Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Years traditions.....

Today was pretty good day. Which is good because on the whole its been a so-so year. However even a so-so year here, still beats any of the so-called "good" years I spent living the "typical", mind numbing, soul smothering existence I had with my ex and my ambition...........

Tonight the S.O. and I shared a dinner that had both US and Japanese traditional food. I made a pork roast and black eyed peas ( for money and luck), she made Soba noodles ( for long life). She also cleaned the apartment, which is a Japanese tradition to welcome the new year......I left her to it, I went and played golf. We made plans to visit the shrine tomorrow and make new years intentions. In Japan, many people go on New Years eve and welcome the New Year at the shrine; as the 108 bells are sounded. (I have no idea of the significance of the number..).

I have some prognostications for the new year, but decided that first I should take stock of the year about to end. So here, in no particular order is a rundown on the 2005 that was for yours truly.

Stats:

-The USAF was only able to complete 68% of the missions that were contracted with them on time. DHL made 96% of theirs. There is a lesson somewhere there.
-Played 81 rounds of golf ( that I logged, that does not count a few blow up rounds that I thought were not good for my handicap.......).
-Logged 97,567 frequent flyer miles ( one one airline...also 30,000+ plus on "brand X"....that's a good thing!)
- Visited Singapore 4 times.
- Visited Hong Kong 4 times
-Went to Bangkok for the first time in 3 years....Definitely need to go back.
-Went to my parents house twice.
-Went to Taipei once.
-Posted 283 posts since I started this blog
-Have had 21,000 or so visitors to my blog...
-Saved a lot more money than I used to, not as much as I could or should have....
- Had a lot of frustration and also had a lot of fun!
-Did not go to my favorite pub in Tokyo near enough.
-Paid 30% of my post-tax income in Alimony. Also gave away 39% of a hard earned retirement to a worthless whore who does not deserve anything but a Louisville Slugger to the forehead. Thanks Pat Schroeder, thanks a lot. You can join the line waiting for the bus........

This year was a very topsy turvy one for me. Started off on a high note as I thought I had real sweetheart deal lined up to get the job I had been scheming to get, for over a year. A month later it was shot down in flames by institutional stupidity on the part of the company I would have gone to, leaving me to flail around and locked into my current existence for a good deal longer. It did lead me though, to start this blog.

Watched a lot of things happen with the world, the US government and the US military that just made me pause. Some examples:

a) Realignment fever was every where. Did not matter if they actually contributed to mission accomplishment, but it helped keep flag officers employed. Shook my head again as I realized that this year, the US Navy was almost 90,000 people smaller than it was in 1991, but still had exactly the same number of flag officers as it had prior to Desert Storm.

b) Watched the war in Iraq drag on for another year. Troop levels stayed the same, violence continued, and the President was on TV over and over again trying to convince me that somehow all this sacrifice was benefiting the security of the United States and not just a bunch of useless Arabs. For 12 months I still remained unconvinced.

c) Watched with amazement the series of natural disasters that befell the world. Played a small role in the Tsunami relief effort. Watched the USAF get lots of credit, even though they could not get there right away and could not do half the things the Navy did..............

d)Kept my head above water in Japanese, but did not make near as much progress in proficiency as I would have liked to.

e) Decided that Bill O Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh all need to kiss the front end of a bus moving 50 miles per hour.

f) Took the S.O. on two trips and got not near enough "reward" for my efforts.......

g) Thanked God in heaven for the 7th year in a row that I was able to break free from the clutches of those who thought their medical license and/ or professional position gave them a right to meddle in my private life. You know who you are......You can join Bill O'Reilly in kissing the front end of the moving bus. "I'm still here you greasy bastards!!!!".

h) Watched a lot of really good people pass on from this world......




k) Wrote John Murtha a letter of support. Wrote Rick Santorum a letter telling him to go suck eggs and I hoped he would listen to John Murtha.......

l) Read a lot of articles that made me think, some that just made me angry and some that were just plain stupid. ( Michelle Macangalang, in case there is any doubt, you fall into the last category.

m) Was really envious of the life that Spike is living in Hong Kong. By my count, he has nailed more women in the last year than I have in the last 10.........

n) Watched with amusement as Hong Kong opened Disneyland. And continued to close the door on democratic reform.........Good Job , Sir Bow Tie!

o) Watched another year go by with Kim Jong Il not doing the decent thing and dying.........

p) Watched with amazement as the US government caved into the Japanese government, on an issue the Japanese government did not ask them for any concessions on. Namely, agreeing to move Carrier Air Wing 5 to Iwakuni from Atsugi. Had to pick my jaw up off the floor when I found out that loser of an idea came from the Navy's mis management, and not the Japanese. Good job guys! You took something that was not broken and decided to really screw it up.........

q) Watched the stock market go both up and down.....and always at the wrong time for me.......

r) Generally found myself agreeing with her:




s) Decided I was never going to really understand or agree with most of what he says:



Unfortunately, the other side offers me nothing either...........

t) Worked hard to squeeze "efficiencies" into our transportation scheduling. Of course all the money we saved did not come back to us or the organizations we support. It just went to pay the bill for the war........

u)Took time each week to remember those who gave all..........regardless of politics, stop and pray for their familes...who had a worse year than most of us........

v) read some good books:




w) wondered mightily what the coming year had in store..........

x)y)and z). Remembered the hardest working people in the US. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and lots of other places, doing a thankless job, doing it well, and asking nothing in return but to be respected by their countrymen.......most of whom are not being required to do anything to support their efforts. Hoping and praying that the new year brings a huge change to that kind of attitude. And homecomings for lots of these great human beings.






That's a good place to stop. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

New Years beer and babes!

Its new years eve! I love the whole traditon of a long boozy party, with the countdown to New Years, followed by sloppy kisses with whatever willing member of the opposite sex you can find......( Unless the wife or girlfriend is there....in which case you have to give her the obligatory, first..). S.O. hates countdown parties. So in about an hour I will venture forth to my favorite little bar to count down to new years and she will watch the "Red and White" show, a huge NHK entertainment extravaganza lasting 4+ hours and is a competition between the Red and White teams. (Personally , I think its fixed..). Maybe later when I come home at 11:45 to watch the TV coverage of the shrines, we will share a glass or 4 of this:



The great thing about living in Japan is that you can tie one on, go to bed and still wake up in plenty of time to eat lunch and watch the ball drop at 2 PM in Times Square. Hopefully for all of you, some of those new hours of the new year will be spent intertwined with one ( or more) of these:


Friday, December 30, 2005

Millenario

Today I went with the S.O. to into downtown Tokyo. We went to meet a friend of hers from her days working for a big bad American corporation. Her friend still works for said corporation as a project manager and engineer. He is , depending on your point of view, an American's worst nightmare or best hope for the future, Born and raised in India, educated in both India and America, and holding down great responsibilities for a global corporation. He's also a really good guy.

So tonight we went to his favorite Indian restaurant ( I know nothing about Indian food) and let him do the ordering. Wise choice for he ordered an excellent dinner of Nan and various curries and meats. Quite tasty if I do say so myself.

Then it was off to Millenario. Millenario is a 4 block arch of lights that they have put up every year I've been here. The S.O. and I had one of our early dates there walking through with the herd. In what has to be yet another bad omen, this will be the last year they do the light display here in Tokyo, due to construction scheduled to begin in Otemachi next year.

Here is what it looks like:


Taken at the end of the walk.......

When we got to Tokyo station they were announcing it was going to be a 2 hour wait to get to the beginning, there were that many people to see it. We said nuts to that and decided to walk around the surrounding area and see what we could see. As luck would have it, a hole in the traffic barriers had been opened to bring in an ambulance so we were able to fold in behind that and move on in as if we had been there all along. Timing is everything they say.

Walked through, oohing and ahhing at the proper points and I also took great pleasure watching all the cell phone cameras at work:


Remember when a phone was just a phone?

After that we adjourned to one my little British pubs for a beer and some more conversation. All in all a good evening. Tomorrow is new years eve, look here for my prognostications............

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ronald Reagan had it right!

Just got back from a drunk-ex at the club. Won more rounds than I lost ( proving the old adage "You can't lose in a crowd.......". ) Lots of truths and lots of cash exchanged....

Anyway.......

Here is the "Great Communicators" take on the matter:




"Some continue to think of the world's best military as a laboratory for social experiments. Well, I'm here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. We are at peace today and we have that peace through strength, and you, our military, are the providers of that strength. Most importantly of all, you are not wagers of wars, but keepers of the peace."

What he said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Project "X"

Tonight, in keeping with the rest of the un-welcome change that seems to be ever present these days, the NHK TV show "Project X" had its last broadcast.



Project X is a weekly documentary show on NHK that documents achievements by everyday Japanese, or groups of Japanese. Its been on a 6 year run which just happens to correspond to the length of time I've been here. So you'll forgive me if I take the show's cancellation as a bad omen.

