Monday, July 31, 2006

I gave the man a year.......

Its now been over a year to be exact. Over a year since "The Donald" promised a Lt Col staring poverty in the face that he have Dr Chu "look into it". Not one speech, not one letter to Congress, not even a written apology. Nothing. In fact its worth than nothing , because Congress proposed amendments to the law that make it even more vindictive. The one amendment that would have helped the Lt Col was " subsequently withdrawn, in the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, and not reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee to the full Senate. "

From the good Mr Rumsfeld....nary a peep. Thanks for living up to my already low expectations. "Do military spouses deserve lifetime monetary awards that civilian spouses don't get? Why? Is the playing field level in military divorces? Absolutely not. Why the Sec Def thinks that's a good thing is known only to him."

Boy that felt good! We now return you to the normal mayhem.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The part the movie did not show........

In the process of digging out from my move, I came across this little tidbit from my days back in Nevada. The folks I had working for me loved to "alter" Dilbert cartoons and post them in our coffee break room. Seeing this particular cartoon brought back some forgotten memories.

With justifiable pride, Lex recalls fondly his days as an instructor at Topgun. More properly know as the N7 Directorate of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.(NSAWC).

NSAWC was formed from the merger of Topgun, CAEWWS (Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School) and the Navy's strike warfare center. None of the organizations involved wanted the merger and it was driven through by the tenacity of RADM Bernie Smith who believed it was the way forward. He served as the first commander of NSAWC.

At the time there was great pressure to get folks involved to be indentified as part of one unit. The guys at Topgun really did not like that and in my first exposure to the power of the Topgun mafia within the Navy, they got a lot of their way. They used to have seperate social events from the rest of the staff, and they wore different patches and T-shirts from the other flyers. The latter item caused a great deal of friction from the other entities involved who had to give up their patches and name tags etc, in favor of the triangular NSAWC patch and standardized nametag. Since that time, cooler heads have prevailed and each of the weapons schools at NSAWC has been allowed to reassert some of its identity. However at the time it was a source real friction for the non-Topgun JO's. (After all the TOPGUN program was brought down from Mt Zion by Moses was it not? It was on the third and the fourth tablets...e.g. holy writ.)

Idle hands being the devil's workshop, the following little piece of manga ensued:

There were some others, not so flattering about yours truly, so when I found them last week I put them back in the box. Perhaps over the next few months I'll publish them. Nothing like JO's with time on their hands.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

People watching...........

I wanted to post something serious today, but as luck would have it I had to go to Narita to meet a new employee today. Being the junior guy in terms of time on the job, but yet having significant time in Japan, I was volunteered asked if I would do it. So I took the train up to Narita and met the van that was going to bring all of us back to the city.

The war in Lebanon will be with us for a few more years weeks so there is time to pontificate later. Good days only come along every so often, for bad news: there is always time. So today I indulged in one of my favorite things to do: people watching.

My target today was Shinagawa station. Its the third busiest station in Tokyo and on a Saturday full of people. It was even busier today because today is the Sumida fireworks over in Asakusa, so folks come to Shinagawa to catch the Mita subway or the Keikyu line to get there. Shinagawa has also undergone a massive renovation so that folks can catch the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train) and the Narita express. When I first came to Japan one could not do that, so its much improved from those days. Plus its full of women...always. Take a peek for yourself:

Must be early, it was more crowded today!


Because I am too lazy to buy a transfer ticket and I needed to recharge my JR card, I exited the station downstairs and then had to go back up to the JR side. As I passed the Lawson's, I saw a girl standing in a gold , short, dress. She was fluffing her hair and looking around anxiously. Not necessarily a beauty, but not scary either. What I found interesting was that she was wearing high heels and a dress that the hemline was much higher in the front than the back. Someone will have to tell me what the name is for that. Truth be told it was pretty sexy. She either was a hooker (which I strongly doubt) or she was waiting for a date, and judging by her nervousness, a first or important one. The giveway of course was the pocket mirror, repeatedly opened, and the amount of time she kept going back to her hair. Watched this for about 5 minutes, wishing all the while I was the guy she was going to meet; then I headed up the escalator.

At the top of which I noticed two major things going on. One was a line of people with fans ( The Japanese style paddle fans......) waiting in line. The second of which was a group of young people waiting to get Pikachu caps. Not sure what they had to pay or sign up for, but there sure were a lot of them. What is the attraction of this guy anyway?

There was not one of these......

Just this:

Moving on..........

Went through the toll gate heading for platform 13 and the Narita express. Saw one of Spike's Shibuya girls.. Someday some one will have to explain to me the attraction of orange hair. To me, its like seeing a tattoo on girl. All it does is scream, "I'm easy!" (which is not necessarily a bad thing........).

Boarded the train and went to Narita. At Narita, I was there at the witching hour (#1). That's when the NW flight from Manila arrives at the same time as the Korean Air flight from Seoul. It means there are hordes ( and I do mean hordes) of Filipinos with tied up cardboard boxes and Koreans looking for other Koreans. Inter- mixed are tired Americans and Japanese who have to make the long and intolerable flight from Dallas on American.

