Monday, January 31, 2005

First Command fails to discipline wayward representative 
What on earth do you have to do to get fired by First Command?

James Provo, a First Command financial advisor and district supervisor in Charleston, South Carolina, recently got into some regulatory trouble with the NASD.

Well, no...not just any regulatory trouble. He attempted to intimidate a customer who complained about First Command by informing him that his military superior officers were being notified and favorable personnel actions were in jeopardy as a result of the complaint.

From the NASD press release:
NASD also found that First Command violated NASD rules when a First Command supervisor inappropriately confronted a former customer – an Air Force officer – who complained in an e-mail to an online publication that he had suffered losses and recommended that others not invest with First Command. The e-mail was in response to a negative article about First Command’s sales practices.

First Command District Supervisor James Provo contacted the customer, suggested that he might need an attorney, told him that the highest level of Air Force commanders were being contacted regarding the e-mail and told him his previously approved change in assignment might be delayed until the matter was resolved. NASD also found that Provo arranged a meeting with the Air Force’s legal assistance office, questioning whether the customer had violated Air Force regulations by using e-mail to send his message criticizing First Command. Provo also contacted the customer’s squadron commander and informed her that First Command might have a grievance against a member of her squadron. First Command eventually wrote a letter of apology to the former client, but otherwise took no steps to discipline Provo.

And so the NASD disciplined Provo for them, fining him $25,000 and suspending him from acting in a supervisory capacity for 30 days.

Well, the 30 days are up. And James Provo is right back at work, picking up his phone at First Command's Charleston office. And still pitching financial services to the same military audience.

Must be part of that guaranteed "check-a-month" program. Except the "check-a-month" doesn't apply to annuity payouts to investors - it applies to paychecks for reps who threaten and intimidate servicemen and clients.

Military Times, apparently, was too busy to do the follow-up on this major Gannett advertiser.

I understand.

Even if they had, I'm sure they would have figured out some way to leave First Command's name out of the story.

Splash, out


Sunday, January 30, 2005

Law dawg 
Here's new military law blog.

Millions of Iraqis voted today... 
...and all I want to do is track down those 'nadless nailbiters at the New York Times editorial board and others who argued that we should postpone the Iraqi elections until there were no "security problems, and kick them in the teeth.

Pathetic losers.

Never let them live that down.

Splash, out


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Gunner Palace 
This looks like a cool flick:

Gunner Palace.

Can't wait to see it.

Splash, out


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blogger awarded Silver Star  
Congratulations to Avenger Red Six, AKA Neil Prakash, awarded the Silver Star for gallantry under fire while serving as a tank platoon leader in Iraq.
Well done, stud.

'Ere's a pint to ya.

Stupidity, thy name is Chick 
Here's a story forwarded to my by the Islamic Broadcasting Network - an interesting English language publication.

You know those little palm-sized Jesus comic books you find lying all over the ground in and near college campuses and Santa Monica CA and whereever else nitwits like to gather?

Well, one of them has taken stupidity to new levels:

Members of a city mosque were troubled recently to discover that members of a small Christian church were on the downtown Green distributing tracts ridiculing Islam.

"We don't want them to defame and distort the religion this way," said Majeed Sharif, president of the United Muslim Mosque on Prospect Street. "If you don't know something, you should call somebody and ask rather than just going out and doing something like this."

The tract in question is titled "Allah Had No Son," a publication from California-based Chick Publications.

Chick Publications markets dozens of titles to evangelical churches that cast Islam as a demonic creation of the Roman Catholic Church. The churches then typically distribute the small, comic-book formatted tracts as part of their evangelism.

Now I've heard everything.

It's stupid on so many levels. I can't imagine a more destructive, counterproductive thing for Americans to do.

Besides, if you are a believing Christian, than Allah DID have a son: Jesus.

Radical Islam came to such power only because moderate, thinking Muslims - REAL Muslims - allowed it to, by tolerating such extremism and averting their eyes from the stupidity in their midst.

Christians need to do the same: Publicly rebuke this guy Chick.

Christians also need to be not so stupid about Islam across the board. It's a deep, rich tradition, just like Christianity and Judaism. There is so much to learn about.

Splash, out


Very light blogging for a while... 
I've got military obligations the next three weekends in a row.

"One weekend a month, two weeks a year my ass!"


Thursday, January 20, 2005

$150,000 Reenlistment Bonuses! 
That's the going rate for experienced senior NCOs in certain 18-series (special forces) specialties willing to sign on for another six years.

If they reenlist in a combat zone, they get it federally tax-free.

Listen carefully, and you can hear Thomas Jefferson's head explode!

In other news, the National Guard just tripled its reenlistment bonuses, up to $15,000 for a six-year enlistment.

The price of available labor will tell you a lot about its scarcity.

Splash, out


Tuesday, January 18, 2005

"I Hope That's All You End Up Hanging." 
Jeff Jarvis excoriates a low, low moment in the New York Times...with a nice turn of phrase at the end.

Ms. Boxer, don't you think you could be putting the life of that person at risk with that kind of speculation? In your own story, you quote Ali -- one of the three blogging brothers who started IraqTheModel -- saying that "here some people would kill you for just writing to an American." And yet you go so much farther -- blithely, glibly speculating about this same man working for the CIA or the DoD -- to sex up your lead and get your story atop the front of the Arts section (I'm in the biz, Boxer, I know how the game is played).

How dare you? Have you no sense of responsibility? Have you no shame?

