded on their shot records, so to be fair to DoD, it may not be the anthrax shot that did it.

2. The FDA approval is for people who handle animals and may contract the naturally ocurring form of anthrax through the skin. The approval is not for weaponized, inhalable anthrax.
Bioport, of Lansing, Mich., said earlier this week that a December letter from the Food and Drug Administration clears it to begin shipping the vaccine, provided a separate laboratory in Spokane, Wash., that puts the vaccine into vials also gets approval.
Can't win them all I guess. We were this close.
Andrews Deployment

Well, the Public Affairs office released it, so I guess I can say that some reservists across the base in the 459th have been deployed down to Cuba to serve as a kind of en route element for 141's going down there. I know at least a couple of guys who got sent there.

I'd really hate to be them right now. Imagine having to go on the plane and do a thru-flight after the dirtbags have been sitting in there for hours. Plus, it's hot and humid down there in Cuba, so the stench is just hanging inside the cargo compartment. God, reminds of the time I caught a 141 in Yokota carrying Marines up from Kadena one summer. Some guy puked, starting a chain reaction. Vomit from 150 Marines was all over the place. We had to get a De-icer truck full of water to hose the cargo compartment out before anyone would go in there.

Sucks to be you, guys.
A-10 Collision

One pilot is dead after two A-10's from D-M collided south of Tucson.
Movie Released, Somalis Fear for Lives!

In what is probably the most poorly executed example of following a trend, Somalis are calling for a boycott of Black Hawk Down.
“We don’t know what Americans will think of us Somalis after they watch this movie,” Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minneapolis, said Thursday. Somali groups in Columbus, Ohio, and Boston also planned to ask for a boycott of the movie, he said.
For Pete's sake man, grow a pair! Yes, this is the chance all Americans have been waiting for: an excuse to beat the crap out of Somalis everywhere. I can imagine the scene now: A mob, thirsty for the blood of a Somali, exits the theater in murderous rage. Pitch forks and torches are in evidence everywhere as ignorant Americans, easily led to bloodthristy savageness by moving pictures, hunt down their quarry.
“The community is shocked and really afraid of the consequences of this movie,” Jamal said. “It’s a big psychological setback of our efforts.”
You know what Jamal, I've got a secret to tell you. Come closer so I may whisper it in your ear...that's right....closer....closer.....WE'VE ALREADY SEEN PICTURES OF SOMALIS DRAGGING OUR MEN THROUGH THE STREETS!. Did we go out and start killing hapless Somalis as they slept in their beds then? No. A frickin' movie isn't going to do incite anyone else to do it now, either.

I've always wondered, where do people get the idea that a movie's going to cause people to go out and just kill people? I mean, that either speaks of a low opinion the boycotter has for the American public, or it's just a sign of common ignorance. Probably both.
A local newspaper invited about a dozen people from the Advocacy Center to see the movie in advance Wednesday night. Jamal said they all left in shock. The film was confusing and didn’t have a story or message, he said.
In an amazing bit of coincidence, neither did the actual event. Perhaps old Ridley wanted people to draw their own conclusions instead of being told what to think.
“The Somali people are depicted as very savage beasts without any human element,” Jamal said. “It’s just people shooting each other.”
You know Jamal, I think you just summed up what it was all about and didn't even realize it.

I have to credit the AP reporter here. Ruble actually found the statements of one of the Army Rangers who took part in the mission, Nick Struzik. Struzik and his friends may not have been able to save the Somalis from themselves, but he sure as hell saved this report from total mediocrity.
He told the Star Tribune that he felt some resentment toward Somalis who killed fellow soldiers, but he had no ill feelings toward other Somali migrants.

“Really, they came to the States the same way everybody else did,” he said. “They want a better life, and that’s why they’re here. They’re not going to find it back home until the country is settled.”

He said it was unfortunate the U.S. mission portrayed in the movie changed nothing in a country that’s still ravaged by civil strife.

“For us, it was a job,” he said. “The political aspects of it — that was everybody else. ... That’s way above our heads.”
Jamal, meet Struzik. Not only is he an American Hero, he's also representative of most American's opinions of you and your countrymen. If one of the guys whom your countrymen were trying to kill isn't out for blood and vengeance, then it's a safe bet that a movie isn't going to turn the rest of us into bloodthirsty savages, either.

Friday, January 18, 2002

How Come I've Never Heard of These Guys?

I guess there's some article from some site I've never heard of written by some dude I've never heard of, complaining about weblogs and the people who write them. Okay dude, whatever. Much like the Somalis before him, his verbal mortar rounds fell all around me, never scoring a direct hit (to borrow some of his imagery).

Even though I wasn't mentioned (I only rate fifth tier anti-social types), I must call down the thunder of Nelson's "Ha-Ha" upon the poor, unfortunate soul.
For all the bitching they log about the mainstream media, none of the bloggers are actually cruising the streets of Peshawar or Aden or Mogadishu.
Been there, done that, no need to talk about it.
You can cut on Salon all you like, Mr. Blogger, but they have a man in Afghanistan. Do you?
Well, yes I do. Several thousand in fact as well as a few close friends. But you don't expect me to sit here and report non-public information just for the hell of it, do you? Do you???.

I know you were just being a smart-ass, and I can appreciate that, because I'm one as well. The difference between you and me though, is that the probability of me being sent over to help fight this thing within the next year and a half is in the 90 percentile range, so I have a more personal stake in what's going on. All the military issues being tossed around like political footballs aren't arcane academic arguments or debates for me. It's my life.

One last thing: I liked the overall ironic tone of your piece. You were slamming the "warbloggers" for what they do by doing the same thing yourself in your critique. Very clever.
Portrait of the Sergeant as a Young Airman

Part II of III (Part I)

When we last left myself, it was a late summer afternoon at Dover AFB, DE, and I had just gotten out to my aircraft…

The dayshift crew chief, Sgt. Kraut, threw the radio at me like he was getting rid of some radioactive material. I soon found out why not 15 seconds later.

6013, MACC…

Both of us looked at the radio like it was belching out some sort of indecipherable tongue.

6013, MACC…

We both looked at each other. I cocked my eyebrow. “You gonna get that?” Kraut asked. The look in his eyes seemed to scream, “Please, for the love of all that is Holy!” I nodded and keyed the mic, “MACC, One-Three. Go ahead.”

