31.12.04

Book Review: Tactics of the Crescent Moon

This book, by H. John Poole (COL USMC Ret.), was written to describe the situation we face in Iraq and Afghanistan and the tactics our forces may use to counter it. While Poole has done a good job researching and analyzing the problems, I can't agree with all of his solutions.
He spends the first third of the book examining the history of the Middle East, its political movements and their military tactics. Next, he uses this historical viewpoint to gain insight into today’s movements and how they operate against us. I thought he did an excellent job with this portion of the book. Sure, it reads like a field manual, that's his target audience, it's not intended to be a scholarly work. He made some very interesting points in this portion of the book, not the least of which is the degree to which Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran are involved in Iraq.
In the final third of the book, Poole presents his solutions to the issues we face. He, correctly in my opinion, points out that we can't win this type of war using our current tactics which are heavily dependent on firepower and standoff munitions. He concludes that we must be more flexible (bottom up, not top down in structure) and that we need to develop light infantry which survives through its intimate understanding of small unit maneuver, not its dependence on firepower.
Here is where the rubber meets the road, would the Pentagon be willing to change doctrine away from a firepower heavy model, no! Our current model calls for a huge investment in equipment and technology, something that the powers that be (the defense industries) would never give up.
Another area that Poole neglects is intelligence. One of the main reasons that guerilla groups are successful is that they have very good local intelligence networks why, because they LIVE with the local population! Just how we're supposed to ameliorate this advantage, Poole doesn't say.
All in all, I thought it was a good, thought provoking read that contains useful information. His research was very good and the book is very current (events to SEP 04) but I don't believe that all of his solutions are practical or a good idea.

28.12.04

A somewhat unusual response to the Tsunami...

Have you noticed that in the unusually hard hit areas that the only buildings standing are Mosques? Unfortunately, I think this might give many people the wrong impression, that they were spared because of "God", when the real reason is that they were the only structures built utilizing modern construction techniques. What effects might this have in the further radicalization of Islam in Indonesia, your thoughts?

BTW I think this is a terrible tragedy, but also one that was almost completely unavoidable, the countries involved can only handle so many issues, events that occur once in one hundred years are outside of their capabilities...

24.12.04

Softballs for Christmas...

Look at these questions that the troops asked Rummy on his Christmas eve show-that-I-care-and-am-not-inhuman visit to Iraq. The chain of command has come down hard on questioning the SECDEF. To quote another netizen those "...question(s) had to be setup or all the soldiers present had their balls wired to a switch" Merry Christmas!

23.12.04

Yet another win for the resource extraction industry

W's administration has decided to change the way that our forests are managed. He's decided that the current rules that require environmental review for the forest plan at a national level are just too bureaucratic. He's going to free up the forest managers and allow them to make their own decisions. Will there be any oversight at all you ask, of course, independent auditors will chosen they can be from "...an environmental group or an industry group" What are the odds we'll ever see an environmental group chosen? About zero. With the fox guarding the hen house, I can finally enjoy hiking without trees and boating in silty polluted waters. Thank God he's cutting through all of that red tape...

21.12.04

Russia will pay many prices for Putin's consolidation of power

One of which will be a noticeable lack of foreign capital in the short run. Deciding to take down oligarch and former Yukos chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky for daring to be a political upstart is one thing (a very bad thing if you intend to pay more than lip service to democracy), but carving up his former company as an object lesson will hurt Russia financially. I don't see the reasoning for this move, jailing Khodorkovsky, essentially for life, should serve as warning enough.

19.12.04

More evidence that Rumsfeld is an asshole...

It has been rumored for some time that Rumsfeld had been using a machine to sign letters of condolence to families of service members killed in action. Well, now Rumsfeld has finally fesed up to it. What an asshole, he can't even spare a few minutes of his time to sign letters for the families of those he has sent into combat. I guess it's easier to think of them as just another set of numbers...

17.12.04

Uranium making a comeback?

This article in the Denver Post indicates that the price of Uranium has been climbing recently. This has resulted in the reopening of several Uranium mines in the Paradox valley on the Colorado-Utah border. This development is disconcerting on a few fronts. As we all know, Uranium is not a safe solution to meeting our energy needs. Those who mine it lead relatively short lives as noted in this excerpt from the article "...Chadd said of 13 miners who worked on his crew in the 1970s, only two are alive" If the extraction process were the only hazard then the risk might be acceptable, but Uranium is hazardous throughout its life cycle. One needs only to look towards Three Mile Island or Chernobyl to see the dangers of its use. Wait, we're not done yet, the depleted Uranium and any materials that have come into significant contact with it need to be disposed of, but where? The Yucca mountain site still isn't ready after more than 26 years and the Hanford site is woefully contaminated.
Where do we go from here you ask, one word: renewable. We (and by we I mean the government) need to be subsidizing renewable sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels), not offering corporate welfare to the resource extraction industry. This industry has strong incentives to resist changing technology. They have invested heavily in the current infrastructure (nuclear power plants, Coal pits, gas wells) and are quite unwilling to write that off. I realize that this is just another fight against the forces of greed, but if we fail to move on this we may not have many renewable options available when we've used up all of our mineral fuels and let their byproducts contaminate our environment...

