Monday, May 26, 2008

This is pretty cool

I can't recall how I stumbled on this but I thought it was funny. Here's a link to the HTML code so you can display your own badge.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm Shocked! Shocked I Tell You

Their tax returns show that Bill and Hillary Clinton have hauled in a fortune of $111 million since they left the White House in 2001 through last year. But that hasn't stopped them from taking every penny of taxpayer money potentially available to former presidents.

Federal records show that Mr. Clinton's pension and office expenses totaled over $8 million since he retired, compared with only $5.5 million for former President George H.W. Bush and $4 million for former President Jimmy Carter during the same period of time. The money goes for everything from a full-time office and staff to travel and telephone reimbursements. The cost of lifetime Secret Service protection is not included in the calculations.

- John Fund, Political Diary, 4/11/08

The Bureaucratization of War

Disagreements and coordination problems high within the international military command are delaying combat operations for 2,500 Marines who arrived here last month to help root out Taliban forces, according to military officers here (in Afghanistan). For weeks the Marines - with their light armor, infantry, artillery and a squadron of transport and attack helicopters and Harrier strike fighters - have been virtually quarantined at the international air base here, unable to operate beyond the base perimeter.

(D)isputes among the many layers of international command here - an ungainly conglomeration of 40 nations ranging from Albania and Iceland to the U.S. and Britain - have forced a series of delays. Unlike most U.S. military operations, even the small details of operations here - such as the radio frequency used to evacuate a soldier for medical care - must first be coordinated with multiple military commands.

...For Marines, who are accustomed to landing in a war zone and immediately going into action with their own plans, the holdup has been frustrating. . . . Marine operations planning, which is routinely completed in hours or days, has gone on for weeks while they await agreement and approval from above.

- David Wood, Baltimore Sun, 4/11/08

But It's President Bush's Fault!

This is an awesome piece I cribbed from Chuck Muth's "News 'N Views" e-mail:

Remember the election in 2006?Thought you might like to read the following. A little over one year ago:

1) Consumer confidence stood at a 2 1/2 year high;
2) Regular gasoline sold for $2.19 a gallon;
3) The unemployment rate was 4.5%.

Since voting in a Democratic Congress in 2006 we have seen:

1) Consumer confidence plummet;
2) The cost of regular gasoline soar to over $3.50 a gallon;
3) Unemployment is up to 5% (a 10% increase);
4) American households have seen $2.3 trillion in equity value evaporate (stock and mutual fund losses);
5) Americans have seen their home equity drop by $1.2 trillion dollars;
6) 1% of American homes are in foreclosure.

America voted for change in 2006, and we got it!

- Author unknown; forwarded to us by a News & Views reader

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Little Levity...

...courtesy of Chuck Muth's "News 'N Views":

An old, blind man wanders into a Democrat bar in Washington, DC, by mistake. He finds his way to a barstool and orders a beer. After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a Dumb Democrat joke?" The bar immediately falls absolutely silent. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says,

"Before you tell that joke, sir, I think it is only fair, given that you are blind, that you should know five things: One, the bartender is a Democrat with a baseball bat. Two, the bouncer is a Democrat. Three, I'm a 6-foot-tall, 175-pound Democrat with a black belt in karate. Four, the woman sitting next to me is a Democrat and a professional weightlifter. And five, the lady to your right is a Democrat and a professional wrestler. Now, think about it seriously, Mister. Do you still wanna tell that joke?"

The blind man thinks for a second, shakes his head and finally mutters: "Well, no; not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

This is a disgrace

I was checking out a video on YouTube that someone sent me when I found this one.

It's a video of an Army National Guardsman being beaten severely by members of the Las Vegas PD at McCarran Airport.

I've written about this before, so I will try to not go on at length. The rank-and-file TSA staff have a thankless job. They are made to enforce policies that have little rational basis. These policies are the legacy of the former Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta. The airline industry had the bad luck to have Mineta as the Secretary charged with regulating their industry at the time of the 9/11 attacks.

In my opinion, the formative experience of Mineta's life appears to have been being interned during WWII. Although Wikipedia gives no dates, Mineta would have been around 10 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Assuming he spent the remainder of the war in internment, he would have been about 15 at the time he was released.

This was highly unfortunate for the airlines and their customers as Mineta insisted on policies that treated everyone as a potential terrorist, rather than use profiling to identify those likely commit terrorism.

Watching the news report of the incident, it appears that the Guardsman contributed to this situation. He does seem to have lost his temper. However, I can totally sympathize with him. I spent the last six years being regularly subjected to this treatment by the TSA - and I was working on a contract DIRECTLY RELATED TO BORDER SECURITY!

On the whole I think the flying public has been remarkably patient with the Mineta regime. What's surprising is that there haven't been more such incidents and that TSA personnel haven't been the subject of the occasional beating themselves.

What's really ludicrous is that the TSA is so slow to revise these idiotic policies that really don't do that much to make us safer. After all the terrorists have already used planes as weapons and are unlikely to do so again. Should they try another 9/11-style attack, they could just as easily use other permitted items to kill cabin crew. And with the flying public alert to the threat and the example of the passengers of United 93, putative terrorists would have to have a heck of a plan to get away with it again.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Global Warming, Fait Accompli?