Roger, One-Three. What’s the status of Job Number 1427?” I looked questioningly up at Kraut. “That’s the T/R leak. It’s good to go. It’s allowed to leak statically.” (Translation: It’s a Thrust Reverser (the things that make the engines suddenly get louder when you’ve just landed and slow the plane down) leak. It’s within limits. It’s allowed to leak with no pressure applied to the hydraulic actuators that drive the T/R’s.) I nodded.

“Rog, MACC. Close that out. Within Limits.” I reported.

Copy, One-Three. What about Job Numbers 1428 to 1453?” My head lurched back a bit like Kennedy’s on the Zapruder film and I looked up at Kraut with a look that said, “What the hell?” (We communicate a lot with looks out there)

“It’s a long story.”

“Standby MACC, I’ll get back with ya.”

30 minutes later, we finished with turnover. The aircraft forms were a mess, there were specialists and ARTs (civilian Air Reserve Technicians) running all over the place, and I was the man with the radio. It’s not good to be The Man with the Radio. Everybody and their brother calls you every 30 seconds asking the same damned questions over and over again, which prevents you from getting anything done. Luckily, two more swing-shifters showed up. Thankfully, they outranked me. Staff Sergeants McCool and Hutch sat down. Well, “sat” is too generic a term. McCool kinda slid into the seat opposite me and Hutch collapsed into the seat across the aisle from me like a pile of laundry. He looked like he was wearing the same uniform from the previous night. In fact, I’m certain that it was, since it looked like he had slept in it. I don’t think he had actually changed clothes after work. His face was pale, he had dark circles under his eyes, and his mouth was just short of fully closed. Yep, he had all the symptoms. Diagnosis: Brown Water Flu.

McCool calmly looked at the forms, going slowly from page to page, nodding his head from time to time. I started slowly, almost imperceptibly, sliding the radio across the table towards him. I had almost got it to the point where it was nearer him than me when he stopped in mid page-turn and looked up with his eyes at the radio and then to me. He did this a couple of times before resuming his page turning. “You’ve got the radio tonight.”


McCool, finished with the forms, looked up at Hutch and me. “Alright, this is what we’re going to do.” He stated what the priority write-ups were and how we were going to handle everything that night. He gave Hutch and me our respective lists of write-ups to work and told us to get at it. He’d handle coordinating everything.

Hutch and me got up. Well, I got up at least. Hutch just kinda slowly leaned forward and let gravity do the rest until he hit the wall opposite him and assumed a stance that, if you cocked your head and squinted your eyes, could be mistaken for a standing human being. I headed down the passageway towards the Flight Deck ladder.

“Yo, Stryker!” McCool yelled after me. I turned around. “Don’t forget the radio.”

“But if you know everything that’s going on, wouldn’t it make sense for you to keep it?” I asked. It seemed like a sensible enough question. “Hell no, I ain’t talking on that damned thing.” Guess not. “If they call, ask me and I’ll tell you.” I slowly exhaled, “Alright.”

We’ll skip forward about three hours since all I basically did was run up and down B-2 stands to ask McCool what the hell was going on so I could let MACC (Maintenance Airlift Coordination Center) and Wizard-2 (Production Supervisor, or Pro Super) know over the radio. I think all I accomplished was stripping out numerous screws on a panel. Screws that would later be RTV’d back in (inside joke. Too long to explain).

It was about 1800 and our lunches still hadn’t arrived yet. During this particular time, the Air Force was coming out of the RIF (Reduction in Force), and was still deploying people to various areas of the world in support of a myriad of operations. Manning was a little low at work because of that and other things, so instead of getting a chow break, we ordered “Box Nasties” at the beginning of the shift that the truck driver would then go and pick up around 1730. We’d eat the meager meals out at the plane and then get back to work. Now Box Nasties in those days weren’t all that great. They had one each ham and cheese sandwich, one each fruit, and one each drink. If you were lucky, you got one with a Coke that had for-een words on it that was surplus from the Gulf War. All I ever got was a drink carton full of Apple Juice that tasted like pears whose only exotic feature was that the phrase “Artificial Colour” had a “U” in it. Still, it filled the spot and was sorely needed on rough nights.

Tonight was such a night, but it was starting to get on with no sign of the Box Lunches’ imminent arrival. I made one last scan of the flightline for our errant truck and finding no sign of it, resigned myself to going back on the airplane. I walked up the crew entry door ladder and jumped around the bottom of the 20-odd foot high flight deck ladder. As I was walking around the forward ramp area, I heard a loud “THUNK” and looked back towards the back of the airplane to see the Red Headed Stepchild himself at the Aft Ramp/Door Control panel. Somehow, during all the fuss and confusion of the preceding three hours, this classic Gomer Pyle screw-up (they’re standard issue with every unit) had skillfully inserted himself into my aircraft. I was wondering just what in the hell this bastard was doing on my plane, so I started walking back there to find out. Now the aft cargo door/ramp system on the C-5 is a complex kluge. Its main feature is a floating pressure door that, depending on what type of cargo is being loaded, also doubles as a ramp extension. It is not permanently attached to the aircraft. SrA Chamberpot was attempting to open the door in “Truckbed” mode (for palletized cargo), but I had noticed that he had not hit the two most important valves needed to correctly perform this procedure.

Let me try to break it down here for you. You see, whoever designed and engineered this system apparently said, “Aw, screw it” about halfway through the process, leaving us with an unorthodox procedure when it came to opening the doors in “Truckbed” mode. Halfway through the procedure, you must manually depress two hydraulic valves, labeled “C” and “I” that would actuate, er, actuators which would latch on to the pressure door and actuate it upwards against the top of the cargo compartment when you hit the appropriate switch. Failure to do this may cause damage to aircraft and equipment, perhaps injury or death of personnel. As I was observing Chamberpot going through the motions of opening the rear doors, I noticed that he had failed to perform this critical step and was about to drop this 3+ ton door onto the cargo floor. Noticing his hand was on the switch to start the final process of opening up the ramp, I started running and frantically waving my arms around in the air, yelling “C & I! C & I!” over and over again at the top of my lungs. Since both APUs (Auxiliary Power Units) were running and the hydraulic systems were on, it was near impossible for him to hear me. He apparently saw me gesticulating like a wild man and turned to face me, hand still on the switch. He stared at me with that typical blank stare of his and shook his head. He looked puzzled, but then again that was his natural appearance. He shrugged his shoulders and turned around to face the back doors.