And you guessed it, the folks I was there to meet were virtually the last people off the plane. Some things never change.

Lots of good people watching though. Everyone needs a hobby and this one of mine.........

Friday, July 28, 2006

Its been a while......

For beer and babes that is.........

Life has been hectic these last for weeks......and damned unsatisfying. Not sure why, except I am having growing pains adjusting to the new job. Suspect that happens with every one at some time, so patience is required.

Then again, maybe it could be due to not enough of these:

And definately not getting enough of these:

Cheer up Skippy! It could be worse!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Final Frontier.....

I watched 2010 on TV tonight. Seeing it on Turner Classic movies makes me feel old. Its a good movie in my opinion, especially the way they melded the story together and tried to stay true to Arthur C. Clarke's work. The entire series is worth the read if you get the inclination. (2001 A Space Odyssey, 2010, 2061, 3001). However sitting here in 2006 knowing that manned spaceflight is stuck seemingly forever in near Earth orbit, makes watching the imagined tale of a joint US-Russian mission to Jupiter very frustrating.

If I were king of the world, the US would have gone back to the moon at least once a year, every year since 1969. We would have had a space station up long before now. There would by this time at least be the preparations in place for a manned mission to Mars. NASA would have a much larger budget, that is for sure.

What is that you say? We cannot afford a large space budget. Maybe.
However how is it we can afford 87 billion every six months or so to poor down a sinkhole in Iraq, but we cannot afford 20 or so billion to advance human knowledge and improve man's technology? Just about all of the modern technology we now take for granted had its start in the space program. It gave the nation a sense of purpose, plus it was awesome to know that the US had planted an American flag on the moon........and the Russians had not.

Instead we simply tinker with the ISS......and hear people complain about doing even that. Me I long for the days of yesteryear when Alan Shepard hit a 7 iron on the moon and Neil Armstrong was out taking big steps for mankind. If the world can afford to go to war again and again, it must be able to afford some dollars for space.

We now return you to the war in (Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, ......fill in the blank).

What might have been.........

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back in the saddle again........

Shameless plug for Norton Ghost follows.............

Worth every penny I put on my credit card. I was able to recover all of my porninfo on the computer. Took me a while, but it was made longer by that damn thing called work getting in the way.

While I was out what did I miss?

Well, according to the Phibian I missed the Miss Universe pagent. A Puerto Rican won. I did not even know who Miss Japan was but after looking at this, and the fact that she came in Second I probably should have. You might find it interesting, that it got little play in the Japanese papers.

Being Miss Universe must be a stressful job though. Look what happened to the winner!

Its so nice to have my computer back. Made me think back a couple of weeks ago when I was moving. S.O. was worrying about getting the dishes in. Me, I just wanted my TV and internet.......and beer in the frige. Gotta get your priorities straight!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The rabbit is tits up...............

No, not THAT rabbit.........

However in changing ISP's and trying to do some configuration changes to my computer I screwed it up. Thus I'm in the library typing and this. And since they have a limit on how long you can stay on and surf porn use the computer, I'll have to wait till I get this sorted out.

Looks like I'll be spending time on the phone again talking to Raj in Banglore........

Like MacArthur however, I will return.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Proxy War- Part II

Yesterday I talked about how George Bush and Syria's President were in agreement about what to do about Hezbolah in Lebanon. Talk a good game, but do nothing to stop the fighting. Today I'll examin why George Bush will do nothing in Lebanon till Israel has put a dent in Hezbolah.

From his perspective, the Katushya attacks are a God-send. Since the begining of the GWOT, he has had a to walk a fine line about preserving perceptions in order to keep Arab allies in line and try to stay on the moral high ground. This is about bringing terrorists to justice, not about promoting an agenda that furthers Israels interests. Tough job for one of the most pro-Israel presidents since Harry Truman. Just as in Gulf War I, preserving the coalition depended on keeping Israel in the box. Thanks to the attacks he does not have to any longer. He gets to give Iran's ally a balck eye and it costs him nothing but 3 billion a year in aid to do so. Plus from his perspective its a two-fer; since Hezbolah ios backed by Iran, they get a black eye. That is especially helpful since, thanks to the continuing drain of the Iraq war on the US military and the SECDEF"S obsession with down sizing it, the military is no position to start a 6th war any time soon. (Homeland Defense, Iraq, HOA, PI, deterrence of North Korea). And to be blunt, this is a fight we should stay out of , and benefit from.

Benefit from you ask? The US, gets to watch Hezbolah and by extension Iran get a punch in the nose, a labeled terrorist organization get hurt and as a weekend bonus, see Israel do some tactical development and research on all the weapons we have sent them, for free. (Free to us at least, the Israelis pay a price.) For both President Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister the clock is ticking. Once again from Stratfor:

Two of the realities cannot be changed. Nothing can be done about geography or demography. Culture can be changed. It is not inherently the case that Israel will have a technological or operational advantage over its neighbors. The great inherent fear of Israel is that the Arabs will equal or surpass Israeli prowess culturally and therefore militarily.
If that were to happen, then all three realities would turn against Israel and Israel might well be at risk.

