Sunday, April 30, 2006

I doubt that this is much of suprise.......

You Are Las Vegas

Wild and uninhibited, you enjoy all of life's vices.
You're a total hedonist, especially with sex, gambling, and drinking.
You shine brightly every night, but you do the ultimate walk of shame each morning.

Famous Las Vegas residents: Wayne Newton, Howard Hughes, Penn & Teller, Siegfried & Roy
What American City Are You?

Actually, truth be told I like Reno better. For all of the same reasons, but the Ski resorts in Tahoe and the Lake are a lot closer. If I had my druthers I'd be S. Lake Tahoe.........

Then again, Wanchai was not one of the choices. This thing is flawed!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Random thoughts about things that drive me nuts or make me mad and sad.

Woke up this morning to a cloudy overcast looking seriously like rain. Accordingly, my golf plans were aborted. So I enjoyed the peace and quiet until the S.O. woke up. With my upcoming move, she is going to be a unique problem...she'll be going with me, mostly because I'm too much of a wimp to send her packing, but she can drive me you will see in a bit.

Read e-mail, drank coffee, looked at porn blogs. After breakfast, she asked me if I want to take her to a recycled furniture shop in Machida.

"No, I really don't. However if you want to go I'll take you."

She wants to go. So then I ask the next question that needed answering:

"Do you know where it is and if its open today? It is Midori no Hi you know, and the first day of Golden Week".

She assured me her friend had told her it would be and she showed me the directions her friend had written down. She even brought out her road atlas. It did not seem too hard, although there was no quick way to get there and it was going to take some solid navigating on my part. The task would be made doubly difficult because the S.O. has absolutely ZERO sense of direction. As for reading a map and matching it to landmarks, forget it.

Japanese maps are a unique problem for me. I have no English ones, all the ones we have are from the S.O. and are in Japanese. Since I can only read about 1000 Kanji this means I have a 1 in 2 chance of not knowing the correct reading of the character(s) I am looking at. Then not only do I have to interpolate the meaning, but I also have to look for the road number which is always written in the smallest type possible. However, undaunted, off we set.

Initially there were no problems. However what her friend had failed to mention was that the shop is actually in a suburb of Machida to the north, which meant I had to navigate several cross routes and also find a train station I'd never heard of before. All while driving in traffic made doubly crowded because today was the first day of Golden Week..............

However, we got to the right road and it turns out it adjoins a pretty park. The rain is just starting to come down steady. I ask her the name of the shop.

"I don't know......"

Great. "Is it on the left or right and do think it will have a chukyou sign (中古 used) ?". Same response. It just gets better every minute.

Finally there appears a rather large, warehouse looking place on the left. I tell her I'm pulling into the parking lot. Sure seems empty for a Saturday. There is of course a reason:

本日は休み!(We are off today!)

My fingers tighten around the steering wheel. I breathe as deeply as I can and it is taking every thing in my power to restrain the urge to push her out of the car and let her walk home. However I know better than that so I keep silence, all the while squeezing the remaining leather off the steering wheel. Pain really begins when I hear her next statement:

"Well, at least we know where it is now. You can bring me back again sometime".

Squeeze the steering wheel, breath deep, count to 10--repeat as required. They hang people for murder over here.

"So we came all this way for nothing long as we are out, want me to take you to lunch?. I saw a good Japanese restaurant a ways back"

"No thanks, I'll just wait till we get home........."

Remind me again why I stay in this relationship, the luster seems to have left. However, I 've learned a thing or two from my younger years and just quietly ask her to help me remember the turn back home. It will be a left turn at 52. She misses the sign looking at a store on the wrong side of the road. I miss it too, but thanks to my keen sense of direction (NAVY TRAINING SIR!), I navigate us home OK. I even took a look at the map again and figured out a short cut to save time on the next trip. Damn I'm good! Thank goodness Puffy and Yumi are on the radio. Gives me something to think about, besides exporting the S.O. to North Korea.............


Speaking of North Korea , the President of the United States met with the mother of abductee Megumi Yokota today. This is HUGE news here in Japan and actually surprised me a great deal considering that in the US there is not so much knowledge of the whole issue. For those who missed out here is a review:

Megumi Yokota was last seen pausing at a traffic light by her home in Niigata, a badminton racquet stuffed in a white bag and a black schoolbag clutched in her hand. Then she vanished without a trace. That was 25 years ago. Her mother Sakie thought she would never know where her 13-year-old daughter had gone, until she read a series of articles in a newspaper three years later suggesting that North Korean agents were snatching Japanese citizens off the streets and whisking them to their motherland. Sakie's suspicion turned into conviction when a North Korean defector to South Korea told officials he had seen Megumi in Pyongyang on five occasions.

Tales like Megumi Yokota's have long aggravated the historically rancorous relations between North Korea and Japan. North Korea's Stalinist regime had consistently denied that it had anything to do with a series of disappearances in Japan two decades ago. No longer. In a stunning about-face, North Korean President Kim Jong Il confessed at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last week in Pyongyang that his country's spies had indeed abducted 13 Japanese citizens from 1977 to 1983. He blamed the kidnappings on special-forces agents "carried away by a reckless quest for glory," apologized for their actions and assured Koizumi that they had been punished. (Kim, according to most analysts, led the special forces for a stretch during that period.) Having got that off his chest, Kim promised a moratorium on his country's provocative missile tests and agreed to let international inspectors visit its nuclear facilities. These moves could help bring North Korea, which the Bush Administration counts as one of the "axis of evil" states, out of its long political isolation. Time Asia-2002.

Why did they do this? Because rather than simply hire some Chinese citizens who spoke Japanese of which there are plenty in China's northern provinces, North Korea decided it would be easier just to steal some Japanese instructors. Stealing a 13 year old seemed a good way to develop "seed corn" for the future. Read the rest of the story here, it's indeed sad. They did a movie about it in 2005 called the "Abduction of Megumi Yokota". North Korea claims she committed suicide, the family and the Japanese government are not buying it:

North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, and let five victims return to Japan, saying the other eight -- including Yokota -- were dead.Tokyo, however, says the North has never provided conclusive proof of her death, and many in Japan suspect that she could still be alive in the reclusive country. Japanese officials also met with a North Korean man who Pyongyang said was Yokota's husband in 2004.North Korea provided what they said were Yokota's remains to Japanese officials that year, but Tokyo says tests showed the ashes belonged to other people.
Song denied in the interview with Kyodo that Yokota was still alive. "Megumi's death is clear," he was quoted as saying. "The more we explain about the abduction issue, the more questions come up and I think it's impossible to find the way to a solution."
Japan's top government spokesman said Wednesday Tokyo wants to step up cooperation with Seoul on the abduction issue. The families of Japanese kidnapping victims have also called for closer ties. Kyodo, citing unidentified police officials, said Japan had asked South Korea if it could interrogate a man held by Seoul on suspicion of being involved in Kim Young-nam's abduction. Japan on Wednesday said it provided South Korea with blood samples from Hae Kyong, now 18, so it can conduct its own DNA analysis. The samples were handed over to the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday evening. South Korea estimates 542 soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War are still alive in the communist state, and that the North is also holding 486 South Korean civilians, including Kim. Most others are fishermen whose boats were seized since the war's end.North Korea denies holding any war prisoners and says the civilians defected voluntarily. South Korea has raised the issue of abductees and prisoners of war in Red Cross talks with North Korea, but failed to make any headway. (AP) April 13,2006.

As much as I like to bash Bush, I think this is a great gesture on his part, but I am not sure what else will come from it besides a greater awareness of what a bastard Kim Jong Il is. Fundamentally, the chess board between Japan, China, North Korea and the US remains the same. China could probably do the most to influence this situation, but their record on human rights is not exactly stellar either and they still refuse to cut Kim Jong Il loose. I'm glad Bush agreed to do this though, good for him.