Not so fast, my friend! as Lee Corso, of ESPN's College Game Day, would say.

Check out this article sent to me by my friend Bill Carroll.

I wonder if Al Gore will give back his Nobel Peace Prize.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is This What The Media Call A Recession?

Cribbed from "Best of the Web", who got it from a piece in The Washington Post, if these are the hardships the media are touting as signs of an economic downturn, then they have a tough sell on their hands.

The last thing Marti Tracy wants to do on a Saturday is clip coupons. But last month the 34-year-old Bowie resident felt she no longer had a choice. She'd already given up organic meat and decided to buy organic milk only for her 2-year-old son, not for the whole family.

Tracy and her partner also stopped buying the cereals they like in favor of whatever was on sale; stopped picking up convenient single-size packs of juice, water or crackers; and, in order to save gas, stopped going to multiple stores. "I find the whole thing a huge hassle, but I've reached a tipping point," said Tracy, a government human resources specialist who is pregnant with her second child. "Clearly, I'm not unable to feed my family. But I just can't feed my family the way I'd like to feed them."

Reading Recommendation

I am up early this morning and catching up on the emails in my Inbox, many of which are the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web", edited by the brilliant James Taranto.

One such email contains a link to a video which purports to expose Senator Barack Obama's links to The Weather Underground's William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who the video claims helped launch his political career.

This got me to musing about why so many young people of that era developed such hatred and revulsion for a country that had given them nothing but affluence and opportunity. I think that Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah offers the best explanation.

My reading of Bork's thesis is that these young people, who had not earned their affluence by dint of facing the twin hardships of the Great Depression and World War II, felt guilty for their (in their minds) ill-gotten gains. They couldn't make sense of a world with so much cruelty and suffering for some but not others (themselves included mainly among the latter group). Having forsaken religion (a potential source of comfort and guidance), and rather than work constructively within the system created by their forefathers that had served them and their country so well for so long, they lashed out at it for saddling them with their guilt.

I can't think of a better, more cogent explanation. The book is a good read, even if Bork does let his contempt for these 60s radicals shine through unabashedly.

As The Old Saying Goes...

..."Denial ain't just a river in Egypt".

Reuters reports on a U.N. employee who taught science and practiced engineering:

By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.

The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.

In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq's work with explosives. And his family denied he had any militant links at all, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home.

But militant leaders allied to the enclave's ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad's "engineering unit"--its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Plea to Parents

I like - no, strike that - I LOVE going to the movies.

So, if you are the parent of a small child, and are unable to make your child behave


Bringing a small child to a movie is selfish and punishes ME for your poor parenting skills.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do the movie-going public a favor, stay home with your kids until they are old enough to behave!

Please write your Congress Critters

Below is the text of a letter I sent to my Senators and Representative. I urge you all to do the same.

Dear Senator Warner,

With gas prices setting records at the pump, I urge you to work with the President to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The political left has consistently mis-characterized the effort to drill for oil in ANWR. I believe that oil companies can drill for oil in a way that minimizes the impact on the surrounding environment. My reading of the proposed effort is that an area the size of Dulles Airport will be the footprint of the oil drilling effort.

Also, another thing that I think you should bear in mind is that the inhabitants of ANWR want the economic benefits that exploring for oil will bring.

Again, I urge you to work with your colleagues in the Senate, the House of Representatives and the President to begin drilling for oil in ANWR.


Alain DeWitt
Arlington, VA

Personal Update

I don't usually write much about what is going on with me personally in this space, but as this is my 300th post, I thought it somewhat a propos.

As of April 30th, I am no longer employed by Stanley Associates as an Installer/Trainer on the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs' Installation and Training Project. My tenure on ITP was the longest of my professional career to date. I spent six and a half years living out of a suitcase and clocking United frequent flier miles and Starwood points. During the six and a half years I was on the contract, I believe that I traveled more than anyone else across the three traveling teams. In 79 months, I made 79 deployments.

But all that is in the past now. Beginning June 22, I will be working for Northrop Grumman (NG) as a System Administrator. NG has a contract with the Army to install and maintain the Biometric Identification System for Access (BISA). I will be administering said system at Camp Speicher* in Iraq. BISA uses biometric identification technology to provide secure access to Army facilities for non-American civilian employees.

Let's say you are an Iraqi whom the Army wants to hire to work on a base. In order to enter an Army facility, you need a badge. In order to get the badge, the Army will take your photograph and fingerprints. The photograph is taken using a digital camera and the fingerprints are taken electronically.

These images are then transmitted to a facility in the United States. There, checks are run against several databases to make sure that you aren't a criminal or a terrorist. If there are any "hits" against any of the databases, these are reviewed by an adjudicator who must then decide whether the person in the "hit" is you or not. If the adjudicator decides the person is the "hit" isn't you, then the request for a badge is approved and you get your badge.

