Thomas J. Cutler writes in the March issue of Proceedings that there are "only two places where there is no compass variation." In other words, where "both gyro and magnetic compasses are perfectly aligned."
One of those places is the Bermuda Triangle. The other is a region in the Pacific called, he notes, "the ‘Devil's Sea,' for it, too, is known for mysterious disappearances." It isn't clear what the lack of variation has to do with the two areas' reputations for trouble, he notes.
It was put together by "A Smart Army Major" who clearly is enjoying the sequester.
Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward wasn't at all impressed by Darth Vader's management style, which he finds overly reliant on motivating workers through "telekinetic strangulation." Also, he says, "Death Stars can't possibly be built on time or on budget, require pathological leadership styles and...keep getting blown up."
The lessons of "Star Wars," he concludes, are: Build simple, inexpensive weapons, and rely more on droids than on Death Stars.
Meanwhile, since I have nowhere else to put it, and I don't have the copyright clearance to run it myself, here's a link to a great weird photo.
I'll be doing a book signing at the Barnes & Noble at Seven Corners in Falls Church, northern Virginia, tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 23) at 2 pm. Wear your Best Defense t-shirt for a 10 percent discount.
The bonus is that there are about 10 great Chinese, Persian, and Laotian restaurants within walking distance from there, including my favorite joint for Peking duck. Check it out. Indeed, in just one shopping center across the highway at 6755 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA., there are 12 Vietnamese restaurants, cafes, and bakeries.
It's a real NoVa weekend for me -- the next afternoon, at 3 pm this Sunday, I'll be riding toward the sound of the guns at the George Marshall house in Leesburg, Va.
Finally, I am told that The Generals is now available on Kindle in the U.K. This came in response to reader demand, I am told, so thank you.
"I knew right away that I was facing some stiff competition," Ghostbuster said. "As soon as I walked in the building, there were all these pilots who were overweight and soft and pale, and their faces were covered in acne. You don't get that kind of body without hours and hours in the cockpit [sic], away from the light of the day. These guys were the real deal."
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Tanja, a Belgian Malanois, was up until her retirement from service this week, the longest serving military working dog in the Department of Defense. With a 12-year career behind her, she's deployed five times. They were impressive tours of duty that included uncovering IEDs and even stopping vehicles from making off with "extremely valuable" stolen classified documents.
Tanja, a patrol and detection dog with the 366th Security Forces Squadron was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Her most recent handler, Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly, says that despite Tanja's age, the dog was still "kicking butt." During base patrol Tanja noticed a suspicious individual and alerted others to him. When they got close, Kelly says, "he decided to leave instead of deal with her."
Still, the tough exterior didn't mean she was above a little extra comfort. Tanja wasn't handling the cold weather like she used to so Kelly, who is adopting her partner, made sure the dog wore sweaters to keep warm even though the other handlers teased them. "I didn't care," Kelly insists, "because she liked it."
Rebecca Frankel's book about military working dogs will be published by Atria Books in August 2013.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Two career MWDs, both at the ripe old age of eight, recently traded in their military leashes for the comforts of civilian life. Brit, a German shepherd, was formerly a "patrol narcotics detection dog for a military police unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington." Bubba (pictured), a chocolate lab with one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan behind him, was a bomb-sniffing dog for the Army.
Bubba's last tour in Afghanistan was apparently cut short when the 80-pound dog took a bad tumble, falling through a canvas roof. But his new owners, the Van Fleets, report that Bubba's wounded leg doesn't keep him from enjoying his new home or from taking measures to keep his new family safe. The couple, who lives in Trumansburg, NY, say that Bubba "will case the perimeter" of their home whenever he's outside and "insists on inspecting whatever object in one's hands."
Brit on the other hand, is continuing to offer his services to those in the military but in a rather different capacity. Along with his new owners, the Russells of Fayetteville, NC, Brit is making the rounds at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg as a therapy dog, having taken therapy-training classes in order to assist wounded veterans. He's only made a handful of visits so far, but his presence already seems to be making an impact.
"The boy is a traffic stop," [his owner, Russell, who accompanies Brit on these visits] says. "Everyone stops to say hello or give him a hug."... On several occasions, those soldiers have broken down in tears while hugging Brit and have thanked him for the service of military working dogs overseas...."They tell me 'When the dogs come, it makes our day.'"
