Saturday, June 08, 2002

I felt that a design change was a long time coming -- can't wear the same suit without a trip to the cleaners!

Anyway, I also needed a way to link up with those who link to me. Ms. Capital and Mr. Vodka will NOT be the recipients of unrequitted linkage!

Friday, June 07, 2002

ZoNotes: The Big Dawg Drops Knowledge on Us

Ernesto is in the office this morning with his best friend Rolando, so I'll be brief

Shiver Me Timbers!
Can I get a shout out? After weeks of laborious contemplation and standing on a bed of nails, I finally got notification indeed that Naval Institute Proceedings is going to accept my submission on nuclear weapons. I celebrated with a high five to Ernesto and Rolando in the mail room last night when I got the acceptance letter. Be watching out for it in the future!

"Some people go off to college. Others go off to class."

Thursday, June 06, 2002

ZoNotes: I'm Mr. Blue. When you say you Love Me.

58 Years Ago Today -- Allied forces invade Normandy beginning Operation OVERLORD, the crucial opening round in the liberation of western Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany. As we must remember the sacrifices of Free French and British forces that day, our European counterparts must also remember the blood shed at American landing beaches -- Omaha and Utah. Plus, we must not forget the brave airborne troops who went in early and brought battle to the Nazis.

Tel Aviv's Puzzle
Don't you hate it when you're putting together a puzzle, and smack in the middle, there's an empty space, and you can't find the game piece? Doesn't that just set you off? In a replay of the standoff at Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah, Israeli forces returned and struck portions of his HQ again in response to the suicide bombing at Megiddo. Unfortunately for Israeli PM Ariel Sharon, the attacks on the compound do everything save for what is a grave necessity -- ridding Arafat permanently from the scene either via forced exile or personal demise. How interesting for a "martyr, martyr, martyr" to fervently call on the international community to save him. I tire a bit of the "Arafat's the only moderate in Palestine" talk, as if that distinguishes him from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Since Palestine as it is currently constructed is a dictatorship masked in nominal electoral legitimacy, we in the West really have no idea who could lead the Palestinians, because as of late their participation in elections is, shall we say, a zero factor in the equation. Even then, electing a moderate, if he/she exists, is not enough. Then the leader would have to make genuine risks to obliterate the terrorist structure in Palestine. If the international community were really willing to put itself on the line, then it would be all the better for it to share the risk with the Israelis. Somehow I think this won't happen.

