The Discomfort of Thought
"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -J.F.K.-
28 February 2006
27 February 2006
According to his lawyers, Saddam “maintained his hunger strike for 11 days but was forced to end it for health reasons.” Reasons like he was, you know, hungry.
Vatican to Islam: ‹^›‹(ò¿ó)›‹^›
There is a civil war brewing, and it has global implications.
No, I am not talking about Iraq. I am talking about Nigeria, and, frankly, not enough other people are talking about it as well, I believe.
A brief background:
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is also becoming one of its success stories. “Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed.” [World Fact Book]
“Although the April 2003 elections were marred by some irregularities, Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence.” [ibid]
“Oil-rich Nigeria, long hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and poor macroeconomic management, is undertaking some reforms under a new reform-minded administration.” [ibid]
“In the last year the government has begun showing the political will to implement the market-oriented reforms urged by the IMF, such as to modernize the banking system, to curb inflation by blocking excessive wage demands, and to resolve regional disputes over the distribution of earnings from the oil industry. In 2003 the government began deregulating fuel prices, announced the privatization of the country's four oil refineries, and instituted the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy, a domestically designed and run program modeled on the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility for fiscal and monetary management. GDP rose strongly in 2005, based largely on increased oil exports and high global crude prices. In November 2005, Abuja won Paris Club approval for an historic debt relief deal that by March 2006 should eliminate $30 billion worth of Nigeria's total $36 billion external debt.” [ibid]
So, Nigeria is struggling but pulling itself up. Good, right? The kind of thing we want to see, a country righting itself, with a reform-based democratic government.
Now the tensions:
-Nigeria’s population is split between a Muslim north and a Christian south, with significant minorities of each both north and south. The population totals 50% Muslim and 40% or so Christian.
-Nigeria’s current, Christian, President is in his second, and by their constitution, last term. However, there is a growing movement to change the constitution to allow three terms.
-Nigeria’s Muslim population has been imposing sharia law in areas in the North, even on non-Muslims.
And this brings us to recent events:
-In the North, Muslims began protesting, yes, those Danish Mohammed cartoons. Their reason? Well, the Christians were fairly sure they knew why. However, in the course of protesting the cartoons published by a bunch of far off Europeans, the adherents of the religion of peace burned at least 30 churches and killed, often brutally, at least 45 local Christians. Because of the Danes.
-Nigeria’s Anglican bishop immediately issued a statement that said, among many other things, “May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation … [we] may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue.” As a note, the entire statement is breathtaking and damning. Really, read it. This clergyman has had enough, and says so quite effectively.
-Nigeria’s Christian youth then proved the bishop correct by no longer being constrained, and began their own slaughter of what Muslims they could corner. The latest reports I could find put the death toll estimate at about 150, comprising both Muslim and Christian.
-Following this outbreak, Reuters reported that Pope Benedict “signaled his concern on Monday when he told the new Moroccan ambassador to the Vatican that peace can only be assured by "respect for the religious convictions and practices of others, in a reciprocal way in all societies." ” Additionally, other Vatican leaders expanded on the Pope’s message by saying, "If we tell our people they have no right to offend, we have to tell the others they have no right to destroy us," [Vatican Secretary of State], and also, “The West has had relations with the Arab countries for half a century, mostly for oil, and has not been able to get the slightest concession on human rights,” and “Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves.” [Secretary of the Vatican Supreme Court]
Go ahead, read that last part again. Enough turning the other cheek. Says a Vatican official. Yikes.
So a clash of cultures moves one step closer, and both the Anglican and Catholic Churches have come firmly down against appeasement. No wonder this was splashed all over the headlines. Oh wait…
Yeah, ninme beat me to it, by days... She runs down more on the actual details of the violence on each side, for those of you so inclined.
The Twelfth Imam
A few months back I, in my rather superficial and antagonistic way, beat the drum about the warm and cuddly President of Iran. However, if you would like a more in depth, and, frankly, scary look at the man and his beliefs, head on over to Chap’s and read his usual thoughtful and in depth analysis. And have a beer at hand, for knowing that guy is soon to have nukes at his disposal is, to put it lightly, scary.