The S.O. likes the show and she introduced me to it, because I liked the show's catchy theme song. Sung by Miyuki Nakajima (中島みゆきーさん)the song: Chijyo no Hoshii (地上の星、Star above the earth), is a great song and quite inspirational. You can download the song here.



Miyuki Nakajima


By the time it gets to the chorus (つばめよ高い空から教えてよ 地上の星を!Swallow (as in bird) from the sky high above, teach me, star above the ground) your feet are tapping and you are all pumped up. The ending tune ( also by Ms Nakajima) , Headlight Tailight is pretty good and a sad, but hopeful tune. (ヘードライート、タイールライート、 旅は まだ終わらない、Headlight, tailight, the journey is still not over) .

Its a little above my comprehension level (a lot actually) in Japanese, so I have to stay glued to the S.O. and my electronic dictionary to understand it all. Nonetheless, the subjects are all folks who otherwise would get short shrift in the history books. They put the show together in an interesting fashion and try, as best they can to turn these construction and other achievements into something very dramatic. Oftentimes they succeed, mainly due to the narration of Tomoru Taguchi(田口トモラル), personal interviews and flashbacks, as well as clever use of popular background music, much of it from American movies. Some examples of the stories they told are of the man who invented VHS tape for JVC, the struggle to build the underwater tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido, the story of a famous chef at the Imperial Hotel, the first Japanese to get to the South Pole and the struggles Mazda had to win on the racing circuit. As you can guess its focused on Japanese progress and development since the war. I think that is the shows underlying message, kind of parochial: that Japan has hope for the future and ordinary Japanese are accomplishing great things.

The program has been broadcast in 18 countries in the native language including Iraq, garnering the following comment from the Japanese foreign minister:
The "Project X" series, which has been aired by 23 TV stations in 18 countries, has been very well received. It is expected that the Japanese businessmen depicted in the program, who succeed in their projects by overcoming difficulties, will encourage the people of Iraq who are putting effort into the reconstruction of the nation.

Somehow I doubt that the new show, Professionals: Their Style will be the same.

In the meanwhile, back to work on getting my show renewed for another season! More to follow. Stay tuned to this blog for all the latest developments.................

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Winter Golf

I hope every one had a great Christmas and that Santa brought each of you something you wanted. I got what I wanted mainly because I had to pick it out myself. Some of the spirit of the occasion came rushing out of my sails when the S.O. asked if I had receipts for all the gifts I bought her.............

Me: "Yes, but you cannot see them. Then you will know how much I spent on them."

Her: " But I will need the receipts to take the gifts back..........I can just keep the money......."

Me: " No you can't, the refund goes back to MY credit card....." (Thinking that I should have just gone to a bar instead of Christmas shopping at this point....)

Her: "Oh".

I believe this is what is known in the language of computer programmers as a "Do-loop"...... It does, however, re-affirm my basic theory that the instincts of the female of the species are the same; regardless of point of origin.........

Did get the obligatory phone calls done and had a good time making dinner for the S.O.'s Japanese friends who came over for Christmas dinner. One of them, Akemi, speaks no English. So dinner was an interesting exercise in concentration to understand the women as they talked increasingly faster in Japanese. I must be making progress on that score however, as I understood most of the conversation. They all liked my honey mustard ham though, so the dinner can be considered a success.

Yesterday, suited up with long johns, sweaters, corduroy pants and my golf shoes and went out to play my first full round of golf in about 3 weeks. Winter golf is both a good and a bad thing. Once dressed properly with layers and layers, its really not so bad. The dilemma of course is what do with one's hands, since I find winter golf gloves to be too thick to give me the control I want. Opted for a summer glover instead and kept my hands in my pockets at other times. Worked OK and thanks to that "winter roll" the ball gets, I actually had a decent score for a change. Actually not a bad way to spend the day. After all things could be worse:




Actually, my Christmas was too low key; I could have used a couple of more Yuletide parties. It seems however, with the passage of time, as if I will be spending the perfect Christmas the way that Hemlock does:
It’s that day again – the day every year when the Journal publishes its immensely tiresome In Hoc Anno Domini editorial, penned in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster, frequent winner of the Conservative Journalist Who Most Sounds Like A Seafood Chowder Award during the Cold War era. When I first read it (15 years ago?) I was impressed. But its quasi-Biblical style gets more wearisomely pious with each reading. On a brighter media note, The Economist’s annual double issue – the ultimate brain candy – came out yesterday. All I need is that, a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, a selection of chocolate, marzipan, crystallized fruit and real lokum with cardamom and nuts, and a warm cave where no-one can find me – and my Christmas is complete.

I agree with him about the editorial by the way, it does become wearisome after the 15th or 20th reading........

Finally, courtesy of John Cole, its the time of year for the holiday of Festivus:

The annual airing of the grievances!.

John has particularly summed up mine especially concerning organizations that just break your heart: The Democratic party, The Steelers and the Pirates...........

Ja ne!




Sunday, December 25, 2005

The reason for the season.

I did something very uncharacteristic last night. I left the S.O. to go to bed, while I went to Midnight Mass. That's remarkable for me because: a) I'm not Catholic and b) the last time I was in this church was for a memorial service some 10 months ago. Amazingly, the building remained standing, although the surprise I am sure, was great.

I spent too long sitting through southern Methodist and southern Baptist protestant services to convert to Catholicism, however I have genuine respect for the Mass and find it to be more comfortable for me. I like to think that the Mass is interactive worship, you don't just go and sit through the sermon the way one does in Protestant churches. The minister has enough things to scold me for, to be sure, but I was not in the mood. I just wanted to stare up at the cross and pray for guidance and help. For friends, for myself. I believe firmly that God heard these prayers, now whether He chooses to take notice of them is another matter--and solely up to Him.

The Mass ended, I walked home in the cold night air. There was not a cloud in the sky, which is even more amazing when one considers that it has snowed just about every where in Japan except the Kanto plain this week. It was cold but a really beautiful night. Could not really resolve anything on the walk either, except whatever is going to come this coming year, I'll just have to deal with, one way or another.

Perhaps it was just such a night 2000 years ago:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Luke 2:2 ([And] this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

Luke 2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

Luke 2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Luke 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:12 And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Specials

Merry Christmas everyone!

It's Christmas eve here, evening time to be exact. In true procrastinators form, I did the last of my Christmas shopping today, 24 December, probably paying more than I should have for the S.O.'s big gift ( A Yamashita 9.75mm pearl pendant.....). She better like it! Certainly I payed enough for it.

Also, in a means only a woman can engineer, I paid for my Christmas gift from the S.O.; a home theater system. Since I can shop at the exchange, and they had a 100 dollar off special on the system, I bought it on the promise from the S.O. that she would give me the money equal to the value of the gift. Me, I would be just as happy if I could get the gift in trade...;-) , but I don't think the S.O. is going to give it up in the quantity required...sigh.. ;-0 .

I did, however, watch something unique today. On NHK this afternoon they had "Rudoplh the Red Nose Reindeer" animation special. Its the original from 1965 dubbed in Japanese. I watched it as good Japanese listening practice, plus I did not have to struggle with the translation so much, since I have seen this show probably 30+ times in my life. Nonetheless some of the Japanese interpretations were interesting. For example, the song "We are Santa's Elves" was translated as 私たちは サーンターサンの好きな人。( "We are the people santa likes" ). "Bumbles bounce" was translated as "Bumble jump!" . Not quite the same, methinks.

That got me thinking about why it has been so hard for me to get into a Christmasy spirit this season. Part of has to deal with worry about the future and what do with: my job, the S.O., and where to live., However, more of it has to do with the lack of change from the normal everyday routine. The TV Christmas specials have something to do with that I think. Usually during a "normal" Christmas season I will (try to) watch:

Its a Wonderful Life ( several times...at least until the little bastards at TBS bought the rights!)
A Christmas Story
White Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Grinch who Stole Christmas ( Cartoon version, not the crass movie ripoff!)
Rudolph
Miracle on 34th Street ( the original B&W version, although the remake is not too bad.......this movie is also known as the story of my sex life!)
Donovan's Reef (Don't ask me why this is here, I just like it!)
Holiday Inn
The Santa Clause.........(just the original, not the useless sequel)
About Last Night...( No Christmas connection here, just an excuse to watch....Unless you count Jim Belushi walking through the snow saying, 'Tits and ass, Tit's and ass, bonnie blue, bonnie blue, bonnie blue!')


Which one is the best? That's easy. A Christmas Story is without a doubt my favorite Christmas movie. The story is well told, tastefully done, genuinely funny, and original. While most folks focus on the "BB gun" piece of the story, for me it is the description of the boy's father ( "My old man was the connoisseur of using the "F" word"; " Over the years I got taste many kinds of soap in my mouth, I found Palmolive to be the best...." .

They don't write stuff like that anymore. I sure wish they did..............

Merry Christmas!
Froliche Weinachten!
お楽しみクリステーマス!

Be careful out there!...........




