chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label says, links!

A) The Advantage of Being a Little Underemployed. From the link: Before 1900 the average American worker worked more than 60 hours a week. A standard schedule was ten-hour days, six days a week. The only structural limits to working were lighting and religion. You stopped working when it was too dark to see or to go to church. Or shorter, you worked from "can" to "can't."

B) A bit late, but still good - the story of D-Day on Omaha Beach.

C) Wonder Woman: How real-life athletes united to populate the film's badass Amazon nation.

D) A more humorous take on Wonder Woman - Alamo Drafthouse Apologizes for Starting Manpocalypse With Women-Only Screening.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
With apologies to the very good movie of the same name.

The Good

My Rotary club's annual fundraiser is in the bag bank. It appears like we made significantly more money than last year. I hesitate to say more as we're still waiting for final numbers.

The Bad

On CNN in the lobby this morning, I see that Trump had the entire US Senate over to the White House for a briefing on North Korea. One presumes they were told that the Norks were This Close to building atomic bombs. Interested parties should read this well-written piece on that other budding nuclear power, Iraq: Operation Desert Snipe Hunt.

The Ugly

Also on CNN and various other sources, the GOP is taking another stab at repealing Obamacare. Notable is that they exempt themselves from some of the deleterious side effects.
chris_gerrib: (Default)

Various thoughts, saved up throughout the week, and regurgitated here.


Syria


I have long been able to hold two thoughts of Syria, namely that Assad is a wart on the ass of prosperity and that US involvement in Syria, especially military involvement, would be counterproductive at best.  So I’m not fond of Trump’s cruise missile attack on the country.  It appears to be knee-jerk and ineffective, never a good combination.  As Camestros Felapton says, even if one argues that Assad is a cancer, surgically excising him requires a skilled surgeon.  Trump does not appear to be that surgeon.


Trump and the Alt-Right


I’ve not said much about Trump as of late.  There’s only so many ways I can say he’s a complete idiot leading a party of semi-complete idiots without becoming tiresome.  I will say it’s become amusing (for “walking to the gallows” values of amusing) to watch his alt-right fans do contortions about his latest action.  The alt-right, including noted military expert Scott Adams, had decided that Tuesday’s chemical attack was either a false flag or a total fake.


Seeing Trump respond as if it were real threw them for a loop.  I note that Adams has deduced that this is yet another example of Trump’s playing 4-D chess while us mere mortals are playing checkers.  Color me unconvinced.


Dreams


From serious to trivial: last night, I dreamed I was sleeping, or rather trying to sleep, in all sorts of odd places.  In my dream, when my 80+ year-old great aunt asked me what I was doing, that was the thing that woke me up.


Dreamhost


I did not read the new LiveJournal terms of service that was forced upon me.  Having been told that it makes clear LiveJournal is under Russian law, I shall be moving with deliberate speed Dreamhost.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Because they go bad:

1) Some historical perspective on our current run of peace in Europe: And yet, when the U.S. was debating entrance into World War I, one state representative rose in his legislature and gave an impassioned speech that, “I was old enough to fight for this Union at 15, and I am young enough to fight again.”

2) Here's an idea - beer caused civilization. I think I'll have a drink.

3) Food for thought: This dog has a guaranteed basic income, and look how eager he is to teach a yoga class anyway.

4) Want to “Take the Oil”? Crunch the Numbers First. Money quote: "In an absolute best-case scenario, where the costs of occupation are minimal and the revenues produced from Iraqi oil exports are maximized, we might break even. In any other, more realistic scenario, the United States loses money."

5) Falklands and Second World War veteran John Vickerson dies, aged 95.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
The Internet continues to provide things to point at and ridicule blog posts to discuss. In my Navy days, it would have been called a "target-rich environment."

Today's target is a blog posting over at Wile E. Coyote, SuperGenius (Just ask him, he'll tell you) site. Reacting to a news article that the US sent small numbers of troops to NATO-ally Lithuania, an act that should be no more controversial then sending troops to Arizona, he is concerned that the neo-cons are trying to "goad" Russia into war. Ignoring the fact that sending troops to an ally is in no way goading, herewith was my response (Google the facts yourself, I'm not doing your research for you):

the US is under Article 5 obligated to treat an attack on one member nation as an attack on the US and "assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force."

