Saturday, January 14, 2006

Chinese French Kissing

"What did I tell you, Wen-Li.... See what those gay cowboys started."

Suiting Up

One of my National Guard students last fall said the exact same thing...



THIS week Senator Hillary Clinton, citing a secret Pentagon report that suggested some marines killed in Iraq might have survived had they been wearing more body armor, became the latest in a long line of politicians to castigate the Pentagon for a supposed failure to adequately protect our fighting men and women. Well-intentioned as the senator might be, the body-armor issue, like so many in war, is just not that simple....

While I can testify that soldiers usually appreciate the protection body armor gives them, the load shouldered by the average infantryman often hinders his ability to fight - especially at high altitude as in Afghanistan.

But in Iraq, as well, the "soldier's load" is often unbearable. Most studies recommend that a soldier should not be burdened with more than one-third of his body weight. But if you take a 160-pound soldier and put 40 pounds of Kevlar and body armor on him and then he picks up an automatic weapon, ammunition, water and first aid equipment, it's not long before he is carrying half his body weight - and he is then expected to run, jump and fight insurgents, themselves carrying little more than a 10-pound AK-47. All of this, of course, often takes place in 120-degree heat in the cities of Iraq.

Lost among the politicians' cries for more extensive armor for the troops is the fact that most soldiers, in my experience and based on discussions with many, feel they have enough armor already - and many feel they are increasingly being burdened with too much equipment. And the new supplementary body armor unveiled this week in Washington doubles the weight of the equipment - worn over the torso and, now, the upper arms - to 32 pounds from 16 pounds (for a medium-sized soldier)....

An article last week from The Associated Press noted that "soldiers in the field were not all supportive of a Pentagon study that found improved body armor saves lives" and that some argued "that more armor would hinder combat effectiveness."

As an Army captain told The A.P.: "You've got to sacrifice some protection for mobility. If you cover your entire body in ceramic plates, you're just not going to be able to move."

Thankfully, many military leaders at both the tactical and strategic levels recognize they must strike a balance between protecting soldiers and preserving their mobility and fighting abilities. At some point, the public's desire to wrap ourtroops in a protective blanket of armor just gets ridiculous....

The voices that get overlooked are the most important ones: those of the soldiers themselves.

Much of this furor started a year ago when a soldier from my hometown, Chattanooga, Tenn. - apparently encouraged by an embedded reporter from the local newspaper (which, incidentally, was once owned by my family) - complained of digging through scrap heaps to jury-rig "hillbilly armor" for his unit's vehicles in a Kuwait question-and-answer session with Donald Rumsfeld.

Secretary Rumsfeld's callous answer - "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have" - was roundly criticized as being out of touch with what the rest of America felt: that the men and women who serve our country in battle deserve nothing but the best equipment.

The problem with this noble sentiment is that the American public and its elected representatives don't always understand what military officers and soldiers do: that the safety of individual soldiers must always be balanced against the ability to accomplish the unit mission.

I worry that this timeless lesson is now being forgotten in the interest of minimizing American casualties. "Protecting soldiers," as an Army spokesman told me the other day, "is our No. 1 priority."

Excuse me, but shouldn't winning the war be our No. 1 priority?

Andrew Exum is the author of "This Man's Army."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Rate This

I never look myself up on (I'm lying, of course.) I'm waiting for the day when we profs get to follow you students around, then go to a Web site and anonymously critique you/judge you/slander you/make fun of some birth defect I have you have.

What? You say that day is here?

Until then, the Phantom Professor has this...

More from Bremer

Bremer's piece in today's NYT...
There is little question that, thanks to efforts by the American-led coalition, enormous political and economic progress is being made in Iraq today.

Two years ago, Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, told his followers there that there would be no place for them in a democratic Iraq. One year later, Iraqis voted in the country's first genuine elections. Then they wrote and approved a new Constitution. And last month 70 percent of voters turned out to elect a new Parliament. Now that body should modify the Constitution to address legitimate concerns of the Sunnis.

As for Iraq's economy, at liberation it was flat on its back: the World Bank estimated that in 2003 the economy contracted by 41 percent. Now Iraq benefits from an independent central bank, and a new currency whose stability is a remarkable indicator of confidence. The economy is open to foreign investment and commercial laws have been modernized. The International Monetary Fund reports that per-capita income has doubled in the last two years and predicts that Iraq's economy will grow 17 percent this year. No wonder registration of new businesses has jumped 67 percent in the last six months.

Giving Charlie Props

Despite all the conniptions Charlie Rose gives me, alas, o elitist viewer, where else on TV can we turn for interviews with artists, architects, airline execs, and former presidential envoys?
Bremer: Saddam's army was an army of about 500,000 soldiers, of which 300,000 were draftees--Shia draftees who served under an almost entirely Sunni officer core. And they [Shia] were brutalized, hazed, tortured.... When these 300,000 Shia enlisted men saw the way the war was going, they went home. They disserted. When liberation happened, there was not a single unit of the army standing in place anywhere. There was no army to "disband." I regret that we ever used the word "disband," because it leaves the impression there was something *to* disband. So there was never a question of disbanding the army.

So the question was raised, Should we recall the army? Now, as a practical matter, this meant sending our American young men and women in the armed forces to hunt for these Shia and forcing them at gunpoint back into an army they hated....

So what did we do about the army? We paid all of the Shia conscripts a termination fee and said, "Thank you for your service"--300,000 of them.

What did we do about the officers? We paid all of them, except the very top ones, a stipend, a monthly payment which continued all the way through the occupation. So, the people who say, "Well, you fired them and they didn't have a job and they didn't have any money..." that's nonsense. We paid them. We paid them an amount that was calculated to be slightly more than they would have gotten if they'd had a pension.


