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1/31/2004

TBM BRD: The Schwarz is Wid Ya!

Ok, it's been around for an eon, and I don't know if its apochryphal or not (and I'm not going to ruin it with too much research) and has now the original site (www.skippyslist.com) has shuffled off the digital coil, but whilst surfing I kind of linked through a whole lot of stuff and ran across it again (as it seems to be making the rounds), and want to try to do my part to keep the thing from total obscurity. So here we go! (Courtesy, in no particular order, the Meet-Tree-Archy, Havalanche Companee & Twilight Cafe)

From SGT Shawn Stafford (Avalunch Companee):

Once upon a time, there was a SPC Schwarz stationed with the Army in the Balkans. SPC Schwarz was either very clever or very bored; but probably both, since he managed to attempt or be warned about 213 things he wasn't allowed to do. He collected those things into a hillarious list and posted them to the web. The site hadn't been updated in a couple of years and has since gone away; but the list is classic, so I saved it.

Link: http://www.skippyslist.com/skippylist.html

UPDATE the First: I tried using the e-mail referenced in one of the linked pages to contact the erstwhile specialist, but to no avail. The e-mail was bounced back.

UPDATE the Second:  Evidently the Skip-meister has his page back in action, and has been requesting that people who have posted the list, replace it with a link to the list.  And so you go.  Even if you have seen the list, take a peek at the site, as there's some good stuff there.

1/30/2004

EBS BRD: Minutae

Just lettin' y'all know that we're moving to Zulu time in these parts.

Just 'cuz.

TBM BRD: Exporting Buggery to Mars

The ineffable, inexorable, indomitable Hominid asks a reasonable question: what happens if we export life to Mars? Can intrepid microscopic voyagers withstand the ride?

Well, as it turns out, that question has been noodled upon before. You may recall that the first astronauts were temporarily kept in quarantine to prevent against the possibility of infection by extraterrestrial organisms. This got folks to thinking about the possibility of sending lil' critters outbound. More generally, however, such hitchhikers also represent a distinct risk that scientific operations may be compromised. So, yes, they actually do clean spacecraft before hurling them off this particular chunk of rock.

Given the pressure to make components very light, some of them are not able to withstand the extreme conditions associated with some drying processes, so the race to create less damaging but more effective cleaning methods is ongoing.

TBM: Dean-osity

The Ranting Profs note another masterful use of content-changing editing by the New York Times, in which Dean sez, among other things, the following:

"You know, I think in some ways, unfortunately, the terrorists have already won. We have an act that allows American citizens to be held without knowing what they're charged with and without seeing a lawyer. To my knowledge, that hasn't happened since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts."


He also says a lot of other things (for those and the quality analysis, go check out their bleedin' post).

At any rate, the reason that I noted this is that I think Dean is also factually wrong here. As I recall, Americans were held during the Civil War when Honest Abe suspended the writ of habeus corpus, and then later on when FDR detained whole rafts of people because they liked wahabi wasabi and were of a certain Asiatic mein mien.

And lord knows Flower-Powered Howard wouldn't want to follow in the footsteps of the father of the "Arsenal of Democracy", would he now.

UPDATE the First: Go read the comments section. I've been visited by the "Well Reasoned, Well Argued, Objection With Appropriate Historical Parallels Fairy." And yes, it's by a commenter that truly would be a noteworthy blogger.

TBM: Reporting From Inside the Blast Radius

Hey folks, not dead yet, much to the chagrin of this momentous heap of work that has now found a home on my desk.

But hey, would the internet be the internet if people didn't use it to procrastinate occasionally?

So, as it turns out, a careful review (and friendly *cough*) has inspired me to re-inspect that travesty I call my blogroll.

So, first and foremostest, Mythusmage Opines, a blog wherin the mighty and noble blogger "give[s] you [his] take on world doings and various other things" (the killer app of the blog, in my humble opinion) and generally holds forth with his take on world doings, as it were. Among other things, he has recently posted on the rebuilding of the Iraqi army and how that's going to affect the Military Balance in the Middle East.

He does, correctly, come to the conclusion that the new and improved Iraqi army (of a planned total of some 3 divisions) will be man-for-man more combat effective than their Ba'athist predecessors. I would (and I do sorely hate to disagree with someone when I'm announcing their deification via blogroll [ed: Then why do it? Because he scooped you? Hush, you.]) have to disagree on the effect that this will have on the Iraqi military. When all is said and done, improving the effectiveness of a military apparatus is a ferociously long, costly, and difficult process. Consider the fact that it took two decades (and no small number of gunboat expeditions) for the US to get the Vietnam-era kinks out of its kit. And even so, the Air Tasking Orders during the Gulf War had to be flown to the carriers by helicopter daily, since no mutually compatible data system existed.

Consider also, the fact, that the US has been training and equipping the bejeezus out of the Egyptian military since 1979 and I still think they'd get rolled pretty hard if playing against anyone on varsity (and yes, that does include the French - assuming that either country had the power projection capability to actually fight one another). On the other hand, Egypt could, more or less take Libya without getting bloodied too much, so discounting changes in tactics and whatnot, a new Iraqi army could probably defeat some of their local counterparts. But, in the end analysis, a few months of training, while useful, won't be effective until the guys who were second lieutenants today and spend 20 or so years learning American doctrine and training are generals. Even then, their is some argument that the failure of Arab countries to field effective militaries is a deeper cultural issue.

What does it mean, exactly? Well, keep this in mind. The Iraqis will be fielding 3 division for, I imagine, the foreseeable future, so as not to pose a significant threat to the Gulf States. Meanwhile, the US will probably maintain a fairly large presence as to counterbalance Iran and pressure Syria. The Iraqi force will probably function, initially, as border guards and as a force to preserve territorial integrity, but dreams of a far-off day when a Corps or two of pro-American, modern, fully-lethal divisions storms across, smiting Tehran and Damascus are, at a bare minimum, two to three decades off.

We also have a hat's off and hearty welcome to the Mighty Mudville Gazette. This poor guy seems to have taken the same plunge I have and started writing very long, multi-part posts. Except his are different, insofar as they are both good and (as far as I can tell) true. Definitely two good points over my stuff. Anywho, even above and beyond that, its called Democracy, Whisky, and Sexy. Here's the first part. Take a read, follow it through, take your time, and savor. There's more than one part, and they don't get extruded hourly, so savor it and enjoy.

Elsewhere, a recipient of my retaliatory strikes, has, I believe, pheonixed themselves out of the ashes. Housekeeping as appropriate, and go revel in the exquisite arrangement of piss and vinegar. Seriously. It's a bit of art to watch that niggling splinter of fire-red irritation be given full, burning life with such vigor and verve.

But, finally, and by far, most embarrassing is the fact that I've been linked through to Dale Franks of the Review for approximately 3 geological epochs and failed to bloody notice it. This, I fear, is the blogging equivalent of walking around with your schwantz hanging out of your pants and people hanging little Christmas ornaments on it - without your noticing. Wow. Pretty high rate of tardedness over here to miss that. The guy writes these well-thought out and substantial posts, and I just cruise right by the fact he's blogrolled me. Derf.

