Sunday, April 29, 2007

While the Democrats soil themselves and draw up terms of surrender... 
...the Government Center in downtown Ramadi hasn't taken sniper fire since November.

Quick! Let's lose this thing before it's too late!!!

Splash, out


Friday, April 27, 2007

Cool infographic 
I love infographics...

And kudos to the New York Times for coming up with a doozy!

I wouldn't break out the torches and pitchforks, though. Some businesses are inherently cyclical, and some are more cyclical than others. Sometimes you might need a terrific CEO to minimize your expected losses, or manage volatility.

You also don't want to give CEOs incentives to minimize dividends to shareholders by retaining more earnings that cannot be profitably reinvested at above the market rate of return. Why keep dividends which can be reinvested in a mature business growing at 4% IRR when those dividends can be put to use by shareholders at 8%, after taxes (and even more than that for those who hold stocks in tax-advantaged accounts)? But if we get too crazy with lynching the wrong CEOs, they will do anything to achieve marginal growth - at the expense of opportunity cost for shareholders.

The executives who need to be lynched are the ones who stay in the upper left quadrant throughout an entire business cycle, and who lag their industry peers by significant margins.

Splash, out


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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Update from Ramadi 
The tide seems to have turned. Again.

Each of the Ramadi offensives began with troops staging raids into the targeted area to eliminate "high value individuals"--local al Qaeda leaders. Then the troops would place three-foot-high concrete blocks known as Jersey barriers around the targeted neighborhood to prevent insurgents from "squirting out." This would be followed by a clearing operation, with U.S. and Iraqi troops advancing from multiple directions to root out the enemy. Combat was intense. Insurgents fought back with everything from homemade bombs to AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine guns. Ten American soldiers were killed and another 40 wounded.

"The price was heavy but worth it," says Colonel John W. Charlton, the burly commander of the 1st Brigade who directed the operations. "The enemy lost massively."

To illustrate the point, he shows me a page of closely printed type listing all the arms caches seized by his men. These included 10,250 pounds of homemade explosives, 2,347 pounds of high explosives, 2,265 feet of detonation cord, and 6,000 gallons of chlorine. U.S. troops discovered and dismantled entire factories devoted to the production of IEDs, and they killed hundreds of insurgents.

Yet, for all the shortcomings of their government, Iraqi forces have begun to play a key role in Coalition operations, and nowhere more than in Ramadi. Key to the success of this undertaking has been the recent decision by most of the major Anbar tribes to turn against al Qaeda. From 2003 to 2006, the sheikhs who traditionally dominate life in this rural province were happy to fight alongside al Qaeda against the American "crusaders" and the "Persians" (Shiites) who now run Baghdad.

I would quibble with this. In my opinion, Al Qaeda was not able to make very significant inroads into Ramadi until 2004, after which time things deteriorated very quickly, though.

I'm sure there was some cadre building going on, and some sheikhs were turning a blind eye. But there were no running battles in the streets with platoon-sized and company-sized elements of moojies until 2004 -- really around the time Fallujah fell to them.

Al Qaeda had a firm foothold in Fallujah in 2003, but not in Ramadi. For most of 2003, the baseline of violence in Ramadi was about the same as Boot describes in this article - 2 to 4 attacks per day, the occasional rocket landing, and weeks going by without a U.S. soldier or marine being killed.

It was always a rough neighborhood, but U.S. civil-military operations were key, in my estimate, to maintaining some sort of stability at that time.

Yet, for all the difficulties that remain (and it would be a serious mistake to underestimate them), the overall trend in Anbar is positive. Startlingly so. According to briefings I received at Multi-National Division-West in Camp Falluja, attacks in the province are at a two-year low. More than 13,000 police officers have been deployed, and more are on the way. Tips to Coalition forces are soaring. Whereas U.S. troops used to find only 50 percent of IEDs, they are now defusing 80 percent before they detonate.

Yes, that is an important metric. It speaks to deteriorating skill on the moojie side, and an improved willingness and ability of the Iraqi people to tip off coalition soldiers. All things being equal, that should translate to a 60% reduction in coalition casualties due to IEDs, which seems to be what we're seeing.

Nevertheless, with only three of five extra brigade combat teams on the ground, the situation in the capital has already shown signs of improvement since Fardh al-Qanoon started in February. The murder rate fell 75 percent in February. March saw a slight increase, but by the beginning of April the number of murders in the capital was still down 50 percent since the start of the year. Last year it was not uncommon to find dozens of corpses a night dumped in the capital, many of them tortured by Shiite death squads using power tools.

I wonder if Sears still honors the Craftsman warrantee if the tools are damaged by bone fragments and covered in dried blood?