For Japan, this was a great day to see one of its own feted by the President of the United States, in the Oval office no less. Ought to be interesting to watch the news over the next few days.


And finally came across this little tidbit on the news today. Watched an interview with the founders of the "Sweet Jesus, I hate Bill Oreilly" web site. I especially enjoyed this vision of Bill working for Pravda (also known as Fox Faux News.......):

Don't laugh if the money was right, he'd do it!

Friday, April 28, 2006

With all the money the oil companies are making......

They could pay Fran Obrien's rent for the next 100 years..................

(Go see Fuzzy Bear Lioness for the whole and complete story of more corporate greed....)

Maybe they should have to pay a special tax just for that. Or at the very least former Exxon CEO should have to forfeit a piece of his 400 million (yes you read that right....400 MILLION) to help wounded veterans. ( 1% of that and I would be set for life in Thailand...........). And before any of the budding capitalists out there tears into me, I know he did a pretty good job turning the firm around, but 400 MILLION?!?!


April 14, 2006— Soaring gas prices are squeezing most Americans at the pump, but at least one man isn't complaining.

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its
retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

Last November, when he was still chairman of Exxon, Raymond told Congress that gas
prices were high because of global supply and demand.

"We're all in this together, everywhere in the world," he testified.

Some are in it more than the rest of us.

"How many yachts are enough Gordon? Where does it all end?"

That sure would buy a lot of these:

And you certainly would never lack for these:

Yes, you pass the wallet biopsy check!

Google puts it's jackboots on........

You vill blog our way, or not at all!

Expat at Large pointed out the fact that the freedom loving people at Google used their powerful business position to shut down a blog it did not like. Mango Sauce is a blog about living and loving in Thailand and has the latest info on nightlife, farang life and bar girl scams. Perhaps for those of you who don't have a taste for that sort of thing its a welcome development. For myself and others who are connoisseurs of the Asian experience, this is a revolting development.

Mango Sauce is dead and Google is responsible.

This week, a junior Google official decided (wrongly) that Mango Sauce was offensive and arbitrarily pulled the plug on its advertising - leaving the site dead in the water. This may come as quite a shock to 100,000 regular readers and hundreds of local advertisers. It certainly shocked me.

The guy has clearly blundered but there's no right of appeal and Google's global stranglehold on Internet advertising means that there's no alternative source of
funding available either. On the face of it, Mango Sauce is finished.

This not a Blogger or blogspot thing, Mango Sauce had their own domain. This is about Google being a bunch of pansies, more concerned about some advertiser might get upset that there are actually web sites that comment on the fact that people do go to Thailand to get laid. As the author David points out:

Google censors nearly everything you read because webmasters fear losing their irreplaceable Google AdSense revenue.
Now, you can no longer openly discuss sex, politics and religion - or any other topic
that Google's secret army of censors disapproves of.
Google's abuse of their near-monopoly represents the biggest threat to free-speech in a
generation. Post a link to this page now -

Read the whole story here.

He's quite honest about his creation:

Mango Sauce is a blog about expat life in Thailand. Like most expats here, I've got a Thai girlfriend and the resulting cultural confusion gives me endless material to write about.

When you discuss relationships between men and women you have to mention sex sometimes - just as football commentators are expected to mention the goals. I know precisely where to draw the line but Google doesn't seem to care. Despite being the planet's largest peddler of hardcore filth, they draw everyone else's line at flower-arranging (so long as the birds and bees are kept at a safe distance).

It's lucky that our filmmakers, TV producers and newspaper editors aren't subjected to such harsh censorship because we'd all die of boredom.

Ain't that the the truth...........

It goes without saying that some of the stories posted on Mango Sauce are a bit
risque. However, there's nothing here that couldn't be republished in mainstream
magazines like FHM and Maxim.

The site is completely work-safe. There's no nudity, no porno stories, no excessive profanity, no racism and no homophobia. Whether you're black, white, straight or gay, there's nothing in Mango Sauce that will offend you - or make the day of that poisonous little creep in the computer department who's right now snooping through your browser cache, hoping to get you fired.

If anything on the site makes you feel compelled to scurry off to the company washroom for a spot of executive relief, then you're got exceedingly strange tastes and should seek professional help at once.

Mango Sauce is written to make people laugh - not to get them off.

Especially since Google has plenty of porn linked to its name. Just try doing an image search with the filters off.

Now it has been pointed out by some commenters that there are other alternatives for ad revenue and I do find the Adsense ads somewhat tiring. But who knows, in a couple of years I might need the income:

I'm a fellow Thailand blogger who's currently much more popular than you and the adult/mature content in my Readers' Submissions Section makes Mango Sauce look like a bake-sale at the Mother's Union. The modest revenue from Google AdSense is the last thing that stands between me and a cliched balcony death-plunge from the 88th floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel so it goes without saying that I'm shitting myself as I wait for the
heavy knock of Google's murderous storm-troopers on the door of the fan-only windowless room in a crumbling shophouse off Petchaburi Road that I jokingly refer to as an apartment.

Fight the power! E-mail Google today!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Now it can be told..........

In what may prove to be the most damn fool thing I've done in my life, I'm changing jobs. So we'll see how my blogging holds up for the next few months. My new job is still here in Japan, but it is vastly different from my current position and has little or nothing to do with transportation planning. Since I've been at my current organization for over 6 years in various capacities, it is going to be odd to leave a place that I think of as "home". And despite the frustrations, especially in the last couple of years, I've really enjoyed my work.

However its time. I need a change. Plus to tell you the truth, I just don't know how much longer I can fight the same fights over again, each time trying to keep a new cast of characters from doing things that are really stupid. That's how large bureauracies wear you down, they keep dredging up old ideas, put a different spin on them, and then trying to get you to believe they are the best thing for the organization. Especially when the organization thinks it can manage every thing from afar, and feels it has no need for a local office in the correct time zone. I feel like I should plaster up the slogan from HSBC bank, "Local knowledge is critical". The powers that be in the Navy would be well advised to remember that. Its a better motto than "people are expensive", that's for sure.

Hopefully the folks here will be able to keep up the good fight, and keep the micro-management hordes at bay. I really do hope so. But it won't be my fight anymore.

The new job is a 2 year contract, and I doubt it will be able to be renewed, so in a couple of years I'll find myself on an (Asian) street, looking for work again. That's a real risk, but I'm hoping the rewards will be worth it. At least I'll still be traveling around Asia and that's a plus. As a bonus, I won't need to go to the Middle East anymore. Which is fine with me. If I never see Bahrain again it will be too soon. Same goes for any of the other garden spots over there.

So next month its back to the US to tie up some loose ends, play some golf, get some training, and see my parents. Then back here for moving to another city in Japan. Ought to make for an interesting summer to be sure.

And after that, who knows? Maybe I'll just become another drunken expat living in Pattaya......

Wish me luck......cause here I go! Stayed tuned to this channel for updates.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

At least one good thing about change in China.

Finally back and past my jet lag. American Airlines sucks the big one! Suffice it to say they jerked me around yet again. Then again, some of it is the fault of the Texan who rolled his SUV on Highway 183 just west of DFW, making me almost miss the plane. However that still does not excuse charging for beer!

The Peking Duck has pointed out at least one good thing that is happening in China these days:

Beijing - Bra producers have been forced to offer bigger cup-sizes in China because improved nutrition is busting all previous chest measurement records.

"It's so different from the past when most young women would wear A- or B-cup bras," Triumph brand salesperson Zhang Jing told the Shanghai Daily from the Landmark Plaza of China's commercial hub. "You... never expect those thin women to have such nice figures if they are not plastic."

