12.08.06 (7:20 pm)   [edit]

New post on my Blogspot site:

Santa Hates Me.



06.02.06 (7:35 pm)   [edit]

I just wrote a post on Haditha over at my real blog. Seriously, people, quit coming here. Update any links to A Healthy Alternative to Work to http://smokinnews.blogspot.com .


05.01.06 (7:29 pm)   [edit]

Don't waste time here! Go to my new place at


02.17.06 (5:56 pm)   [edit]
Cross-posted from Smokin' News:

Ann Coulter is such a hideous caricature of American conservatives that I'm beginning to wonder if she's not some sort of radical left-wing mole planted within the movement to bring it down by wholesale discreditation. Witness this latest bon mot I culled from her current column, titled "Muslim bites Dog":
Perhaps we could put aside our national, ongoing, post-9/11 Muslim butt-kissing contest and get on with the business at hand: Bombing Syria back to the stone age and then permanently disarming Iran.
Ha, ha! Funny joke, right? Sure, Syria's a bad place full of bad people. But nobody could seriously be thinking that we should extend our military operations there right now, right? Ann Coulter is not joking:
I believe we are legally required to be bombing Syria right now. And unlike the Quran's alleged prohibition on depictions of Muhammad, I've got documentation to back that up!
Okay, this is a column she's apparently published, and in one sentence, she not only begins with the word "And," but finishes with an exclamation point. Apparently she's not aiming to be running in the same league as the Bronte sisters.

But stylistic quibbles aside (and Ms. Coulter can be forgiven for playing fast and loose with the English language now and again), and ignoring her ringing of the war gong for bombs over Syria, Coulter uses language that demonizes all Muslims:
The "offense to Islam" ruse is merely an excuse for Muslims to revert to their default mode: rioting and setting things on fire. These people have a serious anger management problem.
Ann, if you want us to take you seriously, you're going to have to put a finer point on that oh-so-sharp pen of yours. I'm sure she's keen to piss off the folks who have so clearly demonstrated their displeasure over the publication of the Infamous Danish Cartoons, but come on. Cat Stevens wrote "Peace Train." It can't be all of them.

It isn't all of them, in fact. Muhammad Ali (and a bunch of friends) just opened the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, which is devoted basically to diplomacy and crisis mediation, at least according to its founders. Before I hear any rabid conservatives eager to disparage the former Cassius Clay as a "draft dodger," let me pre-empt them by saying that they're full of shit. Ali declined to go to Vietnam, saying he was a conscientious objecter. He didn't run away to Canada, he stayed in the U.S. and suffered the consequences of a moral decision he made.

As much as I loathe the fact that the cultural problems that have provided breeding grounds for the "Cartoon Riots" have been largely ignored, I'm unwilling to make the kinds of sweeping, racist generalizations that Coulter is so eager to scribble:
If you don't want to get shot by the police, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then don't point a toy gun at them. Or, as I believe our motto should be after 9/11: Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that's offensive. How about "camel jockey"? What? Now what'd I say? Boy, you tent merchants sure are touchy. Grow up, would you? [Emphasis mine]
Sadly, the less the rest of the world looks like Coulter -- blonde-haired and lily-white -- the more willing she is to bomb them into oblivion. If she's so eager to kill Muslims, I'd suggest she take a walk down to the recruiter's office. They've got plenty of opportunities left.

Lest anyone think I'm letting radical Islam off the hook, here's the story I did for Scrawled this month:

Election of Hamas should serve as a cautionary tale to the West's efforts to democratize the Middle East.


02.13.06 (11:08 pm)   [edit]
Click the pic to read more! -30-

01.29.06 (8:58 pm)   [edit]

Yeah, I pulled off the automatic re-direct. The reason is that I'm trying to pull the entries I like from the archives here and post them over at my new blog. So please, don't waste any more time here... head over to the new


A Healthy Alternative to Work  



05.24.05 (7:20 pm)   [edit]
You should be automatically re-directed to the new home of A Healthy Alternative to Work.


05.22.05 (5:51 pm)   [edit]

Well, since I figure tBlog has approximately zero credibility when it comes to the Blogosphere As A Whole, I'm moving the entire works over to the site formerly occupied by Smokin' News, the short-lived blog I had with blogger.