Just asking. I mean, no questions asked, right?

Overall, an encouraging report. Definitely read the whole thing.

Splash, out



Monday, April 23, 2007

I've got a nagging feeling 
that justice was not done here.

A look at the grassroots fight 
Must read from Outside the Wire.

His take: Free Iraqis have plenty of fight in them, yet.

A Marine Officer offered this thought to me, "could it be that we have won the war but are too dense to realize it?" From what I saw in Khalidiyah, I would say we are on track. Time will tell if the watchmen and IP will continue to progress and eventually choke out the jihadists. But from what I saw in my time, maybe they already have.

Hat tip: MM

Worst Mass Murder in U.S. History, Part II 
Another commenter reminds us that the Virginia Tech massacre isn't even the bloodiest mass murder to take place at a school.

The Bath School disaster is the name given to three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, USA, on May 18, 1927, which killed 45 people and injured 58. Most of the victims were children in second to sixth grades attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history. The perpetrator was school board member Andrew Kehoe, who was upset by a property tax that had been levied to fund the construction of the school building. He blamed the additional tax for financial hardships which led to foreclosure proceedings against his farm. These events apparently provoked Kehoe to plan his attack.

On the morning of May 18, Kehoe first killed his wife and then set his farm buildings on fire. As fire fighters arrived at the farm, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many of the people inside. Kehoe used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. During the rescue efforts, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school's south wing.

Layers of fact-checkers. A disciplined process. Professionals.

Purple Stars.

Splash, out


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Eileen Ivers, Seamus Egan, and John Doyle 
...Along with a percussionist I don't know.


Eileen Ivers soon became world famous as the musical star of Riverdance, but she was a great trad player before that. And a great math geek, too!

John Doyle and Seamus Egan, the flute player on this vid, can be heard on the terrific earlier Solas albums. Egan is a DEADLY guitar player in his own right.

I highly recommend anything Doyle plays on or produces...especially his two solo albums, Evening Comes Early and Wayward Son.

He's so good, though, he's ruining a generation of Irish guitar players.

Splash, out


Liz Carroll and John Doyle. 

Found on Belmont Club 
This wonderful comment:

The principal reason why I detest al-Qaeda with such vehemence is not merely because of what they do to others, but the fantasies they unleash within me of what I would like to do to the terrorists.

I resent them not merely because they do evil, but because they seek to plunge the rest of us into their hell. It is less the evil they commit that infuriates me than their desire to impress others with how evil they are. Their exhibitionism unleashes two reactions within me. One dislikes the evil they do. The other is to feel offense against their exhibitionism, to be utterly unimpressed by the level of evil they are committing precisely because I suspect what I'm capable of if my mind goes in the wrong direction. I'm reminded of the Crocodile Dundee quote, "That's not a knife. This is a knife."

Pulling out a bigger knife to confront and destroy evil doesn't bother me much, though. In the grand scheme of things, I would not hesitate to firebomb Dresden again if it were necessary to bring the machinery of the Holocaust to a halt, and I would nuke a thousand Nagasakis if it were neccessary to crush the perpetrators of the Rape of Nanking. And that willingness must be a deterrent to tyrants rational enough to at least recognize self-interest.

Essentially, that is how the United States wins its wars.

That's not a Military Industrial complex. THIS is a military-industrial complex - propelled by the energy of a free people, in our righteous might.

Suck it, moojies.

And remember who you're fucking with.

Splash, out


Friday, April 20, 2007

"Worst mass murder in American history" reprise 
A reader writes in to remind me of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which took the lives of as many as 140 men, women and children in 1857 - coincidentally, the date was September 11th.

Splash, out


Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Worst mass murder" 
I swear, if I ever see another culturally illiterate reporter call the Virginia Tech Shootings "The worst massacre in American history," I'll jump through the monitor and choke him.

There's the 9/11 attacks.
There's the Oklahoma City Bombing.
Someone mentioned the Tulsa race riots on another blog.

It's not even the worst shooting.

There's Wounded Knee.
The Jamestown Massacre killed 322 people.
The Fort Henry Massacre.

Indians from the Red Stick tribe killed and scalped hundreds of people at Fort Mims in Alabama in 1813.

Americans returned the favor by slaughtering hundreds of Indians after the Battle of Bad Axe in the 1830s.

Whites killed killed 200 Indians, including women and children at Bear River, and a few hundred more at Sand Creek.

Actually, here's a whole list of early massacres of hundreds of people in the New World.

King Phillip's War caused the deaths of nearly a fifth of all the European settlers in New England.

The Fort Pillow Massacre in the Civil War.

