Monday - September 06, 2010

Category Image Dell is Chinese now?

I learned this bit of news from a friend I used to work with at Dell.  Dell has recently sold off all its manufacturing in the United States.  Most Dell employees who worked in manufacturing are now either out of work or they are employed by some other company that took over the factory.  This is shocking enough in itself because Dell's model for success was based primarily on its manufacturing innovations and how it made the build to order the money making juggernaut that Dell was in the late 1990's. 


But that wasn't what really made my jaw drop.  What he told me is that almost all of Dell's executives have picked up and left Austin, Texas and moved to China.  That's right, Dell is now a Chinese company with its headquarters in China.

It turns out that labor costs are pretty significantly lower in China, but the labor costs are a tiny part of the overall cost of business.  Dell has gotten its cost per box down to less than $1 to manufacture (not including cost of components).  That is, the labor and facilities to make a Dell computer costs the amount they have to spend to buy all the bits and pieces, and then less than $1 to put them all together and give it to the shipper all arranged neatly to arrive at the customer's door together.  So, really, the labor cost is not what drove Dell to move its executives overseas.

What drove them overseas was something entirely controllable. It's taxes.  The tax rate on American companies doing business in the US is exorbitant.  I don't know the numbers, but the point is that a lot of very highly paid people who run Dell Computer decided to pick up and move to a communist country to live in rather than stay near their loved ones.  China is killing us with tax breaks, or we're killing ourselves with outrageous tax rates.  Probably both are true.

How much would it be worth it to you to pick up your family and move to a communist country?  Personally, no amount of money would get me to move to China or any communist country, but there are apparently plenty of people who already make a ton of money in the US who were convinced to pack up and move to the other side of the Earth.

This is in fact more evidence that the war on immigration is misguided.  Businesses that can't compete without exporting executives will not stay in the United States.  It doesn't matter how many Mexicans come across the border, our businesses are going to move anyway.

This is one of the most depressing developments I've seen in a long time.  Why aren't we seeing this prominently published in the news?  I guess so-called journalists haven't been given their official press releases on the subject.  Journalists are worthless.

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Wednesday - August 25, 2010

Category Image We Hire People for that.  But We Don't Elect Them. 

With the state of American politics today, it takes a lot to shock me but today I am again completely shocked.  Sen. Max Baucus, a democrat from Montana, explained his failure to read the Obamacare bill prior to voting on it.

"I don't think you want me to waste my time to read every page of the health care bill.  You know why?  It's statutory language," Baucus said.  "We hire experts."

I'm sorry.  I thought we voted for you because you were to be the expert.  Your office defines your expertise.  If you don't understand it, how the heck are your constituents supposed to understand it?

The level of logical and ethical perversity to make this statement boggles my mind.  

What's next?  Do we outsource our experts from India or equatorial Africa?  I met a lot of Ghanaians who were quite intelligent and well educated in English.  I bet they could get a low bid on statutory expertise.  

Next time you call your democrat senator or other elected officials, will you get a calling center in New Dehli?

What's even more amazing is that this quote is not a head line on the big newspapers.  Some people think well of the New York Times, I certainly don't.  Their failure to run this on their front page for a week is part of why I feel that way.  Instead, it's buried near the bottom of a newspaper called the Flathead Beacon.

Hat tip to Tree Hugging Sister of the Coalition of the Swilling for the link.

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Monday - August 23, 2010

Category Image War, Inc., a Subsidiary of the Department of Defense Conglomerate 

I've long observed that the only morally justifiable way to fight a war is through total war.  If a war must be fought, then it must be done with no holds barred and ended as quickly and as decisively as possible.   Germany was not decisively defeated in 1918 and their military never believed that they had lost except through politics.  They came back with a vengeance in 1939.  Japan and Germany have both been good allies and peaceful since 1945 because we ended any pretense that they weren't soundly defeated and without any hope of furthering their cause.  This was a lesson we learned in the Civil War when the Confederacy was almost burned to the ground.  Southern states still have no stomach to fight again despite the political gulf between most northern and most southern states.

