Saturday, January 05, 2002

I've got some advice for ya

In this week's Outlook section of the Post, nine writers tell America what its foreign policy should be. Well, here's one writer in America who's going to tell those folks what their policy should be: Lead, Follow, or Get the Hell Out of the Way.

Reading world reaction to our country's policy is like watching Tombstone. When the gunfight at the OK corral starts, Ike Clanton's just kinda wandering around in the midst of the gunfire. Then he runs right up to Wyatt begging him not to shoot. Wyatt retorts, "The shootin's commenced! Either get to fightin' or get outta here!" Ike then runs into a building right next to the gunfight, aquires a pistol, and starts taking potshots at the Earps through a shattered window.

So, I'd like to thank the world for ruining my enjoyment of Tombstone. I used to be able to just enjoy the movie, but now I can't see Ike Clanton without thinking of him as the embodiment of World Opinion.
I Read InstaPundit for the Articles

Looking for some new wallpaper for your computer? Then head over to InstaPundit. You can thank me later.
Mr President, We Cannot Allow a Fuel Cell Gap!

If the Army and Marines are going to have success with their Land Warrior and Objective Force Warrior programs, then they're going to need batteries: lots and lots of batteries.
The increasing power demands of the military’s high-tech systems are one of the most important issues in the hands of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s center for ultra-high-technology research.
Traditional batteries can only carry a limited charge, so DARPA's fooling around with fuel cells, and has field tested a prototype.
Fuel cells use very concentrated fuel such as hydrogen, which by weight has three times the energy content of diesel fuel. The cells "breathe" air from the atmosphere, which combines with fuel and burns to create electricity.

DARPA has been working on making compact fuel cells practical for the military since 1992, and already large-scale versions have outperformed engineers’ expectation, Nowak said.

The most significant test to date of fuel cell technology was held in June 2000, during Operation Strong Angel, a multinational humanitarian operations exercise in Hawaii that was part of a larger RIMPAC exercise.

By the exercise’s end, the fuel cells had powered laptop computers; a short-wave radio system; and a phone and data relay communications system.
A successful field test means mo money, so expect to hear alot about this technology as it matures and makes its way not only into the military, but the civilian world as well. Imagine having a laptop or cell phone that recharges itself.

Air Force Sets Up Shop in Unpronounceable Country

Some folks based out of Ramstein have deployed to Kyrgyzstan to begin setting up an AB to support operations in Afghanland.
Almost 200 people, about 125 of them from the response group, are in the former Soviet republic setting up Manas International Airport to handle incoming personnel and equipment to the region, said Capt. Kristi Beckman, an 86th Airlift Wing spokeswoman deployed with the unit.

This is a pretty momentous event. If past history is any guide, then we now have a permanent and long-term presence in Central Asia. Once we build a base somewhere, we're in for the long haul and it's damned hard to get us out. The DoD also might want to consider an emergency deployment of vowels to that country.

Afghanistan Gave me the Runs
From the Air Force Times (subscription required):

There's been a small outbreak of some sort of intestinal flu that Marines and sailors call "Osama's Revenge" in Afghanland. The doctors don't know if it's from well water, dodi bread, or poor hygeine. It's worth noting that 70% of Russian soldiers had the same problem when Russia was playing around over there.
Camp Rhino, We Hardly Knew Ye

Camp Rhino, the Marine beach-head in Afghanistan, is closed.
I Wanna Be an Airport Ranger...

Applicants are signing up in droves for the "top secret" and "elite" unit known as Phoenix Raven, which guards high-profile aircraft and people. Odd considering that I work at the base with the most high profile people and aircraft and have never heard of this unit. Good ole' dependable SP's guard our jets. Maybe these Phoenix raven folks work overseas. What are the grueling and murderous physical standards for this elite corps of rivet counters?
50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and a two-mile run in below-freezing temperatures and light snow
Laugh all you want, but in the Air Force, those standards probably disqualify 75% of our force.