And of course its good to be at the top:


Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Cheer....beer and babes!

Its the holiday weekend! Today was the emperor's birthday, a national holiday here in Japan lots of people out and about. Known as Tenno no tanjobi (天皇誕生日 ) it is one of 2 times in the year that folks can get into the imperial grounds. Yesterday was freezing but folks still came out..

Even Santa came to pay his respects:





Of course it was freezing out side so after the emperor made his brief 3 minute appearance there was a need for these:




And perhaps later on that evening, a chance to retire and open "presents":


Thursday, December 22, 2005

It's about time.........

One of the great moments in Navy history was the "Revolt of the Admirals". A long time ago and a galaxy far away, another stubborn President and a "transformational" Secretary of Defense were also seeking to emasculate the Armed Services because of devotion to a flawed idea:

The Revolt of the Admirals offers the modern officer an opportunity to study the elements of true character. Others in the incident likewise decided that there were matters of principle more important than their careers. Leader of the charge was ADM Arthur Radford, who at the time was Commander in Chief, Pacific. CAPT Arleigh Burke, certain that he would not be selected for flag rank despite his invaluable wartime service, headed up Radford's Washington office. Concurrently, President Harry S (The Buck Stops Here) Truman's Secretary of Defense, Louis Johnson, canceled the carrier United States (CV-58), whose keel had just been laid. Secretary of the Navy John Sullivan then resigned in protest and soon afterward Chief of Naval Operations ADM Louis E. Denfeld was fired summarily for his stubborn support of Radford and Burke. The whole sordid affair shook the Navy, but junior officers in the Navy took heart from the positive aspects of the blood bath, for they knew that their leadership had the courage to stand up and be counted when it mattered. The actions by our Navy's leaders were truly examples of character and superb leadership. There are many others such as this over the years, but the Revolt of the Admirals stands as key in my time. -RADM Jigdog Ramage speaking in the Tailhook magazine.


Now here in the world of Rumsfeld it looks as if the professionals may have had enough. From the Washingotn Post:

Washington Post
December 21, 2005
Pg. 31

Revolt Of The Professionals

By David Ignatius

The national security structure that the Bush administration created after Sept. 11, 2001, began to crumble this month because of a bipartisan revolt on Capitol Hill. Newly emboldened legislators forced the administration to accept new rules for the interrogation of prisoners, delayed renewal of the Patriot Act and demanded an investigation of warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

President Bush has bristled at these challenges to his authority over what has amounted to an undeclared national state of emergency. But the intelligence professionals who have daily responsibility for waging the war against terrorism don't seem particularly surprised or unhappy to see the emergency structure in trouble. They want clear rules and public support that will allow them to do their jobs effectively over the long haul, without getting second-guessed or jerked around by politicians. Basically, they don't want to be left holding the bag -- which this nation has too often done with its professional military and intelligence officers.

I met this week with a senior intelligence official who has spent much of his career pursuing terrorist targets. I asked him what he thought, watching the emergency structure come down around him. "We all knew it would," he said. The interim structure was inherently unsustainable. But he noted that the very fact that the nation is debating rules for interrogation and surveillance of suspected terrorists demonstrates the success the intelligence agencies have had since Sept. 11 in disrupting attacks.

The civil liberties debate is indeed a welcome sign that we are returning to normality. We wouldn't be anguishing over these issues if terrorists were continuing to fly airplanes into our skyscrapers. As we learned after Sept. 11, a frightened nation loses its sense of balance. Now that the nation feels more secure, we insist anew on the rule of law. Presidents may claim extraordinary powers in times of crisis (and Bush is hardly the first), but the checks and balances inherent in our system push us back toward the center line drawn by the Founders.

One little-noted factor in this re-balancing is what I would call "the officers' revolt" -- and by that I mean both military generals in uniform and intelligence officers at the CIA, the NSA and other agencies. There has been growing uneasiness among these national security professionals at some of what they have been asked to do, and at the seeming unconcern among civilian leaders at the Pentagon and the CIA for the consequences of administration decisions.

The quiet revolt of the generals at the Pentagon is a big reason U.S. policy in Iraq has been changing, far more than Bush's stay-the-course speeches might suggest. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is deeply unpopular with senior military officers. They complain privately about a management style that has stretched the military to the breaking point in Iraq. For months they have been working out details of troop reductions next year in Iraq -- not just because such action will keep the Army and Marine Corps from cracking but because they think a smaller footprint will be more effective in stabilizing the country.

A similar revolt is evident at the CIA. Professional intelligence officers are furious at the politicized leadership brought to the agency by ex-congressman Porter Goss and his retinue of former congressional staffers. Their mismanagement has peeled away a generation of senior management in the CIA's Directorate of Operations who have resigned, transferred or signaled their intention to quit when their current tours are up. Many of those who remain are trying to keep their heads down until the current wave of political jockeying and reorganization is over -- which is the last thing you would want at an effective intelligence agency.

The CIA, like the military, wants clear and sustainable rules of engagement. Agency employees don't want their careers ruined by future congressional or legal investigations of actions they thought were authorized. Unhappiness within the CIA about fuzzy rules on interrogation, and the risk of getting clobbered after the fact for doing your job, was a secret driver for Sen. John McCain's push for a new law banning cruel interrogation techniques.

President Bush needs to do what he so often talks about, which is to provide strong leadership. In place of the post-Sept. 11 emergency structure, the country needs clear rules that Congress can debate and finally endorse. It may be, for example, that the NSA does need more agile and more flexible techniques for wiretapping suspected terrorists, like those the president secretly imposed in 2001. If so, it's time to amend our laws. Framing clear rules that meet traditional American legal standards is a sign of the nation's recovery from Sept. 11 -- and it's a process that will serve, above all, the professionals fighting terrorism on the front lines.

One can only hope that this is the case..........

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Where it all (could) lead to..........

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."--Benjamin Franklin

Here we go again! All the usual suspects are present. On the one side are the President and his supporters spouting the line that they had to do this, that we live in a new era and the need is too great to observe the normal legal propriety.....and oh by the way, just wait till we find the little bastard that leaked this.....

Bush mounted a vigorous defense of his order authorizing warrantless eavesdropping on overseas telephone calls and e-mail of U.S. citizens with suspected ties to terrorists. He contended that his "obligation to protect you" against attack justified a circumvention of the traditional process in a fast-moving, high-tech battle with a shadowy enemy.

"This is a different era, a different war," the president said at a year-end news conference in the East Room. "People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this . . . requires quick action." ........ While generally relaxed and sometimes joking, Bush grew testy when asked if he is presiding over the expansion of "unchecked power" by the executive branch. "To say 'unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject," he responded sharply, waving his finger. Asked what limits he sees on a president's power in a time of war, Bush said a few key congressional leaders were briefed on the domestic spying program and his administration reviews its own actions periodically. "I just described limits on this particular program," he said. "That's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do, and at the same time safeguarding the civil liberties of the country."


On the other side are the civil libertarians, or so they claim. If however, there were a democratic president at the podium they would be loudly supporting him and in my opinion Hillary Clinton would be just as likely to tap phone lines as George Bush is...(especially her husband's....). However they make some great points about the potential implications of this (ab)use of presidential power:

Voicing "grave doubts" over the legality of the National Security Agency program, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he will conduct hearings next month on the issue. To rebut suggestions of congressional acquiescence, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) released a handwritten letter he secretly sent Vice President Cheney in July 2003 objecting to the program.

The dispute further fueled the debate over the USA Patriot Act, the measure bolstering the powers of law enforcement agencies that was passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Senate yesterday again failed to muster the votes to end Democrat-led efforts to block legislation renewing the law, which expires Dec. 31. Bush angrily branded the filibuster "inexcusable" three times at his news conference but refused to accept a temporary extension.


I think that George Bush truly believes that he is acting in the best interests of the American people and that the taps will only be limited to acting against terrorist subjects and not folks (like me) who want to arrange a tryst with my big breasted neighbor. I also can assume given his management style, that he is not actively involved in choosing the targets of the surveillance, so what his minions choose to do is an important question.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions they say, and however well intentioned the President's motives are, this course of action is full of peril. I do not know who is right here, but I do know that the very fact that we are accepting of this type of behavior means that we are strarting down the slippery slope to ....who knows where.

One potential destination was documented about 15 years ago in Parameters, the magazine of the Army War College. I thought about that article this weekend when the news first broke. I read it in 1992, when seeking solace while working for a psychopath, I took to spending long lunch hours over at the Armed Forces Staff College library. The article is by Charles Dunlap and postures how a military coup of the United States could occur.

Go here to read about The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012.

Nonsense you say? Read the article closely and you will see that many of Mr Dunlap's suggestions have come true in a fashion, particularly the acceptance of using the military for all kinds of non military, non traditional missions. His comments on the growing isolation of the service culture from American society in general hit home now, as well. For the character of General Brutus, simply substitute the name Clark ( Wesley or Vern, does not really matter which) and see if a chill does not run down your spine.

