MoonDawg's Den: February 2007

MoonDawg's Den

Monday, February 26, 2007

A sticky wicket in March

The Overseas Security Advisory Council issued a report (registration required) last week assessing safety & security for the upcoming Cricket World Cup that is being held at several venues around the Caribbean throughout the month of March. OSAC is concerned about the potentially problematic mix of cricket fans and American spring breakers next month in one of the primary venues, Jamaica:
A factor further influencing the criminal threat in Jamaica will be the presence of American college students visiting on their spring breaks. Jamaica typically attracts approximately 20,000 spring break tourists every year. Although many of the prime resorts are near Montego Bay rather than Kingston, there is still a possibility the overlap could create a dangerous mix of partying college students and cricket fans.

Drunken American students versus international cricket fans - a "dangerous mix" indeed. While cricket isn't as infamous for violent fan behavior as soccer is, they still have their moments. In addition, the State Department is concerned that the tourism infrastructure in the host nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago) may not be able to handle the influx of both fans and seasonal tourists: "the Cricket World Cup may strain the availability of taxis, emergency medical response, and other public services".

If you're thinking about a Caribbean vacation during March, think again.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Cavegirls gone wild

In the news today: Women may have invented weapons.

Well, duh - anybody who ever saw the epic 1966 documentary "One Million Years B.C." already knew this. Yet another example of lazy journalists not doing their research...


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Airline rights versus safety

JetBlue Airways has rolled out a "Customer Bill of Rights" after the airline suffered a full week of weather related cancellations, including widely reported incidents of passengers being stranded on the tarmac at New York's JFK airport for six to ten hours straight. However, some are looking to the federal government to legislate a bill of rights for airline customers, apparently not trusting the carriers to regulate themselves. Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition says that "government involvement with airline customer service" is a bad idea, and warns that "It is imprudent to mix financial incentives and penalties with airline operations, go, no-go decisions and safety judgments":

On February 19, 2005, the No. 2 engine of a Boeing 747 failed after take off from LAX on a flight to Heathrow with 351 passengers on board. The captain decided to continue anyway with 3 engines. Because it was unable to attain normal cruising speeds and altitudes, the aircraft was forced to divert to Manchester, England. Under European Union passenger rights legislation, had the plane returned to LAX, BA would have had to compensate passengers some $250,000. BA denies that the penalty influenced its go, no go decision.

Sure, a quarter of a million bucks was on the line, but that never entered into the pilot's consideration at all. Imagine this scenario being played out in thousands of marginal situations around the US each year, with flight crews and airline management having to worry about government-imposed penalties when making operational decisions.

With most carriers already drowning in red ink, it is a certainty that situations will arise where financial considerations will trump safety concerns. As Mitchell says, "It would be tragic if in an effort to re-regulate passenger service, we inadvertently undermined our airline industry’s laudable safety record."

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Blackberry bloggin'

Joy of joys, it seems that I can login to Blogger and post using my new Blackberry - now I can blog from any place, any time! I'm sure celebrations are breaking out all over the blogosphere at such a prospect...


Friday, February 16, 2007

Who is the enemy?

I had such high hopes of productive things happening in Washington after the elections in November. I believed--naively--that with the balance of power being shared between the two major parties that they would actually have to work together and compromise. I was so wrong.

Since the elections, the congress has passed a handful of bills that they promised during their first 100 hours, and then they got to the business of Iraq, and life got much more complicated. Unfortunately, everything is breaking on party lines, and nothing will ever get accomplished, especially in the senate where 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster.

I offer 2 examples of complete partisan stupidity as proof that nothing will happen in the next two years except a lot of kvetching by both sides:

  1. Nancy Pelosi supported the surge in Iraq until the president came out in favor of it. Then, she changed her tune. I'm opposed to the surge, but Pelosi's change of heart doesn't seem to be motivated by conviction, just by politics.
  2. John Warner filibustered his own resolution on Iraq and the surge in order to protest the way the vote was being handled by Democrats. That's just stupid. He could have voted for cloture to not look stupid, and the filibuster still would have held. I guess that was too easy.
I'm sick to death of hearing the partisan bickering in Washington. While they fight, our soldiers are fighting a very real enemy. I know Republicans think Democrats are the enemy (listen to their rhetoric and try to disagree with me), and Democrats believe that Bush is Satan (I've probably used that metaphor myself at least once :)). But, there are much bigger issues that need to be settled. It's time for our elected officials to do their job. It's time for them to debate and come up with real solutions. It's time to come up with a plan in Iraq that will work, not a meaningless surge or a hopeless withdrawal. I'm not sure what that should be, but I bet that the brilliant minds in Washington can come up with something if they quit acting like four-year-olds.

