Saturday, April 12, 2003

I WISH I WAS THERE WITH AN EMPTY DUFFLE BAG
Just read this news article, which describes a Saddam love bunker that the Marines found.

Besides proof positive that, when it came to decorating, Saddam had exactly the kind of taste that I did when I was a 16 year old Dungeons and Dragons player, they also found the following items.

"...they found more than 6,000 Berretta pistols, 650 Sig Sauer pistols, 248 Colt Revolvers, 160 Belgian 7.65 mm pistols, 12 cases of Sterling submachine guns and four cases of anti-tank missiles all still in the unopened original boxes. There were also tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition mortars and cases of old handguns and heavy machine guns."

I'd heard that people would give Saddam weapons for his birthday. Looks like he had a particular fondness for Beretta handguns.

All of those lovely handguns still in their boxes. I think I could find some room in the gun safe for a few of them

PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED BY THIS?
Just about everyone in the BlogoSphere (and not a few mainstream journalists) are pissin' and moanin' about CNN's collusion with Iraqi censors.

CNN is spinning this as a matter of necessity. If they wanted to get access then they had to go along, and ten$ of million$ of adverti$sing revenue was riding on their decision. At least, they're saying, they could provide SOME coverage.

So they didn't tell the truth. So they shape public opinion, which translates into public policy when elections roll around. Does anyone out there really think that they actually want to tell the truth?

Being interested in self-defense issues, I know that most mainstream media outlets certainly don't bother to tell what's what when it comes to gun ownership. They've all got an agenda they're trying to push, even if it is attempting to make an exciting story when nothing much is going on.

Bottom line is that these guys are, first and foremost, entertainers. They need to get the ratings, they need to get the big advertising revenue, they need people to get excited. Otherwise everybody would just read the blogs and ignore them completely. (heh) The idea that they actually are defenders of truth, or that they are dedicated to some sort of purpose more noble than getting paid, is naivete of the first water.

Not that I don't wish that they'd actually live up to the ethics they claim to hold dear. I'm just realistic enough to realize that it'll never happen.

REALLY GOOD SUGGETION
Kevin over at Chinpokomon has a really good suggestion. I'm not holding my breath, though.

IF YOUR VIEW OF REALITY GETS TOO "DIFFERENT" THEN YOU'RE INSANE
Swen the Coyote brings us this article from the NY Times. The Times brings us the scene from a Cairo coffee house, where all of the Arab patrons insist that the US bought Saddam off for our victory. They also insist that the scenes from Baghdad showing average Iraqis dancing with joy are staged.

I think the most revealing passage in the article is a paragraph that details the Arab's views of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

That was a bad time, said Saleh Soleiman, a shopkeeper. "But we had our victory in 1973," he added, referring to Egypt's early rout of the Israelis from the Sinai in the first stages of a war Israel eventually won. Those days are relived constantly here.

"We had our victory in 1973"???? Getting your butt kicked up around your ears was a victory?

Most people can walk in to a Las Vegas casino and notice that, should they gamble, their money keeps shrinking. Sure they win every once in a blue moon, but they lose so many times that the rare times they actually get a return is insignificant.

Someone with a gambling problem doesn't see it like that. They just see the wins. The mounting debts, the catastrophic financial situation, that's just temporary until they hit the BIG MONEY! And they know that they're going to win it sometime because they won $5.00 on a Scratch-'N-Win lottery ticket!

I think it's about time that the Islamic world in general and the Arab world in particular stops playing the ponies and starts to try and get the check for the mortgage payment in the mail on time.

Friday, April 11, 2003

ROGER AND MIKE
Roger Ebert, the guy who writes movie reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, has been one of Michael Moore's biggest supporters. It's not that Mr. Ebert thinks that Mr. Moore is a genius who crafts perfect documentaries, even though he always mentions that he admires the craft that Moore brings to his work. Instead Mr. Ebert really, really agrees with the message that Moore is trying to spread. Mr. Ebert is one of those people who live in Chicago, a city that has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, and it would appear that he thinks that it isn't enough.

Kudos go to Mr. Ebert for his attempts at being fair. He's been bombarded with Email from people who've researched "Bowling for Columbine" and found numerous errors, and he's mentioned the debate and even printed where people could go to see the evidence themselves. But Mr. Ebert has shown a great deal of support for Mr. Moore even when it hasn't been warranted. Case in point is this Q&A column that Mr. Ebert writes. The article was written before the Oscar ceremony, and Mr. Ebert deftly dodges the question as to why a "documentary" that is largely fasified material is still up for the little statuette.