The template will remain largely the same, and of course, the humorous social commentary will remain. I'm just tired of being associated with a network that's known as a "teen" blogsite, and I'm trying to hit the big-time.

Also, I'll be transferring most of the entries I have here to the new site, but with the HaloScan commenting, the comments will be reset to zero, effectively.

I'll be redoing my blogroll, so email (the contact email address is easily available) if you want to stay on it.

Cheers. Thanks, tBlog, for giving me a start in the blogworld.

05.20.05 (7:31 pm)   [edit]
I think the clearest thing that this Newsweek fiasco has put into perspective is that the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East is not founded on any sort of civilized basis. We're dealing with pure, unadulterated religious fanaticism. Here's a ThisisLondon piece from earlier today. A quote:

Led by a man on a megaphone, they chanted, "USA watch your back, Osama is coming back" and "Kill, kill USA, kill, kill George Bush". A small detail of police watched as they shouted: "Bomb, bomb New York" and "George Bush, you will pay, with your blood, with your head."

Demonstrators in Grosvenor Square, some with their faces covered with scarves, waved placards which included the message: "Desecrate today and see another 9/11 tomorrow."

This is a demonstration protesting an event that didn't happen, let's not forget. But even if it had happened, the last phrase - "Desecrate today and see another 9/11 tomorrow" is telling. Take a look at this piece by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, titled "Why Islam is Disrespected."

It's strange that in the wake of 17 deaths resulting from riots that were supposedly sparked by this Newsweek piece that the most intense finger-pointing has been aimed at either the Bush administration or American journalism, and not toward the society that breeds the kind of hatred and psychosis that allows murder to happen when an unsavory paragraph is published in a foreign magazine.

Certainly, journalism's standards and practices need a good, hard examination, and it's a shame that the media's Old Guard has been so hesitant to take constructive criticism from any outside source. Trying to excuse Newsweek's gaffe by accusing the Bush administration of deceit is ludicrous on its face, not because of innocence on the part of the administration, but because journalism, as a political entity, has never supposed to have taken its cue - or been granted any kind of ultimate license - from either the goodness or badness of the government and society in which it operates.

But that isn't the point. What's happened is, as the editors of USA Today pointed out in one of the more insightful commentaries published on the issue, a systemic misunderstanding of the Arab world that is now prevalent in western society.

What USA Today fails to point out, though, is that the Arab world must be held accountable for its culture. A certain amount of respect for other cultures is, of course, necessary in any international relations. However, when social policy is driven by fanaticism, there is a failure much more systemic than the one America is experiencing.

As Jacoby points out in his Boston Globe piece, there have never, in recent history, been stories of Christians or Bhuddists rising up en masse, rioting and killing, over perceived "desecrations" to either sect's "Holy Books." There haven't been stories because such things simply do not happen.

On the other hand, because exactly the same thing has happened in the Middle East due to an alleged - and debunked - incident of desecration to the Koran, westerners are wringing their hands and pointing fingers, all the while wondering why we haven't been "sensitive" enough to the "Arab experience."

I don't want to beat this point to death - although that's probably literally what would happen to me if I were to give voice to this opinion in, say, Riyadh - but what needs to happen in the Middle East is a very fundamental change. We can talk about double standards, cultural norms, and the rest until we are blue in the face, but two facts remain: The Middle East, and its supporters, need to extricate themselves from the self-imposed Dark Age they are currently in; and if democracy and/or freedom is going to take root in Iraq or anywhere else in the countries that lie between Egypt and Pakistan, then they must take accountability for the ideology of hatred that is not only supported by the government, it's a packaged product they export.

And let's not forget that the protestors outside the U.S. embassy in London are calling for another 9/11 - another massacre of innocent civilians, despite what Ward Churchill might claim - over a "desecration" that didn't even happen.


Update: Head over to the Mudville Gazette's Open Post when you're through here.

Update: Michael Jericho has photos over at Odysseus.

05.19.05 (10:56 pm)   [edit]

We're back in the land of idiots again, and I'm going to have to point the finger this time at renowned novelist Norman Mailer, who is currently on the staff - such as it is - of the Huffington Post.