It's not as if you have the slightest -- not the slightest -- bit of responsible reporting that would guide you to put that speculation in your lead (and, of course, whenever a reporter launches that speculation high up and never really answers it, she's trying to lead the reader toward the same speculation -- that, too, is a trick of the trade, eh, Boxer?). All you have is the rantings of one known internet troll whose spittle-specked babblings have been dismissed in saner quarters. But you hang your lead on that. I hope that is all you end up hanging.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Captain: "Too bad the American left can't demonstrate the intestinal fortitude of the Iraqis themselves."

Exactly right.

The Pentagon gets into the fisking business!!! 
Here's an official Pentagon press release basically destroying Sy Hersh.
Agreed. The New Yorker has become a tool. And Sy Hersh is no longer reliable. The guy believes so many outlandish claims its tempting to contact him to see if I can make up something too loopy even for him to believe.

I had a lot of respect for him for a long time. He wrote some great stuff during the runup to the war. And I'm glad he broke My Lai. And it's probably a good thing he broke Abu Ghraib.

But nothing ever came of this incident.

Hersh allowed himself to be used. And he allows himself to be used again and again.

Splash, out


Quote of the day 
This image cracked me up:

I thought leftists were sophisticated. So how come whenever they travel more than 50 miles from a big city they act like a caveman with a mirror?

Hat tip: Glenn

Sunday, January 16, 2005

More on the Military Times Survey 
Matt Russler lays out the statistical case for critiquing the Army Times survey.

I think you can quibble with the margin of error. The statistical points are certainly valid. But I don't think you can quibble with the thrust of the poll: That professional military people who have actually been on the ground have a radically different view of the war's prospects than those who must rely solely on media coverage.

The poll results have been broadly corroborated by an Annenberg survey last October.

The Military Times poll numbers, skewed though the sample may be, are pretty close to what you'd expect.

One can kvetch about the methodology. But there's no getting around the yawning chasm between the way the war is percieved by those fighting it and those watching it on TV.

Splash, out


Saturday, January 15, 2005

Voices which have gone silent. 
Victor Davis Hanson gets it.

Reading the pages of foreign-policy journals, between the long tracts on Bush's "failures" and neoconservative "arrogance," one encounters mostly predictions of defeat and calls for phased withdrawal — always with resounding criticism of the American "botched" occupation.

Platitudes follow: "We can't just leave now," followed by no real advice on how a fascist society can be jumpstarted into a modern liberal republic. After all, there is no government handbook entitled, "Operation 1A: How to remove a Middle East fascist regime in three weeks, reconstruct the countryside, and hold the first elections in the nation's history — all within two years." Almost all who supported the war now are bailing on the pretext that their version of the reconstruction was not followed: While a three-week war was their idea, a 20-month messy reconstruction was surely someone else's. Yesterday genius is today's fool — and who knows next month if the elections work? Witness Afghanistan where all those who recently said the victory was "lost" to warlords are now suddenly quiet.

As the Great Glenn would say:


"I want to be a martyr for the ballot box!" 
The Washington Post interviews real Iraqis.

"Going to the polling stations is a victory for the Iraqi people," said Ali Danif, a 45-year-old writer.

"The elections are more important than the candidates," insisted Jamal Karim, his garrulous friend.

Not to be outdone, a smiling Suheil Yassin jumped in. "It's one of my wishes to die at the gate of the polling station," he said, a gesture that was self-consciously dramatic. "I want to be a martyr for the ballot box."

The reporter's name is Shadid. I assume he speaks Arabic. Maybe he can blend in with the populace better.

It's what you get when you aren't confined to your Baghdad hotel and the Green Zone and can get out and talk to people.

You can't put freedom back in a box, once it comes out.

What caused the bull market? 
From a reader:

Your interest in finance has led me to be so bold as to ask if you have any thoughts on how much the creation of IRA's has fuel the stock market boom of the past twenty years. If IRA's have driven the boom, what effect can Social security have on the market in the future.

No pressure, just curious if you had opinion. Thanks again

Oh, I'm not really the person to ask. But I don't think IRAs are what launched the secular bull market which began in 1982.

For one thing, IRAs came into being in 1974. And for years, IRA limits were only $2000 dollars per year. Further, the market plunged into bear territory even as the Bush tax cuts became a reality, increasing allowable IRA contributions by 150% over four years. So IRAs could not have been a huge factor.

The boom coincides more with the advent of 401(k) plans. But even then, I think they only created a marginal increase in demand for equities. Talk to the labor unions and the liberal economists and they'll argue that 401(k) plans largely displaced traditional, defined benefit pension plans. So there's even a real question about to what extent 401(k)s represent real, new investment, vs a simple redirection of investment dollars from corporate control to worker control in 401(k)s.

I think the increase in equity prices was fueled by a combination of factors, including

1.) Reductions in long-term capital gains rates from 45% in 1974 to just 15% / 5% today. Which creates a much stronger incentive to invest capital rather than consume it.

2.) Hard money monetary policies initiated beginning with the Volker Fed in 1980-81 which finally broke the back of inflation and drove down interest rates, and bolstered the credibility of the dollar in international markets.

3.) Other tax cuts, combined with large scale deficit spending.

4.) A check on wage inflation, which tended to transfer wealth from workers to owners of capital, and naturally had to show up in share prices.

5.) New technologies, such as the computer, improving productivity and efficiency across the board.

6.) Developing economies for the most part recovering from the financial crises of the early and mid 1980s. This increases demand for US products and equities.

7.) An emerging middle class in Central America and Asia, which again increases demand for US products and exports.

All these things had a much larger effect on the bull market since 1982, in my opinion, than the advent of either the IRA or the 401(k).

I don't think Social Security reform will make a perceptible dent in holding up large cap equity prices or bond market prices. The market, I think, can absorb the increase in investment.

