Wednesday, June 30, 2010

General Petraeus: An Extraordinary Hero

I was speaking with a friend of mine at work a few days back about current events, and the talk came around to the future commander of forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.   I believe we were marveling at seeing him in his dress uniform with enough ribbons to make even Patton go, “damn!” 
     Well, almost everyone that watches TV can see that… that is a big “duh”.  Now, I will tell you that I am active-duty military. I won’t say what branch or rank, because (a) that is really irrelevant to the purpose and spirit of this blog, and (b) I don’t want you to think I am a kiss-ass by building him up.  So I already knew a little bit about his service.   And I heard a couple of things about him on Fox News that by themselves would have been incredible by themselves for an average person.  But if Gen. Petraeus  were an average person, then I wouldn’t be wasting your time trying to enlighten you about awesome he is.  He is absolutely, without a doubt, more than qualified to be the boss in Afghanistan.   Now, if you want to skip my commentary you can go to his bio on Wikipedia.  But I will attempt to give you the “what” and the “why it matters”. 
     First, Gen. Petraeus has served honorably for 37 years, and obviously you don’t make it to four-star level and serve that long by accident.  For the gentle readers whom may not be aware, they don’t hand out four stars to just any general officer because it is time for them to have it.  No general has achieved five stars since, oh, Omar Bradley back in the Second World War.  So obviously becoming a full General in any branch of service is the pinnacle of an officers’ career.  OK, big deal right?
     Here's a few of the more notable achievements and events during this 37-year career.  General Petraeus’ career began in light Infantry, and he spent many years in that field with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions.  In 1991, he was accidentally shot in the chest by one of his troops during a life-fire exercise.  He was evacuated to Vanderbilt hospital, where he was operated on by (coincidentally) future Senator Bill Frist.  After a few days in the hospital, he did 50 push-ups to convince the staff to release him early, so he could return to duty.  As a brigade commander (a full Colonel), he and his brigade were chronicled in a book by Tom Clancy during a training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center.  You’re probably not going to be written about by Tom Clancy unless you’re pretty damn good at your job.  Later he commanded the “Screaming Eagles” of the 101st Airborne Division during the initial attack into Iraq in 2003.  The division’s achievements and his command were the subject of another book,  In the Company of Soldiers. 
     As the division’s commander after the fall of Saddam’s Iraqi army and government, he and his command orchestrated successful counterinsurgency operations and over 4,500 reconstruction projects.  This is basically the foundation of all future counterinsurgency doctrine as the military knows it.  How important was his role in this doctrine?  Well, at its genesis, it was called the Petraeus Doctrine.  Also, he basically WROTE the Army’s future field manual on COIN operations, now known as Field Manual (FM) 3-24.  Gen. Petraeus commanded the now-famous “surge” of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which despite much initial skepticism, was very successful.  The surge may not have been his idea, but he was damn sure in command of it.  He personally visited several HUNDRED bases, outposts and other remote locations to put his proverbial eyes on the ground for himself to ensure its progress and success.  All of these accomplishments have culminated thus far in his current command of US Central Command (CENTCOM), and directing operations Iraqi Freedom AND Enduring Freedom. 
     Gen. Petraeus seems to have achieved "rock star" status.  He's been interviewed (without incident, thankfully) by almost every magazine and major TV network- Newsweek, Time, Vanity Fair, GQ, Esquire, all the major newspapers, the BBC, CNN, etc. etc.  There are a lot of other four-star generals in the Army, but he is one of the very few whom almost everyone in this country (and several others, no doubt) knows by name. 
