Thursday, November 30, 2006

Abe Sports Bono Shades

Paul Boutin (Slate) drives Tesla

....and loves it, I mean loves it! And why not?:

"The Tesla Roadster won't hit the streets until next year. If you see one on the street, then, you should ask for a ride. Even from the passenger seat, the car feels impossibly stronger, faster, and safer than it should be. The trick is Tesla's torque curve—the arc of the motor's strength as it revs from a standstill to top speed. Compared to gasoline-engined cars, the Roadster's torque curve feels—and is—impossible. That's because the Tesla's motor is electric."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Iraq Strategy Complaints from Marines

This article was forwarded to me by my Dad, a Marine:

US Strategy in Iraq
Honors Convocation
Newberry College
9 November 2006

Mitchell Zais

(Has a very strong resume to qualify him for writing this article)

"Many of our faculty and staff have asked me my views about the current
situation in Iraq. A few students have also asked. So I thought I
would take this opportunity, two days before Veterans' Day, to provide
you with some insights as seen from the perspective of a combat veteran
who served as the Commanding General of US and allied forces in Iraq.
I also served as Chief of War Plans in the Pentagon and have spent
considerable time study ing national security affairs, including a
fellowship at the National Defense University. So while it's true that
everyone has opinions about Iraq, I would argue that not all of those
opinions are equally well-informed. This talk will address our strategy
in Iraq. I won't talk about what the next steps should be, what the
long-term prospects for peace in Iraq are, or how we can best get out
of the quagmire we are in. Those might be other talks. For today I'm
going to focus on strategy.

Let me begin by saying that most of our problems in Iraq stem from a
flawed strategy that has been in place since the beginning of the war.
It's important that you understand what strategy is.
In military terminology there is a distinction between
strategy, operations, tactics, and techniques.

Strategy pertains to national decision-making at the highest level.
For example, our strategy in World War II was to mobilize the nation,
then defeat the Nazi regime while conducting a holding action in
the Pacific, then shift our forces to destroy the Japanese Empire.
Afterwards, our strategy was to rebuild both defeated nations into
capitalistic democracies in order to make them future allies.

An example of an operational decision from World War II would be the
decision to invade North Africa and then Italy and Southern France
before moving directly for the heart of Germany by coming ashore
in Northern France or Belgium.

Tactics characterize a scheme of maneuver that integrates the
different capabilities of, for example, infantry, armor, and artillery.

A technique might describe a way of employing machine guns with
overlapping fields of fire or of setting up a roadblock.

Our strategy in Iraq has been:
1. fight the war on the cheap;

2. ask the ground forces to perform missions that are more suitably
performed by other branches of the American government;

3. inconvenience the American people as little as possible, and

4. continue to fund the Air Force and Navy at the same levels that
they have been funded at for the last 30 years while shortchanging the
Army and Marines who are doing all of the fighting.

No wonder the war is not going well. Let me explain how the war is being
fought on the cheap. From the very beginning, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, who thankfully announced his departure yesterday, has striven
to minimize the number of soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Instead of
employing the Colin Powell doctrine of "use massive force at the beginning to achieve
a quick and decisive victory", his goal has been to "use no more troops
than absolutely necessary so we can spend defense dollars on new
technology". Before hostilities began, the Army Chief of Staff, Eric
Shinseki, testified before Congress that an occupation of Iraq would
require hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Shinseki made his
estimate based on his extensive experience in the former Yugoslavia
where he worked to disengage the warring factions of Orthodox Serbians,
Catholic Croatians, and Muslim Kosovars.

Shinseki also had available the results of a wargame conducted
in 1999 that involved 70 military, diplomatic, and intelligence
officials. This recently declassified study concluded that 400,000
troops on the ground were needed to keep order, seal borders, and take
care of other security needs. And even then stability would not be
guaranteed. Because of his testimony before Congress, Rumsfeld moved
Shinseki aside. In a nearly unprecedented move, to replace Shinseki,
Rumsfeld recalled from active duty a retired general who was more
likely to accept his theory that we could win a war in Iraq and
establish a stable government with a small number of troops. The Defense
Department has fought the war on the cheap because, despite
overwhelming evidence that the Army and Marine Corps need a significant
increase in their size in order to accomplish their assigned
missions, the civilian officials who run the Pentagon have refused to
request authorization from Congress to do so. Two Democratic
representatives, Mark Udall from Colorado and Ellen Tauscher of
California, have introduced a bill into Congress that would add 80,000
troops to the end-strength of the active Army. Currently, this bill
has no support from the Defense Department.

