Friday - September 14, 2012

Sunday - June 19, 2011

Boy Scout Disasters 


I was so angry with my dad.  It's not like it was complicated or anything.  I just wanted to go camping for a week with my boy scout troop.  I had waited a long time to graduate from cub scouts to boy scouts and now we were going to do real camping without den mothers around.

The troop in my neighborhood had a great reputation and had grown a lot, but when it was finally time for me to join they made a splinter troop which was the one I was told I had to join.  

"I don't think it's been planned very well," was his annoying response to my request.  "What are you going to eat?"

I explained very patiently to him, because he was a dad and they aren't too smart, that I would take some bread and some peanut butter, and maybe a can or two of spaghettios.

"Where will you get water to drink?"  

Trying to hide my exasperation, I explained that surely there would be a creek somewhere.  

"What if there's an emergency?  What will you do if someone gets hurt?"

I'm sure my eyes were absolutely NOT rolling into the upper part of my head.  I would have had much better control than that.  I'm sure.

"Dad, we're boy scouts, we know first aid.  We can take care of ourselves."

The conversation went like this for quite some time, for days, it seemed.

In the end, I stayed home.  I'm not sure how it came about, but I never was with the boy scouts again after that.  

About 45 years later, or a few weeks, it's hard to measure when you're that young, I learned that the troop went camping and the boys were hungry and cold the whole time, and had to leave early because there was some sort of hornet attack and hospitals were involved.  The details remain a bit fuzzy.

I don't think I ever thanked my dad for that.  

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Tuesday - May 31, 2011

It's a New Kind of War, There are No Front Lines.  Another Myth

Operation new market, iraq2005It's a popular thing to say, and has been said for generations, that the latest military adventure is new and unlike past wars in that "there are no front lines." Where do such silly ideas come from?  

What is a front line, anyway?  It's the forward part of where the military units are located and behind which they shoot from. In any battle, you have to be careful which way you're shooting because you don't want to shoot the wrong people. You have limits to the right, limits to the left, and limits to the front and rear. This is a design feature and not to be avoided or else you're just a rabble, not an army.

If you examine the map of Haditha, Iraq shown here, you will see the rudimentary scheme of maneuver in Operation New Market in May of 2005 by 3d Battalion, 25th Marines. You can see that Companies K/2, K/25 and L/25 had very distinct directions that they were to move in. Company A of the 1st Tank Battalion guarded the north and south of the city while sections of Weapons Company 3/25 screened to the east and west, much as calvary units would have screened in days long gone.

This "cordon and knock" operation is little different than any attempt to take an unfortified city in the past couple of hundred years, at least. I'll bet that when the gates of Troy were breached, the Greeks had similar control measures for how they swept through the city.

That the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan are small in scale does not mean there are no front lines. It just means there are small front lines.

Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that, though we are at war, it is not a very active war. Our enemy is militarily incompetent and vastly outclassed. There is no question of our ability to prevail in any use of military force. The enemy is reduced to operating a counter-insurgency and terrorism. Is there a "front line" in terrorism?  In counter-insurgency? Well, not when they're not using military force. But once they start shooting and fighting, then there are front lines – just really small ones, at the squad and platoon scale, usually.

Why do people say "there are no front lines?" What purpose does that serve? I think people tend to think that the current war, whatever the current war might be at the time, is the greatest conflict ever. If we can't say that the size of the battle is greatest, then we say the nature of the battle is new and different. Thucydides knew "that it is human nature, while a war is in progress, to regard it as the greatest in history."

One of the resultant claims that has been growing has been the idea that modern wars are different, with no front lines, therefore we can have women in ground combat units. Some say that since some women are killed or wounded in the war, that they should be assigned to ground combat units. This is clearly odd logic, because women have been getting killed and raped in wars in all wars in history and prehistory. Being a victim of war does not mean that one is cut out to be an aggressor in war.

A fellow Marine reservist, Maj Jane Blair, whom I don't know, has put forward the idea that there are five myths about women in the military. Her objections don't carry water and are not worth discussing in too much detail. I was simply fascinated by the claim repeated by everyone everywhere that this war is a "different kind of war" without front lines.