I think we may see some reduction in the risk premium in small cap markets, if Social Security moves money into that sector. If Social Security doesn't have a small cap option, we may see a more noticeable jump in prices of midcap securities when they approach or enter the bottom rung of the S&P 500 or whatever benchmark large cap index we choose. A modest arbitrage opportunity for active traders and hedge funds, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.


Former Army Secretary White Shows his True Colors 
From the New Yorker.

“If I had it to do again, what Shinseki and I should have done is quit, and done so publicly,” he said. White called it a measure of Rumsfeld’s contempt for the Army that he didn’t name a permanent Secretary of the Army to replace him until this past November. “To spend more than a year at war without a Secretary of the Army is unthinkable,” White said.

Wow. He didn't blow the whistle at Enron and he didn't have the moral courage to fall on his sword back when he WAS Secretary of the Army, and had something to lose.

He couldn't support Rumsfeld and the President professionally. Fine. So rather than have the grace to resign, he hangs on until he gets fired.


And then this former undersecretary goes to the New Yorker to snipe from the wings?

At least he's on the record.

On the whole, the New Yorker article is excellent. And the New Yorker has been doing some of the best and most perceptive military writing for years.

But when you read it, you also have to take it with a grain of salt - since New Yorker reporters are 1.) superb writers 2.) solid gumshoe reporters with great sources and access and 3.) Unwitting stooges being used by disgruntled former Pentagon employees who can't keep up with Rumsfeld.

Splash, out


Army Times Poll Results 
The Army Times has published the results of the latest survey of Army Times subscribers, more than 2/3rds of whom are on active duty.

Here are the highlights:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Pres. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?

Approve: 63%
Disapprove: 20%
No opinion: 8%
Declined to answer: 9%

Notably, Bush's approval ratings on the war have increased substantially among this group, rising from 56% in 2003 to 63% in 2004.

Civilians polled by the Washington Post/ABC News around the same period (Dec 16-19) broke very differently: 39% approve, 58% disapprove.

The results bespeak a radical dissonance between the way the average American perceives the war - of necessity, as it is portrayed by the media - and how the war is perceived by the soldiers who have actually been on the ground.

Who should be punished for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq?

Soldiers who abused the prisoners: 74%
Officers in direct command of the prison: 67%
Higher level military commanders: 21%
Civilian policy makers at the Pentagon: 12%
President Bush: 3%
No one should be punished: 10%
No opinion: 6%

Should the United States have gone to war in Iraq?

Yes: 60%
No: 21%
No opinion: 8%
Declined to answer: 10%

Interestingly, the number of Army Times subscribers who felt we should have gone to war in Iraq has decreased from 64% in 2003, at the same time as George Bush's approval ratings regarding the war in Iraq increased sharply among the same population.

How likely do you think U.S. success will be in Iraq?

Very likely to succeed: 38%
Somewhat likely to succeed: 45%
Not very likely to succeed: 12%
Not at all likely to succeed: 2%
No opinion: 4%

These results bespeak a resounding vote of "no confidence" in the way the media portrays the events in Iraq.

It would be interesting to see a breakout of poll results of soldiers currently in Iraq, as they would have the most current perception of goings on over there.

The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.6%.

Now, I know you're just dying to know what the Village Voice has to say about the poll results:

But since the poll's target audience consists of subscribers to military newspapers, the respondents tend to be "older and more career-oriented than the military as a whole," Hodierne tells the Voice. "There's value in that. But it should not be confused with a poll that consists of the entire military." The 21-year-old private, he says, is unlikely to subscribe. Most of those killed in Iraq so far have been younger than 25 and held ranks of corporal or lower.

Yep, if there's a publication anywhere in the world with its finger on the pulse of America's fighting men, it's the Village Voice.

The rest of the mainstream media's coverage of the Military Times poll results is interesting:

Other than USA Today and Phoenix's Arizona Central websit, almost nobody seems to have picked up the story as straight news. One military guest commentator from Fox news mentioned it. CNN didn't run the story, except when Robert Novak mentioned it in an opinion segment.

Most laughably of all, the Seattle Times buries it in paragraph 19 of a 23 paragraph story. The headline:

"Amid Fear: Sunni Party Pulls Out of January Vote."

You'll find it right below a cutesy story about a pair of children who started cell phones for soldiers with 14 dollars from their piggie banks.

Splash, out


Kevin Murphy at Funmurphy's thinks I presented a better argument defending Rumsfeld than Donald Sensing did critiqueing him. Which a high complement indeed, as I think very highly of Mr. Sensing.

Anyway, Funmurphy takes me up on General Shinseki, who I believe enjoys Most Favored Source status over at the New Yorker on the sly, and continues:

And I for one am getting a little tired of the whole "Shenseki warned us we'd need a lot more troops" for the simple reason that Shenseki's intent wasn't an honest assessment but just another in a long list of deliberately setting the requirements too high for action to occur. The Army doesn't have the manpower to sustain the force levels Shenseki said it would take to take and hold Iraq - it can barely sustain the levels we are using.

He and his Army predecessors always required too much and threw up too many roadblocks throughout the Clinton presidency and so the Army never took action -- it was the Navy and Airforce in successful actions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the Navy in fruitlless cruise missile strikes in Sudan and Afganistan. In Kosovo, when finally ordered to send in Apaches, the Army fiddled around with force protection and training issues long enough to keep their precious helicopters out of harm's way.

It pains me to say it, because Shinseki is a good man, and a fellow Hawai'i guy. But switching the whole Army to that French hat wasn't a hot idea, either.

