Saturday, June 07, 2003

LAST ONE OUT TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
Dean Esmay is one heck of a nice guy. He's so nice that he's trying to save the world from Blogger. I've taken him up on this very kind offer.

That means that I'm no longer going to be posting from this site. Instead I'm moving over here.

For those of you who want to type in the URL, it's HTTP://WWW.HELLINAHANDBASKET.NET.

I'll see everybody over at the new digs.

Friday, June 06, 2003

POINTS TO PONDER

There are a couple of things I'd like to add concerning the post below.

First off is this travelogue by an American living in South Korea. He managed to get permission to take a trip to North Korea, and it's a pretty good read. (Link courtesy of blog goddess Natalie Solent, who got it from The Sound and Fury).

The second thing is an op-ed on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Thursday 6-5-03 edition. Seems some guy who claims to have been part of North Korea's WMD program escaped to South Korea by way of China. He claims that SK's "Sunshine Policy" is actually a plan to prop up the failing NK regime. Why? Because of the staggering burden that would be visited on the SK economy when they finally reunite with their sick, starving, bass-ackwards cousin from the north.

Hmm. Never thought of that. SK's refusal to abandon or even modify the obviously failed "Sunshine Policy" now makes sense.

This should be a lesson to me. I should always look at the money.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

WELL, IT'S OFFICIAL

I just saw this article on the Yahoo news server. It relates how the United States will move it's troops currently stationed in South Korea. They'll be moved far south, away from the DMZ. Now if the North should invade, it will be South Korean troops that will be at risk.

The problem lately has been one of PR campaigns that went wrong. In the past few years the South Korean government and media has engaged in a Sunshine Policy. This is where they've tried to be extra nice to North Korea with an eye towards eventual re-unification. Most voters in SK weren't alive during the Korean War, and they bought into the idea that the North Korean government was just a misunderstood regime that would respond to reason and friendly overtures.

Maybe this idea was worth a shot at one time, but it's very obviously a failure. North Korea has repeatedly violated agreements that they entered into concerning their WMD programs. Even faced with this evidence, most South Koreans aren't willing to give up on the idea that NK will come around some day, somehow, in some way.

The current President of South Korea, President Roh, was elected by promising the voters that SK would "forge it's own course" instead of simply following the American's lead. The Bush administration said fine, you can do it with a lower military commitment from the US. Less than 6 months after he was elected Pres. Roh made a trip to Washington with hat in hand. SAYING that SK was going to go it without the US is obviously easier said than done.

Except that Washington isn't buying what he's selling. Our troops will move south out of immediate danger and South Korean soldiers will do the heavy lifting from now on. They're certainly capable of it, but there's obvious reluctance on the Korean's part to stand in our place. If you read the article I linked to at the beginning you'll notice that we're going to pay $11 Billion for "base improvements". I take this as an obvious bribe to make the medicine go down easier.

In my opinion this is part of the Bush administration's policy to shake up the status quo if it needs to be shaken. South Korea wants to have more of a say with policy decisions about North Korea? Fine, they can put their own soldiers on the wall to take the brunt of an attack. Then they can go ahead and make all the decisions they want. We'll give supprt, we won't turn our back on them. But we won't let those who don't contribute their fair share to try and unduly influence our foreign policy decisions.

Notice, if you will, that this isn't a punishment. We're simply pulling back and letting SK do what they want. Not that I expect that to make a difference to the anti-Americans who are sure to claim that we're not discahrging our responsibilities.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

MEA CULPA

The title of this post is Latin for "My horrible fault!" It's used most often in the Catholic faith to indicate that someone is taking blame for a terrible sin, and they're humbly asking forgiveness.

Don't worry, this isn't a post about Catholicism specifically or even religion in general. Instead I'd like to discuss something really broad: cultural differences.