14.12.04

The Onion: tackling the unmentionable with humor

Our friends at The Onion take on the subject of genocide this week with this outrageously funny piece. The reason that their humor works is because it is so close to the truth, look at this excerpt:

"Don't think we'll just sit on our hands and wait for a crippling drought to pit neighbor against neighbor," Nigerian Minister of State Bello Usman said. "No, the next two years will be crucial. We need to default on our $2 billion IMF loan, invest the entire treasury in the overhead-heavy petroleum business, and turn a blind eye to regional guerrilla groups. That'd be a good start. After that, food shipments must fall into rebel hands, armed forces must go unpaid, and the emerging national infrastructure must be allowed to deteriorate."

Is this not a close description of almost any failed African state? (ok, with the exception of investing the treasury, usually the potentate just moves that to his off shore accounts)
Anyhow, read it and enjoy, we won't be intervening anytime soon, unless they find something we really want...

13.12.04

River trips 2005!

Well, the river planning party on Saturday was a great sucess. Only a slight bit of overindulgence and we managed to get a little buisness taken care of as well. We had most of the people from last year's Cataract Canyon trip in attendance (Jeff, Travis, Dave, Eric, Ben and myself) We decided that we're going to put in for the Middle fork of the Salmon, the Selway, the San Juan, Desolation and Grey canyons of the Green river, the Salt river and the Yampa river. Hopefully, with six of us applying for the same dates we'll draw at least two of the rivers. If you're nice (or an attractive woman) we may have room for you...

9.12.04

Be kind to your dear old Rummy...

It certainly was nice to see Rumsfeld put on the spot in Kuwait yesterday. (for those of you who might have missed it, read about it here) I'm sure he had planned on this being a quick ra ra session, surely none of his minions would challenge him publicly. Instead, some interesting questions were asked. One soldier had the audacity to ask why, nearly 2 years into this conflict, there were still not enough vehicle armor kits to go around. Rumsfeld's response; you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you'd like to have. Note the emphasis on the word you...

7.12.04

The latest entry from the corporate greed department...

Well, at least these two American corporations, Brewer Science and Atlanta Casualty Company, understand that nothing should come before profit. According to this article, they terminated two of their employees, who were called to active duty, rather than have to pay them and keep their jobs open. I've sent the following hate mail to their contact addresses and would encourage others to follow suit:


To whom it may concern,
I've just heard of your termination of Bill Benkosky's employment. I'd like to commend you on this cost savings measure. When faced with the option of carrying an employee on the books for a year or more, due to his Army National Guard call up, your company took the only reasonable fiscally responsible action and terminated his employment. I'm glad that I live in a country where greed trumps all other interests, this bold action certainly would not be possible anywhere else on the globe, your stock holders should be proud.
Regards,
Matthew J. Leach



The Social Security "crisis"...

Times economic columnist Paul Krugman weighs into the current debate about privatizing social security with this piece. He does a good job of demonstrating that there is no impending crisis in social security funding, something the shrill voice of the privatizers have been claiming. People forget what social security was designed to do, provide a social safety net for those people who would otherwise starve. It was NOT designed to be your sole source of income during retirement. Although I agree with Krugman's economics, I don't agree with his solution to issues down the road. If we raise the age at which the benefits begin and means test the program, thus returning it to its original state as a safety net, we will be able to avoid any future catastrophe. This solution would also have the effect of reducing the overall cost of the program and should allow for a reduction of the payroll tax. This savings could then be used by each individual to save for their own retirement. Contrast my differed gratification approach with W's barrow-2Trillion-up-front "privatizing" approach, and it's easy to see which plan will be better in the long run. Unfortunately, as we all know, politics is all about what have you done for me now, not what will you do for me in 30 or 40 years...

5.12.04

Book Review: The Lost River

As many of you know, I've been bitten by the rafting bug as of late. Unfortunately, as this time of year does not lend itself to that type of adventuring, I've had to read of the exploits of others. Richard Bangs weighs in with an autobiographical account entitled The Lost River. In this book Bangs, the founder of the adventure travel company SOBEK, recounts his many rafting adventures. He starts with his adolescence learning to boat on the Potomac and concludes the book with a run on the Tekeze in Ethiopia. The majority of this well written and entertaining book is spent on his descents in Ethiopia. He describes in vivid detail his first descents of the Omo, Awash and a previously unrun section of the Blue Nile. As if these descriptions are not dramatic enough, he is doing these first descents while Ethiopia spirals into political chaos at the end of Hailie Selassie’s reign. The rafting done in this book is well beyond my current comfort level, Bangs and his cohorts routinely run class V and VI rapids which, by the way, are infested with crocodiles. The only real flaw that I found in the book is the amount of time he devotes to discussing technology and prognosticating about its future applications; those chapters belonged in a different work. All in all, this is an entertaining read for you armchair adventures, but its nothing like you'll find if you're fortunate enough to join me in a rafting trip in the coming year.

1.12.04

The outsourcing of torture...

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has an interesting post about our government grabbing suspects from various locals worldwide and then dropping them off to be interrogated in countries that use torture as an extractive technique. This obviously brings up a whole host of ethical questions. I, for one, view torture as a slippery slope; if we agree to use it in some circumstances, I believe that we will expand its use over time. Of course that's easy for me to say sitting here where no one is shooting at me, I wonder if our friend Theron has something to say about this matter...

You can't spell dam without W...

As we all know, if there is a way to profit form the environment, W cant wait to help his friends do it. This article indicates that W can see no reason to remove a dam once it is in place, fish and silt be damned (unless, of course, we were to discover oil underneath the dam). People who think dams are a good idea should read Marc Reisner's excellent book Cadillac Desert. It's a fine piece of literature that shows just how stupid dam building can be...