CR: Do you believe he [Ahmad Chalabi] took secrets to Iran?

PB: Well, it's possible.

CR: You think it is?

PB: It's possible. I mean, I saw--

CR: Do you believe it? I mean, you were there, at the center of it. *You* know.

PB:'s something I don't think I really want to get public.

CR: But if you're saying it's possible and don't really wanna get into it, the logical conclusion is that you believe he did.

PB: Well, you can draw your own conclusions.
You'll soon be able to download the entire program here.

What Academic Bias?

One of the 22 Barbara Streisands we have in my department stopped by to show me her syllabus for this Spring. If you've gotten lucky enough to get her, here's what you can look forward to in her objective, unbiased Comp. I class:
Seems fair, right?

Bellicose NYT?

A NYT editorial worth reading.

And in related news: Hell freezes over.

Fortunately, Iran is believed to still be several years away from being able to produce nuclear weapons. But it has now embarked on a course that can have no other plausible intent.

Turning its back on generous European and Russian offers that would have guaranteed its supplies of civilian reactor fuel, helped its economy, added jobs and lessened its diplomatic isolation, this week Tehran unsealed the centrifuges it can now use to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Charles on Charlie

Watching Charlie Rose causes my palms to bleed from the number of times I dig my fingernails into them during each show. His constant interruptions, his ruffling of notes while his guest is talking, the 77 times each show he has to get in saying "in terms of," his laughing at things that aren't funny and for way longer than necessary, his incomplete sentences and questions, his verbal ellipses, his horrendous reading-aloud skills, ...hmm...why *do* I watch? Oh yeah, for stuff like this...

Fried: "Ted Kennedy said, as if it was something against Judge Alito, that Alito in his whole life had only had one client, the American government. Is that only one client? The American government is the American people. At Harvard we call that "public service" and we give people loan forgivenesses so they'll do it."

A 3-Hour Tour, A 3-Hour Tour

The Professor will be there, obviously. And some Gingers and Mary Anns. So, just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...
In the Port of New Orleans it's move-in day on the 1,076-passenger, Israeli-owned cruise ship, which Tulane University has leased this semester to house about 200 professors, students, and staff members. But anyone who has visions of sipping piña coladas on deck after a dip in a crystal-clear pool is in for a reality check.

The pool is drained, the bars are closed, and the slot machines will be draped with tarps. The spa, whose signs feature a woman receiving a blissful massage, is not operational, and the beauty salon has been cleared out. One lounge, the "My Fair Lady" room, may be used as an Internet cafe -- that is, once Tulane's technicians figure out how to translate the ship's technology documents from Hebrew. The theme of the ship's decor is classic musicals. But its overall motif comes across as faded 1980s glitz, with common areas heavy on brass and what feels suspiciously like pleather.

Staterooms are small, the bathrooms minuscule. One shower stall measures about 2 feet by 3 feet, and the twin berths are a mere arm's length from each other. No perishables are allowed in the cabins, none of which have TV's, and booze is banned.

But so far, the few dozen new residents of the ship, preparing for classes to begin next Tuesday, seem to be taking it all in stride. This is not about a luxury vacation, after all. This is New Orleans, where people are happy to have shelter and a university to go back to four-and-a-half months after Hurricane Katrina swept through the city.


Your assigned reading today: "Why Nobody Is Reading Today."

According to Jim A. Kuypers in Press Bias and Politics, 76 percent of journalists who admit to having a politics describe themselves as liberal. The consequences are predictable: even as they employ their politics to tilt their stories, such journalists sincerely believe they are (a) merely telling the truth and (b) doing good in the world.

Pre-university-educated journalists did not, I suspect, feel that the papers they worked for existed as vehicles through which to advance their own political ideas. Some among them might have hated corruption, or the standard lies told by politicians; from time to time they might even have felt a stab of idealism or sentimentality. But they subsisted chiefly on cynicism, heavy boozing, and an admiration for craft. They did not treat the news—and editors of that day would not have permitted them to treat the news—as a trampoline off which to bounce their own tendentious politics.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Puppy Purse

A blushing and shy and way cute Ashley walked in a few minutes late to my 1:30 TR today curling her hair over and behind her left ear and carrying one of these. Gosh she was cute. Black cashmere turtleneck. Black riding boots. And the puppy purse. Cute. Did I say that yet?

This just in: I love my job.

I'm Ev'ry Woman

No, that's not Goatse. That's Whitney.

Get Out of My Dreams, Get into My Kabura

Hot. Sexy. Fast. Red on top and bottom. I'll take one.

Oh, and the car's nice too.

I See Goatse

You know about Goatse, right. (If you don't, I'm not the one to break you in--I do not want to be the one you remember turning you on to it. Like Smack or something. Because it will literally divide your life: Pre-Goatse, Post-Goatse.)

Anyhoo, this dude's spreading it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

You'll Go Blind

Guess mom was right.

Assignment #1

Here's your first assignment for the Spring semester...

Until Then

Coming Out (Against Smoking)

The Calls Are Coming from Inside the House!

Just who *is* your girlfriend always talking to on that damned cell phone. Find out.

Related: Your Phone Records Are for Sale.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rational Exuberance?

Google Bubble? (Just try not to smile saying that fast a few times.)
Last week, a relatively obscure Wall Street analyst named Safa Rashtchy, from Piper Jaffray, became an overnight sensation among the Internet faithful. He predicted that Google's stock price, which has climbed more than 350 percent since its initial public offering in 2004, and was $422.52 at the time, would hit $600 a share by the end of 2006.

Shares of Google shot up to $435.23 the day of the report, and had risen to $465.66 by Friday.

Another analyst, Mark Stahlman, at Caris & Company, said Friday that Google shares could one day hit $2,000.
Earlier Googlizing.