We are also obligated to "consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened."

In short, by law, if Lithuania feels threatened, we're required to listen to them, and if they get attacked by nuclear, conventional or unconventional means we're required to defend them. And Lithuania feels threatened enough to re-institute the military draft in 2015.

Our other options are 1) kick the Baltic States out of NATO (which actually requires NATO approval) or 2) withdraw from NATO, which requires a 1-year notice.

What Obama is hoping to do is to suggest to Putin that taking these states won't be as easy as rolling into Crimea was. Aiding him in this effort is the great reduction in the size of the post Cold War Russian Army.

The Western Military District, responsible for the initial attack, has three "Armies" but these "Armies" are each of ~2 division equivalent. (The Russian Army is moving from a divisional to a brigade equivalent, and for example 6th Guard Army is by brigade but 1st Tank is still in 2 divisions.)

Putin doesn't have a million men to send, he's got more like 400,000, of which the approximately 80,000 airborne troops are at NATO standard. The rest are 2-year conscripts.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thought #1 - "A Troubled Loner"

It seems that any time a black or Muslim man shoots somebody he shouldn't, that's proof of terrorism and conspiracy. Yet when a white man with a history of waving Confederate flags at black people shots somebody, we're told that they are "a troubled loner." In the latest case, it would be more accurate to call them a habitual criminal and violent racist.

Thought #2 - Making Water

It's said that necessity is the mother of invention. Israel, the driest country in the world, needed fresh water. So they invented cheap desalinization. Of note in the article - the same drought that forced Israel to make water let to the collapse of Syrian agriculture and the creation of large slums on the outskirts of Syrian cities. These led to the current civil war. Note to libertarians - either government takes care of the poor or the poor take care of government, French-revolution style.

Thought #3 - the Ghost Fleet of WWI

On a lighter note, in World War I, the US started an emergency program to replace merchant ships lost due to U-boats. Like much of our efforts in that war, the fighting was done by the time the ships were built. They were also uneconomical to operate, so they were left to rot in Mallows Bay. The wooden ships have created fascinating ship-shaped islands.

Syria

Oct. 27th, 2016 09:42 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius, is arguing that a vote for Hilary Clinton means we'll go to war with Russia. The proximate cause of that war would be declaration of a no-fly zone in Syria. This article clearly outlines why a no-fly zone isn't feasible or desirable. Clinton has been told (if she didn't already understand) all of the points in the article and probably a few not stated therein.

I also note that, at the last debate, Clinton walked back her no-fly zone, stating that we would exercise diplomacy to get the Russians to agree to such a zone. Personally, I suspect the Russians would not agree for love nor money, but saying we need their buy-in strongly suggests that if we don't get that buy-in flying will continue.

In short, somebody should focus more on catching roadrunners then on foreign policy.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Last week, somewhat lost in the hoopla over how many women Donald Trump had groped, the current President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, signed a trade deal with China. This comes after he withdrew the (militarily insignificant) Philippine Navy from joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea to protest Chinese territorial ambitions there. A version of Duterte's remarks while signing the treaty called for a "separation" between the US and the Philippines. His adminstration has made some efforts to walk that back, in part due to the people's greater trust in the US.

Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius, is having a case of the vapors over this. I find myself of several minds on the problem. First, in looking at history, we acquired our interest in the Philippines by accident, while picking up some more strategically important real estate during the Spanish-American War. Simply put, our interest there is historical, not geopolitical. Second, although some research suggests the Philippine economy is growing quite rapidly, it's rising from a very low base. I'm not sure that we've been as good to the Philippine development as say, Korea's. Third, now and for the foreseeable future, militarily the Philippines will not be much of a help to us.

