Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Distressing Story from Afghanistan

Distressing, depressing, either way...

Just read this article about another valley in Afghanistan where things aren't going quite so well. Unfortunately, this time it seems like it's the Americans who are purely at fault. What kind of commander decides that Counter-Insurgency = engaging the "enemy"?

I think the most distressing element of this article is that everything the Brigade and Battalion officers say are so blatantly maneuver warfare tactics:

"[W]hen it comes to the enemy, you have leadership, supply chains and formations."

"if you degrade formations, supply chains and leadership near simultaneously, you’ll cause the enemy in the area to collapse, and that is what we’re trying to do here."

"dislocate the enemy so they don’t want to continue operations."

I'm glad that the younger officers seem to be getting it, and I am not surprised at all that the enlisted soldiers have been getting it from the very first day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I hate that I don't hate Amazon.com

I've never really liked the idea of Amazon.com, and yet I've always found myself shopping there. And the main reason that I shop there is that the technological elements of the site are so far in advance of any other online bookstore. It started simply, with the "If you liked this, you might like these..." suggestions (which I found myself using more for my dissertation research than any kind of academic database), and then when Amazon introduced the "25 books quote this book" and "this book quotes 25 books" it got even handier for research.

Plus the free shipping and steep discounts can't be beat.

But there's always been a slightly guilty feeling, and after reading this interview with Jeff Bezos, I think I finally understand why. Although he gives the "right" answers to the questions about books and reading, they are so obviously stock, and it's obvious to me that whatever it's humble beginnings, Amazon has never been about a love of books, its always been about the technology.

And his final quote is really what sums it up:

Lyons: Do you still read books on paper?

Bezos: Not if I can help it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pregnant Soldiers

So this briefly made news recently. Apparently a general decided to implement some fairly restrictive rules on sex between soldiers. Or, more specifically, rules on the side effects of sex between soldiers. And, of course, the National Organization for Women is up in arms over the Army telling women to be responsible. (And the men, who are also being held accountable should the female in question identify who it was that got her pregnant).

At least I think they are, because based on the limited comments Terry O'Neill has made in interviews, they just think "it's a dumb idea":

"Well, it may be his prerogative to be dumb, but that's really not a very good idea."

"It's a dumb move. You don't punish women for becoming pregnant."

"clearly wrongheaded and stupid"

It's so good that Ms. O'Neill can express the problems with punishing soldiers for getting pregnant and getting themselves out of deployments. Oh - and by thus utilizing such an "out" creating negative stereotypes about women's ability to perform equally with their male counterparts in the Army.

Now, many of the issues raised by this order are valid, and need to be discussed. Although we don't have a draft at the moment, someday we might, and the equation of citizenship and service is one that goes back to the ancient Greeks. It has been persuasively argued by a number of feminist theorists that the cultural associations between service, and especially military service, and full acceptance and citizenship are pretty strongly linked. This is one of the reasons why having women in the military is such an important point. The last time a draft was instituted in this country, women were barely allowed into the military, let alone near combat. Now, women are serving everywhere but combat (and that only technically - there are women riding in turrets, performing patrols, and putting themselves at risk every single day alongside their male brethren).

If we do re-institute a draft, the question of women, and frankly, pregnancy, will have to be addressed. If women are eligible for the draft, will pregnancy disqualify them from service? If so, what are the implications of a woman getting deliberately pregnant to avoid compulsory service? What if a woman gets pregnant to avoid the draft, and then later gets an abortion - will that return her to draft status, qualify as a criminal offense? If so, will women be more likely to carry a child to term, producing an un- or under-wanted child?

And how all of those concerns will affect the current precarious position of abortion rights in the United States is anyone's guess.

Luckily, though, the United States military is still an All-Volunteer force. And one of the elements of volunteering is the understanding that a recruit surrenders certain rights for the eight years of their Military Service Obligation. Completely honestly, I think one of the rights female soldiers should be required to give up is the choice over whether or not to get pregnant. Mandatory birth control of some sort, followed by (for example) punishment for failing to obey an order.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Google Analytics Report

Well, a big thank you to all of my anonymous readers, who have bumped me to 208 unique visitors in the last month. Yea! And apparently 2 visits from an Opera browser - if anyone wants to pony up and tell me if that's any good, please let me know.

Truly, though, I discovered that this guy apparently follows my blog. I believe that he is the first complete stranger who does this, so a big shout out to you Pilotmedic. I assume you found my blog through the CRC entry, which is still consistently at the top of the list of pages visited (hardly a surprise, as the place is a pit, and very confusing). Judging by your recent pictures, I can only assume you were at CRC sometime last month, so wherever you were headed off to: good luck, and stay safe. If you're in my neck of the woods, send me an email and we should get some Chinese food.