Canine news of interest: The practical use of the canine nose seems without limits. This week I came across three very interesting articles about sniffer dogs being used to detect some pretty unexpected...things. In Britain dogs are helping authorities uncover counterfeit condoms, and in California dogs are being employed to track down fox droppings in an effort to preserve the endangered San Joaquin kit fox. They're also using dogs to sniff out fox dens in Queensland, Australia, though in this case it's to cull the population, not save it. Who knew?
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Atria Books in August 2013.
Phil Cave reports that the security clearance office known as the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office (DISCO) is being replaced by a much less cool office named the Department of Defense Central Adjudicative Facility (DoDCAF). I thought it should have been called GANGSTA or something.
Here at Best Defense we've never really gotten into VUCA, an acronym apparently developed at the Army War College to describe the "Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous" environment that many think we will face in coming decades. It actually brought to mind a woman I dated in my senior year of college for a few crazy weeks. It was a learning experience, OK?
But I think the acronym-makers missed a chance here. If they added "Lethal" in the middle and "Novel" at the end, then we could face a "VULCAN" challenge.
They just had a "best curry" competition. A lamb biryani won. I am not sure that is really a curry, but I am not gonna quibble as long as I get me a heaping plateful.
Do it all at CNAS's annual Woodstock for policy wonkers. It will be on June 13 in DC.
If you haven't seen Brzezinski and Scowcroft do their breakdancing routine, you haven't lived. Bust them moves.
A friend at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, sent along that photo of "The Boneyard Project," in which artists have been given old aircraft to decorate as they see fit.
Here is another one:
This raises a bunch of new possibilities. What's next, STFU for "Security Transition Force Uniforms"? SHIT for "Super High Income Transactions"?
I just liked this photograph. President Obama yesterday bestowed the Medal of Honor on Dakota Meyer, the Marine on the right. Just when I think Obama is tone deaf on the military, he does something like this that makes me think he really knows what he is doing. Apparently Meyer had mentioned to White House staffers that he would like to have a beer with the president.
This sounds like the germ of a novel to me -- Dick Cheney going into exile in Italy:
… in the epilogue, Mr. Cheney writes that after undergoing heart surgery in 2010, he was unconscious for weeks. During that period, he wrote, he had a prolonged, vivid dream that he was living in an Italian villa, pacing the stone paths to get coffee and newspapers.
The former vice president also discloses that he advocated bombing Syria in 2007.
I was surprised to see Ronald Wilson Reagan and Woodrow Wilson almost tie as the worst presidents of the 20th century. Reagan led most of the week, but Wilson pulled by him yesterday afternoon -- only to be edged out in the final tally when I shut down voting at 9 A.M. eastern time this morning.
I understand Wilson's showing -- both the pacifist left and the non-interventionist right loathe him, as well as many people who simply see him as a racist. But I suspect Reagan's high score says a lot about the readers of this blog. Based on comments posted on this blog and notes to my blog e-mailbox, you guys really think Reagan was a bad president. I suspect his surprise near-"win" is due in part to a growing distaste with tax-cutting ideologues who seem blithely unaware of the damage they do. Sample comment from Boone, N.C.: "with his half-baked political philosophy, Reagan set this country on its present course to ruin."
The surprise to me is how even the voting was. After Reagan and Wilson, it basically is close to a scatter-shot tie between the rest -- Harding, Lyndon Johnson and Nixon clumped together, followed by Carter and Hoover, who also tied. And old Coolidge brought up the rear with one vote.
I was impressed that one Marine intelligence analyst in Afghanistan took the time to send in an anti-Harding vote. Another military e-mail voted against Richard Nixon, not for the usual reasons of corruption and such, but because, he wrote, "He's helped the Chinese more than he's helped Americans. We're still paying for his foreign policy coup since most of our manufacturing is now over there."
And you all certainly don't agree with me about JFK. In fact, there was not a single whole vote for him as worst president of the century, although one person gave him a half vote, and several offered him 2nd place, maybe just to be nice to me. Reading over the discussion and notes, I've been persuaded that he was not the worst president of the 20th century, but probably the most over-rated. (Though of course many of you would give that title to Reagan.)
I'm also surprised that Lyndon Johnson didn't get more votes. And apparently people have forgiven Bill Clinton his inability keep all his body parts inside his clothing -- not a single person named him, despite the apparent bias against Southern Democrats (Wilson, Carter, Johnson) in the polling. And yes, Wilson was a Southern Democrat. He received one of the most succinct votes: "On any consequentialist reading, whether you are realist or liberal in international relations, the worst American president in the international realm of all time. On civil rights, more retrograde than any American politician since Andrew Johnson."