Andersonville, and other Civil War prisons, depending on how you cut it.

I recognize there's a useful distinction to be made between acts that occur in the midst of war, including wars of annihilation such as the early Indian conflicts, which the Indians did plenty to start.

But I guess you can get through journo school not knowing much history.

Splash, out


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Liviu Librescu. 

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sorry for the light posting 
Been crazy busy between work, drill, trade shows, etc.

Be back soon.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The New Army ACU Uniform 
Badger 6 says it sucks.

Velcro was a good idea, but the execution was simply lacking. This material is just not ready for combat. Putting anything of size or weight in the pant's cargo pocket will often cause the closure to fail if your Velcro has any wear and tear - which in Iraq, it does. Soldiers risk losing belongings and being chewed out by the nearest NCO for an unsightly appearance.

The addition of Velcro on the sleeves to attach patches was intended to keep a Soldier from spending money modifying uniforms with new patches and skill badges. But this savings has been lost in a couple of ways.

First, patches are much more likely to be lost now that they can be easily removed. And, more obviously, Velcro repair kits are beginning to appear in the exchange shops - a tacit admission the Velcro does not last. Instead of shelling out cash to put new patches on the blouse, Soldiers now have to buy new Velcro to replace the material that failed.

The uniform is also poorly constructed. In more than 10 years of active and reserve service, I never once had a uniform "malfunction." Twice in my tour in Iraq I have had the crotch on my pants rip out. Embarrassment was the least of my worries. Had I not been near the end of a patrol it would have been a serious problem if my vehicle had gone down.

And I am not alone. I've talked to many Soldiers that have had this happen. The data is anecdotal at best, but it sure appears to be a problem.

The material itself is a problem as well. The 50/50 blend of cotton and nylon does not appear to have the staying power or the protection of the old 100% cotton or the Nomex of today's flight suits. In fact, Soldiers and Marines that spend a great deal of time in vehicles in Iraq are being issued tan Nomex flight suits to protect them from the possibility of flash fires in their vehicles. The cotton/nylon blend burns very quickly and can add to the injuries sustained in a burning vehicle by melting to the Soldiers skin.

I think the new pattern is simply useless in the woods, as soldiers stick out like glowsticks. Haven't seen it with my own eyes in an urban setting, like in Iraq.

The velcro I thought was freaking retarded from the start. There's no way a velcro fastener can hold up to the strain of keeping an extra couple of mags of 5.56 in the cargo pocket for a year in country. And how often does a soldier have to change the U.S. Army or the name tapes?

Pin on Airborne badges and CIBs/EIBs were already authorized.

I like the sleeve pockets. It's amazing how fast soldiers were modifying their own uniforms as soon as they hit the ground in Iraq and could get away with it.

So far, it seems fairly comfortable, though I haven't worn it on duty yet (I bought a couple, but the AAFES retards sent the wrong patches.)

Still, the uniform is better than the universal issue of berets, imposed upon us by the sainted General Shinseki.

Splash, out


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Irish tune blogging 
Danny Boy.

The definitive version.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Laugh Line of the Day, And a Fisking of Time 
Here's the MSNBC Headline: 12,000 more Guard troops may be going to Iraq

The punchline is in the subhead:
Deployment order planned to lessen ‘surge’s’ strain on stretched-thin Army

Dude...when your part-time units have as many deployments as your full-timers, you won't have part-timers anymore.

That's not the case now, except in a few units like MP companies and Civil Affairs units. But as Guard brigades are sent back for second tours, it begins to become a reality.

But we still have to wait decades after retiring from service to collect our pensions - unlike active component service members, who can collect it immediately upon leaving the service after 20 years.

Time Magazine has a more incompetent and politically charged take, in which they quote Gen. Barry McCaffrey (without noting that he was a Clinton administration official) and somehow manage to write a full feature story on the Army and its readiness without quoting a single active general officer.), they cite the doddering fool Congressman Murtha as a key source (who thinks Okinawa counts as a staging area for an operational reserve for Iraq), that Clinton was "a cold war President" (seriously!!!!) and that it's the Army that decides to spend its money on irrelevant, hi-tech weapons systems (apparently, Congress has nothing to do with spending priorities.)

Here's an example of Time's stupidity:

The lack of guns and armor back home has a boomerang effect: many of the troops training in the U.S. are not familiar with what they'll have to depend on once they arrive in Iraq.

DUH 1: Why would we need armor back home? Are they referring to tanks or body armor? There isn't much tank warfare going on in Iraq, if the former, and tank crews are fighting as infantry. If the latter, well, what's the point in shipping armor back home if we need it in Iraq? What does Time think we should be doing?

