January 2004 Archives

Battle Palace Intrigue

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[Full Disclosure: this is my day job.]

Field Artillery has long been known as the King Of Battle. But there are rumblings that the King may be dethroned, at least in the U.S. Army.

From Inside The Pentagon, Army Eyes 'Joint Fire Control Teams' To 'Enable' Lighter Ground Troops (I'm not sure why 'Enable' was in scare quotes):

One capability being eyed for cuts is artillery. Given the changing missions the Army is being called upon to perform in the post-Cold War era, Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker has told a number of Pentagon officials his service could cut 40 artillery battalions across the active and reserve components, sources tell ITP.

But Maj. Gen. William Webster -- the 3rd Infantry Division commander tasked with reorganizing his forces as a vanguard for Army structural transformation -- says he is hanging onto all his artillery battalions, at least for now.
There's a surprise. The Pentagon brass tries to tell the operational guys what they need to do the job they just did.
Webster this month has begun implementing a plan to divide his division into five brigades rather than the current three (ITP, Jan. 22, p1). But the commanding general says eliminating even a single artillery battalion could jeopardize readiness for near-term operations. Rather, Webster has opted to reduce the number of guns within each of his artillery battalions, he tells ITP.

Each of the 3rd ID’s three brigades currently have a cannon battalion of 24 guns. Under the new configuration, the division will field just 16 guns in each of four brigades, says Webster, whose headquarters is at Ft. Stewart, GA. His fifth brigade, centered around aviation, will have no artillery.
Not counting the divisional artillery (and I don't think it changes under Webster's plan; they allude to that later), that reduces the total number of tubes in the division from 72 to 64. That doesn't seem so bad. What the article proposes is the idea of 'joint' fire support controllers who are capable of directing air, naval gunfire, mortars, tube artillery, rockets, and missiles (currently, it's a stovepipe situation, with each service controlling their own fire support systems). I think in general it's a pretty good idea; coincidentally, AFATDS is quite capable of tasking all those systems.

The Air Force isn't too keen on the idea, though:

"I’m not sure that we’re solving a problem," responds Air Force Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, who, as a two-star, served with Webster at the Coalition Force Land Component Command headquarters at Camp Doha, Kuwait, during major combat in Iraq last spring. "In my recollection, we had an abundance of close air support" in Iraq.

In fact, Leaf said in a Jan. 23 phone interview, coalition ground force chief Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan requested shortly after the war’s onset that planes shift from the close air support mission to air interdiction. That meant attritting enemy ground forces from the air much deeper, before they came into close contact with friendly land troops.
He's half right, but the reason for the shift was beause the artillery was pounding the dogshit out of the close targets -- they didn't need nearly as much CAS as they originally thought, so they wanted to save air support for long-range interdiction.
The joint community continues to seek ways to minimize close battle, when avoidable, Leaf said. In the right context, effective tools exist to hit enemy forces from a distance, he said.

. . .

Many in the Army believe Air Force officials sometimes exaggerate the ability of longer-range weapons to achieve objectives that, in the end, require close-up solutions.

"We have to realize that fighting, though, can’t always be solved with a JDAM," said one officer, referring to the Air Force and Navy’s Joint Direct Attack Munition. "There are things that guys have to roll up their sleeves and [do, like] crawl in a hole and see if it’s Saddam. Or you have to go into basements or go into buildings. You can’t always stand off and say, 'Kill ’em.' And we saw that during Iraq."

"It is clearly preferable to engage an enemy at a distance when you have a choice," Leaf responded. "Long-range precision weapons are an important part of that capability. When the close fight is necessary, precision becomes especially valuable to the land commander. It would be wrong to overstate or understate that contribution."
Fair enough; one of the longstanding criticisms of artillery is that it is inherently non-precision, especially in a close fight. However, that's being addressed with new GPS-guided rocket and cannon rounds. Another effect will be a smaller number of rounds required to achive desired effects, which will result in a shorter logistical train.
Another lingering Army concern has been to avoid the appearance of relying on another service, like the Air Force, for combat effectiveness, some observers say.

In December 2001, Army Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck -- then the two-star commander of the 10th Mountain Division -- left behind his air support operations squadron when he deployed forces to Afghanistan, according to ground and air sources. When 10th Mountain forces ran into a tougher-than-anticipated al Qaeda enemy in Operation Anaconda three months later, Air Force officials -- left out of Hagenbeck’s planning -- pieced together single-man ETAC teams and, with the Navy and Marine Corps, assigned aircraft at the 11th hour to rescue and support ground troops in trouble (ITP, Oct. 3, 2002, p1; and Nov. 21, 2002, p1).