But since 1945 we have yet to act like we need to actually win wars, let alone fight them with a total, or even strenuous effort.  In Korea our generals were told to bomb southern halves of bridges, enemies fleeing into China were allowed to escape.  In Viet Nam we never confronted the North Viet Namese in their own country.  The Korean war never ended, the Viet Namese war was lost.  It's high time we return to the policy of total war.  

Our pussy footing, mamby-pamby war in Iraq and Afghanistan is stretching into its ninth year.  That is longer than the Civil War and WWII combined.  We'd lost more people in single days in each of those wars than in almost a decade of this war.  When we began this war, the president used tough talk and mostly backed up his talk with action.  Even the collateral war in Iraq was met with stunned reactions from Iran for the first year or so.  They feared that the Eagle was awake and they were next.  

Then, we caved.  Iran became more and more blatant in sponsoring a Shiite murder regime and we became more studious in pretending that they weren't.  Iran is now extremely bold.  They've taken Brits captive, they've developed nuclear generators and made no apology for trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Today they announced a drone aircraft.  

And how have we fought this war?  It's been as far from a maximum effort as you could imagine.  We initially invaded Afghanistan with a battalion of Marines.  Then we paid Afghan mercenaries to fight our war for us, with the predictable result that Obama bin Laden escaped to Pakistan.

Instead of a total effort, we have institutionalized the war.  Just as in Viet Nam we've been dominated by people who think fighting a war is similar to managing a large corporation, but the managers have never run corporations and show little ingenuity or intelligence.  From Rumsfeld on down, the aim of our leaders was to win with minimum effort, under the belief that special forces with limited strikes will be more effective.  The problem with this idea is that the effect of war is not from the person killed or the bridge destroyed, it is from the will being broken.  Soldiers and politicians can be replaced easily.  Buildings and bridges are repaired or replaced.  People can live under ground and put up with any amount of hardship or death -- so long as they believe that their suffering is worthwhile.

Small raids here and there do not break the will of the enemy.  Limiting our attacks only teaches them to limit their actions, not their aims.

We have institutionalized war so that soldiers and Marines are on a time clock.  They do work ups, train, deploy, remain in theater for a limited time, and then leave to go home.  The investment of time for each war fighter is of a known and limited duration.  Generals need only do as well as they wish to do until they gets home.  There have been good leaders, such as General Patraeus, and bad ones.  The bad ones are too numerous to list. 

In any war, some units will be on the front lines, or in combat, and others will be resting.  We've taken this to an extreme.  How many more battalions could we have in Afghanistan right now if we didn't bring them home every 7 to 14 months?  How much more motivated would those battalions be to decisively end the war?  How much creativity and personal interactions would be in play to make crucial differences?  How many times have we read about a battalion that has had tremendous progress with a local tribe, only to have that battalion leave and the personal interactions end?  How many times have battalions had to relearn the same lessons because they are cycling in and out of the war zone?

My battalion is heading overseas shortly.  I've known this for two years.  A lot of money is being spent training us up, re-equipping us, recruiting us, etc.  We know about when we're leaving.  We know how long we will stay.  Mobilizing has become a routine event, planned and executed as though we were erecting a bridge.  It's good to be organized but not good to be institutionalized.

In the Civil War, Gen. McClellan was widely regarded as a good general and well loved by his soldiers.  He knew how to train them and he knew how to equip them.  What he didn't know was how to use them to win the war.  Gen. Grant probably knew nothing about building armies from an administrative and political perspective, but he knew how to win wars.  Some unkindly called him a butcher, but that is too facile, even for him.  It's true that his strategy was based on having little regard for how many soldiers were killed, but he didn't waste them either.  He knew that the enemy had fewer resources and less ability to lose men than he did, and every minute that he wasn't attacking and out flanking, they were able to recover better.  

Our army is made up almost entirely of McClellans.  This is either by design within the army or by design from our political overseers.  It's probably both.  Gen. Petraeus appears to be somewhat of an exception to the rule, at least judging by his successes, but even he has not seen fit to clamor for a greater effort.