DUH 2: Well, one reason they're not familiar with it is because 1.) We have new and better gear and systems now, and 2.) We're equipping units forward with it first. Duh!!!!!!!!!

Should we just never upgrade?

How dumb are these dorks?

The main consequences of a tightly stretched Army is that men and women are being sent into combat with less training, shorter breaks and disintegrating equipment. When those stories get out, they make it harder to retain soldiers and recruit them in the first place. "For us, it's just another series of never-ending deployments, and for many, including me, there is only one answer to that—show me the door out," wrote an officer in a private e-mail to Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.

One of only two serving officers the story quotes is anonymous and thirdhand via a congressman. Oh. Is Steve Rothman a Democrat, by chance? Why, yes. Yes he is.

Time Magazine can't be bothered with pointing that out, though. But don't you think that information would be useful to the reader in discerning that Rothman might have other interests in cherry-picking his emails for Time?

Why, yes. Yes it would be.

But you won't read it in Time.

You also won't read about Rothman's commitment to victory in Time. But you can read it here on Countercolumn, and on Rothman's own web page:

“Today’s vote is a giant step forward for those of us opposed to keeping our young men and women in the middle of an Iraqi civil war indefinitely. As I have said repeatedly, this bill ends the war in Iraq and that’s why I support it. I wish it called for the immediate withdrawal of our troops, but there are not the votes to accomplish that objective,”

He has the terrorists quaking in their boots, I'm sure.

Today half the Army's 43 combat brigades are deployed overseas, with the remainder recovering from their latest deployment or preparing for the next one.

Dumbasses. "Overseas" also means Korea, Germany, and Italy. Korea's traditionally considered a "hardship tour." The others are plum posts, highly sought after by soldiers wanting to live the Army Good Life.

Oh, and Hawaii is also considered OCONUS.

Those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than once—170,000 so far—have a 50% increase in acute combat stress over those who have been deployed only once.

Do the math again, Time. It doesn't necessarily mean what you think it means. And conflating Afghanistan with Iraq isn't exactly useful in this context.

The Army's problems were long in the making, and the extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed them for all to see: more than a decade of underfunding for boots on the ground while cold war administrations from Richard Nixon's to Bill Clinton's spent lavishly on the Pentagon's high-tech wizardry. The first Gulf War didn't help. It lasted 100 hours on the ground, was fought mainly from the air and reinforced the impression that grunts matter less than geeks.

Not to anyone who was paying attention, it didn't. The Gulf War illustrated the spectacular failure of air power alone to achieve a decisive result. It was only after the Iraqi Army was threatened with envelopment on the ground that they were forced to withdraw, and only then could they be really pummeled from the Air. Remember, we didn't have a "Highway of Death" until AFTER the tanks crossed the LD.

Oh, and there's Clinton as a Cold War president again. Wow.

No mention of the Clinton administration slashing active Army units by nearly half, though.

Even now, more than four years after invading Iraq, the Pentagon seems to be investing much of its current $606 billion budget in an effort to fight the wrong war. America's potential enemies around the world watched the first Gulf War and learned that the U.S. was unbeatable on a conventional battlefield. But the Defense Department lingered in a cold war hangover. The Air Force continues to buy $330 million fighters, and the Navy $2 billion submarines. (The Army is not free of this tendency. It wants to spend $160 billion on the Future Combat System, a network of 14 ground vehicles and drones of questionable value in the irregular warfare that's likely in the 21st century.)

That's Congress, dumbass. Not the Pentagon. Rumsfeld went down trying to change that, and was paying a heavy political price for it, with calls for his resignation even before 9/11. Crusader Artillery, anyone?

The force was so stretched, he warned Congress at the time, that a 20,000-strong troop surge in Iraq could not be sustained.

Well, no shit. That's why it was called a "surge" in the first place. We deliberately made a decision to commit a level of force that could not be sustained indefinitely. No one was even making the claim that it could. Remember, the choice was between "Go Large, Go Long or Go Home. The "surge" was a tilt toward Go Large.

Over the past two years, the number of troops surveyed who think victory is likely has fallen from 83% to 50%.

The difference: Congress has been taken over by surrender monkeys, while congressional leaders are no longer debating how to achieve victory, but trying to select the most expeditious route to ignominious defeat.

There is nothing at all in Iraq that makes victory less likely than it was two years ago. The difference is in Congress.

True, the Army is making its recruiting targets—but only by accepting less qualified people.

Holy Crap, Time -- what were the standards in the 1970s, when we had a much larger Army? I think you'll find that our standard of recruit holds up very well.