Friday, January 04, 2002

A Harmone With Feet

The libidinous Dawson has linked to my site. I'd hate to have the water bill for all the cold showers you must take, my friend. I've returned the favor and you will find him, and several other new entries to the left under "Other People's Stuff".

The first American soldier has been killed due to enemy action. A CIA agent was also injured.
Letters to the Editor

I've been reading past Letters to the Editor on the Stripes website, and have come across a couple that are interesting because of recent events. The first letter (you have to scroll down a bit to find it) is by Ivan Orozco of Camp Monteith, Kosovo. The letter was written right around the time of McVeigh's execution, and takes to task people who associate Islam with terrorism. It's the last paragraph that grabbed my attention for obvious reasons:
We Americans live in glass houses but love to throw bricks. There are those who will call me un-American. They may please do so, but they and I know that the United States has a lot to learn. Our biggest enemy is not some person with a beard, a strange religion, or a cloth on his head. Our biggest enemy comes from within.
I wonder what Ivan thinks now?

The second letter from June 2001 is from retired Colonel Barry E. Willey of Alexandria, Va. His letter interested me because he touches upon the same issues that I discussed in my recent post about restructuring the Armed Forces, but from an Army point of view. Contrary to what I said in my post, the Army has indeed been working to try and transform themselves, and he highlights some of the plans they are working on. Here's his summation:
While the current force and the Interim Force will handle every mission given to it today and in the near term, with support from Congress and sound investment in science and technology now, the U.S. Army will develop and field its Future Combat System sometime in the next two decades that will provide the National Command Authority with an unmatchable force that can deploy anywhere fast and do just about anything.

It’s not pie-in-the-sky.

It’s happening. Get ready. With nearly two years of planning, doctrine development and investment in this future force in its rucksack, the Army has a jump-start on the road to meeting the needs of DOD’s strategic review.

Listen up! The Army’s on board and moving out
It seems that the Marines have beat the Army to it. While the Army was talking, the Marines were doing. Maybe that's why the Army is peeved about the Marines getting the job to deploy to Afghanistan. If a true measure of success is getting the nod, then the Army, despite all it's development plans, has failed because it was looking two decades down the road instead of two months down the road. Perhaps this spurn by the Command Authority will be the motivation they need to turn it up a notch and get things going now instead of waiting. I certainly hope they do. Despite being in different services, we're all here for the same misson, and when one component lags behind, we all suffer for it.
Secret Squirrel Shit

I've been asked what I think of the ongoing story about the Secret Service agent who got booted off the airplane recently and raised a ruckus because of it. I don't think I can tell you my opinion because the situation seems so unreal to me. You see, my job brings me into almost daily contact with these guys, and it's hard for me to reconcile what I'm reading in the papers with what I see on a daily basis. It's really weird when the news reports stories about people you know, and it's even more wierd when you go around and read comments by other people criticising or defending someone you know. It has the feeling of talking behind their back and making judgements without having all the facts at hand.

I can only tell you what I know of these guys. They are the epitome of cool. In the dictionary under "unflappable" there should be a picture of one of those guys. They're very professional, low-key, and amazingly approachable. Back when Hillary was flying to New York and back every damned day during her Senate campaign, I struck up conversations with them while waiting for her to arrive (she was always late) and they were normal, everyday type guys. We'd shoot the shit and swap war stories and I never got the impression that those dudes would be subject to losing their cool. They are trained to suppress the normal human instinct to freeze or panic in an unexpected situation and also to keep their heads about them at all times, which is why the reports of this particular agent blowing his top ring false to me. He may have. I wasn't there so I don't know, but like I said, it's hard for me to reconcile what I read and what I see.

I also know a lot about pilots. There are some that are reasonable and professional, but there are also a great number of pricks in their ranks. These guys have to be coddled like children, and when their ego's aren't sufficiently stroked or they don't get what they want, they tend to adopt a passive-agressive attitude just like any petulant child. They can be maddening to deal with, and perhaps the agent in question, for whatever reason, just couldn't take any more of the pilot's bullshit and lost his cool.