This war is on automated control now.  We have a half-hearted effort, with vague ideas on what it would mean to win or even end it.  It's pretty discouraging to be going overseas knowing of this mindset, knowing that our military nation is capable of orders of magnitude of greater results but that we are limiting ourselves by choice.  We're letting primitive people have their way with us and we're barely trying to stop them.  Eisenhower feared the development of a defense industrial complex that would control our military.  We saw it in Viet Nam.  We see it again.  

We could do so much more to end the killing sooner and establish peace in the region if we only dared to try.  

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Wednesday - July 21, 2010

Category Image The Searchers in Afghanistan

I was watching and thoroughly enjoying my now favorite John Wayne movie, The Searchers, for the first time the other day and a thought struck me that we've fought a war like the one in Afghanistan before.  It was called the Indian Wars. 

In the Indian Wars after the Civil War, the US Army was fighting in a sparsely inhabited country against an enemy that was largely insurgents but also able to call up moderate sized paramilitary units who were well trained and very knowlegeable of the local terrain.

There are of course differences.  The Indians tended to be somewhat nomadic, and Afghans tend to live in villages.  Although some of the Indians had a sort of religious fervor, their religion supported their war aims rather than created their war aims as does Islam in Afghanistan.

But the similarities are pretty strong.  A largely ignorant population living in wretched conditions with a mostly stone age culture piggy backing on modern civilization for some basic tools and rudimentary commerce tried to resist a modern mililtary.  In both wars, the United States military fought or is fighting the war with a less than full effort.

What can we learn from the Indian Wars to help us in the Afghan war?  First and foremost, we learn that an insurgency does not always win.  Perseverance on the part of the United States can overcome a very determined insurgency.  We also learn that kinetic military actions are usually a sign of taking a step backwards in winning the war.  Custer may not have had to make that disastrous charge if promises were kept to the Indians (or if he had a lick of sense that day, but that's another story).

We need not admire all the acts taken by the United States to note how the war was won over a couple centuries or decades, depending on how you measure it.  The Indians were channeled into reservations if they wanted to retain sovereignty.  So far as I've been able to tell, any Indian who wanted to live off the reservation was generally free to do so, so long as they acculturated into western civilization.  They may have experienced some racism and other challenges, but they were generally tolerated, as can be attested by the innumerable people who have a combination of Indian and white or black ancesters.

What are the keys to success in the Indian wars that might apply to Afghanistan?  The primitive culture must be pre-empted by our modern culture.  We cannot allow them to continue living like they have been.  We must build roads, create a thriving economy based on the newly discovered minerals and other potential sources of wealth.  We must begin the process of educating people and erasing the impact of the Madrassas.  The United States had a policy of punishing school children for speaking in native languages.  While this seems unfortunate for linguists and cultural studies, it certainly did help eliminate the warrior culture of the plains Indians.  Perhaps a similar approach would work to eliminate the jihadist elements of Afghan culture.

I haven't heard of any attempt to get the Afghans to become accustomed to buying Western goods and participate in Western economies.  The more they become accustomed to interacting with us and benefitting from our immensely superior technology and markets, the less likely they will be to bite the hand that feeds them.

Many insurgent Indians sought refuge in Canada or Mexico and launched occasional raids into the US from those places.  Similarly, the Taliban and Al Qaeda seek refuge in Pakistan and other places.  We can see that this is troublesome but not fatal to succeeding in stopping an insurgency.

I'm not saying that Afghanistan and the war on terror is a simple matter, and we need only cut and paste our tactics and strategy from the Indian Wars to win in Afghanistan.  I am suggesting that the Indian Wars show that we can win in Afghanistan.  I think I'll be taking some reading material with me to Afghanistan as an additional source of insight.  

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Wednesday - July 21, 2010

Category Image Star Trek is Real 

The United States Navy has used a laser to shoot down four separate target drones.  We now are living in the age of science fiction.  See the movie of the event.


