mm288: Videogames. Real warfare. An unsettling fusion

February 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Mark Benjamin, writing in Salon.com, opened our eyes this weekend with an exclusive look inside the U.S. Air Force’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the illuminating article allows this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© to return to an abiding interest, what’s going on up there in the sky?

The changing face of military aviation

eighth in an occasional series

The series so far…

No

Title

Link

1

U.S. pilot helped clear the fog of war

mm142

2

Go to war — Play videogames

mm155

3

Osprey: A Flying Shame

mm163

4

Abolish the Air Force

mm183

5

Proxy killers — Can you live with that?

mm211

6

A Maginot Line for the 21st Century

mm215

7

A shared obsession is a satisfying thing

mm225

The videogame theme has struck yr (justifiably) humble svt before. Take a look.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm168: We’re fighting more than one pointless war!

October 12, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The U.S. has always been this very strange dichotomy: a Puritanical streak a mile wide, uneasily coexisting with gaudy decadence.

We prohibited alcohol consumption by Constitutional amendment in 1920. The result: organized crime in this country became an ingrained institution, and every solid citizen knew a bootlegger. The Great Experiment ended with repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Oddly, organized crime is still with us, having survived to evolve toward other more lucrative (i.e., still illegal) venues. Such as gambling, sex, even tobacco.

And drugs.

Gambling had always been an underground phenomenon, save for a couple of pockets (Nevada and Atlantic City). Then, 35 years ago, state sponsored lotteries began to appear on the scene, leading to the next step, the oddly constrained riverboat and tribal casinos that now populate so many parts of the nation.

Gambling, always a pernicious and destructive habit, is now state sanctioned, making it possible for working stiffs and stiffettes who couldn’t raise busfare to an Indian casino to blow half their weekly pay on a one in 12million shot at obscene wealth at their corner mini-mart.

Commercial sex, fully consummated in the form of legal brothels only in several counties of Nevada, has long been available in teaser form (“look but don’t touch — and would you like to buy a ‘private dance’ in the back?”) in nearly every city, of whatever size.

Many of these strip clubs, “gentlemen’s clubs” and the like are run by, you guessed it, organized crime, also still a force in the pornography field, although the liberating effect of the internet has democratized both supply and demand of that particular form of entertainment.

Tobacco is a late addition to the list of proscribed vices, as more municipalities and states (who have long since attempted to control tobacco sales to minors with spotty success) have begun to restrict the ability of citizens to indulge in smoking in public spaces, and have often raised taxes on cigarette purchases so outlandishly that organized crime has been pleased to step into tobacco sales, providing low-priced supplies using stolen or imported stock.

So the U.S. goes both ways: Puritanical (sex, tobacco) and decadence (alcohol, gambling).

And then there are drugs. The Puritans have a firm grasp on this issue, and the law and order establishment has made the enforcement of drug prohibition a very big business indeed.

As rusty manufacturers blow away (to China, mostly), and agribusiness mechanizes and hires cheap immigrant labor for the parts that resist mechanization, rural, mainly white, America has seen the building and staffing of prisons as economic manna.

And what crimes have made prisons such a growth industry? Drug crimes.

MUDGE is prepared argue that there are two classes of drug related crime. The organized crime variety, the one with Glocks and AK47s — those criminals belong in prison — throw away the key.

The other class of “criminals” are the consumers of “recreational chemicals,” whose presence in the criminal justice system has bloated it out of all proportion.

The war on drugs has been the tooth of the drug enforcement tiger, attracting big dollars, big legal establishments and big prison systems, and finds very little distinction between supplier, dealer, and user. The war on drugs’ motto: Put them all away!

Let’s hear what San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had to say about this issue last week:

cbs5

(CBS 5 / KCBS) SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the nation’s war on drugs a total failure and insisted the crime rate would go down if the government spent money on treatment as opposed to jailing people with drug problems.

“If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70% in this country overnight, end this war on drugs,” he told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. “You want to get serious, seriously serious about crime and violence end this war on drugs.”

The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often.

Unlike alcohol use, unlike even commercial sex, tolerated in all but nine-counties-of-Nevada-form in most localities, we’ve let the Puritans continue to set the agenda on drugs.

The result: flourishing organized crime, brutal and deadly; burgeoning courts with backed up dockets; prisons often overcrowded despite the building boom; and users who rather than getting treatment for their addictive behavior are instead matriculated in crime school — jail.

The war on drugs makes no distinction between “recreational chemicals” and the increasing scientifically documented uses for marijuana for medical purposes.

Of course, Puritans (read: Republicans) don’t have a lot of use for science, unless it’s ridiculous pseudo-science like so-called “creation science.”

And so cancer patients and their doctors have also become criminals. What a waste!

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

cbs5.com – SF Mayor Gavin Newsom: War On Drugs Is A Failure

Now, MUDGE is not recommending total legalization. After all, alcohol was legalized 74 years ago, and while the impact on criminals was dramatic, the impact on addictive individuals, their families, and those unlucky enough to share the highways with them has remained dire. An impact, however, that, except for DUIs, the medical establishment has been deemed most appropriate to handle.

But, when Prohibition ended, so also did the lucrative line of business for criminals.

Several states, mainly in the East, still to this day restrict alcohol sales to state run facilities.

Okay, that sounds like a useful template. Open up state controlled substance stores. Demand six forms of identification if necessary to keep children far away.

Thus, let’s see what happens to drug crimes when to use drugs doesn’t require one to be a criminal.