Bush may mean well, but what about the next guy... or God forbid, his own Vice President?

Skippy-san

P.S. If you don't like my view, Professor Bainbridge offers some other reasons why this type of domestic surveillance is a really bad thing.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I could have told you that!

Took another one of those Blog quizes today thanks to Bothenook. They did not have anything better that appealed to the pruient interest so:

You're a Freaky Kisser

When you kiss, you want to experience something new
A new technique, a new partner, a new piercing...
And your own personal kissing style is very unpredictable
There's no saying where your tongue or hands will go
What Kind of Kisser Are You?


And speaking of kissing, here's a kiss I'm sure you don't see every day in Beijing, courtesy of Battlepanda:

Can you come up with a good caption for this?


Monday, December 19, 2005

For Lex's sister Ann.........

Repeat this to yourself

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant Ann, for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon her with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; preserve her from the temptations of the enemy; and give her patience under her affliction. In thy good time, restore her to health, and enable her to lead the residue of her life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally she may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


No arguing now, just do it. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, "O Lord, you are God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; (WEB)"

Sharp as a bowling ball.........

Time Magazine that is............

With all that is happening in the world this year, you know those minor things like the war, a couple of HUGE earthquakes, the Tsunami, some major upheavals in foreign policy; they decide that Bono and Bill Gates are the most important people on the planet?

There is only one correct response to that:


What in the hell were they thinking?


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Those damn details.........

18 hours of sleep is a wonderful thing ( although non- continuous). Spent this morning catching up on the news and also checking on paying some bills and figuring out when the ex will hit me up with a new bill.........

The news is interesting to say the least. First and foremost is the Iraqi election, hailed as a triumph for democracy in Iraq and further proof that Administration policy in Iraq is on the right track. Even some of the so-called liberal main stream media are reporting it as such. You'll forgive me if I restrain my enthusiasm for a while longer. Yes the Iraqis have voted, however we still do not know the results of said election, and whether the forces of Islamic moderation or extremism have been enabled in Wiemar Iraq. Furthermore the election really only has meaning to me for one thing: That perhaps finally, we can look a bit closer to the day that America quits that hell hole brings its troops out and back to more reasonable pursuits. As I pointed out earlier , and James Fallows has well documented, the election in and of itself may not exactly be the milestone we hope. The Iraqi Army still has a hell of a long way to go to "Stand up, so we can stand down". Richard over at Peking Duck has an interesting summary:


There comes a point when all you can feel about Iraq is cynicism and pessimism. It will take more than a feel-good photo-op to turn that around, especially after we've seen so many in the past few years. Remember the big "handover," which so many were touting as the dawn
of a new day for Iraq? Remember the ecstasy over the last election, when the photos of the purple-fingered Iraqis were touted as prof of some sort of triumph? Remember how many times we were told victory was "around the corner," freedom was "on the march" and the "backbone of the insurgency" was broken? (Hell, anyone remember the Mission Accomplished banner?).


Each cause for buoyant optimism was soon (very soon) quashed by more death and more mayhem. Today it might be different; perhaps today really is the moment we've all been waiting for, the dawn of a new day. But remember, this whole exercise was not about giving people the right to vote. It was about protecting America from terrorism. Every step of the way, we've been lied to and disappointed, made increasingly cynical and skeptical. The cause for the war morphed from protection against imaginary mushroom clouds and looming stockpiles to one of liberty and freedom. Those are lofty ideals and beautiful things, but America doesn't go to war to give people the right to vote. If we did, we'd have invaded China and North Korea and Saudi Arabia long ago.
This, of course, violates the mil-blogger party line and I am sure I will be pounced on by other folks, but Richard's sentiments are also very close to mine. I only care about success in Iraq in the context of how it gets American troops out of an occupation that was, in the words of a colleague, the wrong war at the wrong time. I just want to get this little adventure over and done with . I'm glad that John Murtha spoke out because he is at least provoking the correct debate, and I believe he simply took a position that was 180 degrees opposed to Bush to get that discussion out in the open. For that he is derided as a surrender monkey and a "cut and run opportunist". Based on the latest polling data, his actual stated position (vice what people say he said) is in line with the American people:

In the poll, when people were asked in an open-ended question the main reason the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq, 32 percent said to stabilize the country and 26 percent said to finish the rebuilding job under way. Only one in 10 said they wanted to stay in Iraq to fight terrorism; just 3 percent said to protect U.S. national security. "You've got to finish the job," said Terry Waterman, a store manager from Superior, Wis. The whole world is looking to us for leadership. We can't have another Vietnam."
Other recent polling has found that when given additional options, many people favor a step somewhere in between having troops leave immediately and staying until the country is stabilized.
Some 49 percent of Americans now say the war with Iraq was a mistake, according to the poll of 1,006 adults conducted Tuesday through Thursday. That compares with 53 percent in August. Two years ago, only 34 percent of those surveyed said the war was a mistake.
"Whether the war is a mistake is less relevant than what we should do now," said John McAdams, a political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee. "A fair number of people may think it's a mistake, but still don't want to lose."

Which, if you carefully parse what Murtha said, is the point he was making. He also did not want the malevolent CEO's running DOD to use up America's greatest asset, its military, by mortgaging its future. Troop rotations at the current rate will burn the folks out, despite Rummy's denials to the contrary, or his continuing refusal to acknowledge that they are doing more with less and will have to make do with even less in the future ( at least if they are in any service but the Army.........). Murtha is hearing that from his Constituents and from sources inside DOD. His only crime was believing them, and not Rumsfeld.

What about the soldiers on the ground? The repeated disconnect between what they believe and what is reported in the press? That's a legitimate question and one the the Commander of Central Command has taken on board. He points out:

He is amazed as he goes around the country and testifies before the Congress how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform (of our Armed Forces). He said that the questions he gets from some in Congress convince him that they have the idea hat we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground. As he goes around the region and talks to troops and junior officers he is very impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy. You will never see a headline in this country about a school opening or a power station being built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things will get coverage in the media.

He told the mid-grade/senior officers to go to their local Lions Clubs when they go home and tell the people what they are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening.The insurgency is in four of 18 provinces in Iraq, not all 18. You do not hear about the 14 provinces where there is no insurgency and where things are going well. The insurgency in Afghanistan is primarily in Kandahar province (home of the Taliban) and in the mountain region on the Pakistani border. The rest of the country is doing well.Iraq now has 200,000 soldiers/police under arms and growing. They are starting to eclipse the US/coalition forces. Their casualty rate is more than double that of the US. There are more than 70,000 soldiers under the moderate government in Afghanistan and growing.

He predicted that the insurgencies in the four Sunni provinces in northern/central Iraq and in Southwestern Afghanistan will be there for the foreseeable future, but they will be stabilized and become small enough so the moderate governments will be able to keep them under control. 2006 will be a transition year in Iraq and that will see the Iraqi forces take much more of the mission from the US forces. This is necessary to bring stability to Iraq. We need to be fewer in numbers and less in the midst of the people for the moderate Iraqi government to succeed.


And so the conversation continues.

Now you might ask, "Hey Skippy, why are you so damn negative? He's the commander, you might ask, doesn't he know what he is talking about?"

To which I would reply, "Yes he does, but in the end its the details that are not said that really count."

Because both Richard and Gen Abazid are not incorrect in their data, proving only that objective analysis still counts for something and is an art that is being rapidly lost within the military.

First, it is probably useful to look at a map and ask some questions about the 4 out of 18 provinces statement:

It is true, as U.S. officials often point out, that the violence is confined mainly to four of Iraq's eighteen provinces. But these four provinces contain the nation's capital and just under half its people.

Lets look at the population density map:




Now lets look at the map of attacks in the past year. Notice how they match the population density pretty closely ?

And then finally, lets not take the 200,000 number at face value but dig down a little closer shall we? Here is what one finds(from Fallows data):

Most assessments from outside the administration have been far more downbeat than Rumsfeld's. Time and again since the training effort began, inspection teams from Congress, the Government accountability Office (GAO), think tanks, and the military itself have visited Iraq and come to the same conclusion: the readiness of many Iraqi units is low, their loyalty and morale are questionable, regional and ethnic divisions are sharp, their reported numbers overstate their real effectiveness.The numbers are at best imperfect measures. Early this year the American-led training command shifted its emphasis from simple head counts of Iraqi troops to an assessment of unit readiness based on a four-part classification scheme. Level 1, the highest, was for "fully capable" units those that could plan, execute, and maintain counterinsurgency operations with no help whatsoever. Last summer Pentagon officials said that three Iraqi units, out of a total of 115 police and army battalions, hadreached this level. In September the U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army General George Casey, lowered that estimate to one.Level 2 was for "capable" units, which can fight against insurgents as long as the United States provides operational assistance (air support, logistics, communications, and so on). Marine General Peter Pace, who is now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last summer that just under onethird of Iraqi army units had reached this level. A few more had by fall. Level 3, or "partially capable" units, included those that could provide extra manpower in efforts planned, led, supplied, and sustained by Americans. The remaining two thirds of Iraqi army units, and half the police, were in this category. Level 4, "incapable" units, were those that were of no helpwhatsoever in fighting the insurgency. Half of all police units were so classified. In short, if American troops disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would have essentially no independent security force. Half its policemen would beconsidered worthless, and the other half would depend on external help for organization, direction, support. Two thirds of the army would be in the same dependent position, and even the better-prepared one third would suffersignificant limitations without foreign help. The moment when Iraqis can lift much of the burden from American troops is not yet in sight.

