MSNBC leans forward until it falls on a really bad tagline

MSNBC seems to be the network for people who are angry at other people for being angry at something in the first place. I think. This would at least explain their struggle to find an audience. To help them in their audience-finding effort they’ve unleashed a new tagline: Lean Forward. As in, “Lean forward but try not to fall asleep.”

MSNBC All you have to do is compare that with Fox’s “We report, you decide” to see what an epic fail this is.

The problem is that the tagline is in perfect keeping with the brand: It sums up the sort-of-but-not-quite-left-of-center liberals whom both the Right and the Left can’t stand. It’s like they really want to be for something, but not if it’s going to upset you. Lean forward, don’t actually move there. Which is really odd given that MSNBCs two most (only?) successful shows are Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow – neither of whom can be said to lack for fire. And one of whom, Maddow, is actually intelligent, too!

Congrats to MSNBC on producing one of the three worst taglines currently in use. The other two:

  • Army strong. With a half-a-trillion dollar budget you’d think they could afford at least one verb.
  • Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru. I still can’t believe someone got paid for coming up with that.

Afghanistan: Worse than Vietnam?

Why are we there? Ostensibly to prevent the Taliban/Al Qaida from training terrorists to attack us. Other unspoken reason 1: To try to prop up the nuclear armed government of Pakistan by denying those same groups bases to attack Paki from.Other possible reason: Have a nearby base from which we can launch a mission to secure said nukes if/when Paki gov’t falls apart.

quicksand What is the solution currently offered? Increase the number of troops on the ground to establish a safe zone within Afghanistan so Afghanis can set up a functioning government with hope that this will extend out into all of Afghanistan.

Problems:

  1. This solution achieves neither of the first two objectives.
  2. There is no objective criteria for success.
  3. Like Vietnam there is no direct US interest in the outcome of this war. Denying bases to terrorists is close to the same thing as the old domino theory that was used to rationalize Vietnam. Look at US history: We win wars that are either important to the national interests or in which we are so much larger than the opposition that a small portion of our military can overwhelm them. (See Grenada and Panama, Invasions of)
  4. We are running a military operation literally on the opposite side of the world. Supply lines are much more of a problem than even in Vietnam. Afghanistan is the nation that the Soviet Union – which shared a common border and had far fewer scruples about inflicting disproportionate damage – could not win. The Russians could not have been happier than the day we asked if we could run our supplies through their nation. They just followed Napoleon’s advice to "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." They probably view it as payback. We bankrupted them to win the Cold War, so they’ll help us bankrupt ourselves.
  5. Because there is no objective criteria for success no one has any idea how long even the proposed solution will take to implement.
  6. It will damage NATO permanently. Either the member nations will continue to commit token amounts of troops and poison the water for any future necessary deployments as casualties turn the public further against joint operations with the US; or the other nations will cease to deploy troops and NATO will be turned into a shell of itself. NATO has a very clear reason to exist: To protect member states from attack by another government. That clear reason is why NATO has survived even the end of the threat is originally designed for. Using NATO to respond to and suppress insurgent, non-government actors is a very dangerous dilution of that mission. Mission creep will make NATO useless.
  7. We can’t afford the current size of the wars we’re already in — in either money or manpower. Afghanistan and the George Bush Desert Classic together have come close to breaking our ground forces. They are being worn out by too many deployments. Too many of them are being regularly asked to do missions that they are ill-trained to do. I have an incredibly high opinion of the American soldier. I have met many and am related to one. No military can take this kind of long-term open-ended deployments. And that is without even going in to the cost in terms of arms and armor. As a nation the US is effectively broke. We are funding the government on debt piled on top of debt piled on top of debt. Our banking system is the dead mouse on the kitchen floor of the US economy.* Both the bankers and the government are terrified of what will happen when/if the banks state the size of their losses. WE HAVE NO MONEY! This is my real problem with the entire health care debate. I am all in favor of national health care. I think this will save the nation a considerable amount of money in the end and extend the length and quality of its citizens’ lives. One problem: WE HAVE NO MONEY! How many wars have we paid for while not addressing this basic need? Just since the start of the New Deal there have been five major conflicts, the Cold War and I have no idea how many minor wars. We will spend billions on the military at the drop of a hat even when there is no actual threat to the safety and well-being of our nation. But some sort of national health insurance – which would cost far less than any of the major wars — has been blocked for more than 50 years.
  8. The Afghani government (and I use term liberally) remains in place because of corruption and rigged elections. You can’t win the hearts and minds battle with a government that looks like every other corrupt national government the Afghanis have ever had. Yeah the Taliban are murderous thugs but you have to make an argument to the people that more than “We’re less capricious than they are.”

If I were Hamad Kharzai I wouldn’t be buying any green bananas right now. The US has a long record of replacing its hand-picked leaders with extreme prejudice at times like this. (See Vietnam war, changes of government during for examples.)

Which brings me to my final point: If this isn’t another Vietnam, it will do until the real thing comes along. It is far too easy to imagine someone saying about an Afghani town: “We must destroy the village in order to save it.” That is not a slap at our military. It is meant to point out that under these extreme circumstances humans are likely to react in extreme ways. What seems like crazy on a normal day …

Unfortunately we do not have the option we should have used in Vietnam, declaring victory and go home. To do so almost certainly would make matters worse. We have added to the mess in an incredibly dangerous part of the world. This is the 21st century’s Balkans not because it may spark another world war but because it could involve the world in a cataclysmic war. I do hope Archduke Ferdinand is not already on his way.