It's hard to say. I wasn't there. All that I can go on is my experience with both parties in the dispute, and going by that, I would tend to be more sympathetic to the agent's point of view than that of the pilot's.

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Spec Ops shootout

A SpecOps member was wounded in a firefight outside of Jalalabad.
Lowell said the U.S. troops returned fire and "one Special Operations member did receive a gunshot wound to the leg. While the Special Operations team was able to secure the area, their attackers escaped"

That Grenade Belonged in Another Orifice

A Bosnian man approached Camp Eagle in Bosnia with a grenade in his mouth. The goof was apparently drunk and was stumbling around the front gate.
On at least two occasions, the grenade dropped to the slush-covered street. From behind the wire, troops jokingly asked, "Where’s his dash-10, so he can learn to use it." A "dash-10" refers to Army technical manuals.
It's not clear what caused the man to do this, but they said it had something to do with some sort of incident involving a whorehouse aptly named the "Happy Day Motel".
How the situation changed to Delic threatening to detonate the grenade is a mystery, although Bosnians just shrugged it off as somewhat normal for villagers in Dubrave.

Blog Note

Well, I've just discovered the Stars and Stripes in its online format, and I'm having a field day reading it. Back before we got internet access on base, the Stripes and AFRTS (now AFN) were our only sources of news, and the news in the Stripes was a bit, how should we say... delayed. Yesterday's News Today indeed.

Well, expect to see regular updates from the Stripes here. I'll be posting some "Letters to the Editor" (my favorite section) and other stories about the guys and gals over there so readers here can see what our folks overseas are thinking and doing. With that in mind, I offer this story about servicemember's hopes for 2002.
1.50 for a Movie

This article in the Stars & Stripes brought back some memories. It's about the long lines to get into the only theater on base at Yokota.
On opening night of "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," moviegoers parked on beach chairs and blankets. The ones near the front of the line said they came before 4 p.m. to buy tickets at 5:30 p.m.
It wasn't uncommon at all to see long lines of people stretching into the tennis courts which were almost 100 yards away. Since we got movies about 3 or 4 months after their release in the States, everyone knew whether the movie was worth going to or not by the time it got to us. Christ, I remember when Titanic hit. It was the first movie I saw that came around more than once, and every single time it played, there were lines going on forever. It's not just people at Yokota who see the movies that cause the long lines. People from Yokosuka and Zama were always coming up by the carload to catch the flicks since we were usually first in the rotation. I was lucky since I already lived on the East Side and could just walk over to the theater to buy tickets ahead of time, but it was a common site when driving back home to see a long line snaking it's way along the road.

Even when I was there, people were calling for a second theater on the West Side, but it was always turned down. The current location of the PowerZone (well, current as of my departure. They might have the new BX built by now) used to be the old West Side theater, but they shut that down before I got there. We were given different reasons why we couldn't get another theater, but the always optimistic Public Affairs office offers this excuse:
Waiting in line for a movie is not unique to Yokota, said Air Force Capt. Michael Braibish, Yokota’s public affairs officer.

"We’re just mirroring exactly what happens in the States," he said. "The reason they call them blockbusters is we’ve got people wrapped around the block [to see the movie]. It shows we’re bringing in the programs that people want to see."
I swear these guys become political consultants (spinmeisters) when they retire. Anyways, I'm sure that most people who read this are going, "eh, so what?", but that article was a surprise and brought back memories of a common experience I had forgotten about since I left.

A Different Perspective

A reader writes in with his perspective on the whole Borders/Independent bookshop discussion that I never thought of:
About Glenn Reynolds' third spaces and your comments on independent bookstores: I guess sometimes it depends upon the area that you live in. There are a few bookstores here in Berkeley (yes, Berkeley) that are excellent. Yes, they don't have quite the selection of the B&N but they do have a good selection. Only once have I not found a book and it was just out-of-stock. They got it in within two days. The workers are very knowledgeable (most are english/lit grad students at Berkeley) and can lead you right to a book. Though like Reynolds said, they do lift that eyebrow when you buy something conservative.

