26 July 2006

Chile con carne...

Chile knows its food. Their restaurants range from the mundane to the unusual to the sublime. We have had the opportunity to

sample a variety of fare, including the infamous Chilean Sea Bass (actually Conger Eel). All of it good, all of it accompanied with a savory sauce. Last evening our waiter, Manuel, plied us with delicious Chilean beer brewed in the south (Imperial) and tasty vegetable salad concoctions.

The work has been steady, as we prepare for the workups for the exercise. Once we get the scenarios up and running, then the real work (24/7) starts. One of the most important aspects of any operation is to establish the ROE (Rules of Engagement). These are the "what can you do" things governing everything from when and how do you conduct self defense to whether or not you can light someone up with a searchlight!

It is serious business, and all the REAL governments take them to heart. I am continually amazed at the complexity involved in any operation in which more than two governments are engaged, much less eight! What the media fails to explain to the public is the long hours of wrangling over ciritical items. One reason why we just don't parachute the 101st into Lebanon to solve the problem.

24 July 2006

Chile is...chilly...

Alright, I owe Scoot a lot of credit. His travel blogging was well done, interesting and a darn good read! I don’ t believe I can match him, however, I think I will at least give some insight into my present “trip”, or as Citizen Une calls it, Navy Vacation.

It is hardly vacation, I am presently deployed in support of multi-national exercise UNITAS 2006. A largely South American driven (Brazil was the progenitor) event involving land, naval and air forces from a variety of nations.

Now you may wonder, what type of naval forces might one find among South American nations. The answer is, darn fine ones. They typically follow in the tradition of European navies, with similar rank structure and a preference for their types of vessels. The Chilean navy boasts some very capable surface combatants and a range of diesel submarines which typically worry the USA to no end (when they are operated by our enemies – which Chile is not).

Chile is a nation of immigrants and indigent people, although more of the former and less of the latter when compared to many other South American nations. It is a proud and capable nation. They are superior farmers and have a robust and efficient road network within their VERY long nation. I have been impressed by their commitment to excellence among their naval officers and the general sophistication of their cities.

It’s winter here and has the feel of the area around Catalina, California. The sky is alternatingly deep blue or brooding grey with beard like clouds slipping around the mountains. The food is superb and the economy thriving, so much so that they are also experiencing their own immigration problem.

21 July 2006

Drudge hacked...

While perusing over to Drudeg for a quick pre-bed time shot of anxiety, I noted this.

The requested URL could not be retrieved


While trying to retrieve the URL: http://www.drudgereport.com/

The following error was encountered:

Access Denied.
Access control configuration prevents your request from being allowed at this time. Please contact your service provider if you feel this is incorrect.

Your cache administrator is root.


Generated Sat, 22 Jul 2006 02:22:01 GMT by nyc1.ha-hosting.com (squid/2.5.STABLE6)





18 July 2006

World War IV, lessons learned…

Iran is an ancient nation. It’s history parallels the development of modern civilization. It has a large population of well educated people and a variety of natural resources. It is also the present epicenter of all that is hostile to the West. It has learned from the three previous global conflicts and seeks to leverage these learnings in its fight with the West. I contend that North Korea is actually a proxy of Iran, as is Syria. Despite the potential threat of North Korea, they have been under siege for so long that they are more akin to the violent, but unstable enforcer of a ruthless mob boss (Iran).

Iran has learned something from World War III. What a minute, you say you don’t remember World War III? It took place almost immediately after World War II. Let’s review for a moment, World War I was the global battle against fading Imperialism. It was quickly followed by World War II, which was the global battle against Fascism. It ended when regional powers in the East (Japan) and West (Germany / Italy) were defeated in a near cataclysmic conflict spanning the globe.

World War III was the global battle against Communism. It ended when the West (the United States) defeated the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics largely through economic power. In other words, we spent them into defeat. This is not to say that the war was not punctuated with conflict. Much of Africa, Latin and South America were embroiled in desperate proxy wars. Asia was fraught with conflict as regimes jockeyed to achieve positions aligned with either the USSR or the USA. Regimes which chose the latter prospered, those with the former (North Korea, China, Vietnam, Myanmar) did not.

So here we are in World War IV. This is the global battle of the free world against ideo-religious extremists (largely represented by Islamofascists). It is marked by small conflicts and asymmetric warfare. It is not located to one theater of operations but in the realms of the shadow classes. It takes the form of rioting in France, civil war in East Africa, bombings in Indonesia and murderous assaults in India. This war, like so many others is a derivative of the unresolved issues of prior global conflicts.

