Monthly Archives: November 2010

Afghan Roundup

Last week was not a good week in Afghanistan…

First, the ‘high ranking’ Taliban member that had been negotiating with Karzai?  Yeah, not so much.

They now believe he was nothing more than a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.
Let the ass covering begin!
American officials say they were skeptical from the start about the identity of the man who claimed to be Mullah Mansour — who by some accounts is the second-ranking official in the Taliban, behind only the founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Interesting to note how Fox news titled the story:  ‘Team Obama Duped by Taliban Impostor‘  Reading that blurb, I’m not sure you’d even know there were any U.S. military personnel involved.  Certainly not Gen. Petraeus.
Senior American officials, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the talks indicated that Taliban leaders, whose rank-and-file fighters are under extraordinary pressure from the American-led offensive, were at least willing to discuss an end to the war.
One wonders how they’d title a victory in Afghanistan (or anywhere else) without giving Obama credit.  Look guys, if you’re going to claim Pertaeus ‘saved’ Iraq then he’s got to take the hits too (No, they don’t.  eds.).  Really, how do these guys merit press credentials?
There was a bit of a dust up about the decision to send some tanks to Afghanistan.  There’s some back and forth about how we’ll finally be able to kick some ass or that it’s counterproductive to COIN but I think they aren’t that big a deal since there’s only going to be 16 of them.
It also assumes that Afghans see a significant difference between a tank and our other armored vehicles, which I doubt (and I mean from a messaging point of view here, not a firepower one).
I agree with Waltz:
To be clear, fault does not lie with the MRAP, MATV, or any other armored vehicle.  It lies with how commanders are using the vehicles due to their aversion to risk and their attempts to minimize coalition injuries at the expense of the broader counterinsurgency mission.
We’re buttoning up again.  Force protection is king and everything else is secondary.  So, instead of getting out into the villages, immersing with the population and sharing risks and rewards with our partners, we buzz through villages “we are trying to win over as we peer at them through 6 inches of plate glass and armor.”
Waltz again:
Ultimately, the IEDs prevent us from going where the insurgents do not want us to go. Many people fail to realize that causing casualties is only a side benefit of the IED. The true prize for the insurgent commander is separating the coalition and Afghan security forces from the populace. Every time we add another layer of armor in response to casualties, we are playing right into their hands.
It’s just another manifestation of the ‘tyranny of fires‘.
I find the timing interesting, therefore, that the Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team has just released a report on the importance of partnering with local populations and security forces (even more interesting since the report was written in September and just released -or re-released this week).
I wonder if this reflects some sort of ideological battle within the DoD about how to proceed or just another example of the left and right hands not speaking to each other again.

Music Monday

You may be wishing you could do this if you stuffed yourself this past Thanksgiving.

God Lives Underwater – From Your Mouth

Hey, where’s my tax funded grope?

I had occasion to go through the security line at Philadelphia International Airport today and I have to say that this may have been the fastest I ever zipped through security.

I didn’t even see one of the full body scanners although I’ve read that they’re installed here (perhaps for international flights?).  The screeners did, however, do some sort of a half-assed pat down in conjunction with the metal detector.

So, I wasn’t able to strike a blow for freedom (and downright contrariness) but I’m not beat yet!  Stay tuned for the return trip…

One other observation for the general public:  People, please.  Pajamas are NOT suitable for wandering around in public areas.  Consider this your (final) warning.  Violate this rule again and you risk me unleashing my robot army…

Given that I can get free internet access just about anywhere else, what’s the deal with restricting access in airports?

Unusual Swedish story of the day…

It drives Mrs. TwShiloh nuts when I point out stories like this but I just can’t resist.  I mean really, who could resist reading a story like this:

An internet video featuring naked Swedish high school students frolicking with farm animals and riding tractors on school property is nothing out of the ordinary for Sweden, according to the school’s principal.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is pure journalistic gold!

