Friday, December 30, 2011

Fullbore Friday


Let's take a nice, small, tactical Joint action going in to the New Year.

You're outnumbered six to two. Your enemy's ships are better armed, manned, and provisioned. They guard one of your cities that they have held for a year and they have many soldiers ashore.

Your army, navy, and nation are strangled by a blockade. You need that city. You need that port.

What do you do? Attack - of course.
For a naval attack he placed artillery and dismounted cavalry from Sibley's brigade, led by Colonel Thomas Green, aboard two river steamers, the Bayou City and the Neptune, commanded by Capt. Leon Smith. Magruder gathered infantry and cavalry, led by Brig. General William R. Scurry, and supported by twenty light and heavy cannons, to cross the railroad bridge onto the island to capture the federal forces ashore. To meet the attack Renshaw had six ships that mounted twenty-nine pieces of heavy artillery.

The Confederates entered Galveston on New Year's night, January 1, 1863, and opened fire before dawn. Cook failed to seize the wharf because of the short ladders provided for his men. Naval guns helped drive back the assault. Then the Confederate "cottonclads" struck from the rear of the Union squadron. The Harriet Lane sank the Neptune when it tried to ram the Union ship, but men from the Bayou City boarded and seized the federal vessel despite the explosion of their own heavy cannon. Renshaw's flagship, the Westfield, ran aground, and the commander died trying to blow up his ship rather than surrender it. The other Union ships sailed out to sea, ignoring Confederate surrender demands, which could be enforced only upon the abandoned federal infantry in town.

Magruder had retaken Galveston with a loss of twenty-six killed and 117 wounded. Union losses included the captured infantry and the Harriet Lane, about 150 casualties on the naval ships, as well as the destruction of the Westfield. The port remained under Confederate control for the rest of the war.
The Northern invaders actually were hit even worse - they had over 400 soldiers taken prisoner.

Why did they lose? Simple - poor leadership and a lack of battlemindedness. The occupation made them complacent and over-confident. All the equipment in the world will not help you if you don't have the right leadership.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Diversity Thursday


This is sad and in many ways pathetic.

As we've discussed often - I served with females from the start of my career and have supported their service everywhere they are physically and otherwise qualified - just like everyone else - with a few logical exceptions.

I have had some great mentors who were female - including one crusty old-school CMDCM who would not want to be called a "mentor" - especially by an officer; but by a modern definition, she was one. If I told her that, she would probably have called me a pu55y and to get out of her Navy ... but different subject for a different day.

On the other side, I have had the chance to "mentor" (I don't like the concept BTW - it is just plain professionalism and leadership - it is part of the job) - females as well. Even after retirement, I still keep in touch with a few; and via this blog/email I have female - officer and enlisted, MIDN too - who honor me with the opportunity to throw in a word of advice now and then when asked.

It is incredibly counter-productive - as the CO on the PONCE knows - to push a s3x-segregation program (RDML Klein call your office). There are a lot of good that can come from getting advice from the other side of the XX-XY divide.

Our Navy isn't interested in that though. Oh, no - it is debunked 1970s theories it needs to re-animate and pick at. The Navy is just a place to do social work you can't do elsewhere dontchaknow.

Navy policy on such issues is driven by the worst byproducts of gender studies departments at universities - afterall, who else will give those oxygen thieves a paycheck - and the resulting cognitive disfunction is on display again. As a result - our organization does things like this.
Hello [redacted]

Thank you for your past participation in the NavyWomen eMentor program. Since that program sunsetted, and our AcademyWomen eMentor is restricted to women only, I'm sorry to inform you we had to delete your profile from the program. However, we are currently talking with several organizations regarding launching new eMentor programs that might apply to you, so please periodically check back to our site (http://academywomen.org/e-mentorprogram.php) for announcements of new programs.

Warm regards,

Shannon
--
Shannon [redacted]
Manager, eMentor Leadership Program
[redacted]@ementorprogram.org
http://ementorprogram.org
www.academywomen.org
We have a retired Navy Captain - one who is very well placed in his community and very involved in with his Navy still - who was extending a hand to offer advice.

It seems that gender politics and an agenda of exclusion is more important than building leaders.

Classic s3xual discrimination. Not only does it insult those who offer to help - it takes away an opportunity for one of our rising stars to benefit from decades of experience.

Shame on our Navy - and shame on all of us. This is our Navy; we let this happen.

For the record - the POC above is a graduate of the USAFA - so we're letting the Air Farce do this to us - can we be more of a Beta Service?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ahhh, the Commie useful idiots are still with us ...


Some people just never quit ... or have any shame.

These are British - but we have them here. They are people who are no better than those blood and gore flecked apologists of Nazis.

Simon Winchester finds time to disgorge this charmer (subscriber only);
... seeing how South Korea has turned out — its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.
What a typical Leftist hypocrite. That British tool lives in the USA; MASS and NYC to be exact. Enjoy his writing, you paid for it - one of the teats he sucks off of is public radio.

The next useful idiot is a Brit too; Neil Clark.
Havel's anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women's rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.
...
While the years following the liberation of eastern Europe from communism by Havel and his fellow dissidents are routinely portrayed in the west as one big success story, the reality is rather different.
...
Lauding Havel is not only doing a disservice to the millions of ordinary people in eastern Europe who have not been served well by his politics, but to the innocent men, women and children killed by the western military adventures he supported
Let them speak and by their words be d@mned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I See Your Train Wreck and Raise You a Pathetic


We've talked about it here, and we talked to our buddy Phil about it on Midrats - and Phil hits on it again.
Just when you thought it was safe to take a knee and run out the clock on 2011 in the hopes that the new year would be better — it ain’t.

Sandra Erwin of National Defense magazine penned a deeply pessimistic look ahead Wednesday that concluded the Pentagon’s 2012 could make 2011 look like a box social by comparison. The Building will continue to cover its eyes and plug its ears about the truth of the big crunch; the services’ food fights will only intensify; strategy types’ lazy groupthink will persist; and cost and schedule problems are only going to worsen on the big programs.
We've been talking about it for years - any economic historian could tell you it was coming - and we haven't even hit the Terrible 20s yet.

The problem is deep, ugly, and institutional. It will only change with the right leadership; first in suits - then in uniform. There are people who can do what needs to be done - but they don't have the top cover bureaucratically and politically to do it.