That is why the capture of Israeli troops, first one in the south, then two in the north, has galvanized Israel. The kidnappings represent a level of Arab tactical prowess that previously was the Israeli domain. They also represent a level of tactical slackness on the Israeli side that was previously the Arab domain. These events hardly represent a fundamental shift in the balance of power. Nevertheless, for a country that depends on its cultural superiority, any tremor in this variable reverberates dramatically. Hamas and Hezbollah have struck the core Israeli nerve. Israel cannot ignore it.

Embedded in Israel's demographic problem is this: Israel has national security requirements that outstrip its manpower base. It can field a sufficient army, but its industrial base cannot supply all of the weapons needed to fight high-intensity conflicts. This means it is always
dependent on an outside source for its industrial base and must align its policies with that source. At first this was the Soviets, then France and finally the United States. Israel broke with the Soviets and France when their political demands became too intense. It was after 1967 that it entered into a patron-client relationship with the United States. This relationship is its strength and its weakness. It gives the Israelis the systems they need for
national security, but since U.S. and Israeli interests diverge, the relationship constrains Israel's range of action.

The Israelis know they can never win the public opinon battle about this invasion. They really don't care. If Israel is going to be attacked anyway, it might as well achieve its goals. So long as the patron is happy, and they would have to do a lot make George Bush happy, they feel they have room to maneuver. In this instance the US has a lot of incentive to give them that freedom. More STRATFOR analysis:

Therefore, this is one Israeli action that benefits the United States, and thus helps the immediate situation as well as long-term geopolitical alignments. It realigns the United States and Israel. This also argues that any invasion must be devastating to Hezbollah. It must go deep. It must occupy temporarily. It must shatter Hezbollah.

At this point, the Israelis appear to be unrolling a war plan in this direction. They
have blockaded the Lebanese coast. Israeli aircraft are attacking what air power
there is in Lebanon, and have attacked Hezbollah and other key command-and-control infrastructure. It would follow that the Israelis will now concentrate on destroying Hezbollah -- and Lebanese -- communications capabilities and attacking munitions dumps, vehicle sites, rocket-storage areas and so forth.

Most important, Israel is calling up its reserves. This is never a symbolic gesture in Israel. All Israelis below middle age are in the reserves and mobilization is costly in every sense of the word. If the Israelis were planning a routine reprisal, they would not be mobilizing. But they are, which means they are planning to do substantially more than retributive airstrikes. The question is what their plan is.

George W. and Condi will take their time finding out, that is for sure. In the meantime Israel has the freedom it needs to move. Witness a recent e-mail add from the Jersulaem Post (I suscribe electronically to the paper):

Like the pig and breakfast, Israel is totally committed!

There are of course risks, particularly if Israel kills large numbers of Lebanese. It will provide a proganada field day and another excuse for the Iranians to stir up trouble someplace else (Like attacking Americans in Iraq.....). But that's to be seen. For the future, the watch word with Bush is- WAIT!

And since its not us doing the bombing, that's probably a good thing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Proxy War-Part I

Another day another 200 killed, maimed, or fleeing in Lebanon. Familiar news headlines that start with "Israeli warplanes bomb (fill in the blank)" or "Hezbollah declares it hatred of the Zionists. Bombs set off in (fill in the blank)."

And the US Navy, one of whose missions is to evacuate American citizens and show large grey, gun and missile toting hulls off the coast, is outsourcing its role to cruise ships from Cyprus and car carriers from Norway. Guess we are not going to see this anymore:

USS New Jersey "sending a message" off Lebanon in 1984.

Now in the world I grew up in 100,000 tons of lots of US ships could send a message to both sides to rachet things down a notch or we just outsource it to the Europeans at first, since the US is too busy to send an LHA to the region right away because all the Marines are involved in fighting in (fill in the blank). (And yes I know USS Iwo Jima and her strike group is on their way! However in a proper world with a proper sized Navy they would have been on station anyway.....).

I digress however..........

I read an interesting theory this weekend that said in essence: that both the US and Syria want the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel to continue. For different reasons but similar end states. Lets look at Syria first:

Hezbollah's decision to increase operations against Israel was not taken lightly. The leadership of Hezbollah has not so much moderated over the years as it has aged. The group's leaders have also, with age, become comfortable and in many cases wealthy. They are at least part of the Lebanese political process, and in some real sense part of the Lebanese establishment. These are men with a radical past and of radical mind-set, but they are older, comfortable and less adventurous than 20 years ago. Therefore, the question is: Why are they increasing tensions with Israel and inviting an invasion that threatens their very lives? ......