It's those details that get you every time. That's one thing I've learned working for the government............ Remember that when the president talks tonight............

Skippy-san

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Down for the count

All that airline travel must have caught up with me...... Took the S.O. to the Christmas party last night. Things were going well when, about 9:30 pm, my stomach felt like someone was using a thigh master on it and squeezing hard. I realized after a while this was not going away and this suit was expensive. Told the S.O. she could stay if she wanted to, but I have to go home............

Spent the next 24 hours either asleep or in the shuttle mode between the bedroom and another room appointed with porcelain. Feeling a little better now, but have ingested nothing but soup and crackers.

I suspect this is a combination of flu and worrying over future life decisions. Somehow I liked it better perhaps when these things were decided on high and one simply went where instructed............

With better health, better posts. Till then, gurgle gurgle gurgle............

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Welfare State-Part II

Made it yesterday. I literally had to imitate OJ ( by running through the airport, NOT by killing my (ex)wife.......), and I made it on the plane to Tokyo with 5 minutes to spare. Now I am back in Japan and back at work.

Today was our Secret Santa gift giving and we had some other fun and games going on. However it seemed that when it came time to pass out gifts more than a couple of people did not get any. Later, when I asked why, they said that some people just did not want to participate and thought it was too much money......

WTF?

Cheap, chincy bastards. Who the f**k can't spend 1-10 dollars on a gift for a co-worker? Hell, if it is that much of an inconvenience , I'll loan you the fiver, you sick, pathetic, excuses for humanity, you.

Now mind you, some of these same people are folks who have few expenses, live on base, and very seldom venture out. So I cannot believe that somehow participating in a gift exchange is such a big deal. They are also the same people who cannot attend command events because they do not want to pay for a sitter or, God forbid, miss an English class (Teaching one, not learning the grammar they seemed to have missed the first time around in school) and make a 50 dollars or so. That got me back to thinking about Mark's comments earlier about the Welfare State.

There is definitely an "entitlement mentality" over here. Lately I have seen some examples that are just hideous:

a) Person comes back from 2 weeks TAD, then after only 4 days at work takes off for 2 weeks leave. Then comes back and asks for more........

b) Guy gets his mother in law sponsored as his dependent. Mom in law gets a job, then quits it 4 weeks before dependency recertification is due............. only to go back to work as soon as they get the recertification.

c) Command sponsored dependent who gets in a fight out in town putting a Japanese national in the hospital. Sponsor cries foul when he and his entire family are de-screened and sent back home. " Why are you punishing my kid, all he did was get into a fight!" ----Yea, well that is kind of the whole point............

d) Guy who volunteered to sponsor folks, then worked with his sponsoree and other folks sponsorees to be the one who sold them a car. Turns out the guy was buying used cars, storing them off base then selling them at a profit to new arrivals............

e) Folks who time their apartment searches to the very end so they can get the very last drop of transient living expenses.

These are a few of the things that just make me furious. 80% of the people overseas, do the right thing, play by the rules and participate in the base community. 20% wreck it for others by being greedy. They can't be thankful for what they have, they have to try to milk more out of it.....


"We aren't saving enough out of our COLA so I can buy that step tansu I want. Why don't you moonlight for a while on the Dark Side? Palpatine does it and look at all the money he has.....!!!!!"

Not a rational post I know, but sometimes there are things that just piss me off. This is one. Thank you for listening...........Rational thought will return tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Here we go again!!!

Some quick, stuck in the airport blogging.

Got the airport in a hurry because I was running slightly late. Turns out I could have slept in, since United cancelled my flight and now I am waiting for a later one. The whole thing is made even more exciting, by the prospect of having to race for plane to Tokyo when I finally do get to SFO. If I miss the plane, well, congratulations, I'll be walking around downtown Burlingame methinks. Won' bother me so much except our office Christmas party is Friday. If I miss that, S.O. won't be happy since she likes those parties and looks pretty good when she puts the dog on.

Sitting in the lounge listening to someone doing a job interview. Since the prospect of having to change employers could loom on my horizon in the coming year ( restructuring could make my little good deal go away here..........) I've been trying to discretely not stare and take some mental notes. The interviewer sounded like a headhunter. He seemed very sure of himself. Makes me wonder about how well I can really fit into corporate America. I need to win the lottery and write my Hemingway style novel.

I'm tired. Still could not sleep so well last night. Laid on the bed and woke up and fell back asleep at various intervals.............Travel seems to affect me more these days, but oh how I love it so........

One finally cup of coffee then gird up for the airport dash!

Ja ne...........

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Note to self.........

Try not to do the whole Singapore to USA trip in one day............

Actually it was not too bad until I got to Destination USA. There I had to go through what I call the rental car shuffle...........

It always seems that the company they use for rental cars, the van never comes. Then it took over an hour to get the car. This after 20+ hours in airplanes.

Next time I'm just booking my own.......

Still trying to get my brain adjusted, have been sleeping off and on and watching bad TV, including the President compare Japanese Democracy to Iraqi democracy. There is no compariosn and you think he would know that. To begin with the Japanese already had a govermental framework and an Emporer to rally around. Perhaps that is another history tidbit the President did not learn at Yale.

He did sound confident, even if he was confident about the wrong things. Still preaching to the faithful though.

Got to get some sleep.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things that make you go HMMMM!

I am being a lazy slug today. I should be out and about, but for some reason I just don't feel like it. So I sat in Starbucks and read the Straits Times from back to front. If they printed as much news as they did advertisements it would be a good newspaper. I used to get it via e-mail then they had the effrontry to start charging for it.......GRRR!

Anyway........

They have a two page series of articles about Australia's drug problem. This came the day after a large arrest of foreigners involved in drugs. After the row between the two countries over the execution of Nguyen Tuong Van this month , it makes wonder if there is more than journalist curiosity at work here.

Its not the series, its the way it is presented. " Haven for Druggies and taxpayers pay for it. They can shoot heroin here, needles provided" You are then directed into the paper to read about it. It also takes you to a letter from an Austrailian telling the Prime Minister of Singapore that Singapores drug penalties are right on the mark.

I know papers have to attract readers, but this smacks of a campaign to show something else. Obviously one is supposed to draw the conclusion that Singapore is better off than Australia.......

Makes you go hmm.......who is driving the bus on these stories, the paper or someone else?

You can see the article at the Straits Times web site, but you have to have a password.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Interesting day

Good day yesterday, but I really did not do a lot. Started out shopping on Orchard road. Was on track and doing well, but then I came to the Borders books at Wheelock place. That was it, the shopping train went off the tracks at that point. Spent just about an hour and came out S$100 dollars poorer. Ah but oh the things they have to see!

Bought some presents for the S.O.

Looked at DVD's.

Stumbled upon this month's edition of the Atlantic Monthly. Read this issue if you get the chance. They have a pretty good article by James Fallows about why Iraq still does not have an Army and how long it will be to get one. Bottom line up front: we will be stuck there for years, if we mean what we say. A great quote from the article:

"US trainers have made a heroic effort", Ahmed Hashim, an expert at the Naval War Colleg, explains. " But the Iraqi Security Forces are almost like a black hole. You put a lot in and little comes back out".

Great, that's a positive outlook. However the article is pretty good in my opinion. The magazine also has some articles about religion including one called, " Is God an accident?" by Paul Bloom.

As you can probably guess I soon ended up at The Scotsman, a little bar I like here, drinking Tiger Beer and reading.

Oh well, at least it is time away...........

I also read Rumsfeld's speech about how the war is being misreported. Lets just say , I think he missed the point. I for one think the media is actually doing a good job of staying on point. Namely what does this conflict do to benefit the United States. Not Iraq, but the US. Those are two different things.

Some other observations:

Am I the only person who appreciates the irony of the fact that the Thai embassy is next to Orchard Towers?

And Chijmes still rocks!

Got to run and pick up some more stuff.

Oh yes, I also had a first last night. I snored so loud I woke myself up. Hmmm.......

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday beer and babes!

Ok. I've got my self to the state where I can move. Coffee is a wonderful thing! My brain is even capable of reading the Straits Times........Hopeful sign.

I need a few good nights down here as I come to grips with some personal issues. The S.O. has been great by the way, saying that I need to make any decision I need to and no be burdened by what she thinks. Problem is, no matter how hard I try to pretend otherwise, I do really care about what she thinks and I enjoy her company
( for the most part, there are times she drives me nuts!!!!!!!!).