This war is different. World War I was won through the brutal defeat of enemy forces. Pure losses of blood and treasure. World War II was won through the defeat of the enemy’s ability to fight. Occupation of lands and destruction of their industrial base. World War III was won by the overwhelming of the enemy’s economic ability. The development of more costly weapons systems and strategies bankrupted the USSR. World War IV is a conflict of ideas. It can not be won through purely military or economic means. It must also be won through a liberating wave of ideas. The changes in the Arab world are good starts, voting in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan. These nations needn’t adopt a USA style of democracy, but they must unchain the portion of their population who live as second class citizens (women, non-Muslims, etc.).

So what has Iran learned? It has learned that proxy forces can be just as effective as the marshalling of great forces. It has learned that the world is so interconnected economically, that only the gravest of crises would force military action against its own soil. It has learned that the fractured nature of global interests will insulate itself from action or criticism.

What must we learn to defeat this imminent threat? The victory of a state like Iran will result in a further repression of the people of that region and an increasing balkanization globally. What will be the effect on the United States? Slight, in my opinion. We will leverage our technology and convert away from fossil fuels and reduce our energy dependency on imported oil. The tragedy will be the abandonment of a portion of the world which will continue to suffer under regimes much worse than the Taliban. Our key learning should be to exploit the fragility of these behind the scenes actors and through careful action (including covert) undo their power bases.

17 July 2006

The Devil wears no underwear...

I saw it. The great Glenn Close (sorry, Meryl Streep) movie, The Devil Wears Prada. Citizen Une suggested the flick and (having dragged her to more than a few very weak testosterone fests) I readily agreed.

The evening was sponsored by the efforts of der uber Citizens (my folks) who were wending their way through our humble town. Nothing says I love you like taking care of grandkids.

The movie was well crafted, scene after scene featured realistic and rich interiors and capable acting. This was particularly true for all the secondary charatcers on the fashion side of the house. There was such a realism that I suspected each of them had lived for a time in that VERY tight circle that is international fashion. The origins of the story are more interesting in and of itself.

The movie (unlike the book - two primary characters are completely remade for the purposes of liberal, sanitary Hollywood), is at its heart, a fairy tale. Young upstart form the Midwest arrives in big bad Manhattan to make her mark. Complete with the Mark O Mod 1 Hollywood cadre of friends (and by that I mean completely balanced from a diversity perspective and with a range of entry level Manhattan jobs), our heroine dives into the dark world of hyperactive executives commanding far too much in the way of spending. Her friends are worthless and her chef (hello children) boyfriend appears to have the easiest restaurant schedule on the planet.

I did not find Ms. Close (sorry - Ms. Streep) that awful. Her understated manner was very convincing. To be certain she was a bit of an abusive jerk, but at her level of autonomy she was somewhat entitled. I doubt anyone in the heavy duty publishing (advertising) field is too far off that mark.

So in general, a solid "B" for entertainment. Anne Hathaway is easy on the eyes and the pace never lags. There are some interesting secondary stories about product placement in the movie. Ultimately, I found the movie to be dated. In the era of the Internet and micro-trends, the old standby fashion magazine no longer reigns as the crowning source of all fashion. The fashion industry itself is relatively small in impact (despite what the movie would convey) across the globe and may in fact be a larger contributor to its misery than say, fast food providers.

Waht is missing is any complexity to round out the story or any realization by the main character that her pursuit of all that is fashionable reflects a part of her own desires for success and fame.

14 July 2006

Choise Schmoice...

Wow, CNN Money is winging about too much choice! Author, and FORTUNE contributor, Marc Gunther, waxes nostalgic about the benefits of limited choice.

I think the explosion of choice has left us poorer in at least two arenas.
The first is journalism. (Yes, as a Fortune writer, I've got a stake in the
health of the mainstream media, which bloggers call the MSM.) The network
evening newscasts, big-city newspapers and the national news magazines once had
the money, access, skills, commitment and power to deliver lots of original
reporting and put important issues on the national agenda. Today, they are all

To pick a single, timely, example, The Tribune Co. announced just the other
day that its newspapers would be closing foreign bureaus in Johannesburg,
Moscow, Lebanon and Pakistan. This is happening all over newspaperdom and it
happened years ago at the broadcast networks.
Yes, there is more information
available to us than ever, but I don't think we are better informed. Niche media
will, inevitably, continue to weaken mass media.
The second arena where we
are worse off is politics. This is related to journalism, as the moderate and
responsible (okay, bland) voices of the MSM get drowned out by partisan,
opinionated cableheads and bloggers.

Politics in America has become polarized for many reasons, but a big one is
the fact that people can now filter the news and opinion they get to avoid
exposure to ideas with which they disagree. Anderson suggests that this could
well be a temporary problem, and that if the major parties continue to move to
the extremes and the quality of debate continues to deteriorate, the Internet
could well enable a new party or parties, to arise.