24 February 2006
How do you say, “Be careful what you wish for,” to Europe? I am not sure, but CDR Salamander has made an absolutely outstanding stab at it. So much so that I will not diminish it by merely quoting bits and pieces. Go read the whole thing. Really.
Sitemeter vs. Gov discrepancy
For the past few days, I could not check my sitemeter stats while at work (yes, I am pathetic, I know), which I found odd, but NMCI being what it is, sometimes its connections are spotty, so I thought nothing of it. Until I checked my sitemeter logs from home last night and realized that my normal daily visitors from .mil and .gov sites (me, Army Signals Command [making sure I am still behaving I guess], a few Navsea and USMC hits) no longer show up at all. So it appears a gov-wide block on sitemeter of all things has been put in place (although Halliburton still shows up ;-} ).
My point? If you like tracking your stats at all, and you get mostly .mil or .gov traffic (like many milblogs), your sitemeter stats will no longer be even close to accurate. Time to look into other ways to track activity…
It looks as if Army.mil sites do show at (or at least some), but navy.mil and usmc.mil (thanks NMCI) are not showing up, and all sitemeter pages are still blocked via the NMCI firewall. So, my warning still holds for those who get a lot of Navy and Marine hits...
23 February 2006
I hate having to admit when I am wrong, but I was wrong. Or, at least, it appears I was.
When it was first reported that a fisherman claimed a sub got entangled on his nets, and that a nearby sub was unhelpful and overall the Navy was secretive about any possible involvement, I mocked.
Now, however, the Navy has paid the man for the damage to his boat, although the “Navy did not give … any information about what it found during its investigation of the incident.”
So, it appears that either the boat did indeed snag a sub, or that the Navy found it simply easier to pay this man to make this story go away. Either way, I still stand by the rest of my previous mocking.
17 February 2006
New Recruiting Scheme for Sub Dept. Heads?
This may just be scuttlebutt, however I have heard it from two different sources now, so here it is:
For those of you still in or recently out of the sub fleet, recall the two options for officers after their initial commitment is up:
-They can stay in without committing to any period of time, and get a reasonable nuke bonus (rent-a-nuke), or;
-They can sign a multi-year (and lucrative) contract to remain in the Navy for at least another three years (buy-a-nuke).
The Buy-a-Nuke option is very tempting because of the money involved. However, because it was three years, it meant the JO signing the contract was committed to one of two options:
-Serve a two year shore tour, then a one year “Super JO” tour as a JO on a soon-to-deploy boat or a kinda-Department Head on a shipyard boat, or;
-Serve a two-year shore tour, and then go to Sub. Officer’s Advanced Course, and agree to another multi-year deal to be a full-on Department Head.
Well, it seems as if that Super-JO option has gone away. As I said, I have heard from two different sources now that if you have signed a contract, you will either go to SOAC, or, buh-bye, off to Afghanistan or Iraq. What do they use Submariners for on the ground? I could not say, the guys I know all changed their plans and went to SOAC. I guess there is still a manpower crunch on the ground in the GWOT. However, I have to worry about the quality of DH’s we are going to get by essentially pressing them into SOAC under the threat of being ground-pounders instead.
Myself – Helk, I probably would have gone to Iraq. I am feeling rather useless in the immediate scheme of things as it is… Yeah yeah, big talk for an IRR guy, I know.
14 February 2006
Freedom of Speech
Why is it that the press cries "Freedom of Speech" when it reports on national security matters and the government objects (NSA *cough cough*), but not when some stupid illustrations are published and a group of crazies obects? (Yes, crazies. They burned Ronald McDonald, man, Ronald!)