We don't that that right combination of professional and intellectual courage at the front right now. As a result, things will be much worse before they get better.

You'll know change when you see it - when leaders who have clearer and more active priorities than the socio-political fads of Diversity and green energy come to the front.

Sandra sees it along with another Midrats alumni, Daniel Gouré.
The Pentagon Will Continue to Live in Denial About the Approaching Fiscal Train Wreck

Yes, a budget train wreck is a shopworn cliché inside the Beltway. It dates back to 1995, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies published, “Averting the Defense Train Wreck in the New Millennium.” One of the authors, industry analyst Daniel Gouré, admits that the Pentagon has so far avoided fiscal disaster. The post 9/11 spending surge prevented the Defense Department from fixing its weapons cost-growth problem and only exacerbated an imbalance between tooth and tail. But with the nation in dire financial straits and its leaders incapable of addressing the debt crisis, “We know the train wreck is inevitable,” says Gouré. “We choose not to think about it because it’s not here right now.”

The trends that the CSIS report brought to light in 1995 have not changed, he says. “Nobody wants to address cost growth in major systems.” At the time, the message was that the Defense Department needed to make strategic choices of whether to modernize its aging equipment or reduce its work force. The same dilemma exists, and it’s only been made worse by the huge increases in the cost of military personnel.

Regardless of the election outcome, Gouré predicts, whoever takes over has to come to grips with the reality that the current defense apparatus is unaffordable.

New Buzzwords Will Masquerade Old Thinking

Pentagon strategists and think tanks have a history of becoming infatuated with “concepts,” which also can be described as the Pentagon’s worldview captured in three-letter acronyms. The decade of the 1990s was all about NCW (network centric warfare) which morphed into RMA (revolution in military affairs). Then came EBO (effects-based operations), coupled with CBR (capabilities based requirements) or TBR (threat based requirements).

Changes in buzzwords didn’t really bring about innovative thinking, however, says Frank Hoffman, military analyst at the National Defense University. “We suffer from strategic amnesia,” he says, “and continue to repeat [mistakes of] the past.”
Part of the problem is that we don't study our own history; recent or far. Combine that with a culture that does not reward aggressive debate - and you drift until you run aground.

There are signs of the problem at the core of our military structures all over the place if you want to see them. They are I&W of a deep fault a the core of the system. That is where the pathetic comes in.
DFAS is unable to reconcile the cash activity recorded in the Navy’s general ledger accounting systems to that recorded in DCAS. DFAS officials stated they acquired the Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) tool to perform this reconciliation; however, after 4 years of effort and $29 million, the BAM tool does not yet provide the information needed to identify and resolve the underlying causes of differences between DCAS and Navy general ledger systems. As of April 2011, there were more than $22 billion unmatched disbursements and collections affecting more than 10,000 lines of accounting. DOD IG officials stated they were performing substantive testing to confirm the balance of the Marine Corps FBWT as part of their audit of the Marine Corps’s Fiscal Year 2011 Statement of Budgetary Resources. This testing did not include internal control and did not provide assurance on the effectiveness of the Marine Corps’ FBWT reconciliation process. Navy, Marine Corps, and DFAS-CL officials agreed existing FBWT policies and procedures are inadequate. DFAS-CL and Navy officials stated the base realignment and closure changes 2006–2008 resulted in loss of experienced DFAS-CL personnel and that remaining staff have not received needed training. The Navy is developing a plan of action and milestones (POAM) to address weaknesses in audit readiness.
...
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in October that the Pentagon is preparing to be audit-ready by 2014. The Senate passed an amendment in the defense authorization bill from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that would have required the 2014 Pentagon audit, but the amendment was stripped out of the final legislation.
Excuses. Acceptance of a systemic incompetence that if practiced in the civilian sector would land people in jail.

So - when do we turn? No time soon I am afraid. It will take crisis that will require bold action - or a civilian leadership who can break the cycle that has us where we are.

In the meantime - good people will do their best to serve their nation - a nation bereft of the right people in the right place at the right time - thrashing away in a quagmire of our own creation.

Is Called a Rediness Assist


No worries here Dave; this is great news. May they deploy early and often; brother needs the readiness points.
The military’s latest secret assessment of China’s rapidly modernizing submarines has good news and bad news for the U.S. Navy. On one hand, the roughly 60 submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fleet are spending more and more time on combat-ready patrols — signaling China’s increasing naval competence and growing seriousness about influencing the western Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand, the flurry of undersea activity gives American forces more opportunities to tail and examine Chinese subs. And U.S. analysts discovered a silver lining in the gathering strategic storm clouds. Chinese submarines are a hell of a lot noisier than anyone expected. The sound you hear is the Pacific balance of power tipping in Washington’s favor.
Hey ---- we need to break the adhesions that have built up since the early '90s, the complacency that comes from canned exercises, and the inattention to everything from sonobuoy inventories to LWT performance.

Hey - and who can complain about a submarine that can't turn off her augmenter?
Leaving aside the PLAN’s dozen imported Russian subs, new Chinese submarines can be detected at what’s known as the “first convergence zone,” a ring approximately 25 miles from an undersea vessel where outward-traveling sound waves pack close together.

During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy would arrange its own submarines in lines where each boat was 25 miles from the next, forming a sort of net to catch Soviet subs. With the introduction of the latest generation of quiet Russian diesel subs in the 1990s, the Americans thought that convergence-zone detection was no longer possible. But the Navy’s just discovered that China’s homemade subs are even louder than 20-year-old Russian boats. “Apparently they [U.S. subs] are making first convergence zone detections and holding them,” the analyst reports.
Now, where is my CZ Slide Rule?

Oh yea; here it is.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Armstrong Festivus


I don't know about the rest of you - but my stomach is full and my disposable income squirrel money has been, ahem, re-baselined.

... but even when the well is dry - that doesn't mean you can't water your brain.

From good friend of the blog - and an even better helo pilot - LCDR B.J. Armstrong, USN takes a break from keeping us in the way of life we have become accustomed to send along a Festivus Reading list.

Now that you have plowed through your airing of grievances ... enjoy.