Besides, I have my own extension of the Buy USA mentality which is to buy local, then buy state then buy USA. Even though that includes the nutcases in Berkeley, I have to look out for my neighbors.

Another Casualty in the War on Terror

Alert Reader Bob Moran sends in this story from the San Fran Chronicle. I think it's safe to say that this guy will be the butt of many jokes for a long time.
Snow Day

Just a little under a month ago, people were complaining that the 70 degree temperatures were not "wintry" enough. Well, it snowed today. I hope those boneheads are happy.
My little Hercules!

Glenn Reynolds is in love with the BUFF, but it's the mighty trash-hauling Herky Bird that drops the big boy. Airlift, baby, Airlift.
The Sydney Fires

If you want a good blow-by-blow account of the fires currently burning up people's houses in Sydney by someone who lives there, then steer your browser over to Tim Blair's Weblog. He's offered a more informative and stirring account than any American news source I've seen.

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Good answer

Recently, I asked "Who the hell is Noam Chomsky?". Well, I've finally got an answer courtesy of Dan Hartung of Lake Effects Weblog fame.

Who the hell names their kid Noam?
Well, Jews, for starters. (Hebrew for "pleasant".)
Shit. Sorry if I pissed off any Jews out there with the question. As for Chomsky's background:
He got famous back in the 60s for reforming the study of linguistics. Really, really famous, because this was a big thing back then. The chimp sign language experiments were trying to prove one thing; Chomsky's theories indicated that it wasn't enough they could form sounds(abandoned as a research branch by then) or even use simple ASL words -- that what distinguished human speech was *grammar* and language structure, and that this harked back to brain structures and language as an innate function of being human. He basically said forget about teaching chimps or dolphins a symbolic language, because they would never be able to have the grammar to explain complicated thoughts.

Later on an "anti-proof" of the Washoe type of experiments was tried with an animal named Nim Chimpsky. It bore out his theory, and now everybody pretty much believe that most of the progress that was touted back when I was in school (and still excited by this stuff, even though it was on its way out) had been artifacts of the experimenters influencing (and in many cases cherry-picking) the results.

Then, just as he was becoming really famous for that, the Vietnam war protests heated up and he was a leading academic name to lend his to the movement. I think he was still a pretty traditional socialist at that point, it was only later that he evolved his pretty unique politics of
anarcho-syndicalism. But that and his media studies, especially Manufacturing Consent ca. 1981, have been staples of college life ever
since. You can hardly get through a typical undergrad program at many schools without encountering him half-a-dozen times, and it pays to at least know what he's talking about, because frankly, half the student body is probably parroting his ideas.

Now I know, and knowing's half the battle. Thanks, Dan.

And you thought I was making this up

Awhile back, I said I had seen public beheadings while pulling a TDY in Saudi. Lest you think I was making stuff like that up, here's a link (courtesy LGF) to one of Saudi's own newspapers.
Three Saudi men convicted of sodomy and marrying each other were beheaded yesterday in the southwestern city of Abha, the Interior Ministry said in a statement
It must've been the marrying thing that set the authorities off. Homosexuality, or more precisely homosexual acts, are pretty commonplace over there, as most men see it as a loophole around the adultery/extra-marital sex rule. I could tell you some stories, but you probably wouldn't believe those, either.
Onward to Victory

LGF has a link to a story about the boastings of the recently killed Taliban official.
Herculean Trip

Fresh from his victory over the undead master of the night, Lord Dracula, Tony Blair is heading to India in an attempt to avert a major war between the sub-continent and Pakistan. If successful, Blair will have completed 4 of his 12 labors in an astonishing, if not mythic, period of time. Advisors say that the Prime Minister is on the fast-track to demi-godhood, and should have his own constellation by late July of this year barring any major Tory objections.