Later, when Hagenbeck complained about lagging Air Force support in a military journal, air officials privately were outraged. But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper sought to bridge the growing fissures, and initiated an effort with then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki to review the Anaconda experience.
. . .
The Army left its heavy artillery at home when it deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, but brought it to last year’s major combat operations to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Some ground force leaders say artillery proved useful in Iraq, but others say it was unnecessary against such a weak foe.
Sooooo... had Hagenbeck brought his artillery to Afghanistan, would there have been a need for an 11th hour rescue? I don't think so. Also, who exactly is saying that we didn't need artillery in Iraq since they were such a 'weak foe?' We already SAW what happened when we didn't bring artillery to a fight against a 'weak foe' (*cough*ANACONDA*cough*)! And that's ignoring the possibility of fighting a stronger foe in the future! Iran, North Korea, Syria? Yeesh -- bring every tube you got, then call UD and order more!
Once in place, howitzers have a slow rate of fire compared to other weapon systems on the modern battlefield, some critics say. Many military experts believe tanks and aircraft are more responsive and decisive than artillery against a challenging adversary.
No, no, and no:
  • Rate of fire: the M109A6 can fire four rounds per minute for three minutes (then one round per minute thereafter, based on barrel temperature). With 24 (or even 16) tubes per battalion, that's a lot of steel on target. Compare that to a strike aircraft -- once it dumps its basic load, it's back to base for more. How many 155mm rounds can you get on target in that time? Tanks? Yeah, they can get off two or three good shots per minute as long as their ammo holds out, but tanks have other problems...
  • Responsiveness: ...a tank can only hit what it can see. A cannon can hit a target 20 miles away, shift fire, and hit another target 20 miles from the first, all in a matter of minutes. An airplane can do that, but it has other problems...
  • Effectiveness against a challenging adversary: We have become spoiled in battle - our aircraft have not faced a significant threat since Vietnam. We have 0wnZ0r3d the skies everywhere we've fought, losing only some helicopters and a handful of fixed-wing aircraft to enemy fire (and none at all to enemy aircraft!). How much less effective would a strike aircraft be if the crew actually had to be worried about enemy fire? How many fewer F-14s, F-15s, and F/A-18s would be available for strike missions if the enemy could put serious pressure on their bases or carriers?
I wish I could quote the After Action Reports I've seen, but trust me when I tell you that the Field Artillery was a Stone Cold Bad-ass Mutha True Playa in Iraq. With a little bit of streamlining, it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

The Day Of Remembrance

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I totally missed this: NASA has named January 29th as the Day Of Remembrance for the astronauts killed on Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. From a CBS News article:

NASA's chief reminded staff members Thursday that "the consequences of us not getting it right are catastrophic," as the agency paused to remember the dead crew members of Columbia, Challenger and Apollo.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in a televised address to employees that space exploration is risky but never should result in fatalities because of "complacency, indifference, failure to attend to detail." That should be a solemn pledge for anyone who works in the space program, he noted.

The Day of Remembrance falls three days before the first anniversary of the Columbia disaster. O'Keefe said it will be an annual event, always on the last Thursday of January coming as close as it does to all three of the nation's space program catastrophes.

The Apollo 1 fire during a countdown test on Jan. 27, 1967, left three astronauts dead in their spacecraft on the launch pad. The Challenger explosion during liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986, left seven dead. The Columbia breakup during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, killed seven more.
That's pretty spooky - the dates all three accidents falling so close together. No word whether this will be an annual thing, though. Also, we've laid claim to part of Mars -- sort of:
"NASA announced plans to name the landing site of the Mars Opportunity rover in honor of the Space Shuttle Challenger's final crew. The area in the vast flatland called Meridiani Planum, where Opportunity landed this weekend, will be called the Challenger Memorial Station."
(Hat tip: David All on LGF)

Blair 4, BBC 0

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Not that we're gloating over it or anything. Margaret Wente in today's Toronto Globe and Mail:

Tony Blair's long public nightmare is over. The chairman of the BBC is toast, and Andrew Gilligan's career is dead. The BBC board of governors is huddled in emergency sessions to deal with Lord Hutton's finding that its editorial system is fundamentally flawed.
I wouldn't be so sure about Gilligan's career being dead, though, just because he's probably about to "resign" from the BBC:
Friends of the reporter today suggested he was on the verge of quitting the BBC following Lord Hutton's excoriating report, which concluded that his story on the government's Iraq dossier was "unfounded".

The BBC journalist is understood to have accepted that his career on the Today programme, which broadcast the fateful 6.07am report , is over.
I imagine Al-Quds Al-Arabi will offer him a job.