When we're fighting there are front lines. After the fighting is over and we're holding the land, there are no lines. But there is also no fighting.

So, Maj Blair seems to think that we should allow women in combat, but only when there are no front lines because there is no combat.

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Friday - May 20, 2011

How is the War Powers Act Enforced?  Or Should it be?

The commander in chief of our armed forces has been ordering the US military to bomb Libya. Although the Constitution only allows Congress to declare war, the entire purpose of having a commander in chief is to be sure that there is a single man making decisions in times of emergency. Unity of command is critical to winning wars and ever since the earliest of days of our republic it has been assumed that the President can act militarily without a declaration of war if there is some exigent circumstance.

In the aftermath of the Viet Nam war Congress passed a law, vetoed by Nixon but nonetheless overridden by Congress, to limit the length of time that such exigent circumstances can allow military action.  Now comes the recent military action in Libya. Congress has not been consulted, no declaration of war or other authorization for use of military forces has been even contemplated. Sixty days, the limit of the War Powers Act, are coming to an end.

So now what? Does military action now become illegal? Should military commanders refuse to continue fighting because the order to fight is no longer a lawful order? Or should they wait until Congress acts to inform them that the fighting must stop?

The rule of law is only as good as the people require it to be. It might prove dangerous to our republic if our executive branch can unilaterally begin wars and simply ignore any laws limiting his power to wage war.  

As a military officer, I rely on having a certain amount of lawful authority when I issue the orders necessary for the accomplishment of my missions. This authority is based on agreement from society for the base of that authority. When a company commander tells a squad leader to attack, he does so because he has faith that the people of the United States have lawfully vested him with that authority, as delegated from that granted to Congress and the President. If that understanding of authority were to be questioned because it is based on unlawful military orders from the Commander in Chief, then we may cease being a nation of laws and our military will be no better than the tool of whoever is in office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, much like the potentates of old or the likes of Mussolini or Hitler.

Congress has made a law. If we are to be a nation of laws, this law must be obeyed, or it must be overturned, either by Congress or by the courts. It cannot be simpy ignored by the very party it is meant to constrain.  

If the Commander in Chief wishes to challenge the War Powers Act, he should do so by going to court or by calling on Congress to repeal it. Simply ignoring it puts our military commanders and soldiers at risk of acting unlawfully, they will be damned if they obey and damned if they don't.

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Thursday - April 28, 2011

Another Woman to Defend Us

A while back there were two tv shows on, Hercules and Xena.  Hercules was a really nice guy that was really nice and if he had to fight, well, it was only if absolutely necessary and then only if no one got hurt.  Xena kicked ass at the slightest provocation and made no apologies for it.  The ancient Greeks must have been rolling in their graves.

 My last post was of a woman speaking out against those in our nation that placate muslim terrorists while our elected leaders condemn free speech.  Now here we have another woman, this time in Germany who is the only one pointing out that muslims want to destroy western civilization and install Islam throughout the world.  

I guess our culture is dying.  Men seem unwilling to speak out to defend us.  Even here in Afghanistan we must tip toe around and pretend that burning a Koran is a horrible crime against humanity, and kow tow to their inhuman and oppressive beliefs.  

I guess the tv shows were just a harbinger of what our culture has become, and only the women are willing to defend us because otherwise the men will just be called meanies.

Addendum.  May 18, 2011.  German really is the best language for anger, isn't it?

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Sunday - April 17, 2011

 Free Speech, Islam, War

I decided I was going to provide a link to Ann Barnhardt's thorough denouncement of Senator Lindsey Graham's idiotic statements concerning the burning of the Koran in Florida recently.

Note (19 July 2011): Ann Barnhardt has now told me in an email that she supports the overthrow of the United States government by two specific retired military generals. She is now no longer a funny crank, she is a traitor to our nation and I regret posting her video here.

 I'll just add this: If Lindsey Graham thinks that we shouldn't burn Korans in a time of war, is this an admission by the US Government that we are at war with Islam?

Another point: We can't burn Korans, but the US Government can burn Bibles by the thousands.