Sources aren't saying where the Promethean Minister is headed next, but there are some signs that he may be headed into the Himalayas for a spiritual retreat. Tales of a large, white, furry ape-man creature that terrorizes villagers in the area are not cited as a reason for his trip.
For your mantlepiece

Brian Linse from Ain't No Bad Dude has his annual awards list for 2001 up. The one that got diet coke splattered all over the screen:
The Dan Rather "What's The Frequency Kenneth?" Award

For most deserved pummeling of a media figure:

Robert Fisk
More bang for the buck

I've been a big cheerleader for better fiscal management within the military, and if this piece in the Washington Post is correct, we might finally have a comptroller who'll cut the crap, reign in bureaucratic exuberance, and just maybe convince the right congressmen that buying toys from that defense contractor in your district may not be what's best for the military or the country. The biggest problem with the military budget isn't that we need more money per se, we just need to spend it more efficiently. I would imagine that there's tons of money lost each fiscal year through mismanagement, fraud, and irresponsibility.

If there's one good thing that'll come out of this campaign, I hope that it's a major restructuring of the military into a force that the government wants us to be. You can't have us funded and structured to do one thing, yet send us off on other adventures that are completely opposite. For the past decade, we've been told that we have to be able to fight two major regional "classic" wars with a military structured to fight the Soviet Union but going off on humanitarian and peacekeeping missions the whole time. Sure, the services have tried to adapt and train folks for these kinds of missions, but that's only an unnatural graft onto a force that must train and equip for a completely different mission. It's like an auto manufacturer telling it's folks to build VCR's, but never retooling the assembly line, training the workers, or giving them the equipment they need to do the new task.

If you want us to become a force that can rapidly react to regional hotspots and act as a peacekeeping or humanitarian force, then equip, train, fund, and structure us to do that mission. If you want us to remain as a conventional force, then stop sending us on these OOTW missions. You can't have it both ways. Yeah, our professional pride dictates that we will do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission given us, but sooner or later, something's gotta give. That's why I'm hoping against hope that this new campaign against the terrorists is the catalyst that will transform the military into the kind of force the politicians apparently want us to be. A small, flexible, highly lethal military that can rapidly react to troublespots at a moment's notice, and have all the equipment it needs to perform it's mission within 24 hours. The Marines, as proven with Camp Rhino, are already there. The great thing about such a force is that using it as a peacekeeping force will not seem as unnatural as it does now. Both missions require the same sort of logistics and deployment capabilities. I'll leave you with this quote from the comptroller that I hope will prove to be true:
Each succeeding war, he said, illustrates the need to transform. "The problem historically has been that we are like the drunk looking for the key under the light," he said. "But if you go back, even to the Gulf War or the Korean War, the key is never under the light. All you can do is expand the size of the light -- think laterally, not just directly in front of you. That's what this war, like previous wars, is energizing."

Navy Crows and Army Woes

Neat article in Time by Douglas Waller about the brass feeling good about itself. Of course, the Navy is feeling good because
the Afghan war has been practically an all-Navy show. Fully ninety percent of the air sorties have been flown by carrier-based planes, and the largest ground contingent in Afghanistan is the Marines, who are part of the Department of the Navy. Navy men privately fumed during the 1991 Desert Storm War because the Air Force dominated the air war. But in Afghanistan, "this is the Navy's war," one sea-going officer said proudly.
Well, we've been carrying the burden the last ten years. I guess the Navy gets theirs this time. I don't have any hard facts, but I'm guessing one of the main reasons this show wasn't given to the Air Force (besides range) was because the last ten years have gutted the supply system of spare parts and because the current manning problems in maintenance have yet to be resolved. We could use the break, and if the Navy wants to crow, bully for them. We've got outer space.
There won't be a need for so many conventional Army divisions, particularly the heavy ones with tanks that take forever to get to foreign battlefields. The Army, as you can guess, is not too excited about this idea.
Hehe. I've always wondered when the Army brass' love affair with the tank would jump up and bite them in the ass. The army, as far as I know, is the only branch that has yet to begin even a rudimentary restructuring effort after the Cold War. They're still set-up to repel a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, and since most Army generals are former armor guys, they tend to give more attention to tanks then a small, flexible fighting force. Their dependence on heavy armor is starting to look as silly as the Polish using horse cavalry during the '39 blitzkrieg.
Rebuilding the Pentagon

In this post, I talked about how the gaping hole in the Pentagon was much wider than the section damaged by the aircraft and that they were in the process of demolishing most of the area around the impact zone. Well, the New York Times has an article that confirms what I saw and what I've been told.
But there was extensive fire damage hundreds of feet away in unrenovated areas that had not yet had sprinklers installed. The fire was so intense it cracked concrete.