Is being frugal a proper aspect of a Naval Officer? Maybe it is an O-4 thing.
It’s the day after Christmas and you’re wondering where to begin with that e-reader you discovered under the Tree. One of the few places e-readers have an advantage over the physical book is with out of print books that are beyond their copyright (the other is the ability to bring a large library on deployment). These books are available for free in epub or pdf formats that are readable on most e-readers and tablets, whether from Google Books or websites like the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg (PG is one of the better sources because of the hard working volunteers who edit the formatting of the books). So, if you’re looking to start building the foundation of your navalist e-library with a few no-cost choices, here are five to begin with.

The Influence of Seapower Upon History; 1660 to 1782.

By Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Do I need to say anything more? ATM is admittedly a difficult author to read. His pseudo-late-Victorian writing style doesn’t help, and he himself wrote in his autobiography that in his book length works he tended to think of every caveat and explanation possible and throw them in. The result is sentenances that would take an English PhD like Dr. Fleming to diagram and paragraphs that extend over entire pages of the book. You know there’s a situation when the good Captain’s own son was reputed to say he couldn’t read his father’s books.

But here’s the thing…with a copy of “The Influence” on your e-reader, you can read the book in small sections. The ideas in this book set the bedrock for naval strategy for the entire 20th century. If you read Dr.’s Holmes and Yoshihara and their analysis of today’s Indian and Chinese navies you’ll begin to think that it may be the foundation for the 21st century as well. Mahan is the inventor of such ideas as the global commons, national grand strategy, and was one of the first to define what it meant to be a maritime nation. Since the book is free, there’s no excuse for not having it in your e-library, and even starting to add some notes and bookmarks to the text.

Mahan on Naval Warfare: Selections from the Writings of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Edited by Allen Westcott

This book was edited by a professor at the Naval Academy who was attempting to make the writing of the great Navalist more approachable for Midshipmen. Less than a decade after the Captain’s death he worked through many of Mahan’s books and essays and pulled important ideas and passages out, editing them into this textbook. In search of ideas or quotes that help you define what Mahan thought? This book is an excellent place to begin.

There is a risk with this book though; because Professor Westcott’s approach tends to pull shorter passages, or pull a series of quotes out of a book together and link them, so there is a tendency to lose the context in which Mahan was writing. Big ideas, like naval strategy, require context. Despite the loss of context, the book is a good one for your e-library because it can inspire you to find other Mahanian texts and expand your knowledge of his thinking and writing. Naval Historian Geoffrey Till put it well when he wrote “Mahan frequently suffers from writing more than most people are willing to read.” Westcott’s book can help get you started.

Some Principles of Maritime Strategy.

By Julian Corbett

Corbett is often taught as something akin to the anti-Mahan. The comparison is frequently made that while Mahan is the Antoine-Henri Jomini of naval warfare, Corbett is the Karl von Clausewitz. That comparison is inaccurate and has created a perception that enhances the differences between the two naval thinkers. Mahan wrote that he considered his own writing and thinking a foundation which Corbett’s ideas then built upon.

Corbett’s writing often appears more relevant to today’s naval professionals, and it discusses expeditionary operations and operations beyond fleet on fleet engagements. His section on naval “Limited Wars” is particularly relevant to American naval policy at the start of our new century. There’s also a hidden gem in “Some Principles,” and that is Corbett’s early summary of the thinking of von Clausewitz. The Briton did study the Prussian extensively, and his chapter on the former head of the General Staff is a great starting point for those who are unfamiliar with him.

The Naval War of 1812, Volume 1 & 2.

By Theodore Roosevelt

This coming year is the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812, a conflict very few people are genuinely familiar with. The War of 1812 was a defining conflict for the United States Navy. Until the Declaration of War in June of 1812 Congress had been inconsistent with its funding and support for the service. The very existence of the service was debated on the floors of the House and Senate repeatedly in the first decades of our nation’s independence. After the War of 1812, however, nobody doubted the need for a United States Navy.

Roosevelt’s book, though over a century old, is still a standard text of the War. The future President wrote it while a student at Yale as his senior thesis, at 23 years old, and published it. The work, rather than a vain attempt at publishing by a well off young man, has stood the academic test of time. This is what many military historians would call “drum and trumpets” history, with a focus on detailed accounts of the individual battles rather than larger strategic or geopolitical implications. However, Roosevelt did work from primary source documents and produced a two volume history that NHHC’s Dr. Michael Crawford has written is “More than a classic, it remains, after 120 years, a standard study of the war.”

The Mirror of the Sea

By: Joseph Conrad

Most of us have read Joseph Conrad because we were assigned “The Heart of Darkness” in our high school or college years. We remember the novella briefly, if at all, and probably only in reference to our repeated viewing of Coppala’s adaptation in the movie “Apocalypse Now.” Before becoming a man of letters, Joseph Conrad was a man of the sea. Most of his novels and stories involve ships or sailors, however not everyone realizes he spent decades as an officer in the British merchant marine. The Mirror of the Sea is a memoir, of sorts, of Conrad’s service afloat. Written in the form of a series of essays, the book offers frequent reminders of the challenges that await those who elect to earn their living at sea. Conrad’s memories of his time on the worlds oceans are earily recognizable for today’s Sailors and at times poetic.

There’s a bit of a romantic hidden away in most of us who put on a naval uniform and head for open water in defense of our nation. Reading Conrad will help you realize that the thoughts, emotions, and challenges we face at sea haven’t changed much in centuries. Sometimes, when you’re deep into a long deployment at sea and feeling like you are on your own, that can be comforting. Conrad will surprise you with how much he knows, and how much you share.

STRATFOR's STRATCOM Fail


My first instinct was; STRAFOR? Why STRATFOR?
On Saturday, hackers who say they are members of the collective known as Anonymous claimed responsibility for crashing the Web site of the group, Stratfor Global Intelligence Service, and pilfering its client list, e-mails and credit card information in an operation they say is intended to steal $1 million for donations to charity. The hackers posted a list online that they say contains Stratfor’s confidential client list as well as credit card details, passwords and home addresses for some 4,000 Stratfor clients. The hackers also said they had details for more than 90,000 credit card accounts. Among the organizations listed as Stratfor clients: Bank of America, the Defense Department, Doctors Without Borders, Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the United Nations.