In short, I for one would not be sad to see the Philippines go their own way. Having said that, it appears that President Duterte is trying to have his cake and eat it too by aligning with both the USA and China. Come to think of it, so are we.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I mentioned that Sunday's Presidential debate was just this side of a WWE event, probably because of the age and athletic ability of the principals involved. I think I've been pretty clear that the only way Trump should get in the White House is if he buys a ticket for the tour. Having said that, Trump did say something I agree with.

He said, regarding Syria, that "Aleppo has already fallen." Now, I think it's the case of the blind squirrel finding an acorn, but I do agree with him. There's really nothing we can do in Syria, and I for one don't want to fight Russia for the place. If they want it, have it with my blessing. A few years of dodging IEDs would do the Russian Army a world of good, and would greatly boost Putin's popularity.

If you believe that last sentence, please contact me about some oceanfront property I have in Nebraska. Hurry - supplies are limited.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
This article was written a long time ago, when Bin Laden was still alive. It is, however, just as relevant today with ISIS as it was back then: Terrorist Strategy 101: A Quiz

The two most relevant points:

1) "The first and biggest obstacle to your victory [your = the terrorist] is that the vast majority of the people who sympathize with your issue are not violent extremists. They may agree with you in principle. They may even sound like violent extremists late at night over their beverage of choice. But when the hammer comes down, they won't be there."

2) "In radicalizing your apathetic sympathizers, you have no better ally than the violent extremists on the other side. Only they can convince your people that compromise is impossible. Only they can raise your countrymen's level of fear and despair to the point that large numbers are willing to take up arms and follow your lead. A few blown up apartment buildings and dead schoolchildren will get you more recruits than the best revolutionary tracts ever written."
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
It's becoming clear that the latest pressure-cooker bomber is frankly an idiot.

One Internet commentor said (in full - emphasis mine): I appreciate your latest post about how many mistakes the alleged perpetrator made, and we are all extremely thankful that he was as bad at this as he was. But that's not an accident.

Good intelligence work, good police work, more aware citizenry and other measures set up since 9/11 have limited -- for now, and hopefully far into the future -- the ability of major terrorist plots to get off the ground in the US. Major cells get disrupted, chatter on social media leads to arrests, and then great police work over this past weekend gets the bad guy in no time. There simply isn't any scope for large-scale, mass-casualty events at the moment in the US. Our strategy is working. It is impossible to prevent every idiot with an internet connection and a pressure cooker from blowing something up. What we can do -- and are doing -- is make sure that the numbers are limited, the major plots don't happen, and the casualties are kept to a minimum. Fear and chaos are not the answer. We are winning this war.


Not all wars end formally. Sometimes they just peter out.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
From the Land of the Brave

I'm glad to see that here in the Land of the Brave we get wall-to-wall TV coverage every time some mope puts a pipe bomb in a trash can. Would that we get half of that for the 50+ people shot and killed every day.

Culture Update

Over the weekend, I took in the very funny play Don't Dress for Dinner. It's a sex farce, very amusingly done by the local Buffalo Theatre Ensemble who perform at College of DuPage.

Hillbilly Elegy

Also over the weekend, I read Hillbilly Elegy. It's by J. D. Vance, a second-generation hillbilly who grew up in Ohio. The book is a case study in why some people (black or white) seem to stay impoverished: they lack the skills and social support to do anything but be poor. It served as a refresher lesson to me - others may find it new information.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. With apologies to Michael Corleone, I thought I was going to refrain from posting about things political today. Then comes this New York Times article in which Trump said if Russia attacked them, [NATO-allied Baltic states] he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Now, I understand and generally agree with the idea that our allies can and should do more for their own defense. But here's the thing - the Baltic states, short of having ballistic nuclear missile submarines, cannot and will not be able to defend themselves from Russia.

Geographically, the countries in question sit on flat plains, AKA "good tank country." They aren't very big (Lithuania is roughly the size of West Virginia) and don't have a large population (Lithuania is roughly the same population as Connecticut). They would be easily overran in a conventional war, even with NATO involvement. Simply put, the only way these countries stay independent is with a strong guarantee that, even if Russia pushes us out, we're coming back.