Naturally, al-Guardian is complaining about it, and predicts Bad Things for Blair:

The venerable WF Deedes says the PM will find it hard to escape the "weight of his past". Like Harold Macmillan, who survived the 1963 Denning report but soon suffered a bout of ill-health that led to his replacement, Mr Blair may leave Downing Street sooner rather than later.
I'm sure we haven't heard the end of this. At least, I hope not.

Update: Gilligan shipwrecked!

My Big Fat Obnoxious Twist


I've been watching My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, mainly to see how far they can push the joke before somebody blows it or Randi climbs a tower with a rifle.

In case you're not familiar with it, the premise is that two strangers -- Randi and Steve -- try to convince Randi's family that after a whirlwind romance (that the family had no idea about), they're going to get married in two weeks. If she can convince her family to accept this and go through a wedding without protesting, they both win $500,000.

The catch? Her betrothed is a fat obnoxious slob, and her family (as is she) are the most tightass WASPs ever to appear on network TV -- and I'm including Al and Tipper Gore. At least that's how Randi sees it, although I doubt she would acknowledge the tightass part. In fact, Steve is an actor, and he's going out of his way to irritate Randi and antagonize her parents.

Since this is a Fox show, I've got a real strong feeling that we're in for at least one major twist. Here's a couple of possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: Her family is in on the joke.

    Reasons for:
  • There was a brief shot in some previews where someone (her father?) stands up at the wedding in apparent protest - if it really happened that way, Randi would lose. It's possible that he was just saying "Honey, it was a big joke on you and we're all in on it."
  • The family as a whole seems too collectively tightassed to even be theoretically possible.
  • It's consistent with certain spoilers you might have read on the internet (which I won't repeat here).
    Reasons against:
  • Can the family maintain the act without giving things away?
  • This would essentially make the show "The Jane Schmoe Show", already done by SpikeTV.

Scenario 2: Everybody is in on the joke, including Randi; the joke's on us.

    Reasons for:
  • Randi is just too perfectly cast as the uptight little bitch.
  • She hasn't really tried to find out from Steve why he's acting the way he is with so much money at stake. That's certainly the first question I would ask if I were in her situation.
    Reason against:
  • This would make the show an 'unreality' show and might backlash with viewers (then again, this is Fox we're talking about)
What do you think?



I got an email from a friend today:

"Dear friend,

During this year's Super Bowl, you'll see ads sponsored by beer companies, tobacco companies, and the Bush White House. But you won't see the winning ad in MoveOn.org Voter Fund's Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest. CBS refuses to air it."
Well, that certainly sounds bad - CBS is willing to air a Bush ad but not an anti-Bush ad. Wait just a second, though: the email originally came from MoveOn.org. So now the question is 'What aren't they telling us?'

What they're not telling us is that the 'Bush White House' ad is from the Office of National Drug Control Policy; in other words, an anti-drug PSA. Hardly a political ad for the President's re-election.

CBS has a policy of not airing advocacy ads on divisive political issues:

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said the network refused the MoveOn.org ad simply because it's enforcing its "longstanding policy prohibiting advocacy advertising on the CBS network."

As for a Super Bowl ad it accepted from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, he said, that's "an attempt to stamp out drug abuse. If there is a reasonable intellectual argument as to why drug abuse is a good thing, I'd like to know what it is."

It gets weirder, though. While MoveOn admits they have no evidence that the CBS decision was motivated by bias:

MoveOn.org founder Wes Boyd said he had no evidence the ad was rejected because it was anti-Bush, but added: "I worry that it's about ideology."
they insist that the ONDCP ads are indeed divisive:
"At a time when millions of Americans, including federal judges, mayors, governors and members of Congress are questioning the wisdom of continuing the failed war on drugs, the Office of National Drug Control Policy advocacy ads frequently inspire controversy. Indeed, past Super Bowl commercials from the agency, which equated casual drug use with support for international terrorism, have stirred significant debate – and, yes, controversy."
Maybe the "buy a joint, topple the WTC" commercials were a bit over the top, I'll grant them that. But those are the ONLY ones. Are they seriously trying to argue that ads discouraging illegal drug use are policically divisive?

I think my favorite take on this comes from Steve Czaban, a writer for Fox Sports Radio:

"It appears that two million dollars can’t even guarantee you a 30 second ad in this year’s game. The perception is that anybody with that much bling to blow can just walk up and buy a slot. Not so.

The radical left organization MoveOn.org tried to buy a slot so they could air their winner in the “We Hate Bush So Much We’ll Forfeit All Intellectual Credibility” contest. The ad wasn’t racy or over the top (like the Bush = Hitler ad which got pulled from their website), but CBS still said no - on grounds that it or the NFL has never accepted ads during the game that were overtly political or issue oriented.