Hezbollah had a split personality, however; it was supported by two very different states. Iran was radically Islamic. Syria, much closer and a major power in Lebanon, was secular and socialist. They shared an anti-Zionist ideology, but beyond that, not much. Moreover, the Syrians viewed the Palestinian claim for a state with a jaundiced eye. Palestine was, from their point of view, part of the Ottoman Empire's Syrian province, divided by the British and French. Syria wanted to destroy Israel, but not necessarily to create a Palestinian state. From Syria's point of view, the real issue was the future of Lebanon, which it wanted to reabsorb into Syria, or at the very least economically exploit.

The Syrians intervened in Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization and on the side of some Christian elements. Their goal was much less ideological than political and economic. They saw Hezbollah as a tool in their fight with Yasser Arafat and for domination of Syria. Hezbollah strategically was aligned with Iran. Tactically, it had to align itself with Syria, since the Syrians dominated Lebanon. That meant that when Syria wanted tension with Israel, Hezbollah provided it, and when Syria wanted things to quiet down, Hezbollah cooled it. Meanwhile the leadership of Hezbollah, aligned with the Syrians, was in a position to prosper, particular after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.That withdrawal involved a basic, quiet agreement between Syria and Israel. Israel accepted Syrian domination of Lebanon. In return, Syria was expected to maintain a security regime that controlled Hezbollah. Attacks against Israel had to be kept within certain acceptable limits. Syria, having far less interest in Israel than in Lebanon, saw this as an opportunity to achieve its ends. Israel saw Syrian domination under these terms as a stabilizing force.

What follows from the Statfor analysis is chilling. After pointing out that the events in Lebanon last year precipitated a Syrian withdrawal, and a resultant lack of control, the analysis goes on to point out:

Now, do not overestimate the extent of the withdrawal. Syrian influence in Lebanon is still enormous. But it did relieve Syria of the burden of controlling Hezbollah. Indeed, Israel was not overly enthusiastic about Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon for just that reason.

Syria could now claim to have no influence or obligation concerning Hezbollah. Hezbollah's leadership lost the cover of being able to tell the young Turks that they would be more aggressive, but that the Syrians would not let them. As the Syrian withdrawal loosened up Lebanese politics, Hezbollah was neither restrained nor could it pretend to be restrained. Whatever the mixed feelings might have been, the mission was the mission, Syrian withdrawal opened the door and Hezbollah could not resist walking through it, and many members urgently wanted to walk through it.

At the same time the Iranians were deeply involved in negotiations in Iraq and over Tehran's nuclear program. They wanted as many levers as they could find to use in negotiations against the United States. They already had the ability to destabilize Iraq. They had a nuclear program the United States wanted to get rid of. Reactivating a global network that directly threatened American interests was another chip on the bargaining table. Not attacking U.S. interests but attacking Israel demonstrated Hezbollah's vibrancy without directly threatening the United States. Moreover, activities around the world, not carefully shielded in some cases, gave Iran further leverage.

Thanks to the great leader in North Korea, that last line may be exactly correct.

However the immediate benefit to Syria has to be obvious. Israel does not want nor need another Islamic state spouting death threats. That plate is full. They are also hoping that Israel gets bogged down again in Lebanon. It could then turn to Syria to relieve it of its burdens. This gets Syria regime preservation and the opportunity to reclaim Lebanon.

Which makes a real problem for Westerners in Lebanon. Because as Hezbollah gets pushed to the out!:

So now the question is: What does Hezbollah do when the Israelis come? They can resist. They have anti-tank weapons and other systems from Iran. They can inflict casualties. They can impose a counterinsurgency. Syria may think Israel will have to stay, but Israel plans to
crush Hezbollah's infrastructure and leave, forcing Hezbollah to take years to recover. Everyone else in Lebanon is furious at Hezbollah for disrupting the recovery. What does Hezbollah do?

In the 1980s, what Hezbollah did was take Western hostages. The United States is enormously sensitive to hostage situations. It led Ronald Reagan to Iran-Contra. Politically, the United States has trouble handling hostages. This is the one thing Hezbollah learned in the 1980s that the leaders remember. A portfolio of hostages is life insurance. Hezbollah could go back to its old habits. It makes sense to do so.

It will not do this while there is a chance of averting an invasion. But once it is
crystal clear it is coming, grabbing hostages makes sense. Assuming the invasion
is going to occur early next week
(this was written last week, Israeli troops crossed the border today) -- or a political settlement is going to take place -- Western powers now have no more than 72 hours to get their nationals out of Beirut or into places of safety. That probably cannot be done. There are thousands of Westerners in Beirut. But the next few days will focus on ascertaining Israeli intensions and timelines, and executing plans to withdraw
citizens. The Israelis might well shift their timeline to facilitate this. But all things considered, if Hezbollah returns to its roots, it should return to its first operational model: hostages.

Which by the way, is why a US ship is named Higgins. Unfortunately, its a little bit busy now and the Sixth fleet is a fleet in name only.....all the ships are elsewhere. Not to worry though, we can outsource the evacuation. Better business practices and such. Can't let protecting Americans get in the way of protecting Iraqis after all.

Tomorrow: Why the US wants to sit on its hands for a while........

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

You ain't seen nothing yet!