Mailer suggests that what's happened to Newsweek could be an example of "Intelligence 101A," a discreditation of a source by means of feeding them false information:

If you want to discredit a Dan Rather or a Newsweek crew, just feed them false information from a hitherto reliable source. You learn that in Intelligence 101A.

Norm, I'm sorry, but your 82-year-old brain (remember to use numerals, Norm, if the number is 10 or greater) may need a checkup. Mailer writes that this whole thing wound up being too neat and tidy for "one side" - the U.S. government's - to have been a coincidence, and that the entire thing stinks of conspiracy.

But even he realizes his accusations are ridiculous, except perhaps as a sequel to
Harlot's Ghost:

Obviously, I can offer no proof of any of the above. There still resides, however, under my aging novelist's pate a volunteer intelligence agent, sadly manque.

Well. When someone basically calls himself senile, there's not much left for me to do, I suppose. Is anyone, other than the kids over at The Nation, taking this seriously? Fictional tales - from a novelist, I might add - about "our agents in Pakistan" inciting riots to smear the reputation of an innocent news magazine that acted on intelligence received in good faith from a formerly-reliable source turned federal spy?

Come on, Norman! The only person this could possibly benefit is you, when you come up with the plot of your next anti-American paperweight.

But by all means, keep posting stuff like this up at Arianna's place. Between Norman Mailer and Al Franken, I think they've got a great team together there to punch holes in the hull of a ship that was doomed before she set sail.


05.19.05 (10:22 am)   [edit]

It's about damn time I got heavily into this Newsweek business, since I think I've got a couple valid points to bring up. I know the story has been done to death in the blogosphere, but I think this is a great opportunity to mention a couple glaring inconsistencies, point a couple fingers, and also rip on the Huffington Post to boot.

Let's look at the facts of the case so far. Newsweek publishes a story by Mike Isikoff alleging that U.S. troops had disgraced Muslim prisoners by flushing a copy of the Koran down a toilet.

The story was met with outrage across the Muslim world, and 17 people were killed in the resultant riots.

After a rather awkward pause, Newsweek retracted the story, but remained under pressure from the White House (at least Scott McClellan) to go further than simply retract the article, suggesting that Newsweek run a piece detailing the rather extensive list of standards and practices the U.S. military has in place to ensure cultural sensitivity.

Okay. In addition to these facts, I think there are a few things we can agree on:

    1)      Newsweek was hasty and slipshod in rushing this piece to press without fact-checking. Isikoff's source is "unnamed," and whatever information he had should have been backed up by corroborating accounts from people willing to go on the record.

    2)      The story caused significant damage to the already shaky reputation of the U.S. government and military in the Middle East.

    3)      It's impossible to flush a Koran - or even a pocket-sized Gideon's Bible - down the toilet.

Here's what I've found in terms of the spectrum of reactions online:

    1)      The Newsweek-should-burn theory: Newsweek is directly responsible for the deaths of the 17 people killed in the riots that occurred after the article's publication.

    2)      The Why-the-hell-should-anyone-think-that-people-are-going-to-be-killed-over-a-Newsweek-story theory: Newsweek may indeed have rushed their story to publication, but how were they supposed to know that the reaction would be death and mayhem?

    3)      The Newsweek-may-be-bad-but-Bush-is-worse theory: 17 deaths based on false information is much "less bad" than the thousands who have died due to the president's decision to go to war in Iraq in the first place.

The third view is laughable, and it's the one being trumpeted by Arianna Huffington and her super-celeb-blog-friends at the Huffington Post. Let's get something straight here. Whatever your position on the White House's policies is, there is no instance in which the government's actions serve as an excuse for lesser wrongdoing by the press.

Here's how it works. We elect slimy cash-whores to represent us at the state and federal levels, mostly because we only have the choice between one or more slimy cash-whores. They tend to be the only ones willing to do it. We know they're willing to sell each and every one of us out if the worm turns, and it's the press' job to let us know when that's happening, or when the slimy cash-whores become slimier, greedier, or sluttier.

The first perspective is tempting, but even if Newsweek slandered the United States intentionally, I don't know if they could have predicted the actual reaction from the radical Muslim world.