. . .

Thank God some wacked-out Circuit Court somewhere hasn’t weighed in with a ruling that allows crackpots, cranks, and angry Howard Dean supporters to air these ads and totally ruin our Sunday.

It is a football game, folks. If you want to call attention to saving the crest-lipped tree salamander, post some flyers on telephone polls and yell at the six people who show up. We are here to watch football. Now run along. "

There's also something about a PETA-sponsored ad being turned down, too. I didn't care enough about that issue to look into it. PETAoids, if there are any of you reading this, here's all you need to know about me: every time I see your animal-worshipping organization in the media, I kill an animal and eat it. It's like a carnivorous version of the drinking game Hey Bob.

Gotta Spend Money To Make Money, Oui?

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Who said those Nigerian email scams don't pay off? Somebody's cashing in. From Salon (may be a Premium link, just watch the ad):

"When British officials intercepted a Nigerian man with a briefcase stuffed with $200,000 at London's Heathrow airport, they thought they had stumbled upon a terrorist trail.

Instead, the cash-filled carry-on has led to the highest-profile corruption case yet in Nigeria, where bribery scandals have been reaching to the world's leading capitals, including Washington."
OK, OK, the money was actually headed into Nigeria, but let's not quibble over details.
"Three former Nigerian Cabinet ministers and two other former government officials are due in court Friday in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, on charges of accepting part of more than $1 million in bribes from France's electronics giant, SAGEM SA. The accusations stemmed from September's Heathrow arrest.

It's only one international Nigerian payoff probe: In Paris, a French judge has reportedly warned that Vice President Dick Cheney could be charged over allegations that his former company, Halliburton, paid $180 million in bribes to build a Nigerian gas plant. Halliburton has called the accusations untrue, and Cheney's spokesmen have refused to comment on the case.

. . .

Nigeria also is following the French probe into allegations that a consortium involving Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root paid about $180 million to win a contract to build the $4 billion-plus Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas plant in the mid-1990s.

Cheney was head of Halliburton for five of the seven years during which the secret payments were allegedly made.

French daily Le Figaro reported last month that Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke had warned the Justice Ministry in a confidential memo that embezzlement charges ultimately could be filed against Cheney. But he added that it was too early to say whether this was likely, Le Figaro said."
There's at least one important fact missing here, because it sure looks like the French want to charge an American for something that happened in Nigeria. This is either sloppy journalism or unprecedented French arrogance. Maybe both. I'm going to keep an eye on this story.

A Y2.1K Problem

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Precision Blogging has an interesting entry today about commenting your code. I tried to add a comment of my own, but his comments server was down. My comment would have been, more or less, this:

Real programmers don't comment. If it was hard to write, it should be hard to understand.

Seriously, though... back in 1988 I was writing some code for a time/date display where we were only allowed two digits for the year (still in the era before anybody cared about Y2K). We didn't care about the first two digits anyway, until I found out that although 2000 would be a leap year, 2100 would NOT be, which would throw all the day-of-month and day-of-week calculations off. So I added a comment something like this:

/* Under the Rule of 100, the year 2100 is not a leap year. Under the Rule of 400, the year 2000 is. This code is written to work in the latter case and fail in the former. If this aircraft is still flying in the year 2100, I will personally return from the dead to fix the code. */

The Government reviewer was amused; my boss, somewhat less so.

Can A Voice Be Considered A Deadly Weapon?

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The only reason I watch the early rounds of American Idol is to see the utterly talentless people who think they'll be the next winner. I wish I could make every single one of them read this study:

"People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it."

Of course, it wouldn't help. They'd just think "Those poor metacognitively-challenged fools."

Still Can't Win The Big One

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Looks like Peyton Manning has two more former Michigan players to add to his nightmares.

Shame, Shame!

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I've often said that if you're in a culture war against a pride/shame-based culture, the way to defeat it is to shame it every chance you get. As usual, Victor Davis Hanson says what I'm thinking, but says it much better (even though it's not really the main thrust of the essay):

"Apart from the model of our forefathers who crushed and then lifted up the Germans and Japanese, we could find no better guide in this war than William Tecumseh Sherman and Abraham Lincoln — in that order. The former would remind us that our enemies traffic in pride and thus first must be disabused of it through defeat and humiliation. The latter (who turned Sherman and Grant lose [sic]) would maintain that we are a forgiving sort, who prefer restored rather than beaten people as our friends."

A New Injectable Form Of Cocaine?