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Friday - July 16, 2010

Category Image Checks and Balances Failed 

The Europeans are a good lesson for us to watch, but I fear it is too late.  Daniel Hannan, a Brit member of the European Parliament who is against the concept of a European Parliament, reports the latest shenanigans in the EU.  It seems that the EU has created a vast foreign office.  This was done quietly and over time, they have had a huge budget for quite some time without officially existing.  They now are official and much larger.  The citizens of the various countries have little impact on what happens in their name and with their money, the EU government is a leviathan that is consuming with seemingly little in the way of objection by its people.

In our nation, the federal government is constrained by the tenth amendment and the Bill of Rights and various other amendments to be of limited power.  To restrain any one branch of government from getting too powerful, a scheme of checks and balances was created.  The president can't create laws, the congress can't enforce them, and the judiciary is independent and can stop either branch with its paper pronouncements.  The people are responsible for not allowing the judiciary to be ignored, though it has happened from time to time.  Andrew Jackson famously declared that "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it," in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832).

That balance of powers has a major flaw whose results we're now seeing only too plainly.  Rather than limit the power of government, our checks and balances have finally served to limit only the people's checks on the extent of each branch's power.  The perversion started quite some time ago, becoming most noticeable during Reconstruction, with major expansions made after Roosevelt's attempt at court packing and the New Deal, and then the Warren Court's rewriting of the legal landscape, and now finally the Pelosi/Reid Congress for the past four years has loosed all restraints.  That's not meant to let either party off the hook, both parties and all three branches of government are equally guilty.

When you study for the bar exam, one of the hints in the subject of Constitutional law is that if an answer offered is the Tenth Amendment, it will always be the wrong answer.  The Tenth Amendment has so little power that even in academia it is given no regard whatsoever.

The checks and balances between the branches of the federal government failed to check the power of the federal government.  It only succeeded in protecting each branch's share of power, and each branch is more than happy to expand its own power.  That is, each branch retains its portion of the power by not allowing the executive to control the purse strings, etc., but there has been no check or balance on the federal government's taking power from the states or the people.  The 17th Amendment ended the states' input on federal power.

The only remaining check on federal power has been the ballot box, and that has proven to be singularly ineffective.  With each encroachment of power, the people have become more and more used to ceding self-determination, more and more used to receiving federal benefits and entitlements, and more and more used to accepting government presence in every part of their lives.

Just as Europeans have no ability to stop the EU leviathan from expanding its power, despite widespread disapproval in several referenda, so too are we succumbing to grotesque over reaches of federal power.

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Monday - June 21, 2010

Category Image Squandered Influence in the Caucasus

I became interested in Azerbaijan after serving with an Azerbaijani Army unit in Haditha, Iraq.  They were very nice men and very disciplined soldiers and I enjoyed working with them.  When I returned to the US I very briefly stayed in contact with one Captain, though we have lost touch after only a few emails and I would occasionally peruse the English language website, Today.Az.  I also wrote a paper on comparative law that centered on Azerbaijan and its relations with Europe and the West, and their past associations with the Soviet Union. In the past, the articles on the website tended to be about the US bases that were being planned, the ongoing struggle to get their oil to the west, and relations with Europe and the US.

Now, the tables have turned.  Today I see the same old articles proclaiming their belligerence and hatred of Armenia, but now they have a different flavor.  One article is about the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Russian and Armenia meeting in St. Petersburg.  Another is about the Russian company, Gazprom, offering to buy all of Azerbaijan's oil.  Still another is about how they might adopt Islamic banking practices.  

It seems to me that Azerbaijan no longer considers the US or Europe to be reliable.  They are caving in to the threatening stance of Russia.  They were quite open about wanting to disassociate from Russia after three quarters of a century of domination and abuse, but now they are getting cozy again.  

Our new hopey changey foreign policy has squandered an opportunity to gain faithful allies in the Caucasus region.  I wonder if they will trust us again.

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Thursday - May 20, 2010

Category Image Draw Mohammed Day


If I were any sort of artist, I would draw him myself, and include a mamaluke sword dripping in the blood of christians and jews whom he ordered killed for not worshipping the way he wanted them to worship.  But I can't draw and must sponge off the work of others to join in the solidarity of a free press.