I was running for all I was worth. The length of the C-5 is about as long as a football field (at least it seemed that way), and I was at about the opponent’s 30-yard line. Desperate, I lifted my arm and hurled the radio at him in mid step. It tumbled end over end and clocked the stupid son of a bitch right on the side of the noggin. I didn’t mean to hit him in the head; it was a lucky shot. He crumpled in on himself. I had knocked the dumb bastard out cold. I ran up to him, saw he was still breathing, looked up and quickly returned the ramp/door system back to its normal, safe state. I looked backed down at Chamberpot and briefly considered ending his pathetic existence right then and there, but decided life in Leavenworth wasn’t worth it.

Chamberpot came-to and slowly got up. “What happened, man?” he asked in the most dumbass accent I had ever heard. The guy sounded like a mix between Bubba from Forrest Gump and Bullwinkle the Moose. “You were about to drop the damned pressure door on your head, dumbass.” I replied. Chamberpot looked up the massive pressure door and simply said, “Thanks, man. Guess I shoulda used the checklist, huh?” He started laughing.

“Huhuhuhuhhuh,” I laughed back at him mockingly. He stopped laughing and looked down. There on the cargo floor was the radio, antenna broken and the battery pack cracked right at the point of impact on Chamberpot’s thick, Neanderthal-like skull. Chamberpot looked up as I gingerly retrieved the radio. I keyed it a couple of times, but it was dead. “Huh huh huh. You’re in trooooooubuuuuuuule.,” he said like a frickin’ six year old.

I immediately regretted sparing his life.

Thus ends Part II.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, ”Hydrastics” or ”Shower at 3,000 psi!”

Thursday, January 17, 2002

Learn Something New Every Day

My Dad recently told me something that came as quite a shock to me. He was in the Navy for 20+ years and just like every other sailor in the Navy, he was given firefighting training to combat shipboard fires. In one of the training videos that the Navy puts out (and you may have seen as stock footage in various military-oriented programs), there's a scene from the Viet Nam era where an A-4 crashes into the Forrestal (IIRC) and bursts into flames. It was one of the worst aircraft carrier fires since WWII and resulted in the deaths of several sailors. Well, it turns out that the pilot of that A-4 was none other than John McCain. (Edit: Scroll down to see the update)

In a related story about politicians and airplanes, my Dad told me an even stranger story that happened when his LHA was heading out of the Gulf after the War. During Desert Shield, Bush I came out to his ship for a meet-and-greet and they had set-up a Harrier as a static display for his visit. During the ceremonies, Bush climbed into the cockpit and had some pictures taken of himself and other guys from the crew. Nothing odd about that. (On a personal note, it was great for me, because it was Thanksgiving and I got to see my Dad on CNN. It had been 4 months since I had seen him last, and it would be almost 6 more months before I'd see him again).

What is odd is that the same Harrier that Bush had sat in suddenly lost power and crashed into the water while coming in for a landing after the War. That's two combat aircraft that Bush has been seated in to have crashed into the ocean.

Update: Whew, boy did I get alot of email about this! Man, I get featured in an anti-war article: nothin', nada, zip. I completely screw up the Forrestal fire, and man did I get hammered. I screwed up. Big Time. Here's just one of the many emails I got that explained what really happened:
The fire aboard FORRESTAL was not caused by John McCain crashing, it
was due to a Zuni FFAR accidentally cooking off an F4 being armed for
strike ops and striking McCain's A4, rupturing the drop tank and
knocking a 1,000lb bomb to the deck. McCain managed to get clear
just moments before the bomb went off and ...

Kaboom. Dozens of fully-armed strike aircraft went up, 134 swabbies
were killed, and FORRESTAL was severely damaged.
So, there you have it. The thing about Bush is still true, though. That's a story my Dad tells enough so I think I got that one right, but if anyone was on the Nassau during the Gulf War, feel free to email me and set me straight.
Lighten Up, Frances

Man, I've been a grumpy dude today. I need a drink.
Mail to Troops

A little while ago I was trying to figure out if mail and packages sent to "Any Servicemember" were getting to troops overseas. Well, a kind individual in the know emailed me this:
Just wanted to let you know that packages are getting through to the troops in Afghanistan. Several teams were kind enough to send back pictures and a few words expressing their appreciation. Thought you might want to know.

If you would like to send a parcel to the great people over there, your best bet seems to be to go through the American Red Cross. If you send out a letter addressed to "Any Servicemember" and it goes through the Military Postal System, chances are it won't get through, so I suggest contacting the ARC to see how you can show your support.
There's a lot more to it than that

Glenn Reynolds suggests that we
should resurrect some obsolete mothballed F106s or F4s and call up some older reservist pilots. You don't need Eric Hartmann's reflexes to guard against rogue airliners.
Now, I don't want to criticize the good Professor, but there are some very real problems I'd like to bring up and point out.

First, un-mothballing a plane is no small feat. Most of it's electronics are gone, wiring's all corrupted and probably shorted out, lines and control cabels are rusty and frayed, tires are rotted out and probably missing anyways. So we have to contract companies to basically rebuild an avionics package, then grab alot of mechanics and engineers to basically rebuild the aircraft, machine special parts and get it into flying condition. It's a situation not unlike the one the Warbird Restoration teams encounter when trying to restore old aircraft. So that's one thing.

Next, you need people to maintain the aircraft. Most of those guys are retired and haven't worked on these airframes in years, and they're not in sufficient numbers to adequately maintain a fleet of these old planes flying constant CAP, so we have to bring in more people. These people have to be trained, most likely by these old guys we brought in. So say half of the old guys are busy training, the other half are out there on the flightline working and helping out with OJT. I'm not going to get into the physical problems these old guys will face. Working on the flightline takes its toll on the body, and these guys are no exception.

Next, we're going to need to set-up a supply system for these aircraft. Since most of the parts aren't even made anymore, we're going to have to special order them, or if we're lucky, do some local manufacturing. Even so, we're going to need a massive inventory of parts (both controlled items and consumables) on hand to fix these planes when they break. And they always break. It's pretty rare to have a plane come back from a sortie with no discrepancies, and these planes you're talking about are 30+ years old that we've retrieved from the boneyard. It's not going to be pretty from a maintenance perspective. So, not only are we going to have to set-up a supply and funding source, we're going to need people, equipment, and space to run it.