Elsewhere, the mighty Big Hominid de la Hairy Chasms has completed his 5-part review of the Great Nork Famine book by this Andrew Natsios character (all down under the Sacred and Profain section on the right-side column, down a ways). Good stuff. The review is well thought out, and worth reading in one sitting if you have the time, or in chunks if you don't. I hope, fervently, that given this work, we can tease out some strands of the military implications of the famine. Even if that isn't managed, go take a look at the Big Hominid's work - well worth the read.

And finally, two more blogs shuffle off of the electronic coil into bit rot, obscurity, and arcane commentary. Yes, Cinderella Blogerfeller is taking a year off, and the wildly popular Rachel Lucas (mythical origniator of The. Slam. Critique. and the unholy combination of Golum-speak and doublespeak), has opted to shelve the enterprise altogether. Faretheewell.

1/26/2004

TBM: What, exactly, are WMDs?

Tacitus has an article discussing the inclusion of chemical and biological weapons as WMD. Some pretty good discussion ensues (even aside from my wonderous gem of wisdom), but since both of my readers are here (to read my stuff), rather than there (on somone else's site to read me stuff) right now, I've reproduced my entry below:

The lethality of biological agents at the high end approaches that of conventional nuclear weapons (i.e. fission, not fusion weapons). Chemical lethalities tend to, very roughly, overlap those associated with biological weapons, although the lethalities at the high-end do not keep pace with biological weapons.

The thing about the bio agents is a question of deployment. Rather than muck around with something that isn't particularly contagious, such as anthrax, use something like smallpox.

Recent exercises (although there are some significant debates about whether or not the model used made smallpox too virulent) indicate that something like 10 or so simultaneous, but geographically separated, outbreaks of smallpox would spread faster than it could be contained, resulting in a number of deaths approaching the casualties expected from a limited nuclear war.

If you wanted to be really nasty, recruit your "suicide bombers", get them jobs with SkyChef (the folks who do airline food), food service at major sporting events, high traffic fastfood joints, and major shopping malls, shoot them full of smallpox, and then let them loose.

If you have, let's say, 19 guys, who are trying to aggressively spread their infection and are put in the right environments, you could blow right through the 10-20 million casualty mark within a month.

As far as chemicals go, the above commentary about their effectiveness v. unprepared troops, etc, is pretty accurate. The thing about chemicals is that they have to be used wisely. In cases where the Iraqis were shelling using chemicals, chemical artillery shells turned out to be roughly as effective as conventional ones (in terms of shells per casualty). However, using something like 1000 kg SCUD warheads with a a persistant nerve agent and cluster sub-munitions against tightly packed targets (e.g. the superbowl) would yield tens of thousands of casualties. The thing that makes chemicals such a piece of work is the decontamination thing. Imagine if you could spread several hundred liters of persistent agent through the NY subway system. Very likely, it would force permanent closure of much of the system and would cripple New York, perhaps indefinitely.

So yes, nukes are more dangerous, but that doesn't make bio/chem weapons inconsequential. It's kind of like saying that a Ferrari is so expensive, that a Lotus or Porche shouldn't be counted as an expensive sports car.

1/24/2004

ICBM: Hey! Look, Ma! A Real, Live Tard!

I've never really fisked anyone before (at least at length), for whatever reason. But, this being a blog, I guess a fisking had to happen sooner or later, and here is the malignant beast.

This Dicknugget has decided to do just enough research in his November 20th, 2003 entry to breath new tinfoil-hatted life into musty, stale, ill-thought out, and poorly conceived conspiracy theories. Behold, the Dicknugget and his lead paragraphs!

"Ever drive a nail through your arm? [ed: Umm.. not on purpose. Freak.] I mean a really deep puncture wound. And it bleeds for a while and you clean it and in a couple days it scabs over. Then a few days after that it gets big and bulgy and puffy and you just know what you're gonna have to do. So you get a new bottle of peroxide and about a hundred gauze pads and you take a finger and pick at just the outer edge of the scab. And a gout of the foulest smelling puke this side of the east river[ed: Ooh, your writing has competition for foulest smelling puke] flows out and it makes you wanna vomit.

That's how I feel after doing some reading on "PMC". That stands for "Private Military Corporation" (or "Company) and if that phrase doesn't chill your blood and turn your stomach then let me clarify for you:"
(then proceeds to demonstrate that he can use dictionary.com to establish the meanings of individual words, but can fail to grasp the meaning of a specific sequence of words. [ed: I would love to see him parse 'Cat House', 'Dick Head', 'Jack Off', or ... Yeah, yeah, we get the idea])


You GO Dicknugget!!! Idiot...

But this is a new millennium and the mercs need a new title. Also new job descriptions. PMCs focus on "conflict resolution" for governments and other "legitimate organizations" when western nations no longer desire or are no longer able to supply "material support". Those "legitimate organizations" can include anything from elected governments to "liberation movements."

The jobs these PMCs are required to undertake range from intelligence gathering and threat analysis, basic training of troops and "Special forces, Psy ops and intelligence training", humanitarian operations, law enforcement, and -- if you've got lots of cash but not a lot of people -- "specialist individuals or formed units to support a client's own armed forces."


Hooray!! Dicknugget has learned how to combine the stupidity of scare quotes with the wanton, random destruction associated with the excessive and egregious use of cluster munitions!! W/r/t to, as he puts it, "conflict resolution", well, let's look at what GlobalSecurity.org has to say on the matter:

Executive Outcomes, the mercenary firm based in Pretoria, South Africa, and manned mostly by former members of the South African Defense Force, has proven to be a decisive factor in the outcome of some civil wars in Africa. Involved in forcing rebels to the negotiating table in Sierra Leone and more well-known for contributing to the Angolan government's success in forcing UNITA to accept the Lusaka Protocol in 1994.


Sounds like "conflict resolution" to me. But, I guess, as true social justice demands, it's better to keep a 30-year civil war raging, rather than somebody get a buck in the process of ending that war. And as far as that goes, let's parse this gem out: "for governments and other 'legitimate organizations' when western nations no longer desire or are no longer able to supply 'material support'." Now given the fact that UNITA (the main Angolan rebel group) was supported by the US and South Africa during the Cold War, and the fact that there are both oil and diamonds in Angola, of course the Eeviill PMC, Executive Outcomes, opted to support the capitalist exploiters, et al and overthrow the legitimate people's government of Angola. Right?

Except they didn't. Despite the fact that Angola is still in bed with Cuba, employed Cuban, North Korean, and East German "military advisors", has a big ole' sickle (and something or another) on their Afro-Commie Boutique flag, EO backed the government because ... it was the recognized, (sort of) legitimate government. Unless, of course, our dear moonbat means by "governments and other 'legitimate organizations'" that governments are one class of things and "legitimate organization" are a different class of things -- in other words, that governments are inherently illegitimate. Or, possibly, by using scare quotes around "legitimate organizations" he means to imply that all organizations that are not governments are illegitimate. Or, possibly, he's just a friggin' Dicknugget.

Never mind, I see Dicknugget later "defines" [ed: Scare quotes mine, this time] his term "legitimate organizations" -- and, of course, that means like huge multinationals, and the Bush family, and the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Group, and, and, and.... Oh no, my bad, that just means governments, like the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone.