So there's the second perspective, which basically blames the Middle East for overreacting to something that clearly isn't worth killing anyone over. I like that idea, because we tend to get away from the idea that there is a certain level of psychosis required to saw someone's head off on a video camera, or to fly airliners full of people into skyscrapers full of people, and there seems to be plenty to go around.

But the press ought to have a better sensitivity to what they're doing, as explained by Wretchard inthis post at The Belmont Club.

Times have changed, Wretchard says, and as the military has had to alter their understanding of the acceptability of "collateral damage," so too should the press.


05.18.05 (8:48 pm)   [edit]
Sorry I haven't posted in a bit here, folks. I've been playing catch-up, both at work and in terms of sleep. Miraculously, I managed to hammer out a half-hearted column (of the requisite 17 column inches) and a sports story, plus fill the rest of the section with wire stories and relevant sports information in the combined total of one day that the Army gave me since I got back in the wee hours of Monday morning.

A lot has happened. The Base Realignment And Closure list came out, and Knox was spared - sort of. Newsweek attempted to raise a damning story out of the military's behavior in the middle east, and only succeeded in causing the deaths of several victims of mass riots and flushing their own reputation down the toilet that some G.I. supposedly flushed an entire Koran down.

Interesting points all around, and I'm going to have to get to them in their due course.

For now, though, it's enjoying the nice weather and downing a couple more beers before I head to bed. Tomorrow morning, I'm headed for Operation Golden Flow at 0600.

One thing before I head out - my tattoo has been posted at Gonzo.org. Check out the site, there's lots of great stuff there.


05.16.05 (8:19 pm)   [edit]
Sorry for the lapse in bloggage, folks. A lot has happened since my last post, and I've spent the past four days (Thursday through Sunday) at my alma mater whooping it up for Graduation Weekend with BroRizzo and BroAnimal and other Delts, reliving the good old days. More will come soon.


05.11.05 (3:42 pm)   [edit]
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I did, back around April 29. USAREC is expected to announce a one-day break from recruiting, according to CNN.

"A senior Army officer said Wednesday that the 'stand-down' is being ordered not only because of possible misconduct but also because the service has had a difficult time attracting volunteers. The Army wants to assess the stress facing recruiters."

Hopefully, this "outing" by the national press will make the principals here at USAREC a little more forthcoming. They sort of have to say something now.


The Mudville Gazette's latest Open Post.

05.10.05 (11:54 pm)   [edit]
Sleep, at the moment, is out of the question, so I figured I might take an initial stab at why blogging, and military blogging in particular, is in keeping with the highest traditions of Gonzo journalism, in which I believe so much that I've had the damn symbol tattooed on my arm.

Wikipedia's definitions of Gonzo and Gonzo Journalism are both unforgiveably short of the mark of describing Gonzo Journalism for what it is, as are many of the eulogies written to Hunter S. Thompson after his February 20 death this year.

Briefly, here's the idea. Journalism usually attempts to be objective, a term derived from Latin grammar, the "object" of a sentence. An object is observed by the subject, and its properties have nothing to do with the disposition of the subject of the sentence.

Philosophically, this means that "objective" refers to a point of view that describes the "object" -- whatever it is that's being described -- as something that does not depend on whoever it is who's describing it.

Oppositely, "subjective" is used to describe a method of description that is told through the perceptions of the subject: the writer.

Thompson's theory was that pure "objective" journalism could not be achieved, since there was no way for any single writer to completely detach himself from  his own experience of a specific situation. Therefore, he could be more accurate by simply admitting to his own subjective experience of whatever was happening, and to write about it in his own voice, with the audience understanding that fact from the outset.

If subjective writing is not as accurate as supposed "objective" reporting, which is what Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and every other media outlet pretend to do, it's certainly more honest.

How does this relate to blogs -- and specifically, military blogs?

That's easy. Blogs are the impressions of people who read and digest the news based on their own stated bias. Military blogs are particularly subjective, especially in the case of deployed military bloggers, because their most important material gives their audiences a chance to read about events from an honest, first-hand, and very subjective point of view, and no pretensions are made to the contrary.

This is valuable, because the first-hand account of soldier-bloggers so often contradict the supposedly "objective" reports disseminated by major news outlets.

It's the Gonzo journalist instinct that leads these soldier-bloggers to relate their unedited, first-hand stories, and it's for this reason that they're valuable.