Prohibition turned an entire nation into criminals, and changed the face of criminal activity in this country. Prohibition finally became unsustainable because the nation came to its senses realizing that even otherwise exemplary citizens had to behave like criminals and break the law to enjoy a drink.

Set a price for heroin and cocaine and the like that includes a tax to fund drug abuse treatment programs — I’m guessing the “street” price will still, tax and all, come in at far less than the price available from the Colombian-supplied junkie down that alley.

But, keep a few law enforcement agents around, to throw the book at the creeps who persist in selling to children.

Make medical marijuana freely available at a fair price by prescription, again at the state stores where legal identification can be assured.

Just as organized crime found new things to do in 1933, if you take criminality out of the drug supply industry, drug related crime will dry up just as promptly. Fear not for the poor farmers in Bolivia, Peru and Afghanistan with their poppy fields. They will remain in business, paid though by the U.S. government rather than by criminal cartels.

Of course, there’s always a down side. This program would leave thousands of judges, bailiffs, court clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sheriffs’ deputies, wardens and guards out of work.

Probably an acceptable price for the reduction, even elimination, of the casually violent drive-by shootings that kill innocent 10 year olds.

Use some of that obsolete war on drugs budget to retrain the judges, bailiffs, clerks, lawyers, deputies, and guards.

Teach them web page development and Java. Create something useful.

Maybe we can once again compete with Bengaluru.

Another pointless war we can end. Why not now?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm156: There’s a war on, folks, and this must be a military weekend…

September 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

So, yesterday’s post on Predator (not the Governator’s flick, the UCAV, silly!) was not impelled by news, but rather by the (semi-) creative gestation process.

Then, today, while strolling through Digg (which this MUDGE must admit has somehow elevated itself over what was happening a few weeks ago — could it be that school is back in session and people are a bit more serious-minded?) found a couple of Navy related stories.

Now, MUDGE and the U.S. Navy go way back. No, never served. Yes, as one interested in the history of technology, and therefore military history, and technology in general, and the Navy has long embodied applied technology at its most dramatic.

This interest apparently was infectious, and this draft evader (in thought if not in deed) was bemused to have spawned MUDGElet No. 2, mentioned before in this space, a proud graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and distinguished former lieutenant in the Navy’s surface warfare community.

Parents: be careful what you read, and what books and magazines you leave around for your kids to find!

Just kidding. I couldn’t be prouder of our children, and their spouses, and No. 2’s spouse happens to be proud graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (tough as it is for men, extraordinarily so for women), and distinguished former lieutenant in the Navy’s surface warfare community.

So, two stories. One odd in and of itself; one an intriguing window into the state of the generation of young women and men just a year or so younger than MUDGElet No. 3.

Odd:

navyswas

CORONADO, Calif. – The Navy will spend as much as $600,000 to modify a 40-year-old barracks complex that resembles a swastika from the air, a gaffe that went largely unnoticed before satellite images became easily accessible on the Internet.

The Navy said officials noted the buildings’ shape after the groundbreaking in 1967 but decided against changing it at the time because it wasn’t obvious from the ground. Aerial photos made available on such services as Windows Live and Google Earth in recent years have since revealed the buildings’ shape to a wide audience.

Typical government decision-making: no one can see our error, so let’s ignore it.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Navy to alter swastika-shaped barracks – Peculiar Postings – MSNBC.com

Don’t get MUDGE started about swastikas. I don’t hold Indians responsible for an ancient religious symbol.

As a boomer, born three years after the full panoply of horror was daylighted in a way that the world could not longer ignore, I manifestly do hold Nazi Germany responsible for every murderous, dreadful and inhuman act performed under that forever tainted symbol, and the successor generations of Germans get less benefit of the doubt from this curmudgeon than from many.

Not the Navy’s best building. If there wasn’t a war on, I’d vote for demolishing the place, just because.

Intriguing:

Military recruiting in this age of volunteer soldiering, rather than my generation’s drafted, has not previously been a problem for the Pentagon. Oh, they keep needing to seed the ground, with education benefits, and with retention bonuses (MUDGElet No. 2 reported that he passed on a $50,000 re-up bribe to resign to go onto grad school).

But, now there’s a war on. And, while the Navy isn’t on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and taking the casualties that the Army and Marines (yes, a branch of the Navy) are taking, recruiting today’s 17-24 year-olds is a challenge.

This story comes, quite indirectly, courtesy of Salon.com’s excellent technology blogger known as The Machinist.

Noah Shachtman, the master of Wired’s Danger Room blog, and Entropic Memes both have cool posts about a presentation put together by some Navy experts regarding the difficulty of recruiting “millennials,” Americans aged 17 to 24, to the armed forces. In the words of the presentation, the kids are not alright: They’re “coddled,” “narcissistic praise junkies” who “demand respect” though they lack experience, and who are so comfortable with technology that talking to them is like “dealing with a somewhat alien life force.”

navyrecruit

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles – Salon

Navy recruiters! Of course you’re having trouble recruiting, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the generation you are focusing on doesn’t speak your language.

Of course “the millennials” speak your language. If all else were equal, the signing bonuses, and education rewards should work for that generation as well as it has for its predecessor’s.

The problem is, Navy, that there’s a war on. Soldiers are dying, or are taking combat injuries that the hospitals aren’t dealing with effectively.

Is there any wonder that the volunteers aren’t breaking down the doors of the Navy recruiters’ offices?

Even “millennials” watch the news.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE