Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good Bye.

I remember being involved in a General Officer retirement ceremony once. When giving his speech, he began with, "I joined the United States Army as an enlisted man in 1962." We all groaned because we just knew that this was going to be a loooong one. Luckily, you are sitting and will be able to withstand the literary assault.

I began blogging in August 2005. Jeez. That is over two years ago. I didn't even remember my blogoversary. Bummer. In that time, the velocity of my life has increased by a factor of four. I was recently married, was promoted at work (a couple of times), and had two children. Friends and family passed away and new nieces, nephews, and children of friends replaced them. I struggled with my addiction to Copenhagen, worked on my MBA, and looked for ways to move my growing family into a larger house. In all ways, this is the pace of ordinary life in the modern family. Somehow, in the midst of all the craziness, I somehow managed to churn out over 300 odd posts.

I began as a pretty motivated writer. I had only just discovered my voice through blogging and thought that my perspective (and a couple cool pictures) would be interesting to somebody. Apparently, I was right as I've had over 24,000 visitors. I recognize that most were probably some bot passing through, but it is cool to me. I also met a couple of people, in person, who had actually read my blog which was very cool.

At the end of the day, however, my experiment in writing began to be consumed by my other responsibilities. I also grew weary of reading and writing about all of the political strife. Due to privacy concerns I stayed away from the vast majority of my life as a Squirrel. The things that I find the most interesting (family, friends, work, etc.) were something that I felt I needed to protect from the larger blogging community. You see, I believe that writing (perhaps more than words) live on forever. Honestly, I love my life too much to open it up to strangers. So without current events or personal stories… I ran out of stuff that to say.

I think of interesting things to post about nearly every day, but simply don't have the time or energy to do it justice. So, my blogging experiment comes to an end. I’ll still be lurking and throwing comments around on occasion. Thank you for all your reading, commenting, and support over the years!

My email will stay active, so y'all can reach me anytime at:

Good luck and God bless!

The Fastest Squirrel


Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Story Worth Telling

Jeff Emanuel is a personal friend. A former Air Force Special Operator, Jeff has embedded in Iraq twice now. He tells dramatically different stories than you read in the Washington Post. I had the pleasure of supporting Jeff both financially and materially (equipment) on his last embed. Jeff just wrote me and let me know that he has a major article about to be published in the The American Spectator. Please go over to Jeff's site, read the article and, if you like his work, give him a little jingle in his tip jar (to fund his next embed). The article begins:

Samarra, Iraq
THE DAY OF August 26, 2007 began like any other for the soldiers of Charlie Company, 2-505 Parachute Infantry Regiment (from the 82nd Airborne Division) – with a mission in the city. Over a year into their deployment to Samarra, Iraq and now working on the three-month extension announced by Secretary of Defense Gates in the spring, the company knew the city like the back of their collective hands, and had their operational routine down to a science, whatever mission they might be tasked with.

On this morning, that mission was to establish a defensive perimeter around a block in central Samarra, so that Charlie Company’s 3rd (‘Blue’) Platoon, led by Lieutenant Scott Young, could search a shop where they had information that Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were being manufactured.

Due to the insurgents’ penchant for placing IEDs behind Charlie Company’s vehicles so as to ambush them the next time they came through an area, two separate rooftop observation points (OPs) would be established, one to the north and one to the south of the shop, to watch the roads which were serving as Blue Platoon’s infiltration and exfiltration routes for enemy activity. The southern OP, led by Staff Sergeant Jason Wheeler, was manned with paratroopers from Charlie Company’s 1st (‘Red’) Platoon. “Reaper Two,” one of the sniper teams from 2nd Battalion’s scout platoon, would man the second OP, almost a kilometer to the north. Reaper would be overwatching the area from the roof of a large apartment building, which was laid out with the long axis facing north-south, and which was bordered – across the surrounding streets and alleys – by several other buildings.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Valour IT

As most of my readers already know, there is an excellent way to support our wounded troops. Through the truly angelic Soldiers' Angels, a bit of history about Valour IT...

"Project Valour-IT began when Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss was wounded by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq in June 2005.

During his deployment he kept a blog (an online personal diary, opinion forum, or news analysis site-called a milblog or military weblog when written by a servicemember or about military subjects). Captivating writing, insightful stories of his experiences, and his self-deprecating humor won him many loyal readers. After he was wounded, his wife continued his blog, keeping his readers informed of his condition.