Why is it that things change? I've worked hard to get myself to a state where I am happy and doing what I want....but for some reason it cannot last. Suspect this is going to be a long month while I think this through.

Till then:

Some of these-



And stay away from these!

Ow! Ow! Ow!

Great. Got to Singers last night and got to my hotel about 1 am. A prudent man would have gone straight to bed. I of course am any thing but prudent so you can guess where I went........

Expat at Large has some good advice though. " Hookers are expensive and there are only so many visits to Orchard Towers that your dignity can stand....". Keep repeating this to yourself while you are walking around today Skippy............

Speaking of Expat at Large, for some reason I cannot get his blog to come up. Wonder if it is on the "persona non grata list" in Singapore......Hope not. However all I get so far is a blue back ground......

Despite my hangover feeling this am, got up early hoping to get a jump on things. Its raining hard however! What's up with that? So I am sitting here in an internet cafe, trying to dry out.

Hope is stops soon. I am also watching the News from the Chicago plane crash. I think I now know why people hate Anderson Cooper..........!

More to follow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On the road again!

Out the door tomorrow with a hop and a skip in my stride. Down southways first for a couple of days of shopping in my favorite city, then 18 hours direct to the US. Ho Ho HO! Since this is a trip with just me, I'll be happy! I like to travel by myself, especially when there is no one to criticize where I go or how many beers I have..........

Got to do some Christmas shopping though.

Watched the news about the Saddam trial today. Here is a shot of him and his defense team in action:



Its about as ludicrous........I'm not sure which or more painful, watching that or Howard Dean blow opportunity after opportunity.......Shoot em both and look for new.......

Out the door!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Isn't that what concubines are for....?

Another reason to hate the modern era..............

In the good old days if there was no male heir to the throne, one would simply recruit a couple of these to service his majesty:



Through which, one could preserve the imperial line from that which the standard course of events had failed to provide.......

Now we are left with meager legislation and no pruient interest....:
The Japanese government will submit a bill to allow women to assume the imperial throne in the parliamentary session starting in January, a top official said Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said a 15-member team had been established to work on the legislation, which he said would mirror a recent report by a special panel on the issue.

"We are making preparations to hand in the bill," he told reporters.

The panel last week recommended revising Japanese law to give an emperor's first-born child of either sex the right to head the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.

The revision, if approved, is expected to make Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako's only child Aiko — who celebrated her 4th birthday Thursday — second in line to the throne, behind her father.
Where is the fun in that! Prince Tomohito hit the nail on the head when he said:

"Using concubines, like we used to, is also an option," he said. "I'm all for it, but this might be a little difficult considering the social climate in and outside the country."

I'm sure there are no shortage of groupies volunteers who would do their patriotic duty........

Monday, December 05, 2005

A simple question with no simple answer........

Dan Froomkin of the Washington post asks an interesting question:

When was the last time that Bush spoke in a forum open to citizens who are representative of the diverse array of views in the country?

And before anyone beats me up, I know that the military audiences he has spoken in front of are diverse. They are also required to be present and for the most part, don't require the type of passionate persuasion that say, members of Congress do.

I'm not setting out here to debate the merits of what has been in Bush's speeches of late. I am simply returning to a persistent question that has been in my mind. Namely, since much of the current "should I stay or should I go" distress originated with the Congress, why does not the President take his message straight to them and to the people. Surely the dynamic of a sitting president, confronting his Congressional critics directly would have a hell of a lot more image value than an address in front of a scripted stage event, such as occurred last week at the Naval Academy.

Look at some of these recent examples of Bush speaking in a controlled environment:

Bush [gave] a speech on the war on terror -- at the United States Naval Academy. Then he attends a reception for Republican party donors.
[The day before], he visits a U.S. Border Patrol office, then attends a Republican fundraising lunch.

[Two days before], he spoke at an Air Force base and a Republican fundraiser .

Before leaving the country on his recent trip to Asia, Bush made one last
speech -- at an Air Force base in Alaska. A few days before that, he spoke at an Army depot in Pennsylvania. When he delivered a speech on Nov. 1 about bird flu, it was to an audience of National Institutes of Health employees.

The best chance ordinary citizens have had in ages to be anywhere near the president comes [last]Thursday at 5 p.m., when the Bushes participate in the Pageant of Peace tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse. But it won't exactly be a policy speech -- and anyway, tickets to that event were distributed [over] three weeks ago.

I don't understand it. It would seem to me that President Bush has nothing to lose by addressing a joint session of Congress and then hammering his point home through a couple of rough and tumble press conferences, followed by some big speeches in non-traditional settings. He's already won re-election. His approval can't get any lower , and he might not have to drag his audiences in 4 hours before hand to catch up on some needed shut-eye:



Does prove the value of military training though. Always grab an opportunity to get some zzz's, you never know when it may come again! Just like the old liberty rule: "Always eat before you leave the ship, you never know when you'll eat a meal again......"

I've asked the question before and I'll probably ask it again.......Nonetheless, enquiring minds want to know. When ?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

All is well that ends well.......

NAVY-42
ARMY-23

Yes its a good day! I was going to get up for the game, but when the alarm went off, the S.O. draped an arm around me, we pulled the blankets closer and I said to myself, "Nothing happens in the first quarter anyway, just few more warm minutes here in bed....". Next thing I knew it was 8:45 am----Hope somebody taped it!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The one day of the year I can.......

Root for or be sympathetic to the US Naval Academy. That's right, its Army Navy game day. (0430 AM Sunday Japan Standard Time.......Maybe I'll get up for it...).

Since I had what I consider to be a proper military education; at a "true" Military College ( all male and with a true cadet "system".), I have a love / hate relationship with the service Academies. Especially the US Naval Academy, since I turned down an appointment there, in order to attend my beloved alma mater. It's a decision I have never regretted.

It's not that the service academies are not still good colleges, its just that they stopped being true military academies a long time ago. The decay began in 1976 when they admitted women, and accelerated in the 1990's and early years of this decade as other scandals and issues overtook them. As a result, they have the symbols of an proud and storied institution, but none of the substance.

However, today is the day to put those major imperfections aside and root for the Brigade of midshipmen and their team. Army Navy is probably the last real representation of what college sports competition is supposed to be, but has ceased to be. The big universities are simply training grounds for the pros, and small colleges never get the recognition they should in Football ( Basketball is a slightly different story).

The players who take the field for the Army Navy game though, will not be on their way to the pro's though, at least not as in pro football. They will spend a minimum of 5 years, most a lot longer and in today's military in an increasingly dangerous environment. So it is really a game that all American, and for that matter the world can watch. And cheer and root for a little honest competition.

Then tomorrow, my usual sniping at them can resume. But for today: GO NAVY!!!!!



Friday, December 02, 2005

Nothing but death.....

After the inauspicious start this morning, things just went down hill from there. This is going to be a depressing post, so if you tuned in looking for happy vibes from moi, you can just stop reading right now.

Received word that an acquaintance and fellow officer from my past life dropped dead of a heart attack a couple of days ago. Guy is was 3 years younger than me. They had just moved to a new house and jobs just a few months ago. Guy was not a smoker or overweight, was in good shape and had every thing to live for. Just shows how unfair life can be. Now his wife has to figure out how to pull her life together and deal with being a widow. Grrr !

And it is also disheartening to see that one of America's noble "democratic" allies, decided that it was necessary to hang a 25 year old man in order to "save face". Lots of commentary in Singapore and other blogs on the subject. Expat at Large has some good commentary. So does Singabloodypore ( a particularly apt name for the city state today), and Xenoboy points out that this execution is not about justice, its about not backing down, with Nguyen Tuong Van as simply the instrument of showing "Singaporean superiority". Hemlock describes it best when he wrote a while back:

Throughout modern history, economic development has led to pressure for the franchise. Singapore is the exception that proves the rule. The Lion City has the world's only lobotomized middle class, its people unaware they have a choice other than to be cowed into compliance. Australia and the Vatican are pleading for the life of one Van Tuong Nguyen, who will hang at Changi Prison in the next few days for being one of the small percentage of dim-witted drug smugglers actually caught. He's just a mule, and killing him will serve no purpose, critics say. They miss the point. He has to die, for the same reason a man selling fireworks in Singapore must be flogged, and a woman shoplifting cosmetics must serve 10 years in prison to condition the population.

And today he wrote:
Why have the death penalty? In the US, the reason is simple- it helps state governors win elections. In Asia, the explanation is more pernicious. It is a way of conditioning people to understand that they are subservient to the state, not the other way round. Nowhere is this
truer than the warped, socialist, authoritarian experiment that is Singapore, where officials are
resisting Australian calls to spare the life of drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, or (full marks to whoever thought of it) at least let his mother hug him.