Splash, out


Friday, January 14, 2005

Iraq Coverage: What's missing? 
Well, this Lieutenant Colonel serving near Fallujah has some ideas:

What noticeably was missing were accounts of the atrocities committed by the Mehdi Militia -- Muqtada Al Sadr's band of henchmen. While the media was busy bashing the Coalition, Muqtada's boys were kidnapping policemen, city council members and anyone else accused of supporting the Coalition or the new government, trying them in a kangaroo court based on Islamic Shari'a law, then brutally torturing and executing them for their "crimes." What the media didn't show or write about were the two hundred-plus headless bodies found in the main mosque there, or the body that was put into a bread oven and baked. Nor did they show the world the hundreds of thousands of mortar, artillery and small arms rounds found within the "sacred" walls of the mosque. Also missing from the coverage was the huge cache of weapons found in Muqtada's "political" headquarters nearby. No, none of this made it to the screen or to print. All anyone showed were the few chipped tiles on the dome of the mosque and discussion centered on how we, the Coalition, had somehow done wrong.

The horribly disfigured and disemboweled corpse of the woman in Fallujah I knew about. I didn't know about 200 headless bodies in the mosque, nor the body in the oven. And I tried to follow things reasonably closely during that time, through the media.

I tell you, every time I think I have my mind wrapped around how ghoulish these terrorists are, they manage to nauseate me again.

They have become no longer human. They've become orcs. We do these people a favor by killing them, if only to put them out their own mouth-foaming, rabid, blood-fetishizing miserable existence.

I don't think all of the insurgents are this way. Or even most of them. I'll grant the ordinary insurgent their fundamental humanity. But there were obviously enough of these human cockroaches in Najaf to drag two hundred souls into a mosque, and then behead them one after the other.

And then someone decided that wasn't enough, they had to put someone in a baking oven?

If the media didn't cover that, then maybe they need to be put through the same treatment as the people of Dresden after the liberation of Dachau.

Within about an hour of our entry, events were under control. Guard posts were set up, and communications were established with the inmates. We informed them that we could not release them immediately but that food and medical assistance would arrive soon. The dead, numbering about nine thousand, were later buried with the forced assistance of the good citizens of the city of Dachau.

The press would scream and bitch, of course. But they'd have to file something. They couldn't ignore the story.

Read the whole thing. Thank God for blogs and email. Ten years ago, this Lieutenant Colonel's media critique could not have gotten out. Or it would have been crammed into a 'letters to the editor' page in fifty words or less, next to the nutball conspiracy theorists and not taken seriously.


The number of attacks in the greater Al Anbar Province is down by at least 70-80% from late October -- before Operation Al Fajar began.


Recently, when a Coalition spokesman tried to let TV networks in on opening moves in the Fallujah operation, they misconstrued the events for something they were not and then blamed the military for their gullibility. CNN recently aired a "special report" in which the cable network accused the military of lying to it and others about the beginning of the Fallujah operation. The incident referred to took place in October when a Marine public affairs officer called media representatives and told them that an operation was about to begin. Reporters rushed to the outskirts of Fallujah to see what they assumed was going to be the beginning of the main attack on the city. As it turned out, what they saw were tactical "feints" designed to confuse the enemy about the timing of the main attack, then planned to take place weeks later.

Once the network realized that major combat operations wouldn't start for several more weeks, CNN alleged that the Marines had used them as a tool for their deception operation. Now, they say they want answers from the military and the administration on the matter. The reality appears to be that in their zeal to scoop their competition, CNN and others took the information they were given and turned it into what they wanted it to be. Did the military lie to the media: no. It is specifically against regulations to provide misinformation to the press. However, did the military planners anticipate that reporters would take the ball and run with it, adding to the overall deception plan? Possibly. Is that unprecedented or illegal? Of course not.

I remember that controversy when it came out a few months back. I remember marveling at the arrogance of these reporters. Sure, no one likes to be used. But who the Hell are they to think themselves above being used? Al Zarqawi uses them every day. And the press uses people around them every day. Shamelessly. You don't think Mary Mapes was using Bill Burkett to ingratiate herself with Joe Lockhart? Reporters are the biggest users on the planet. They use American soldiers on a daily basis. I saw that as a battalion S-1 hosting local media events in Miami the day we got formally alerted. I saw TV reporters shamelessly arranging my soldiers behind them to create a dramatic backdrop.

Using my soldiers.

Ok. Nothing wrong with that. I want them to tell their story. And I want them to tell it in an engaging manner. But let's not pretend nobody's using anybody. I was using the reporters right back, because I wanted my soldiers to get credit for their sacrifices, and I wanted to put a human face on the story, because that way I have fewer soldiers with civilian employer problems down the road.

The thing is, I guess maybe reporters are sometimes too stupid to figure that out.

As individuals, they're usually very smart. And some of them are my best friends. But as a group, traveling in packs, and trying to outdo each other and play to impress each other, rather than the public they serve, they're insufferable. It's like they get retarded. I've never seen anything like it.

Or, have they even read Mao Zedung's theories on insurgencies, or Nygen Giap's, or maybe Che' Gueverra's? Have they seen any of Sun Zsu's work lately? Who are these guys? It's time to start studying, folks. If a journalist doesn't recognize the names on this list, he or she probably isn't qualified to assess the state of this or any other campaign's progress.

Well, I read all these guys by the time I was out of high school. Yeah, I'm whacked that way. So I pretty much expect any journalist covering a counterinsurgency to be conversant with these ideas.

Splash, out


Sunday, January 09, 2005

More on First Command 
From veteran financial writer Lynn O'Shaughnessy, writing for the San Diego Herald Tribune

After hearing about the firm's so-called systematic investment plans, this was my reaction: Would I rather invest in First Command or deposit my money in a paper shredder?

Ms. O'Shaughnessy closes with some advice I wholeheartedly agree with: Military families should invest what they can in the Federal Thrift Savings program. It's a great program.