"...somehow you know, watching it, that Moore has granted himself poetic license."

This is even though Mr. Moore presents the film as a true documentary, instead of a work of interpretation.

AND another excerpt. "All I know is that "Bowling for Columbine" is a brilliant polemic."

So the rules about a documentary having to be, you know, factual and stuff, can be ignored as long as the film maker implies that he's granted himself leeway to bend the truth and ignore the facts (or even just make stuff up). And all of the criteria that every other documentary film maker has to follow before their work is considered for the big prize is tossed out the window for controversial films.

I see. I didn't know that these guidelines the Academy had in place for so many decades were so flexible. Glad ol' Roger clued us in about that.

Last week Mr. Ebert printed another Q&A article that has a decidedly less forgiving tone. It would appear that Mr. Moore has finally gotten Mr. Ebert's goat.

So what has Moore done to piss off the most influential movie critic in America? Well, it would appear that Mr. Moore lied about being booed at the Academy Awards!

Yeah, I know, it was televised and all that. But Mr. Moore says that it was just 5 stagehands booing him (can't trust those blue-collar guys who work with their hands to figure out the genius that is Moore). 5 guys. Never mind what everyone there heard, or what the television audience saw and heard. It was just five guys.

I figure that Mr. Moore can get in Mr. Ebert's good graces easily enough. All he has to do is whip up another pack of lies about how Bush stole the Presidency.

WORDS OF WISDOM
You should strive to avoid a conversation like this one.

HER: "Do these pants make me look more fat?"

ME: (puzzled) "How can pants make you look more fat?"

Oh, one other thing. When they say that they admire men who're honest, they're not being honest themselves.

WANNA SEE A NEAT PICTURE?
Found over at The Monkey.

REFLECTED GLORY
I've mentioned Kathryn Woods before. She sent me the Email that I turned into this post. She also runs her own Esperanto language blog. But the main reason that I want to talk about her right now is that I taught her to shoot.

Yeah, so what? I've taught more people than I can count to shoot. But Kathryn was the most gifted pin-point handgun shooter I've ever met.

Let me tell you a little story. I loaned her the money to buy her first handgun, a surplus Smith and Wesson 9mm with low profile sights. Completely unremarkable, no after market gunsmithing at all. She named it "Barnaby" (she always names her guns).

She was always very precise. Tiny groups, great control and discipline, fierce concentration. If I ever faced down a hostage taker I knew who I'd want next to me to snake a round past the innocent's ear on it's way to the perps eye. She was that good.

She'd hear me talking about people who took their giant, long barrelled monstrosities to the rifle range to shoot at long distances. She decided that she wanted to do that. With Barnaby. The unmodified, out-of-the-box 9mm with low profile sights. AND she didn't want to use any sort of brace, just shoot it off-hand (in the shooting sports "off-hand" means that the gun is only supported by your own hands).

So we went to an outdoor range and I set the target up at 50 yards, figuring that she'd probably hit it once or twice and I could praise her to the skies for at least hitting something. Except that she started to hit it every time. In fact, she was getting four inch groups. Did I mention that it was at 50 yards?

The OSU Rifle Team just happened to be at that range that day. A few of them looked over to see what this strange woman was doing, shooting a little handgun at a rifle range. When they saw her groups they went and pointed it out to other members of the team. Eventually they were all gathered about twenty feet behind the line, whispering to each other and passing a pair of binoculars around. It was all due to Kathryn's talent and effort, but it was still a proud day for me.

Okay, so she's good. Competition material if ever I saw it. The reason I'm taking a walk down memory lane now is that Kathryn just sent me an Email. She's going to compete this weekend in the All Navy Rifle and Pistol Matches. Some of the finest pistoleros on the planet will be there, and she's going to take her turn to step up to the line and have a go of it. It's all due to her own talent and effort, but this is another proud day for me.

If any of you are interested in giving her a note of encouragement, please click on this link and leave a comment. If you're curious about what she's talking about in the post I'm afraid that this English speaker can't help.

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
I just read this news item on the Yahoo server. The article reports that Shi'ite protestors stormed Iraq's embassy in Tehran, Iran. It's off the Reuters news wire, and it has been significantly altered since it first appeared.

The article first reported that 200 Iraqis climbed over the wall of the empty embassy and indulged in some vandalism and theft. The vandalism was certainly understandable, but what was being stolen wasn't. See, it appears that the "protestors" were carrying off the embassy documents.