Here is the final tally:
1. Ronald Reagan
2. Woodrow Wilson 17
3. Warren Harding 9
4. Richard Nixon 9
5. Lyndon Johnson 8
6. Herbert Hoover 7
7. Jimmy Carter 7
8. Calvin Coolidge 1
9. JFK .5
The results will be posted tomorrow, so if you care to vote, please do so sometime today.
And yes, Jimmy Carter should have been on the list. I just forgot about him.
The little think tank that could is launching a new TV series, titled "Command Post," with the Lucian empire. You can see the first episodes, about the future direction of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, here.
Next, "CNAS: The Movie"? If so, I wanna be played by Homer Simpson, the TV character with whom I most closely identify.
A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch a show by Eilen Jewell, a strong singer with a first-class band. I enjoyed both her own songs and her terrific covers of Loretta Lynn and Johnny Kidd. She did one weird tune I didn't know, I think written by her, about a modern Cupid carrying an assault weapon: "He don't take aim/ He just bang bang bang."
Blue Stone Graphics/Flickr
No, I am not selling this blog to AOL for $100 million. But I am told it is true that I was in a 'Jeopardy' question last night. I never realized so many of my friends and relatives watch that show. I got a note from one who wrote,
Just wanted to give you a heads up that you were in a Jeopardy question tonight. And it was a Daily Double in the second round. Here's the question, from the category, "Si, Parlo Italiano":
"This word for a disastrous failure is the title of Thomas Ricks' book about the American military in Iraq"
The guy bet $2,600. He didn't know the answer.
Tom again: Meanwhile, old Jamie McIntyre reports that one of the memos that former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has posted ranks Pentagon reporters. I appear to be at the bottom of his list. Judging by the date and title of the memo, my guess is that he is summarizing what he thought Ken Bacon, the spokesman for the preceding Pentagon regime, told him about the media. Ken, who is now dead, was always very impressed with Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, but at the time had a somewhat contentious relationship with me, I think in part because before he went over to the dark side he had been a colleague of mine at the Wall Street Journal. We made up when he went back to civilian life.
A year later, Rumsfeld's opinion of my reporting abilities apparently had risen, as he wrote in a memo on Sept. 16, 2002, that:
I think what I ought to do is open the meeting by pointing out that the last time we met in classified session, within 23 hours Tom Ricks called the Pentagon and quoted things to me I had said in the meeting.
(HTs to JW, JEM, MT, JM, FXD, DP, HM, etc.)
I just got in the mail, but haven't yet read, a new book by George Lepre titled Fragging: Why U.S. Soldiers Assaulted Their Officers in Vietnam (Texas Tech University Press).
It is interesting that university presses in "flyover country" seem to be producing the best books on Vietnam nowadays. Here are the state universities producing good histories books I've read lately: Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas. How about it, university presses of California, Massachusetts, Virginia and so on? Step up, fellas.
You're all winners, of course -- that's why you read this blog. I actually liked a lot of the submissions, even though it kind of deteriorated near the end. (Caddyshack? And someone forgot blog rule 19: Try not to post comments after consuming four or more drinks.)
Anyways, thanks for the laughs. I've long been an Elmer Fudd fan, so one of my favorites was Conormannix's "Be vewy vewy qwiet … we're hunting insurgents."
But I think the winner is this, from Thomas Sheehy (I had posted it as an anonymous contribution, but in a follow-up e-mail, he said it is OK to ID him): "But wait, there's more: I'll throw in an extra troop surge absolutely free! Just pay shipping and handling."
And to those of you who posted from Bagram -- congratulations on your nerve! I'm impressed you found that much vodka out there.
Meanwhile, here are some terrorist fist bumps in Bagram:
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/White House Press Image
I'll close the polls on early Monday morning and post the results that same day.
Extra points for the fellow in Jamestown, New York, who sent an e-mail write-in vote for Galusha Pennypacker, the youngest general of the Civil War, too young to vote at the time he made brigadier. And what a great name!
If you haven't yet cast your vote, please post a comment, or e-mail me.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense chief canine correspondent
There have been quite a few headlines
circulating recently about war-zone dogs in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and not
all of it is cheery news.
Baghdad city officials are in the process of carrying out a campaign to rid the city of its stray-dog population which, at an estimated and unwieldy 1.25 million, poses numerous health and safety hazards to the civilian population. Reports say that upwards of 58,000 have been killed in just the last three months and these teams -- consisting of city officials and veterinarians -- are averaging 2,400 kills per day.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; ESSAM AL-SUDANI/AFP/Getty Images; Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.