She also, however, closes with some other advice I disagree with:

And in the future, avoid outsiders hawking financial and insurance products on military bases.

I can think of a lot of instances a military family would need to do business with an "outsider."

I military member might want to buy life insurance on a nonmilitary working spouse, for example. Or disability insurance. Or take out a long-term-care insurance policy on parents.

Any military family with children should consider looking at a Section 529 college savings plan or Coverdell Education Savings account.

You can't get these through the military.

More on First Command 
From veteran financial writer Lynn O'Shaughnessy, writing for the San Diego Herald Tribune

After hearing about the firm's so-called systematic investment plans, this was my reaction: Would I rather invest in First Command or deposit my money in a paper shredder?

Ms. O'Shaughnessy closes with some advice I wholeheartedly agree with: Military families should invest what they can in the Federal Thrift Savings program. It's a great program.

She also, however, closes with some other advice I disagree with:

And in the future, avoid outsiders hawking financial and insurance products on military bases.

I can think of a lot of instances a military family would need to do business with an "outsider."

I military member might want to buy life insurance on a nonmilitary working spouse, for example. Or disabolity insurance. Or take out a long-term-care insurance policy on parents.

Any military family with children should consider looking at a Section 529 college savings plan or Coverdell Education Savings account.

You can't get these through the military.

Liberals Against Terrorism 
This looks like a promising and interesting weblog.

America desperately needs a liberal answer to stepping on terrorism's neck. This is a good start.

The best ideas for long term success in the GWOT are not conservative ideas, but liberal ideas which have been abandoned by the American and European left.

Democracy. Freedom. Respect for individual liberties. Self-determination. The dignity of women.

I say these ideas have been abandoned by the left because the policies recently advocated by them - leave Saddam in place since the threat was contained, withdraw from Iraq regardless of the consequences to the Iraqi people, and that the war in Afghanistan was unjustified because it was all about Afghanistan's vast oil reserves - are antithetical the values of true liberalism.

So I hope this blog will be a welcome addition to the dialog.

Because when liberals have jumped in to the GWOT with both feet, rather than sniping uselessly from the wings, two things may happen:

1.) The U.S. will win the war.

2.) The Democrats may win another national election. And actually deserve to.

Splash, out


Boots on the ground 
The calls for Rumsfeld's head are getting louder. And dumber.

The Weekly Standard is now enumerating the reasons why Rumsfeld must go:

With more troops in Iraq during and immediately after the war, we would have been able to do the following things that we did not do:

* Capture or kill thousands of Iraqi soldiers who were at that time still concentrated in combat units and had not yet melted back into the countryside with their weapons and their skills.

Huh? Look, the acme of skill is to do this without fighting. The aim was to separate Iraqi regular army units from the regime. We were actually largely able to do this. Entire divisions remained irrelevant to the fight because they knew that if they stayed away from the battle, they could survive.

Further, Kagan has no idea what deals were cut with these generals using back channels.

Look, we toppled Saddam Hussein with far LESS killing. Isn't that a good thing? Could Kagan have brought these soldiers back from the dead?

* Guard the scores of enormous ammunition dumps from which the insurgents have drawn the vast majority of their weapons, ammunition, and explosives.

Just how many troops does Kagan think it would have taken to guard all these dumps? Assuming, of course, that we could even have known where they were all located.

Also, does Kagan really think Saddam Hussein controlled all of them? If so, he doesn't understand anything.

All the Iraqi tribes and clans amassed large ammunition stocks of their own, even under Saddam Hussein. I'm talking about hundreds of mortar shells, artillery shells, landmines, machine guns, and RPGs at a time, which are buried in the back yards of sheikhs and those loyal to them all over the country.

The clans, you see, were very nervous about a civil war, even down to the interclan level within provinces and cities. Saddam Hussein managed to keep a lid on clan v. clan warfare within the Sunni community. But the sheikhs had to plan for after Saddam, too. And they did.

It's foolish to suppose that simply forming a ring around the ammunition dumps would have prevented an insurgency. There is no problem getting explosives in Iraq, even without tapping the official government stores.

* Secure critical oil and electrical infrastructure that the insurgents subsequently attacked, setting back the economic and political recovery of Iraq.

Well, we did just that, genius, if you'll recall. Coalition forces were very quick to occupy the oil well regions and prevent the massive sabotage campaign that many before the war feared. The coalition was overwhelmingly successful in so doing.

By way of further example, we were quick to occupy and defend such vital electrical infrastructure as Haditha dam. I know because I was on top of that dam in May of 2003. My battalion drew the mission to defend it.

So as usual, Rumsfeld was way ahead of his critics.

Most of the sabatoge has come not from targeting nodes, but lines. The attacks have largely been against the thousands of miles of pipeline and power cables running through the desert.

Well, how many troops does this guy think it would take to garrison these lines?

500,000 U.S. troops would not be enough. A million wouldn't be enough to do everything we had to do, PLUS guard the pipelines and power lines. Where would the troops have come from? Kagan is dreaming. Further, it would have been a foolish deployment, dispersing strength and combat power all over the country, in such a way that companies could not reinforce and could not provide mutual support. Every guardpost would become an easy target. We would invite MORE attacks. Not fewer.

* Prevent the development of insurgent safe havens in Najaf and Falluja, or at least disrupt them at a much earlier stage of formation.

Assumes facts not in evidence. There is no reason to believe that more US troops out standing in the desert guarding power cables, two shifts a day, plus support troops, would have prevented the development of insurgent safe havens in Najaf and Falluja.

* Work to interdict the infiltration of foreign fighters across Iraq's borders.

