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Mike Macgirvin

Stunned would be the word I'm looking for

  last edited: Sat, 02 Feb 2008 18:55:23 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Microsoft is making a bid to buy Yahoo!. Surprise, shock... What words could describe my emotion on hearing this?

I can see the motivation and the reasoning behind it. They want to put a stop to Google ("I'd like to buy a noun, please."). Still I believe this is the wrong way to do it. The only way for them to stop Google is to buy Google. Don't laugh. They are ideologically more closely aligned than you might realize. I don't believe that they've thought through the consequences of this decision - or maybe they have but just don't care. It is a culture clash of epic proportions that will result pretty much in the destruction of Yahoo! and all they've ever done - and do nothing to harm Google. I suspect many of the employees will quit outright, and there's not much place for them to go in Silicon Valley except to side with the enemy (Google), the largest employer in the valley that's still adding significant headcount.

But I also believe that this move can't be stopped, so it doesn't really matter what I think about it. I would however like to share with you the exact image that popped into my brain on hearing this.

Shred early, shred often

  last edited: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 08:52:11 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Seems the US scandal du jour is the waterboarding/torturing of prisoners at Guantanamo, and then having the gall to delete the videos before somebody leaked them to YouTube.

Believe I talked about what was taking place at Guantanamo almost 6 years ago.  It's taken this long for them to admit what we already knew was happening. The only reason they're whining about the videos now is because it's coming up on an election year and they'd really like to use the footage on the campaign trail.

But I got to thinking... The only reason why we can hold all these guys in violation of Geneva Convention is because we claim that technically they aren't part of an army. They're 'illegal combatants' in Cheney-speak. If Al-queda wanted to prevent us from doing things like this going forward, all they would have to do is declare themselves to be a political party operating under a government in exile from somewhere. Then they would legally be soldiers and we couldn't torture the poor buggers. In fact I'd have to say that Iraqi-born insurgents are probably legal combatants and completely entitled to POW status today. Defending one's homeland from foreign invaders is the noblest of military pursuits.

Any Syrian or Iranian combatants are on their own.
Senate votes to pull out

  last edited: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 15:19:52 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Today the Senate joined the House in voting for a withdrawal of forces from Iraq. However, it ain't gonna' happen until at least after the next presidential election.

It is worth taking a moment to ponder when and how wars and military conflicts end. A war has never to my knowledge ended due to a popular vote in any body of any government.

A war ends when the cost in human lives finally proves to be an unbearable cost by one of the parties for whatever motive was used by that party to take part in the conflict. Or more simply one of the parties needs to capitulate. Unfortunately this is how it has always worked.

So today's vote has no meaning on the battlefield - except for one. It's a giant step towards capitulation.  This is the reason for Bush's request to add even more troops to the region. The only way that we can avoid capitulation ultimately is to force the other side to capitulate. Somebody has to cry uncle, and if it's not going to be us, then we better get busy and start killing people.

So how many would we have to kill to get them to capitulate first? They aren't fighting to bring democracy to the third world or to topple a dictator with imaginary weapons. Many of these fighters are fighting for their homes, for their creator, for the honor of their wives and daughters that have been defiled, and for their very lives from slaughter by opposing clans. Those are some strong motives. My guess is we'd have to kill 10% of the population to get them to throw in the towel, or about 2.6 million people.

Right now we're at somewhere around 750,000 (both coalition-induced casualties and sectarian strife) - or a little under 1/3 of the way there. How many US losses could we take before a forced capitulation? I think if they took out 1/4 of our forces, we'd be unable to continue - or somewhere around 40,000 people. They've currently taken out over 3,000, so we're less than 10% towards a total capitulation. Now these are just some wild numbers thrown out here because nobody can calculate the exact cost of lives lost and the precise value of motivation. But I'm only trying to point out that in the overall pattern of traditional human warfare, this one is likely to be far from over on the battlefield.

Just for comparison, it took 58,000 US deaths for us to capitulate in Vietnam, and 18 to flee Somalia - with an extremely weak motive to fight. Afghanistan folded at about 8,500, again with little motive to keep dying. It took around 2.5 million deaths to get Japan to surrender, and around 7 million to get Germany to fold in WWII. So this isn't an exact science - it all depends on the strength of the motive. Eventually, the deaths exceed the motive and death will keep occurring until that point is reached.

Just some things to think about as you try and figure out how and when this will all stop.

  last edited: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 07:03:31 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Something isn't adding up. Bush is expected tonight to request an additional 20-30 thousand soldiers for Iraq. And to meet this goal there are going to be more callups of the reserves and extensions of current duty tours - which also seem to be made up in large part by reserve troops.