It's late, and there's a paper to put out tomorrow. Let me know if I've left something out.


BlackFive has a roundup of milbloggers here.

05.10.05 (8:18 pm)   [edit]
Well, it's been quite a day. Tuesdays, as longtime readers may know, is our publication day, so that usually translates into late nights at the office.

Now, not every day in the life of a Soldier/Journalist is guns and glory, my friends...

... Sometimes, it's spent photographing more mundane activities, such as award ceremonies and other things that run in direct contradiction to Army Regulation 360-1 (Army Public Affairs).

But, as the poet - or someone else who was equally as wont to speak in metaphors - said once, every cloud has a silver lining, and for me, this comes in the form of irony. I took this photo at a ceremony for exceptional students who were being awarded scholarships by a club on post:

I'm submitting that to Webster's to replace their definition of "ironic."


05.10.05 (10:42 am)   [edit]
Wow. It looks like I was a bit pre-emptive in my mild commendation for the Huffington Post. Everyone else (including the inimicable James Lileks) seems to be condemning it as a cheap, shallow attempt by Mrs. Huffington to manipulate the media and become ahbsolootly fahhhbulous.

Whatever. I think reading what famous people have to say can be, if not educational, then certainly amusing. Besides, I liked Cusack's piece.


05.10.05 (4:50 am)   [edit]
Ah ha! Looks like I'm going to sue Carl Hubbell's estate, and maybe the New York Yankees Giants too, for my tobacco addiction.

Thanks to RetroRandy.com.


05.09.05 (10:59 pm)   [edit]
Arianna Huffington has started the striking-looking Huffington Post, an uber-celebrity-blog. I was expecting a lot of left-leaning stuff, but there are actually plenty of conservatives represented on the blogroll.

Check out John Cusack's memorial to Hunter S. Thompson.

In other news, I've sold out and gone corporate, thanks to the very easy-to-use Google AdSense program. Check out the new chimney over there on the right side.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do for you FireFox users.


05.07.05 (1:14 pm)   [edit]

I just had the rather singular opportunity of not only watching and listening in to Blog Nashville's section on military bloggers, but also joining in, along with Greyhawk, Blackfive, and Mustang 32, among many others!

Sadly, since I could hear myself over the speakers with a bit of lag, I'm afraid I probably came off as a non-native English speaker.

However, everyone who spoke provided a bit of biographical information, how they got into blogging, and what they think the value of MilBlogging is.

Someone asked me if I thought that reporters who are embedded with troops are more likely to be positive toward the military in their reporting than reporters who are here, safe at home.

I said that I had no way of providing a statistical breakdown, or even a ballpark figure, since the reporters I've met have run the gamut of personal politics - we're talking an Oliver North to Seymour Hersch spectrum.

The reporter with the most "combat" experience I've met is Martin Savage, who came to 2ID while I was there, and had just finished a lengthy tour through Afghanistan and Iraq. He had helped change a Humvee fuel pump (I think) under heavy incoming small-arms fire, and the soldiers at the Korea Training Center were very impressed with his stories. He was a really affable guy, and while I wouldn't go so far as to say he was pro-military, he was certainly not anti-military.

Anyway, despite tripping over my words, I had a great time. I would have liked to tie the principles of Gonzo journalism into the discussion, but I don't think there would have been time.

Readers - What's your take on the value of milblogging? How should it be regulated, if it can be regulated at all?


See Greyhawk's post here.
Blackfive reported on his input here.

05.07.05 (9:50 am)   [edit]
I'd say this has to be in the runnings for the funniest headline ever, courtesy of ARNEWS:

Rumsfeld, Spiderman and Captain America help ‘America Supports You' Campaign


05.06.05 (2:36 pm)   [edit]
I wrote this for this week's Leisure section.

Why I hate Star Wars


I confess: I used to be a bit of a Star Wars geek.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I dreamed about being Han Solo, blasting Imperial storm troopers and flying around the galaxy with a hairy pal and a razor-sharp wit. My brothers and I had buckets of Star Wars action figures, some of which met unfortunate demises in our sandbox.

The original three Star Wars movies – which we now know are Episodes IV through VI – were a pop-culture phenomenon that inspired countless fans and spinoffs. Star Wars had that down-to-earth human feel to it. A farm boy gets unwillingly swept into a huge war and becomes a hero – how can a story like that not strike a chord with its audience?