Now we get to basing. Where are these planes going to fly out of? An Air Force Base, a Naval Station, an Army Post, a civilian airfield? Each place presents it's own unique problems and situations. If you put it on a military reservation, you're going to have to either build new hangars or push our combat aircraft to make space. Plus, we're going to need more Aerospace ground equipment (both powered and non-powered) to deal with the new arrivals. We're also going to need more fuel trucks and drivers.

If you stick the planes on a commercial airfield, then we're going to have to probably pay a host of fees. POL will probably be more expensive, plus we have to house and feed all the people supporting the mission.

So, any way you cut it, the proposal, while seemingly simple on the surface, will take quite alot of manpower and money to accomplish. On average, each plane in the AF's inventory requires the support of at least 40 people, from flightline maintenance all the way back to supply and farther back in the chain. And I think that's a low estimate.
Tum, ta-tum, tum, Tums!

He just keeps getting better and better. Will Warren with a new poem, this time inspired by Tunku of the Hill People.
Here We Go Again

Now they're throwing grenades at weddings. But that's okay because they're not terrorists, they're militants. Bastards.

Alright, this one's for any Palestinian who comes by and reads this thing: You are pussies. Your friends are pussies. Did you know that you throw like little girls? I don't see any major league talent in those rock throwing dipshits in Gaza. You couldn't hit the broadside of a barn from ten feet if you had to. Christ, the Israeli military doesn't need guns, it just needs some Louisville Sluggers to beeline those poorly thrown rocks right back at you. And if they haven't sufficiently dashed your brains on the sidewalk doing that, they could put those Sluggers to better use. I'm sure you've seen The Untouchables. So fucking resist the "occupation" all you want. You're going to lose. Even if you get your own state, you're still going to lose, and do you want to know why? Because no matter what, you're still going to be living a piss poor life in a goddammned rathole. Who are you going to blame after you achieve statehood? Are you going to keep blaming the Israelis and the U.S.? Probably so. The problems are not in the Israelis, my dear jihadis, they're within yourselves.

Ah shit, that felt good. Time to go back to being reasonable.

Hey, I got an update from a reader who reports that the arms on those Palestinian kids are getting better:
I happened to be in Jerusalem the last time there was significant snow (January 20-somethingth, 2000 - 15"), and saw some amazing stuff. Just inside the Jaffa Gate in the Old City (Christian Quarter, but it's
Arab), I got the chance to see a snowball fight between 2 teams of about 5 or so Palestinian kids between 13-16. Wow. Every single snowball was dead on target with perfect velocity, aim and strategy. One even managed to hook one around a car to hit an unsuspecting target. It was like they'd been practicing, or something :>
Matthew :) [oh, and it was at a bat mitzvah, not a wedding - but the Hebrew word for banquet hall, or whatever you call those things is translated as 'wedding hall' by the English-language Israeli media]
If this is the case, then my baseball suggestion may be better than first seemed. Perhaps if we get the two sides together for some games of baseball, they might learn that they have more in common and....okay, but it'd make a great TV movie of the week. And the Cubs might want to send some scouts over there. God knows we could use all the help we can get.

Aim High -er, No One Comes, Step into the Blue?

The Air Force is actually doing well when it comes to recruiting folks, but it's not the war that's causing the upsurge.
Syndicated columnist David Hackworth, a retired Army colonel, said the Air Force also is benefiting from the recession and opportunities it offers enlistees to learn high-tech skills.

After serving a few years, he noted, an airman with computer skills could leave the service and make $80,000 annually.

The high-tech training is "highly transferable to the civilian skill base," Hackworth said.
This from a guy who says we don't need a seperate Air Force. By the way, alot of great material has come from the AF's new ad slogan. When the turd-herders come out to service the lavatories out on the plane, they invariably get the contents of the toilet tank on the ground, and without fail we usually wind up walking in it. We call this "Stepping into the Blue".

15 Countries

Rumsfeld says that we could go into at least 15 countries, if needed.
Rumsfeld's remark about the number of countries into which the United States could carry the fight against terrorism was delivered off the cuff. But it made clear just how broad the U.S. war against terrorism could become.
I guess being told that we're currently looking at a six year war wasn't enough, or has that not been reported yet? I swear I remember reading that in public sources somewhere.

What's the good news out of all of this? Ole' Sarge himself may be able to escape this Powder Puff assignment and actually do his part before it's over. Knowing my luck, I'll probably land up being deployed to Turkey or worse, Saudi.
The Great Escape it's Not

Some of the Al-Queda and Taliban prisoners are apparently in high enough spirits that they're threatening to kill at least one American before they leave Gitmo. Brig. Gen Michael Lehnert says:
“We will not give them that satisfaction.”
The rest of the article also has a nice listing of all the toiletries the clean-faced bastards recieve.

In another act of unspeakable barbarism, we performed surgery on one of the prisoners down there with a gunshot wound. The patient is expected to recover, but may suffer nerve damage in the area. We await reaction from human rights organizations.

Finally, in the last news round-up concerning detainees in Afghanistan, we have this great article in the Stripes about the guards and the people they're guarding. In what can only be described as a flagrant violation of several conventions and treaties, prisoners upon arrival are
stripped naked and given a rectal exam.
One can hope that they have female doctors doing some of that. There would be something poetic about it.
"It’s really demoralizing for them," Tyson said. In addition to losing their clothes and whatever private possessions they may have, "they are stripped of their identity as a group. You can see the transformation on their faces."
So, after having to suffer the barbaric probings of our doctor's index fingers and cruelly having their stuff taken away, our poor detainees have to suffer yet more torturous indignation.
Although the prisoners are allowed to perform the ritualistic prayers of Islam, they are not permitted to talk or even look at each other.

"They are allowed to pray and eat. That’s it," said Pena, the specialist. If a prisoner needs to relieve himself, they are instructed to simply raise their bound hands over their head. A pair of MPs then escorts the prisoner to a plywood shack used as an outhouse beside the hangar.
Oh, the humanity! Don't you beastly Americans know that the Geneva Conventions guarantee the right to indoor plumbing!? I'm sure it's in there somewhere. I mean, it's civilized. But the parade of atrocities doesn't end there, no siree, Bob. The detainees have to suffer the most vile, the most outrageous, the most egregious display of man's inhumanity to man ever seen: The stink-eye of 19-year-old Pfc. Amanda Aragon,
"Sometimes, one of the prisoners will try and eyeball me, like they’re trying to stare me down. I just eyeball them back."

If they harbor any illusions that they can break the no-looking-around rule, because Aragon is a woman, she corrects them quickly. "If I need to get in their face, I do, but usually they figure it out."
I'm speechless.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002


No more entries tonight. It's Wednesday night which means my weekly dose of Robotica and Junkyard Wars on TLC, then I'm off to work for the night.
The E-Mail that Launched a Thousand Words: Part I

1.Herky vs Buff: Herky birds, warthogs & buffs rule. I worked with a
Herky Bird nav & loadmaster when I was stationed at ACC (Langley) from
94-97. We traded lots of stories about slow, ugly, unwanted aircraft that
were masters at what they do. And the C-130, A-10, and B-52 are just that -
unparalleld at doing the things they do. The C-130 is the best all-purpose
trash-hauler out there, the A-10 is the best tank-killer on the face of the
planet, and the BUFF is the premier bomb-dropper in the universe.

The fact that I'm a former B-52 nav with over 4000 hours flying time doesn't
prejudice me, does it?

Naaah, You know, it’s just not aircrew that feel this way. Almost every former BUFF, Herc, or Warthog chief and specialist I’ve worked with always has fond memories of these planes. They talk about the problems they had maintaining them, but it’s always a sentimental kind of bitching- a fond reflection on yesteryear. I have no such memories. When I was a wet-behind-the-ears Airman, the plane I was first presented with was a massive, hulking, leaking, and broke Piece O’Crap. Yes friends, I cut my teeth on the C-5, called the Galaxy by the Air Force, commonly called a FRED or Pig by the people who work it. Why is it called the Galaxy? I’m not really sure. It may be because it’s a large, haphazard collection of parts that look like they are only being held together by their own collective weight and various magical forces. Just like real Galaxies, the C-5 has a massive black hole that sucks in your pride, dignity, and happiness; not even your will to live can escape the massive maw of the Galaxy. So pull up a chair and stay awhile as I tell you a story about a day in the life of young AIC Stryker. All names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty…

It was a late summer day in 1993 at Dover AFB, DE, and I had just arrived at work. It was 1427. Not 1415, not 1432. 1427. I always precisely timed my arrival so that when I got to work, it would only be a couple of minutes before roll call. Why, you may ask? Because if I arrived any earlier, I might be asked to do some work before my shift started. I learned this lesson a year and a half earlier when I foolishly arrived at work at 1410. Seeing me milling about the tables and benches of our old hangar, MSgt. Dowdy asked me if I would clean up the bathroom, since dayshift forgot to do it. Forgot to do it my ass. Half of dayshift was still out on the flightline, and the ones who normally hung out in the break area had blown it off and gone home. Still, I had been “asked” to clean the bathroom, and when you’re an airman you don’t question polite requests.

Anyways, it was now 1430 and time for roll call. At this time, we held our roll calls between two “temporary” structures built inside a massive hangar (582?). Each of these two story buildings housed an AMU, or Aircraft Maintenance Unit. I was with the Blue Wizards, and my flight was Wizard 6. The other AMU was the Red Dragons, whose swing-shift started an hour later than ours did. Yes, I know those nicknames are stupid, but we had nothing to do with it. When I first arrived, we were just Sierra, then we were split into the two AMU’s during the Total Quality Maintenance craze of the early 90’s, renamed “Blue” and “Red”, and reorganized as the 436th Aircraft Generation Squadron. The Wizards and Dragons nonsense was started by an outside troubleshooter named Col. Frenchie who decided that having these nicknames would inspire pride and foster healthy competition between the two AMU’s. We’ll here more about Col. Frenchie later.

So, we’re standing there at roll call, but instead of the usual briefing about various issues that were always “HOT”, we had a portly Captain step to the front and introduce himself as some sort of mid-level functionary in our unit. I don’t specifically remember what his job was. All I know is that he was an officer with a handheld radio (no, not a boombox. Kind of like a walkie-talkie, but more sophisticated). He gave the standard welcome speech, said something about an open-door policy, and other things. Most of his speech was forgettable, but I do remember the last part of it. He said, “Let’s remember to have fun out there. If you’re not having fun, something’s wrong.”

You almost felt sorry for these guys. They were nice fellows whom I think genuinely wanted to do good, but Dover could turn even the most idealistic man to the Dark Side. I believe that if the Lord Himself were stationed at Dover, He’d be a bitter chain-smoking alcoholic whose only releases from His living death would be booze and broads. Capt. Portly was no exception. Within six months, he was Dover-ized: He had become an angry, fat little man who seem more worried that certain people maintained weight standards (Pot-Kettle-Black), than the maintenance of the aircraft. He left eventually. No one knows why, even though rumors persisted that he was caught having fun with this pretty blonde airman from Dragon side.

Capt. Portly finished up his speech, and our civilian shift leader, Mr. MysteryTour, stepped up and read off aircraft assignments. The guys who weren’t assigned to a plane went off to the outside to smoke or went into the breakroom. Now, that breakroom deserves a story itself, but I’ll try to give you the condensed history of this storied place. When the “temporary” buildings were first put up, the breakroom was just this large, open room on the bottom floor. It had some square tables and chairs to fill it up. Col. Frenchie, the erstwhile troubleshooter, noticed that these square tables and chairs were conducive to card-playing, so he ordered furniture that can only be described as “MacDonaldland”. He turned our breakroom into a fast-food restaurant, minus the food counter. Yep, we even had the swivel-chairs. You see, Col. Frenchie figured that if the furniture was made uncomfortable and had an awkward seat-to-table arrangement, we would want to stay out and work on the airplanes than sit around inside and play cards. Col. Frenchie had made a critical error that would prove his undoing: He underestimated the common crew chief. You’ve heard the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Well crew chiefs and their specialist brothers are the living embodiment of this phrase. We’re trained to troubleshoot and solve problems. We’re taught to overcome problems and obstacles and do anything to get the job done. We weren’t going to let some MacDonaldland furniture prevent us from enjoying our birthright. Within two weeks, Col. Frenchie was dismayed to see that the breakroom was full of loud, raucous mechanics engaged in card-playing. We had improvised, adapted, and overcome. Col. Frenchie disappeared a couple of weeks later, presumably off to meddle in the affairs of some other function with which he had no familiarity.