But if you check the reference sources, the US military is supposed to have about 1.4 million active duty personnel - today. If these competent and trained soldiers aren't available to be put to work on the largest military task at hand, where are they? What are they doing?

I for one question the logic of adding an arbitrary number of troops to a situation that is tenuous at best. But a larger question emerges. If we're adding 20-30 thousand weekend warriors to a staff comprised largely of weekend warriors, why not just put a half million active duty folks over there tomorrow and act like we mean business? That would still leave us close to a million folks to handle any other world crises which might demand attention. Surely we don't have any immediate crises requiring close to a million active duty personnel.

It makes me wonder if we really have 1.4 million active duty soldiers. Maybe we don't.... Which brings up the question - how many do we really have? Given the gyrations the military is going through to keep 150,000 or so in Iraq (our most demanding campaign at the moment), it leads me to believe that the total active force must in fact be somewhat less than 300,000 (50% on standby for immediate national defense); and nobody is talking about this because it might point out how badly the volunteer army has failed and how vulnerable we really are.
He's dead, Jim

  last edited: Thu, 04 Jan 2007 02:47:53 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
It's a strange and peculiar media tyranny we live under. We've got hours to discuss the lame presidency of Gerald Ford - spread over a week or two. OK, the Vietnam War did end under his watch, 30 some odd years ago. So I won't dis the guy completely. And then we spend countless hours contemplating the demise of one James Brown, who wrote a few hit songs 30+ some odd years ago. Yawn.

But the man of the hour, the butcher of Baghdad - whom we've spent trillions of dollars to hunt down and capture, and whose country is even now sapping the lives of thousands of our youngest and brightest; gets less than 30 seconds on the evening news when his life passes in an execution filled with the same sectarian politics that is causing our soldiers untold grief.

Some will say that he doesn't deserve as much respect as Gerald Ford. I'm not going to argue that point, though I'm not convinced. I would argue that his life has more direct impact on the average American than James Brown, and the circumstances surrounding his death warrant more than a 30 second sound bite.

The world is now safe for the new Iraq. By this I do not mean democracy and a world free from terrorism. We didn't kill Saddam. Al-Sadr killed Saddam. We facilitated it.

Meet the new boss.
I wouldn't want to be a Hezbollah member right now

  last edited: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 04:54:14 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Actually, I don't think I'd like to be anywhere between Turkey and India at the moment...

I know I've been unusually quiet about world events lately. The entire situation has grown somewhat tenuous as you can see if you've been watching the Security Watchtower feed.

Israel is pounding Hezbollah. The U.S. is maintaining a hands off policy and letting them do so, because you may or may not recall - the U.S. and Hezbollah have some history, and it isn't a pleasant reminder. They were behind some of the most notorious terrorist acts in the '70s and early '80s such as blowing up the marine barracks of our peace-keeping force in Lebanon, hijacking cruise ships, and other stuff like that. Sending rockets across the Israel border and kidnapping folks only tends to reinforce that image.

But what everybody seems to be overlooking is that Hezbollah has two sides. There's a political side which does some nasty stuff, and a social side; which generally tries to do good stuff. This social side is what makes it a messy situation. Across the arab world, Hezbollah is often revered for doing good deeds. They run hospitals, maintain welfare programs, and other stuff which makes them quite popular, and are known as the people to side with if you're down on your luck. Apart from a small minority of folks who have ties to big oil, a lot of arab folks are down on their luck.

This is creating a very nasty paradox. There doesn't appear to be any easy way of separating these two faces of Hezbollah into distinct entities - they are one. By attacking the rocket launchers and kidnappers, Israel is also attacking the entire social safety net of the impoverished and creating entirely new vengeances and allegiances of sworn enemies.

As if they didn't have enough enemies already...
Your hard earned tax dollars at work

  last edited: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 14:37:06 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
New Scientist magazine reported in May that the Pentagon's cutting-edge research agency, DARPA, was considering a human-launching device that works like a cannon, to blast special-forces troops (and maybe firefighters and police officers) at just the right trajectory so that they land on hard-to-reach locations, such as rooftops.

Other recent pentagon projects involve chemical agents which reportedly would make enemy soldiers irresistably physically attractive to each other - which I'm assuming would take the form of an aerosol cloud of highly concentrated Viagra/Cialis to give them the desire together with a pheromene additive in order to affect their orientation. Presumably the ensuing confusion would affect their morale and make them less willing to fight.

...Make love, not war.
Why do we have to nuke Iran?

  from Diary and Other Rantings
It is particularly telling that the U.S. contingency plan for 'dealing with' Iran has but one military strategy - nuke 'em. It is the only military strategy being discussed. Bringing democracy to Iran isn't even on the table.