The group also posted five receipts online that it said were of donations made with pilfered credit card details. One receipt showed a $180 donation from a United States Homeland Security employee, Edmund H. Tupay, to the American Red Cross. Another showed a $200 donation to the Red Cross from Allen Barr, a recently retired employee from the Texas Department of Banking.
Hey, I like those guys. Why didn't they pick on Greenpeace or sump'n? Now, I'm not a Ron Paul supporter, but my first instincts were to ponder - there must be some deeper conspiracy going on here ... what was REALLY on STRATFOR's servers .... and was this REALLY Anon ..... but then ....
Stratfor didn't just expose a website to the public. It also, apparently, put all this other stuff online, in the clear, for the taking.

It's true that websites are like storefronts, and that it's more or less impossible to stop determined people from blocking or defacing them now and again.

Here, however, it looks like Stratfor left private files in the window display, waiting to be grabbed by the first guy to put a brick through the glass.

Now, I'm not America's premier intelligence and security research group, and I'm not a member of its national IT security planning task force. But I'm pretty sure that putting unencrypted lists of credit card numbers and client details on public-exposed servers isn't quite explained by "no matter what you do, every system has some level of vulnerability."
Oh come on. Talk about an easy target. Ummmmm .... let me guess - no one will be contracting STRATFOR for cyber security work in the near future.

What is "The West" and its outposts

It is hard to get a visual of what is, in a Furgusonesque definition, what the West looks like on a map and its lines of cultural communication.

Well - here is an interesting proxy.Via blprnt,
... tweets containing the phrases 'just landed in...' or 'just arrived in...'. Locations from these tweets are located using MetaCarta's Location Finder API. The home location for the traveling users are scraped from their Twitter pages. The system then plots these voyages over time.
Over the years you've heard me talk of the Anglosphere, non-Russia Europe and its auxiliaries in Asia constituting the true West. That mostly overlaps a Furfusonesque definition of the West.

This visualizes the concept very well methinks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fullbore Friday


Thank goodness we never had to have a FbF for NORAD ... but on the Friday before Christmas - perhaps we should.
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.
Col. Shoup - Santa gives your heart a nice Fullbore. Your actions are in the finest traditions of the most humane Great Power military the world has ever seen.

Merry Christmas to everyone on the front porch; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrians, agnostic, atheist, and Pagan.

Even if you don't believe in him; Jesus loves you too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Message from URR ...

OK, it's not URR - mostly.

Standard Kristen warning.




If you haven't enjoyed the guilty pleasure of AFT - take a visit.

Serial numbers are ....


Please tell me they found them about 10 days ago and have already pulled the string on this ...
The Finnish authorities have impounded an Isle of Man-flagged ship bound for China with undeclared missiles and explosives, officials say.

Police are questioning the crew of the MS Thor Liberty after what were described as 69 Patriot anti-missile missiles were found aboard.

Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said the missiles were marked "fireworks".

The MS Thor Liberty had docked in the Finnish port of Kotka after leaving Germany last week.
A+ for effort on the Chinese part; F for execution. Imagine what they do get through.

The forensics on this should be fairly easy to do for the Germans, who BTW have a very good intelligence service. Maybe what drew their attention was, "
Who exports fireworks to China?"

In a larger sense - be careful what you export, get shot down, or leave behind.

Diversity Thursday

Now and then you just have to laugh. The original reasons for the entire Diversity Industry are so far passed, that it is little more now than racialists justifying their jobs by, well, being racialists.

A fact. As a generalized ethnic group, Americas of Asian extraction have the highest economic success as any other general ethnic group.

From family stability to academic achievement - they are thriving. Here is one reference - there are many more.

Do they, as a group, really need any help to "level the playing field?"
With Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders representing just 3 percent of the Senior Executive Service, a pilot program seeks to prepare more Asians for the government's top ranks.
The year-long program, run by the Asian American Government Executives Network, will give 20 Asian hopefuls training, one-on-one mentoring, networking and placement assistance to "help them through the last leg of the journey to the SES," AAGEN chairman Tommy Hwang told Federal News Radio.

Six percent of the federal workforce is Asian, which mirrors the U.S. population. That proportion holds true at all levels of government except for the SES.
Of course not - but the Diversity Industry is not about equality. It is about promoting institutional discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin. Why? Simple. Because they can.

When will the Diversity Industry start to demand that their ranks reflect the population as a whole? Have you ever been to one of their conferences? Let us see that study, then we can talk about SES jelly bean counting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More lipstick than butch ...


... no further comment required.
A Navy tradition caught up with the repeal of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule on Wednesday when two women sailors became the first to share the coveted "first kiss" on the dock after one of them returned from 80 days at sea.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta of Placerville, Calif., descended from the USS Oak Hill amphibious landing ship and shared a quick kiss with her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles. The crowd screamed and waved flags around them.

Both women, ages 22 and 23 respectively, are fire controlmen in the Navy. They met at training school and have been dating for two years.

Navy officials said it was the first time on record that a same-sex couple was chosen to kiss first upon a ship's return. Sailors and their loved ones bought $1 raffle tickets for the opportunity. Gaeta said she bought $50 of tickets. The Navy said the money would be used to host a Christmas party for the children of sailors.
I think Navy Relief missed an opportunity here ... but maybe I should stick to my "no further comment" above.

I just hope they didn't chip a tooth. OK, I need to stop right now.
UPDATE: OK, not the video a lot of you want to see - but let this put the Sailors in a bit more depth.

Self-detonations


No, no, no - I'm not talking about Command Pins, this is a bit different.

Among the many other blessings that come with being born an American, another thing we have is the fact that besides the spare Japanese bomb and German torpedo, no war has been fought on our land since the 1860s. As a result, we don't have to deal with things like this;
Two anti-tank mines from World War II exploded spontaneously along a road in the eastern German state of Brandenburg in the past week, confirming warnings that unexploded bombs are becoming increasingly unstable.

Last Wednesday, Dec. 14, a detonation tore a crater 10 meters (33 feet) wide next to a road between the towns of Gross Ossnig and Neuhausen, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of Berlin, Brandenburg police said. No one was hurt. One eyewitness, Gerhard Willing, said a schoolbus had just driven past the spot. "It was damned lucky that no one was hurt," he told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper. The area had been a storage site for a nearby bridge construction project. "Metal struts weighing tons were dumped there, big trucks drove past and workers were constantly walking around," said Willing.
A stretch of the road subsided and the police cordoned off the area. Bomb disposal experts found two more mines nearby. They were too unstable to remove and had to be blown up where they lay on Friday. Some 400 residents living within one kilometer of the area were evacuated and told to leave their doors and windows open to prevent the glass shattering from the shockwaves.

Then, on Saturday, another mine exploded of its own accord. "Self-detonations are very rare," Torsten Schwieg, a local council official, said. "But having two go off at such a short interval is highly unusual."
...
"Germany will have to deal with the munitions problem for a very long time to come," Hans-Jürgen Weise, the former bomb disposal chief for the west of Brandenburg, now retired, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Unexploded bombs are becoming more dangerous by the day through material fatigue as a result of ageing and through the erosion of safety elements in the trigger mechanisms."
Oh wait - Carolina shrimpers are still waiting for this critter though....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You first


I appreciate their thoughts ... but ... there you have 16-17 young men asking for American young men and women to fight for their freedom. I don't see a single weapon among those Syrians.

Fight for your own freedom, and then ask for help --- that is what we did. Americans should help those who help themselves - not do the dying for those who a few months later will do little but blame us for their problems anyway.

Good luck men of Kafranbel - but put down the sign and pick up a gun if you want your freedom. You'll only appreciate it if you earn it yourself. If not, then keep on as the slave that you are.


Hat tip Bad Rachel via Jawa.

VMI Demonstrates Leadership

Part of being a leader is to put yourself out there ahead of everyone else. Usually physically, but also morally, intellectually, and in general go where you want others to follow.

I wish I could embed the video - but go here and watch these cadets from VMI as they discuss their upcoming 2nd Biennial Leadership Conference, coming 5-6 MAR 2012 focused on Cheating, Lying & Honor in America's High Schools, Colleges & Universities.

"When honor lives, a nation thrives"

Indeed. What an interesting and appropriate step for VMI. The more I think about this concept, the more impressed I am. It says a lot about the institution and its priorities that it would put itself out like this.

Very impressed; check out the program. BZ to all involved. If anyone goes in March - report back how it went.


Hat tip Chris.

Monday, December 19, 2011

BM1, report to the XOs office


When I read this and saw the pic at gCaptain - I frankly could not believe it .... well ....

This is a warship. A warship of the United States Navy. Here is a bit of the story.
On Monday however, the pilot assigned to the USS Howard, a guided missile destroyer stationed in San Diego, experienced the surprise of his life.

A few miles out to sea, the pilot boat operator approached the warship, but immediately noticed blatant safety issues needed to be corrected. Noting the poor state of repair of the ladder hanging over the side, the pilot boat requested its replacement.

After the swapping out the bad ladder, the pilot began his climb up the vertical grey-painted steel. Upon reaching the very top rung, disaster struck and the ladder slipped over the edge about 2 feet.

The knots tying it to the ship had failed.

Losing his footing, the Pilot held on to the ladder with one hand until finally his grip let go. He fell approximately 18 feet to the wavetops.
Over at gCaptain, Rob has seven very good questions. I'm still in shock - I can add more. You?

C-14, what does an ISIC do with a photo like that coming through the NIPRNET from the pilot service company?

I hate to sound like this sounds but it is a fact - that ladder and knot problem would not happen on a Royal Navy or Royal Netherlands Navy ship. No. Not. Never.

Hat tip SP.

Another great man passes


It has been a bad week for writers who influenced your humble blogg'r in his young adulthood.

As most of you know, Václav Havel has passed. First Hitch, then Václav; both died as a byproduct of a love of cigarettes, BTW.

What a giant - and a perfect example of the mindlessness of the Communist mindset in the face of human nature. Afraid of a guy who wrote plays.

Well, in the end he won; in spades.


The great thing about Havel was the same thing that drove me to him - a focus on freedom. Shortly after it was published back in 1991, I picked up Open Letters: Selected Writings; there it is in the upper-right corner pulled out from its place in my library this morning.

A well worn book that I took on deployment in '92. It could use a good translation - but for anyone who wanted to look in to the mind of a free man living in an intellectual prison, this should be on your short list.

Anyway - thank you Václav.Jindřich Šídlo I think outlines him very well.
.... Vaclav Havel was neither an angel, nor God, and he knew that the nation would not change.

For all that, he always did exactly what he thought was the right thing. He talked constantly about things that were not exactly easy to listen to after years of hearing about them over and over again – morality, conscience, responsibility, but also of racism and corruption, whose dangers he was very quick to recognise in the early 90s.

And he did all that knowing full well the risk that people would measure his words against their own experience and against what he would do himself. A confrontation between moral authority and politics in the real world cannot, it seems, end up without some disenchantment all round.

Truth and love have not won over lies and hatred, but there can be no doubt that everything Vaclav Havel did or said arose from his deepest conviction that precisely that way leads the path. And no matter what the majority may think about it at any moment.
As a side note - it looks like Admiral Stavridis and I are on the same page here.

The transition


With the Iraq war done - what about those who served? Unlike your humble blogg'r - not everyone makes a career out of it.

What now?

A nice overview from the West Coast about a few making the transition to the civilian world from being a warrior;
So here he is. Single — because who can date when deployed four times in seven years? — and eschewing the safer graduate school route to gamble on a startup company.

No regrets, he says. His Marine Corps experience taught him to be humble, like when he was a green 2nd lieutenant facing a battle-toughened platoon. It also taught him to go with his feelings.

“It’s safer to go to business school, to go work at a bank. This is scary. There’s no net. The partners could fire me any day,” Martin said.
OK regulars - name sound familiar? CPT Alex Martin, USMC? Yep - you've read his name here in FEB - and we interviewed him on Midrats the month before.

As a side note; Alex is 29. From one perspective - especially the civilian perspective - that is young. In the military, nosomuch.

29 is an age an officer starts to hit his stride. I've recently become aware of a few other guys and what they did in the late-20s. In the book I am listening to right now, Valkyrie, Georg & Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager were leading Regiments on the Eastern Front and were critical members of the plot to kill Hitler. They were in their late 20s too.

Perhaps that is part of the civilian-military divide. We put our lives in the hands of 18-19 yr old "kids" all the time, and put people in their late 20s in charge of hundreds to thousands of lives without thinking about it.