For example, check out the site of one of the better known PMCs, Sandline. This is what they have to say about who and when they will accept a contract:

To this end the company will only undertake projects which are for:

  • Internationally recognised governments (preferably democratically elected)

  • International institutions such as the UN

  • Genuine, internationally recognised and supported liberation movements


- and which are -

  • Legal and moral

  • Conducted to the standards of first world military forces

  • Where possible, broadly in accord with the policies of key western governments

  • Undertaken exclusively within the national boundaries of the client country.


Sandline will not become involved with:

  • Embargoed regimes

  • Terrorist organisations

  • Drug cartels and international organised crime

  • Illegal arms trading

  • Nuclear, biological or chemical proliferation

  • Contravention of human rights

  • Any activity which breaches the basic Law of Armed Conflict.




Yeah, you GO Mr. Heart of Darkness. Goddamn Dicknugget...

Getting back to the brain-cramping stupidity at hand:

The jobs these PMCs are required to undertake range from intelligence gathering and threat analysis, basic training of troops and "Special forces, Psy ops and intelligence training", humanitarian operations, law enforcement, and -- if you've got lots of cash but not a lot of people -- "specialist individuals or formed units to support a client's own armed forces."


Ok, let's see here.... We've covered "conflict resolution" above - check. Now we've got intelligence gathering and threat analysis - check. Basic training of troops - check. Training of (I have no earthly idea why he has scare quotes around this next bit) "special forces, psy ops and intelligence [personnel]" - check. Law enforcement - check. Let's take this first set as a whole.

Intelligence gathering and threat analysis. What on earth does this yahoo think that essentially every company in fields from defense contracting to foreign policy to humanitarian to insurance underwriters to oil companies to whatever actually do. Seriously. When the UN decides to pull its personnel out of Iraq reconstruction what else is that but intelligence analysis and threat evaluation? Why would a company decide to terminate it's operations in a country like Myanmar? Umm.. because the magic 8-ball told them to? Have you ever heard of KPR (Kidnapping, Protection, and Recovery) services - pretty much mandatory for any senior executive expatriate working in any one of a number of countries, to prevent them from becoming a lonely cry for help on alt.colombia.farc.kidnapped.gringo.support listserv. Oh wait - the government should do that? Well, I hope you ain't American, 'cuz 9 times out of 10 there ain't a soul in government who'll save your narrow ass. And sometimes when a government does help, it would have been better if they'd just stayed home.

Basic training of troops. Perhaps this Dicknugget is of the opinion that troops in foreign countries shouldn't be trained at all. Maybe he thinks that as long as nobody earns money in training it'll all be just ducky. Just like the North Korean (and we all know that the denizens of the People's Democratic Republic don't need such evil capitalist things like actual money, right?) training of Zimbabwe's 5th Brigade:

The 5th Brigade was raised in 1981 and trained by North Korea. It was never a part of the army command structure and was used to suppress the regime's political opponents. It consists mainly of Shona ethnic-origin recruits, and has been accused of serious human-rights abuses. In the mid-1980s it was stood down for retraining to reduce human-rights problems. It would appear its creation and retraining were a consequence of the British presence in the country and the British insistence that the army remain professional.


Because lord knows, if anybody earns an actual living providing training for troops it must be An Evil Sinister Plot of the Man. Right?

Hungary hired Cubic (an American firm) to help it restructure its military to meet the standards required to become part of NATO.


Goddamn fascists and their encouragement of democratization, civilian control of the military, international institutions.

Ya know, I was going to write something about the mysteriously scare-quoted nonsense about "special operations, psy ops, and intelligence [personnel]." But I've hit whatever the fisking equivalent of writer's block it. Snark block? Allergic reaction to concentrated tardedness? Whatever. In any case, I can't see why training specialists is particularly different from training grunts, in terms of the 'moral legitimacy' of the whole thing. For that matter, I'm not even sure that training people at all, can be an even thing, in and of itself. However, this Dicknugget seems to think that training of any sort done by a PMC must, axiomatically, be immoral. Which is just stupid and runs perilously close to a lot of foolish thinking of the anarcho-asshat left. Ok, wonderbread, think about this, the Saudi government desperately needs military training so the US can get its troops out and the Saudis can preserve some sense of national security (and if you don't want the Saudis to keep pursuing nukes, you damned well better ensure their sense of security) and they'll need to have a passable conventional military force to do so. How to train the Saudis while keeping US troops out of the magic kingdom? Enter Vinnell corporation. 25 year history training Saudis. Ah-yep.

Similarly, this Dicknugget seems to imply that humanitarian operations and law enforcement undertaken by PMCs must also be bad. It seems that its better for his precious moral conscience if people are starving to death in chaos than somebody actually expect to earn a living doing humanitarian operations and law enforcement whatnot. For a really good example of why anyone who thinks this needs to be hit repeatedly with a ball-peen hammer, check out the Sierra Leone section in Robert Young Pelton's book, "The Hammer, the Hunter, and Heaven." Or hell, for that matter, consider the French in the Congo.

Moving along (and not wanting to get stuck in a quagmire of stupidity) we get this gem: "'specialist individuals or formed units to support a client's own armed forces.'" Again, with the scare quotes.

Hmm... let's think, let's think. It is a good thing for the world at large and Afghanistan in particular, if Hamid Karzai doesn't have a 9mm cerebral hemorrhage. Somewhere in my Fledgling Governments 101 class, I'm pretty sure the Perfesser said something to the effect that losing a head of state to assassination right out the gates in a chaotic interim period is a bad thing. But, on the other hand, if you put Afghan troops in as his body guard, we could get another Sadat-esque episode all over again. Use American troops, right? Nope, not if you don't want to give people an even bigger impression that he lives and dies at the whim of Washington. Internationalize, right? You've got to be joking. Hmm... what to do...

Oh wait, we could hire someone to prevent him from getting killed. Enter DynCorp.

And we're not even to get into the entire history of PMCs stopping two of Africa's bloodiest and longest running civil wars in Angola and Sierra Leone - I leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Ok, back to the Dicknugget screed:

"They even have their own non-profit organization, the 'International Peace Operations Association', whose stated goal is to end war. Seems counter-productive for a Military Corporation (incorporated, one would assume, to make money) to support an organization devoted to bringing about world peace. But amongst the statements about wanting peace are some interesting tidbits. This quote?’s grossly taken out of context (if they can do it why not me?) and [emphasis] is added by me:
'IPOA is committed to working with policy-makers in government and opinion leaders internationally to improve the climate for peace, and to raise the profile and acceptance of association members in the world foreign policy community.' That means to convince those in power that using mercenaries is a good thing."


Let's go check these folks out. I couldn't find the original quote on their website but let's take a look at how their own Code of Conduct (aside from the first paragraph, I've just included headings and subheadings, without the actual text):

IPOA members providing military services undertake their profession with a deep sense of responsibility. They are well aware of the immense potential impact of their services and strive to ensure their capabilities are not misused or abused. The members believe that private firms should be required to be more accountable, transparent and candid about their motivations than similar military organizations operated by states. The companies strongly believe that relevant restrictions and controls are appropriate in the provision of these services in order that they be utilized for the greatest benefit of humanity.