That meant all five floors of a 100- yard-wide piece of the Pentagon's western face had to come down. In all, trucks carted off 47,000 tons of debris or about 6 percent of the building. The demolition took just one month, aided by round-the-clock work and landfills that stayed open all night.
The "get it done by Sept. 11, 2002" rumor I heard also has some basis in fact:
The reconstruction is expected to cost more than $700 million and take until spring 2003. The most immediate and ambitious goal is to rebuild the outermost ring of offices by the one-year anniversary of the attack, when a memorial is to be dedicated.
The most important part of the story was that most of the burn victims are out of the hospital and on their way to a long and painful recovery.
Rebuilding the lives of the critically injured and those who lost loved ones will be much harder.
Dr. Marion Jordan, chief of the hospital center's burn unit, believes that the last eight survivors who were at the center will eventually be able to care for themselves and do at least some of the things they love.

Some will now start recovering relatively quickly. For others, it will take much longer.

Louise Kurtz, a civilian accountant who was the last to be discharged, was burned over 70 percent of her body and lost all her fingers and parts of both ears. Others also lost fingers or were burned deep into tendon and muscle.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Who's Military is It?

This guy seems to think that Bill Clinton's military is fighting this war. I beg to differ. It's my military. Mine, and everyone else's who, when just about everybody was walking, stuck it out. Those of us who made it through the dark times, and those of us who joined up even when doing so provided no tangible benefit, are the ones fighting and winning this thing. I think the only thing Clinton can take credit for is making us appreciate what we had before, and giving those of us who hung around a hope that we would see a day when we had a reason to keep doing this besides simple pride. That day has come, and we're making the most of it.
Can he make it to the weekend?

Argentina's legislature is looking to install the country's 5th President in 2 weeks.
The successor is widely expected to be Eduardo Duhalde, a former vice-president and current senator of Buenos Aires province.
Duhalde is expected to resign shortly before the end of his inauguration speech.

Monday, December 31, 2001

A World With a lot of Borders

Glenn Reynolds over at InstaPundit has written a lot about the national bookstore chain phenomenon on both his site and for the WSJ. His thrust is that Borders is a nice third place to hang out besides work and home, and that elitist snobs can go stuff themselves if they don't like it.

I agree, but I'll go one further: Small bookshops offer no intrinsic value to the community and Borders is the best thing to happen since sliced bread. Sure, small bookshops are cozy, and you may strike up an acquaintance with the proprietor, but where's the beef? I've been to little bookshops, and have found them wanting. They're usually inconveniently located, offer a limited selection, and charge a lot more for a book than Borders or B&N. I can walk into a Borders, do an electronic search on one of their computers and find the book I'm looking for quickly. I don't want to befriend the staff at Borders, I just want to get the damned book I'm looking for and other than Amazon, they're the best bet to have the book I want.

If a democracy depends on an educated and informed electorate, then I believe stores like Borders are a godsend. Think about it: When you walk into a Borders, you've just stepped into the largest marketplace of ideas in the History of Mankind. I don't make that statement lightly. Never before has a place existed where the common person can walk in, find and purchase a book they're looking for (no matter how obscure) and better themselves in some way. If the store you're in doesn't have it, one of the others in the chain probably will and you can order it. Hell, you can avoid all that and just go to Amazon, but if you're like me, you like to physically handle the goods and perhaps read a bit before you decide to buy.