If you are like me, you probably watch the news these days and ask yourself, "Man how bad can things get?"

Read here to find out how nice things really are. (H/T to the folks at Drink at Work.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Wars and rumors of wars.........

Sitting here in the lounge at DFW awaiting the long trip back to Tokyo. Watching people go about their business. And I can't help but thinking: Does anyone here realize that there is war going on? That over 200,000 Americans are out in a variety of locations, none of which are nice, and for a cause that seems to be unraveling over this past weekend: peace in the Middle East.

Maybe it is just me, but it seems that as I am out and about that most Americans are either unaware of the facts noted in the above paragraph, or if they are, it all seems far and away, the concerns of immediate life superceding that fact. And for several reasons I am troubled by that. Do Americans really realize what it is the President signed them up for?

It also seems odd to be hearing about Lebanon this weekend. I remember all the crowing about the "Arab spring" last year and how it seemed to some that Lebanon vindicated the idea that democracy would spread to the region and all would be well. If anything, the last week has shown once again, republic or no, Arabs are Arabs and can be counted on to screw up any good deal given to them. I see Israel as having no choice and its time to put Hezobolah in its place. The concern I have though is that it will spiral out of control.

Twas always thus however, and this is really not new news. However the presence of those 200,000 folks whose presence overseas is daily on mine mind makes the stakes a lot higher for my birth country.

And lets not even talk about Kim Jong Il and his threat to the country I am going to.
Has the world gone mad?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Greetings from Texas!

Greetings from Texas!

I've been remiss in my duties here. This business trip has been a lot more busy than I expected it to be. So there has been no time to post.

Its hot here in Fort Worth. Temp when I landed after the 12 hour flight was 103 degrees farenheit. Not sure what that is in Celcius.

The city is BIG! It is so weird driving on wide roads again. This being Texas, the car is king. Public transportation...forget it! It took me almost an hour to get to my hotel from the airport. Don't even want to think what the traffic jam will be like when I go home.

Good food. LOTS of food. I always wondered why American portions are so large.....and greasy. I've had too much fried food this trip.

And again as luck would have it....the Rangers were out of town. So no baseball this weekend for yours truly.

And did I tell you the place is full of Texans? They are a different breed. However it looks like someone is making money here.............

Better post tomorrow! My brain is jello right now. I'm home but I'm not home. Have any of you ever had that feeling?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Out the door...looking for?

My stuff's in! So now I will do the prudent thing and head to Texas for a few days. For business. For beer. For hopefully seeing lots of these:

And if I don't, at least the Phibian and Donovan were kind enough to remind me to be careful out there. As advised by Fred (from beyond the grave it would seem):

Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives.

Amen brother! Amen.

Gotta pack!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Here is why I defend the New York Times..........

Its tough to be a thinker here in Bloggerville. If you try not to just be a zealot for either side, you have a tough time. Consider the latest furor over the New York Times publishing of the fact that the government is monitoring financial transactions in the US. The Times defends its actions thusly:
Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them.

Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively. We discussed the matter extensively within the paper. We spoke to others national security experts not serving in the administration for their counsel. It's worth mentioning that the reporters and editors responsible for this story live in two places, New York and the Washington area, that are tragically established targets for terrorist violence. The question of preventing terror is not abstract to us.

The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good — that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.

It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosefinanciersncers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.

We weighed most heavily the Administration's concern that describing
this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program.

The counter argument is simple: that by publishing this info the Times is tipping the governments hand to the bad guys. To be honest I'm not so sure I follow the logic there. It presumes the enemy is a lot stupider than they are. Its been fairly common knowledge that governments monitor transactions, and has been since the advent of the war on drugs and / or efforts to control arms dealings. One has to assume that the cells in the organization assumed their transactions were being monitored. Certainly drug dealers have long done so.

Plus, the Federal government publicly announced at least twice, that it was doing financial transaction monitoring. Like I said the enemy may be crazy, but they are not stupid. Plus as has been reported quite often AlQuaeda is more of a loose confederation of crazies than an organized hierarchy. US pressure and attacks in Afghanistan have ensured that.

If the New York Times did do something wrong, then issue some subpoenas and get Bill Keller to go talk in front of the grand jury. The government won't do that because they know they don't have a case-and never will unless the libel laws are changed dramatically. So maybe there is another motive at play here, were the Administration and the New York Times are actually on the same team. Listen to the theory put forth by 9/11 commissioner Kerrey:

Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 commission, [said] that if the news reports drive terrorists out of the banking system, that could actually help the counterterrorism cause. "If we tell people who are potential criminals that we have a lot of police on the beat, that's a substantial deterrent," said Mr. Kerrey, now president of New School University. If terrorists decide it is too risky to move money through official channels, "that's very good, because it's much, much harder to move money in other ways," Mr. Kerrey said.A State Department official, Anthony Wayne, made a parallel point in 2004 before Congress. "As we've made it more difficult for them to use the banking system," Mr. Wayne said, "they've been shifting to other less reliable and more cumbersome methods, such as cash couriers..."