Now, in what alternate universe could you imagine this sort of story breaking in the U.S. and the principal making a statement like this:

“This kind of thing happens all the time,” the school’s principal, Peter Gustavsson told The Local.

“There’s nothing wrong with being naked. That’s still allowed.”

The film is here and is totally non-sexual (I don’t think I could make it past the 2 minute mark before I got bored) so I include it only for historical purposes.  While the principal bemoaned the fact that this film was in the public domain and could haunt the actors in the future (all were 18-19 when the film was made) to be honest I find that hard to believe.  I think attempts to generate some sort of scandal based on this wouldn’t elicit more than a hefty yawn.

So…while I wouldn’t be thrilled with a child of mine cavorting around in the buff on film I could probably think of a dozen alternatives that would be less thrilling and more dangerous.

Ave! Caesar!

Ave! Caesar! Now take those hobnails off and put them on the conveyor belt.

In recent weeks these security measures have been stepped up as barbarian threats have become more pronounced. Accordingly, at many checkpoints along the Rhine, Rhone, Danube, Jordan, Nile, Niger, Tigris, Euphrates, and Potomac [check that last one -JC] we are requiring travelers to lift their togas or in some cases to allow one of my shorter legionaries to look up their togas – a procedure I have named the Veni Vidi. [I can’t think of a third “V” word just now -JC]

(h/t Phronesisaical)

Enough with the drama

The animal kingdom is going crazy…Certainly you remember the dramatic chipmunk

This apparently goes beyond the mammalian kingdom and birds are getting into the act as well

And…whatever the hell this thing is…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Light posting for this weekend…Americans will be too busy digesting massive quantities of turkey to care about the internet and foreigners will…will…what do you do when we stop paying attention?

Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I’d like to send my best wishes to my foreign readers and say that you are included in the list of things I’m thankful for.

Now, for those of you wondering what we’ll be having at the TwShiloh Mountain Redoubt ™ this year, the menu will be:

  • Virginia peanut soup
  • Wild rice with chestnuts
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Green beans
  • Corn
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Turkey (yes, Thanksgiving is the one day a year I break my vegetarian fast which, I’m sure, one turkey is NOT thankful for.  On the positive side, it was a free range, vegetarian-fed turkey.)
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Cranberry wine
  • And…of course…Brains

All dishes will be lactose AND gluten free for Mrs. TwShiloh.


Kvick Tänkare

Mrs. TwShiloh is feeling a little bitter over the collective American swooning over the upcoming nuptials in the British royal family.   How come, she’d like to know, there’s wall to wall coverage of this but a virtual media blackout over the recent wedding by Sweden’s royal couple?

A tell-all article by a guy(?) who writes papers for students.  Apparently all levels and disciplines of our academic institution are infected with people who either don’t have the chops or the motivation to do their work and so pay ghost writers to do it for them.  Yeah, I’m not surprised that cheating occurs but jeez.  This article is long but you really should read it.

What’s better than Comrade Bear?  Pictures of Comrade Bear with cute animals

YT links to some hilarious videos of some dude called ‘Chinese Guy’ (oh, I guess he’s a comedian named Peter Chao).  Might not be for everyone but it might just be the cultural whipsaw you need to get those synapses firing.

FP is collecting political humor for an upcoming issue.  This teaser made me laugh out loud.

A Pole walking along the road happens to spy a lamp. He picks it up, and as it is covered in rust he gives it quick rub. Out comes a genie.

“I’m the genie of the lamp and I can grant you three wishes,” the genie says.

“OK,” says the Pole. “I want the Chinese Army to invade Poland.” Odd choice, the genie thinks, but nevertheless he grants the wish, and the Chinese Army comes all the way from China, invades, and goes back home.

“Right, second wish. Maybe something more positive,” says the genie.

“No,” replies the Pole, “I want the Chinese Army to invade again.” So the Chinese come all the way from China, lay waste to more of Poland, and then go home.