Think about Alex and thousands of others like him who have spent their 20s at war. Then read what is going on the civilian side. Just search for random 29-yr olds ..... and here you go.
That was the case for C.J. Dulberger. The Bolles School grad studied history at the University of Florida in preparation for law school. He worked for a private law firm and the State Attorney’s Office while studying for the law school entrance exam.
That cured him of the profession.

So he went back and began a bachelor’s program in information technology management at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He’s still two semesters shy of getting that degree, but he’s already bucked trends that have kept many of his contemporaries underemployed: At 29, he’s in his first year as an account executive at Robert Half Technology, placing IT professionals in jobs.
Yes, he is 29 and is in his first actual job outside of pre-law busy work. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy for the guy and wish him a great adulthood.

Good grief. There isn't a divide in life experience; a chasm.

Why do we prefer each others company inside and out of uniform? Well - review Alex vs. C.J. and there's a start.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Media at war, at a pivot point - on Midrats

It started after 911, something not seen for any significant duration since Vietnam - and sustained interest in military matters. As a result, we have seen an increase in the variety and number of places where you can find reporting on military matters.

From retired officers on the news networks using maps to explain the big picture, to new media, to expanded traditional coverage - a decade of war has brought a depth of knowledge that was almost non-existent in the last two decades of the last century.

With two wars and smaller skirmishes in the Long War taking place on a regular basis, the need and interest for information has kept knowledge of military history, strategy, tactics, equipment, and plans as an ongoing requirement in the media.

As the American military presence in the Iraqi war ends, Afghanistan scheduled to fade, and defense budgets contract - what is the state of the military focused media going forward?

Today, Sunday 18 DEC from 5-6pm EST for the full hour to discuss the above and to review the major Navy and military topics of the year will be returning guest Phil Ewing, editor of DODBuzz and previously with Politico and Navy Times.

Join us live if you can and pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room where you can contribute your thoughts and observation - and suggest to us questions for our guests.

If you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio - but the best way to get the show and download the archive to your audio player is to get a free account and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, December 16, 2011

The passing of a great man

I only had time to hit this a bit on twitter and FB this AM - but while I am in between a few things at the paying gig today - I wanted to add in my thoughts on the loss of a great intellectual and American. He, along with David Horowitz, helped me to understand that the instincts I had in many areas were not of the Left - but were of freedom and liberty. Libertarian with a small "l." No reason to feel conflicted, the Left co-opted freedom's words, but couldn't follow through with freedom's actions.

He also emphasized the importance of free thought, investigation, fact, and knowledge as opposed to the refined sugar of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Sure, I didn't agree with him on everything - but that was OK. Through my adult life the helped me understand the value of creative friction and the requirement to debate. Throw elbows where needed and call things as you see fit - but as long as people made principled arguments - give them the respect to respond in kind. Likewise, when they do not - feel free to hang, draw, and quarter them.

A couple of things I recommend for today, first this bit from James Fenton at Slate, and secondly take time to see Hitch in full flower in a long debate on the Iraq war - something that flows well with today's FbF. It is Hitch debated George Galloway in 2005. Joel Pollack at my guest house, BigPeace, has links to all - but below is the start.

Fullbore Friday


I did a little post earlier this week about the wind up in Iraq. Just a little note.

The historians will spend their time picking this apart - this strange war; this very political war.

As for me; I know what I saw; I know what I read closed source and open; I know what happened in a historical context; I know what I did; I know what others did. My thoughts are the same now as they have always been from 2003 through victory in late 2008 though everyone coming home in 2011.

It is done for us; the rest is up to the Iraqis to figure out.

For those who served and supported OIF; BZ and fullbore.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So that is where our FITREP concept comes from ...

I had to read this article by Sam Fellman at NavyTimes twice. Surely this is a mistake.
The Naval Academy is artificially inflating its number of applicants to boost its status among other colleges, according to an academy professor who based his accusations on the school’s own documents.

Specifically, the academy counts as “applicants” people who have not completed an application but have shown an interest through other means, such as applying to the school’s weeklong Summer Seminar or beginning an online application, the documents show.
Come on - surely we have at least the same standards for proper accounting of what is and is not complete for USNA as we do for Seaman Timmy's PQS.
An academy admissions official Dec. 5 used this standard to boast that the school had 18,651 applicants so far this year, saying it put the school on track for a record year for the Class of 2016.

The academy’s number of completed applications is much lower. For example, the Class of 2015, which began training during the summer, had 5,720 completed applications; the academy cited its applicant number as 19,145 — more than three times the number of completed applications.
YMBFKM. Can't you go to mast for sea lawyering/gundecking PQS?

Does US News have UCMJ procedures ... they should as it reads like someone needs to press their dress whites.
An official with U.S. News & World Report, which ranks colleges annually, said it’s “very atypical” for schools to use such a benchmark.
Here is what burns me a bit; shouldn't the press have broken this story? They don't expect mild mannered English professors to do this kind of inquirey ... or do the?
Bruce Fleming, an academy English professor and frequent critic of the school’s admissions process, filed a Freedom of Information Act request on how the academy counts applicants and provided the results to Navy Times.
Yep, our friend Professor Bruce - doing the job the press won't; wait, that isn't fair - he did the prep work and Sam did the rest.

This is nothing new.
The documents Fleming received from the academy show that the school’s total number of applicants includes every high schooler who applied to participate in Summer Seminar, regardless of whether the prospective student later completed an official academy application. It also includes high school juniors and seniors who initiated an application online, according to the documents.

An academy official said the practice of counting applicants this way has been in effect for at least 20 years.
Whoa. If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying - I guess.
The documents Fleming received from the academy show that the school’s total number of applicants includes every high schooler who applied to participate in Summer Seminar, regardless of whether the prospective student later completed an official academy application. It also includes high school juniors and seniors who initiated an application online, according to the documents.

An academy official said the practice of counting applicants this way has been in effect for at least 20 years.
You need to read it all - as it gets very complicated from there.