Since [9/11], the Treasury Department has produced dozens of news releases and public reports detailing its efforts. Though officials appear never to have mentioned the Swift program, they have repeatedly described their cooperation with financial networks to identify accounts held by people and organizations linked to terrorism...

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, convened a hearing in 2004 where Treasury officials described at length their efforts, assisted by financial institutions, to trace terrorists' money. But he has been among the most vehement critics of the disclosures about the Swift program, saying editors and reporters of The New York Times should be imprisoned for publishing government secrets.

Like I said maybe this is a careful choregraphed effort. Publicizing the program may have made it more difficult for the terrorists to operate. Just like the newspaper story about the prostitution and drug stings makes everybody on the street think twice before making a street deal, thereby expanding the presence of the cops. They could never be on every corner, but the johns and dealers and terrorists can never be sure which corner the cops are on. (Like I think the government should be wasting resources on prostitution anyway..........NOT!).

Maybe the leak and the outrage are all part of the same game. The info gets out, the Administration get to blast the press again, the President and Vice President get to feign outrage and fire up their conservative base, the Times takes one for the team. Everybody is happy. I doubt that is the case, but you have to admit it sure makes for an interesting consipiracy theory.
Besides do we really want to be like the "Mommy State", where they crush dissenting opinion at the drop of a hat?

Monday, July 10, 2006

And we all thought Imelda had a lot of shoes......

This woman has some clothes to wear! Guess she does not make any money from all those Fox News appearances. Nice to look at, hard to listen to......

Hat tip to Malkin Watch for this video. Is the wench a clothes horse or what?

Hey Michelle!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Indian phone sex......

Bet that title got your attention!

Took me a while, but I finally had to deal with an Indian call center this evening. In the process of setting up my computer here, I had to update my Norton Software and anti virus protection. As software companies are wont to do, they no longer offered technical support for an upgrade to my 2003 software, but I could purchase a 2006 software package for the low, low, price of 49.95. So I did.

However in the process of installing it, I came across some HUGE problems getting the down loaded program to install right. Looked at the web site. Tried to get things right by uninstalling everything Norton on the hard drive. Finally, I admitted defeat and called their customer service line. The lady on the other end had a very pronounced Indian accent, so I can only assume it was someone in Banglore or some other such place.

And she showed me how to get the pesky Norton stuff on the machine and the downloads re-installed. That at least made the pesky security alerts go away!

However I could not help but think about the person on the other end of the line. Where did she live? Was she wearing a Sari? (I doubt it.....). Red Spot on her forehead? Nice .......(fill in the blank..)? How many people applied to get her call center job? How many Indians did not make the cut and are still econmically disenfranchised?

Make no mistake about it, for all the talk about a "new India" its built on a rocky foundation. Namely the perpetuation of a "permanent" underclass that of about 350 million who will work cheaply and allow India to be able to continue to undercut its Western and progressive Asian competion. Its what seperates America from the "rising" countries where American businessmen have exported American jobs.

Then again, at least she fixed my computer..............

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Moving sucks! Just had to get that out of the way, because it does. However, in the process of packing and unpacking I've had a great opportunity to review the many different turns my life has taken in the past (not so few) years. I wonder what would have happened if I had chosen differently at various points.

It seems to me, that in my life, I've had a certain lack of daring. When confronted with a significant "Y" in the road I have always seemed to take the more well paved and conservative path. About the boldest thing I have done is when I made the decision to walk out on my ex. At the time it was gut wrenching, now in hindsight, it was the only logical thing to do. Yes there have been costs, but the cost to me as a person would have been higher if I had stayed.

I'm going through a similar crisis of confidence right now. I've gone to a new job which on the surface looked like it was going to offer me what I wanted, but as I get deeper into it, it has me wondering if I made the right choice. The S.O. keeps telling me to just not worry about and let time take its course, but that is not me. I'm impatient, and want to know all the answers now! Trouble is, like a line from a movie, when you are at the Y in the road all you see is the turn, you don't see the end of the road. I'm thinking I made the wrong turn and don't no how to get back to the right path.

I wonder if others have had similar misgivings as she made choices. Something she wrote a few days ago really struck a chord with me: " I hate adulthood and all that responsibilities that come with it. The only thing I probably enjoy is the freedom to golf shop and the right to turn into an alcoholic.". I know exactly how she feels. I also think she is saying to enjoy the journey and not worry so much about the destination. Easy to say, not so easy to do since every thing in society is focused on the destinations out there (fame, money, recognition at a job, advancement....). Is it just me or do others have the same sense of misgiving?


Cross posted at exordinarily ordinary

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Still here

In the middle of moving this week. Also in the middle of watching Kim Jong Il be an idiot on Japanese TV. Its been all North Korea all the time since the missile launches.

So while I'm unpacking, go over to Peking duck and read some of the fine articles he's posted. Especially the letter to the wench......

Like Arnold said......I'll be back!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

By the rockets red glare.........

The North Koreans are make their a$$ bare..............