I stepped into the blue modified step-van that served as our primary conveyance between the hangar and the flightline. Dragon side had all their planes parked right in front of the hangar, so they could just walk right on out to their planes, but our planes were parked down at the far, far end of the ramp. If you wanted, you could use the Shoe Leather Express, but walking half a mile with a 75 lb. Toolbox on your shoulder was not the best way to start off your shift. Mr. MysteryTour, besides being our shift supervisor, was also the truck driver, call-sign “Wizard-6”. We got all loaded-up and started to make our way out to our side of the flightline. Mr. MysteryTour, oblivious to the fact that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line, took a lazy, meandering route to the flightline. As he was driving, various people would call him on the radio, triggering his instinct to turn the wheel and head off in their direction before telling them that he couldn’t make it. He’d then turn the wheel in the other direction, thus closing the circle and heading off on his original course. Depending on radio traffic, it could take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to make it to your plane while riding the Magical Mystery Tour.

Mr. MysteryTour finally pulled up to my plane; I hauled my toolbox out of the truck and started making my way towards the Crew Entry Door. I was careful to not walk in front of the truck while making my way to the plane, because Mr. MysteryTour had a habit of running over airmen as he absent-mindedly drove the truck around the flightline. As I was carrying my toolbox, I could see the telltale omens that signaled a “rough night”: panels in various places removed, B-5 and B-2 stands pre-positioned all over the place, and my dayshift guy walking towards me with a look of both defeat and joy at my arrival….

Thus ends Part I
War Party? Me? Noooo

Guess who got a mention in an Anti-War column? I'm sure everyone else mentioned can defend themselves, so I'll just stick to the parts about me and the general points he's making:
Right in the front ranks is "Sergeant Stryker's Daily Briefing," another "warblog" of affected bellicosity, this one done up in shades of military khaki and a photo of a helmeted John Wayne barking into the camera. John Stryker is supposedly "the pseudonym for an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Air Force." But the Sergeant must keep his identity secret, you see, "to prevent his jealous and wrathful employer from smiting him from on high for contrary opinions." One of these opinions is the absolute evil of Saudi Arabia, which is seen by the warbloggers as the real power behind Osama Bin Laden. As Stryker puts it:

"Saudi Arabia is looking into reconciling with Iraq. On the surface, this appears to be a ploy on Saddam's part to strengthen ties with neighboring states in an effort to prevent any US military action against him. It's also a ploy that our friends the Saudis seem all too eager to engage in. Of course, this information is nothing new to people who realize that all terrorist roads lead to Riyadh."
Look at the name of the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia. I'm railing against the House of Saud and their kooky brand of Islam. The same brand of Islam that gave rise to the Taliban and yes, Osama bin Laden. I'm also amused by the implication (mentioned further in the article) that I somehow hate "ragheads" because I don't like the Saudis. For one thing, hatred is a state of mind. It's a corrosive type of thinking that will either destroy you or lead to the suffering of others. I sense much hatred in you.

Of course, calling somebody a racist just because they don't like oppressive and tyrannical monarchies is quite a stretch, although I'm sure King Fahd and Prince Abdullah appreciate your efforts on their behalf. Who woulda thunk that an anti-war activist and a supposed lover of human rights would speak up for men and governments that oppress women, behead homosexuals and other criminals in stadia, destroy cultural landmarks and finance terrorists? Wars do indeed make for strange bedfellows.
The fanatically pro-Israel stance of the warbloggers is due, at least in a few cases, to the influence of the Ayn Rand cult, who believe – as Rand did – that Arabs are subhuman creatures devoid of rights,
I can't speak for anyone else, but my defense of Israel has nothing to do with a failed actress who wrote long books about her girlish crushes. It has something to do with the fact that Israel is a Western democracy. Yes, it had socialist tones back in the day, but it's still the only democracy in the region, unless you want to count Turkey. And there you go with that racist talk, again. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you absolutely revel in tossing around racial ephitets.
and that Israel, as a Western democracy, is a superior civilization, and therefore deserves our unstinting support.
You say that as if it's a bad thing. What's wrong with defending democracy? The West, and it's democratic ideals, is far superior to any of the alternatives. Just ask those kids who tossed off the yoke of Communism ten years ago. I would rather defend a democracy that makes mistakes than defend a corrupt theocracy that's a mistake itself.
The complete isolation of the US from its Arab friends and allies, and a US-Israeli war on more than a billion Muslims – this is what the warbloggers are gunning for.
Um, no. I'm standing-up for democracy and the principles laid forth in the Constitution.
This is the real source of dissent in wartime America: not a peace movement, but a War Party that wants to take the President and his Secretary of State much farther than they want to go.
Hey man, do you realize you just defended George W. Bush?
In every case, their policy recommendations have one and only one beneficiary – and it isn't the United States of America.
Quite right, we already enjoy the blessings of liberty. The real beneficiaries of our "recommendations" will be those still living in oppressive hellholes run by men who only recognize power as the brutal and bloody application of violence against their own people and whose authority rests on nothing more than the fact that they have more guns than the next guy. If I'm such a bad guy for having a problem with that, then so be it.

Well, here comes the hate mail.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Shore Leave

Sailors Lift Spirits, Boost Economy. No, not that, but I'm sure the local bars and strip clubs are doing brisk business since the Vinson came in.
The 7,120 officers and crew of the USS Carl Vinson battle group set foot on U.S. soil this week for the first time in nearly six months and discovered that the free world had changed. Even in civilian clothes, sailors such as Ken Blair have been stopped on the streets of Waikiki by people who want to say "thanks for doing your job," he said....Tuesday's arrival of the Carl Vinson and five of its escort ships — the cruisers USS Antietam and USS Princeton, frigate USS Ingraham and fast-attack submarine USS Key West — also represents dollars for Hawai'i's sputtering economy.
It's never been a better time to be a stripper or prostitute in Hawaii.
The food aboard the Carl Vinson is plentiful but there's only so much rice, beans, chicken and roast beef that can be eaten on a long deployment, said aviation ordnance airman Jeremy Lapham. Besides, "When they're serving that many people, they don't have much time to put the flavor in."
The same can be said for just about all military food, which rates just slightly lower than airline food, but considerably higher than hospital food.

Next Stop: The PI

U.S. Forces are heading back into the Phillipines after being unceremoniously kicked out by the Filipinos and Mt. Pinatubo a few years ago.
"The main bulk of them will be coming probably starting next week," he told reporters.