It is really troublesome because I like the city state so much and feverishly am trying to figure out a way to obtain gainful employment there. Yet, one cannot be blind to the fact that the island is not a real democracy. It produces an orderly state to be sure. But at what cost...........?
And does the punishment really fit the crime?

I stumbled across some really sad blog sites. From the Mudville Gazette comes this link to a blog by a woman widowed by the war in Iraq. As Mrs Greyhawk points out:

She has been blogging about her new life as a widow and single mother. Her Blog is " Learning to Live". I've been reading her since she started her blog in October. I've hesitated in linking her only because it is a personal struggle she is going thru and I did not want to exploit her grief but she shares with us the experience so many of our fallen families are experiencing, and she does it with grace, courage and honor.


There is also a pretty good piece in a recent Time magazine talking about the harsh realities of being a CACO ( casualty assistance officer). Its a sad story, a poignant one, but of course since Time is part of the MSM, I'm not supposed to give them any credit for telling a good story. The article istastefully done and it points out the only fact that really matters about the war in Iraq. Americans are making sacrifices for a bunch of Arabs, who are so wedded to outmoded tribalism and an apostate religion that they will not be near as appreciative as they can or should be.

And while we are on the subject of telling the "good news" about Iraq, or the common complaint of not telling it by the news media, I think Chris Albritton offers the best rejoinder:


So let me get this right: The anti-war left is mad at me because I don't document stuff I didn't see, and I'm supposed to take an Italian documentary's word that chemical weapons were used… (By the way, white phosphorus is as much a chemical weapon as, say, gunpowder is a chemical weapon. Thats not to say it's not horrible, but can you folks stop trying to score rhetorical points over which wounds are more gruesome?) The Marines , well, a Marine is mad at me because I didn't toe the party line and talk up all the cool new democracy busting out.

I think that's about the highest praise a reporter can get. As an old mentor told me, If they're all shooting at you, you must be doing something right.In short, I'm going to sleep well knowing that I didn't follow anyone's agenda but my own which is to tell the best story I can. It's too bad in some ways, though. I guess I won't be invited to any organic juice parties in Berkeley or the new school repainting in
Ramadi.


In other words they are doing the job of a journalist.

Which is getting tougher and tougher in this crazy world. I'm tired of the daily diet of tragedy. Perhaps the early Christians had it right-Maranthra!

One discouraged and frustrated Skippy-san

Kind of woke up now

Ah, you got to love the time difference between the states and here. That way I can get one of my ex-wife's shrieking phone calls at 4 in the morning. The S.O. was less than thrilled about it as was I.

I get one of these about every 6 months or so. Usually it happens when she feels that I have been late fufilling one of the obscene financial slavery obligations that are in the divorce decree. Hell, even a mortgage company allows you a grace period.

So now I will have to contact my attorney , who does nothing for free and figure out what options are available to me. This ought to be one really fun month.

American divorce, its the gift that keeps on giving........


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another great analysis of the war ---from STRATFOR

A friend sent me this in e-mail. Read for your self what ails the Bush Presidency. It is scary how right these folks tend to be in their analysis.... I especiallly like their ideas about what is happening with Europe.......

America Unplugged
By Peter Zeihan

The presidency of George W. Bush is failing.


Love him or hate him, Bush has had the most dramatic international impact of any U.S. president in a generation. But as Bush's fortunes ebb, his ability to control events in Washington and much further afield are fading as well. Geopolitics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and there is no shortage of players hoping to profit from the political equivalent of U.S. self-flagellation.

American Paralysis
In August, we wrote that the United States was beginning to move "Beyond the War on Terrorism." We argued that the United States had achieved the bulk of what it had set out to do in first containing, and then pursuing and dismantling, al Qaeda.

We put forward that Iraq was a central feature of that plan, and that despite the ongoing horrors there, the broad strategic goals that the United States set out to achieve had indeed been accomplished. Saudi Arabia, Syria and -- to a lesser extent -- Iran were all cooperating with the United States in destroying al Qaeda as a strategic threat. The organization's offensive abilities degraded, from the ability to pull off a Sept. 11, 2001, attack that reshaped the world, to a series of metro bombings in London that did not even produce a glimmer of consideration within the U.K. government that policy should change. Terrorism, of course, continued to occur around the world, but its ability to dictate U.S. foreign policy had largely evaporated. All that was left was some hardly insignificant cleanup, and the United States could then get around to the serious work of dealing with the real issues: boxing in China and boxing up Russia.

But Iraq has not flowed gently into epilogue, and the final agreements that seemed so tantalizingly close in August remain elusive. In the interim, the American citizenry has grown weary of the conflict -- in which the number of American dead has now passed 2100 -- and Bush's popularity has suffered as a result.

But the real inflection point of this presidency was not Iraq; rather, it was Hurricane Katrina. Rightly or wrongly, Bush was perceived not just as unprepared for a major hurricane strike, but also as oblivious to the seriousness of the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans. This perception solidified the opposition of the U.S. left, denied the president any help from the American center and cracked the heretofore unified American right. The result was a president in danger of losing his core supporters, without whom no president can effectively rule. Similar circumstances condemned past statesmen such as Wilson, Truman, Johnson and Nixon into the unenviable company of failed presidents.

Since Katrina, the Bush administration's fortunes have only slid further, with three critical defeats standing out most glaringly. First, its primary congressional ally, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been indicted for fundraising improprieties. Second, the administration's efforts to shuttle Harriet Miers into the Supreme Court resulted in a break within the Republican Party. Third, the vice president's chief of staff -- Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- has been indicted for disclosing the status of undercover intelligence officers to the press, a charge that may well be pressed against political mastermind Karl Rove, and perhaps even the vice president himself.

What this amounts to is that the Bush administration has alienated the Republican Party's religious wing and those who value national defense above all else. Between that and the loss of DeLay, the president's star has fallen so far that he can no longer demand meetings with key legislators; he must negotiate for them. His foreign policy agenda is weighed down by the albatross of Iraq, and since congressional Republican leadership is keeping its distance from the president, his legislative agenda has not so much as budged in months.

Even if Bush manages to recover, we are eyeing what will be at least six months of extreme administration weakness. If Bush does not recover, however, stretch that out to until Jan. 20, 2009. A lot can happen in three years.

And, as chance would have it, the United States is not the only power currently facing a crisis of confidence and capabilities.

European Paralysis

The failure of the Dutch and French referendums on the EU constitution during the early summer was more than simply the failure of a vote; it signaled a failure of the very idea of Europe as a supranational entity. Ultimately, the European Union institutions as we know them today are a result of France's efforts to transform the countries of Europe into a platform over which it could rule and from which it could project power. France has always wanted to be able to punch above its weight in the international arena, and Europe was to be its vehicle for achieving that goal.

Yet in May, the French rejected the EU constitution -- and with it, the French vision for Europe.

In large part, the French rejected that vision because they realized it had become unachievable. The other European states were not willing to become French vassals, and once the French realized that they were merely another member in -- and therefore merely another subject of -- European institutions, French nationalism trumped the French desire for French Europeanism. As the union expanded, part of being European came to mean that France does not always get its way. Ultimately, that is something that the French found unacceptable.

And this was hardly the limit of what has gone wrong in Europe recently.

The British enjoy a rebate from the EU budget for the years in which they contribute more to the EU than they receive back (which is every year). The French, who convinced the Germans to back them, are guaranteed a full quarter of all EU agricultural subsidies even though they are among the union's richest members. With the addition of 10 new -- poorer -- states into the EU in 2004, the two standing policies are now in direct financial conflict.

Put another way, for the French to continue to enjoy their gravy train, either the British have to give up their rebate or all those new poor states need to give up some of the EU development funds -- the one part of the EU budget that is actually productive. Family spats over money are always the most vitriolic, and this one has reopened issues about the fundamental nature of the EU as well as discussion over the benefits and problems of enlargements, both past and future.

With the very idea of a European entity with a global reach DOA, the ability of "Europe" to act abroad becomes limited to the capabilities of its constituent powers. And in addition to these powers' lacking Washington's normal reach, they are nearly as politically truncated as the United States.

As France reels from the EU constitution defeat, it now also has to deal with the cultural, political and economic aftermath of three weeks of race riots. The United Kingdom's position on reducing the EU budget has radically reduced its influence within Europe. But more importantly, the Blair government recently lost its first Parliament vote -- typically an early sign that a prime minister is about to attach an "ex-" to his title.

Finally, there is Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has just wrapped up her first full week on the job. The new chancellor has more of a chance than any other European leader to get a fresh start, by seeking a rapprochement with Europe's smaller states as well as the United States. Yet even if she is wildly successful in her foreign relations, and even if her awkward left-right coalition is not sunk by inter- and intra-party bickering, this will still take a great deal of time. No, Europe is as out of the international picture as the United States is for the moment.

Of Absent Cats and Busy, Busy Mice
The result is an unfettered international system.