The report, seen on the daily's Web site on Tuesday, said that the Hong Kong-based lingerie firm Embry Group no longer produces A-cups for larger chest circumferences and has increased production of C-, D- and E-cup bras to meet the pressing demand.

The Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology released a report last week saying the average chest circumference of Chinese women has risen by nearly 1cm to 83,53cm since the early 1990s, the daily said.

Probably still a ways to go before they catch up with this, however:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Texas! Or about Remembering history

Nice day in Texas today. After the coldness of the spring in Japan this year, its nice to be where its warm. Did business yesterday and took it easy last night. Ordered Pizza, drank some 12 ounce sleeping pills and went to sleep early. Up early today and out and about. I forgot how spread out everything is here! I've put a lot miles on the rental car.

Sometimes on trips like this, I think about what it would be like to work and live here. I don't think about it too long, especially when I watch couples out in clubs and all the crap that guys have to put with just to close the deal. Yes its uncrowded but........

Have been reading more about the controversy of the retired generals on other blogs and news articles. I think it would be useful to remember that this is not the first time this type of thing has happened.

Let us remember the late Les Aspin...........

LES ASPIN, then Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, discomfited the Bush Administration in 1992 when he berated it for failing to come to terms with the end of the Cold War. The Bush Administration's "Base Force," he argued, represented nothing more than an across-the-board reduction of the American military, not a thorough rethinking of America's defense needs for a new world. The criticism stung, and for good reason. The Base Force had indeed shrunk the Cold War military, rather than recast it.

Ironically, when Aspin recently issued a "Bottom Up Review" he attracted the same criticism, and with no less cause. This 17-page document(including pictures and graphics) projected a force of ten active and five reserve Army divisions, eleven active aircraft carriers and other warships, twenty active and reserve Air Force fighter wings, and a three-division Marine Corps. Somewhat smaller than the Bush Administration's Base Force in some areas (e.g., Army divisions) and larger in others (most notably, Marines Corps end strength), the Bottom Up Review structure satisfied no one.

Does this seem familiar?

Defense Secretary Les Aspin PhD `68 said Friday that U.S. combat troops will stay in Somalia until calm has returned to its capital, ``real progress" has been made in disarming rival clans and
``credible police forces" are up and running in major cities.
In a speech here, Aspin offered the most specific explanation yet of the Clinton administration's decision to step up military operations against fugitive warlord Mohamad Farah Aideed, whose forces have been waging war on U.S. and other foreign troops in the capital of Mogadishu. He avoided any discussion of a withdrawal timetable, emphasizing that the decision to bring home the troops would depend on their effectiveness in achieving the goals he described.
``When these three conditions are met ... then I believe the U.S. quick-reaction force can come back," Aspin said in describing what he termed the ``endgame" of U.S. involvement in Somalia.
This week, the administration dispatched 400 Army Rangers to augment U.S. the 1,400 infantry soldiers and 3,100 logistics troops in Mogadishu, prompting criticism that U.S. policy-makers had embarked on a path toward deeper involvement in Somalia's factional violence without presenting a clear rationale. Aspin sought to answer that criticism Friday, saying the United States has little choice but to go after Aideed and his militia in south Mogadishu. Pentagon officials privately acknowledge that the Ranger team includes a covert element that will try to capture Aideed.

I'm suprised no one goes back to talk about this time in the current debate. Aspin resigned and was replaced by William Perry. Aspin died on May 21, 1995 in Washington, DC , of a stroke.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday beer and babes!

Hu Jin Tao was in America this week. The US President who espouses his love democracy and how it will change the middle East, sits down with a Chinese dictator. Its OK if you buy US bonds, if you do not, then we can meddle. GW tried to minimize it by not holding a state dinner. And how does the US react? The DOW goes to an all time high.......pity that stockholders do not care about issues beyond profitability.

Paid 3.17 a gallon today. Tell me why that makes sense, and why Americans just accept it........?

Time to drink these:

And chase these:

Somehow I don't think this conversation occurred.......

A Secret Service agent blocks a protestor on the South Lawn.

"See President Hu....? This is what leaders in democracies put up with......"

"Surely you will have her shot...."

"Uh no. We don't do that here you Commie pig"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The new books are here!

Sitting at Narita, steeling myself for the long ride in the cattle car, Business class is full-no way to upgrade........some day I'll have the money to buy that First Class ticket...or own my own jet.

However before I left for the train, I checked my mail. My new books from Amazon came. Cobra II, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast journalism, and a book about the techniques of "pick up artists" ( Skills I probably should have learned years ago.........). Now I have some good reading on the plane. Already knee deep in Cobra II. It seems appropriate now as the Rummy debate goes on (and I hope it goes on).

There is a quote of Murrow's that seems appropriate:

This is no time for those who oppose [Rumsfeld's] methods to keep silent or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.

Re-load, re-fuel and re-engage.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On the road soon again.

Short weekend trip, for personal and professional reasons to Dallas, Texas. Things are in the air, just cannot be revealed at this time. Whether these are the right things for moi......only time will tell. Making a quick stop in SFO first. I'll blog about politics from there. Seems appropriate.

And like me,the future is uncertain about Iran. Thomas Friedman makes some great arguments about how we've put ourselves in a box with respect to Iran. Whether the Bush administration is doing the right thing, like moi and his plans, only time will tell:

Get used to it. Iran is going nuclear. And our bumbling, credibility-challenged administration is impotent to stop it, thanks mainly to their screw-up in Iraq.

Later on down he has what I consider to be a classic quote:

I look at the Bush national security officials much the way I look at drunken drivers. I just want to take away their foreign policy driver's licenses for the next three years. Sorry, boys and girls, you have to stay home now or take a taxi. Dial 1-800-NATO-CHARGE-A-RIDE. You will not be driving alone. Not with my car.

If ours were a parliamentary democracy, the entire Bush team would be out of office by now, and deservedly so. In Iraq, the president was supposed to lead, manage and hold subordinates accountable, and he did not. Condoleezza Rice was supposed to coordinate, and she did not. Donald Rumsfeld was supposed to listen, and he did not. But ours is not a parliamentary system, and while some may feel as if this administration's over, it isn't. So what to do? We can't just take a foreign policy timeout.

And he gets it right about the Secretary of Defense. Phibian, please take note:

At a minimum, a change must be made at the Pentagon. Mr. Rumsfeld paints himself as a concerned secretary, ready to give our generals in Iraq whatever troops they ask for, but they just haven't asked. This is hogwash, but even if the generals didn't ask, the relevant question, Mr. Rumsfeld, is: What did you ask them?

Can I get an amen?

Of course the "more troops" argument cuts both ways, because the army was not big enough to start with, and the Secretary viewed the rest of the military folks as just "people are expensive" slackers who needed to be put into the Iraq deployment rotation-trained or not. Thus we have Navy and Air Force personnel being offered up for IA's in ever increasing numbers, doing things they did not sign up for, nor are trained well to do. Big Armies in garrison are expensive, but they are like an insurance policy or a condom. You hate having to buy one, but know you that its just too risky not to have one when you need it. Or at least most people do.

It may be that learning to live with a nuclear Iran
is the wisest thing under any circumstances. But it would be nice to have a choice. It would be nice to have the option of a diplomatic deal to end Iran's nuclear program but that will come only with a credible threat of force. Yet we will not have the support at home or abroad for that threat as long as Don Rumsfeld leads the Pentagon. No one in their right mind would follow this man into another confrontation and that is a real strategic liability.