     As the good general’s uniform can demonstrate, he has indeed, to use a tired cliché, “been there and done that", and has a whole box of t-shirts to prove it.  Just glancing at his awards, he has earned (not, as journalists like to say incorrectly, “won”) every possible personal award possible during his service except for two… the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Silver Star.  General Petraeus has almost five years’ experience in Iraq alone.  His Wikipedia bio lists an entire paragraph of civilian awards, fellowships, and distinguished recognition from all sorts of academia.  He holds a Doctorate in International Affairs from Princeton University.  Further, he was recognized by Esquire in December 2008 as “Leader of the Year”, and Time magazine named him the 16th “Most Powerful Person in the World”.  Just to name a few.  
     General Petraeus is a LEADER in every sense of the word.  He gets on the ground, leads from the front, makes things happen, picks the best and brightest to work for him, and they want to work for him.  On two occasions during my time in Iraq (2008-2009), he visited our area. He had of course a sizable entourage.  Despite this, he met with the troops, joked with us, shook hands, and gave out coins.  He is in my opinion a down-to-earth, genuine, personable commander.  Yet, his mere presence commands respect.  To say he knows his stuff and is a great leader is like saying “yeah, the Yankees are a pretty good baseball organization”, or “yeah, the Titanic was a shipwreck.”  Hyperbole and platitudes just don’t suffice.  Why?           
     Well, did I mention he drove on at his post at CENTCOM last year while battling PROSTATE CANCER?  Yeah.  AND, he kept it under wraps until last October, long after finishing two months of radiation treatment, because he DIDN’T WANT IT TO INTERFERE WITH HIS DUTIES.  Let that sink in for a moment.
      I find it stunning that this great American is going to endure a confirmation process by Congress for a job that is technically a step down from his current job, by some folks that can’t even make it to work to vote on a damn bill.  Yet, he has CANCER and keeps it a secret because he WANTS TO KEEP WORKING. Now, I can tell you as a cancer survivor myself, just being told “you have cancer” can bring even the most strong-willed person to their knees.  Several weeks of radiation therapy for it is something that is not to be played with.  Trying to recover from the treatment (something I am dealing with a year later) is a draining, grueling ordeal. After 36 years of dedicated, stellar service to the world, if he had said “enough is enough”, no one could ever fault him.  A tour in Bosnia, numerous combat tours in Iraq, and all of the accolades and achievements of several general officers combined would be a zenith for any commander.
    Yet his unparalleled dedication to the mission, to the Army, and to his country given all of this is why I say he is an extraordinary hero.  To simply say he is a hero would be unfitting.  I don’t want to use the phrase “superhero”, because that sounds almost mocking in putting him in a category of fictional characters like Superman or Aquaman.  He is neither that, nor a sandwich.  I would contend that during his confirmation, he could simply keep his mouth shut in front of the so-called “leaders” that might question his ability and hold up a copy of his resume.  Then they should simply file by, shake his hand, and thank him for everything he has done and will do serving this great nation. 
There have been rumors in the “mainstream” media he could be interested in becoming President.  I don’t buy it.  If he wanted to, I am sure he could.  He assuredly would not stand up on a stage, preen and brag about all of his accomplishments like John Kerry did in 2004.  Mister “look at me, I have three Purple Hearts, I was in Vietnam for a few months” Kerry isn’t qualified to carry Gen. Petraeus’ garbage to the curb.  Gen. Petraeus walks the walk, and doesn’t have to brag about it.  That is what makes someone a leader, and an extraordinary hero.   