As he began to recover, CPT Ziegenfuss wanted to return to writing his blog, but serious hand injuries hampered his typing. When a loyal and generous reader gave him a copy of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred software, other readers began to realize how important such software could be to CPT Ziegenfuss' fellow wounded soldiers and started cast about for a way to get it to them.

A fellow blogger (blog author) who writes under the pseudonym FbL contacted Captain Ziegenfuss and the two realized they shared a vision of providing laptops with voice-controlled software to wounded soldiers whose injuries prevented them from operating a standard computer. FbL contacted Soldiers Angels, who offered to help develop the project, and Project Valour-IT was born.

In sharing their thoughts, CPT Ziegenfuss and FbL found that memories of their respective fathers were a motivating factor in their work with the project. Both continue their association with this project in memory of the great men in their lives whose fine examples taught them lasting lessons of courage and generosity.

So what does Valour IT actually do? Well...

Every cent raised for Project Valour-IT goes directly to the purchase and shipment of laptops for severely wounded service members. As of October 2007, Valour-IT has distributed over 1500 laptops to severely wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines across the country.

Valour-IT accepts donations in any amount to support the purchase and distribution of laptops, but also offers a sponsorship option. An individual or organization may sponsor a wounded soldier by completely funding the cost of a laptop and continuing to provide that soldier with personal support and encouragement throughout recovery. This has proved to be an excellent project for churches, groups of coworkers or friends, and members of community organizations such Boy Scouts.

Originally Valour-IT provided the voice-controlled software, but now works closely with the Department of Defense Computer/electronic Accommodations Program (CAP): CAP supplies the adaptive software and Valour-IT provides the laptop. In addition, DoD caseworkers serve as Valour-IT’s “eyes and ears” at several medical centers, identifying possible laptop recipients. Wounded military personnel can also directly request a laptop through the sign-up form or through the Valour-IT/Soldiers' Angels representatives at the following medical centers:

* Balboa Naval Hospital

* Brooke Army Medical Center

* Madigan Regional Medical Center

* National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda Naval Hospital)

* Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton

* Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital (29 Palms)

* Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Thanks to the efforts of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Valour-IT is also able to reach patients in VA hospitals who would benefit from a Valour-IT laptop."

So, unsurprisingly, I am on the Army team again this year. Please give a little as it means so much to the wounded warriors who benefit. Click the link on the sidebar to donate. You guys rock!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Problem Involving Globalization

While perusing one of my daily reads, I came across this post by Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI-11) discussing the troublesome acquisition of a large portion of 3M by China. He writes, in part:
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) must review and block Bain Capital and communist China’s Huawei Technologies’ acquisition of a significant stake in the 3Com Corporation. If approved, Bain Capital and communist China’s Huawei Technologies’ stake in the 3Com Corporation will gravely compromise our free republic’s national security. The 3Com Corporation is a world leader in intrusion prevention technologies designed to protect secure computer networks from hacker infiltration. To date, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) extensively utilizes 3Com Corporation’s intrusion prevention technologies. Thus, in the wake of this year’s successful cyber warfare by the communist Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), in which they hacked into one of our DOD’s and one of the German Foreign Ministry’s computer networks, approving this sale would be an abject abnegation of CFIUS’ duty to protect America’s vital defense technologies from enemy acquisition.

What? Forgotten (or unaware) that DOD systems had been hacked by the PLA? Not surprised, Anna Nicole was likely more important to "The Deciders" (see example of The Deciders here) at the time. Anyway, this is one example of an unintended consequence of globalization. As mentioned in the Red State comments, this is a serious problem that the DOD is aware of, but unable to wrap its arms around. Why? Some argue because it is too late.

Allow me to provide another example where globalization and lackluster public education in the United States is coalescing in an increasingly dangerous environment. While American students graduate with liberal arts degrees in Lesbian studies, the Chinese and Indians are graduating engineers... a lot of them. While there are some who are trying to put lipstick on a pig, the truth is that those who are graduating from PhD programs in Engineering in the U.S. are largely foreigners. Some would argue that these individuals end up working in the U.S. and so we benefit from a "brain drain" of other countries. Sure, it may be good for Silicon Valley, but what is happening in DOD and the larger defense industry?

Following Secretary Rumsfeld's ridiculously massive Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) in 2001, he took an interest in the effects of generational change in the Strategic Strike skill arena. In short, we were (and are) faced with a shortage of people who have the appropriate education and the ability to hold top U.S. security clearances. The 2002 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) revealed that our nuclear weapons program is aging quickly and that we had nothing meaningful on the drawing board for a next-generation platform.