The world has been gradually sliding toward true unipolarity for the past 15 years. France's view of the European Union was one attempt to stem that evolution, as are China and Russia's on-again, off-again attempts to forge an unwieldy coalition of powers that contains states such as Brazil, India or Iran. Ultimately, however, geographic location dictates that all such attempts will fail.

The European Union could never be a political superpower because the British, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Italians, Dutch, Danes, Swedes and Finns really see no point to letting Paris or Berlin dictate their domestic economic or foreign security policies. The idea of a multipolar world is similarly unworkable. Adjacent land powers are only able to ally when both face imminent destruction or one is in a clearly subordinate position -- something that makes us watch Chinese-Russian relations with increasing interest -- while a quick glance at the trade flows of states like Brazil and India clearly show that any political ambitions for setting up an anti-American alliance are limited predominantly to rhetoric. It often does not take a great deal of effort for the United States to use these characteristics to prevent such alliances -- geographic features alone nearly assure an American preponderance of power -- and so, since the end of the Soviet Union, U.S. power has increased step by step relative to other powers.

But what happens when that dominant power finds itself engrossed by internal developments? When this happened to Russia during President Vladimir Putin's first term, Central Europe was swallowed by NATO and the European Union; the United States moved troops into Central Asia; China -- not Russia -- got its fingers into Kazakhstan's energy resources and encouraged a thousand migrant feet to bloom in Siberia; and color revolutions broke Moscow's grip on Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia.

But now the United States -- indeed the entire West -- is in a world of its own.

Eventually the period of inattentiveness will end, even if it takes until the next election, so time is a precious commodity. The question dominating the thoughts of national leaders who often find themselves at loggerheads with Washington is: How do I maximize my position before Washington stops staring at its own navel?

Down in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has always done his best to take advantage of Washington's short attention span, and the next few months will be no exception. For him the mode is the Bolivarian Revolution -- and using his ample oil revenues to extend his political reach by manipulating elections in Bolivia and Honduras, supporting indigenous movements in Ecuador, and likely funding Colombia's new united left wing, the Democratic Alternative Pole. Across the border in Brazil, President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva is far less ambitious, but he is certainly reaping the rewards in terms of public popularity by killing U.S. efforts to create a Western Hemispheric free trade area -- the keystone of Washington's Latin American policy.

In Asia, Pyongyang has got to be wallowing in glee. Anytime the United States is distracted, North Korea tends to be able to foment crises that get concessions from its neighbors. Beijing, while undoubtedly equally happy, will be far more circumspect in its efforts. For China, a U.S. disengagement allows it more time to whip its economy into shape. That means slowing efforts to amend its currency policy; the yuan peg will remain, and China need not worry overmuch about the United States taking advantage of the social unrest that Beijing's softly-softly economic reforms trigger.

Across the Middle East, where U.S. foreign policy has been most active since the Sept. 11 attacks, the effect will be far more noticeable among enemies and allies alike.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will have no reason to do more than give the occasional polite nod to American requests, allowing him to impose his own version of a final settlement on the Palestinians; it will be one they do not much care for. Pressure on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to amend their political systems will either evaporate or be waved away. Syria has just gotten the diplomatic equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card (and thus has largely gotten away with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the maintenance of its position of superiority in Lebanon). And if you thought the Iranian nuclear program issue was agonizingly annoying before, just wait.

There is the very deadly possibility that Iraq will go from bad to worse. With American pressure ignorable, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran have little reason to cajole groups to come to the table and every reason to manipulate events to their own likings -- which, in all cases, involves making the American experience miserable. U.S. power can no longer guarantee that the Kurds, Shia and Sunnis will meet, much less hammer out a workable power-sharing accord, leaving Washington -- still -- holding the bag and handing out concessions to prevent the situation from degrading further still. And of course, Iraqi guerrillas are hardly finished.

Although it may be out of the headlines, the United States is still pursuing the al Qaeda leadership in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which is extremely difficult without the active participation of Pakistani forces -- forces that in the best of circumstances need to have their feet held to the fire to ensure cooperation. Without some robust American arm twisting, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has little incentive to pursue a policy that could well bring his government down around him -- not to mention put a bullet in his head.

The Russian Moment
But by far the country with the most pressing need to act -- and coincidentally, the most room to act -- is the one that the United States has been pressing the hardest: Russia.

Unlike U.S. efforts to contain Venezuela or block a rising China, with Russia the United States is playing for keeps. The Soviet Union was one of only three states that have ever directly threatened the United States -- the other two being the British Empire and Mexico. The Soviet Union also came as close as any power ever has to uniting Eurasia into a single integrated, continental power -- the only external development that might be able to end the United States' superpowership. These little factoids are items that policymakers neither forget nor take lightly. So while U.S. policy toward China is to delay its rise, and U.S. policy toward Venezuela is geared toward containment, U.S. policy toward Russia is a simple as it is final: dissolution. Ergo Russia's string of deep and rapid defeats.

But suddenly, the pressure has evaporated.

We are sure to see much more traditional Russian thinking in efforts to construct a multipolar world: attempts at hiving France and Germany away from the rest of Europe; heavy diplomatic engagement with would-be powers like India, China and Venezuela; a resumption of technical efforts with Iran's nuclear power program; reinsertion of Russian influence into North Korea and Syria. But ultimately all of these strategies represent old thinking. What concrete results does Russia really get from having a "strategic partnership" with India, aside from some arms sales? Political hegemony in places like Syria reduces Russian strategy to the diplomatic equivalent of a monkey wrench. The threat to Russia is far deeper, and so if Russia is to use its breathing room to achieve anything of lasting use, it needs a change of mind-set -- and that is precisely what is under way.

On Nov. 14 two men -- Dmitry Medvedev and Sergei Ivanov -- were promoted to deputy prime ministerships. Both are extremely canny politicians and have repeatedly demonstrated the ability to think outside of traditional Russian paradigms. For them, the pre-eminent concern is forestalling further Russian losses and resurging Russian power. Stymieing U.S. initiatives -- the default position for most Russian authorities who have been in positions of power since Soviet days -- is only of high priority when those initiatives actually affect Russia.

Put another way, the new deputy prime ministers think that Russian policy should be a bit more thought-out than simply shouting "nyet" whenever the Americans are up to something. For them issues such as North Korea, Syria, India, Brazil and even Iran are of much lower priority. The real issues are items closer to home: Uzbekistan, Ukraine, the Baltics. It is less about attempting to maintain the long-outdated international balance of the Cold War that Russia's nationalists crave, and more about more traditional Russian concerns of securing the borders by expanding them -- or at minimum expanding Russia's "zones of comfort."

And so it is in these borderlands where Russian efforts will intensify in the months to come. A key tool in the Russian advance will be Gazprom, the state natural gas monopoly, which incidentally boasts one Mr. Medvedev as its chairman of the board. On Nov. 29, Gazprom's deputy CEO announced sharp price increases for a range of former Soviet states, including the Baltics, Ukraine and Georgia. In the case of Kiev, such hikes will likely rip the bottom out of the Ukrainian basket.

A number of politicians throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States are in the process of discovering that not only is the Bear not asleep, but the Eagle is too preoccupied to help shield them from its prowling. In some places -- such as Poland and the Baltics -- where progress away from Russia is an established fact, this will only deepen animosity toward Russia. But in others where the situation is much more tenuous -- most notably Ukraine -- it is leading to efforts at accommodation and will result in a resurgence of Russian influence.

While the economic stick is the order of the day in the western reaches of the former Soviet Union, the southern flank is seeing primarily the military carrot. Central Asian states are many things, but "stable" and "politically inclusive" are certainly not on that list. In a region where Islam is the dominant religion and Afghanistan is but a short walk -- literally -- away, the result has been a government demonizing of militant Islam as a justification for authoritarianism.

Yet efforts to maintain authoritarian control have reduced the options of any opposition forces to one: operating outside the system. Imagine the shock in Central Asian capitals when their policies gave life to the fears buried within their rhetoric. Islam is now a bastion of political -- and sometimes militant -- opposition, and a few sporadic Islamism-inspired attacks have shaken Central Asian political establishments to their core. Suddenly the United States' "revolution" efforts have gone from being perceived as an interesting side note to a deadly threat, and Russia is happy to pick up the pieces of Washington's post-Sept. 11 Central Asia security policies for itself. U.S. forces have already been ushered out of Uzbekistan, and a U.S. diplomatic and economic presence is really only welcome in Kazakhstan -- and even there only on specific terms.

What is particularly notable about this renewed Russian push is how much room there is for progress. American policy in Russia's near abroad has largely been dependent upon the border states' natural antipathy toward Moscow, and not on building stable institutions or links between these regions and the wider world. This makes vast tracts of territory easily accessible to the Russians, whose infrastructure remains hardwired into the entire border region. Without consistent Western attention, geographic realities can easily reassert. Ukraine -- unlike Romania -- is simply on the wrong side of the Carpathians for it to be otherwise.

Send questions or comments on this article to analysis@stratfor.com.

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