When I was commissioned in 1969, the Army was one and a half million.
Despite the fact that we're engaged in combat in Iraq, in Afghanistan,
in the Philippines, and committed to peacekeeping
missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Sinai, and on operational
deployments in over 70 countries, our Army is now less than one third
that size. We had more soldiers in Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf war
than we have in the entire Army today. In fact, Wal-Mart has three
times as many employees as the American Army has soldiers.
As late as 1990, Army end-strength was approximately 770,000. With
fewer than a half-million today, defense analysts have argued that we
need to add nearly 200,000 soldiers to the active ranks. Today, the
Army is so bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq that fewer than 10,000
soldiers are ready and able to deal with any new crisis elsewhere in
the world. And because the Army is so small, after only a year at home
units are returning to Iraq for a second and even a third 12-month tour
of duty.

Let me add a parenthetical note here explaining a difference
between our services. Army tours of duty in Iraq are for 12 or 13
months. For Marines it's normally six months. For Air Force personnel
it's typically four months. So when a soldier says he's going back to
Iraq for his third tour, it means something totally different than when
an airman says the same thing.

Because the active force is too small, the mission of our National
Guard and reserve forces has been changed. Their original purpose was to save
the nation in time of peril. Today they serve as fillers for an
inadequately sized active force. This change in mission has occurred with no national
debate and no input from Congress. We have fought the war on the cheap
because we have never adequately funded the rebuilding of the Iraqi
military or the training and equipping of the Iraqi police forces. The e-mails I
receive from soldiers and Marines assigned to train Iraqi forces all
complain of their inadequate resources because they are at the very
bottom of the supply chain and the lowest priority. We have fought the
war on the cheap because we have failed to purchase necessary equipment
for our troops or repair that which has been broken
or a worn out in combat. You've all read the stories about soldiers
having to purchase their own bulletproof vests and other equipment.
And the Army Chief of Staff has testified that he needs an extra $17
billion to fix equipment. For example, nearly 1500 war-fighting
vehicles await repair in Texas with 500 tanks sitting in Alabama.

Finally, we are fighting this war on the cheap because our
defense budget of 3.8% of gross domestic product is too small. In the
Kennedy administration it averaged 9% of GDP. The average defense
budget in the post Vietnam era, from 1974 to 1994, was about 5.8% of
GDP. If we are in a global war against radical Islam, and we are, then
we need a defense budget that reflects wartime requirements.

A second part of our strategy is to ask the military to perform
missions that are more appropriate for other branches of government. Our Army and
Marine Corps are taking the lead in such projects as building roads and
sewage treatment plants, establishing s chool s, training a neutral
judiciary, and developing a modern banking system. The press refers to
these activities as nation-building. Our soldiers and Marines are
neither equipped nor trained to do these things. They attempt them,
and in general they succeed, because they are so committed and
so obedient. But it is not what they do well and what only they alone
can do. But I would ask, where are our Department of Energy and
Department of Transportation in restoring Iraqi infrastructure? What's
the role of our Department of Education in rebuilding an Iraqi
educational system? What does our Department of Justice do to help
stand up an impartial judicial system? Where is the US Information
Agency in establishing a modern equivalent of Radio Free Europe? And
why did it take a year after the end of the active fighting for the
State Department to assume responsibility from the Department of
Defense in setting up an Iraqi government? These other US government
agencies are only peripherally and secondarily involved in Iraq.
Actually, it would be inaccurate to say that the American government is
at war. The U.S. Army is at war. The U.S. Marine Corps is at war. And
other small elements of our armed forces are at war. But our
government is not.

A third part of our strategy is to inconvenience the American people as
little as possible. Ask yourself, are you at war?
What tangible effect is this war having on your daily life? What
sacrifices have you been asked to make for the sake of this war other
than being inconvenienced at airports? No, America is not at war.
Only a small number of young, brave, patriotic men and women, who bear
the burden of fighting and dying, are at war.