The fixtures and furniture, sure. Nothing like a few ashtrays or toilet seats to make a looter's heart grow warm. But documents?

It seems that about 200,000 Iraqis live in Iran, most of them refugees from Saddam's reign of terror. I'm sure that the secret police wanted to return a few of the more vocal and visible to the loving embrace of Iraq's prisons and torture camps. But, to do that, they would have to have informers to tell the snatch-and-grab teams where to find these juicy targets. And the informers would want to get paid. The embassy staff would probably want to make darn sure that there was a paper trail of where the payoff money went in case a few of those secret police guys I mentioned earlier got the silly idea in their heads that someone was skimming a little off the top.

And so a crowd of 200 Iraqis show up at the empty embassy after the fall of Baghdad to tear the place apart looking for documents. Anyone see where I'm going with this?

But the article doesn't say that now. Good ol' Reuters! They've managed to turn a story about some thugs trying to destroy evidence into an anti-American screed.

Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, April 10, 2003

LIGHT BLOGGING
Like most people, I've been spending my time over the past three weeks watching the news and trying to keep my life moving along in a normal fashion. I'll still spend a lot of time watching the news, but I think it's time I spent more time generating copy so you guys can be bored to tears.

TAKING DELIGHT IN THE MISFORTUNE OF OTHERS
Ann Coulter has an op-ed right here. If you're familiar with her work you'll know what to expect.

Just to toss my own two cents in, I'd have to say that the Left has lost any shred of respect I might have had for them. This whole "America bad, dictator good!" crap got old pretty fast. The constant insistance that the US was even worse than tin-pot murderers was absurd. The gleeful predictions that the greatest military power the world has ever seen was going to get it's butt handed to it if we dared to invade Iraq was ludicrous (Iraq was going to hand the US armed forces a defeat???). The claim that only the unelected bureacrats at the UN could set US foreign policy was idiotic in the extreme.

But I'm sure that they will simply ignore the evidence if it contradicts their own vision of the way things ought to be. Heck, they always do anyway.

NOT A BAD SENTIMENT
Came across this editorial from the NY Post.

I think it's a little extreme, but I agree with the underlying sentiment.

YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF MEDIA BIAS
Better bloggers than myself have noted that some news agencies make no bones about throwing objectivity out the window as long as they can indulge in some America bashing. Thsi goes far beyond a reporter slanting a story to generate drama, or the same point of view presented all the time in the Editorials. Some people just have it out for the Land of the Free, and they don't mind ignoring easily perceived reality in order to beat that particular drum.

Case in point: This article from Reuters. They say that the Iraqi people, brutalized by 25 years of oppression under Saddam, wants the US forces to leave ASAP.

Umm, excuse me? Didn't we just see a bunch of pictures on the TV of Iraqi crowds passing out the flowers and kissing our men in uniform?

Maybe the good reporters from Reuters missed that. After all, it had to be from a competing news agency since there's never anything positive about America on Reuters.

ARAB SOLIDARITY
Another news article from the AP wire reports that people who volunteered to fight for Iraq against the American invaders are returning home disillusioned and angry at the lack of support they received from the Iraqis.

Nothing new here. We've been reading similar reports for the past few days. But I'd like to turn your attention to the following excerpt.

"We were hit by Iraqis from the back and the American troops from the front," Abdullah said.

Notice that? A first-hand report that the Iraqis attacked their own allies.

There's something similar in every report so far. The volunteers for jihad were attacked by Iraqi troops, probably when they realized "This is it!" and tried to run from the advancing Western troops.

I wonder why the news agencies and the Arabs themselves aren't making more of this?

UMMM......OKAY
Let's turn our attention to this news item from the Yahoo news server. The article reports that Kofi Annan wants the UN inspectors to return to Iraq as soon as possible.

Ummmm..... Why, again? Last time I checked the US had taken Baghdad. It's not over, of course, and our troops (along with the Brits and the Australians) still are under fire even as I write this. But we took Baghdad! What do we need the UN for?

Well, good ol' Kofi says that "I think they are the ones with the mandate to disarm Iraq, and when the situation permits they should go back to resume their work".

Too late! Kofi needs to wake up.

STRIKE UP THE BAND!
A friend of mine has a passion for antique military music. He collects old scratchy records, transfers the music to his computer, then cleans things up as well as he can without altering anything. Then he puts these nuggets of history up on the InterNet where everyone can enjoy them.

If you're interested in this stuff I'd suggest that you drop on by and give a listen. The martial tunes from Russia are surprisingly good.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES
Via Prof. Reynolds comes this wonderful article. The title alone is worth the trouble of clicking on the link. Try it and see.