Members of IPOA are pledged to the following principles in all their operations:


  1. Human Rights

  2. Transparency

  3. Accountability

  4. Clients

  5. Control

  6. Ethics


    1. Rules of Engagement

    2. Civil Society & Reconstruction

    3. Support of International Organizations and NGOs

    4. Arms Control

    5. Health

    6. Confidentiality

    7. Quality



Yeah, that's right you Dicknugget, sounds pretty much evil to me. Ooohh - look at those bad, baadd men who spend half their code of ethics laying out specific ethical considerations as professional peacekeepers. Heaven ever forbid, that these folks get mainstream acceptance - they might get themselves regulated.

Moving on, evidently it seems that this Dicknugget can't quite understand how grown-ups are capable of creating rules and abiding by them:

An important thing to remember is that IPOA is not a regulatory body: they're lobbyists. They're people who are trying to sell the idea of mercenary armies to the governments of the world. If you remember nothing else about PMCs remember this: there are NO international regulations governing Private Military Companies! These are wholly owned corporate armies that can be hired by any "legitimate organization" for any purpose. The only law they must obey is the law of the land...and the people signing their paycheck make the law.


Because, at the end of the day, there are only two possible types of human organizations - lobbyists and regulators, right? And they're mutually exclusive. Your family - they regulate? Nope. Then they must be lobbyists. Even if most of the lobbying is to figure out who has to wash dishes after thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe you are regulators - in the "go take out the trash" sense. Dunno. Your issue, not mine.

If you look on the bottom of just about any electrical appliance in around you right now, you might see a label with some odd symbols on it, including, perhaps, a circle bearing the letters "UL". You know what that stands for? Underwriters Laboratories. It means that this outfit has tested this model of appliance for conformance with certain electrical design standards intended to produce an acceptable level of safety. Sounds pretty reasonable, so far. Right?

Except that there is no binding legal requirement regarding the testing of electrical appliances in the United States. And even worse, do you know how American standards are created? Yep, in cooperation with industry.

Yep. It's a not-for-profit monopoly in the US that creates standards in cooperation with industry, and then tests and marks the appliances to confirm compliance with appropriate UL inspection and testing regimes. And it's all done without so much as one single law. And do you know why there's no single law? It's because there are over 35,000 state, local, municipal, etc. regulatory agencies that have the ability to create such laws.

Dicknugget then goes on to: "These are wholly owned corporate armies that can be hired by any 'legitimate organization' for any purpose. The only law they must obey is the law of the land...and the people signing their paycheck make the law." We've been over the legitimate organization nonsense before, and evidently, he seems to take objection to people observing the law of the land. I wonder how he regards, let's say, local cops. They are employed by the same outfit that writes the laws. Perhaps he's a bigger fan of US troop deployments overseas, where US soldiers are subject to a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) rather than local laws. Does this make him happier?

Then we get this little bit about the laws being created by the folks who pay the bills. What - does he like unfunded mandates? Or does he think that the US and Canada should be paying for each other's police protection? Would he prefer to pay the bills while I write the laws? Has he ever heard of Congress/Parliament/Knesset/Duma/Diet and so on? Is he at all familiar with the concept of government outside of reading Chomsky?

The Dicknugget then goes on to yammer insensibly about how the UN doesn't like PMCs. Rather than quote, let me get straight to the fisk.

I would suppose then, that when one doesn't use PMCs, that everything is hunky-dory, right?

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by all sides to the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, including abuses by ECOWAS forces, known as ECOMOG. In Liberia, ECOMOG helped restore security, which resulted in an improvement in the human rights situation. However ECOMOG became complicit in serious abuses through its alliance with abusive warring factions, and ECOMOG troops were responsible for extensive looting, harassment and arbitrary detention of civilians. ECOMOG forces also violated international humanitarian law by conducting indiscriminate air strikes against civilians and civilian objects, including violations of medical neutrality. To our knowledge, none of these abuses was ever investigated, and no ECOMOG troops were held accountable.

The record of ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone constituted an improvement over its conduct in Liberia. Nevertheless, ECOMOG troops in Sierra Leone were responsible for serious abuses, including summary executions of suspected rebels or collaborators, use of child soldiers, and indiscriminate bombings against civilians. Officers to the level of captain were present and sometimes participated in these executions. ECOMOG troops violated medical neutrality during a January 11, 1999 operation in which they stormed a hospital, proceeded to drag wounded rebels from their beds, and executed them on hospital grounds. ECOMOG troops were found to have sexually exploited women and solicited child prostitutes.


I challenge any taker to find a worse record of abuses from a PMC than we've seen out of that spectacular self-congratulatory cluster-fuck we call international peace keeping in failed West African states. Oh yeah, while you're on your way, you might want to check out the work done by the British government on using PMCs to provide peacekeeping without having to go throughout the domestic political games one must engage in to stop people in crappy countries from killing each other.

Moving along to the next stellar statement by the Dicknugget:

But surely these guys can't be all bad. After all, our own government has done $300 Billion worth of business with PMCs. Oh, you didn't know that for the past 10 years our government has contracted with a dozen mercenary companies over 3000 times? And over 2000 of those contracts went to two companies (hang on, folks, this is where we go down the rabbit hole) [ed: Sorry, dear - you're already there.]--

--Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia-based management and technology consulting firm. Their Vice President, R. James Woolsey, Jr., is a real piece of work: 4 Star Admiral, purportedly sits on the Council of Foreign Relations, member of Skull and Bones, member of the "Project for the New American Century", one of the signers of the "Rebuilding America's Defenses" report, and oh yea HEAD OF THE FUCKING CIA for 93-95.
[ed: Is this different than the celibate CIA? Is there a separate DEA for fucking? If so, can I sign up? It sounds like fun!]

And would anyone like to guess where the second source leads? It's not a tough one considering current history. The second company is--

--Kellogg Brown and Root, also known as KBR Engineering & Construction, which since 1962 has been a subsidiary of...HALLIBURTON!!! Yes, our beloved VPs old buddies. Now this is a key thread, because it ties directly into the formation of the PMC movement. KBR did a study back in 1992 that concluded that the US Military could save billions by downsizing and privatizing their logistics branches. As luck would have it, when the Pentagon decided to outsource much of their logistics KBR got the contracts. And 5 points for anyone who knows who was Defense Secretary in 1992: Dick Cheney. And who became CEO of KBR's parent company after he left office? Uh, that would be... Dick Cheney.


Ooh - spooky. Spoooky, I tell ya. Lemme see. Booz Allen Hamilton, where have I heard that name... oh yeah, it's a big consulting company. Lord knows anything they touch must be eeviill. Because people consult them on things. Like Healthcare. Healthcare is evil!!

Oh wait. I thought he said that PMCs did evil things like intelligence analysis, training and consulting on things like humanitarian operations and law enforcement. Those bastards. How dare the government hire people in the private sector to do things like planning humanitarian operations. Fascists.

And - of course - Halliburton had to come into this. If you couldn't see that this coming a million miles away, then you've been fortunate in that you're not exposed to barking moonbats that often. You can go right to their website and see that they are routinely doing evil things like construction and maintenance. You see, the decision to hire a private contractor to do something like, um, restoring the power grid in Iraq, rather than having some sort of state-run apparatus to do it reeks of good judgment evil.