Pardon me, but would that largely be a function of the SAINTED Colin Powell at the State Department leaning on Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Iran to control their borders?

What does Kagan think we should have done? Sent another 500,000 troops or so just to secure the borders?

From where? Shall we strip North Korea?

If the U.S. Army had begun expanding in 2001, we would have been able to:

* Establish reasonable rotation plans for our soldiers that did not require repeatedly extending tours of duty beyond one year.

Why is major league baseball played at a lower level in an expansion year?

* Avoid the need to activate reservists involuntarily.

This is just a stupid assertion. The Abrams Doctrine designed the Army to require large scale reserve callups for any major military undertaking. Simply expanding the size of the military by adding a few brigades would not have done so. Besides, what's wrong with the mobiliation of reservists?

It's clear to me that we should have mobilized MORE reservists from the IRR during OIF I to avoid disrupting follow-on units.

* Dramatically reduce the frequency with which soldiers return from one year-long tour only to be sent immediately on another.

Immediately? Well, how many troops is he talking about?

This is a problem in some MOSs, such as military police units. That's why we need to immediately start converting other units from MOSs in less demand, such as Field Artillery, into Military Police units, particularly in the reserves.

What's that? Rumsfeld's already doing that? We've been working on that for a year already?


* Let the troops that would still have been overstrained know that help really was on the way.

Wanna help troops? Bitchslap the cocktail-swilling milquetoasts on the editorial page of the New York Times who are so easily spooked they want to postpone the elections in Iraq, and the defeatist mopes at The Nation who as recently as October were pushing for a cut-and-run by the New Year. Publicly excoriate them. Make them out to be the fools that they are. Commit the nation to winning.

And worry less about what the insurgents are doing to us and worry more about what we're going to do to the insurgents.

The U.S. military did not do these things because of Rumsfeld's choices.

It's clear that Kagan doesn't quite know what the military has or has not done. Nor does he offer a productive plan to utilize additional troops he thinks we need.

I tell you, there were no proposals on the table to expand the Army by enough troops to take on the missions he delineates. All of them defensive missions, by the way. Not one idea about how to reach out and clobber the insurgent.

What a loser.

He chose to protect a military transformation program that is designed to fight wars radically different from the one in which we are engaged.

Yeah, he killed the Paladin boondoggle.

I tell you, if there's one thing commanders in light infantry urban counterinsurgency struggles need more of, it's self-propelled 155mm howitzers.

Look, the Secretary of Defense has a responsibility to look forward 10 or 20 years. Wouldn't we have been better off, in 1918, had the Secretary of War been planning for WWII instead of WWI? The seeds of blitzkrieg warfare had already been planted by then.

It may come to pass, a decade hence, that the transformations Rumsfeld has been pushing for - and others like them - are godsends. It's too early to tell. But we should not be so obsessed with this war that we neglect to plan to fight and win the next.

If there is a case to be made for Rumsfeld's departure, it's not that his reforms are wrong. It would be that Rumsfeld is now ineffective, for whatever reasons, at carrying out the President's agenda for the military.

But as long as Rumsfeld has the confidence of both the President and the troops - and he does - then he belongs in that post.

Splash, out


All the news that's fit to print? 
Hammurabi informs us that

The Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced that the Iraqi forces arrested Hatem Al-Zobaai the leader of the terrorist group (the Brigade of Thorat Al-Eshreen) which was responsible for many attacks in Baghdad and other areas.

Mentions in the New York Times: Zero.

But the assassination of the governor of Baghdad, of course, gets front page attention.

Splash, out


I just knew it!!! 
Check out this story from Blackfive, about a guy marine receiving a gal's care package:

Then of course, they had the tampons. When he brought this up my imagination was just running wild, but I let him continue. My son said they had to go on a mission and Marine X wanted the chapstick and lotion for the trip. He grabbed a bunch of the items out of his care package and got in the humvee. As luck would have it he grabbed the tampons, and My son said everyone was teasing him about "not forgetting his feminine hygiene products". My son said things were going well, and then the convoy was ambushed. He said a Marine in the convoy was shot. He said the wound was pretty clean, but it was deep. He said they were administering first aid but couldn't get the bleeding to slow down, and someone said, "Hey use Marine X’s tampons". My son said they put the tampon in the wound. At this point my son profoundly told me, "Mom did you know that tampons expand?" ) "Well, yeah!". They successfully slowed the bleeding and got the guy medical attention. When they went to check on him later the surgeon told them, "You guys saved his life". If you hadn't stopped that bleeding he would have bled to death. My son said, "Mom, the tampons sent by the Marine Moms by mistake saved a Marine's life."

I just knew it.

Marines are pussies!

(just kidding. Bravo Zulu, Marine Corps, for some quick thinking. Way to improvise, adapt, and overcome.)

Splash, out


Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Nation on the Oil for Food Scandal 
There's nothing to see here. Nothing to see. Move along. Move along.

Reserve Chief Still Pounding the Table 
Mickey Kaus is playing some heads-up ball.

General Discontent: Aren't General James Helmly's dramatically-worded complaints being distorted by press reports in the Baltimore Sun and especially the Washington Post? If you read the stories quickly, you get the impression that Helmly is blaming the excessive demands of the Iraq war--WaPo prominently quotes Democratic Sen. Jack Reed** pinning blame on the administration for "consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq." It's only when you get further down in the stories that you discover Helmly isn't complaining about troop levels in Iraq. He's criticizing more specific Reserve policies--he wants the Army to order more reservists to Iraq against their wishes, for example, and decries the overuse of volunteers (who he thinks are people who tend to "enjoy lesser responsible positions in civilian life"). He also wants more Reservists who aren't fulfilling their obligations called to active duty or discharged. I'm not sure this jibes with the Democrats' agenda.

