Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rush Limbaugh is insane

So, I usually get offended/angry/frustrated with the random nutjob things that come out of Rush/Hannity/Levine's mouths during their harangues on the radio. I'm a liberal, they say things that are just wrong, and I get upset. Sometimes I worry about my blood pressure. But Rush's particular windbag conspiracy nut ego has recently taken a huge leap off the abyss.

First, just before the election, he claimed that even though the FBI was looking into ACORN fraud allegations, they "wouldn't find anything" because the FBI, like other government institutions, is populated by liberals who would cover up any findings they might have made.

Okay - whacko.

Second, yesterday he starts talking about Schumer causing a run on a California bank in June, and postulates that it was a big conspiracy by the Democrats to inject the bad economy into the political race, and the reason it has gotten so bad now is because it got out of hand. Really whacko.

So then, today, he's just off the map. I invented a Lucidity Scale for an ex-girlfriend a few years back, and at the moment Rush is at the Zero mark, possibly even lower. Apparently the water main break in DC this morning (which was horrendous), is some kind of vague liberal conspiracy in preparation for Obama's stated push to rebuild the American infrastructure.

Oh - and apparently I'm left handed because I was poorly potty trained. So, thanks for that, mom, I guess. ;)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This scares the crap out of me

If I have learned anything as a social scientist (and as a contractor, frankly), it's that human behavior is so widely varied and, frankly, individual, that attempting to generalize on any level besides the most basic is pretty much a lost cause.

But of course, the scientists keep plugging away.

Now, we have a computers that supposedly "detects happiness, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and sadness with 85 percent accuracy." Okay, sure, some innovative computer work, good for them. Maybe we can get some better CGI art out of it.

The problem is that "other applications of emotion recognition software might be to detect terror suspects on the basis of their emotions, not just on their physical characteristics."

Look, some of the shit America has done in GWOT has been beyond criminal. Are we going to surrender this activity to a computer? I've seen some very scary ideas floated around the various IC firms in the past couple years, and this ranks up there with the best (worst) of them. Quantification has its place - but never in the determination of an individual's current mood. Just ask my girlfriend, who constantly complains about my "happy face."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What does "decorated" really mean?

So, Matt Apuzzo has written an article discussing the most recent Blackwater indictments. To the average reader, I would suspect this article might make them question the indictments, as Apuzzo mentions that "each man has received honors for his service in some of the world's most dangerous places, from Bosnia and Afghanistan to Iraq." Unfortunately, either Apuzzo is carrying water for someone, or he is just completely clueless when it comes to military medals.

I did a very basic search of these "decorated veterans" and discovered that decorated is really a relative term. By Apuzzo's definition, every single soldier who went to Iraq is a decorated veteran. I've previously discussed the problems with the current platitude that every soldier is a hero "just for serving" which I think is total bullshit. This change in the definition of heroism demeans the soldiers, demeans real heroes who perform above and beyond in fields like medicine, firefighting, police work, and sometimes even the military. But the man who sits behind the Finance Desk and hands out cash to soldiers so they can buy some kebabs on the street is not a hero. (Well, he might be a hero to me, since he allows me to buy some kebabs, and there's nothing that compares to ground sewage-fed lamb roasted over a wood flame.)

Between them, these are the "medals" the "decorated veterans" and heroes achieved (I've neglected a number of Navy-specific medals which correlate with the Army ones below):

Driver & Mechanic Badge: this is my favorite. Awarded to enlisted soldiers who have received training, and subsequent qualification, to operate or repair military motor vehicles.
Army Achievement Medal: to recognize the contributions of junior officers and enlisted personnel who were not eligible to receive the higher Commendation Medal or the Meritorious Service Medal. (the lowest award you can get)
Army Commendation Medal: presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service. For valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy force, but of a lesser degree than required for the award of the Bronze Star , the Valor device ("V" device) may be authorized as an attachment to the decoration. Please note, that with the exception of a Marine in Fallujah, none of these men even lists a "V" device on their Arcom. And NONE of them have a Bronze Star.
Army Good Conduct Medal: awarded to any enlisted member of the United States military who completes three consecutive years of "honorable and faithful service". Not exactly an "award" so much as a good attendance record.
Armed Forces Reserve Medal: complete a total of ten years service as a member of a Reserve or National Guard component of the United States military. Again, an attendance award.
Army Service Ribbon: awarded to any member of the U.S. Army (including Reserve and National Guard components) who complete "initial entry training."
National Defense Service Medal: for service during the War on Terrorism. "Service" incidentally is any active duty service, at home, abroad, on a base, etc. All the active duty soldiers in my Basic Training class received one of these.
Combat Infantry Badge: presented to officers, warrant officers and enlisted soldiers who participate in active ground combat. (Notice, although a person with a CIB has seen "combat", it doesn't imply anything about their actions in that combat. Frankly, in Iraq, you can earn it if a mortar round goes off close to you...)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal: awarded for participation in "any military campaign of the United States for which no other service medal is authorized." In other words - a deployment before the Iraq Campaign medal was formalized (or maybe a deployment to Bosnia).
Overseas Service Ribbon: performed military tours of duty outside the borders of the United States of America.
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal: those military service members who have performed service in the War on Terrorism from September 11, 2001 to a date to be determined. This not an overseas award, this is for those who were called up to serve in the United States. So, all those National Guard guys guarding the airports, the soldiers working at MUICs, etc.
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal: originally for an overseas deployment anywhere, nowadays it just means you were deployed under GWOT to somehwere besides Iraq or Afghanistan.
Iraq Campaign Medal: awarded to any member of the U.S. military who has performed duty within the borders of Iraq (or its territorial waters) for a period of thirty consecutive days or sixty non-consecutive days.
NATO Medal: deployed with a NATO mission. (Note there is a NATO meritorious medal as well, which none of these men earned...)
Presidential Unit Citation: granted to the unit a soldier served in, not the individual. Soldiers who were in the unit when it received it get to wear the award forever, but it has no bearing on the actions of the individual.