During Gulf I, something like 95%+ of the personnel deployed in theater were folks on direct US government payroll. By the time you get to Kosovo and Bosnia, the percentage was a lot closer to 50%. Why is this, you may ask. Well, in the US military, the ratio of fighting troops to support troops is somewhere around 1:10. For every grunt in the field, you've got 10 people in his support network. Now, during the Clinton drawdown (from 18 divisions of 4 brigades each to 10 divisions of 3 brigades each) there was a significant budgetary pressure on the military. What they came to realize, is that it is cheaper to subcontract things like floor mopping and KP then to hassle with filling those slots with GIs. Secondly, when a unit is not deployed in the field, they won't need things like water purification equipment and the like, so why recruit people for tasks of those sorts and keep them around whether they're being used or not, when you can just hire a contractor to take care of that in theater? <fucktard>But, but, but they're eevviill mercenaries</fucktard>.. Yeah... Whatever puss-boy...

Ok, just when you thought the Dicknugget was done, it returns...

What really made all this possible was ?“Executive Order 12333--United States intelligence activities?”, signed into law in 1981 by Ronny Reagan. In a section entitled ?“Contracting?” the order states ?“Agencies within the Intelligence Community are authorized to enter into contracts or arrangements for the provision of goods or services with private companies or institutions in the United States and need not reveal the sponsorship of such contracts or arrangements for authorized intelligence purposes.?” It started his first fucking year in office![ed: Is this fucking year tied somehow to the fucking CIA and fucking DEA? Was there any fucking in subsequent years? Does one have to fuck the entire year for it to be a fucking year? Or just once? If you don't have sex for a year, would that make the next year a double-fucking year?]


That's right, get your tinfoil hats screwed on tight tonight, 'cuz were headin' into conspiracyland! Of course, maybe it hasn't occurred to Dicknugget that we might have been in a Cold War with the .. uh ... oh, whatchamacallem ... SOVIETS! That's right. Maybe, just maybe, it finally occurred to somebody that when Joe Spook was lurking around in Deepest Darkest Commie Land, that he didn't want to have to start telling signing all of his receipts "Please send bill to Joe Boss at CIA, Langley, Virginia. Love, Joe Spook.".

However, a bit more significantly, I cannot (seriously and honestly) tell you how in the world Executive Order 12333 has either fuck or all to do with PMCs. What, before 1981, you couldn't hire a PMC? Sure you could - and you had to "reveal the sponsorship of such contracts or arrangements." Yeah. If you paid for a law enforcement training in Brazil, you actually had to admit you were paying for it. If you wanted to do anything sneaky, you simply had to do it yourself. That's it, kids.

But, seeing as Dicknugget isn't about to be derailed by facts, he then chugs right off the edge of the cliff:

"I'm sorry people, I don't usually let my real feelings show, but this shit is FUCKING EVIL!!![ed: What's with the fucking again? Is it something like scarequotes?] They've been planning this shit for over 20 years! They got a taste of the future when Reagan was in power -- put a weak man the people like in office and let him look good for the cameras while the real work takes place in the basements of the White House and the Pentagon. Case in point, his first Executive Order. EO 12287, Jan.28, 1981: ?“All crude oil and refined petroleum products are exempted from the price and allocation controls adopted pursuant to the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973, as amended.?” It was open season for price gouging. Reagan?’s first use of executive power was to send a kickback to the oil money that had got him elected. These men knew they could do whatever they wanted -- look at Iran/Contra. And they also knew they could cover their tracks by throwing a patsy to the wolves -- Olly [sic] North ...just another in a long line of famous patsies"


We've marched off into "It's alll about the OIIILLL!!!" turf now. So his bitch is that after the end of the energy crisis and in a bid to get the country out of stagflation we got rid of PRICE CONTROLS. Urk. Ugghh.. Gasp!! Must get ... this Dicknugget ... to take ... Econ ... 101 ... and stop ... mainlining ... Chomsky... URK...

Seriously though, at this point, I think the Dicknugget might have moved beyond fiskability. I am deeply impressed by this point. Basically by the time he's figured out that there are actual companies that have actual contracts with actual governments, he just veers off the deep end, and throws himself out of reality. Absolutely freakin' delusional.

So Bush wins in '88 and looses in '92. The Democrats are in power, but they drop the ball and two years later the Republicans have the House and Senate. Then incrementalism creeps in. Everything drifts to the right, with the lefties heading for the center and the right wing heading for somewhere past the star Aldeberon [sic]. Come 1998, and it's beginning to smell a lot like 1979. The people are ready for a change, and the neo-cons have a plan. While Shrubby cleans up his act the "Project for the New American Century" lays out its roadmap to American hegemony.


This one's kind of hard to tackle other than to point out the obvious: if stupid were fat and ignorant were ugly, this nutjob would be Divine. Essentially his argument fails in its facts, premises, structure, argumentation, and conclusion, so there's not really a lot to say here except "Umm ... NO."

2003 smelled like 1979? I suppose if you live in New Jersey, it still does, but what the hell is he on about? Oh, I remember, yeah, back in 1979 when Dick Nixon, Jr. invaded Iran after somebody flew some planes into the Chrysler building. Yeah. You remember? When all these folks started their own psuedo-media network of telex machines? Yeah. That's it. Except not. Dicknugget.

But, like all Dicknuggetes there's always that bit of unintentional charm.

"Can't happen here? Fuck, [ed: Um...] you'll be able to tell you [sic] grandkids 'I remember when it all went down.' Of course you?’ll have to say it quietly because they?’ll be listening."


"I remember when it all went down." God, please, for the love of God, please get me out of this Berkley hell-hole of Michael Moore's colon. "Of course you?’ll have to say it quietly because they?’ll be listening." Oh dear Lord, I'll never make fun of Maureen Dowd or patchouli oil again, I promise I'll make Feckless-Crapweasel-safe arguments without facts or logic, just make the hurting stopppp!

Must ... save ... self .. from ... Dicknugget's ... pseudo-60's ... pot-induced ... conspiracy ... douchebaggery ....

Thump. Urk!

UPDATE the First: Edited to make sure I'm more consistent in my message.
UPDATE the Second: More of the same.

1/21/2004

MOAB: Part 3 - Rise of the Hairless Monkey

So, after the first few billion years of iterative nightmarish death machine design, strange developments occur. At some point or another during all this back and forth a number of evolutionary advancements came to fruition that distinguished a particular sort of creature, a wildly successful animal of which I am quite fond indeed, in fact, as members of this species constitute, I imagine, my entire readership.

Humans, despite what one may be led to believe from watching daytime television or protest movements, are rather intelligent creatures. What intelligence actually is, however, is a bit difficult to define. There are a number of ways that we may try to parse this particular problem. Perhaps the most meaningful way to think about intelligence is to view it in terms of the ability to recognize patterns. Tests to determine IQ or much more commonplace diagnostics, such as the SAT or GRE measure one’s ability to deduce patterns expressed verbally, mathematically, or graphically.

Human visual capabilities are significant not so much for their ability to see at night, as cats do, or long-range visual acuity, such as that exhibited by hawks. Rather, humans are exceptionally good at discerning patterns in what they see. This patter-recognition ability has become so refined that it has allowed humans to even “create” patterns that hadn’t actually existed. The stars in the Big Dipper constellation aren’t actually arranged in space like a big dipper any more than they are placed to resemble a sign telling us to Eat At Joe’s. But the human mind is so adept at recognizing patterns that we are able to pull out a pattern from something that we have even developed the ability to create patterns. Or to phrase it slightly differently, we are so good at recognizing patterns that we have developed the ability to extract information from otherwise unintelligible data on scales unmatched by any other living creature.