It is also good to know that my "Hot Chicks and Airports" blog post is still in the top five most viewed posts. Apparently 5 people in the last week alone have come to my blog looking for "hot marine chicks." What's interesting, is that if you put that search into google, my blog doesn't even show up, so who knows how they're getting here.


So, I'm watching an old TV4 version of Macbeth. No one of real interest in it, except for Lorcan Cranitch, who plays Macduff - which is hardly surprising since he pretty much always plays the proficient, if annoying, cop...

But it occurred to me that the play hinges on Macbeth being upset that Banquo's children will become king and not his own. On the face of it, this sounds legitimate, but it occurred to me that Macbeth is almost always played by someone in his mid-40's or so, with Lady Macbeth about the same age, and I've never seen any mention made of him having any children of his own, anyways.

Am I missing some essential Chekhov-ian line in the beginning about his children? Or is this just something that most people overlook?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ahh.. Iraq

and it's wonderfully intelligent "porn blocker":

this one gets blocked

and this one gets through...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beware the men in blue hats

So, my international travel was a bit annoying this time.

First - a remarkably rude stewardess on the United flight yelled at me that I had to check one of my carry-on bags because it wouldn't fit in the overhead compartment. Now, this was factually correct, but it would have fit, had not someone who got on the plane after me swiveled it from sideways to lengthwise so that he could put his own (larger) carry-on bag in sideways. Rat bastard.

Then, we get on the flight to Baghdad, are in the air twenty minutes, and the captain gets on the intercom and says "Psych! we're not landing in Baghdad tonight, we're gonna turn around and go back to Kuwait, we'll fly in tomorrow." So, I have to book a night in a hotel in Kuwait. Okay, that wasn't so bad, and if there's one thing the Arabs do well (besides kebab), it's breakfast. So I got to get up, have a good breakfast, and fly into Baghdad under cover of... sun.

On my way back into the airport, however, I had to go through security. At the end of the X-ray machine is a gaggle of men in blue hats. For anyone who has been through Kuwait, you know who these people are. For anyone who has not, if a main in a blue hat comes up to you, ignore him and do NOT let him pick up your bags. I learned this lesson the hard way after a couple trips. So this time, before I can even say a word, they've loaded my tiny suitcase and my back pack onto their cart and start walking the twenty feet towards the check-in counter. Now the one word in Arabic I will remember for the rest of my life is "la!" And I say it, again and again, but the man in the blue hat ignores me. At which point, I figure screw it. So I let him carry my bags the twenty feet on his little cart and when he looks at me expectantly for his payment for this service, I just shrug and say "no cash." He motions at the cart, and I shrug again, and explain to him (in English) that I didn't ask for his help, it was only twenty feet, and there's no way he's getting any money from me. I don't know if he understood a word I said, but he eventually got the point and grumped away. Made me feel good, though. I hate those guys.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AAA Conference 2009

Lots of good deals on books, including an ethnography of strippers, how can you go wrong with that?

No nibbles on the academic front, I haven't decided if I should put that down to an inherent limitation of liberal-influenced departments who are uninterested in military anthropology, or my own personal lack of a serious CV. I plan on working on the latter and see if that helps next year. What with all the books I've purchased, I should be able to get some book reviews out of them, at the least.

Otherwise, there were some very interesting sessions, and the anti-military anthropologists seem to have calmed down, although there were still many discussions that transitioned seamlessly from ethical to political concerns over use of the military.

Finally - the main question raised for me over the course of the weekend was where did all the hottie anthropologists come from? My recollection of students in my grad classes were all mousey, and a bit leathered. Yet, wall to wall hotties at this conference. One answer I realized at the end of the conference was that a lot of them were from the academic presses which were selling their wares at the book fair, so that explains some of it - but there were still a lot more attractive women that I could have reasonable expected.

Philly Fashion Update

So, I have just completed my weekend at the AAA national conference (more on that later), and I felt it was time for my next fashion update.

Apparently, butts are out, legs are in. There's this new phenomena called "skinny jeans", which I guess are supposed to make you look skinny. Or something. I don't really see it working, but whatever. The takeaway is that these skinny jeans are tight on the legs, and alternately tight and loose on the butt, giving everyone (and I mean everyone) a horrible, wide, flat butt. It's really a shame.

Also, height is a good thing again, I saw at least four different women standing 5'8" or above wearing some serious stiletto heels, such that some of them were taller than me.

In the world of anthropology, styles remain roughly the same.

For men: business casual.

For women: dreadlocks, dashikis and various other forms of ethnic garb. This is especially true for the white female anthropologists, who I really think look a little out of place given their... well... whiteness.