I'm over at Instapundit.com when I notice three posts that rang a bell. All of the posts were about journalistic inaccuracies and outright lies. Jeff Soyer at Alphecca has something similar every week where he discusses the media bias against guns on Yahoo.

Okay, so the guys who work for Big Journalism twist, spin and lie. What's new?

Nothing, really. But I notice that all of the posts mentioned above want some sort of negative impact to be visited upon those that have tried to push their own agendas at the expense of the truth. This got me to thinking.

One of the main pillars that our culture rests on is the concept of responsibility. You're responsible for your actions. If you screw up you pay the penalty, if it works out you reap the rewards. This is so ingrained in our society that those of you reading this are probably scratching your heads and saying "Well, DUH!" But it's important to realize that this is something that's almost unique in all of history, and it's an idea that really hasn't caught on in the rest of the world.

Case in point is the Arabic news agency, al-Jazeera. Before, during and after the invasion of Iraq al-Jaz would pump out the most idiotic drivel as if it was the unshakable truth. Our troops were getting slaughtered, the Iraqis were really tough, America was near collapse due to the dissent in our society, Saddam was a nice guy who'd never hurt anyone, blah blah blah. After the dust settled the anti-war people who were using al-Jaz reports to justify their own position were understandably embarrassed, but that was just here in the States and over in the UK. Most of the rest of the world still acts as if al-Jaz is a reputable source, and the agency is still going strong even though it's mostly disappeared from Western news sources.

Okay, so that's the Arabic world. What about something closer to home?

This post by Stephen den Beste puts it better than I ever could. France is upset that the American government is going to adopt policies that are unfavorable to their interests due to their efforts to thwart us at the UN. They even claim that the US is using the media to spread lies about them in an effort to enrage the US voters. (Think they might have a point because of the scandals in Big Journalism I mentioned at the beginning of the post? I think that proves that it's really hard to get away with such shenanigans here in the land of the 1st Amendment, and I don't think such efforts to lie would remain hidden for long).

The French have also insisted from the beginning that there would be no drawbacks to opposing what the US people see as being absolutely necessary to gain a measure of physical security. Most Americans who read those reports just couldn't figure that out at all. What the heck are those idiots thinking??? Of course there's going to be consequences!

Consider European society (or Canada for that matter). They sure pay lip service to some of our core values, but they have a much different take on the situation. Democracy? That means that the voters can go to the polls, but they'll keep going back and voting again and again until they vote in the way the government wants them to. (Example: the way the Treaty of Nice was put up for a vote in Ireland for the second time after the public turned it down). Personal responsibility? That means that you're expected to lay down and refuse to resist even if you're attacked by criminals. Don't worry about it. The government will handle it for you! No reason for you to even bother your silly little head about it.

One of the things that was endlessly discussed amongst the crew on the McFaul was this very subject, except they weren't concerned with the idea of personal responsibility in other countries. Instead they wanted to see more responsibility to be handed down from the Powers That Be. Just about everyone thought that a better, more efficient military force would be gained if people were held accountable. The more responsibility, the better and smoother things would run. Of course they were talking more about punishing the people who blew off work and dodged that responsibility, but I think you get the idea.

The main result of all of this is that people are more likely to take the initiative. If there's rewards for getting the job done in the best way then people will take chances, especially if they realize that the people who they depend on to hold up their end have an interest in avoiding failure. It's just my opinion, but I think that this is the major reason why the US is racing ahead of the rest of the world in just about every area. Technology, theoretical science, culturally, military might and influence in all spheres. There's a reason why American TV shows are shown all over the world, and why I can't find a single French or Italian comedy on any of my 129 cable channels. It's because these guys aren't trying hard enough to get ahead.

This leads to another specious conclusion. The rhetoric and posturing we've seen from France and most of the rest of the world since 9/11 shows which path they've chosen. They're not even trying to improve their own situation, instead they're trying to put the brakes on our own ever growing influence. It's like they've given up and admitted that they're never going to catch up, let alone get ahead.