And so, some mediocre photoshopping, because I am in a foul mood:
This doesn't matter:
But this does:
Knocking the Wind Outta My Sails
My father is a physician, and as many physicians, feels that his opinion
My second son is quiet, true, he doesn’t talk nearly as much as his more ebullient older brother did at this age. In fact, he talks about as frequently as his little sister. But I think that when he talks he is relatively clear about it – he used to have a bit of a pronunciation problem (for which we had hearing screenings done – and the professional-types told us he was perfectly normal in hearing and speech development, no worries). He enjoys playing by himself as much as with his siblings, whereas the other two hate solo-play. But autism?
I think I shall go throw up now, and not mention this to Mrs. PBS until well after mod 4 is born. Ooof.
Out of Touch Friends, but Friends None the Less
Every time I think I am getting used to my current situation, someone has to remind me of earlier times. This time it is our SOPA, Lex, who reminds me that, “the world is painted in more faded hues than it used to be.”
Yes, I miss the boat. I admit it, the wardroom teased me, claiming I would forget the lack of sleep, the bitterness with the slow-moving and sometimes illogical and infuriating wheels of the military bureaucracy, and would end up only seeing the old times through rose colored glasses. Well, I still remember the mordant, acerbic young man I was while on the boat. But I also remember the crew whose whims and habits I knew as a gestalt, and those individual members I knew on a much more personal level, with whom I needed only a few spare words to convey volumes to, with whom I was so attuned that trust was like breathing. There were a select few who were even closer than that, and chief among them was K. He and I reported a few weeks apart, we roomed together our entire tour on the boat, and we pushed each other, always trying to outperform each other in professional proficiency, even as we mutually sneered at the ridiculous chain of command we were burdened with (ah youth!). We competed in all things, from Fast Recovery Startup times (he still holds the ustafish record for one of his where everything just clicked), to shortest valid Periscope Depth evolutions (must clear the ZBO and at least call ‘No close contacts’ – I still hold the ustafish record to this day, 23 seconds, baby! Let’s here it for radio clearing the ZBO via VERDIN before the scope even breaks the surface!), to passing the PRT (no comment – we both always passed, though). He was the guy that, if something happened in the Engineroom, I wanted as my Casualty Assistance Engineering Officer of the Watch. Words were not necessary then, and we both gave the orders we knew were appropriate without having to consult with the other, and the watchteam knew that one always spoke with the authority of the other. And we were lords of our domain.
As our time on board progressed, our paths diverged somewhat. He, a nuke engineering major from Penn State, loved the reactor like a child, and so he became über-nook, and his knowledge of all things engineering became encyclopedic. I, who had always dreamed of driving the boat, became in my time the default Officer of the Deck, for all things from battlestations to maneuvering watch to TREs (Tactical Readiness Exams) and POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement – the final checkout before a boat is sent on extended deployment). As such, we often ended up standing watch together, one driving, one pushing, and again, pure synergy. On the rare occasions one asked something stupid of the other, one of the following exchanges would take place over the MJ phone:
K: “Who Run Shantytown?”
PBS: “Master Blaster runs shantytown.”
PBS: “Have your laptop online?”
PBS: “Look at the Fusion plot and ask me that again.”
Yeah, I had to say the Tina Turner line when I screwed up, and my reminder to him wasn’t nearly so amusing, but you get the point.
After our boat-time was ended, we ended up getting stationed at different stations, and our communications waned a bit. And yet, a year after we had parted ways, he called me up to ask me to be his best man. Because, frankly, we were still closer than brothers. Even though I have not talked to him in months, I know that if I asked, he would be out here tomorrow, just as I know that if he asked, I would be on the road in under an hour, with a shovel to help hide the body. And I do not doubt that I will never again have a friend or coworker about whom I will feel the same.
Now if people would just stop reminding me of that fact…
10 February 2006
Global Warming Fear-Mongering
Once again, scare-tactics, hand-wringing, and bad science rule the day when it comes to reporting on Global Warming. The ‘Hockey Stick’ diagram is again being trotted around to ‘prove’ that we are in a crisis.
