Music Monday: How To Lose A War


I was reading the news over the weekend when I happened upon this Reuters story:

Four soldiers belonging to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed by insurgents during an operation on Sunday, while a fifth was shot dead by a security guard over the weekend in the country’s south.

Of course I am saddened that at this late date, we are still generating dead soldiers in Afghanistan. But I have one question: Why do a bunch of armed soldiers need security guards? 

The answer of course is that these days, we hire contractors to do all kinds of things on a military base: build things, maintain things, serve food, and apparently provide “security” to men with guns. Back in the old days, these are all things that were done by men and women (ok, mostly men) in uniform. For example, the Seabees. Their motto is still “We Build * We Fight.”

Instead, we now have a large complement of civilians who must be defended in a war zone. At least if the camp cook was a soldier, he could use his knife against an attacker on base just as easily as against a potato. Can you imagine General George S. Patton marching the Third Army 60 miles in 2 weeks with a bunch of Sodexo employees in tow? Neither can I.

Outsourcing is officially interfering with the ability of our Military to function in an actual war.

In Closing: Ok, here’s your assorted links on the government shutdown, the impending debt ceiling battle (Yoohoo Yoho! Making our bonds worthless would not help world markets!); ain’t that the truth; some obligatory NSA items; most of the time that would be a crime; the War on Drugs has been lost; school anti-bullying programs often have the opposite of the intended effect (how about the adults insist on everyone treating people with respect instead of some fancy-assed program?); don’t forget that the Supreme Court goes back to work today, shutdown or no; and I couldn’t make it up if I tried, Thanksgivukkah.

Something Completely Different

A few years back, I was showing a property to a nice lady. As I usually do, I pointed out things nearby: “It’s within walking distance of that playground.” She laughed for a moment and said it had been a long time since she’d taken her boys to the playground, and then I remembered that her 3 boys were all grown men in the United States Marine Corps.

This immediately made me imagine 3 Marines — full battle uniforms, helmets, assault rifles, the whole nine yards — playing on the swings and slides. I could not help but smile at the mental image.

I was in that same neighborhood the other day and remembered and smiled.

In Closing: a few tidbits on the economy and Social Security and the debt ceiling; sugar; JP tells it as it is; Gee, GE; “We are one big industry of professionals, it’s time to behave like it”; a time for every purpose under heaven. And I hope you have something to smile about tonight.

Nevada Firestorm

And no, I’m not talking about the two multi-acre blazes within 4o miles of Las Vegas.

Well, the internet has been all abuzz over the latest from Sharron Angle. Everybody and their dog has already had something to say about her latest interview, including the guy who interviewed her. No wonder she does so few of them! Ezra Klein points out that the choice should be fairly simple, given that Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, Angle thinks all those unemployed people should get up off their lazy asses and find a [nonexistent] job, and Reid keeps trying [and failing] to get unemployment benefits extended to at least try and prevent all those unemployed people from becoming homeless too. At least her website has been updated with a little less crazy. She still does think it’s unreasonably hard to get a ballot initiative up in Nevada. I have long urged people to Just Say NO to all voter initiatives, so this is just fine with me.

But wait! Let’s not forget that The Other Reid (he’d prefer to just be known as “Rory“) is in an election too, and his opponent Brian Sandoval has also been campaigning. This week he announced a plan for Nevada schools. It includes giving a “grade” to each school and allowing kids in poorly graded schools to transfer to better schools. Now, there’s 2 problems I see with this. First is that No Child Left Behind already allows the same freaking thing; why reinvent the wheel? The second problem is geography. Nevada is a big state with a small population, and 73% of the population is in one county. While the idea almost makes sense in the Las Vegas Valley, the Reno area, and the Carson City area, it makes no sense in the rural areas where the next school might be an hour or two away.

His second plan is the popular idea of making teacher pay dependent upon student performance. Well, here’s the thing. Teachers can only control what happens in their classroom, and even then only most of the time. When you’ve got kids worried about living on the street, kids stealing ketchup packets so they can have dinner, gang violence, child abuse, parents who don’t give a damn, official curricula that still use sight words*, limited ability to discipline students who are out of line, a bureaucracy that would make any government proud, and a half dozen impediments to learning in the classroom, merit pay is a sick joke.

And idea three is to outsource non-educational services. That would include janitorial services, human resources, and food service. It makes me wonder what firms I would find if I were to look closely at Mr. Sandoval’s investments! There is just no way that it’s cheaper to have a cleaning crew come in at night than to have one or maybe two people on hand all day to clean messes as they occur. Hiring a for-profit catering service to put the cafeteria ladies out of work is just madness. This is aside from the concern some parents will have over whether the employees of these firms might maybe have some desire to harm a child. As much as I would like to dismiss this as tinfoil hat lunacy, the fact of the matter is that Clark County School District has had incidents where non-teachers are accused of harming students.

* I was just horrified to learn what constitutes homework for a first grader!

In closing: A tangible Good Thing from health insurance reform starts today; mortgage rates at record lows, why aren’t we borrowing? (because unemployment is around 10% and most homes are worth less than what is already owed, duh); a financial reform package passed the House and is headed for the Senate, let the hunt for loopholes and political favors begin (it’s ok, banks will ignore what they don’t like anyway); fiscal austerity still doesn’t work; Real Socialists beg the wingnuts to stop calling Obama one of them; a bit of follow-up, the list of countries Van Der Sloot can be extradited to for more charges grows; both of these statements are logical, but both cannot be true; 100 Yen shops, the Japanese Dollar Store; vaccinate your kids!; smart pet tricks; flying cars; and libertarians.