So, all these decorations mean is that these men were in the military and deployed somewhere. Nothing else. No Bronze Stars, no "V" devices, nothing that would indicate actual "heroism." In one way or another, they are all awards for attendance.

And just to establish my credentials:

Army Service Ribbon. Army Commendation Medal. GWOT Service Medal. GWOT Expeditionary Medal. Combat Action Badge. National Defense Service Ribbon. Iraq Campaign Medal. (All awards for attendance).

I usually tell people I got an ARCOM for sweating. EVERYONE gets them. The fact that this medal is the highest medal these five men have between them suggests to me that they didn't really do anything.

Except panic and shoot up a crowd of Iraqi civilians. I'm not going to use the term legal or illegal here, because that is up to the court who is hearing the case. I simply wanted to take apart the phrase "decorated veterans" and point out the silliness of the term.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Google Analytics

So, since blogger is a google subsidiary, I set up google analytics a few weeks ag ot otrack hits on my blog, mainly just to see how many readers I actually had. Apparently the number is 43.

I would be proud of that, except that the average time on site is less than 10 seconds, so a lot of that 43 is people doing a search, clicking on my blog, and realizing it's not what they were looking for. Apparently Google thinks that my blog is the third most likely site that someone is looking for when they search for hot marine chicks.

The other interesting thing analytics can do is tell you where your viewers are coming from. Apparently I have a pretty loyal following in Colorado, California, and New York. I have a decent guess which of my friends are coming from there. But there's one that flummoxes me: Hoboken, NJ.

So, if you're my Hoboken reader and would like to identify yourself to me, please feel free to drop me an email, 'cause I'm dying to know.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Army Chaplains

I may have mentioned in the past that I dislike Army chaplains. I have had nothing but bad experiences with all but one of them (and he was my unit's chaplain for about a week at Basic Reception). For the most part they tend to be right-wing, proselytizing, fundamentalist christians. I have nothing against these people per se, I am a libertarian at heart - but this is an official government position, and as I understand it, the chaplain is simply there to oversee the spiritual well-being of the troops, and offer advice as requested. I actually got into an argument with a chaplain the last time I was in Iraq over whether or not I was going to go to heaven or hell because I professed my atheism in front of him (we were on a mission and he asked me specifically about my beliefs).

I was at a conference a few weeks ago and an Army chaplain stood up and talked about how the Chaplain corps was attempting to find a place for themselves in the new doctrine of counterinsurgency (like counseling christian troops perhaps?) and saw themselves as religious mediators with the religious leaders in foreign countries. I was flabbergasted. First - BAD IDEA. There's enough of a belief that American forces are a second generation of Crusaders without fostering it by sending out Christian fundamentalist wackos in uniform to talk to them. Second - based on belief #1, it's actually a violation of Centcom General Order #1 - no proselytizing. (do you know how hard it is to actually find a copy of General Order # 1???)

Well, all right, it's a changing world, changing needs etc. But then I was reading this blog, which has a wonderful powerpoint demonstration of how Chaplains should be telling soldiers to believe in God, creationism, etc, in order to live a better, more moral life. I don't usually care about things like Ten Commandments in public places, Nativity scenes, menorah's, whatever. But the United States Army is an official institution of the United States Government, which is specifically non-denominational, and seeing as how many Chaplain's briefings are mandatory for soldiers (or made to look so), this essentially amounts to forcing religion on a soldier. That sickens me.