So, the problem was identified and led to the question... why? Well, money is the overriding factor in any acquisition question, but a subset to the problem is that, unlike the 1940's and 50's, nuclear simply isn't "sexy" anymore. Why join the graybeards and work on nuclear stuff when you could be working on nanotechnology? (Damn you DARPA!)

If you have ever walked the halls at Lincoln Labs or Sandia, you will find that people simply aren't retiring. In some cases, scientists love their work... in other cases there isn't anyone to take their place. As an illustration, I am aware of one particular gentleman who has been making a specific vacuum tube for a particular platform (yes... vacuum tube). He has tried to retire on multiple occasions, only to be called back (as a contractor) to build more tubes. Why? Apparently, building this particular component requires a certain sort of magic or intuitiveness. He has passed this information on to others, but the new hires quickly grow bored and move on. If he were ever to have a stroke, we would have to seriously consider retiring that platform. A perfectly natural option to consider... except that we don't have a platform on the drawing board to replace it. True story.

So why don't we get something on the drawing board? Again, money is a prime suspect and we have a recent abysmal track record of delivery. Take the F-22 Raptor for example. Does anyone know when that particular platform hit the drawing board? I'll give you a hint, President Reagan was new to his office. Have we finished it yet? We wish. Though, to be fair, the delay has more to do with the velocity of technological advances in the past 15 years.

Back to the money (and I promise to tie this together), the cost of creating these new technologies and platforms is astronomical because of the lack of U.S. citizens with professional degrees and the ability to gain Top Secret access. We simply are not encouraging our children to pursue these sorts of degrees. In some cases grade inflation in high school is placing young people in degree programs that they simply aren't ready to conquer. "Heck, I got straight A's in high school, but I'm failing Calc 3!" No kidding. In many areas, the globalization of jobs has filled the gap left by our education system, but it doesn't apply to classified projects.

Still with me? Good, cause there is another serious problem that DOD is wrestling with in regards to globalization. That problem is software and hardware assurance. Unbeknownst to many, DOD is one of the largest purchasers of software applications in the WORLD. The problem is even a program created and sold by Microsoft has had portions of it outsourced to other countries. In millions of lines of code, how does DOD ensure that malicious or bad code hasn't been inserted into pre-packaged software? They try, but can't handle amount of sleuthing required to find such issues. All it takes is for one system to be compromised to make portions of the DOD come to a crashing halt. This isn't a classified discussion, large corporations share these fears. But, what can we do to stop it... mitigate it... Etc.? We begin with acquisitions of companies by 3M.

While some can't see the sovereignty issues involved in a sale of a large portion of 3M to China, others lose sleep about the prospect every single night. I certainly don't have the answers, but we can't pretend that the free market works in all circumstances.


Gotta See This One

As a conservative on campus I had female professors say things to me that would have forced me to punch a man... the reason? My beliefs. I'm not alone...

Hat tip to Powerline...


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taps for My Uncle

My Uncle John was only 58 years-old when he suffered a massive coronary. He was born and raised on the family farm in southeast Iowa. He loved to tell stories of his youth... about experiences that don't happen anymore... like the horseback cattle drive he did from a neighbor's farm to a farm several miles away. Like his father, he was a deeply honest conservative Christian. He also was the spitting image of his father. I remember the lean, muscle that rippled as he worked... his dark black hair and trademark mustache. A very handsome man, he lived his principles and passed those principles to his three children.

During Vietnam, Uncle John tried to enlist, but had a physical problem that precluded his service. In later years, he would love to hear the Army stories that my brother and I told. A steady man who deeply loved his family, he is the sort of man that makes my service worth the sacrifices.

When I was young, Uncle John moved his little family from our small Iowa community and headed West to California. I remember missing my cousins Michelle and Johnner. For years I hoped that they would come back and can still point to the pew in our little church where they would sit.

Uncle John took up work as an electrician and was widely sought out as a hardworking expert. There were several years where we didn't keep up with one another... as these things go. But the death of my grandparents brought us all back together... though the miles remained between us. We spoke on the phone a couple of times a year and my mother (the oldest) would keep us filled in on their lives. With my hectic schedule, I found time to visit them in California in August of 2005. I'm so grateful that I did.

My Uncle was a car enthusiast who could tinker-with and fix anything. In an age of metrosexuals with an apparent lack of skills, he set an example that I will try to live up to.

I can picture him now... in Heaven... Grandpa puttering around in the Machine Shed... shirt off... an ancient ball glove tucked in the back pocket of his jeans... waiting for Grandma to stop fussing over her oldest son... waiting for a long overdue game of catch. While I miss him and feel the unfairness of a life left early... I am also jealous. He is with family and our Lord... waiting for the rest of us to join him.