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I remember an old Richard Pryor standup routine where he talked about dipping his penis in cocaine to increase staying power during sex. I had always assumed it was a joke and he never actually did it. Well, even if he didn't, it sure looks like he inspired somebody, according to this story in Army Times (the main page lists this article as 'subscribers only' but I was able to get to it OK):

Drug case defendant pleads - sex
Captain says cocaine was secret love ingredient

By Nicole Gaudiano
Special to the Times

When Air Force Capt. Jacqueline Chester tested positive for having cocaine in her system, her lawyer says, she had no idea how that was possible. Had her prescription painkillers skewed the results?

It wasn’t the painkillers. It was her ex-husband, her lawyer says.

"Her husband will testify that he used cocaine on the tip of his penis as a means to prolong his sexual pleasure," Charles Gittins said. "He used it topically on his penis more than once."

Gittins will present Chester’s unusual defense in a scheduled February court-martial at Dover Air Force Base, Del. He argues that the charge against Chester — wrongful use of a controlled substance — requires that the accused must have knowingly ingested the drug. Unknowing ingestion or exposure is a "complete defense," he said.

Chester, 46, a nurse at Dover’s medical center, took a drug test in January 2002 and the results showed a trace level of cocaine, though not enough for a positive result. A month later, she did register positive and the Air Force began pursuing a drug charge against her.

. . .

"The husband is prepared to testify that he never disclosed to his wife - that he was using cocaine," he said. "His statement about using cocaine is corroborated by his medical records and his employment records."

Kenneth Gagnon, technical manager of forensic chemistry at the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, said the defense has some merit: Cocaine "can be absorbed through vaginal lining."

. . .

She could face a maximum penalty of five years confinement, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances if convicted.

How Many Angels Can Dance On The End Of A Split Hair?

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One of the reasons I'm not a practicing Catholic anymore is stupid stuff like this: it's OK to wear a condom to prevent spreading AIDS, but not to prevent pregnancy:

A senior Christian clergy tipped to be the ailing Pope's likely successor says he would accept the use of condoms to counter the spread of AIDS.

Making a marked departure from the Vatican's longstanding opposition to the use of condoms, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels admitted that condoms had their share of virtue.

. . .

Danneels' comments go against the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, which condemns artificial forms of birth control including condoms.

"Protecting oneself against sickness or death is an act of prevention," Danneels said. "Morally, it cannot be judged on the same level as when a condom is used to reduce the number of births."
What, exactly, is the difference between "If it's God's will that this particular act of intercourse will result in conception, you can't do anything to prevent it" and "If it's God's will that this particular act of intercourse will result in infection, you can go ahead and try to prevent it?"

The Fundamental Misunderstanding


In a post I made about a month after September 11th, I said:

There's an angle on the terrorist attacks that I don't think I've heard anywhere: if the terrorists' goal was to get the US to end its support for Israel, what they should have done is kept on doing what they were doing--attack American interests overseas. Eventually, we may have tired of being nickel-and-dimed over something most people see--or at least saw--as irrelevant (I mean, how many people knew who Osama bin Laden or the Taliban were before September 11?), and just rolled over and said 'The hell with it. Israel, you're on your own.' Instead, by taking the fight to our homeland, the terrorists have made exactly the same mistake the Japanese did in 1941. And we all know how that one ended.

Yesterday I got a comment on this two-year-old post from the quaintly-named 'Death Jihadi,' who said:

I know I am replying to an old post, but I think your optimism regarding the War On Terrorism is a little naive. There is a difference between fighting a nation state like Japan (which can always surrender), and an international, nationLESS band of people like Al Qaida.
A distinction without much of a difference. Al-Qaida was only able to plan September 11 because it had Afghanistan as a (then) stable base of operations where they could plan without interference, and Fraudi Arabia as a steady source of funds. Note that they haven't been able to do much beyond the odd nightclub or truck bomb since they got our attention.
I think the whole point of the Iraq war was to demonstrate American power (like the Death Star destroying Alderon in STAR WARS -- I'm sorry to say that America is the Empire in this new story, the Americans are the bad guys.) Maybe Mohammad Atta (the author of September 11 -- and destined to be remembered as an historic figure and military mastermind in the future) thought that he was like Luke Skywalker, destroying the Star Destroyer. I mean, Luke must have killed many people when he blew up that thing. Isn't he a terrorist?
I won't even argue the first point - I think that was indeed one of the many reasons. Note that Libya 'suddenly' gave up all aspirations to acquire WMD. Coincidence? Sure.