I suspect that will get the home guard stirred up, especially those who feel we had to take out Saddam. However Friedman may in fact be right. If we are to enter into "war without end" maybe we should finish one at a time before starting the next one. Or maybe we should remember where the Shwerpunkt is. Its Iran, not Iraq which as I pointed out before,has been “jammed by a thoughtful Providence against the Caucasus like huge plug, holding back the bear {and his illegitimate stepchildren}. It’s as big as all Western Europe and it’s mostly harsh mountains and deserts…….its people……..are unmanageable.“ Both nations are very capable and committed to their independence even if it entails national suicide as they both have demonstrated at least once in the last 3000 years.

Read the whole article before tearing into me.

Speaking of promoting liberal democracy.........

Ah yes, its summit time once again. That lovely time when the President of China will sit down first with the President that matters most to him.


The President of Microsoft, of course.

As for that other guy, the Commander in Chief of the United States, there's always time to see him later. Gotta plug those holes in the "Great Firewall" you know.......

Gotta get your prioriies straight!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Speaking of holding a grudge.......

I was going to move on today, but the Phibian went and provoked me with yet another defense of the Secretary of Defense. However since "The Donald" is going to be around for a while, and hopefully the "biased" media will keep up the argument. The "unbiased" Wall Street Journal issued a defense from four other flag officers, all of whom are paid news consultants, that defended the man. So I've got some time. You have been warned though......a rant is coming!

However today was a good day and I did not want to wreck it. I had a meeting today in Yokosuka. Rather than get up early and ride with the rest of the herd in a car for an hour and a half, I elected to sleep in and take the train. I got expressions of surprise and disgust about not wanting to drive, as I always do. You can take the American out of America, but you cannot take the car lover out of the person.

Why not go with them you ask? Well, it comes down to the fact that if you want to make any progress at all, you have to be out the door and on the road before 7am or you will be stuck in traffic on the Yokohama Shindo bypass. And I hate that. Especially for a meeting that did not start until 9:30. My way, I got to have coffee, watch TV and I still made it to Shiori station by 9:10. A quick walk to the gate and I was in the door of the meeting room right on time. The other guys had been cooling their heels for only about 30 minutes at Starbucks.

On the way I observed the sunshine for it was a beautiful day. I admired the girls on the train. Spring is coming and skirts are moving up. YEA!

Walked through Yokohama station to change trains, where they have adjusted traffic flow yet again to make up for the never ending construction......... However the Docomo Girls were there selling Cell Phones:

No S**T. They had some models out showing phones!

Read the paper. Hit the trains just right and when I got to the Keikyu platform there pulled up that holy of holy's, a limited express! Those are few and far between, but it meant I only had 2 stops before Shiori...............made it in 55 minutes. Even got a seat. Life is good.

In the paper I read about the story of Tetsuo Tanaka. You think some generals have a beef against Rumsfeld? Imagine carrying on a grudge against your former employer for 25 years:

It's a Friday morning in Takao, west Tokyo, and a sleepy gray army of salary-men and women is snaking through the gates of Oki Electric. At a few minutes before 8 a.m., Tetsuo Tanaka pulls up on a moped outside the factory gates, sets up a mike stand attached to a bullhorn and begins strumming his guitar and singing: "There is a wall between you and me which we can't see Wall of borders, wall of language, wall of history and life." Nobody -- not the bleary-eyed workers, security guards or even the schoolchildren and mothers walking by Oki -- acknowledges the odd sight of a middle-aged man in a cowboy hat serenading in English one of Japan's largest electronics companies with peace songs. After years of performing here every morning from 8-8.30 a.m., it is as though Tanaka has blended into the background like the local milkman. "He's nothing to do with us," sniffs a guard. "He was fired a long time ago."

Tanaka in fact was fired on June 29, 1981, the day after he refused a compulsory transfer order from his managers. At the time the company had been in a layoff mode, dismissing about a tenth of its workforce. He and a small group of other workers fought the sackings, without the backing of the company union. He was to pay dearly for that lack of union support. In a Japanese company, kind of like the military, one way to get rid of a trouble maker is to transfer them somewhere unpleasant.

When Tanaka ran for a post in the company union, he says almost the entire workforce was mobilized against him. At a union meeting of 1,000 employees he took the stage to blank silence. "All of them, except for a few supporters, turned their backs and left.

"My friend said afterward: 'Their faces were pale and blank, like dead men.' "

Shunned by most of his former workmates, Tanaka continued his fight against the restructuring with a handful of supporters before the company ordered him to relocate to a different branch; a common way of punishing recalcitrant Japanese employees.

"It was discrimination because of my fight, so I refused," he says.After 12 years with the company he joined after college, it was to be his last day of work at Oki

He's more than a little intense about his struggle. And a little misguided. In a song called war he intones:

"Someday the Draft system may be introduced in Japan. Just as Hinomaru(Japanese flag) and Kimigayo(National Anthem) were introduced in schools. Someday your children may be given a draft warrant. Just as a transfer order is issued to you from your company"

"The Hinomaru is like the calisthenics exercises in my company," he explains. "They're testing the limits of what we will stand; our loyalty. They are simple tasks but their meaning is profound in the corporate or the political world."

Man get a life! Even I, who was wronged mightly by some useless jerks 9 years ago can't hold a grudge that long. ( But you never know my dear Dr. KB, now do you? )

None the less Tetsuo continues his fight. He even has his own English language web site. What does he want from Oki Denki Kabushiki Kaisha ( 沖電気株式会社) ?

His demands have remained unchanged: an apology, an admission that the company used bullying tactics and the introduction of a proper, nondiscriminatory management policy. And he wants Oki to employ him to oversee the policy.

It seems as unlikely as the Oki workers breaking into a lusty version of "Fight the Power" one morning, but Tanaka says he sings to give people "courage to fight discrimination" andmeasures his successes in small victories.

"Since my firing, Oki has been unable to order a worker transferred to a far-away place, sometimes as punishment. They're afraid they'll create another Tanaka," he says.

When the company rejected his demand that shareholders be allowed to use company
microphones at stockholders meetings, he took along his own PA system "from
which I could be heard 200 meters away," he says. The next year, the company had
microphones for stockholders.

"I will continue as long as my life continues. Look at Oki: they now have 7,000 workers, down from 10,000. The people who harassed me are gone, restructured. I feel sorry for them because they are victims too. It's the same all over Japan."

An Australian company is doing a documentary about him. The S.O. tells me she has seen him on TV. She thinks he is a kook. That's odd coming from the same woman who had to keep her relationship with me a secret for fear her boss would lay her off......(No guilt about it if she has an American boyfriend you know.....after all they could hiring a younger girl for less money....that sort of thing).

You can also learn more about him here. Wonder how he makes a living?

Idealist or nutcase? You be the judge..........

Back to work tomorrow!

Monday, April 17, 2006

What if he did go?

First, Donald Rumsfeld is not going anywhere before November. The people over at Foreign Policy's blog offer some cogent reasons why.

In fact, they point out that:

You can’t swing a cat without hitting a report that Don Rumsfeld is embattled, under fire, taking flak, facing a mutiny etc. But I still can’t smell blood in the water. Indeed, every time a general comes out and denounces Rummy I think it makes it less likely that he’ll go anytime soon.
And even in November, he would only go on a good basis provided the GOP won the mid-term elections. The Democrats seem to think they have it in the bag. They could not be making a worse mistake. October is going to see the President doing one of the few things he does well, campaign. This will be a tough fight, and it will be made tougher if they are stupid.

For a list of possible successors look here. I vote for Lehman. 600 ships and not one less!

Still, its nice to dream.

Dear Mr Rumsfeld, so long as you are going to be around anyway, maybe you could finally get off your duff and make a passionate speech about this........... I've provided your talking points.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The new Rasputin.

"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go".- Oliver Cromwell to the Long parliament.

Yesterday the S.O. had to work. So I stayed home and got some things done as we had to go meet a couple for dinner later on. Watched the news shows. Unfortunately, I get stuck watching FOX news sometimes, due to lack of a better alternative. The subject du jour yesterday was my favorite punching bag, Donald Rumsfeld. On the panel show I was watching, the ever smug and always useless Charles Krauthammer was doing what he does best: reaching the wrong conclusion from the available facts. He (incorrectly) assumed that since 6+ retired generals were opposed to Rummy, that must mean they are opposed to civilian control of the military and therefore need to be squashed most vigorously. Nothing in any of the retired officers statements has said that.

These guys are simply pointing out, what plenty of others have pointed out: that after 3 years, we still are not done with the mess in Iraq. Any conservative estimate shows us being there in large numbers for at least 2 more years. At the same time tensions are racheting up with Iran, there are still military efforts going on in Afghanistan and then there is the little matter of the Chinese horde, biding their time and waiting to take back Taiwan. All the while Rummy has been consistent with his solution to all of this: Do more with less. That is the heart of SECDEF's transformation effort, which as was noted in the book Cobra II has been the main thrust of effort. Phrased in business terms he wants to reduce the infrastructure costs and human resources costs and in the process improve the value of the stock for the shareholders.

Fine. What about winning the war(s)?

I will make this clear. I'm all for improving the ways and means the government buys and executes its military money. And only someone with his head in the sand could argue that there is not a more efficient way to business in terms of production techniques and processes. However in the end it comes down to one thing. Rumsfeld's boss has committed the country to a policy abroad that has it engaged in 4 active conflicts, 2 more deterrent operations and a greater need to have the military defend the homeland than ever before. And if that were not enough, driven by a sense of getting the job done all on his watch (since his successor as President simply cannot be trusted to do God's bidding....), he is teeing up another potential war on the plate. One with an adversary who might actually fight back. And is certifiably nuts.

Against this backdrop lets add two other complications. Many of our supposed allies are not allies at all, but competitors on the world stage, and one of our erstwhile enemies holds large blocks of the public debt, which is helping to pay for the other 4+ wars. Administration response to all of this? Cut force structure, reduce total numbers of platforms (while at the same time gold plating the ones we do buy), and above all reduce those ridiculously expensive people, that we can't be bothered to support where it counts-in the pocket book-as his attack dog David Chu has proved again and again.

The President is not listening to any of it. He issued a statement Friday stating in no uncertain terms that Rummy was his boy:

"Secretary Rumsfeld's energetic and steady leadership is exactly what is needed at this critical period. He has my full support and deepest appreciation," Bush said in a statement.

No surprise there. Maybe it has something to do with those pictures of the President at Tailhook that are buried deep in the vaults at the Pentagon..............

Tim Russert explained it very well when he said that Bush will not choose any other path.

"For the President to fire Rumsfeld would be like firing himself. It would be tantamount to an admission that the war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do and the President does not believe that...." Russert then correctly goes on to point out that this is not over with yet by a long shot. " The President had to issue a statement, because inside the Pentagon folks are lining up, both for and against Rumsfeld, almost like a Civil War within the Pentagon."

That may be hyperbole, but don't kid yourself, Rumsfeld is not as popular with uniformed military people as he is made out to be. In that regard the 6 retired generals are channeling a whole lot more hate and discontent:

Rumsfeld has lost the support of the uniformed military officers who work for him. Make no mistake: The retired generals who are speaking out against Rumsfeld in interviews and op-ed pieces express the views of hundreds of other officers on active duty. When I recently asked an Army officer with extensive Iraq combat experience how many of his colleagues wanted Rumsfeld out, he guessed 75 percent. Based on my own conversations with senior officers over the past three years, I suspect that figure may be low.

Furthermore, the more that folks like General Myers protest that this is not the case, the more that the rest of us believe its even more true. Myers said he never heard any criticism of the SECDEF while he was in office. Nice try sir, but I feel confident you did. However like the good loyal soldier you are, you did your best to keep the herd in line knowing full well that dissent was not going be tolerated upline by Rumsfeld and his hacks. There is anecdotal evidence of that.

Bottom line: As Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld's primary responsibilty is to resource the services properly to be ready to respond when the President asks them to. By that one criteria alone, Rumsfeld has failed. When Army units are on their 3rd and in some cases forth rotations into Iraq, when USS Abraham Lincoln has to spend 11 months on cruise in 2003, followed by 2 more cruises in the following 2 years, when the Marine Corps tells the Navy they need relief to meet their Iraqi commitments, then the force is not big enough. Period. The rightists say that the current size of the military is all Clinton's fault. No way. Its been 6 years so the statute of limitations on that one has run out. Blame Clinton for the feminization of the services if you will, but not for the size of the armed forces. Beginning Sept 11, there should have been a dedicated effort to increase the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and the SECDEF should have been actively involved in recommending to the President that in time of war, that maybe a series of broad based tax cuts that reduces the available income might not be the way to do it. We are in a long war, we need the forces to make it work, with people still having reasonable deployment rotations that allow time to be back at home, rest, train , and educate themselves. Period.

To steal a quote from Thomas Friedman, [Rumsfeld] "tried to make history on the cheap. But you can't will the ends without willing the means. That is Strategic Theory 101, and ignoring it is not just some "tactical error." No, its a major piece of management malpractice and for that reason Rumsfeld needs to go.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday beer and Babes!

Short post. No post yesterday due to needing sleep. Today I went to Iwo Jima. What an experience. To walk on that hallowed the company of Marines no less!
I felt privileged to be allowed to tag along. With all the talk about "diversity" in the services these days, it misses the point that the Marines seem to be the only ones understanding. Namely, that it does not matter where you came from, so long as they can mold you into someone who shares a same ethos and value system. E.G. Assimilation..............

Back in Kanto now. Drinking these:

And wishing I was with one of these....:

Another nice hat!

Good writing tomorrow! I promise!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My Iranian experience.........

Well, this time safely ensconced in Word, I will try to do another Iranian post. If reading Seymour Hersh was scary, reading the news today was every bit even scarier. The Iranians it seems, or at least their ideological zealot of a president have seemed to come to the conclusion, that going “all in” in a high stakes poker game-with an opponent who hates to lose and has deeper pockets- is somehow a good thing. The Iranian President is clearly an idiot…….or a reckless fanatic. Either way its not a good thing.

Today he announced:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the enrichment success Tuesday in a nationally televised ceremony, saying the country's nuclear ambitions are peaceful and warning the West that trying to force Iran to abandon enrichment would "cause an everlasting hatred in the hearts of Iranians."

Which of course triggered the obligatory opposite rhetoric from the United States:

But the announcement quickly raised condemnations from the United States, who said the claims "show that Iran is moving in the wrong direction." Russia also criticized the announcement Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin saying, "We believe that this step is wrong. It runs counter to decisions of the IAEA and resolutions of the U.N. Security Council."

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, was heading to Iran on Wednesday for talks aimed at resolving the standoff. The timing of the announcement suggested Iran wanted to present him with a fait accompli and argue that it cannot be expected to entirely give up a program showing progress. Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani - a powerful figure in the country's clerical regime - warned that pressuring Iran over enrichment "might not have good consequences for the area and the world."

That’s an understatement. Especially if Hersh is even sort of right, and George W. Bush is considering abandoning ideas of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. Which is a jump into another kind of lunacy all its own. ( That is not for today’s tale however……)

Reading this made me go to my bookshelf where I went to find a book I read about 10 years ago by Barry Rubin entitled, “Paved with good intentions, The American experience in Iran” which is a pretty good history about a time that many Americans do not remember: a time when the US and Iran were allies. That once upon a time over 24,000 Americans worked in Iran, and it was American arms that kept the Shaw in power and the Russians out.