Who the hell gives Kim Jong Il advice? Obviously they never took a class in how to win friends and influence people? Otherwise, old Kim the D**khead would not be doing this.

Here in Japan, it has been all Taepedong, all the time. The news has been full of coverage of the events today. In fact, I am quite proud of my self, in that I understood very well the Japanese news broadcast that told me that "Kita chosen"
(the Japanese name for the NORK's), had successfully launched one..................

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th of July.....

Today is the 4th of July and I have been thinking about what to say about it. Here I am, an American, living in Japan, committed as all get out to keeping my proudly American ass overseas, in Asia, where life is good. If I had known life could be this good I would have gotten on a plane out of the states a long time ago. (And I sure as hell would have sent the ex packing well before that......).

So I hear you saying it, "Some American you are. Take your foreigner loving ass and keep it overseas if you like it so much over there. America does not need you over here, in the land of the free and the brave". Having said this, smug and self satisfied, you can now jump into your SUV and head down to the Home Depot, have a latte at Starbucks and, maybe stop at Borders books on the way home. Or perhaps taking time to mow and trim grass that serves no useful purpose other than to surround a house that is big, costs a lot and has no ready public transportation nearby. If that is your bag, great. I used to think it was all there was in the world. Then I had my eyes opened to a different world, one filled with different adventure and people with all kinds of different views and more importantly, more liberal mores. You'll forgive me if I prefer a stroll down Clarke Quay or Luard Road to one through the Gaslamp.

What does this all have to do with the 4th of July? Because deep in my heart of hearts, I'm still and American and I'm proud of that fact. IN fact being American is what served as my enabler to this brave new world I love so much. Its given me the correct perspective to appreciate it and to adapt to the unique challenges that come with living in a society such as Japan has. I still get a chill up my spine hearing the Star Spangled banner or Proud to be an American sung or played. I still love to watch the Cubs play baseball, and while I have an acquired taste for "Football" played soccer style, I'd rather watch the Steelers lined up at the line of scrimmage and going for it on 4th down. The 4th is a day I can celebrate all of those things and the birth of what I consider to be a unique nation among the community of nations. Of which there are far too many for the planet's own good.

Which is probably something that would be good for Americans to remember on this day. America is unique because of its geographic insularity, as much as it is for the Declaration or the Constitutional form of government. Imagine if Napoleon instead of trying to conquer Europe, had settled down after Austerlitz to Conquering the American heartland, with settlers and troops. Instead of selling Louisiana, what would have happened if a French bastion of empire had developed and America was bordered by several countries, not just two. We might have had a history more like Europe's and less like America's. That's something to celebrate right there.

I also like to take a day like, and celebrate being a Gaijin in a Nihonjin land. Where there are great things to do, which as Spike points out, " horrifies my friends in the US", but are part of the attraction for me. Just like Spike pointed out, "Am I proud that I know about all this stuff? Not necessarily, but clearly I'm not very ashamed of it either." It takes all kinds in this world.

For the opportunities to experience these things though, I have my home country to thank, so I am grateful. Very grateful indeed. Happy Birthday USA!

A mixed bag post! However its how I feel today. For a more traditional post about the 4th, go here. Thinking about the future, while packing away the past will do that to a person. More on that later.......

The text to this document can be found here. Few Americans have read the whole thing. One really should to appreciate what a bold thing it was for the time.......

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cultural differences.....-Part I

Today was a very interesting day. S.O. and I packed boxes that we could pack together, namely household goods. We are packing ourselves in order to save money on the move to the new location. The movers will then come and move the goods to new our new abode. One interesting side note to this for me, is watching the movers slide their shoes on and off again over and over as they move stuff out of the apt. As an American I find the wasted energy hard to believe, the S.O. on the other hand accepts that as the natural order of things.

Which gets to the heart of the new things I learned today. For a short while, we went out to get something to eat and to do some shopping. Will someone explain to me again why, in the middle of moving, this was the right time for her to have me buy her yet another pair of shoes? Even if they were on sale? Its not like this women lacks for shoes. By my last count she has over 42 pairs, hardly in the same league with Imelda, but she has me beaten by an over 4 to 1 margin.....and that includes my golf shoes. ( I have one pair she has 4, all purchased by yours truly...).

The highlight of the day came when we came across a picture of Mao Tse Tung, in a display of Chinese teapots. She called him by his Japanese name Mo tak tou, I called him by his American name: Worthless, Godless, Commie Pig. The conversation that ensued was (somewhat) surreal:

Me: "Yea that's Mao Tse Tung. What did you call him?"

S.O. "Mou Tak Tou".

Me: "Americans say Mao Tse Tung".

S.O.: " He's the father of China".