Humph. Pardon me while I wipe my eyes. As a staunch free marketer, I have little sympathy for the “left behinds” of our world. Although I do agree that the proliferation of choice serves to drive a social balkanization of our society. There is no overriding “mass appeal” culture to which we can homogenize the globe.

Homogenize the globe! Shout my more liberal readers (both of them), that’s socialism! Ah hah! We knew it! You’re just a communist in disguise! Perhaps, however, allow me to clarify. I believe that there exists a “best way” to do things. This is perhaps a flaw of my engineering background, or maybe my insanely over inflated ego.

I don’t believe that all societies are equal, or that all people are equal. I do believe that all people should be afforded equal opportunity and are entitled to some primary rights (the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). If we take an optimized approach to our analysis of any system, then we discover that there is a best way to do things. An old joke once had the punchline that heaven was where the engineers were German, police were English, and the cooks were French. Hell was where the police were German, cooks were English, and the engineers were French.

A stereotype, to be sure, but it underscores the fact that somewhere, someone does something better than others. This applies to societies. While the US is certainly imperfect, I would list it at the top of societies for meeting the needs of humanity. It is tolerant, free, adaptable and inclusive. Other societies may have some institutions which are better, but these are marginal improvements (or require too significant a compromise in other critical areas – see freedoms).

But to the point of choice, if an individual is exposed to the wide variety the globe has to offer, what would they choose? If they had an equal understanding of all that choice before them, what would they elect? Some marketing genius has pointed out that when consumers are offered more than six choices, the proliferation of choices actually has a negative impact on the decision process.

Do you have too many choices? Or do the choices you have in your society (recognizing that this may be read in areas outside the USA) enhance or degrade your quality of life or worldview?

11 July 2006

All Aboard for Travel Blogging...

Well, my good friend Scoot is showing off his travel blogging skills.  If you haven't visited, check out his site.  He has a great set of photos and commentary on his boondoggle (I mean academic learning experience) to the United Kingdom.  Major John over at Miserable Donuts also has some great shots and stories from his time in Afghanistan.  Admittedly, not a top travel destination.  Which brings me to the topic at hand.  The blog as vehicle for travel, not just into other locales but other ideas. 
One of the great aspects of the computer age is the ability to blur reality and the imagined.  There are literally millions of people who invest a lot of their time in activities which are purely simulated (MMORPGs, extended online communities, etc.).  Many of these folks have just as much commitment to the "virtual" world as the events of the real world, perhaps more.  Personally, I am an adventure hog.  I find some of the same mental thrills in gaming and simulation as I have found in the real world, although the lack of physical feedback is still a huge deficit (where is that holodeck, anyway?  And if it existed, would we cease to exist as a society? - think the Matrix).
But I digress.  What I would like to do is expand the roster of blogs represented here on the site.  I have encountered a few which are worthy of linking simply due to their diversity and perspective.  I am not talking about political or themed blogs, I am more interested in blogs that reflect an individual's view of the world.  To me this would permit an even broader window into our rapidly shrinking world.  I have two challenges, they must come recommended from readers, be real (i.e. no fabricated characters, teen drama, etc.) and reflect a personal viewpoint.  If we could get some international perspective, all the better.  For those who haven't, check out Big Pharaoh. 

02 July 2006

My mother-in-law the car...

What do you do when your MIL (mother-in-law) starts chatting up your impressionable son with dubious poliltical nonsense? Children at the 1-2nd grade level seem to have a desire ti understand the order of things. They spend time researching the Presidents and talk about how laws are made they want to understand the rules of things. They are also very perceptive.

When my MIL starts to inform one of the Proto-Citizens that our present president has taken more vacation than any other president, I feel compelled to offer commentary while controlling a six year old Mazda MPV as it hurtles along a midwesterrn freeway. Both Citizen Une and myself have widely differing views on politics and the world we live in (read diametrically opposed). And yet we work hard to make sure that the Proto-Citizens have an opportunity to develop their own world view, and usually we learn something also.

Even now they have no idea that "occassionally Daddy has to go and fight a war". Which is overdramatic to say the least. I have not been hunkered down as MAJ John or CSM Bones have been, closest was in the NAG on the oh so lovely OPLATS. However, the reality of our world is changing.

So when my MIL, who was under the impression that CITGO sold only US pedigree gasoiline and routinely forwards the latest internet legend as gospel, chimed in with her personal political peeve - how do I respond? I want her to engage and educate the Proto-Citizens (she is actually quite sharp in many areas). And yet, plowing through nonsensical tripe with an eight year old seems unfair.

Any thoughts, dear reader?