As usual, though, it comes down to a press corps that does not understand the structure of the army or the principles undergirding the role of a citizen soldier in the Republic. It's that part of Jeffersonian political thought they don't teach you in high school. And they're certainly not equipped to teach it in J-school. And with a few exceptions (again, congrats to Ms. Schraeder at the Los Angeles Times)

What the press hasn't figured out is this general is indicting them on their foolishness with the "back-door draft" hysteria.

From the New York Times version of the story:
General Helmly said he had sought approval to use other tools to recall Reserve soldiers to duty, like tapping soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve, an augmentation force, but had been denied permission.

He's right. We should have been calling up IRR soldiers right from the beginning. There is no moral difference between involuntarily calling a selected reservist away from his family and calling an IRR soldier away from his family. If calling one preserves the integrity of a unit which has yet to deploy, it's better to call the IRR soldier than to disrupt a unit by raiding its personnel.

(see also this essay from July)

It turns out that this isn't even particularly news. General Helmly has been publicly ringing the alarm bells for months. Actually, since at least October of 2003.

It's amazing to me that a full two years into this debate, that the journalist's on the beat still don't know how to frame the issue.

Splash, out


Friday, January 07, 2005

The Return of Eeyore the Editor 
...So the US economy adds 157,000 jobs in December and 2.2 million jobs for 2004, turning in the best showing since the height of Irrational Exuberance.

And how do the numbskulls at the New York Times cover it?
...But it was not quite enough, at least until further revisions are available, to make up for all the jobs lost earlier in President Bush's first term in office.

They can't just tell a f*cking story, can they? They've got to dig at the Bush Administration any chance they get.

The increase in jobs, slightly lower than most economists had predicted, was roughly in line with the increase in the working-age population and left the unemployment rate unchanged at 5.4 percent.

Oh, I get it. Economists can't make accurate predictions, so let's make the Bush Administration look bad.

And the point that the increase was in line with the increase in the working-age population is questionable, at best. After all, a simple increase in population does not necessarily result in an increase in jobs. There's no reason the economy must provide jobs for every new worker entering the labor force. But if the shoe were on the other foot, and a Democrat were in office, do you think the Times would note that the increase in the number of jobs was roughly in line with an increase in the work force? Not hardly.

The bottom line is that the increase in jobs cannot be explained simply by the increase in the number of workers in the labor force. After all, the number of workers increased between 2000 and 2003.

I think this reporter needs to brush up on the difference between correlation and causality.

Manufacturing companies, which shed more than two million jobs from 2000 to the end of 2003, added back only 96,000 jobs in 2004 - the weakest rebound in factory employment of any economic recovery on record in the United States.

I wonder if the New York Times might ever point out that the downturn in the manufacturing sector and the transportation sector actually started in 1999?

The stock market fell slightly Friday, barely reacting to the jobs report.

Apparently the stock market did a better job predicting the numbers than the economists upon which you rely.

But if the stock market is relevant, and the President's job record over the past several years is relevant, then wouldn't it also be relevant to point out that that US stocks and bonds alike have had two straight years of powerful bull markets, and stocks have returned nearly 40% over the last two years, forecasting further strength to come, at least for the next 6 to 9 months?

Well, of course it's relevant. But that's just not the sort of context that passes muster at the New York Times, which apparently feels that a minor one day tick in equity markets provides more context than two consecutive years of earnings growth.

This is what the New York Times calls "perspective."

The nation added almost no manufacturing jobs for the third consecutive month, and the trend was down: the Labor Department noted that almost all of last year's added jobs came at the start of the year.

Over all, the economy added 2.2 million jobs for 2004, according to the report, the best figure since 1999, when economic growth produced more than 3 million added jobs.

Ok, what do you want to bet that the same pack of jackals lamenting the lack of growth in the manufacturing sector is the same band of roving hyenas simultaneously moaning and crying about the weak dollar?

Look...cheap dollars are a boon to the manufacturing sector. The weak dollar is a gold-plated gift to blue collar workers. You cannot complain about lackluster growth in the manufacturing sector and simultaneously complain about a weakening dollar.

The bottom half of the article is actually much better than the top half. But the first three paragraphs of the news article receive by far the most editorial attention. It wouldn't surprise me if this article was recast at some point by an editor to put the angle most damning to the Bush Administration in the opening grafs.

These guys are soooo predictable.
Splash, out


Thursday, January 06, 2005

An Encounter with Greatness (For musicians only) 
Through a mutual friend, I had the honor of having dinner with Byron Berline this evening.

Mr. Berline, a veteran of Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, is arguably the greatest bluegrass fiddle player ever. A legend.

He's an Oklahoma alumnus, and happened to be in town to watch his team get spanked by the Trojans in the Orange Bowl.

(editor's note: Heh, heh, heh.)

Of course, near the end of the evening someone pulled out a fiddle and a mandolin and we stepped outside and off we went.

Mostly I just stood aside, shut up, and listened and learned. Every bar he played was an education for me.

After a couple of tunes, he handed me the fiddle and asked me to play a couple of tunes.

There was no way I was going to impress this guy with chops. He's seen it all and can play it all. It's like trying to impress Bruce Lee with my Kung Foo. No freakin' way.

I decided to stay very much within myself. Much better to be musical than technical. I selected a very minimalist, pulsating, catchy setting of "Toss the Feathers" I often play. It sounds very modal and ancient. Followed by a conservative rendition of "Collier's Reel," which is a strong enough tune you just have to play it, and let the composition speak for itself.