Although written over 20 years ago, Rubin’s opening paragraphs are still kind of a warning for the world of today:

A country’s behavior, as the Iranian crisis so vividly demonstrates, is not merely a product of a rational pursuit of objective national interests. Rather it is the result of the interaction of the collective historical experience of the nation with individual life experiences of its citizens. The former creates a nation’s political course, the latter shapes its political consciousness. Whether or not the interaction contributes to the effective fulfillment of a nations objective interests, though not always the controlling question.
There is also a rather common occurrence in politics that might be called the vector principle. A boat sets off fro the opposite shore of a river but because of various unconsidered currents, ends up several miles downstream. American policies often seemed in theory, if not in execution, directed towards reasonably obtainable, rational goals but failed nonetheless because they did not fully take into account the currents of Iranian and Middle East politics.
In part, United States error may be traced to the triumph of a single minded strategy over political realities……………certainly, some dictatorships prosper-not all decay-and some are replaced by worse alternatives.

Dear Neocons, I think you slept through this part of the course. Certainly it proved true of Iran, if not also Iraq, in Iran the replacement for the Shah was 10 times worse than having him on the throne.

I also went back and reviewed Rubin's book for a more personal reason. I started college with some 50-55 Iranians at my beloved alma mater. Having never been to Iran, they are the only Iranians I’ve ever met. I can still remember vividly the arguments they used to have in the college canteen ( where they seemed to be the only ones who had any money….), in Farsi, back and forth as the lead up was coming to the Iranian revolution.

Although commissioned as Ensigns in the IIN (Imperial Iranian Navy) these guys did not adapt well to American military college life, pre feminist; pre kinder and gentler; pre consideration of others training; style. Maybe 35 lasted the year. Many of the early group got booted on honor violations ( “What do you mean its wrong to copy my seatmate’s test?”), conduct incidents out in town ( including at least one alleged rape), or just not digging some gawky southern boy responding to their entreaties in a less than sympathetic fashion:

CADET Recruit Amad: “Sir, but sir, in my country, we do not do this!”

CADET Sergeant Southern Boy: “ Well in mine we do! Hit it you little shit! “

Sophomore year a few more did not come back and then their numbers stabilized at about 20-25. Those that did make it through did ok, but they never were really accepted well by the rest of the Corps. At best they were tolerated, and for their part, they reciprocated by studying and keeping to themselves. Many bought the ritual trans-am:

Best car Oil money can buy!

Some met Charleston girls, set them up in apartments (remember they were making over 1200 US dollars a month, a lot of money in 1977 for a college student in those days) and for the girl a pretty good deal; she generally got free use of the apartment during the week and only had to render forth on the weekends as required or desired. Generally they sort of never adapted, although some never truly did. A couple remained devout Muslims- we had one in our company who wore his boxer shorts even in the shower out of Islamic modesty(there is an oxymoron if there ever was one!)- and all seemed determined to carve out their own path in a way that was contrary to the spirit of camaderie that life in the Corps of Cadets tended to build. What was true, was that most of us never really understood what made them tick.

Nor did many of us have an appreciation of how the government worked back home. There was one student who seemed much older than the rest. He lived in 1st Battalion, had grey hair and was partially bald. His skin was tough and somewhat wrinkled. The rumor Senior year was that he was the resident SAVAK ( Iranian secret police ) agent on the campus. That rumor seemed to be confirmed when, as the action heated up back in Iran, he got a brick through the window of his Trans-am 3 months before graduation. Fortunately he was not hurt.

As the news from home got worse, you could see the Iranian students start to take sides. As I said earlier, heated arguments ensued among them. From what I gathered a lot of it was about the Shah and whether to go home and join the revolution. Since the IIN was allied pretty closely with the Shah of Iran, it was a brave decision to take.

As the government got bogged down with what to do, the IIN simply stopped paying the bills. That created a crisis for the College and for the government. A compromise was arrived at where folks could finish college if they wanted to, and many were offered asylum by the US government. Several folks took the offer ( including the rumored SAVAK agent). After graduation most of us never heard or saw from them again. One guy, I shared a lot of classes with, is rumored to be alive and well and living in Atlanta as a doctor with an American wife and kids. Of the guys who went back to Iran, I always wondered what happened to them. Did they end up part of a “human wave” assault on the Iraqi line? Or perhaps they ended up here. Who knows?

However that was my experience, living and working with Iranians. I’ve always hoped that the Islamic idiots would implode on their own, and we could go back to the days of friendship. Iran once proved it could be a modern country. However I doubt that it will be allowed to do so again. But its nice to dream………………….

More on the Iranian issue tomorrow…………….

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So who do you believe?

I had a post started about the Hersh article. Twice I typed what I thought were some good words. And twice G**Damn Blogger ate them! I quit.

Go here and read for yourself what some others are saying. Damn you Blogger!

And why it is hard to take Hersh at face value.

I quit!

Resting up

Its amazing what 12 hours of sleep with no beer in you will do for a person. Came back to Japan yesterday and back to the usual nonsense. Went to bed early and slept and slept. Which was also what I did Sunday night, had been into Wanchai early, went back to the room to call the S.O. and fell asleep after calling her. Woke up about 12:30...damn! Said to hell with it, I sleep on the plane, back in cab to Wanchai. Made circuit of all my usual haunts, but by design jumped in a cab about 3 and came back to the hotel to pack and get ready to go. I wish I had the stamina I had a few years ago.

Now its back to the grind stone and some more worthy topics............

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sticking out.

Made the circuit last night. Kolwoon, Lan Kwai Fong, Wanchai......waking up this morning has been slow to say the least. This is my third attempt to get moving after my second shower of the morning. Back home tomorrow and I know I'll be able to sleep there.

Saw lots of Sailors out last night. It dawned on me again, how obvious and out of place they looked there. The ship had its shore patrol out, but they don't call it shore patrol anymore. They call it the SLG (Ship liaison Group) and instead of black and gold armbands on a uniform, they wear golf shirts. They still stand out though.

Lan Kwai Fong was packed and as the evening wore on, saw some real sweethearts. Nice girls, dressed well in skirts and "f**k me" pumps, being hit on my guys in T-shirts and hats worn backwards. Most of the guys were getting shot down right and left. If you are going to pick up women, one should at least dress up for it.

Like I said, may be I am conditioned, but Americans stand out in the crowd. I could tell instantly who was from the ship and who was a local resident. It actually became a game of sorts to see how right I was. It makes me wonder if folks take the messages about blending in seriously or not. In Hong Kong, sticking out is just a minor annoyance, someplace else it could be the difference between being attacked or not.

Its clear though, from talking to folks that going on liberty has definitely changed from my day. Now the Sailors have to have a designated buddy and one has to go and come together. The old days , where your humble scribe here, would peel off and go prowling on his own are not allowed any more. That's a shame in my humble opinion.

However its in keeping with the trend these days. The US Navy is guilty of a creeping paternalism, just like the government as a whole. I even saw a brief a couple of months ago that talked about teaching Sailors to be "more moral". What the heck does that mean? I know why they are doing this but it seems out of place in an organization who collectively exists to do something very immoral, namely the organized mass murder of other human beings. So it seems appeals to a higher morality is a bit out of place. Probably the better question to be asking is "What gets in the way?" Those things that do, prohibit. The rest, well let the buyer make the decision. That includes by the way, meeting and greeting free-lancers in Wanchai. I wondered how the SLG dealt with that. Did not make it to Neptune but I wonder what they did with Sailors going in there.