It may have been a mistake to add these countries to NATO, and it would be a valid policy position to say we're dropping them from NATO, but for right now they're in, and we as a country have given our word to defend them. Asking if they have "fulfilled their obligations to us" is morally bankrupt.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
As a fan of University of Illinois basketball, I have decidedly mixed opinions on Bobby Knight, a long-time coach at rival Indiana University. However, he definitely was an effective coach, if you define "effective" as "winning basketball games."

Knight has been quoted as saying "The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare." In thinking of our government's response to Benghazi I was struck by how appropriate this quote was.

Reading through the report, I was struck by how ill-prepared pretty much everybody was. Quick-reaction units that took 6 hours to get mustered and didn't have transport. A shocking lack of knowledge by the military of what resources where on the ground or even where the key building were. The bottom line is that nobody prepared a response. When the shit hit the fan, everybody was improvising. We got lucky that only four people died that night.

Benghazi!

Jun. 28th, 2016 03:48 pm
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
The House Select Committee on Benghazi has released their final report. After much Strum und Drang, there's nothing there. Specifically:

1) Ambassador Stevens died before anybody could have done anything.
2) Nobody in any level of command issued a "stand down" order. The closest to such an order came from the CIA chief in Benghazi who may have had his team wait a couple of minutes while he was trying to get local help - help that the team leader wanted.

There were a few new items. First, the only military unit available to respond, a FAST platoon, was in Rota, Spain. That's 4 hours flying time to Benghazi. Alas, the unit doesn't have C-130s available - they have to come from Ramstein, Germany.

The unit commander testified that he saw TV news of a problem around midnight local time and started recalling his troops from liberty. He got the order to go to Libya at 2:39 AM local time. To be clear, Stephens had been dead for hours, the consulate had been overrun for hours, and the CIA annex had been attacked once by then. He'd already recalled his troops and were getting them packed up, but that's when he got the order. At 5:45 AM local time, FAST reported that they were ready to go.

They did not have a C-130, as Ramstein had not been ordered to send one. The general at Ramstein, also acting on TV news, had gotten some birds prepped. Yet the C-130s didn't arrive from Ramstein for another six (6) (!!!!!!) hours, and FAST spent several hours on the ground deciding whether or not to travel in civilian clothes and with what weapons.

What is clear to me from reading the report is a shocking lack of urgency in any of the military units involved, from the immediate reports of the Secretary of War on down to the European commanders. What was also clear to me was a very low, peacetime, level of readiness for a problem. Having said that, the fault seems to lie at the level of uniformed officers, not Clinton.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Today's post is later than usual due to a busy morning.

A) Having merely pointed at Scalzi's post yesterday on Brexit and saying "me too" let me today point at Scalzi's newest post on Brexit and say "me too."

B) Game of Thrones a TV show that I do not watch, had a big medieval battle scene in it. Various people are complaining of inaccuracies, including the idea that the cavalry (well, armored knights) arrive to save the day, unbeknownst to the Big Bad. I remind people that at Waterloo, Napoleon knew the Prussians were in the area and had detached a Corp to fend them off, yet the Prussian arrival forced his retreat.

C) Chuck Wendig talks about common sense gun control. I note the article primarily to point out that there is a divide in gun culture from "old school" (Chuck and I) and "new school." The new school types seem to want everybody to have a gun instantly to hand.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thought One - Annie Oakley

One of the things that gripes my ass are the Gun Store Experts who tell me that, had they been at the Shooting Of The Week, they would have dropped the Bad Dude. Maybe yes, maybe no...

Shots In The Dark, or, How I Became A Sharpshooter.

Thought Two - Thinking It Through

So, one of the things Trump and his supporters have been saying regarding Orlando is that we've been attacked and need to hit back. "It's an act of war!" So does that make the shooter a soldier? Who should we hit back at? I mean, our bombing of ISIS is what caused the shooter to go get a gun. If we're at war with Islam, then as this guy asks how exactly does a nation prosecute a war against a leaderless entity with multiple subgroups?