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Tuesday - May 18, 2010

Category Image Time Flies 

My grandmother used to tell me about the Civil War veterans that used to sit on the park benches in Nantucket, spitting tobacco and whittling.  When I was young, it wasn't hard to run into veterans of WWI. Now, a WWII veteran who enlisted in 1945 at the age of 17 is 82 years old.  I suspect we won't be seeing them around much longer.

Yet my wife and I ran into a veteran of Anzio a few months ago (in Tool, Texas).  He told me a story about how he watched more than 200 men get killed in an artillery attack by the Germans.  He had warned them to dig in, but their Colonel refused to allow them to do so.  He was in a scout platoon, or forward observer section, I forget which, and didn't work for the Colonel, so he had stayed clear of them and dug in.  He was quite bitter in telling that story, you could see the horror still in his eyes.  PTSD can be very long lasting.

A WWI veteran that enlisted in 1918 when he was 17 would have been 82 years old when I was 20.  Today he would be 109, but there is only one or two American veterans still alive from that war.  All the rest are gone.

A Civil War veteran who enlisted at age 17 in 1865 would have been 82 in 1930 when my grandmother was 30 years old.  Her father probably knew a few veterans of the Napoleonic Peninsular War in Portugal.  A man who joined the Portuguese army in 1814 would have been 82 in 1879.  When you think of it that way, two centuries is not a long time.

A veteran of the Viet Nam War who enlisted at age 17 in 1975 will be 82 in the year 2040.  By then, I suspect that people will be living a lot longer.  I guess I only missed that war by five years, measuring this way.  I still have little understanding of that war.

If our current war were to end this year (fat chance!) then a 17 year old Marine serving today would turn 82 in the year 2075.  I hope to buy him a beer on that day at the nearby recruiting station.  And the youngster enlisting in the Marines would be only five people removed from meeting a veteran of the Napoleonic War.

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Tuesday - May 11, 2010

Category Image . . . support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . .

The twisted religion of Islam has attacked another innocent in its perverted quest to dominate the world.  

Lars Vilks was attacked by an organized mob in Sweden while giving a speech on freedom of speech.

The list is growing.  Salman Rushdie has been stalked for decades, Theodor Van Geough was murdered, newspapers and the South Park cartoonists are threatened.

The United States government has done little to address the ever bolder homocidal goals of Islam, preferring instead to say we have a war on terrorism that is distinct from Islam only in the minds of the politicians in Western Civilization.

Americans are afraid to publish criticism of our enemies.  And when you put it that way it seems incredible, but I have yet to hear any US politician denounce the frequent rioting and threats against the press and against individuals.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press mean very little if the people are too afraid to exercise their freedoms.  

When I swore as a military officer to support the Constitution against all enemies, I expected that when such enemies appeared that we would do something like actually try to stop them.  Instead we're engaging in nation building in regions that have nothing to build from.  In the entire history of mankind, no thriving economy has ever existed in Afghanistan.  I don't expect that to change any time soon.  It is a hopeless task.  Meanwhile, our enemies watch us deplete our wealth while they simply toss a few bombs around and cause chaos.

We may have "won" in Iraq, but we have yet to defeat Al Qaeda.  In fact, we have yet to even acknowlege what Al Qaeda's motives are or target them and their ideology for destruction.

If we can't keep people safe when they exercise their free speech, then we're not really winning. More importantly, if our own people are such moral cowards that they succumb to these threats, then we are well on our way to losing the moral strength that made our nation so powerful and righteous.

Having a government that recognizes our freedoms requires that we defend those freedoms.  Defending our freedom means destroying the ability of our enemies to cow us into forsaking the exercise of freedom.   The president, both the current and the previous one, swore to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution."  It's high time someone in that office starts acting like it's something worth defending as an idea, and not just something you launch missiles at from an unmanned aircraft.  The idea of freedom is protected by attacking the ideology that threatens freedom, not by paving roads in a sewer of a country in central Asia.

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