The final installment of the new Star Wars trilogy – the films that tell the "backstory" behind the original movies – hits theaters May 19, and I probably won’t be going.

Something went horribly wrong in the mind of director/writer/producer/plutocrat George Lucas in the 16 years between the release of "Return of the Jedi" and "The Phantom Menace." I was horrified when I saw it – it bore almost no resemblance to the Star Wars I’d grown up loving.

In "The Phantom Menace," we’re treated to the story of young Anakin Skywalker, who we all know will eventually become Darth Vader, one of the most memorable villains in cinematic history. Here, though, he’s a sandy-haired, spunky youngster who has a knack for building things and charming interstellar princesses.

I thought it was a bit like going through Ghengis Khan’s baby album.

Worse, the world is now populated by as many computer-generated characters as can be crammed into a frame of 32-millimeter celluloid. There’s the two-headed announcer for the races, a revamped Jabba the Hutt, and of course, the deal-breaker: a floppy-eared, long-tongued, baby-talking alien called Jar-Jar Binks, who does everything possible to make the film totally unwatchable, and is completely computer-generated.

Computer animation has come a long way in past years, and has made it possible to splice amazing effects almost seamlessly into live-action cinematography – if it’s done right.

In the case of the new Star Wars pictures, computer effects are about as overused as the ribbon magnets folks can’t seem to get tired of sticking to their cars.

Take Yoda, the tiny wizened Jedi master, who Luke Skywalker finds in a swamp on a remote planet in the original movies. There, he’s a puppet manipulated and voiced by Frank Oz, of Jim Henson Studios "Muppets" fame (Oz was the voice and puppeteer for beloved characters like Miss Piggy and Gonzo the Great). Yoda’s really there – Luke reacts to him realistically, not pretending to speak to something that’s going to be added into the film later.

In the new movies, Yoda has been created digitally. He moves differently, he looks different, and something’s just a bit off – enough, at least, to ruin my suspension of disbelief.

Another element of the old films that made them amazing was the light-saber, the glowing sword that the Jedi use to battle each other. You knew, when you watched the original movies, that when a light-saber was whipped out, some serious stuff was about to happen.

In "Attack of the Clones," the second of the new Star Wars films, there’s a scene where there are more light-sabers waving around than lighters at a Scorpions concert. The audience is overdosed on light-sabers, and they lose their mystique.

There are plenty of other examples, such as the scene where the trash can-shaped robot R2-D2 is inexplicably able to fly in the new movies, or the close-up shots of armored warriors who don’t exist – you guessed it, they’re computer-generated. And yes, you can tell.

I can’t say this for certain, but I think it’s pretty apparent that Star Wars could be a case study for how mass-marketing can take a good idea and turn it into a steaming pile of shit manure.

When Lucas made the first movies, he probably didn’t anticipate my brothers and me playing in our sandbox with six-inch versions of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Now, he’s counting on it.

Countless action-figures, Halloween costumes, video games, replicas, Lego models, fruit snacks, pulp novels, and comic books have been spawned by the Star Wars marketing juggernaut, and the combined effect has been to cheapen and ultimately ruin a story that started off with a farm boy possessed with delusions of grandeur.

So when "Revenge of the Sith" hits theaters May 19, you won’t see me in line. I’d rather keep the memory of the original Star Wars movies unsullied by easily-marketable garbage.


05.05.05 (7:18 pm)   [edit]
"Pleasure marriages," or temporary unions between a man and a woman where sex is exchanged for money, are called muta'a by the Sharia, and are making a comeback in Iraq, according to USA Today.

"Pleasure marriages were outlawed under Saddam Hussein but have begun to flourish again. The contracts, lasting anywhere from one hour to 10 years, generally stipulate that the man will pay the woman in exchange for sexual intimacy. Now some Iraqi clerics and women's rights activists are complaining that the contracts have become less a mechanism for taking care of widows than an outlet for male sexual desires."

Gee, you think? Someone please explain to me how muta'a (which means "ecstacy" in Arabic) is different from prostitution.