Monday, April 07, 2003

AMMO FOR BUFFY AND THE SCOOBIES
Prof. Reynolds mentions that Oakland police used wooden bullets to disperse protesters. He also has a link that explains the type of projectiles used.

I've never used wooden anti-riot rounds, but I've long known about wooden rifle rounds (scroll down the page to the Swedish 6.5X55mm). I've seen them advertised for decades in various gun trade publications.

The idea behind them is that they're for short range target shooting when penetration is to be kept to a minimum, such as at an indoor range inside the city limits. These ranges were around in the US from the turn of the century to the nid-1920's, when the violence that the Gangster Era brought changed the way that Americans viewed firearms. Most of the rounds for sale are imported from Europe, where there are still a few countries where such ranges are accepted.

So far as performance goes, it's piss poor. Range is severly curtailed, and the light wooden rounds are very sensitive to wind. Since America is such a big country we value the long shot, which these rounds are certainly unable to make. The only use I can think of for them is if someone has an indoor rifle range in their basement and they want to practice with some calibers larger than a .22 Long Rifle.

Or if you're facing down a horde of vampires.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

FINE DINING ON THE HIGH SEAS
Kathryn Woods is currently assigned to the USS McFaul (DDG-74). I asked her if she'd be so kind as to comment on the food served on board ship, particularly the salad. Her reply is printed below in it's entirety.

I'll start with the salad bar: yes, we do have one. It's actually pretty good. When I originally got on board, the lettuce of choice was iceberg. The mess staff would usually set up the lettuce in its big plastic bowl (which goes into a refrigerated salad bar) the night before and store it in the big refrigerator deck; often, the temperature in there got a bit on the too-cold side and the lettuce would really do justice to the name "iceberg". Not too long ago, though, we had a Supply inspection and suddenly we were getting wonderful, green romaine lettuce. And the refer deck seemed to get fixed (no more lettucicles). Everyone raved (I made certain to complement the Senior Chief in charge), so the romaine has stayed.

Otherwise, the fixings are fairly typical: cheese, sometimes mushrooms, ham, sometimes eggs, chopped green peppers, etc...and usually there's a very good selection of salad dressings (we're still working on a bottle of, get this, "red wine vinegrette" salad dressing, which I really like).

On the food: generally speaking, the food here is mostly what I'd call "comfort food". It's usually typical Americana (fried or baked chicken, baked or fried fish, beef stew or roast beef), often fried or cooked in a lot of butter. Your average meal is going to have some kind of soup (beef, vegetable, chicken noodle, Navy bean, cream of mushroom, cream of corn, etc...), two meats, rice or potatoes (occassionally noodles), and two vegetables.

Occassionally we have Mexican days (I like those; the chicken and corn and rice are really good and they put tortillas and tacos out), sometimes we have Chinese or Phillipino or Italian days -- chow mein, sweet & sour chicken, lasagna, pasta with meat sauce and garlic bread, that sort of thing. The main courses are usually pretty high-calorie, too; the cooks here love the deep fat fryer. Coincidentally, did you know that the Cole doesn't have one? When they rebuilt the kitchen, they took it out. Too much of a hazard, apparently, so now all their food is baked, boiled or broiled.

Every Wednesday is "Slider Day": hamburgers (easily converted to cheeseburgers), hot dogs, and either tuna or chicken salad, with fries and two vegetables. It's custom to count your deployment down not by "days remaining" but "Slider Days remaining". There's always fresh fruit of some kind on the line. We usually have strawberries. Lately we've got pears (bosc, I think) and lots of melon. We often have pineapple, apples, and oranges, and every couple of weeks they chop up a watermelon. Often, there's yoghurt available, and there's always cereals of some different kinds (including, amazingly enough, healthy kinds). Desserts are usually available in the form of cake (cheesecake, box cake, etc...), cookies (I can't stay away from these they're so good), or brownies.

Drinks include coffee, "froo-froo coffee" (fancy stuff like capuccinio & irish cream, but the froo-froo coffee machine is [sob!] broken), milk, chocolate milk, water, iced-tea, hot water (for making hot tea), and a juice machine. The juice varies -- usually orange juice is available, and presently we also have pineapple, mango, black cherry, and an assortment of "drinks" like "blue hawaiian". I have no idea what it is; all I know is that if you mix it with the orange juice it makes a weird green drink that freaks out your shipmates. I personally usually drink orange juice with a dab of black cherry; it makes an orange/red drink I called "Otto Fuel II" (after the fuel we use in our torpedoes).