The full contingent will include about 160 U.S. special forces -- including Navy SEALs, the Army's Green Berets, Marines with special operations capabilities and Air Force special forces -- who will help in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, a group Washington says is linked to Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

Backing them will be about 500 U.S. support and technical personnel, Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, a former military chief, told local radio....Officially, the U.S. forces will only provide advice, technical support and an assessment of the Philippine troops. But they will accompany local soldiers on patrol in rebel-infested areas, will be armed and authorized to fire in self-defense.

Philippine officials have gone to considerable lengths to emphasize that U.S. soldiers will not participate in combat because of local sensitivities on the role of foreign troops.
I hope that some of the Special Forces going over there are ones who've taken part in the Afghan Campaign. Filipino troops tend to switch sides depending on which way the wind blows much like their Afghan counterparts.
The powerful Roman Catholic church had also disapproved of the U.S. troop presence in the Philippines, saying it led to increased prostitution.
Yeah, baby! All this really means is that Filipino women of the night can now stay at home and scrog instead of going to Okinawa and everywhere else in the Far East to make their money.

Curious Items

Crious Items found along the terror trail:
Found in a complex of caves outside Kandahar: Graded Arabic-language exams for al-Qaida terrorists-in-training with multiple choice, short essay and fill-in-the-blank questions about how to shoot down an aircraft, make bombs, use anti-aircraft weapons and shoot to kill a person. Sample question: If an aircraft was traveling at an altitude of 3,000 feet, which part of the plane should you target to inflict the most damage? Answer: "Target area two."
Man, they weren't kidding when they call them "schools for terrorists". I wonder what a failing grade gets you...
Found in a makeshift laboratory in an al-Qaida building in Kabul: A booklet offering advice on how to survive a nuclear explosion
Duck and Cover! Alternately, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.
Items allegedly owned by Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent named in the first indictment directly related to the suicide hijackings: Two knives. Binoculars. Flight manuals for the Boeing 747 Model 400. A flight simulator computer program. Fighting gloves and shin guards. A notebook listing German telephone No. 1, German telephone No. 2 and the name Ahad Sabet. A computer disk containing information related to the aerial application of pesticides. A hand-held aviation radio.[emphasis mine]
Hmmmm....who else had one of those radios?

Med Interdiction

The U.S. Navy is stepping up interdiction efforts in the Med in an effort to deny that body of water to terrorists.
The crew of the Rasha J included sailors from nations other than Tonga, though the 6th Fleet did not elaborate.

The Associated Press reported that Tonga suspended its international ship registry after Israel seized a Tonga-flagged vessel with a Palestinian captain.

The Israelis say the ship Karine A, which their troops boarded early this month in the Red Sea, was loaded with 50 tons of rockets and explosives. That ship was believed to be owned by an Iraqi businessman.
Okay, I seriously doubt Tonga is a hotbed of terrorist intrigue and conspiracy, but it demonstrates how countries with liberal registration laws could be used by terrorists to transport weapons and materiel on ships registered in those countries. I also wonder how much money Tonga is losing by suspending its registration services.

Is anyone else beginning to see a pattern here? We have a ship laden with arms for Arafat bound for Israel, rumored to be supplied by the Iranians, on a ship presumably owned by an Iraqi businessman, with the possible complicity of the Egyptians because it had to go through Suez. Then we have reports of co-operation agreements between Iraq and Iran and signs of warming between Iraq of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is financing Hamas' efforts to build long range rockets.

The Enemy is on the move in Mordor. Luckily we have Charles Johnson and his Palantir to keep an eye on their movements.
John Walker, Conspirator

John Walker will be charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens in Afghanistan.
Lindh will be charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., rather than in a military tribunal. Other charges against him will include providing support to terrorist organizations and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban, Ashcroft said...“Youth is not absolution for treachery,” Ashcroft told reporters. “Misdirected Americans cannot receive direction in murderous ideology.”
"Engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban?" Makes it sound like he gave out shady loans and failed to report the interest income on his 1040. Or perhaps that phrase was an Ashcroftian euphemism for doin' the monkey hump with Yusef.

News Update

Here's where everything stands: The domain has been registered and is being hosted by Cornerhost. I'm just waiting for the DNS pointers to do their job, then you too will be able to see the work in progress over there. I'm going Blogger free and using Movable Type as my blogging software. Andrew Hofer of MTZ fame recommends it, although I hope to not have as much trouble with page formatting as he did since I'm sticking with plain ole' HTML for the most part. In fact, if all goes well, you probably won't be able to see much of a difference between here and there.

Formatting the new site so far has proven to be a bit of a bitch as there are numerous pages that have to be formatted, not just the index. There'll be a new "Comment" feature so you can tell me just how full of shit I am if you're feeling froggy.

So, be prepared. The new site should be online and ready to go within one or two weeks. UPDATE: In fact, the new site is available for viewing right now. It's a page saved from yesterday, but you get the idea. If you want to see the page I'm updating and fooling around with, go here.
Reader Mail

"The only bad thing about your site is I can't read it on the toilet"

Um, well that can be a good thing. I'd hate to think what purpose the Daily Briefing would serve once you're done reading it. Although it would make for a great slogan.

Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing: Serving the Ass-End of Humanity since 2001!
Hether Mallick, whose skull is most thicke

Will Warren, Poet Laureate of the Blogger Nation offers up yet another great poem inspired this time by Heather Mallick.
I'm glad he's on our side

John Cole gives the old one-fingered salute to Barbara Kingsolver. This is one of the best things things I've read in a long time:
Many Americans understand patriotism as a higher calling than gossip-mongering.

And at this very minute, they are bombing the living shit out of the miscreants in Afghanistan.

It never ends

Saudi Arabia is looking into reconciling with Iraq. On the surface, this appears to be a ploy on Saddam's part to strengthen ties with neighboring states in an effort to prevent any U.S. military action against him. It's also a ploy that our friends the Saudis seem all too eager to engage in. Of course, this information is nothing new to people who realize that all terrorist roads lead to Riyadh.

Monday, January 14, 2002

News Update

I'm attempting to export all my entries here into another system, so if you can't reach this site or it looks funny, that's why. It shouldn't last more than a couple of hours and wil be intermittent.

UPDATE: I've finished exporting the entries. Everything should work as normal. Also, posting will be sporadic as I work on formatting and configuring the new site.
Nyet on Missile Shield

Russia probably won't build a missile shield like the U.S. apparently intends to do.
Letters to the Editor

Below are two letters from the recent Stripes. I won't have any commentary on them, because it's more important to see what some of our people over there are thinking about. One is in response to a stripes article about students' support for the military, the other is from a Special Forces soldier currently serving in Afghanistan concerning the flag:
I just finished the Dec. 29 article "Students show wary support for military action," written by Stars and Stripes reporters Sandra Jontz and Lisa Burgess. I have to say that most of what I read in the article upsets me very much. Not so much what was written but what was said by some of the people interviewed and their apparent uneducated views of the U.S. military and our country in general.