Not everyone is doing the same thing.
Similar to Annapolis, both the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy report the total number of applicants as anyone who has started an application. However, both of these academies also provide the total “qualified” applicants — a figure that Annapolis doesn’t provide. The Coast Guard Academy bases its acceptance rate on the number of qualified applicants.
This is important as it is a matter of integrity and transparency - critical for a military institution in a Representive Republic. We shouldn't be playing games like this. When we do, we don't just hurt our institutional reputation, but that of our MIDN - who as anyone can tell you - represent the best our nation has to offer - but this just puts a cloud over them. Uncalled for.

We should be able to hold our own - and if we don't we should take defendable steps to raise our game. Really.
In the 2011 U.S. News rankings, Annapolis and West Point were in a three-way tie for 14th among liberal arts colleges nationally alongside Vassar College, a private college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Yet Vassar counts only completed applications when reporting admissions statistics.

“The only applicants we count are the ones who we get a completed application from, certainly not anyone who begins an application,” said Vassar spokesman Jeffrey Kosmacher. “Basically, you won’t even be considered for admission if your application were incomplete.”

Still, Kosmacher stopped short of blaming the academy for misreporting its statistics.

“I think the onus is on U.S. News to be sure that if they’re measuring the Naval Academy against any other undergraduate institution, that the way that data like this is being gathered is consistent,” Kosmacher said. “Otherwise, there’s no validity to comparing one school to the other.”
Vassar has more integrity than the Navy? Vassar? Please tell me this is just all a misunderstanding.

How about this. Assuming there isn't a double-secret protocol that no one knows about and USNA didn't throw out with a dismissive, "Take that Fleming!" that makes all the above a sad misunderstanding; in the future let's hold ourselves to the same level of integrity we demand of our junior enlisted's PQS books ... or at least meet the same standard as the bloody Coast Guard.

We're better than that; and I know our MIDN are.

... and Iraq concludes.

I will leave this without much commentary. I called victory a little over three years ago; this just wraps things up. The end game isn't playing out the way I would like it to, but elections have consequences.

This war was the right thing to do. The tactical performance of our military will stand the test of time. Since the Prussian infantry marched through Europe, the world has never seen a finer military. BZ.

About right ....



Hat tip Ace.

PC Talking Points Vapor Lock

Like I've said before - if your enemy is attacking you for his religious reasons, then you are by definition in a religious war. Not of your choosing, but a religious war nonetheless.

I actually feel sorry for Paul Stockton, President Obama’s Assistant Defense Secretary for Homeland Defense & America’s Security Affairs who you will see in the following video. He literally squirms. You can almost see the truth wanting to come out, but he is fighting to keep it in.




Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) did an outstanding service here in pointing out the fact that we are taking bad advice. Until we accurately address the problem, we won't defeat it. I would also say that by not even using the "I" word or "M" word we are patronizing our Muslim countrymen who have as much in common with AQ as I do with the Christian Identity Movement. They and we are big enough to handle the truth, not that transparent PC babble.


Hat tip Andrew McCarthy @ NRO.

Diversity Thursday

Harmless, low cost Diversity initiatives - right? What's the harm? Via Heather MacDonald;
... last Friday, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion declared that the rising tuition at California’s public universities is giving him “heartburn.” It should, since Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri and his fellow diversity bureaucrats are a large cause of those skyrocketing college fees, not just in California but nationally
....
Basri commands a staff of 17, allegedly all required to make sure that fanatically left-wing UC Berkeley is sufficiently attuned to the values of “diversity” and “inclusion”; his 2009 base pay of $194,000 was nearly four times that of starting assistant professors. Basri was given responsibility for a $4.5 million slice of Berkeley’s vast diversity bureaucracy when he became the school’s first Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion in 2007;
...
UC Berkeley’s diversity apparatus, which spreads far beyond the office of the VC for E and I, is utterly typical. For the last three decades, colleges have added more and more tuition-busting bureaucratic fat; since 2006, full-time administrators have outnumbered faculty nationally. UC Davis,... offers the usual menu of diversity effluvia under the auspices of an Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations. A flow chart of Linnaean complexity would be needed to accurately map all the activities overseen by the AEVC for CCR. They include a Diversity Trainers Institute, staffed by Davis’s Administrator of Diversity Education; the Director of Faculty Relations and Development in Academic Personnel; the Director of the UC Davis Cross-Cultural Center; the Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; an Education Specialist with the UC Davis Sexual Harassment Education Program; an Academic Enrichment Coordinator with the UC Davis Department of Academic Preparation Programs; and the Diversity Program Coordinator and Early Resolution Discrimination Coordinator with the Office of Campus Community Relations. The Diversity Trainers Institute recruits “a cadre of individuals who will serve as diversity trainers/educators,” a function that would seem largely superfluous, given that the Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Campus Community Relations already offers a Diversity Education Series that grants Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression” and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.”
...
In 2005, Harvard created a new Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development, responsible for $50 million in diversity funding, and six new diversity deanships. Whereas Harvard’s previous diversity bureaucrats collected mere diversity data about faculty hiring and promotions, the new SVP for D and FD would be collecting “diversity metrics.” Yale already has 14 Title IX coordinators (not enough to stave off a specious Title IX investigation by the Office of Civil Rights in the federal Education Department), but it nevertheless recently put a Deputy Provost in charge of assessing the “campus climate” with respect to gender and overseeing the 14 Title IX coordinators. All these new bureaucrats in campuses across the country — nearly 72,000 non-teaching positions added from 2006 to 2009 — cost $3.6 billion, estimated Harvey Silverglate in Minding the Campus earlier this year.
...
The Big Lie of the campus diversity industry has been that without constant monitoring by diversity bureaucrats, faculty and other administrators would discriminate against minority and female professors and students. In fact, anyone who has spent a day inside a university knows that the exact opposite is demonstrably the case: Hundreds of thousands of hours and dollars are wasted each year in the futile pursuit of the same inadequate pool of remotely qualified underrepresented minority and female applicants that every other campus in the country is chasing with as much desperate zeal. The hiring process has been thoroughly corrupted. Faculty applicants are brought onto campus who have no chance of being hired, either because the hiring committee incorrectly assumed from their names or résumés that they were the right sort of minority (East Asians don’t count) for a position set aside for just such a minority, or because, although they were the right sort of minority, their qualifications were so low that their only purpose in being interviewed was to fill an outreach quota.
Diversity Industry - indeed.