Friday, June 25, 2010

AWOL Afghans Playing "Farmville", BFFs with Paris Hilton?

I might start a theme here called "Freaky Friday" by posting weird news stories on Fridays...nahh, too cliche'... anyway, I invite your attention to this article on Fox News (Link) :

Hunh... I have observed here in the last oh, year or so I suppose, that virtually everyone in the known universe has a Facebook account.  When people ask me if I have an account, and I say no, I get a look like "what? You don't own a television? Are you Amish?" Anyway, different topic.  I am already pissed apoplectic over the fact that Afghan nationals were issued Common Access Cards (CACs) to have unrestricted access to military facilities.  These are usually reserved for US Military, Dept. Of  Defense Civilian workers, and on a limited basis to civilian contractors working with the DoD.  Now, you may say, "but aren't the Afghans our allies?  Why wouldn't we give these to them if they are our allies? Well, gentle reader, good question.  From a military / intelligence perspective, even allies of the U.S. do not get unrestricted access at times.  Even though a nation may be our allies, it still may not be in the best interests of national security to grant them access to all facilities or information.  In my opinion, the SMART thing to do would have been to give these geniuses limited access with escorts or something similar so they can't just come and go as they please anywhere, 24/7.  But that horse has already galloped from the stable, so...

So now, according to this article, we discover some are evidently in Canada.  Now here is where symantics fouls things up.  ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is saying only 4 remain "at large".  But apparently their definition of "at large" is a pretty liberal one (no pun intended).  Because to ME, "at large" means that person is not where the f*** they are supposed to be.  Their definition, however, means "most of them have fled to Canada, and we don't have a damn clue where 4 of them are at all."  Geeenius!

Now to the Facebook part:  " thing most of them have in common is an affection for social networking. found Facebook pages belonging to 11 of the 17 deserters. The wife of one of them also created a page... Many of the men found on Facebook appear unconcerned that they are being actively sought by law enforcement officials, having made little or no attempt to disguise their identities or whereabouts. Eleven of the men can be linked together either directly or through mutual friends on Facebook."  Even more ridiculous... one of them is a fan of Paris Hilton, according to the article, and also of the group "Free Webcam sex with me!"  Umm... now I am not a theologian or religious expert by any means, but wouldn't that violate something in the Muslim faith?  Just asking...

So Fox News can find these guys... what the hell is the government doing to find them, other than just "working with Canadian authorities"?  This is a major breach of security, in my opinion. I sure hope our intelligence assets are using this Facebook evidence to track these clowns down!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Memo to BP: You're Doing it Wrong, Part 2

I recently received an e-mail from a childhood friend of mine who lives on the Gulf coast of Florida. It is a pretty good rant and can give readers outside of the area a little perspective. So with his permission, I am posting his rant:

"People here are frustrated, angry as hell, and losing money every hour this continues. Commercial fishermen are stuck at the docks, BP stations are empty, hotels are empty, tourists are non-existent, and all this in the middle of a crap economy. My county has 15% unemployment, and at the moment that includes me.
BP have collectively been named "Oil Quaeda" by the locals, if that shows you how much raw hatred there is, especially after the BP leadership unloaded 30% of their stock and Goldman Sacks ("Government Sucks") unloaded 44% of their BP positions in the weeks before the "spill". Few here believe this is an accident, and the rumors are that this is a way to drive down the BP market cap for a Royal Dutch Shell merger or buyout at bargain prices.
Meanwhile Charlie Crist, once a popular governor, has changed from R to Independent, and is proposing a BP bailout on the Florida taxpayer's dime... can you imagine a Florida Governor proposing such a thing?
People are pi**ed, people are in trouble, people are sick wherever the benzine goes, and people want answers instead of BS. Perfect Storm for trouble.

Thank you for that contribution my friend, and keep us posted.

But What About the Strip.... I Mean, Exotic Dancers?

I love the news aggregator site Fark (link at the top of the sitte) because it does a tremendous job of collecting of the weirdest, funniest stories around the world.  Peruse this article from yesterday (Link):

New Orleans strip club Mimosa Dancing Girls files oil spill compensation claim

" AN unlikely company has filed a claim for compensation regarding the disaster - a New Orleans strip club.

The owners of The Mimosa Dancing Girls, located on the edge of New Orleans, claimed that the spill was bad for business as the fishermen who usually frequented the club cannot afford to spend money there, British newspaper The Observer reported. BP announced yesterday that it had already received 64,000 compensation claims, adding that it already paid $104 million to residents along the US Gulf Coast... As well as strip joint owners, restaurant waitresses, dock workers, plumbers and electricians also came to the centre, saying their livelihoods were severely hit, the newspaper reported."

I am really posting this as a Public Service Announcement. If you are in the Nawlins area, or any other area along the Gulf coast that is being impacted by this debacle disaster, support all of the local businesses. And that includes the "Gentlemen's Clubs". Hey, exotic dancers have to make a living too, you know.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Zero Tolerance UPDATE

Read this update today:  