Can a small bookshop do all that a Borders does? Does it offer a staggering variety of books, magazines, and newspapers at low prices? If not, then what good is it? Borders stores are large and can accommodate a massive amount of customers. Factor in the variety of material, and you have a business that is better for the community than some rinky-dink bookshop by a factor of 100. You may have a sentimental or romantic attachment to a small bookstore, but that and a quarter will get you a cup a coffee. Borders makes informing and educating the electorate quick and easy, and that's not only good for the community, it's good for the country.

(Neither I, nor any member of my family works for Borders, nor was I paid by Borders, Inc. to write this. So there.)
Who the hell names their kid Noam?

In all my online reading, I keep bumping into articles roasting some guy called Noam Chomsky. Who the fuck is Noam Chomsky, and why should I care? You'd think that with all the attention and time people pour into flaying this guy that he'd be someone of importance, but I've never heard of him.
More linkage

Those wascally libertarians over at Samizdata have linked me. Man, that sounds like something that should come out of a Thai whore's mouth: "Me link you. Me link you long time!" Brian Linse, proprietor of Ain't No Bad Dude, and currently involved in a running gun-battle with the Samizdatistas, has also linked me long time.
The Terror PC (no, I'm not talking about Windows)

Read this article from MSNBC about the PC in Afghanistan that had all kinds of stuff from AL-Queda on it. I'll do some commenting later if time permits, but for now, go read that story. It's fascinating.
Frodo Lives!

The Lord of the Rings is still number 1 and has made 154 million dollars in just 12 days. That sound you hear is the convulsing of the Christian fundies in their righteous rage. You know, sometimes I wish there really would be a rapture. It would get rid of some of the biggest assholes and hypocrites in the world.

Why the West Still Has a Long Way to Go: Reason #1

Not to be outdone by their Taliban brothers, a fundie church in New Mexico is burning Harry Potter books.
"These books teach children how they can get into witchcraft and become a witch, wizard or warlock," Brock [the pastor] said.
First, I'll let you get over your snickering after reading the poor, ignorant preacher's earnest belief in wizards, then I'll quote Dr. Jones from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "Maybe you should try reading books instead of burning them!"

I've got an idea, let's go burn the Bible. It teaches you how to become a butchering conqueror, an incestuous father, a philanderer, a thief, murderer, and a liar. What's better, you can do it all in the name of God! Anyways, our desert preacher, after donning a field jacket and a white hat had this to say:
"There are those that are doing their best to make us look bad." Brock said. "But because of this, I've been able to preach the gospel around the world."
Read the transcript from the bin-laden tape (especially the part where he says that the acts brought scores of people to Islam), then read this again, and realize that the difference between Christian fundamentalists and Islamic ones is only a matter of degree.

Why the West is Superior: Reason #211

A few Afghans are paying the price for not only strictly adhering to Islamic law, but also for looking to make a quick buck off their daughters, according to the NYT.
"These people who gave their daughters to Taliban, they trusted in money, not in God," said Yahio, a bicycle repairman who rejected a Talib's attempt to marry his daughter. "Now maybe they don't have information about their daughters. They are sad, because they don't know where they are."
If you read the whole article, you get to see the whole Islamic arranged-marriage system in great detail. For some reason, this reminds me of when I was in Saudi, and one of the Arab fuel truck drivers was constantly amazed by what we "let" our women do. He said that in his country, women are only good for "children, cleaning, and beating."
Happy New Year

You'll find no year-end retrospectives here at the Daily Briefing (you know, I still think I should've went with "Debriefing"), as I trust anyone reading this was alive during the past year. If you weren't alive, my condolences and hopes for a speedy ride to Valhalla or wherever the hell it is you go after you die.

I will spend this New Year's Eve the same way I spent the last one: Freezing my ass off on the flightline. So when you're ralphing the contents of your dinner off a second story balcony, humping some chick you met 5 minutes ago, or just sitting at home watching the preternaturally preserved Dick Clark on TV, remember that some guy you never met (and his friends) is out there on a dark flightline freezing his ass off so some self-important Congressman can fly to Europe on a "fact-finding" mission and get laid by his aide on the way over.

Happy New Year!