I granted some waivers as a commander recently - things like marijuana convictions more than ten years prior but a solid record since, with evidence of employment and family stability. None of those men ever let me down, and I'm proud of and happy to have all of them. (It's the young geniuses with the clean records that cause me the most headaches!)

The Army has been turning to its sister services for enlistees. About 20,000 "sandbox sailors" from the Navy and airmen from the Air Force are serving as "in lieu of" soldiers—driving trucks and providing security in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dedicating Air Force personnel to Army missions is hurting the Air Force, its leaders have told Congress.

That just sounds like a good idea all around to me.

"The Air Force doesn't guard prisoners. We don't have prisoners," Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told Congress Feb. 28. "The Army guards prisoners."

Heh. You do now, bitches!!!! :D

The Army is even cannibalizing the other services' officer corps, recruiting 325 so far (in exchange for a $2,500 bonus), with 200 more expected to switch to Army green this year, now that the bonus has been raised to $10,000.

Also a good idea.

To keep soldiers in uniform, the Army is spending money like, well, a drunken sailor. It will pay out close to $1 billion this year and next to attract and keep them in the force.

That's an irresponsible and reckless statement. It implies negligence or progligence. What's the evidence for that? If the market requires the Army to spend 1 billion on personnel retention to meet it's goals, then that's not "spending like a drunken sailor." (The author's been writing for mags too long. Snark is held in higher regard than substance.) It may well even be frugal. Hell, I suspect we're getting a bargain!

It's considering boosting, after one combat tour, the $225 monthly bonus soldiers get for serving in a war zone.

Also a good idea. The Navy's been doing that with Optempo/Sea pay for years. The more time you spend at sea, the higher your payout. If it works there it might make sense in the Army. It might make sense to adjust payouts by MOS or duty station as well. There's no reason people sitting in a Kuwaiti chow hall ought to receive the same Hazardous Duty pay as an infantry private busting down doors in Ramadi, other than inertia and Congressional meddling.

Nearly all soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait receive up to $15,000 for re-enlisting.

For a six-year enlistment and the near certainty of another full combat tour? It's a steal. Uncle Sam should take all he can at that price. That amortizes to just a couple grand and change per year. A no brainer.

To fill the gaps, the Army is promoting green officers more quickly. Captains are advancing to major after 10 years instead of 11; lieutenants can be pinned on as captains after 38 months instead of the usual 42. But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently warned that such fast promotion hurts officers' ability "to master their duties and responsibilities."

News flash to Time: Officers who are on their second Iraq combat tour aren't quite so "green" as you think they are, dorkus.

The Army has also skimped on armor. "You go to war with the Army you have," Rumsfeld famously told a grunt who complained of inadequate armor in 2004, "not the Army you might want." Lieut. General Stephen Speakes, the Army's top planner, recently recalled the shock Army leaders felt when Private Jessica Lynch and the 507th Maintenance Company stumbled into an ambush in Nasiriyah that left 11 of her comrades dead in the war's opening days. "We found to our horror that this was a logistics unit that had no ... [major] weapons, no night vision, none of the modern enablers for war," he said. "And we said, Well, they were never supposed to fight." The Pentagon war plan called for a neat conflict with well-defined front lines that support troops like Lynch could be safely stationed behind.

No, it didn't. That's a ridiculous assertion.

A World War II G.I. wore gear worth $175, in today's dollars. By Vietnam, it cost about $1,500. Today it's about $17,000. Amazingly, the Army had only 32,000 sets of body armor when the Iraq war began. The Army now insists that troops don't go "outside the wire"—leave their heavily defended posts in Iraq—without adequate protection. But that's not what the Pentagon's inspector general reports. Some troops "experienced shortages of force-protection equipment such as up-armored vehicles, electronic countermeasure devices ... weapons and communications equipment," an unclassified summary of a still secret Jan. 25 report says.

Well, we're defining "adequate" upwards rather quickly again, aren't we? The Army procured enough body armor to equip all deployed soldiers by the end of 2003. (My unit was among those deployed without it initially, but we had it by end July 03) Yet we're still hearing about it nearly four years later. Good going, scoop!

Here's a truism: Soldiers will never have enough of something, no matter how well equipped they are.

In short, as Murphy's Laws of Combat state, if you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat.

The new gear is great. But we were able to accomplish our mission with or without body armor.

I don't mean to minimize readiness problems. They exist. They're serious. Training resources for basic NCOES classes, for example, are grossly inadequate, and great NCOs have to wait literally years to get promoted because of the lack of NCO school slots. That predates Iraq, though.

But gosh, I don't blame Time Magazine for skipping bylines on this one.

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