I'm not holding my breath.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

VD at the VA

This week the Veterans Administration has been having its annual National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, and as part of that program my state reserve unit went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center on Valentines Day yesterday to distribute thousands of hand-made Valentine cards that area elementary school students had made for the patients at the VA. It was hard not to choke up when a wheelchair-bound vet's eyes lit up when reading the scrawled messages of love and hope from the kids. It one of the most special Valentines Days that I've ever experienced.

Unfortunately I couldn't take a camera to the patients' rooms, but I did manage to get a pic with a couple of Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, who were also there to hand out the cards (a volunteer experience can be rewarding in more ways than one!).

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Run, you cowards

Bill Roggio, reporting from Iraq, has posted an item regarding today's news that Muqtada al-Sadr, Iran's murderous proxy in the country, has fled Iraq and is now under the protection of his Iranian sponsors. In addition, Roggio writes that "Sadr's underlings have been reported to be fleeing Iraq to Iran in January" - fleeing out of fear:
Sadr's departure from Iraq indcates he takes the Baghdad security plan seriously, and fears for his direct safety.
The US troop surge and the new security strategy by Iraq's government have barely begun to be put into place, and already our enemies are retreating. But Sadr and his masters in Tehran should take heart: Democrats are still relentlessly attempting to implement an unconditional surrender.

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Goodbye, Charlie

I've just learned that my U.S. Congressman, Rep. Charlie Norwood, died of cancer today at the age of 65. I've had occasion to deal with Rep. Norwood and his staff in the past, and he always came across as sincere and willing to help, especially when it came to supporting our men & women in uniform.

Charlie was an outstanding representative for my district and a great friend to the military. He will be terribly missed, and I wish his family the best during this tragic time.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Balkan Bombs

On Friday the US Embassy in Sarajevo issued a Warden Message warning Americans about a series of bombings in Mostar. It reminded me of when I spoke to an NCO who served on the KFOR mission in Kosovo with Task Force Falcon last year. The Sargeant was disappointed that the hardships and risks the 2,000-odd troops of TFF have endured (not to mention the soldiers from other contributing NATO countries) over the years go almost wholly unnoticed by the media. He had a point: just this weekend, for example, Kosovo was wracked by violent - and deadly - protests. A search of Google News today turns up only 337 total news items about the protests. Meanwhile, Google News shows there are about 4,000 news stories concerning the late Anna Nicole Smith. Which is really more important in relative terms?

The photo here shows a trooper with a subunit of TF Falcon, Task Force Thunder, teaching an "unexploded ordnance awareness class" to elementary school kids in eastern Kosovo earlier this month (imagine having to have such a class at your own kids' school). US troops with KFOR are doing good works that most Americans are completely unaware of - so take a moment today and remember our men and women serving in the ever-volatile Balkans.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Media Bias? What media bias?

My new jarhead friend Donnie over at the Katrinacrat blog links to a fairly amusing amusing post from Radar Online about Bush's popularity ratings (or lack thereof, at 28%) as compared to the popularity of such things as the Dentist (45% popularity), in-laws (at 68%? hard to believe that one), and getting kicked in the balls (41% popularity - just who are the 41% of numb-nuts that actually enjoy a swift jolt to the nads??).

The CBS News story that generated these posts says that the low rating indicates Americans are "deeply unhappy with his performance as president", and that the public is "strongly opposed to his plan for increasing troops in Iraq" (29% favor, 66% oppose). Fair enough - but take a look at the raw data from the poll (taken pre-SOTU, Jan. 18-21), which is linked as a PDF file from the story.

Dig around the file and you will find some interesting things - for example, only 16% of people believe that "Democrats have a plan for Iraq", or that 83% of Americans believe "a stable Iraq" is at least somewhat or very important to U.S. security.

And take a look at the job approval rating for the Democratic Congress - it registers barely above Bush at 33%. It appears that folks like a kick in the balls better than either Bush or Congress. Funny how those parts of the poll never made it into the CBS news coverage...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hollow Posturing

Sen. Joe Lieberman was eloquent as ever when speaking on the Senate floor earlier this week against the putrid piece of moral exhibitionism known as the Warner-Levin resolution (which, thankfully, is stalled in the Senate at the moment):

What we say here is being heard in Baghdad by Iraqi moderates, trying to decide whether the Americans will stand with them.

We are being heard by our men and women in uniform, who will be interested to know whether we support the plan they have begun to carry out.