 

 

*This sentence is a rip off of something Collateral Damage Sr. originally said about Nixon.

Soldiers say Purell© is their own personal napalm

No one loves discovering new uses for an existing product more than consumer packaged goods companies like Unilever, and P&G. “It’s not just a floor polisher, IT’S A DESERT TOPPING!” Even so, I doubt Johnson & Johnson is going to make a lot out of a new way to use Purell©. At the great blog Kit Up, where military folk swap ideas on all sorts of gadgets to use in the field, one writer suggests applying a match to

the waterless hand cleaner gel that every grunt should be carrying. I love playing with that stuff.  It puts out a blue/clear flame (read extremely hot) and it is a gel, so handles well.  Put that in the middle of your tinder and you are good to go.

While a good reliable fire-starter is a must have for our servicemen and women it should be noted that, as seen below, they are exploring other possible uses for the substance – which is 62% alcohol.

Judging by the above (and other evidence on YouTube) actually setting your hands on fire with Purell© seems to be “relatively” “safe.” However, this phenomenon has actually sparked an urban myth. Snopes rebuts a legend that some worker suffered severe burns on his hands when he lit a cigarette after using a “hand sanitizer product.” J&J media is quoted as saying that incident is “not something they would expect to happen with their product” – which is definitely not a denial that it could happen. Although it evaporates so fast on skin I think it almost requires the intentional and quick application of fire to get a reaction.

Wonder why the TSA allows the stuff on airplanes? Snopes points to a 1998 FAA study that reports hand sanitizers are difficult to ignite and relatively easy to extinguish. To which both Snopes and the US Military might respond: “What brand are you using?”

(For those of you wondering – it’s not all that hard to create actual napalm. Just mix Ivory Snow (or other soaps) and gasoline in the right proportions and VOILA you’ve got it.)

Army licenses insignia to Sears for clothes

The US Army has sold Sears the rights to use the insignia of one of its most renowned divisions for use in an Army-inspired clothing line, reports Stars & Stripes.

The distinctive “Big Red One” insignia and colors of the 1st Infantry Division are part of an Army-inspired clothing line being rolled out this year for the department store.The Army licensed the 1st ID insignia to All American Apparel in June 2007, according to Army spokesman Paul Boyce. Under the licensing agreement, the Army will receive royalties on any profits beginning in 2009.

Surprisingly, this has not been that well received by current and former service members. From Stars & Stripes:

“Unless someone’s related somehow [to a unit], they shouldn’t wear it,” said Pvt. Chris Latona, 19, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany. “It’s not like a sports team.”

From SSG Big Brother CollateralDamage: “I think this is reprehensible … we should sell advertising space on tanks, gunships, Hell sponsor patches on individual soldiers’ uniforms.”

Sears, to its credit, has responded to concerns from the Society of the 1st Infantry Division about this. Also the fact that the company is offering to pay for the use of the insignia is almost unheard of (any royalties the Army gets will go to programs for troops and military families). Many companies use military insignia in their products — from movies to clothes to games — without offering recompense, such as Activision which put the division’s name intoCall of Duty 2: Big Red One, a game set during WW II.

Although I don’t see any harm in Sears doing this, I would defer to vets and service members on the topic. FWIW, a few years ago I purchased a patch of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team at The Japanese American National Museum to show my admiration. If you are not familiar with the 442, a thumbnail:

[It was] an Asian American unit composed of mostly Japanese Americans who fought in Europe during the Second World War. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment. The 442nd was a self-sufficient fighting force, and fought with uncommon distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly decorated military unit in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients, earning the nickname “The Purple Heart Battalion.”

Man, not a single snarky comment. Wow. I must be getting soft.

Army Strong is Army dumb

The US Army is going all out to drive the brand message throughout the organization. It’s new slogan Army Strong is even easier to read than its very recent predecessor An Army of One which replaced the possibly confusing Be All That You Can Be. This is in keeping with an overall effort to make the Army simpler and easier to use. Recently the Army announced it had made its 2006 recruitment numbers by lowering its entrance requirements (not sure how much lower they can go, at my physical all they required was a pulse and four limbs). In a further effort to make it easier for any vaguely sentient creature to join the ranks, the service has also instructed drill instructors to yell less and in general stop being so hard on the recruits — thereby allowing so that more of them pass basic training. The new Army campaign kicks in November under the command of McCann Worldwide. Maybe the agency should look into even further simplification: “Army!”

U.S. Army lowers its standards to make recruitment numbers. Terrorists unlikely to follow suit.

In the wake of the news that the Army is keeping the George W. Bush Desert Classic fully staffed by taking people it otherwise wouldn’t have, comes this AP story about how the Army is forcing drill instructors to tone it down and not flunk so many of the recruits.

“Part of it is changing the nature of how it treats people in basic training,” David S. Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said Tuesday. That means “less shouting at everyone, in essence, which some of you may remember from an earlier generation as being the modus operandi,” he said. (And, for those of you keeping track at home, The Wall Street Journal had this story about a year ago.)

One can only hope that the Army has arranged for combat to be kinder and gentler, too.

Although this relaxing of standards will mean more dead and injured soldiers almost immediately, it will take a year or two for us to start to reap the full benefits of this particular piece of idiocy. If I remember correctly Lt. William Calley of My Lai massacre fame, was something like 30th out of an OCS class of 33 and would never have graduated but for the incredibly lax standards being used at the time.

Remember, be all that you can be and if you can’t … well gosh darn at least you tried.

Where have you gone Sgt. Hulka? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you…