The quote by Lauren Laitala is very myopic. She states that she doesn’t disagree with military action but that she feels led astray by officials commenting on the war. She goes on to cite an incident in which Pentagon officials reported no civilian casualties during a bombing raid in Afghanistan, only to have the nightly news broadcast photos of a wounded Afghan child. She also says: "In war, there is death. Things happen. They should just come out and say it."

Just because the nightly news broadcasts photos of a wounded child does not necessarily mean that that child was wounded in that bombing raid — or any other U.S. combat actions for that matter. Some media outlets purposely air misleading stories just to show the military or government in a negative image.

Why is this done? Some, I would think, is just so a story can be broadcast or put in the next paper. Others just for their underlying dislike of the military in general. For anyone to think that personnel in the military would purposely target civilians or try to "hide" civilian casualties is absolutely crazy. From the very beginning of our "War on Terrorism" it has been made perfectly clear that there would be military and civilian casualties. I’m not really sure what news or TV programs this student has been watching. Maybe MTV just forgot to air those particular comments.

Another student, Janelle Kubicsko, goes on to state: "The military will maintain public support, so long as they refrain from going to war with other nations." As I grow older my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I don’t recall any time since I’ve been alive that the military has just decided on its own to go and invade another country. As a matter of fact, the last time I checked the U.S. military received its orders from the National Command Authority (i.e. the president of the United States).

My fellow servicemembers and I go where our leaders tell us to go even if we don’t agree with where we are being sent or why. We servicemembers give up a lot of their freedoms when we take our oath of enlistment. Most of these freedoms are taken for granted daily, especially by the ladies mentioned above.

Ms. Kubicsko further goes on to state: "I think that overall, if \[military leaders\] follow their objectives and set clear objectives, they’ll achieve them and have public support behind them. But if they go off track and don’t make a multilateral effort at achieving a multinational objective, they’ll lose public support, especially mine."

To be quite honest, it doesn’t sound like we have much of her support as it is right now. In case she doesn’t know, the president of the United States tells the military what the objective is and what guidelines it is to follow to achieve his objective.

So if she wants to stop supporting the president then that is fine, but she shouldn’t stop supporting members of the military for doing what we are told to do by our leaders. Servicemembers don’t ask to be sent to places such as Afghanistan or anyplace else that takes them away from their families and friends. Perhaps she should spend some time away from home in a foreign country during the holidays. She might get a taste for what it is like for servicemembers.

That clear-cut objective, as she sees it, is to "take out Osama bin Laden and his network." She finally has said something with which I agree.

"There’s talk of them going into Iraq, and that would be wrong for them to do." Once again this is something that the president decides and not the military. There is not one soldier, sailor, airman or marine who wants to go to war and die in some Third World country. If she doesn’t want us to go into Iraq, then she should start writing the president and her members of Congress and tell them this. But if the powers above decide that we are going to invade Iraq, then she should wholeheartedly support the military and go protest her members of Congress and the president. They are the ones who decided that course of action.

As a soldier in the U.S. Army, I realize my job is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and all the freedoms that the Constitution guarantees. I have been doing this willingly for 17 years. Perhaps next time Stars and Stripes could interview someone who has been on both sides of the fence and can talk intelligently about this issue.

Sgt. 1st Class Nat Coomer
Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo

I am writing in response to the letter "Flag photo" (Dec. 22). As a Special Forces soldier currently serving in Afghanistan, I was proud of my fellow soldiers in that photo.

I took the opportunity to do some research and read for myself the U.S. Code covering respect for the U.S. flag. It is title 4, chapter 1, section 8 of the U.S. Code. This section is titled, "Respect for the flag." The letter writer would do well to read it himself, since he quoted section 3. I believe his point of contention is addressed adequately in subparagraph g.

Regrettably, I am not in a position to speak for the unit, but it is the unit I will defend. The issue here is respect for the flag. I concur with the writer that the flag is sacred. I disagree that we showed it any disrespect. The military has a history of carrying the flag into battle. This is out of respect for our nation and as a rallying point for the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who fight to defend that flag, its nation and its people. An offer to fight for the flag is the highest respect a citizen can show for the flag.

I would hope that if I were to die in combat, my unit would display a flag like this one at my memorial service as they did for my friends and fellow soldiers in Kabul. But this is not what I choose to defend. History has shown that all the branches of service in the U.S. military have chosen to ignore section 8 in various ways during times of both peace and conflict. Our unit is no different. During the Civil War, units would sew unit insignias and battles on their unit flags, and countless airmen since World War II have often painted the flag on airplanes flown into war. Both of these violate section 8.

The issue is that the flag is a tie between a nation and its warriors. It is a spiritual connection to a set of beliefs, mores and values we hold so dear that we are willing to fight and die to defend them. For many, the flag is a connection of unit and nation carried forward into war to remind us of who we are and who and what we are defending.

I believe the U.S. Code was never intended to address the means a unit would use to carry our flag into combat. Subparagraph e makes this very clear when it says, "The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way." I’d like to know who believes for a second that a dismounted ground soldier living out of a rucksack and sleeping on the ground for months at a time could possibly carry a flag into war and satisfy paragraph e.

Our soldiers make grave sacrifices to serve our worthy nation in times of war. Their efforts will make history by crumbling the Taliban regime in less than 60 days and never having fielded more than 200 ground combatants. Three of our warriors have died shouldering the burden of freedom. It saddens my soul to hear a voice from the rear throw shame at the way they respected their flag. If it is the letter of the law we must follow as we carry our flag into war, I suggest a unit will never be able to make the connection with our nation during times of war, as the standards will forbid it. This, I offer, was not the law’s intent.

My unit did not and would never disrespect our nation’s flag. If the letter writer believes not integrating the flag into military training or not taking the flag into combat was the intent, I ask him to go home and read paragraphs b, c, d and e the next time he is down by the flight line and sees a flag painted on the tail of an aircraft. Then his lonely voice from the rear can write to Stars and Stripes and ask the pilots to stop disrespecting our flag. After all, it is sacred.

Master Sgt. Mark D. Baylis