There are two important things to keep in mind - in the Navy we have the same problem. Take all the manpower documents and add up all the full-time Diversity BA/NMP. Include the multiple "Gender Advisors" as well. That represents a huge opportunity cost.

Then you need to add up all the money we spend on travel to all the various racialist "Affinity Group" awards and recognition efforts. All documented here over the years - that includes the millions spent on race specific recruiting and consultants at Annapolis - again all documented under the Diversity tag below.

Still, none of it actually does anything to go after actual discrimination or racists. No, it is more often than not a talking club and an effort of inoculating the Navy against the overseers and supporters of the diversity industry.

Especially for the younger generations - none of this reflects their day to day experience. It is always 1971 in someone's head.

People wonder why our budgets just don't seem to get much bang for the buck - why Staffs are so bloated. Part of the reason is that there are a lot of jobs that exist only to create things that justify their own existence. They define their requirements in such a way that if anyone ever tries to take the job away - either their job isn't done (because it is defined such that its work is never done) or if you try anyway ... you are a racist, bigot, etc.

Meanwhile we send exceptionally talented Sailors with 16 years and millions of dollars of technical training out the door via ERB/PTS with nothing but the taste of bile in their mouths.

Tuition at universities are high for the same reason - they are spending too much money on things that add nothing to the intellectual product they are there to produce. Just pet projects for pet theories that cannot exist outside the university or guv'munt lifelines.

Administrators and managers? They don't care - after all - it is other people's money.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm guessing, what, 18 kts?


DigitalGlobe Inc., a commercial satellite company, said Wednesday that it took a photograph of China’s first aircraft carrier during a sea trial in the Yellow Sea, off the Chinese coast.

A Very Fleming Christmas; 2011

For many years running, a good friend to the blog, Professor Bruce Fleming from the Unites States Naval Academy, has offered up his recommended reading list for this Christmas season. Always a good mix for the other side of a well-rounded naval officer's brain.

Bruce; over to you!


Christmas book list

Tired of versions of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”? Not the type for the books with embossed covers in the supermarket checkout line? Tired of the usual guy-type blow-‘em-up Terrorists Take Over The Capitol thrillers? Tired, in short, of dessert books and hungry for meat and potatoes? Prof. Bruce has some suggestions, all of them set in other times, other places—yet posing problems and questions are firmly and somewhat surprisingly of our own.

Let’s start with the thick one—let’s say you’re stuck for a week at your in-laws and can retreat to the back bedroom. Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now is a so-timely-it’s scary novel set in high Victorian London about a Ponzi scheme among the rich and titled that sets high society awhirl and ends by bankrupting the slimy financier behind it, as well as most of his greedy clients. Too modern as well is the way high society flocks to promises of easy wealth and convinces itself to the end that they are beating the system. Based on real-world events that occurred several times in the mid-to-late l800s in England, this novel shows us that there really is nothing new under the sun. Plus it makes us think about timeless values like honor and courage, that in such a flimsy get-rich-quick world go out the window first. What happens when we lose our moral anchor?

Ready for the nautical one? Try Melville’s classic short novel Billy Budd. It’s set just in the good old days of rigging and (literal) midshipmen, not to mention what Churchill is supposed to have said were the traditions of the Royal Navy: rum, buggery, and the lash. Well, none of the middle one—at least not blatant. But plenty of readers have sensed it latent. Just why is this Claggert, so ugly and mean, out to harass the placid baby-faced Billy? Does ugliness hate beauty? Attraction expressing itself as antipathy? In more general terms, why is it that second-rate officers seem so merciless to their locked-on subordinates? What of the fact that the Captain feels he has to hang Billy because that is what the regs say has to happen even though he doesn’t want to: the administratively sanctioned act vs. the moral one? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now for some movie tie-ins. After all, it’s the holidays. Maybe you’ve seen the Robert Redford/Meryl Streep Kenya-in-the-old-days movie from the early 1980s called Out of Africa. Try the book that was one of its sources, Karen Blixen’s memoir of her disastrous marriage and equally disastrous attempt to farm under the African sun, also called Out of Africa. (In the movie, Streep plays Blixen, whose pen name was Isak Dinesen.) It’s episodic and tragic, if rather beautiful, and then just ends—rather like life itself. (The movie also draws from Judith Thurman’s biography of the author, Isak Dinesen; read this next.) Dinesen’s book is bitter-sweet but not as biographical as the movie, which is more explicit about her faithless husband, her syphilis (contracted from him), and her hopeless love for a British expat. Many people “join the Navy to see the world” and come back wondering if they did. Out of Africa suggests we rarely discover a new world, but, in seeking adventure, we at least discover ourselves.

Things haven’t gone so well with our interventions in the Middle East: some people still insist they were worth it; others disagree. It doesn’t seem they wanted to be like us at all! Ever wonder what a world looks like where they do? Joyce Carey’s Mister Johnson, about Nigerians attempting to be like their European masters under British colonial rule, suggests that this isn’t so pretty either. Mister Johnson is a Nigerian clerk who wears full whites and a sun hat—and is proud of behaving like an Englishman. The result is both comic and painful, and makes us reflect on the alternative to not being appreciated enough: being appreciated too well. What’s the direction Western foreign policy should take? Should we police the world? Hug our shores? It’s all been tried. Also a movie of the same name, directed by Bruce Beresford, with a former 007 Pierce Brosnan. But don’t cheat! Read the book first.

Ready for a play that’s just as relevant to our times? Okay, cheat on this: watch the movie first. It’s even literature! George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the play, also wrote the screenplay: Major Barbara (black and white, 1941, with my personal favorite actress Wendy Hiller—Dame Wendy to you, now sadly deceased). Both play and movie play comic riffs on a serious question: is it possible to make war on war? To take wealth in a different direction than that of self-indulgence and destruction? If so, who will do it—the powerful or the weak? The daughter of a munitions manufacturer--Barbara, a major in the hyper-moral Salvation Army, must decide whether to overcome her repugnance for the source of her father’s immense wealth and take on the power they bestow, or whether to remain morally pure. Barbara accepts the power and resolves to use it for good rather than being pure and powerless. Does she, in your view, do the right thing? Discuss, 50 minutes, papers collected promptly. In this age of Occupy Wall Street, and the 99% vs. the 1%, this compulsively readable (or watchable) play makes us ask: should change be effected? If so, how? By whom?