When one asks these questions of Trump and his supporters, one gets either an angry glare, vague platitudes or a repetition of the initial statement. One does not get actionable ideas.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Over on Crooked Timber, John Quiggin asks does Australia need a navy? He did a cost-benefit analysis and determined the answer was no. Herewith my reply.

This post is a classic example of what I call “Wall Theory.”

Imagine that a village keeps getting attacked by barbarians, so they build a wall. Attacks stop, as the barbarians don’t like heights. Then, about the time the last person who actually saw a barbarian is old and feeble, somebody shows up and says “lets tear down the wall. It’s too expensive to maintain and blocks the breeze.” The question is, are the barbarians gone or just waiting in the treeline?

Quiggins concludes: the counterfactual in the absence of naval expenditure would have to be a chronic state of crisis ten times as bad as the blocking of the Suez canal. Just how many deep-water pirate ships would it take to create that crisis? If any ship is liable to be attacked, they all will need to be armed, insurance rates will skyrocket, and the cost to ship anything will radically rise. Not to mention the human cost in loss of life and limb.

Surface ships at sea serve the same purpose as armies on land: they prevent the development of warlords, and keep crime down to levels that can be handled by police forces. What keeps the Somali pirates down to the level of speedboats and AK-47s is naval power. Otherwise they could take some of their captured merchant ships, mount a cannon on them, and go roaming the oceans. I should note here that Nigeria and Indonesia have piracy problems as well – problems also kept in check by navies.

Oceanic commerce moves on surface ships. Submarines are useless at protecting surface ships from anything, including other submarines, because of the technical difficulties of convoy operations.

Aircraft are helpful in protecting ships, but if you don’t like the expense of operating a frigate, you’ll hate the expense of maintaining a combat air patrol over a convoy 2000 kilometers from the nearest airbase. They also have clear limitations in anti-piracy, in that frequently the only way to tell a pirate from a fishing boat is to board and search the vessel. Also, should a merchant ship be captured, air power becomes useless.

One can and should argue how much navy one needs. (Speaking as an American, frankly I find Australia in particular and most countries in general are spending too little on their navies and relying on Uncle Sam to pick up the gap.) In any event, there is a clear need for some organization to police the seas.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I hesitate to take too many political lessons from the Star Wars series of movies. Having said that, I find the quote above very much on point. After this week's bomb attacks in Brussels, various Republican pants-wetters candidates for President were calling for "law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized" or waterboarding suspects.

This may be perhaps obvious, but I think such ideas are both un-American and counterproductive. The gist of the Tarkin quote is that the more one creates an "us vs. them" environment, the more likely it is that "them" will either cooperate with "our" enemies or at least not cooperate with us. We see this today in the inner cities, where police overreach makes people, even crime victims, reluctant to cooperate with the police. What is needed is intelligent action, not stupid panic.

ETA: Wise words from an immigrant living in Brussels.

ETA #2: What she said about the stupidity of expecting Obama to run home because of the attack in Belgium.

Gunboats

Jan. 13th, 2016 04:23 pm
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I'm slated to be busy tomorrow, so have tomorrow's thought today:

A pair of USN gunboats (more like "ski boats with a machine gun") strayed into Iranian waters. The Iranians arrested our sailors, and one of them apologized for being in Iranian water while blaming a GPS failure. Various right-wing sources are comparing this to Carter's hostage crisis. Thoughts:

1) If a Cuban or Iranian gunboat strayed into US waters, you'd be damn sure we'd arrest everybody on the boat and haul them to shore.

2) If said boats had fired on our ships during the arrest, you'd be damn sure that an airstrike would be called in and those boats, plus anybody who got in the way, would be sunk.

3) Given the size of the boats, and presuming one of them needed to be towed, thus slowing both ships, the practical result of any armed resistance would be to get the resisting boats sunk and their crew dead.

4) Saying "we're sorry" is the quickest way to end the standoff. Armed resistance is the quickest way to start a war, and nobody on those boats is within a country mile of the paygrade that equals "get to start a war on my say-so."

In short, the right-wingers are pissed because we got treated exactly like we'd treat somebody else.

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