A fourth aspect of our strategy is to fund Navy and Air Force budgets
at prewar levels while shortchanging the Marine Corps and the Army that
are doing the fighting. This strategy, of spending billions on technology
for a Navy and Air Force that face no threat, contributes mightily to our
failures in Iraq. Secretary Rumsfeld is a former Navy pilot. His view of the
battlefield is from 10,000 feet, antiseptic and surgical. Since coming into office he
has funded the Air Force and the Navy at the expense of the Army and
Marines because he believes technological leaps will render ground
forces obsolete. He assumed that the rapid victory over the Taliban in
Afghanistan confirmed this belief. For example, the Defense Department
is pouring billions into buying the newest fighter aircraft, at $360
million each, to take on a non-existent enemy Air Force. But, for
pilots like Rumsfeld, war is all about technology. It's computers,
it's radar, and it's high tech weapons. Technologists have a hard time
comprehending the motivations of a suicide bomber or a mother who
celebrates the death of her son in such a way. It's difficult for them
to understand that to overcome centuries of ethnic hatred and murder it
will take more than one generation. It's hard for them to accept that
for young men with little education, no wives or children, and few job
prospects, war against the West is the only thing that gives meaning to
their lives. But war on the ground is not conducted with technology.
It is fought by 25-year-old sergeants leading 19-year-old soldiers
carrying rifles, in a dangerous and alien environment, where you can't
tell combatants from noncombatants, Shiites from Sunnis, or suicide
bombers from freedom-seeking Iraqis. This means war on the street is
neither antiseptic nor surgical. It's dirty, complicated, and fraught
with confusion and error.

In essence, our strategy has been produced by men whose view
of war is based on their understanding of technology and machinery, not
their knowledge of men from an alien culture and the forces which
motivate them. They fail to appreciate that if you want to hold and
pacify a hostile land and a hostile people you need soldiers and
Marines on the ground and in the mud, and lots of them.

In summary, our flawed strategy in Iraq has produced the
situation we now face. This strategy is a product of the Pentagon, not
the White House. And remember, the Pentagon is run by civilian
appoint ees in suits, not military men and women in uniform. From the
very beginning Defense Department officials failed to appreciate what
it would take to win this war.The US military has tried to support this
strategy because they are trained and instructed to be subordinate to
and obedient to civilian leadership. And the American people want it
that way. The last thing you want is a uniformed military accustomed
to debating in public the orders of their appointed civilian masters.
But retired generals and admirals are starting to speak out, to
criticize the strategy that has produced our current situation in Iraq.

But, if we continue to fight the war on the cheap, if we
continue to avoid involving the American people by asking them to make
any sacrifice at all, if we continue to spend our dollars on technology
while neglect ing the soldiers and Marines on the ground, and if we fail
to involve the full scope of the American government in rebuilding
Iraq, then we might as well quit, and come home. But, what we have now
is not a real strategy. It's business as usual."

Interesting read, I had not seen the part about the GDP comparisons before, that's an eye-opener. I think he's right on target with his complaints, and it's plain to see that our strategy was and is a failure.

But I also think we're at a point where it doesn't do much good to complain about the mistakes we've made, and that the only patriotic thing to do at this point is figure a way out. We don't have the numbers of troops we need to make peace in Iraq (if that was ever possible), so we need to figure a way out ASAP, even if that means leaving Iraq a bigger mess (less stability, more terrorists, more of a threat to US) than it was with Saddam in power.

I complain about what we have done as much as anybody, it may be the biggest blunder in American history. But the question for us is "What do we do now?" I hope James Baker has an answer, because we're going to do whatever his commission says. I'd be interested to hear what this General thinks we should do now...

Monday, November 13, 2006

U2 vs REM, Trio of Articles

For some reason, there are three recent articles about who was the "Band of the 80's":

U2 or REM?

Slate article
Stylus article
Stereogum article/comments

The Slate article was the first, and I think the others took it from there since that one was from a REM fan's viewpoint. The comments on Stereogum are interesting....lots of folks suggesting neither band and say it was the Pixies or the Smiths or Sonic Youth, etc. To these folks, I say: "Show me the hits!" I mean, to be the band of the decade, I think you need a hit, right?

You can't go underground for greatness, and perhaps, in the end, that is what seperated U2 from REM. U2 was always reaching for the stars, trying to be popular, while REM seemed more content with their spot on college radio (at least in the 80's).

I can speak of the 80's and these bands for that is what I know, man. In '83, I got War, Boy and October and a year later I was listening to Murmur and Chronic Town and then Fables of the Reconstruction. U2 was always my favorite, but as a Southern boy, REM got to me too. I loved them both! I followed their ascentions in the eyes of Rolling Stone magazine, and I was a pusher, too. Don't try to sell me that Flock of Seagulls fandom, U2 was different, and REM was really different.