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free!
I follow the plan God laid for me.
I saw His face, I heard His call,
I took His hand and left it all...
I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss...
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life's been full, I've savoured much:
Good times, good friends, a loved-one's touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—
Don't shorten yours with undue grief.
Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.

- Rhonda Braswell


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Too Much Time On My Hands

Apologies to Styx.

Sooooo, I was wondering where the Bible and this blog intersects. I mean, a blog this crappy has to be in God's plan somewhere... it doesn't just crawl out of the cosmic soup! An exhaustive year's long journey of silent contemplation and hippie beatings has revealed the truth. Behold!


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why Syria is Freaking Out, Man!

First, the Israelis (according to this report in the Times Online) sent some "commandos" into Syria to snatch North Korean nuclear material. From the article:

ISRAELI commandos from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit – almost certainly dressed in Syrian uniforms – made their way stealthily towards a secret military compound near Dayr az-Zawr in northern Syria. They were looking for proof that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear programme.

Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources. President George W Bush was told during the summer that Israeli intelligence suggested North Korean personnel and nuclear-related material were at the Syrian site.

Israel was determined not to take any chances with its neighbour. Following the example set by its raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak 1981, it drew up plans to bomb the Syrian compound.

But Washington was not satisfied. It demanded clear evidence of nuclear-related activities before giving the operation its blessing. The task of the commandos was to provide it.

Today the site near Dayr az-Zawr lies in ruins after it was pounded by Israeli F15Is on September 6. Before the Israelis issued the order to strike, the commandos had secretly seized samples of nuclear material and taken them back into Israel for examination by scientists, the sources say. A laboratory confirmed that the unspecified material was North Korean in origin. America approved an attack.

That had to really piss them off. Hell, the Syrians (with the abundant aid of Iran) have been fighting a proxy war with Israel for years. In fact, they spent millions of dollars on Air Defense systems so that they could remain safe from Israeli air strikes. Of course, they must have totally freaked when the Israelis (probably with some help from Uncle Sam) simply turned those systems off for the September 6th air strike.

Israeli F-15s of the 69th Fighter Squadron, approaching from the Mediterranean, crossed the Syrian coast and streaked to an industrial complex that Syria claims was engaged in agricultural research, but is believed to be used to extract uranium from phosphates.

Israeli commandos in the area painted the target with laser designators that resulted in a precision strike that left the facility in flames. It was a perfectly executed operation, from disabling the enemy’s defenses to destroying the target and recovering all friendly forces involved.

Observers believe the target was a stockpile of components for nuclear weapons, supplied by North Korea. The raid occurred three days after a North Korean ship arrived in Syria with a cargo listed as “cement,” but suspected of being weapons components. It is not clear that Syria was the final destination of these materials, but that clearly didn't get any further.

The Government of Israel has remarkable powers to control the press in covering these sorts of incidents. Now, Fox News is reporting the the imposed blackout about this operation is being lifted somewhat.

Israel on Tuesday eased a strict news blackout on an airstrike in Syria last month, allowing the first publication of reports it struck an unspecified "military target" deep inside Syrian territory.

Israel's military censor had imposed a total blackout on coverage of the Sept. 6 airstrike. But Tuesday, the office allowed preliminary details to be published after Syria's president, Bashar Assad, confirmed the airstrike in a televised interview.

"Israeli air force planes attacked a military target deep inside Syria on Sept. 6, the military censor allowed for publication today," Israel's Army Radio reported. The headline on the web site of the Maariv newspaper was, "Now it can be revealed: Israel attacked in Syria," while the Haaretz newspaper led with the military's permission to publish "the fact" of Israel's attack.

However, the censor continued to bar publication of other key details, including the target of the raid, which forces participated in the mission and whether the operation was successful.

Foreign reports, quoting unidentified U.S. officials, have speculated that Israel attacked a weapons shipment destined for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, or attacked a nuclear facility built with North Korean technology.

North Korea, which provides missile technology to Syria, has denied any nuclear link. Syria also has denied receiving North Korean nuclear help.

So, the Syrians denied it. That hollow sound is echo from their robust protestations. Syria, Iran, North Korea... a trifecta of destruction. Now, if only someone could convince the Dishonorable Nancy Pelosi. She has joined the august ranks of Jimmah Carter, Jesse Jackson, and President Clinton who have "brought peace to the Middle East."

Thanks, but the Israelis seem to have the right of it.