As mentioned earlier, order can be looked at as being very roughly analogous to information. Thus our ability to recognize patterns gave humans the ability to create order from disorder on scales never seen before. Granted, certain organisms create some form of order in their environments – wasp’s nests and beaver dams, to name two – some animals create order in their environments through the creation of structures. However, the distinguishing feature is the human skill at pattern recognition, rather than instinctual behavior, that informs such efforts.

Human pattern recognition permitted the development of complex language. In much the same way that the ability to spread learned behavior dramatically altered the way in which specific elements of rule sets were propagated, the ability to communicate information using advanced communications was an epochal breakthrough. Now very complex behaviors and rule sets could be learned far, far faster than had ever been previously possible. Kind of like going from smoke signals to broadband.

As much as I hate to drag this oft-abused and overused word across my page, memes are pretty significant. I assume that most readers are relatively familiar with the basic concept of memes. One could call the entire set of memes that govern the behavior of a biological system (be it a single organism or a, particularly a human) a memome. Memomes have two components: a genetic (inherited) and semantic (learned) component. We have touched on the development of rule sets that govern the behavior of individual organisms or groups of organisms – the genetic component of a memome – in the previous essay.

In considering the difference between genetic and semantic memes, one is reminded of the classic “nature versus nurture” debate about what causes us to act the way we do. For our purposes consider the fact that the set of behaviors associated with the existence of a large human meta-organism, such as a nation, organized religion, or trade guild could no more exist without the aid of language than mathematics could exist without reasoning or numbers.

However, it is important to note that there is no intrinsic firewall between genetic and semantic components of a memome. Some social institutions, long term childbearing relationships, for instance, arise from the peculiar nature of the development of the human mind. Compared with other mammals, humans require a large amount of ongoing care for an extended period of time before they reach adulthood. Similarly, the genetically-inspired tendency to be interested in the welfare of those who are genetically similar gives rise to the murder taboo and provides a basis for tribalism. The interactions between genetic and semantic memes drive human behaviors, which in turn, strongly affects the nature and behavior of meta-organisms comprised of human actors.

As learning permitted the development of extrinsic rule and instruction sets that affected the ability of specific genetic material to spread, language allowed for the preposterously fast (by evolutionary standards) development of ridiculously huge and inordinately complex semantic rule sets affecting systems of humans. The development of language is as at least as significant as the development of learned behavior: in other words, very significant.

Thus, the arrival of humans is significant not only for what humans were able to bring to the evolutionary table, but also for the way that complex human language permitted the evolution of rule sets governing the behavior of meta-organisms and really large complex systems to kick into overdrive. Considering the previous 3 billion year history of the evolution of stupendous badasses, one can only imagine what kind of leap this ability to affect the pace of the evolution of semantic component of memomes can mean.

The other thing that bears some mention about human pattern recognition capability is the relationship between observing and predicting behaviors. As is alluded to in Steven den Beste’s essay on idealism and realism, once one can start making empirical observations, pretty soon, one can start predicting future behavior.

This, as one can imagine, is a huge development. Rather than being stuck forever in a purely trial-and-error methodology for developing and enhancing external rule sets, we were actually able to develop theories and science and whatnot. Granted, I don’t think we, as a species, were truly self-aware of this until perhaps the development of the scientific method. But that’s not altogether that significant – the ancients made practical use of the Pythagorean Theorem long before Pythagoras himself ever did his mathematical thing.

As a side note, the language of pattern matching is essentially manifested as mathematics. We use mathematics to describe the patterns that we observe to exist in a given system, rather than language used solely to communicate with other creatures. That being said, there are some types of patterns (particularly aesthetic) that are very difficult to describe in purely quantitative language, although it is difficult to say if that’s a problem of human perception, our understanding of patterns and mathematics or inherent to shortcomings in mathematics itself. Beats me, so I’m not going to trouble myself with that question here.

The ability of Sir Isaac Newton to discern the patterns that marked the behavior of gravity (the fact that things fall) was what led to the discovery of his Law of Universal Gravitation. Long before we had developed enough to start confounding high school students with algebra, the ability to discern patterns had massive impacts. Improvements in pattern matching had the utterly shocking side effect of really allowing, for the first time on this particular orb, of permitting the really widespread use of tools. Other primates use tools, to a limited extent, but humans really expanded the franchise.

Prior to the development of tools, the ability to impose order on our environment was due to instructions carried out at the behest of genetic rules. With the discovery of language and tools, we were able to change the way that we affect our environments without having to rely on genetically encoded instructions. Tools do for shaping environments what language did for creation of large, complex meta-organisms. Big leap, that.

Tools allow man to manipulate force and convert energy between one form and another and in so doing increase or decrease order around the tool-user. The discovery of techniques to create fire, for example, allowed man to convert mechanical energy into a chemical reaction that liberated chemical energy through combustion. This process, coincidentally, results in a large increase in disorder. The ability to manipulate energy permits people to either increase or decrease order locally.

The critical overt thing about tools is mechanical advantage, or efficiency. For mechanical tools, we may speak of mechanical advantage. For other kinds of complex tools, we could refer to efficiency. The underlying thing about tools is that they allow us to shape our environment in ways that are simply not possible for individual creatures (or sometimes even groups of creatures) to do.

Naturally, the virtually simultaneous (on a evolutionary time scales) arrival of both language and tools caused for a pretty significant shift in the whole iterative design process of the self-ordering machines that are living creatures. One could argue that pattern recognition is simply the ability to learn things that were not deliberately taught. Conversely, we could say that language is the ability to communicate patterns to other humans. Or, we could talk about how tools are an evolutionary manifestation of the intrinsic drive of living creatures to seek out and create order. In any case, this stuff not only makes my brain hurt after a while, but the minutiae are way beyond my understanding, and all I can say is that they’re related. Although there are a number of interesting avenues to explore on this topic, for our purposes, it is sufficient to note that they relate.

So, the long and the short of the human critter is this: humans are good at patterns. Fiendishly good, in fact. This allowed for the development of mathematics and language. Mathematical thinking (formalized pattern recognition) in turn led to the development of tools and science that then permitted mankind the ability to affect their environment on profound levels with immense speed (think hydrogen bomb here). The development of language allowed evolution of semantic memome components essentially (at least by biological standards) instantaneously. The change in the way that rule sets are created and propagate has allowed for the creation of really large and elaborate meta-organisms composed of these relentlessly inquisitive and ruthlessly acquisitive animals.

What, you may ask, what does this actually have to do with war. Well, quite a lot actually, because it turns out that our genetic heritage as stupendous badasses and nightmarishly lethal killing machines, meant that the meta-organisms we ended up creating, among other things set about the business of killing each other right, left, and center almost immediately. As you may know, warfare is not limited to humans alone – other primates conduct a simian sort warfare of their own. So, the rise of humanity did not lead to the birth of warfare – rather we just happen to have gotten spectacularly good at the business of kacking each other. But to understand how we fight, we must know why we’re good at fighting. And to understand this, one must kind of understand why we’re good at anything at all.