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Wednesday - March 30, 2011

Stilwell and the American Experience in Libya

File:Chiang kai shek and wife with lieutenant general stilwell.jpgIn the Second World War, there were four main theaters that we operated in; Europe and the Mediterranean under Eisenhower, the South Pacific under MacArthur, the Central Pacific under Nimitz, and the China-Burma-India theater under Vinegar Joe Stilwell.

Most people don't much remember Stillwell unless they watched John Belushi in "1941" or read Barbara Tuchman's "Stilwell and the American Experience in China." 
Barbara Tuchman is one of my favorite authors, I was introduced to her by a book I got as a gift from my sister when I was in the Philipines.  The book was "The First Salute," and I read it after being in a stage of my life where I thought I had read everything worth reading and hadn't expanded my learning since college.  Her book opened my eyes and gave me a renewed thirst for knowledge that I had been missing.  "The First Salute" is typical of Tuchman's works in that she takes a part of history and tells a wonderful story by centering it on a public figure that isn't so prominent.  She wrote about the first half of the 100 years war by talking about a French nobleman named Coucy.  "The First Salute" was about the American Revolution from a Dutch perspective, centered on a British Admiral named Rodney.  I learned so much reading that book that I quickly devoured as many Tuchman books as were available.  Tuchman wrote about the Second World War from the point of view of General Stilwell.

The Stilwell experience in China was a sordid mess.  Stilwell expected that someday the United States would be sending numerous divisions to him to attack the Japanese from the west, and his role until that happened was to assist the Chinese by providing advice and massive amounts of armaments.  Tuchman shows his gradual awakening from naively thinking the Chinese would fight the Japanese, to eventually trying to convince Roosevelt and his administration that the Chinese are really only hoarding the arms we sent them to prepare for the Chinese civil war expected after we beat the Japanese.  The Chinese would make half-hearted displays of fighting, but really had no intention of fighting the Japanese if they could help it.  

Now we hear that the commander in chief of the United States military is contemplating sending arms to Libya.  Why would anyone in Libya bother to fight against Kaddaffy?  They know that the US is involved and will bomb him from the sky.  All they need to do is sit back and wait until we're done.  Why risk life and limb until that happens?

And now we propose arming them?  Will we never learn?  The rebels will collect the arms and save them for later, either for when they want to consolidate their power over their rivals to rule after Kaddaffy, or to send them to their Al Qaeda allies fighting us in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Bombing Libya is a good thing.  There is nothing much good about Kaddaffy, and I have no pity for him.  What comes after him is problematic.  It's even more problematic if we give arms to people we don't know anything about except that they have been at war with us.

I don't know what Joe Stilwell would think about arming Libyans, but I suspect he would have a feeling of de ja vu.

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Saturday - March 26, 2011

The Islamic World is Rioting.  Is Al Qaeda Behind it, and is that a Good Thing?


Upheavals in Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and it seems like another one starts every week.  Why?  Who is behind all this?  Is someone behind it?  Or is it really, truly a grass roots uprising of the long oppressed Arabs?

I don't know.  It could be.  I wonder if Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran are all really able to orchestrate such upheavals.  I don't know.  I suspect not.  Maybe they helped instigate it all and are just taking advantage of the situation, much as how the Bolsheviks took advantage of unrest in Russia.

So, should we be worried if in fact all these muslim states turn and become allied with our enemies, the fanatical branch of Islam?  It certainly would not be a good thing.  I've seen too much how these murderers and mutilators operate to think it's a good thing.

But, let's put it in the most favorable light.  If Al Qaeda, et al, were to control Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc. – essentially all of Arabia, northern Africa, and the Levant (except Israel), then we would be free in a way to no longer pretend who our enemies and friends are.  If our enemies are emboldened to be more brazen and bigger, we might actually take this war seriously and get it ended more quickly.  As it is now, we are not taking this threat against us very seriously (witness that we allow two-bit poppin jays to push us around in Afghanistan) because we can afford to not take it seriously, and our enemies can fight us through fiscal attrition.  For every $5,000 they spend on an IED, we spend at least a million to counter it.  Plant 100 IED's and we're at about a half billion dollars.  We cannot sustain this way of fighting a war.  We are letting them have their way with us.  