Are we the Empire? Gee, I don't know - why don't you ask the American subjects living in the states of West Germany, Honshu, Kyushu, and Hokkaido? Whoops - we forgot to annex them! And the Star Wars saga as a metaphor for the Wahhabists' crusade? Riiiiight. If the jihadis take over, do you think the Committee For The Promotion Of Virtue And The Prevention Of Vice will even let you watch those movies? Not a chance. It's a bad metaphor, anyway - Luke didn't go to Coruscant and off three thousand Imperial civilians.

I don't mean to sound too arcane, but my point is: there is a war on, and in a war, it all comes down to strategy.
There's nothing arcane about it; it's fairly straightforward, although amateurs discuss strategy while professionals discuss logistics.
America has the technology but has lost its nerve (it is not willing to sacrafice huge casualities.) Al Qaida, on the other hand, are both creative and totally willing to give their lives for the cause they believe in (death to the Empire). So, who do you think will win this kind of confrontation?
This is the fundamental misunderstanding the splodeydopes have about America, and it is the fatal flaw that will ultimately spell the end of Wahhabist Islam. America, throughout its history, has never failed to respond fully to any mortal threat. 1776, 1812, 1861, 1941. We did what we needed to do, cost be damned. And that brings us back to my original point: by taking this battle to our homeland, the splodeydopes have drawn our attention to the mortal threat they pose to us. No, we're not going to pop a nuke on Al-Qaida HQ and declare victory, but we will not stop until the threat is gone, one death cultist at a time.
And are Americans willing to give up their future so that Israeli's can realise their Zionist dreams?
Oh, silly me, I forgot - it's all about the Joooooooooos!

So former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill may have shown classified documents during his 60 Minutes interview, and the Treasury department is investigating (strangely, no mention of this story appears on CNN.com's front page at press time, or its U.S news page, or its Politics page, or its Law page, although you can see it here). This report in the London (Ontario) Free Press sure makes it look that way:

"They showed a document that had a classification term on it, so we referred this today to the Office of Inspector General," [Treasury representative Rob]Nichols said. "I'll be even more clear -- the document as shown on 60 Minutes that said 'secret.' "

O'Neill is described as a principal source for the new book, written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind. In addition to interviews with O'Neill, Suskind drew on 19,000 documents O'Neill provided. Suskind also interviewed other Bush insiders for the book.

On 60 Minutes, CBS journalist Lesley Stahl said O'Neill had briefing material involving Iraq. Suskind said: "There are memos. One of them, marked secret, says 'Plan for post-Saddam Iraq.' [emphasis added]" A 60 Minutes representative said a cover sheet of the briefing materials was shown.

"We don't have a secret document. We didn't show a secret document. We merely showed a cover sheet that alluded to such a document," Kevin Tedesco said.
Never mind whether a document marked 'Secret' was shown on TV; by the author's own admission, classified information was used by (presumably) an uncleared person in the preparation of an unclassified book. If I did that in my job, I'd be fired and prosecuted!

CNN had a side-by-side while I was working out this morning (as usual, there was no sound and I could only read some of the captions) between a Bush defender and somebody I think they labeled as a 'Democratic spokesperson' (I really need to be able to take notes on the stairclimber). The Democrat said the Treasury department was being petty by investigating this, and that it revealed President Bush's pettiness by letting them do that. Funny, weren't these the same folks who were calling for an Inquisition over Who Outed Valerie Palme?

Otis! My Man!

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From BadJocks comes the story of former major league centerfielder Otis Nixon's bad night:

"Former Atlanta Braves center fielder Otis Nixon was arrested Thursday after allegedly threatening his bodyguard with a knife at a Norcross hotel, police said.

According to police, Nixon, 45, drew the knife during a scuffle with Keven Brown at the Town Place Suites on Bay Circle."
Why does Otis Nixon need a bodyguard? Dude's been out of baseball for like, five years now - he still has to protect himself from autograph seekers? He ever had to protect himself from autograph seekers?
"Brown, 37, told police that Nixon called him and asked the bodyguard to pick up one of Nixon's female friends and bring her to the hotel. While he was on his way to the woman's home, Nixon called Brown again and told him to return to the hotel."
OK, booty call pickup - no problem so far. Girl changed her mind - no problem there, either.
"Brown said he went into the hotel room and noticed that Nixon was naked and yelling into his cellphone. Brown said he asked Nixon to put some clothes on, but Nixon ignored him. Nixon became upset when Brown asked him to repay some money that was owed him, Brown told police."
So what's the bodyguard thinking now? Maybe something like Hmm, my boss is naked and pissed off - now would be a great time to hit him up for the twenty he borrowed from me last Sunday at Taco Bell!
"Still naked, Nixon grabbed a kitchen knife and chased Brown out of the room, according to a police report. During the scuffle, Nixon also threatened him with another blade, a black-handled folding knife, Brown told police.