Makes me glad to be an American.

MORE PROOF THAT I'M A LAZY, LAZY BASTICH

The blogroll over on the right of the page is there for my convenience. I like to sit here on my blog like some sort of troll under a bridge and click on the links so I can read what other, more articulate and smarter bloggers are writing with the least amount of effort on my part.

But I noticed that I was clicking on the links at these other blogs, using them to direct me to even more crunchy blogosphere goodness. This kind of screws up the whole "least effort" philosophy.

So to continue to blog in the laziest way possible I've expanded the roll to the right. At this rate I'll fill up the page with links in a few years. Then I'll have to have two blogs, one for my posts and the other for clicking on the links.

WE ALL KNOW WHEN THEY SCREW UP, HOWSABOUT WHEN THEY GET IT RIGHT?

I'm over at Lead and Gold and I read this post. Seems that Alphecca is asking for the biggest, most terrible gunfights ever seen at the movie theater. If you've seen a film where someone does something during a gunfight that makes you wince then drop on by and leave your opinion.

Okay, so we've all seen something that was so stupid we wondered why the other audience members didn't demand their money back. But how often have we seen movies where they get most of it right?

I think the best gunfight ever filmed (so far as accuracy goes) is the showdown at the end of The Way of the Gun. The director had a brother that was also a Navy SEAL, and he allowed him to choreograph the fights. Pretty good stuff.

James says check it out.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

WHAT IF YOU'RE UNLUCKY IN LOVE AND UNLUCKY IN CARDS?

Two friends of mine are Charles and Muriel Parrish. They, for some reason, think that I need to be taken care of in some way. Case in point is that thye're paying my tuition while I go back to college and earn my degree. In case you're wondering, they aren't related to me. They just decided that I could acheive better things if I got a little help.

Muriel is also one of the nicest people I've ever met. She decided that I don't get out enough and that it was a shame that I never met my significant Other. She's decided to change this.

So she met this nice librarian while walking her dog and they got to talking. Muriel thought we'd be perfect together and she asked the librarian if she would want to meet me. This young lady agreed.

But all this took place while I was away on the Tiger Cruise. To find out a little bit more about me, she did a Google search on my name and eventually found this very blog. Next thing you know she's telling Muriel that she doesn't want to have anything to do with me because I "said some incredibly disturbing things about guns!!!"

Well, heck. This was news to me. I haven't posted anything about guns in months. What was she talking about?

She was referring to this post, where I give some advice to those who have just gotten their concealed carry licenses and are wondering what type of holster to use. And this is what's so disturbing, so frightening?

What a weenie. I'm glad that I didn't waste any money on a first date.

Monday, June 02, 2003

WE'LL KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING
On Monday the McFaul returned to her moorings at Norfolk, VA. Some of the Tigers got their gear together and piled it on the deck a few hours before we made port, anxious to feel solid ground beneath their feet again. I decided to take a turn through the ship for one last time. After making a pest of myself I drew my last glass of Blue Hawaiian and sat down in the Enlisted Mess.

There were many people who I never got a chance to speak to even though I wanted to. One of them was a compact fellow with the name "PHAM" on his coveralls. The few times I overheard him speaking in the P-ways I could tell that English was not his native language. Kathryn told me that he had been getting frustrated while trying to improve his English reading skills until he discovered the Harry Potter books. Now he's hooked and eagerly awaiting the next one (like most of us). But where is he from originally? Thailand? Laos? I don't know.

While I was in the Mess there were three crewmen sitting next to me, eating pancakes and watching a movie on the DVD player. They were joking amongst one another in Spanish, three other people whose native language wasn't my own. Out on deck women put on body armor and took up arms next to their male shipmates, ready to defend the McFaul against any threat. All of these different creeds, different cultures, different languages. An incredibly diverse group of people thrown together on a small steel needle that braves the world's oceans. But no matter what the differences, everyone is an American.