The Economist did a story about this tendency to over protect:

As the magazine points out, thinking Americans need to reject this trend. Its the road to ruin:

LIBERALS sometimes dream of a night-watchman state, securing property and person, but no more. They fret that societies have instead submitted to the nanny state, a protective but intrusive matriarch, coddling citizens for their own good. Economists, with their strong faith in rationality and liberty, have tended to agree. As many decisions as possible should be left in the individual's lap, because no one knows your interests better than you do. Most of us have gained from this freedom.

But a new breed of policy wonk is having second thoughts. On some of the biggest decisions in their lives, people succumb to inertia, ignorance or irresolution. Their private failings :obesity, smoking, boozing, profligacy are now big political questions. And the wonks think they have an ingenious new answer a guiding but not illiberal state.

What they propose is "soft paternalism" (see article). Thanks to years of patient observation of people's behaviour, they have come to understand your weaknesses and blindspots better than you might know them yourself. Now they hope to turn them to your advantage. They are paternalists, because they want to help you make the choices you would make for yourselfif only you had the strength of will and the sharpness of mind. But unlike hard paternalists, who ban some things and mandate others, the softer kind aim only to skew your decisions, without infringing greatly on your freedom of choice. Technocrats, itching to perfect society, find it irresistible. What should the supposed beneficiaries think?

If they are wise they will say no thank you. For real freedom is also about the freedom to make bad choices as well as good ones. As the writer of this article points out:

Its champions will say that soft paternalism should only be used for ends that are unarguably good: on the side of sobriety, prudence and restraint. But private virtues such as these are as likely to wither as to flourish when public bodies take charge of them. And life would be duller if every reckless spirit could outsource self-discipline to the state. Had the government deprived Coleridge of opium, he might have been happier. Then again, there might have been no Kubla Khan.

I'll enjoy my own road thank you very much. I've had personal experience with useless do gooders who thought they had the right to tell what I could and could not do and how I should live. Every time I go up in to Lan Kwai Fong I think of them. And then I hoist my beer and given them a hearty , "F**k you" in my mind. "I'm still here you greasy bastards!" and I'll keep standing up to you. I've seen what these folks are selling and I'm not buying it. I'll be at work on time thank you very much. But the rest is up to me. That's the way it is supposed to be.

And now I go drink beer in Stanley Bay...........

Ja ne

Saturday, April 08, 2006

An interesting day

Qucik post here for I have still some shopping to do.

Did my thing today and was up at 6:30 am this morning which is unheard of for me when I am in Hong Kong. Even ate breakfast. Busy till 3 this afternoon. Was going to go up to the Peak but the line was obscene. Went to Dan Ryan's for lunch instead. Bought the S.O. the jewelry should could have picked herself if she had come along.

There is a new resident in bloggerville. A friend of mine who writes better and has a better sense of style. Check out what he has to say here. Better writing for sure, but I doubt you'll find beer and babes there. I'll add the Scribe to my links when I get back.

Been watching all the crying about how hard the made Augusta this year. I think its a great thing. Golf is about straight shooting, so if the scores are higher, that's a good thing. I like seeing Tiger get a double bogie once in a while, just like us mere mortals...........

Gotta run. Lan Kwai Fong is waiting.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Out the door.....looking for?

I don't know what. However for the 3rd time in as many weeks I am back at Narita heading off to someplace else. S.O. is fit to be tied. Now mind you, I invited her to come along on this trip at my expense over 7 weeks ago, but her twisted female mind can't seem to remember that little detail. I meant it too and I really wanted her to go, but she can't decide if just bleeding me out of money, or being treated well, is more important to her. However, in a great display of my new found resolve, I told her I'm going one way or another. I even offered this week to take her with me, and hang the expense. God bless her, she thought better of that. Whew! Dodged that bullet.

So now its time to look for these:

And may be one of these? Not this weekend!...........Thanks to 5000 of my (not so) good friends! GRRR

Ahh, but that is the real challenge.......finding the diamond in the rough!
Ja ne!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Another day......another kick in the ass

Today was an up and down kind of day. Got some sort of good news or depending on how things turn out it could be bad news. Either way change is coming for poor little Skippy-san. Your humble scribe has known its coming, but I've been hoping for the best. And the news I received today could or could not be the best depending........

Out of here to go away for the weekend. Back to Hongkie town. Yes that's right. Something to do and it preserves options down the pike since this particular opportunity is only offered once a year.

"Why not do it in Tokyo.........?"

Where is the fun in that? This gives me an excuse to get away. Although when I signed up, I forgot to check the fleet schedule before picking a location, so 5000+ unwanted guests will be in the city this weekend........something I normally try to avoid like the plague. I signed up before I checked, then realized I was screwed because now I was committed to this test location. Piss poor pre-flight planning if you ask me. However at the time I did not realize I would get to Hong Kong before then..........

I think this means I'll have to avoid the Wanchai Vortex which is a shame because I like Wanchai. However I like it on my terms, and with the group I think will be there, it definitely will not be on my terms. So after the exam, it will be off to explore some out of the way part of HK Island, or the New Territories. Sunday I might even go to Macau. I will definitely be keeping a low profile. Hong Kong is a big city, right? There has to be a place for me to hole up, drink beer, and watch the Chuppies..........Wish I had a visa to go to ShenShen..........

When I get back, I'm going to have some things to do I expect. and the next couple of months are going to get very busy. However God willing, my asia travel program will pick up and I should get some time to explore around Japan this summer. Film at 11 on both items.

The voice of Obi Wan talks to Skippy on the MTR..........:

Keep your head on the swivel and check six!

Who knows, I may actually find the Christian Science reading room this trip!

"Once more into the breach!!"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How not to pad your resume..........

Hitting a cop is probably not a way to do it. I guess Cynthia McKinney never got the lecture from her father about never argue with a cop on the scene.........

Neither does this do much for your career progression:
WASHINGTON (AP) - A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department was put on unpaid leave Wednesday after being charged with preying on a child through
online sexual conversations with an undercover detective who was posing as a
14-year-old girl. Homeland Security officials said Brian J. Doyle, the fourth-ranking spokesman at the department, was put on "non-pay status" following the charges late Tuesday. Doyle, 55, was expected to appear in court Wednesday afternoon in suburban Maryland, where he lives.

And finally its probably never a good idea to do this:

LONDON (Reuters) - British anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said Wednesday.

Detectives halted the London-bound flight at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northern England and Harraj Mann, 24, was taken off.

The taxi driver had become worried on the way to the airport because Mann had been singing along to The Clash's 1979 anthem "London Calling," which features the lyrics "Now war is declared -- and battle come down" while other lines warn of a "meltdown expected."

Mann told British newspapers the taxi had been fitted with a music system which allowed him to plug in his MP3 player and he had been playing The Clash, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the driver.

"He didn't like Led Zeppelin or The Clash but I don't think there was any need to tell the police," Mann told the Daily Mirror.

Tsk Tsk Tsk.................

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

" Why are you against progress?"

As you have probably noticed by my postings, I am not a big fan of the current management strategy in DOD and the Department of the Navy. Several folks have accused me of being a dinosaur (which I probably am), but at the same time they do not offer a way out of the current death spiral that the armed services seem to be in. Today I'd like to take a minute to explain why I feel as strongly as I do.

First of all, I'm not opposed to progress. Nor am I someone who feels like there is not a way the government can be more fiscally responsible in how it produces "stuff" and readiness of combat units. In Naval Aviation alone, many of the improvements that have been made like NAVRIIP and applying Lean and Six Sigma to production techniques has paid dividends. However, all of this has to be measured against one criteria: " how is this helping to produce a stable rotation of forces that will be able to sustain the pace of a 'long war' . The production techniques help improve the spare parts piece of the aviation equation, however the continuing pressure to make the Navy smaller, combined with Rummy's math that anyone who is serving should be fodder to go to Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, or Iraq; and that by their presence he can justify a smaller Army makes in the long term real problems for all of the armed services.