There's also bread. Usually white bread, sometimes wheat, with margerine and cream cheese. For breakfast we sometimes get croissants, and usually there are english muffins out. Usually there's something sweet like donuts or cinnamon rolls, streusel, etc... Today there was raisin bread, too. Breakfast, by the way, consists of bacon or ham or sausage (or sometimes both), hard-boiled eggs, hash-browns, some form of griddle bread (pancakes, waffles, french toast), farina or grits, and you can also get eggs cooked to order (typical mixings: ham, green peppers, cheese, onions, mushrooms,
tomatoes).

Breakfast is usually 6-7am. Lunch is usually 11:30am-1pm. Dinner is usually 4:30-5:30pm. And then we have something called "Midrats" (Midnight Rations), from 9:30-10:30pm. Midrats are usually either deep-fried (i.e., fast & easy) or leftovers (i.e., fast & easy).

Personally, I tend towards eating the sides and staying away from the meats (I try to keep it down to one meat per day, usually breakfast). But all in all, it's a pretty good spread. I have to say, though, that high seas are hell on the bakers (see attached pic).



FILLING THE BERTHS
The US armed forces are having problems, the same problems they've been having for years. There's getting to be too much tail to tooth.

It used to be that you could whip up a fairly effective force just by drafting a bunch of farmboys and slapping rifles in their hands. A month or two of drilling and letting them know what "military discipline" means and then it's off to the battlefield.

That was over 200 years ago. The weapons have been getting smarter, more sophisticated. One man in a tank or aircraft can now wield more destructive force than entire pre-gunpowder empires. But all of that technological "know-how" needs people who ...uh, know how to keep it running, as well as thousands more to supply the fuel, ammunition and spare parts necessary to keep it running.

Okay, so each present day warrior needs at least a few hundred people in support to supply him and get him to where he's needed. So what?

The problem is one of personal benefit. In the US armed forces, the better pay and promotion oppurtunities go towards the combat arms. This is as it should be, because these people are at greater risk. But it also means that the incentive for people who don't get the bennies to stay in the service are less.

The US Navy has it the worst, even among the people who crew the ships. Life on board ship is no party time. You're piled twenty deep in crowded berthing spaces that dorm-living college freshmen would declare sub-standard. You're often assigned to a single ship for years, if not your entire career, so there's no way to get away from people you don't get along with. And, of course, there's the strain on personal relationships when the ship is away for a large portion of the year.

In an effort to improve morale and keep their berths full, the US Navy has tried to improve life on board ship. They've done this by providing Email services to their people on the high seas, as well as by improving the food that the troops are offered. Fresh food, always difficult to provide when one is in the middle of the ocean, has high priority. This has drawn some criticism as the "Salad Bar Policy".

Next: I'll print an Email from an enlisted friend of mine currently serving on a US Navy destroyer.

THROWIN' ROCKS
Thanks to Stephen den Beste for a heads up to this article. The article relates how the Brits are using bomb-shaped concrete chunks to attack targets. The idea is that the non-explosive concrete would have enough energy when released from the aircraft to destroy an individual target while leaving surrounding buildings untouched.

Although it's rather odd, using a sophisticated guidance and steering system to guide a big ol' shaped rock onto a tank, it's not a new idea. Legendary aircraft designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson first suggested using bomb shaped titanium penetrators as "kinetic weapons" way back in the mid-1960's. The idea was that these weapons would penetrate deep, deep in the earth to destroy hardened Soviet command bunkers. This way, it was hoped, the Russian C and C structure would be disrupted so much that their armed forces couldn't function. Another consideration is that the Soviets, ever mindful of a military revolt, had set things up so that their nuclear weapons couldn't be used unless HQ transmitted the codes needed to arm them (Heck, their fighter aircraft had weapons that wouldn't function unless the correct codes were transmitted). If there were enough aircraft, precisely striking at these command bunkers, then the war would be a cakewalk with minimal casualties and no radiation.

The only reason that such a weapon was even considered was due to the development of the SR-71 Blackbird. An amazing plane that could fly better than 2,000 MPH (3,200 KPH), it would be travelling fast enough to give those inert peices of titanium a really impressive punch.

Never happened, obviously. The Blackbird was so expensive that the very idea of putting hundreds in the field, ready for the go signal, was absurd. Makes a good story, though.

(Plenty of neato pics of aircraft, including the SR-71, to be found here.)