Just like me.

Our enemies look at all of these religions and the women who serve and feel themselves filled with an incredible rage. They think that this proves that we are decadent and immoral, and that it dooms us to failure. I think it's perfectly normal and don't think much about it one way or another, but I do think that it means that we can't lose.

In a few months the McFaul will be deployed. She and her crew will be far from home and the people who care for them. They'll be doing this, dealing with the stress and the bureacratic bullshit, because they know that they're protecting those they left at home. There's no higher calling.

I walked the McFaul's decks and I met her people, and I have to admit that I'll be worried about them a bit while they're gone. I'll probably check the news every day, looking to see if she was involved in an incident. So far as those would be stupid enough to actually attack her, I can't say that I'm too concerned for their welfare. The officers and enlisted serving on the McFaul are professionals so I doubt they'll ever feel a thing.

The McFaul has been assigned as part of the battle group around the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). There's more than 5,000 people on board the Enterprise, and their task is to protect America and our vital interests the world over. It's the McFaul's job to protect them while they do this extremely important job.

Inimici cavete.




STEEL BEACH
So the crew of the McFaul trains all of the time. Nothing but training, maintenance and cleaning all day long. This is so they'll be ready if they're ever thrust into combat. Efforts are made to make this training as realistic as possible.



Yeah, it looks pretty fake. But this is a US warship and not a Hollywood back lot.

So the crew trains all of the time. What do they do to relax?

Just about every Sunday they haul out some charcoal grills and have a cookout on the deck (weather permitting, of course). They call this "The Steel Beach". But before everybody eats they have games on the Flight Deck. What kinds of games? They square off and see who can perform emergency procedures the best.

Since fire is one of the things that will definitely happen if the ship is ever damaged, fire control is of supreme importance. Seconds will count, so one of the competitions are to see who can get in the firefighting gear the quickest. One of the kid Tigers even got into the act.



Another interesting excercise they go through is to see if the crew can perform emergency repairs using materials they happen to have on hand. They test this by having members of the crew slap together a soft patch on a split pipe.



The idea is that someone will use one of the fire-resistant gloves they're always carrying to plug the hole, and then the twines is wrapped around it to form a seal. Then water is pumped through the pipe at 90 PSI to test the patch. As you can see by the next pic, this is easier in theory than practice.



So what do they get if they win? Bragging rights for the week. That's it.

Like most people reading this, I didn't think much about this. Friendly competition is a great and harmless way to try and motivate people. But it would appear that most non-Western cultures don't think of it in the same way.

Case in point is this article on StrategyPage.com. In the essay, James Dunnigan writes about what is needed to form an Arab army that can actually kick ass. One of the biggest hurdles is to get people from Arab cultures to accept the concept that competition can be freindly.

Which brings us to some serious cultural differences. Arab armies rarely get the kind of constructive competition you see in Western armies. That is because, for Arab soldiers, it is seen as safer to not compete, so no one is "disgraced" by losing, than it is to compete and improve everyone's skills. Of course there is competition in Arab society, in business as well as sports. But the concept of "losing gracefully" is not as readily accepted as it is in the West.

Hmmm. I'm glad that my culture and our military don't have the same problem.

GETTING THE BIRD POOP OFF OF THE WINDOW
The USS McFaul (DDG-74) can really move! They really kicked it during the Tiger Cruise, and it certainly seemed that we were going faster than most speedboats. The actual max speed is classified, so I can't tell you the exact MPH that we were moving. This isn't because I was sworn to secrecy but because no one would tell me, either.

So they can get moving pretty fast. And the wind can whip up pretty well out there in the middle of the ocean. How do they see through the windows on the Bridge when the rain starts coming down and the seagulls start to poop? They do it the same way it's done on your car. They have wipers and little tubes for squirting detergent on the glass.



Sure beats ordering some enlisted guy to stand out there in a hurrican to keep the windows clean.