Me: (Staring at her in shock, trying to figure out if she was messing with me, slowly realizing that she was serious...) .. " Uh no, he is not the father of China. He is the father of the Chinese Communist party, which through an unfortunate series of historical accidents, now misrules over a billion people and steals jobs from deserving Americans, supplies Wal-Mart with cheap goods, and whose thirst for oil has kept oil prices high and the dollar low. The real father of modern China is Sun Yat Sen. And had his successor, Chiang Kai Shek, not gambled the fate of the nation on an ill advised invasion of Manchuria in 1946, which in spite of things he almost won, till George C. Marshall made them halt and thus forfeit the initiative to Mao and his thugs."
The conversation actually went that way until I realized that I had gone too far. The S.O. has little interest in politics or history and I knew this would bore her. However she bravely carried it on a little longer.

S.O. : " What do you mean?"

Me: " Well, if Mao had stayed in his caves or simply been allowed to keep Manchuria which, after all was Japanese for over 90 years, the bulk of China would have remained under the KMT. If Chiang had left them alone, the history of Asia would have been quite different. There probably would have been no Korean War, No Vietnam war, No Pol-Pot in Cambodia, no sell out of Hong Kong in 1997 just to name a few..."

S.O. " Lets go look at the pointy toed shoes that were made in China over there.......".

Me: " Whatever...."

Actually, if you read What If? edited by Robert Cowley, you will find an essay by Arthur Waldron that speculates on just such an alternate history. I'm a big fan of alternate history and have bought a lot of books that show alternative timelines. In his essay , Waldron argues that there were actually two paths not taken, either of which would've saved China from its gloomy history and its continued oppression by a bunch of Communist pigs, who are trying to have their cake and eat it too: A capitalist economy without political freedom. The first path would have involved Chiang actually crushing the Communists in 1946 at Harbin. As Waldorn points out "his incredulous commanders begged him to reconsider, telling him that victory over the Communists meant total victory in Manchuria" . The other line would have had a DDR type Communist country developing in Manchuria, one that would have probably collapsed the way the DDR did because it would have been dependent on a capitalist China to its south. And probably well before the DDR actually folded.

What surprised me though was that the S.O. really believed Mao was the father of China. What the heck did they teach her in school anyway? Certainly not the whole story. Then again I'm told that Japanese schools do not teach history well before 1945 because there are just too many touchy subjects and besides there are only so many hours in the school day. If so its a cautionary tale for America............

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Knee deep in the hoopla...........

Yesterday, I went back to my old stomping grounds. We are deep in the middle of moving this weekend, but we thought we'd take advantage of the weather and see friends since they were having an open base day on Saturday. Played golf, got rained on, then went to see the headline event they had. Starship was there to play for about 1+45 right before they had fireworks. Many of the older crowd did not realize that this was NOT quite the Jefferson Starship, that I grew up with and I remember. Still a good show nonetheless and they played a lot of songs that I remember, including We Built This City which has the distinction of being labled "the single worst single ever constructed, according to Blender's ranking of reeking tunes." Who cares what the critics think anyway? I like it and with a few beers it sounded just fine.

Taste in music is one of those things that is hard to quantify anyway. For example, while packing boxes while the S.O. was out, I was listening to the Best of Warren Zevon, which is one of my favorites. Its a good collection of all of his really great tunes, which a lot of people don't realize includes more than Werewolves of London. My two favorites on this album: Lawyers, Guns and Money and Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner. The latter because its a neat tune and the former because when in the Navy, I always wanted to be able to sign out a message to higher authority that ended with that line: " Operations are fine, but the boys went out in town last night. Send lawyers, guns, and money.......".

Today? More packing. S.O. will be over with a friend. ( This really goes easier if she and I do it seperately...for a whole host of reasons). Suspect I'll be in a funky mood so it wil be time to break out any of my 12 Jethro Tull CD's. I think I'll listen to Roland first though:

Roland was a warrior from the land of the midnight sun
With his Thompson gun for hire, fighting to be done
The deal was made in Denmark on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Biafra to join the bloody fray

Do people even know where Biafra is today or what the conflict was about? And today 30 years later the Congo is still a basket case .

Through '66 and 7, they fought the Congo war
With their fingers on their triggers, knee deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Bantu to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the Congolese

Wonder if you could use this song as an analogy for Blackwater Security?

Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Time, time, time, for another peaceful war
Norway's bravest son
But time stands still for Roland, 'til he evens up the score
They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun
In the muzzle flash of Roland's Thompson gun

Zevon loved guns. Not really sure why that was.....

Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Mombassa, in a barroom drinking gin
Roland aimed his Thompson gun, he didn't say a word
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg

I just found a couple pictures of my ex-wife--- where the hell did these come from? Now I could use a gun...... on these pictures........

Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner
Roland the headless Thompson gunner, talking about the man
Roland the headless Thompson gunner

Can you tell I had nothing really to post about today? We really are moving though, so connectivity may be spotty over the next few days till our Hi-speed internet gets hooked up. Be patient, I'll be back!

Bring it home:

The eternal Thompson gunner
Still wand'ring through the night
Now it's ten years later, but he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, in Lebanon, in Palestine and Berkeley
Patty Hearst heard the burst
Of Roland's Thompson gun and bought it

Don't mind me, I'm just an Excitable Boy!

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