As currently laid out, the Global War on Terror has brought the US back to the 60's. Having to execute a long term deterrent posture (e.g. find and assist nations to reduce the terrorist threat within their borders.........Horn of Africa and Philippine ops--also there are these little matters of deterring N. Korea, China and keep India/ Pakistan in their box........) while dealing with the continuing drain of a real land war in Asia that continues to force the services to yield more and more of their manpower.(e.g Vietnam or Iraq....a running sore that wears down the military in the long run). Unlike the 60's though we: a) do not have a draft so that the nation can access all of its available manpower and b) has a management strategy that relies on making the military much smaller in terms of personnel and in their absence rely on technology to solve all of the military's problems.

Problem is the old rules of forward presence have not really changed. Ships and other units need to be deployed to the areas that they can be expected to be used. They need to be available on short notice and also by being "on scene" they provide a host of other functions that help to engage our allies and make them feel more secure that the United States really cares and is really different than other nations. In terms of numbers, it means you need 2 ships back for every one deployed so that people can enjoy time off; be able to get new personnel trained; install new equipment and train. For the Navy, it means we need more ships than we have now. And at least as many people as we have now.

Oh but wait you ask, we have FRP and we have tailored readiness now. If we need them we can surge the forces forward regardless of how long they were just out doing God's work. Retention is high, the Sailors of our beloved Navy will continue to deal with 7-8 month cruises, short turnarounds and being plucked from home and hearth to go fill Army missions while on shore duty. Retention is high! Folks will continue to respond without grumbling to things they did not sign up to do.

In my opinion, this state of affairs was, and continues to be avoidable. However it requires a willingness to do things that the Navy as of yet, has proven unable to do. We talk about down sizing personnel and making the Navy more efficient, but we don't do what is really needed. We talk about getting shipbuilding on track, and then we build gold plated frigates like the Little Crappy Ship and DD expensive............CVN-21 too................when did we become in love with perfection instead of "good enough"?

And like the proverbial passengers rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, we continue to create staffs to manage functions across geographical lines, which has made the Navy staff organization so complicated it is only second to the Vatican in its reluctance to change.

By doing so we send a lot of hidden messages that Sailors do not miss. Here is hidden message number 1:

The Navy continues to keep EXACTLY as many flag officers as it had in 1991, but it has half as many ships and aircraft than it did then. Below 0-7 though, we are pushing folks out the door.

Hidden message number 2: Cost wise readiness vs readiness at any cost. We gold plate ships like the San Antonio, the F-18 F and the JSF, while ignoring the rest of the recapitalization problem.
They Navy needs improvements in all of its aircraft and is only now being able to realize them.

We create new Type Commanders and Flag staffs in order to show "the power of alignment". Never mind that in at least 4 case I can think of, the CAPTS running the show before were doing quite fine, "we need a flag in charge to make the 3-star happy". We continue to make the Fleet Forces Command into a monster, while ignoring the fact that coordinated strategy, with decentralized execution has worked well for a long time.

The long war has a bill. Its time to recognize we have to pay it. If we were really serious about efficiency we would:

1) Cut some flag officers. Make the jobs an O-6. By reducing flags you reduce expenses and the "personnel baggage " that goes along.

2) Do away with things like CNI and other outfits. Realize that shore stations are nothing more than extensions of the ships and aircraft that live there. Place the TYCOMS in charge of their shore stations and empower the CO's of said stations again. Make them CEO's and Mayors of their own little small towns. Hold them accountable based on how they support the fleet.

3) Make the actives manage the reserves. Do away with separate entities like RESFORCOM and CNAFR and embed the reserve units into the 3 major TYCOMS. Park the funding there as well.

4) Realize that numbers matter. More ships of reasonable cost are better than less ships of gold plated capability. Same is true for aircraft these days.

To return where I started, I'm not against progess. But real progess costs........and is not just about finding places where one can cut the budget. NUFF Said!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Back and busy!

Meant to post something serious tonight, but events and tiredness overcame me. So that will have to wait till the AM. ( After I work out, so no guarantees......).

This last weekend was the Rugby Sevens, where I wish I had been. Madame Chiang, Expat at Large, and Shaky Kaiser provide comprehensive coverage. I've been dying to get there during a Sevens since I first heard about 3 years ago, but work, or money (lack thereof) has prohibited. This year is no different since I have to go away this next weekend.

Never heard of the Sevens you say? Hemlock provides this slightly biased explanation:

That curious migration each Spring, when every Anglo-Saxon expatriate east of Suez feels compelled to come to Hong Kong and cram himself into a stadium along with thousands of others, all wearing rugby shirts, to drink and watch oafish Fijians run up and down a field. I tell him how I used to get free tickets and left them face up and peed upon in Lan Kwai Fong bar urinals to see how long it would take before some desperate victim of Sevens mania retrieved them. Twenty minutes, maximum. He stares at me in disbelief. "I don't go"? "No, never" , I tell him. Odell joins in.

Yea, well this is the same guy who looks down on those of men (like me) who like to chase housemaids in Wanchai on Sunday evenings, hoping to offer them a bit of love and respite from their weekly drudgery ( Even if it requries a charitable donation.....). To each his own.

It looks like it would be a lot of fun. Madame Chiang even prescribes the Sevens diet:

one cup of tea
one bottle of Perrier
2 bottles of wine
2 glasses of Pimms
1 KFC Waffle Fry
1 mouthful of quiche

That's per day. You are welcome to vary it ( I think I would subsist on Carlsbergs myself) and your mileage may vary.

Its just a right of spring, no different than throwing out the first ball in a Cubs game..........which George W. Bush will do today. Cubs vs Reds. Maybe this will be the year my Cubbies win! And maybe we'll be out of Iraq by Christmas..........both events are quite unlikely.

Speaking of Iraq, I'll close with 2 serious articles that you should take a look at over at the Duck's place. One is about immigration and what the debate is really about, e.g. Avoiding the road to Dubai, and Thomas Friedman's analysis that things in Iraq may be even more worrisome than we are being told. Agree or not, they make for interesting reading.

Fun's fun, but I'm done. More tomorrow!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Stuck with a dial up and other frustration.

No babes this week, my wireless card does not seem to be working here for some reason. Sorry Mark! Wait till I get home. ( I could have used one last night!).

Other musings / complaints.

Why is it when I heard on TV that a Congressperson had been accused of assault, when I heard who it was, I was not suprised? And why is it she is blaming it all on the fact that she is black? "Madam, I don't begrudge your race. I do begrudge you being stupid."

LAX blows! Check in is unsat, security is just a pain in the ass and God help you if you are late for your line. I wanted to walk through the United checkin area with my Louisville slugger and knock a few heads together. It could be fixed very simply in many ways.........and get a 1K line for pete's sake.

How come there is no decent train system here? The metro area is the same size as Tokyo's, but getting around is just a pain in the ass. Even today on a Saturday morning it took me an 1+45 to get down here from Ventura. I know Californians love their cars, but..............

Smoking cigars at a party is almost never a good idea.

Speaking of parties, still haven't figured out a way to tell people who don't know that I am divorced and my kids live with the ex. Ran into a couple I had not seen in 8 years at this party for the Great American I talked about. Guys wife was well meaning when she asked about my wife and kids. Had to explain that I moved on in life leaving her and them behind. I tried to make it light and friendly, but its still awkward. Her: "How's XXXXX?" Me: " I have no idea, we got divorced 7 years ago, however she still cashes the alimony checks on time."

When riding with a friend and he does not want to leave the party makes for some interesting silences..........

Houses in Thousand Oaks are nice.....and expensive.

And what's with the rain this week!

Gotta board the plane........Nihon awaits!

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