Why? Because we took a fledgling democracy away from Iran in the early 1950's and installed a military dictatorship. Forcibly installing precisely the kind of government which we destroyed wouldn't go over well with the Iranian people. Forcibly installing any kind of government probably would not go over well with the Iranian people. The last time we did this, we brought them the Shah - who was arguably the most vilified human being on the planet until they finally were able to dump him in the late 1970's.

For those that are too young to have studied these events, it all came about because of a British oil conglomerate. They pumped the oil and shared the profits with the Iranian government (and people). Except this particular oil company was a bit corrupt (I'm shocked!). They cooked the books and weren't sharing all the money. So the government did what any government would do under the circumstances - they kicked out the corrupt thieves and took their oil back.

This didn't go over well in Washington D.C. You see, our oil companies were bigger than the British companies. What if all the oil-rich lands decided to nationalize all the corrupt oil companies? It wouldn't be good for business. It wouldn't be good for the continuous flow of cheap oil (gasoline was about 22 cents a gallon at the time). So at the urging of a handful of American business executives, the CIA covertly threw a few million dollars into a program to dump the government and take back the oil resources. We brought back the monarchy which had existed prior to WWII.

The Shah rapidly consolidated power and tortured or killed anybody who disagreed with him. In the 1960's the word 'Shah' was synonymous with 'torture'. This is why the Iranians don't particularly like the U.S.

It is therefore ironic that in the early 1970's the Shah nationalized the oil companies anyway. We grumbled a bit, but let him. He gave us long term contracts in exchange, and we really didn't want to mess with him, as he had created the largest military machine in the middle east due to our continued financial support. It was also more important for us to maintain our CIA listening posts and airbases near the Soviet Union than it was to defend the oil conglomerates again. This turned out to be a reasonable decision as Iran was the only Arab country that sent us oil during the 1973 Arab oil embargo; which was to protest our backing of Israel in the Arab-Israeli war earlier that year. The Iranian people would've preferred to join the embargo, but they had no say in the matter. The Shah had absolute control.    

All of this is why the Iranians would never allow a U.S. installed government to exist again. And it is why we have no other choice but to wipe the country off the face of the earth if current negotiations fail.

What a mess we've created.
Cinco De Mayo

  last edited: Sat, 06 May 2006 04:34:23 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Happy Cinco De Mayo - where we honor the Mexican army for repelling an invasion by the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

...Just a few years after they failed to repel an invasion by the United States.

The celebration was short lived. A year later, the French regrouped and took over Mexico anyway.

Those WMD's

  last edited: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 02:07:32 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
You probably forgot all about those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Just a figment of Bush's imagination and a product of bad intelligence. But he's probably going to get revenge on all of his critics. There's a growing body of evidence that not only do the WMD's exist, but that they were all relocated to Syria just before the invasion. Chinese intelligence was aware of this transfer. There's a further body of evidence growing that Al Qaeda and Iraq did indeed have some pretty close ties. For instance, Iraq provided significant financial support for the Phillipine rebel movement, which are under the direct control of Al Qaeda.

Why have these revelations taken so long to uncover? During the invasion, troops confiscated mountains of paperwork. Credit card receipts. Family photos. Old magazines. Insurance policies. Think about it - what do you keep in your file cabinets? This completely overwhelmed the 2 or 3 Arabic translators with sufficient security clearance to review them all. It's literally taken years to dig through all these documents and find the handful that actually contain useful information.  

The downside of all of this is that it could require a military foray into Syria to produce the physical evidence.

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The focus of attention is now on Waziristan - that would be North Waziristan and South Waziristan. These are little pockets known as 'tribal areas' between Afghanistan and Pakistan. They sort of belong to Pakistan, but the truth is, they belong to nobody. Like some of the Mayan regions of Central America, there are places that have never signed a peace treaty with anybody. They don't recognize any sovereign government. They have never been conquered by any of the conquering armies of the region in all of history.

The Waziristan councils have recently been taken over by Taliban and presumably Al Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan. The numbers have overwhelmed the small tribal rulers, who have been forced to give up their power to their distant cousins. Now the Afghanistan and Pakistani armies are moving in and it's starting to get real messy.

The other day a courier was picked up on the road from Waziristan to Kandahar with a letter from Al Zawahiri (amongst other messages).  They've found some rather impressive arms caches near the border in recent days. Musharef has given an ultimatum - get out or die.

But there's no place to go. The freedom-loving and fiercely independant Waziristanians are about to find themselves in the nexus of global conflict. Squeezed in by armies on both sides, terrorized by the Taliban in the middle. No place to run. No place to hide. Expect the situation to get a lot nastier.