1/20/2004

TBM: India

has taken delivery of 130 T-90S tanks and 22 Su-30 fighters.

This comes in addition to recent reports on the purchase of a 24-plane aircraft carrier and 12 Mig-29K fighter jets. (Courtesy Vodkapundit).

EBS: And While I'm At It

The Mother of All Screeds will henceforth be named the Mother of All Blathers (or would it be blithers?) [ed: If trying to figure out which one to use is that big an issue then either one is appropriate.]

I decided that given the fine history of the acronym MOAB from this MOAB to that one to that one, that it just fit in nicely. I mean really, when you've hit the hyperbole, explosion and mormon trifecta, why stop when you could go for the Grand Slam of mixed metaphors?

BTW, did you know that an anagram for "Mother of All Battles" is "Met Arab. Shot. Lot fell."?

Well, this all being said, I hope to put up an update of the MOAB in the next 48 hours.

EBS: Scratch That

Screw enetation, for the time being (I'm still keeping the archived comments) but will now try this handy-dandy system to see if it bites.

EBS: Talking Back and Other Forms of Retaliation

First, I must now bid adieu to Haloscan. I'm still keeping the account, so I should be able to preserve the comments, but have no plans to transcribe them to Enetation. I've been noodling on this, and while I like Haloscan's layout and ease of loading, this business of truncating comments has to go. The comments that all y'all make are good, informative, and quite often elaborate, and I don't like arbitrarily restricting the length of the comments. On the bright side, since I've been away, Enetation has installed two new servers, so perhaps some of their initial problems have been vanquished. Since I'm still a code spaz, let me know if the system herks on you.

Elsewise, it seems that the mighty Paratrooper of Love has gotten hisself nominated for Retaliation! Go check out his site: Blackfive - The Paratrooper of Love. A good read. A couple of interviews to get y'all introduced. Once you're acquainted, a lot of good, solid, regular posting. And don't forget this gem.

1/18/2004

SRBM: Anonymity

Roger Simon has a good discussion on anonymous bloggers. Well, I think it's good - I commented a lot. The post really only tangentially mentioned anonymous blogging, but lord knows I can resist the temptation to hijack a perfectly fine thread for my own blathering. So my apologies go out to Roger, and I would like both loyal readers to go over and take a look, simply so he at least gets some traffic for his trouble.

So, this question has been kicked around before in other fora. Dislike of anonymous blogging is by no means unique or unusual. There is a (justifiable) hesitancy to buy into something that someone isn't willing to sign their name to.

If one scoots down the right side of this blog, to the "Smouldering Craters" section, you'll find a couple of anonymous blogs, like Crimen Falsi or the Tard Blog. The reason the Tard Blog authors might want to remain anonymous is pretty clear, if you've read their blog. The case of Crimen Falsi is a bit more interesting - and I think he gives a solid reason that he's not eager to advertise his identity.

The problem that this could lead to is one where people are tacitly forbidden from blogging about anything that infringes on their professional lives. Or even future professional endeavors. Imagine, for instance, how blogged material will look in a security clearance investigation or a congressional race, a decade or two down the pike. I don't think I've said anything too drastic on this blog, but to paraphrase Garrison Keeler, both cops and journalists utilize a similar technique in their work: get someone talking long enough, and eventually they'll say something stupid.

For most people, saying something stupid is part and parcel of talking. The advantage that one most often has when holding forth on geopolitics with buddies after a pitcher or two of beer, is that everything is essentially off the record. But as I'm sure many of both of my readers know, anything written down is automatically part of the official record.

Now, as much as "your permanent record" gets bandied about in grade school by tyrannical teachers, the internet has made "the permanent record" a much scarier thing. What would have otherwise been impotent, immature mewling cost this intern his internship on Capitol Hill last summer. Nor should we forget the example given by Miss Lewinski, about the fate of external e-mails.

Between the elephantine memory of the internet and voracious data mining, it's no wonder that many employers feel threatened by blogging. The problem is, however, that when employers feel threatened, the minions often take the hit.

Blogging is, for the vast majority of folks, a recreational activity. When it becomes a choice between the blog and the career, I'll have to disappoint both of my loyal readers, and bail.

One possible unfortunate outcome I see from this is that it might just mean that people are only free to blog about things that do not overlap their professional work - which would be a good recipe for depriving blogs of a good deal of stimulating content.

But how does this all tie in to anonymity? Well, there are few takes on this. One is that anonymity means that I am somehow ashamed of my views and am trying to conceal them. I pretty much have come to accept that there's no such thing as anonymity on the internet - or at least as I've been blogging. Should I wish to switch to a truly anonymous blogging system, I'd have to go find two new readers, which seems like such a hassle after all these months. So then, what is the purpose of the pseudonym? Well, it would be pretty hard to make the case that I'm speaking on behalf of anyone but myself, if in fact, I'm not even clear on who I am. Odd logic, perhaps, but a boss would be hard pressed to claim that I've circumvented company policy by attaching their name to anything, if I won't even attach my own name to it. On the other hand, the fact that I'm not completely anonymous (by using remailers and the like), I would hope to show that I still choose to take ownership of my work.

Kind of a fine line, and it could bite me in the ass but royal, but we'll have to wait and see.

UPDATE the FIRST: In Roger's comments, Armed Liberal makes a good point about the distinction between pseudonymity and anonymity. That, perhaps, is a much more economical way of putting what it is I think I'm trying to do.

UPDATE the SECOND: Blackfive has a good post (and not just because he links here) about pseudonymity, anonymity, and military blogging. Additionally, welcome to visitors from that neck of the woods!

1/16/2004

TBM: Just because its surgical doesn't mean its clean, but it might just be necessary anyway.

The poor bastards never had a chance. One should never forget what 100-1 kill ratios mean [ed: a link to a 4.6 meg mpeg file via the comments at Allahpundit] Or that military intervention is a bloody ordeal. Necessary, even desperately necessary at times, but never nice.

Among other things, the Soviets [ed: Click on the link "photo stories"] "rented" North Korean political prisonsers. Great swap deal this one, the Norks got to send prisoners to a far harsher locale than they could manage within their own borders, as well as cash. The Soviets got labor they could employ in places they wouldn't send their own political prisoners.

To frame this properly, take a look at this testimony of life in the Korean camps. (Courtesy Free North Korea) I recommend viewing page 68, under the heading "A North Korean Miner's Wife." For what it's worth, Read The Whole Thing.

Now, can you imagine what kind of disasterous hell the Siberian Nork camps must have been if they were prized by the regime for their inhospitablity? And the fact that they were sought out by prisoners, simply because they offered a chance of escape. Think about that - what kind of nightmare is North Korea when a prisoner would endure even more applaing conditions, simply to have a chance to be on the run, in Siberia, at the mercy of the KGB?

So no, the poor sons of bitches in the video hadn't a chance. And I'm not sure I care.

UPDATE the First: Video of "due process" in Iraq - execution via grenade.

1/15/2004

TBM: SimCity Meets Real Life?

It seems that I'm not the only one to remember the famous Llama Dome. [ed - you'll have to search for the text on the page - to see an image, look here.]