And now it seems that Al Qaeda is even getting us to fight for them in Libya.  I think we're morons.  

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Saturday - January 22, 2011

Conditioning Process in Humans 

Being an engineer and devoted to studying subjects that are actually difficult, I never took a psychology course.  Yesterday I learned for the first time of the "Little Albert" experiment.  This was a variation on the famous Pavlov's dog experiment.  Pavlov showed that if you ring a bell every time you feed a dog, then after some time if you simply ring a bell, the dog will begin salivating.

Image(s) provided courtesy of Little Albert experiment was along the same lines but with a 9 month old child.  Back in 1920 John B. Watson showed the boy a white rat and then crashed a pipe to make to poor boy cry.  Eventually, just showing the white rat made the boy cry.  Even a white fluff ball or a santa claus beard would make him cry.  Little Albert died of hydroencephalitis six years later, so we don't know of any long term affects of such conditioning.

Today such a test would be considered unethical, of course.  Thankfully most of the scientific community has developed an ethic to limit the behavior of people who would do terrible things to children in the name of science.

Sadly, there are no ethics in politics.  Politicians have conditioned us to accept almost anything.  When the income tax was created it was only a very small percent of income and only a small population that were taxed.  Supporters of the income tax scoffed at the idea that the tax could ever be raised to as high as 10%.  A century later we would be elated to be limited to a mere 10%.  We have been conditioned.

But in the news this week was another, more horrifying example of our conditioning.  Sixty years after the 16th Amendment allowing an income tax, the Supreme Court allowed children to be brutally murdered before they are born.  Supporters of abortion scoffed at the idea that it will lead to infanticide.  It's a woman's right to choose, and the court limited abortion to the first trimester, and then to the point of viability in Casey.  

As the democrat party latched on to the abortion issue as a vote getter and party unifier, the message got more and more strident; abortion is a fundamental right and no one can question it.  The conditioning continued, even to the point of advocacy of "partial birth" abortions, where the child is born, except its head is still in the birth canal.  While the body dangles outside the mother, a butcher then punctures the child's skull and vacuums out his brain.  Even though advocates for partial birth abortion lost that battle, they won the war of conditioning.  Supporters of abortion demonized opponents of partial birth abortion as the equivalent of nazis and slave owners and others that deny human rights. 

So now a man has been arrested for infanticide.  For decades a doctor in Pennsylvania has been delivering babies and then killing them.  He used scissors and cut the children's spinal chords.  The outrage from abortion supporters has been subdued and largely absent.  The conditioning is nearly complete.  Abortion, begun as a practice to help women choose when to have babies (even though there is no longer any stigma to having children out of wedlock and contraceptives are readily available), has become a means of infanticide.  Some people apparently no longer need any legal pretense of keeping his head inside the mother before killing him.  

The government has gained more power than ever intended.  The president, a supporter of partial birth abortion, has taken control of our medical industry.  The warnings that the government will convene death panels are being dismissed by the same people who would readily kill children.  We have been conditioned and coarsened to accept government control of our lives, and that will necessarily lead to government control of the end of our lives.  

We don't need Pavlov to see conditioning.  We don't need John B. Watson to show that conditioning works on people.  We are conditioned.  This time the butcher will go to jail, but the category of those allowed to be killed will continue to expand unless we reject the conditioning.  We need to restore our ethic of freedom and rights of all men, including those not yet escaped from the womb.

Image provided courtesy of

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Friday - December 31, 2010

 Bertha Benz

I've discovered a new heroine, Bertha Benz.  Not only was she drop dead gorgeous, but she was quite handy with tools, probably starting an old gag by fixing her car in 1888 with a hair pin and a garter belt. 

Her husband designed and built one of the earliest automobiles but like many engineers didn't think it was ready for market.  So Bertha took it off on a 65 mile road trip to see her sister's new born baby, with the intent of making sure everyone in every town on the way saw her doing it.  

The full story is worth reading, but this paragraph is the money.

 6a00e54ed05fc288330133f61729c4970b-300wi.jpgKarl Benz continued tinkering with hisPatent-Motorwagen, but was in no hurry to put it into production. He was a perfectionist, and kept thinking of ways to make it a little better. Working on it was also probably the most fun he'd ever had at the shop.