I was surprised how quickly U2 took over the throne from the Police, who were at the top. Even before the Joshua Tree came out, Rolling Stone proclaimed U2 as Band of the 80's, and then they only got bigger. REM didn't really peak until the early 90's, so I'm going with U2 on this one (surprise!) For a couple of years in the early 90's, REM and U2 were twin powers of rock, but Nirvana and grunge took the spotlight. REM never really recovered and U2 took years in the wilderness (enjoyable experiments) before coming back to be the Big Band in 2000. U2 always seems to aim higher, and that brings some disappointments (new single, many Bono duets), but it also brings greatness (Beautiful Day, Vertigo, Fast Cars). Really though, with the Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum, U2 were having GIANT successes that built to a peak by the end of the decade, making U2 the thinking man's choice for Band of the 80's.....they dominated, man!

And I don't think U2 is done making great music....amazing as it may be, I think some of their best work still lies ahead.

Now, who is the "Band of the Aughts?" It could be U2 again, man!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush the Elder Looms

A recent New Yorker piece mentiones Robert Gates and Brent Scowcroft several times, a very interesting read given today's announcement.

"Colin Powell told me that he was not offended by Scowcroft’s public doubts. “The concern is cost—what are we getting ourselves into? That is not an unprincipled concern.” But the White House—in particular Rice—saw Scowcroft’s op-ed as a betrayal, and as a political problem: Scowcroft has a commanding voice on national-security matters. But there was another, more personal dimension. “What makes it even more awkward is the suspicion that he’s speaking not just for himself” but for the elder Bush as well, Robert Gates, who was Scowcroft’s deputy at the National Security Council, said. "

I blogged about this before
, and I'll probably bring it up again. The elder Bush looms large. Today was a big day. W. admitted that we have a problem and he's taking steps in the right direction. Gates sounds like a great pick, just wish we weren't in such a bad place....

Slate Calls Bono Out...

...and the US just doesn't care and that's fine with me. Business is business? I don't expect that from U2, but in this case, that looks like what we get.

"U2's tax-shelter scheme caused an uproar in Ireland when the story broke there in August. But it's scarcely raised a ripple in the United States. A conservative would argue that's because in this country, we don't begrudge a man the opportunity to keep what he earns off the sweat of his brow (or even off the sweat of someone else's brow ) … even if that man spends half his time trying to goad governments into spending more to alleviate poverty. But a liberal could answer that in the United States, we are so used to seeing rich people avoid taxation that even a wealthy hypocrite who shelters his cash abroad can no longer qualify as news."

and in other U2 news, here's the link to the new single (second link here)"Windows in the Skies" from the forthcoming U218 (Best of Best ofs)
I've listened twice, and at this point I'll just say I hoped for more from U2 and Rick Rubin. Ah, well....

Monday, November 06, 2006

"One" Bad Idea

This was ONE really bad idea (link to video, don't watch it all the way through, trust me) made worse by the new, even more earnest lyrics (about a bank merger no less).
While I give the guy credit for liking U2, and for really getting into it (a-hem), that was the worst portrayal of a U2 song ever, by anyone, by far... and an embarrassmet to capitalism in general.
The thing is, guys who go out and do rediculously stupid things like this are often successful at work. Go figure. (see the comments regarding this guy's business future)

Update: From the New York Times:

"On Tuesday, a lawyer for the Universal Music Publishing Group, a catalog owner and administrator, posted the text of a cease-and-desist letter in the comments section of, a Web site carrying the video. It contended that Bank of America had violated Universal’s copyright of the U2 song.

The two employees featured in the video were the guitarist, Jim Debois, a consumer market executive for Manhattan, and the singer, Ethan Chandler, a Manhattan banking center manager, who provoked much of the ridicule with his earnest interpretation and also for straying a bit far from U2’s lyrics with lines like “Integration has never had us feeling so good/and we’ll make lots of money.”"

Friday, November 03, 2006

Luddite Voting Machine

"Mary Cooney, a Broward County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman, informed The Miami Herald that it's "not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot -- essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual." Huh? How exactly does a computer -- one that is being used heavily for one day a year, and not a $100 PDA -- "slip out of sync" ? Further, no one in Broward County is even sure how large of a problem this is "because there's no process for poll workers to quickly report minor issues, and no central database of machine problems." Is it any wonder that major candidates are urging voters to vote the analog old-fashioned way? "

Solution: Paper Ballot, pencils
Just because we (may) have the ability to use computers to vote does not mean we should. Let's do it the old-fashioned, proven way.