Your badge has a chip in it that contains the images that were taken previously. Then, each time you show up to work, you put your badge in a smart card reader and put a finger on a fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scan is compared to the images stored in the chip and software determines if the fingerprints match. The Security Forces airman** also will compare the photo stored in the chip to the person seeking entrance to the base to determine if it is the same person. (Although I imagine the fingerprint comparison is more determinative.) If everything checks out, you go to work.

The system runs on top of plain networked PCs running Windows XP and it will be my job to keep them up and running, along with the associated peripherals (the cameras and fingerprint scanners).

Everyone has asked me why I am doing this. Obviously, the money is good. But, it's not just that. My time on the ITP contract was spent working alongside Foreign Service Officers (FSOs). Almost to a person, FSOs are a bright, driven, hard-working lot. Most of them tend to be from the "liberal internationalist" school of political thought. In my opinion, they seem to feel ashamed of the current administration and America's behavior during that time. One of the things I am most looking forward to in Iraq, is working alongside people that are unabashedly proud of America.

Additionally, there is the challenge of the work environment. I want to find out if I have the courage to work in a war zone.

* Camp Speicher is named for Navy Captain Michael "Scott" Speicher. During the first night of the First Gulf War, January 17, 1991, then-LCDR Speicher's F/A-18 was shot down over Iraq. There are conflicting reports of how his aircraft was downed, and over whether he was even killed. Originally, the Navy reported him as KIA, his aircraft having been downed by a SAM. A conflicting report by the CIA concluded that he was shot down by a missile fired from an Iraqi aircraft, most likely a MiG-25. There are also conflicting reports as to whether or not Captain Speicher survived the downing of his jet. In January 2001, the Secretary of the Navy changed his status to MIA and he was subsequently promoted to Captain.)

** According to my friend, Nick Keck, a lot of the physical security for Army facilities are provided by the USAF's Security Forces.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Aerial tanker dogfight

Ok. I did a bit of light reading on the tanker brouhaha this evening and this is what I learned:

Boeing proposed a tanker based on the 31 year-old 767 airframe instead of the 24 year-old 777 airframe which is technically much more advanced than its older brother. This decision seems to have a lot of people baffled.

EADS' proposed tanker aircraft is based on the A330 airframe which was introduced at about the same time as the 767 but is considered more advanced (for reasons not known by me). Apparently the technical contest was a dead heat.

In favor of EADS award is the fact that there will be a technology transfer of the engineering involved in building the new(-ish) aircraft. Also, the aircraft will be assembled in the United States by Northrop Grumman, although this is a very small part of the overall contract.

A fact that argues against the EADS award is that they have never built a tanker aircraft before. The current USAF tanker fleet is comprised of aircraft based on the Boeing 707 (the KC-135) and McDonnell Douglas (which merged with Boeing in 1997) DC-10 (the KC-10) airframes. So, there is a lot of tanker expertise on the Boeing side of the equation.

Both the 767 and A330 production lines are up and running, so that seems to be a wash (unless you live in Washington State - pun intended).

I think the fact that this intertwines our defense industry with the moribund European one is a big factor. Germany and France in particular, and the EU in general, are making noise about wanting to get more involved militarily around the world. I think this award takes away one of their excuses for not doing so.

Remember, we keep hearing how thin our forces are stretched. If this gives an incentive to the EU to help shoulder some more of the burden, this would seem to argue in favor of the EADS award. That would be a subtext, though, and not technically germane to the competition.

I have a source who works in the defense industry. I wrote him this evening and asked him his opinion but at the time of this writing haven't heard back yet.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently accepted a position with Northrop Grumman who are the main subcontractor on the EADS team.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Quick hitter

I just got this in my Inbox from CNN's Breaking News email service:

-- The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested, an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman tells The Associated Press.

But, that can't be right. Al-Qaeda has nothing to do with Iraq. Wait, could this mean that The New York Times and most of the prominent Democrites are...wrong?

Nahhhh. Couldn't be.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Time to take action

Today I wrote my Senators as well as President Bush regarding the case of Army Sgt. Evan Vela Carnahan. Below is the text of the email I sent to the White House. I urge everyone to do the same.

Dear Mr. President,

I recently learned of the case of Army Sgt. Evan Vela Carnahan. From my research on the internet, it appears that Sgt. Vela Carnahan was part of a five-man sniper team operating in dangerous territory in the Iskandariyah area of Iraq. A military-age Iraqi male and his son stumbled upon the team’s hide. They were detained and restrained. When it seemed that the senior Al-Janabi was trying to give away the team’s position, Sgt. Vela Carnahan’s commanding NCO, Staff Sgt. Hensley, ordered all of the team but Sgt. Vela Carnahan out of the hide. He then ordered Sgt. Vela Carnahan to kill Al-Janabi.

While SSgt. Hensley was acquitted of murder charges, Sgt. Vela Carnahan was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Mr. President, it seems inconceivable that, while his commanding NCO was acquitted of the same charge, Sgt. Vela Carnahan was convicted. I implore you to use the power of the presidential pardon in the case of Sgt. Vela Carnahan.


Alain DeWitt
Arlington, VA