Bertha had a slightly different perspective. While Karl looked at the Patent-Motorwagen and saw a challenging and enjoyable engineering problem, Bertha saw Deutsche Marks waiting to be earned. She tried to convince her husband to start putting the Patent-Motorwagen through more extensive testing over long distances--up to that point, he'd only ever driven it around the shop grounds and on short jaunts through the local streets--as a prelude to offering it for sale as a production model. Karl was opposed to the idea, as he didn't think the Patent-Motorwagen was quite ready for prime time.

I'd never heard this story until today.  I recommend you read the whole thing.

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Thursday - December 30, 2010

I Agree.  Top Gear USA is Bad

I'm not the first to say it, and I'm not going to be the last.  

The USA Top Gear show is bad.  Very bad.  Not worth watching just for seeing cars bad.

There is no humor.  The wit is gone.  The three dolts doing the show have no comedic timing, no sense of showmanship.  Some people think the original British version was more of a Jackass show, missing the humor and wit.  If this US version was trying to live up to that misreputation, they can't even be good jackasses.

I've suffered through three episodes, I think.  Maybe less, maybe more, it's hard to tell because they were all so boring.  Last episode I watched had a moment that summed up my entire view of the new show.

One of the boring guys was driving a Morgan.  It's a beautiful car that has quite a lot of horsepower, but apparently has some aerodynamic problems at high speed.  Boring guy drove the car in a straight line to almost 160 miles per hour, commenting on how the front end felt like it was floating from the aerodynamics.


What was boring guy's reaction?  Nothing.  No reaction.  He even said, "I'm speechless."

I'm sorry?  What?  Speechless?  You're paid to speak about what you're doing.  If you're going to be speechless, why are you even there?

There are times when speechlessness can be a big impact.  When you normally say a lot, and are then on a singular occasion so struck by something that you are speechless, then it's okay.  But, you have to have made it clear why you're speechless first, and you have to have been known for saying something.  

You can't, on your first time out, after having been as boring as navel lint, and having said very little at any time, suddenly expect to have an impact by declaring yourself so overcome that you are left with nothing to say.  That's just more navel lint level of performance.  

What a bunch of losers.  Please just televise the BBC version.  Why do we always have to have an American version? The Brits have done a great job with unique personalities.  They are the show.  The cars are not the show.

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Saturday - December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

When I worked at Dell Computer in the late 90's, I was dumbfounded that one of my co-workers complained that the company christmas party was called a "Winter Holiday Party" on the invitation.

"People are afraid to put Christ in Christmas!" she exclaimed and went on to lament that christianity was being assaulted from all sides.  She could hardly be mollified by another friend explaining that not everyone that worked at Dell was a Christian and it was an attempt to be polite.  In fact, that seemed to get her more worked up.

Finally, I interupted her rantings and asked her, "You do know, don't you, that Michael Dell is Jewish?"

I think she finally calmed down, but I'm sure in the back of her brain she thought it was all an atheist liberal plot.

The first time I remember hearing complaints like this was when I was very young and the Jim and Tammy Bakker Show was on TV.  My parents didn't like us watching it, but I saw a bit of it one time when they were admonishing all the children to NEVER EVER EVER use the term "xmas."  It seemed a pretty stupid argument to me as a 6 year old that a piece of sales literature should be burdened with so many extra letters when they're trying to get your attention, and I hardly thought that Jesus would think that his name should be used to sell mattresses anyway.  That's when I figured my parents were probably right and I shouldn't be watching that show.  

It seems to me that the cries to boycott those businesses who say "Happy Holidays" are growing more and more strident.  I would have thought that businessmen should be encouraged not to cater to only one religion, but these complainers would hold that only Christians should be recognized.

I don't as a matter of course have any animus to those who believe in magical beings.  I think most are well-intended in their beliefs, but I do think that no matter how strongly an individual holds his beliefs he should always remember that they are his beliefs and he has no say in anyone else's.  

Whenever people complain about someone in the government saying "happy holidays" or someone in business putting up secular christmas ornaments, I worry.  Too many seem to want to coerce keeping Christ in xmas.  