Nixon was also heard yelling: "I will cut your heart out," according to the police report. Brown was not harmed during the incident."
OK, maybe I'll ask him tomorrow instead.
"Nixon told police that Brown was the aggressor in the fight. Nixon said he was naked because he was waiting for his female friend to arrive."
Now we have an answer to my first question - Nixon needed a bodyguard to protect himself from . . . his bodyguard!
"Nixon played with the Atlanta Braves from 1991 to 1993. He helped the Braves get to the postseason in 1991 by stealing 72 bases. That same year he was suspended for cocaine use."
And I imagine that pretty much explains everything else.

Bad Dog! No Surgery!

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Police in Orange County, Florida, are looking for the owner of a pit bull that attacked two people, survived being shot in the head, and attacked a third person before being captured! [link]

Remember the 1976 Saturday Night Live sketch called "Fondue Sets For Namibia," where Garrett Morris played an African leader who implored Americans to donate their fondue sets? Well, we've got something not too different in front of us now.

I was never terribly worried about whether we'd win the war in Iraq (although what the Administration refers to as the 'end of major combat operations' came sooner and easier than even I thought); it was winning the peace I was really concerned with. You've all read the stories, and even if it's going better than the media would have us believe, every little bit helps. The 1st Marine Division is re-deploying to Iraq soon, and they're better at the 'hearts and minds' stuff than the Army is. Since they know that first impressions are vital, they don't want to arrive empty handed. And you can help.

Clarke's Law, Applied

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Strategy Page's Iraq entry for January 2 discusses a series of raids targeting rebel leaders:

"These operations leave the Iraqis somewhat in awe of American military prowess. That's because U.S. troops prefer to operate at night, where convoys of armored vehicles and trucks can move rapidly down roads with no lights on. The troops use their night vision goggles to see the road, but to any Iraqis, it's just these dark shapes hurtling through the night. Even scarier is the precision with which the troops appear to operate. The vehicles surround a village or large compound and dozens of American troops dismount, each one quickly going about a specific task. No shouting (many troops use personal radios or hand signals), and no milling around. And no lights. If the people the troops are looking for try to escape out a back door, American troops swiftly cut them off and arrest them, or shoot them if there is resistance.

. . .

The troops practice their raiding drills beforehand, and are briefed on the "game plan" before each operation. The commanders back at the base have access to live video from a UAV overhead (which is displayed on large, flat screen TV monitors), and Blue Force Tracker shows all commanders the position of all vehicles and helicopters at all times. Sometimes the Special Forces has the target under observation before the troops show up, as does a UAV overhead. There are also electronic intelligence troops listening in on any cell phone (or other radio) signals coming from the target location. Detective work tries to find out exactly who is in the buildings to be raided, and who is in charge. Interpreters or Arabic speaking G.I.s will then call for the senior Iraqi to let them know why the troops are there and to avoid any resistance. This is shock and awe."
You remember Clarke's Law, right? Sufficiently advanced technology...
"Story telling is an old tradition in Iraq, and the stories of these raids get embellished. While Iraqis like to emphasize how these American barbarians searched women for weapons (leaving out that usually only a metal detector is used), the "magical" manner in which the troops come out of the darkness and grab exactly who, or what, they want, never fails to impress [emphasis added]. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it's real."

This reminds me of an article titled "Great Satan's" Scary Secret Weapon written by Tony Geraghty and published in Defense & Diplomacy magazine just after Gulf War I. I couldn't find it online (except for a mention in a Gulf War bibliography), but I can excerpt from a copy I have:

"One imaginative airman posed for the camera in full flying kit and a mask that lent him the appearance of a zombie or a vampire.

Soon afterward the photograph - in sanguinary red-and-white, blood-and-death - came my way [Geraghty was serving as a Squadron Leader in the RAF in the Gulf at the time]. At the same time, there was much talk of Satan around Arabia; even the Great Satan, personified in simple minds by America.

It seemed to me that there was an opportunity here to turn this obsession, which confused the un-Islamic with the diabolic, to some use.

. . .

The cover story, I suggested, would be that the diabolic Pentagon had got into bed with Haiti's equally noxious Tonton Macout to sign up the Undead for service with the U.S. Navy. As they flew the first missions against Baghdad, these worthy monsters would fear nothing worse than the long sleep they so earnestly desired in any case.

. . .

I have no way of knowing whether this scheme bore fruit but I am in no doubt -- had the war lasted a little longer -- that it would have confirmed in Iraqi minds the nature of Allied air as a power that could operate as a force of darkness (a spooky phenomenon) as well as with Stealthy invisibility by day.