05.02.05 (8:16 pm)   [edit]
Sorry for yet another bloglapse, folks. It's been busy here in the Land of Locked-Up Gold. I read a couple things today that I think deserve attention here, so, let's begin.

First - a challenge. I defy you to get through this article with a straight face. It's like battle of the sexes meets Animal House. Apparently, the mascot for P-Day is on "double secret probation," along with the dastardly hooligans who wanted male genitalia to get equal stage-time on campus with those of the female. I've never seen The Vagina Monologues, and after hearing so many jokes about it (or would it be 'them'?), I doubt I ever will. Besides, they'd probably boot a guy like me out at the door and tell me I was disqualified from watching.

In other, completely unrelated news, the Army has announced some modifications to the upcoming ACU (Advanced Combat Uniform), that's set to replace the current Battle Dress Uniform in April 2008, according to Army Times.

I can't find a link to this edition's article yet, but as I remember it, some of the more unpopular changes to the BDU are being made with the stated purpose of "saving soldiers' money." This is going to be done, they say, by replacing the sew-on rank, unit, and skill badge patches with subdued pin-on insignia, keeping us from having to spend the supposedly exorbitant fees at the dry-cleaners off-post.

However, the uniform's fielding is going to be timed such that the existing stock of sew-on patches will have time to be purchased and used on uniforms about to go out of date. I think this is a beautiful illustration of how well a labyrinthine bureaucracy can work.

That's not all. A set of BDUs costs, Army Times estimated, around $57. This isn't true - at least not if you buy your uniforms at AAFES. They estimate a brand-new set of ACUs (which we will all have to purchase) is going to run somewhere in the vicinity of $86.

Add to this the cost of patches lost in the laundry room and to "battle buddies" who are short on insignia, as well as the probably more-expensive Velcro-backed insignia themselves, and you start to see how this "saving soldiers' money" justification breaks down a bit.

Furthermore, the uniform looks awful. Aside from the New-Beetle Green shade they've chosen for the Marine-style "digi-cam" design, the blouse is cut too high ("Soldiers need to be able to access their pockets more readily" - that's nonsense, we're not supposed to be putting our hands in our pockets, are we, soldiers?), and at this point, having them pressed is completely unauthorized.

Let's see how long that lasts. I'm willing to bet that there's a sergeant major out there somewhere who's going to get pretty heated when he sees a battalion formation of soldiers who look like they've slept in their brand-spanking-new ACUs.

The good news is that the boots we'll be wearing are the rough suede desert boots, which will not require shining. Goodbye, Kiwi!

But if soldiers aren't going to be shining boots, or pressing their uniforms, or figuring out why in the name of Walter Kronkite we're wearing berets, or learning to fire their weapons (the XM-8, currently in development, looks like it's going to make a three-week rifle marksmanship course a thing of the past), or getting beaten up by drill sergeants, then what are they going to do in Basic Training?

That's all for now, faithful ones. Mahalo.


UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette has reposted their "How to Blog" entry. It's incredibly useful, and it's why I'm doing this update, actually.

04.29.05 (11:30 am)   [edit]

As a follow up to the story I did on the Sgt. 1st Class Price court martial, I'm trying to put a piece together on recruiting and what's happened to it in light of the war in Iraq.

Testimony given during the case by other drill sergeants pointed to falling recruiting standards and "bottom-of-the-barrel" recruits. This stands to reason: there's a war on, and much of the coverage on the war is about soldier deaths. It's pretty common-sense that recruiting levels are going to drop when there's more news about soldiers dying and serving extended tours in combat zones than about soldiers earning college degrees and getting marketable job skills.

So recruiters are going to have problems meeting their goals, especially when defense officials are talking about expanding the size of the Army by two divisions. The sensible conclusion is that corners are going to get cut, and the recruits showing up at basic training are going to be less educated and less qualified than what trainers have been used to dealing with in the past.

The real trick here is to find people who are actually willing to speak candidly about the issue. It's nearly impossible to find someone in any corporation to discuss problems with that corporation, particularly the Army. And even if they are disgruntled enough to want to talk, they'll want to give you information "off the record" or on the condition of "deep background."

We'll see how it all pans out. I've got two leads so far, and I'm curious to see where they'll take me.


Paying homage to the Mudville Gazette's latest Open Post.