If you are one of those who are so worried about what other people believe, then have a happy holiday.  For the rest of you, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Friday - December 10, 2010

File this Under "Aiming for Multiculturalism"

I handed the Staff Sergeant my ID card and rifle card through the little window which was just big enough to put a shoe box through.  The window was in the door of the armory, and the door was heavy and bullet proof.  He took the cards and disappeared into the back and re-emerged again. He handed me my ID card and then he passed the rifle to me, butt stock first, ejection port open, bolt to the rear.

Last time I turned my rifle in, I had cleaned it meticulously because it had rained on us and I was very concerned about rust.  Usually you'll find small amounts of dirt or grime on a rifle.  The Marines have finally taken to heart the common sense fact that cleaning weapons too vigorously is bad for them.  We still clean them, but we no longer try to scrub the bluing off the metal every time we touch it.  

But even so, I had been very thorough last time out and my rifle should have been pristine.  What I saw was therefore unexpected and something I hadn't really seen on a military rifle before.

My rifle had metal filings all over it.  And I wasn't alone.  All the rifles I saw had the same bright, shiny metal filings.  

About a year ago, a story got traction in the press.  The manufacturer of the rifle scopes we use had bible verse citations engraved on them.  The citations were very small, and you'd really have to be looking for them to see them, and you'd really have to be smart about the Bible to catch on to what they were.  It's odd, but no big deal.

But it turns out that it is a big deal.  A big enough deal that our armorers had to go through every rifle scope we have and file the Bible verse citation off.

What a waste of everyone's time.  Why can't we all just chuckle about it and move on in our lives?  I think muslims are probably more injured by the bullets coming out the muzzle than they are in biblical verses on the rifle scope.  

I guess this result was predictable, if still pathetic.  We're more worried about symbolism than substance.

Hey US government, here's a clue:  Actions speak louder than words, and especially louder than silly citations on a rifle scope.  Fanatical muslims are at war with us.  The more we do silly stuff like this, the less they will respect us.  

Let's concentrate on winning the war with a full effort as though we wanted and intended to win.  Once people see that and are convinced we are going to win, then none of this will matter.  But we're going to continue reacting to the facade and ignoring the reality.

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Thursday - December 02, 2010

New Blog

I've upgraded my blog software quite some time ago, and it will not work with my old blog software.  I had been using my old computer to draft and publish my blog, but that has been a hassle, and now that computer is not where I am, so if I have something to say, I need to do it with what I have.

So, welcome to the new Skyler's Rants site.  The format is not what I like, but I have very little time to devote to the code to fix it.  I think some of the links are bad too.  I'll try to get these things fixed over time, but frankly they are not a priority for quite some time.  

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Thursday - December 02, 2010

TSA Must be Abolished

Something truly sick has happened in our country.  

The right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . .

People have been been lewdly groped and fingers have probed in every body crevice, in every fleshy fold of fat and buttocks, and genitals have been fondled.  Or they have had the alternative choice of being viewed completely naked.

And who is doing this probing and fondling?  Some high school graduates in the TSA.  There is no special training in anatomy.  There is no special knowlege of medicine.  People with urine catheters are humiliated.  Women with prosthetic breasts are told to remove them in public.  Children are being felt up by disgusting men and women.

Some say that they are just professionals doing an unpleasant job.  Bull!  They are not professionals, or the term has no meaning.  They are flunky, unskilled labor.  They are not chosen for being especially bright or even talented in any way.  

And their willingness to keep their job after being told to do this most disgusting of violations of our persons is not forgiveable or acceptable.  They must resign now, or they deserve every bit of scorn that is heaped on them.  They are perverts. 

Speaking of perverts, why are these naked body scanners not being seized by the government for displaying child porn?  

And what is the reason for this?  Security?  What a joke.  We have a fourth amendment and if it doesn't cover some creep fingering your scrotum, then our Constitution is dead.  No one can even laughably call it a Living Document.  It is dead.

I've taken an oath to support the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  It's getting harder and harder to decide if there are domestic enemies.  Or is it just hard to decide if there is still a Constitution?

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