“Listen,” says the genie. “You have one last wish. I can make Poland the most beautiful and prosperous place on earth.”

“If you don’t mind, I want the Chinese army to invade one more time.” So the Chinese army comes again, destroys what’s left of Poland, and then goes home for the last time.

“I don’t understand,” says the genie. “Why did you want the Chinese army to invade Poland three times?”

“Well,” replies the Pole, “they had to go through Russia six times.”

I’m soooo glad I’m not in the Saudi army

h/t Foreign Policy

If Rambo decided to do a community theater version of a Midsummer’s Night Dream it might look like this.  If you’re going to wear a…uniform (I hesitate to give that outfit the dignity of that name) like that you really better be able to work it.  I mean, you better either be so totally badass that your withering glare convinces everyone that even thinking about snickering at you in all your leafy glory would be a life threatening activity or you should be so over the top with your flamboyancy that everyone thinks you’re an out of work art student making some really deep social commentary.

Are we seeing a pattern?

Please refer to my post of earlier in the week regarding fusion centers and the argument that they can’t be expected to have things like policies, standards or metrics because they’re just too darned busy.

Keep that in mind as you take a gander at this…

From the ACLU:

Today, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new report (PDF)…Some gems:

  • “The agency does not have documented standard processes to update training based on current information, such as the results of officer testing.” (Page 3)
  • “The agency also has not documented procedures to determine or allocate the equipment, support, and time needed for the workforce to complete training requirements, and provides little centralized oversight of the training program.” (Page 3)
  • “TSA did not establish a lead office to organize and coordinate [Transportation Security Officer] training until 2006…However, the OTT Division did not assume an active leadership role until 2009.” [law was passed in 2001]. (Page 3)
  • “According to a division official, OTT uses intelligence information, Aviation Security Assessment Program test results, covert testing results, and standard operating procedure changes to modify training, but it did not have a written procedure describing how to determine whether a training course needs to be modified.” (Page 4)
  • “Based on our interviews with TSOs and management personnel at the airports visited, TSA may not always provide TSOs with the equipment and support they need to effectively complete required training.” (Page 5)
  • And “TSA does not ensure that TSOs are provided the time they need to effectively complete training requirements.” (Page 7)
  • “One lead TSO indicated that he had not accessed the Online Learning Center since 2005. The TSO also explained that staff had limited time to read printed training materials in lieu of going online. Therefore, the staff is encouraged to simply sign off on the materials and receive credit for taking the courses without providing evidence of reading or understanding the information.

This is not only a TSA problem.  It infests the whole community and in many cases here you could cut and paste TSA and replace it with any one of a host of homeland security/intelligence/fusion agencies that have sprung up over the past decade.

Writing standards, developing training, establishing and tracking effectiveness aren’t sexy, don’t get people promoted and tend not to get assigned to those with the request skills to do an effective job at it.  You aren’t fast tracked on the career path for doing work like that.  You won’t be bringing in federal grant money for doing work like that.  In fact, it may be seen as only creating more liability for the agency.  After all, if you have no policies or standards you don’t have to worry about violating them, right?

As a result, they don’t get the attention or priority they deserve and we’re left with the Keystone Kop state.  This is one (of many) reasons why domestic intelligence work (in which I include counter-terrorism measures like those of the TSA as well as more traditional analytical work) remains in the minor leagues.  It doesn’t need to be that way.  It really just requires elected officials, regulatory agencies or the general public to stop accepting meaningless organizational speak as evidence of serious planning.  So, while the statement below is entirely a product of my fevered imagination it’s just this sort of gibberish that gets passed around as a substitute for real planning and direction.

We’re planning on leveraging new paradigms of total quality protocols in order to implement and utilize the latest in ‘all-crimes/all-hazards’ deliverables to facilitate the synergy of vertical and horizontal effects of intelligence and information sharing parameters so that going forward we can reduce incidents of touching the junk of all (alleged) non-terrorists.