Naturally, I played as though I were afflicted with an extra chromosome. Funny how it works out. I would have been better off playing something technical. So I got to the end of the set not a moment too soon, and handed the fiddle back to the sensei. And shut up and listened to some more tunes as he played some bluegrass and old time standards with a mandolin player.

Lots of guys can solo. The true measure of greatness is how is the guy when someone ELSE is being featured. I mean, any dog can chase cars. The smart ones know how to get out of the way of oncoming traffic.

The sensei was the best accompanist on the fiddle I've ever seen. A lot of fiddlers would just play chops. Not Berline. Light and pulsating on the bow, all he wanted to do was bring out the best in the tune, and make the mandolin player - a mere mortal like me - sound good.

Negative capability at its finest. Not a trace of ego to him. When you're that good, you're above ego. You're beyond ego. You are a servant to the music. That's greatness.

He handed me the fiddle again, and this time I played much better - a couple of jigs at a moderate, musical tempo.* (This time I didn't suck so hard, and so it was not neccessary for me to proceed to the local Pilot service station and turn five dollar tricks for the truckers to regain my sense of self-esteem.)

With great relief, I handed the fiddle back to the sensei, and just watched like a grasshopper as the sensei took me to school with a couple more tunes.

Every eighth note swung just the perfect, slightest amount - a pulsing detail only a very few musicians would even notice, and only the very best can ever emulate. His control over his bow was startling - and apparent in just a few notes.

He was easygoing, gracious, generous with his time, and expressed an interest in me and my playing as well, and tried to draw me out.

He also stood up everytime his wife stood up, and pushed the chair in for her every time she sat down.

His musicianship was an outgrowth of his personality, and his personality an outgrowth of his musicianship. I've never seen such a seemless melding.

A true class act as a musician, and a gentleman, who taught me more by example than you can ever know.

Thank you, Mr. Berline.

A jig is a traditional Irish form in 6/8. It got better after the mandolin player stopped trying to comp it in 4/4. (What is it with bluegrassers, anyway?

If you follow along in the program, it was "The Connaughtman's Rambles" followed by "The Merry Pitchfork."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lessons Learned from Iraq 
I got this from echelons above reality today. In an unusual twist, guidance from higher was precisely on target!!!!

1. Stayin' Alive - Every soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom is first and foremost a rifleman and warrior.

2.    You can make a good or bad strategic impact in this war.

3.  You must be ready to perform duties well beyond those for which you have been trained.

4.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is a neighborhood-by-neighborhood fight.

5.  Cultural awareness is a combat multiplier.

6.  Soldiers must determine the needs and wants of the local populations before committing to working local stabilization and reconstruction projects.  Once that commitment is made, follow-through is vital.

7.  The key to surviving the threat from improvised explosive devices is to instill a "can find, can beat and can survive" mentality toward the interdiction of these terrorist weapons.

8.  It's important to learn to train and work with Iraqi security forces.

9.  Human intelligence is the coalition's greatest source of actionable intelligence.

10.  Soldiers operate and fight as part of a coalition and joint team.

Splash, out


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Tsunami and American Long-Term Economic Interests 
I've made it pretty easy, here. So if you haven't donated, just click the Amazon Honor System link to the right.

Captain's Quarters and a bunch of other blogs are joining up with the idea of making January 12th "Give Day" or something like that. The idea is you give whatever your take home pay is on that day to the Asia Relief.

Me, I think here, in the richest, most productive country with the most fortunate and productive people in the world, most people can probably do better than one day's pay, if they really set their minds to it.

I believe the reaction of the first world to this disaster is among the defining events this century. And the disaster is on a scale that threatens to disrupt the economies of the developing world. A developing world, I should point out, upon which, a generation or two hence, we will be relying on to develop a functional middle class to provide a ready market for all the 401(k), Social Security, and other retirement equities we will be selling as our larger generations enter retirement.

We will also be relying on the emerging middle classes in Indonesia, Thailand, and India to create demand for American exports in the future.

The destruction and economic dislocation of the American Civil War set the South back an entire generation for more than a century. It has only begun escaping the economic doldrums in the last couple of decades.

It is in America's long-term best interests to intervene mightily now, in order to preserve the fabric of coastal societies.

Not to mention in order to isolate the more tribal areas of Muslim Indonesia from destructive influences from Al Qaeda and the Saudis. The people will remember who was there to help and who stood on the sidelines.

A generous private and public response - to include debt forgiveness in private markets -- is in America's long-term strategic interests.

It's also, in my view, the right thing to do.

Splash, out


Monday, January 03, 2005

Battlefield Decision Making... 
Lieutenant Prakash gives us a master class in battlefield decision-making at the platoon level in Iraq.

(Scroll down to 9 November(D+1): Fire for Effect

Good stuff. I'm emailing it to all my LTs.

(As if they don't get enough email. Email's gonna ruin the f***ing Army.)


We're making a dent... 
Andrew Sullivan links to this account of the mindless media dweebs giving a standing O to predictable partisan anti-Bush diatribes from Norman Mailer at a journalism convention.

Well, we already knew they were a self-absorbed pack of cynical ink slatherers. But this is promising:

"I'm a newspaperman - these people don't seem to understand what their role in society is," said Jack Hart, managing editor of the Portland Oregonian, which cosponsored the conference along with the Boston Globe and the Poynter Institute (which owns the St. Petersburg Times and Governing magazine, where I work). "It makes me very uncomfortable."

Just a couple of years ago, though, the fawning reception Mailer recieved could be taken as a given. It's only recently we've been able to seriously have this discussion.

And here's the argument from the managing editor of the biggest daily in a reliably blue state.

Keep it up. As Nathan Bedford Forrest said, "put the skeer on 'em."

Splash, out


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