We are being heard by the leaders of the thuggish regimes in Iran and Syria, and by Al Qaeda terrorists, eager for evidence that America’s will is breaking.

And we are being heard across America by our constituents, who are wondering if their Congress is capable of serious action, not just hollow posturing.This resolution is not about Congress taking responsibility.

It is the opposite. It is a resolution of irresolution.

Irresolution, indeed. Sen. Lieberman goes on to point out the inherent contradictions of the Senate's position, should it pass Warner-Levin:

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot vote full confidence in General Petraeus, but no confidence in his strategy. We cannot say that the troops have our full support, but disavow their mission on the eve of battle.

This is what happens when you try to wage war by committee. That is why the Constitution gave that authority to the President as Commander in Chief.

Yes, one Commander in Chief, not 535 of them. If some members of Congress want to vote to defund the war, then have a binding vote on defunding the war. Anything else is "hollow posturing" that undermines our troops, our allies, and our credibility.

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Political Compass

I just took a political test, and I found the results interesting. My graph puts me as more of a social libertarian/economic moderate instead of a true liberal. Wow.

Go here to take the test. How did it turn out?

GARRY ADDS: Here's my graph, it's about what I expected - center right.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Kudos to CBS

Michelle Malkin had a nice post yesterday about the Baghdad Bowl, a CBS-sponsored flag football game in which two 15-man teams composed of troopers from the 2nd "Black Jack" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division put on Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears jerseys, serving as a "preview" to last night's Super Bowl. The Baghdad Bowl was the brain-child of All-Pro NFL veteran Randy Cross, who hoped the event would "to bring some degree of normalcy to the troops". The game was played on Feb. 3rd, and the event was indeed a nice boost to the morale of our combat soldiers:

I think it's a really great thing," said Staff Sgt. Michael Rathbun, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, who played for Team Falcon. "Many of us are living out on combat outposts, so it's the first time we've been on a FOB for a while."

During the game, t-shirts and hats provided by CBS were passed out to the crowd by Team Falcon cheerleaders, Spc. Erin Braun and Spc. Shaunette Buntain, both medics with the 15th Brigade Support Battalion....

After the game, the players once again gathered midfield, where Cross presented both team captains with a game ball. Another ball autographed by CBS' entire NFL Today crew, to include NFL greats Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe, was accepted by Black Jack Brigade Commander Col. Bryan Roberts on behalf of the entire brigade.

Cross himself went to Iraq for the game, and served as the referee. The Colts were represented by troops based in the International Zone, while the Bears were represented by a team from FOB Falcon, which is located in southern Baghdad. And the result? The "Colts" won the Baghdad Bowl, downing the "Bears" 32-25 - not too far off the actual result from last night of 29-17.

"It's not about us or CBS," Cross said, "It's about you guys and getting a chance to come out here and do this for you. We appreciate everything you guys do." Kudos to CBS Sports for sponsoring this event and bringing some fun and normalcy to our soldiers in harm's way.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Holy Sukhoi, Batman

For many years during the Cold War era Russian tactical fighters were badly outclassed by their American counterparts, as demonstrated every so often when US-built Israeli fighters came up against MiGs supplied to Arab countries by the USSR, resulting in a turkey shoot for the IAF. That time is no more, now that the Russians have the amazing Sukhoi Su-30MK.

A friend shared a video demonstration with me of the Su-30MK's incredible performance capabilities, noting with amazement that "the fighter can stall from high speed, stopping in less than a second. Then it demonstrates an ability to descend tail first without causing a compressor stall. It can also recover from a flat spin in less than a minute. These capabilities probably don't exist in any other aircraft in the world today."

In USAF computer simulations run a few years ago, the Su-30MK beat America's F-15C, our stalwart air superiority fighter, "every time". That's remarkable, given that no enemy has ever shot down an American or Israeli F-15C in combat since the aircraft went into service in 1979. One hopes our F-22 Raptor fares a bit better against the 30MK.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

It was global warming in 2005...and 2006?

The multi-national gaggle of "scientists and bureaucrats" (now there's a fun combo for you) who covened in Paris for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that "global warming has made stronger hurricanes, including those on the Atlantic Ocean such as 2005's Katrina".

Why then, is there no mention of the 2006 hurricane season, which only produced the paltry sum of five hurricanes (none of which went above Cat. 3 strength), and went by with nary a single Atlantic hurricane landfall on North America? If Katrina is evidence of global warming, then what, pray tell, was the '06 Atlantic (non) hurricane season evidence of?

......sound of crickets chirping in gay Paree.....

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