At any rate, as you may have heard an Illinois one-term Senator has endorsed Dean. Not a big shock, although she garnered about 10% in a not-Primary.

1/14/2004

EBS: Houskeeping and target acquisition

Although I'm not even sure I care, I think I may switch back to my old comment system, Entation. I have been rather hesitant since people may have problems loading it, but it I've heard tell that Haloscan will eat comments. Feedback appreciated.

Additionally, a hearty shout out and welcome to Dowingba of the Tao del Dowingba. It would seem that this gentleman has had a recent history indicating he has had all the joys, trials and tribulations of veering off of the party line. At any rate, he has, at the very, very least, done the blogosphere the favor of creating the definitive summary of "Bowling for Columbine."

Finally, I am trying to hunt down a booklet by Ian Paisley on rhetoric, oration, and the like. Hard to find item, but if any of all y'all have any leads, I would be incredibly grateful.

1/12/2004

TBM: A Thought-ette

A counter-intuitive hunch:

If the Democrats had not drifted as aggressively towards the left, then Bush would be in a lot of trouble (not just for the obvious fact that he would lose centrists) but more significantly, he would stand good odds of losing the party faithful. Right now a lot of folks on the right are worrying about RINOs (Republicans in name only) and whatnot, but have more-or-less held their piece simply because the left is so repulsive to them.

If true, this hypothesis would tend to suggest that every play to the middle contains within it seeds of a future uprising by one's own loyalists.

TBM: ABBA!

"And you thought ABBA had recorded the definitive version."

Super Trouper arranged for a bell and drum corps. (3.2 meg mp3)

(Courtesy Mistakes Were Made)

TBM: An Arsenal of Vocabulary

Check this out. (Courtesy Defective Yeti).

Contains a whole raft of really cool, totally obscure and seldom used words.

A few of my favs:

anacrusis: one or more unstressed syllables at the beginning of a line of verse, before the normal meter begins. [ed: Don't care what it means, but I love the way it rolls off the tongue]

antanaclasis: repetition of a word whose meaning changes in the second instance. "Your argument is sound...all sound." -- Benjamin Franklin.

cacology: poor choice of words; also, incorrect pronunciation.

cryptophasia: a language consisting of words or phrases understandable only between two twins and which is usually developed as the twins grow up together.

hobson-jobson: an Anglicized word or phrase corrupted from one or more words of an Asian language.

meronym: a concept that is part of another concept. A room is a meronym of a house.

parole: the act of speaking; a particular utterance or word.

perpilocutionist: one who expounds on a subject of which he has little knowledge. [ed: cough, cough...]

traduttori traditori: Italian saying meaning "Translators, Traitors," implying that expression in one language can never be equivalently expressed in another.

verbicide: the destruction of the sense or value of a word.

1/09/2004

SRBM: Diatribe Distilled

Nope, unfortunately, not the Blog Atkins, but the regular kind of old-fashioned starvation blogging.

Ok, here's what would be, in other circumstances, several hundred words, reduced to easy to read bullet-point format:

1) Some Europeans (meaning French) don't like our policies and the mythic America.

2) Americans don't think a whole hell of a lot about the Europeans (especially the French), either. - Link to VDH article.

3) Ok, consider the facts that:
a) American and French alignment have always been alliances of convenience, rather than affinity
b) America and France seem to have a bizarre love-triangle-co-dependent love-hate relationship


4) What gives, eh?

5) Remember the fact that America is a direct cultural descendent of Britain.

6) So?

7) Britain has always been in opposition to the primary continental power, which was for ages, France.

8) This plus all the other usual factors has fostered a simmering cultural antipathy between the French and British.

9) Some of this has rubbed off. And, as the New World, we still (on some level) love the whole sophisticated high-culture thing from time to time, but there is still an underlying antipathy.

10) Don't buy it - what's the whole deal with the rest of the world being bastards too? Doesn't that fit in somehow?

11) Absolutely:
a) Do you (or someone you know) hate the Yankees?
b) '49ers? Dallas Cowboys? Chicago Bulls?
c) 'Ooman nature seems to drive some folks to hate people who are number one by a landslide. The US is the all-time mother badass right now, so some folks are just going to react negatively for that reason alone.


12) And?

13) One also has too keep in mind that France has the ego appropriate to any former superpower. And this particular superpower had to rely on the nasty Anglo-Saxons to help bail them out of WWI, and then liberate their entire country in WWII, to be followed up with the fact that the Yanks had to pick up the ball on the whole French Indochina thing. That's gotta smart.

14) So, basically, the underlying dislike of the top dog, coupled with a latent cultural animosity, and a massively injured pride all lead to the current depth of the Franco-American imbroglio (no - not that kind), right?

15) Very nearly. The salt in the wound is the fact that the current social and economic decay, resulting in a marked lack of French economic performance and imminent decay. This has resulted, among other things, in a marked tendency of Europeans banks and companies to do business only in those countries currently under US sanction (really good link that I can't find right now goes here). Thus, not only is there a relative "ego-stick" pushing France forward, this somewhat in opposition stance gives them a definite "economic-carrot" drawing them forward towards autocratic regimes.

16) Really?

17) Yep. That's my two cents worth, at least. It would of helped if the entire thing had been laid out in a coherent manner, but if I had time to do that, this would have been an essay, rather than a Socratic Dialog via bullet points. Cheers!

18) Hmm... (This being the part where you leave a comment)

1/08/2004

TBM: Another Darned Good Kagan Article

Ok, it's a desperately old article I just ran across again, but it's really, really worth the read, both for the things it's right on and the way it highlights the larger trends affecting the world that have been lost in the glare of the War on Terror.

Elsewise, still groaning under workload, and may just temporarily resort to being a linker rather than writer, for the time being.

1/06/2004

TBM: Update From Mission Control

To blog, or not to blog: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous workloads,
Or to take arms against a sea of paperwork,
And by opposing end it? To die: to quit;
No more; and by quit to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That my job is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to quit;
To quit: perchance to lounge: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sloth of unemployment what blogging may come
When we have booted asshats off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

(Butchered from here)

Ok kids, light blogging for a while: I'm officially entering 'busier than a one legged midget in an ass kicking contest' mode for a while. Fortunately, I've gotten some work done on Screed Installment The Third, but it'll be a minimum of a few days before that turns into something.

Don't know how long the blogging drought will last. At the very least I'll try to at least manage sporadic, rather than absent.




TBM: The Liver Has Left The Building

1/05/2004

TBM: Unexpected Tie-In of The Day

Granted, this made the rounds of the blogosphere quite some time ago, but it came across my desk (so to speak) today.

Theoretical Background: My post relating power, pornography, and the American technological ascent.

Historical Background: The Invasion of the North Korean Fembots.

News Event and Commentary: An American delegation is arriving in North Korea tomorrow to work on that whole nuclear thing. Some think the delegation is a bad idea altogether.

Unexpected Tie-In: Is Here (Is Not Fantastically Work-Safe, But Then Again, Isn't Spectacularly Work-Hostile Either, aka INFWSBTAISWHE)

Unforseen Extrapolation: Raises interesting questions about the prospects for Korean unification. And Korea's relationship with Japan.

1/01/2004

EBS: Holidays

Sorry I haven't written. Am on holiday. Be back week of 1/5.

Enjoy yourselves