A rational man might pooh-pooh such ideas, but people under stress of battle, in the desert or urban air raid shelters, tend to be what the Irish call 'daytime atheists.'"

The Mark Of The Beast Will Be A Trademark

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I saw this article in my local paper yesterday, titled Pricey brand names doubling as modern baby names. This quote just blows my mind:

"ALICE HUNTER has had a long love affair with Chanel products. She bought her first bottle of Chanel Allure perfume at age 17 and the first in a long line of Chanel bags soon after. So when the Bradenton, Fla., mom-to-be was looking for a name for her first child, she felt the choice was easy.

In 2001, right after her daughter was born, Ms. Hunter had the Chanel logo -- two intertwined C's -- tattooed on her neck and her husband got a matching tattoo on his chest. 'It's in honor of our daughter,' Ms. Hunter says. 'And I'll bet she'll want one when she turns 18.'"
If she hasn't killed you in your sleep by then for sticking her with such a stupid name!

About the tatoo thing - sure, I wear logo t-shirts; I don't see anything wrong with that. But I draw the line at BRANDING YOURSELF WITH A COMPANY LOGO! That's just plain stupid. It reminds me of the near-future setting of the novel Jennifer Government, where the US Government is just another corporation and everybody takes their employer's name as their own surname (incidentally, it's an interesting read; I guarantee you'll never look at Frequent Flyer programs the same way afterwards).

"For now, the mass marketing of certain upscale brands ensures an immediate link between a luxury product and a child named for it. Says baby name author Bruce Lansky: 'Here's the cool thing about names: At no cost to you, you can acquire the same designer and a part of that cachet.'"
No, you don't. You identify yourself as a sad loser wannabe who will in all probability never own a Lexus (353 girls were given that name in 2000, according to the Social Security Administration) car or an Armani (298 girls, 273 boys in 2000) suit.

On the other hand, there is an upside to this - eighteen years from now, we'll have a whole new generation of strippers dancing under the names on their birth certificates.

OK, now I'm a believer. USC is all that, and a six-pack, and a bag of chips. You know when your team tanks in a big game, and you think, "Well, they just didn't play like they could?" Generally, there's a reason for that, and it involves the other team. USC owned both sides of the line of scrimmage like nobody I've seen against Michigan since the '02 Citrus Bowl. And the weird thing is that I don't even feel all that bad about it. Sure, it always sucks to be me when Michigan loses, but this game was different. USC was like a finely tuned Ferrari on both sides of the ball, and just watching them operate almost overcame my disappointment at Michigan's performance. I'll have more detailed comments later; that is, if I can bring myself to look at the recording again. For now, I'll just give quick reactions to what I thought would be the keys to the game:

  • I never saw eight in the box except in 3d- or 4th-and-short situations. USC played nickel or base defense the whole game.
  • Michigan did use the pass to set up the run--actually, I'm being a bit charitable when I say that. What I really mean is "they didn't totally abandon the run once Navarre entered 'chuck and duck' mode." Didn't help.
  • I think if USC only had one Michigan game film to study (actually, I'm sure they had the Oregon game film as well; I remember reading that in one of the LA papers somewhere), I'd say it was the OSU game, where they saw how you could work against the pass defense.
  • Both Michigan lines were big and slow, at least in relative terms. Michigan has been trying to improve their team athleticism for years, and they're a lot faster than they used to be. Problem is, so is everybody else.
  • Jackson was a non-factor. I don't think he had any tackles at all. LeSueur and Curry took turns getting lit up like Christmas trees, and the one time poor little Leon Hall tried press coverage against Mike Williams, Williams dumped him on his ass.

The Real Championship Game

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I just want to get this on the record before kickoff: Michigan 38, USC 35. Some things I think will be key:

  • I think USC will put eight in the box and dare Navarre to beat them.
  • I think Michigan will respond to this by using the pass to set up the run. Part of the reason they didn't rush well in the Iowa and Oregon games is that they abandoned the run for the pass early. Later in the season, it became clear that the run was available late even when they were throwing a lot.
  • If USC is basing their opinion of Michigan's defense on the Oregon game film, they're in for a very rude surprise. That was the D's worst game (even worse than Iowa, IMO).
  • I saw several quotes from USC players saying they thought Michigan's line was big and slow, thinking it would be much like Iowa's line last year, which USC dominated. The problem with this line of thinking is that Iowa's line zone blocks, while Michigan's is far more physical and athletic.
  • I've also seen quotes from Marlin Jackson (I'll try to find them later) that make me think he will figure prominently in coverage against Mike Williams. I hope so - LeSueur is too inconsistent to hold him for the whole game.


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