VENTRY, R.I. - "The superintendent... (said) Saturday he will work to change the policy to allow such apparel. (He) said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the no-weapons policy shouldn't limit student expression, especially when students are depicting "tools of a profession or service," such as the military or police.  "The event exposed how a policy meant to ensure safe environments for students can become restrictive and can present an image counter to the work of our schools to promote patriotism and democracy," Di Pietro (the superintendent) said."
The really cool part? "... On Friday, the boy received a medal from Lt. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, the retired head of the Rhode Island National Guard. Centracchio said Morales should be thanked for recognizing veterans and soldiers. "You did nothing wrong, and you did an outstanding job," Centracchio told the boy."
Not to rehash the whole article, but they are still missing the larger point, which to me is all "zero-tolerance" policies force school administrators and faculty into a corner and remove their ability to judge incidents on a case-by-case basis.  Additionally, the super fails to see that the tiny plastic Army men are NOT weapons... they are holding tiny plastic representations of weapons! (FACEPALM)
BUT, I will believe the change in policy when I see it. My cynical side thinks the administration there is trying to take the heat off of them by shooting out this spin control.  If it happens though, great start.  Now it needs to happen across the country.  We can all hope.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zero Tolerance = Zero Intelligence

     Just a warning before I start this rant that I could very well devote an entire section of this blog to the dumbing-down and "zero tolerance" policies causing the decay of our nation's public education systems.  I have a hearty disdain and disgust for the "zero tolerance" policies and the school administrators being railroaded into enforcing this garbage.  BUT, I digress.
     On to the specific story I perused on Fox News this morning that really chapped my a$$.  The Reader's Digest version is that an elementary school in Rhode Island (Providence, not Quahog.  Please do not start a letter-writing campaign to mayor Adam West) banned an 8-year old boy from bringing a camoflague trucker's cap to school, because... are you ready for this? It has little plastic Army men glued to it.  I am totally not even making this up.  When I first read this I thought it was from the Onion.
     Here was the assignment: "Christian Morales says her son David was assigned to make a crazy hat for his class at the Tiogue School in Coventry, RI... her son came up with an idea to glue small plastic Army figures to a camoflague hat with an American flag."  Well, the principal said the hat was innapropriate because it violated a school ban on weapons and toy weapons.  The reason, according to the superintendent of the schools?  "We don't advocate having any concept of weapons in the school."
   Now, if you read this and don't have school age children yet, or they are long ago out of your house as "adults", you are probably laughing like hell. Don't. I will tell you in some other post, I know for a fact this goes on in many school systems.  My son's school district in Georgia (I won't say where) also had equally asinine "zero tolerance policies."  One of these aforementioned policies led to his expulsion just two weeks before finishing his junior year.  BUT FIRST, the rant.
     Are you freaking kidding me? Let me address two things.  First, the school has a ban on weapons (rightly so) and toy weapons (probably also a good idea since some toy firearms can look amazingly real).  But, stay with me here, these are miniature toy soldiers holding miniature toy weapons, NOT "toy weapons".  I mean, is this 8-year old going to somehow melt the toy army guy off of said toy weapon, and brandish the half-inch long toy plastic representation of a M16 rifle against his classmates?? I mean, it is not even a toy weapon!  It is a piece of little plastic molded to look like a weapon for a little plastic man! Criminy!  Second, this policy covers weapons and "depictions" of weapons.  Well, this is one issue of contention for these policies.  They are so vaguely worded they can be broadly interpreted.  This is as ignorant idiotic as kids who are suspended for bringing Tic-Tacs to school because they "resemble" pills.  Get a damn grip, people! What one person may be a "depiction" of a weapon may not be a depiction to another.  Seriously, is this young man going to take one of these diminutive plastic warriors and brandish him like a weapon and hold faculty hostage? Is he going to take them all off the cap and transmogrify them into some plasticine zombie death squad to roam the hallways of his school, shooting up the place with tiny plastic toy bullets? I think not. 
     Now, let me go back to the statement made by the superintendent, that they don't advocate having any concept of weapons at school.  This is moronic ludicrous.  How can school-age children have no concept of weapons?? Do the faculty wait at the front of the school for the children to jump off the buses (no, wait, jumping would be unsafe)... I mean carefully egress from the buses, and then as the reach the entrance, they all get their memories wiped with some of those flashy-thingys like the agents from "Men in Black"?  Or is this school district located within the town from the M. Night Shyama... I mean, Shamal.... oh crap, the guy who did "the Sixth Sense", "The Village"?  Are these precious little snowflakes* being shielded from the big bad world by being made to think there's no such thing as weapons? Have all of their history books been censored so any references to weapons during the American Revolution, Civil War, etc.etc. are expunged? Yes, this all sounds ridiculous.  And that is my point.
     If you ride this Crazy Train of flawed logic further to another station, in reality anything can be used as a weapon.  Ask a prison inmate, they'll tell you!  Even something as innocuous as a pillow can be a weapon if used in the wrong manner. Look, I can agree children need to be educated in an environment that is deemed safe enough, by rational people and plain old common sense, to where their lives are not in danger and know the administrators and faculty are looking out for their safety.  But these zero-tolerance policies that hamstring those same folks into making utterly ludicrous decisions that defy good sense is not the answer.