I was going to put together a whole post pointing out the fallacies of this assumption, and that this is all based on the fact that we have been in the process of emerging from an ice age during the only window of time these studies examine, as I have done before, but instead I will point you to a site that does it much more completely than I, a mere amateur, could hope to describe. As a preview, though, compare the above, relative “short-term” and badly derived graph to the one below, based on hard evidence, and not different sources grafted together.
All I will add is that one must remember, the climate is not a static thing, it will change, and there are massive energies involved. Our contributions to climate change border on insignificant.
DoD Contractor Stats
The Defense Industry Daily has posted a comparison of last year’s vs. this year’s total sales and net profits for the largest defense contractors – it is a good follow-up to the listing of who was on top for this year. It should not come as any surprise that the big guys all had major increases in both sales and profits.
07 February 2006
More Mohammed Cartoon Looniness
Let’s see if I can make this work from the airport:
Decent roundup of the current violence from CNN, albeit somewhat downplaying the Muslim reaction.
Russia thumbs its nose at all kinds of religious fundamentalism, this time the Islamist type. In a museum, no less.
But at least we now know why the cartoons were published. It is because of the Joooooooooos. (UPDATE: Especially funny, because, as someone on Fark points out, "Iran apparently suspects Israel of stockpiling DeLoreans, publishing cartoons in September in reaction to Hamas victory last week.") And the furor Iran is whipping up inside its own borders over the cartoons has absolutely, positively, nothing to do with this.
Buy Danish! (Anyone know if any other countries are complaining about boycott affects yet?)
Got a Parka Handy?
Global Warming? Heh, or not. Remember folks, almost all the energy in the system we call Earth comes from one source, and as it changes, so do we. And yes, it is normal, if not a happy occurrence for us.
Nothing like a last minute trip to beautiful DC. Not sure if I will have connectivity (my NMCI laptop only works when -it- chooses to), but until then, I highly recommend this comparison by Varifrank, showing the lunacy behind the Mohammed cartoon protests. The only things he doesn't account for (because the comparison is a few days old) are the peaceful, respectful Muslims burning and attacking embassies (Austrian too? Really? Sheesh). [H/T Bo]
Don't forget to check out Draw Mohammed Week!
And Buy Danish! (Oooh, BRIO is Danish too? Mini-PBS V1.0 and 2.0 have a Thomas the Train set that could use some expanding. Yup, I have already started ordering - gotta have cool bridges for the trains)
01 February 2006
Apparently, Google took this video down. Not sure if that was an independant decision or at the request of the Navy or the creators. If the Navy took it down, well, bad show - that could have actually been a decent recruiting tool, despite the fatbodies ;-) However, fear not, the video is still out there. The Freepers found a link to another site that has it, and, if you don't feel like trolling their threads to find it, let me know, I have an email-able copy as well.
Wow, we did some odd stuff when we got bored on deployment, but these guys take it to a whole new level...
Color me Surprised
The Germans and the French have jumped on board the Freedom of Speech train, republishing the “controversial” caricatures of Mohammed. If Muslims are so worried about images, maybe they should consider this. Or if it is humor that is disrespectful, try cleaning up your own house, first. Oh, and they should probably stop adding much more offensive images of their own to the list to try and stir people up, that is just a little too transparent.
However, it looks like the EU is deciding that certain rights are important and worth standing up for. Good for them! Let’s see if the boycott gets extended to their products, too. But for now, do not forget to Buy Danish!
Unsurprisingly, Michelle Malkin is there.
If you care to buy Danish, here are some good starting points:
The Danish Deli
Order Danish food online
Mmm, good cheeses and such from Igourmet
Who knew? LEGO is Danish.
For more, check the History News Network – although they are a little laggy – They are getting a lot of traffic.
For more Free Speech type images like the one above, check CDR Salamander’s new site, Draw Mohammed Week. Gotta love it, find a sore spot and then commence poking it, hard and repeatedly. Just like a sailor.
Oh, and that Quran quote? Here it is.