* "precious snowflakes" will appear again in a future post... count on it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Memo to BP: You're Doing it Wrong

So, the Chairman of British Petroleum (BP), Carl-Henric Svanberg, met with the Obama White House, and outside, post-meeting, made these comments:   "I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don't care, but that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people." 
     Hunh.  Interesting.  I think, however, they prefer to be referred to as "little people".  Much more politically correct.  My question is, why does BP care more about midgets than average-sized folk? 
Does the oil contamination in the water affect them differently?  Is there some sort of odd midget malady that Big Oil is hiding?  Dear God, we must know these things!
     OK, kidding aside on the play on words, BP isn't exactly endearing themselves to the local citizenry with that bit of public relations strategery.  That's got to sting, eh BP? Should probably
put a salve on that; perhaps a poultice.  A spokesmouth was quickly sporting a figurative damage-control hardhat like a jaunty chapeau, stating it was a "slip in translation." The small people of the Gulf region, however, were not amused.  One person said "we're not small people.  We're human beings.  They're no greater than us.  We don't bow down to them.  We don't pray to them." 
     And you know what?  They have a right to be indignant and feel they are being patronized.  As someone who grew up on the Gulf coast of Florida, it sickens me that my home state's pristine beaches will be damaged, wildlife harmed, and that citizenry will lose their livelihoods because of this disaster.  
     Now I am not going to single out BP in assigning blame for this debacle (unlike a certain President).  There is puh-lenty of fault to go around.  I am tiring of all of the BS I've read about for the last month-plus on who has offered help that wasn't accepted, the Gummint not officially asking for help from other countries, the politicization, the assigning of blame, etc. etc. ad nauseum.  Fellow Americans, we put men on the Moon, in under a decade, with the same level of technology that exists in a pocket calculator today!  Criminy!   My point is, we have some of the best, brightest, and most innovative minds in the world today here in this great country.  Stop appointing "czars", having hearings, holding press conferences and cabinet meetings!  The Gummint and the corporations involved need to QUICKLY form a task force of the best big-giant brains that can work together to fix the problem.  Worry about assigning blame or giving credit after that. 

Article Link:

Monday, June 14, 2010


This is my blog. Many blogs may be like it, but this one is mine.

     After many years of not-so-deep thoughts, musings, ramblings, rants, etc. I feel compelled to record some of it for posterity (or however long the internet exists). I have thought about writing a book, but I asked myself, "who would buy it?" So for now, I am testing the waters with this medium.
     First, a word about the title. "A tsunami of smarmy" is a phrase coined by a very dear friend of mine who, like me, is something of a wordsmith with a rapier-sharp wit. I am admittedly an inveterate smart-ass, and so is my dear friend. Having been accused of being smarmy myself, I felt this phrase deserves to be immortalized. So there you go. In fact, I have encouraged my friend to be a "silent partner" of sorts and to be a generous contributor.
     I will warn you, the postings will likely seem disorganized and excursive. I will endeavor (or "endeavour" if you are from the UK) to cover a broad and varied array of topics. I hope, however, there will be some like-minded people that will share the views contained here and/or have a few laughs along the way. The postings contained herein will cover life, politics, irony, and humorous observations about people, just to name a few. A few thought-provoking rants about what I perceive to be the "dumbing down" of our society will also be included.
     Now, I fully anticipate some readers will not agree with some things posted here, and that is okay.
We are a nation built on many different points of view. But, I ask that you keep an open mind, don't take things personally if you do not agree, and don't be thin-skinned.