The Vast Top of the Key Conspiracy: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Refs
The current vintage edition of the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA's historically dominant teams, judged by their consecutive Finals appearances, clutch play by ShaqDiesel O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, and excellent coaching skills by hardcourt samurai Phil Jackson. Consequently, by being so good, NBA czar David Stern would naturally be inclined to not only market the Lakers as a commodity, but to protect it as one would maintain a stamp collection or seductively new Lamborghini Murcielago. Thus, as a team loaded with two players of unlimited star (and capital)-generating potential, it would be negative to the NBA if a) LA didn't make the Finals, and b) one of the two were injured in the playoffs. This is my take on why the NBA refs defer to the Lakers as they did the Bulls in the 1990s. If you plan on beating the Lakers, you must obliterate them decisively -- like the Sacramento Kings did in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Otherwise, if the game is close, say, within 2-4 points, the officials will step in to protect their star players. Which, of course, explains the 27 free throws that LA received in Game 6 of the Conference Finals, the inconsistent calls on ShaqDiesel's travelling, lane violations on free throws, 5-second stays in the "3-second" zone, and elbows in the faces of defenders(oops, that's Kobe on Mike Bibby in the closing seconds of Game 6). Other NBA teams -- the East champ New Jersey Nets (just one of many, it's a case of "insert team here") not only have deficient talent, they are supposed to be permanent underdogs. The longer we see the purple and gold on NBC (ABC next year), the more jerseys they sell, the more Sprite they drink, and the more ShaqPacks we munch on. It is a shaky halfway concession to accept the premise that there is a star system in the NBA and then say in the same breath that the NBA doesn't have anything to do with it. Basketball is the easiest team sport to market individual players -- for they don't wear the gladiatorial armor of football players, they usually don't bleed unglamorously like NHL defensemen, and they are athletically more expressive than major league baseball players. Shaq propels 350 pounds of manhood around in the low post as if he were a 220 lb. running back between the 3 and 5 holes, using his caboose as a sweeping area weapon against hapless power forwards. Kobe, his annoying and grating Jordan impersonation notwithstanding, has a plethora of jump shots deployed against the league's best defenders. Imagine what would happen if Kobe were forced to miss games if someone like Kenyon Martin clocked him with a hard foul. Or if by "accident" Vlade Divac had stepped on ShaqDiesel's sensitive toes. Not only would those injuries impede the Lakers, it would reduce the NBA into a game of boring unsustainability -- a Sacramento/New Jersey snoozer. At least with the Lakers, people will turn in to watch the carnage, and the game serves as a platform for other marketing ventures. Watch an ad for the remake of the Bourne Identity, then 30 seconds later catch its main star Matt Damon sitting near the hardcourt. Interview Magic Johnson so he can kiss up to NBC, and catch a corner glimpse of Dianne Cannon. What did we have in San Antonio in 1999? Well, I'm waiting! You know what that reminds me of? Well? It reminds me of World Wrestling Entertainment, when we're watching a match between Chris Jerico and the Undertaker but the commentators are hyping the Rock/Hulk Hogan match at Survivor Series. After the 1999 NBA Finals the powers that be tried to market MVP and Spurs savior Tim Duncan, but it didn't take because he was not a natural ham in front of the camera. ShaqDiesel is gregarious as he is powerful, and Kobe sleek as he is quick. Superman and Batman. Thunder and Lightning. Bling and Bling. Do you think Mr. Stern, intelligent man as he is, would allow such a pairing to wallow in unfulfilled expectations?

"Like everyone else, I too am unique."

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

ZoNotes: Only in America, Dreamin' of Red White and Blue

If America wins the World Cup and no one watches, will we really have done it? Such is the way of this sport in America, played by many yet ignored by that many more. World Cup '02 is supposed to be fertile pasture for our hemispheric cousins in the Americas and our allies across the pond. That we just went out and put on a good show for the assembled masses in South Korea. Kudos to the U.S. soccer team for upsetting favored Portugal 3-2 in World Cup 1st round action. The Americans stormed to a 3-0 lead and then held on as Portugal asserted itself in the 2nd half. This is a big deal, especially given our '98 performance in France, when we lost to Iran, Germany, and Yugoslavia in a crash for the ages.

Carrots, Sticks, and Car Bombs
Before we laud Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for trying to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian war, we should first take note of what exactly the Palestinians consider to be "negotiations." The latest bus attack at Megiddo Junction only serves as more evidence to those of us skeptical of any honest Palestinian offer of peace. One wonders why Israel should have any incentive to talk to Arafat when offers of talks coincide with major attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. If the Palestinian Authority is serious when it denounces these attacks and takes offensive action against the terror organizations, then the Israelis perhaps would be more receptive. In the absence of that, neither Labor nor Likud would offer any concessions "back" to the "1967 borders." The mixed American response to attacks like these may provoke, indeed invite unsavories to try the same thing here.

In Baghdad By January!
Well, maybe, depending on who you're listening to. There's an interesting strain of thought here in Josh Marshall's article on the hawks' argument for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. Essentially, he pits the analysts and foreign policy establishment as wise versus the operationally inept neoconservatives -- the very same foreign policy establishment types blindsided by the 9.11 attacks. Plus, Marshall concedes alot by pointing to all the instances that the hawks were right and the establishment trailing behind. Another factor that concerns him is that the Iraqis may actually fight once an invasion begins. This is a natural concern, and the strength of the Iraqi Army is not insignificant, but we should ask whether or not an enemy's willpower to fight back should influence an American decision to invade.

"Humor is just another defense against the universe." --
Mel Brooks.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

ZoNotes: This is the World We Live In, And These Are the Hands We're Given...

Last night at the gym I watched Moneyline with Lou Dobbs, and the show put up helpful graphics comparing the force structures of India and Pakistan. Pakistan has more border troops, but India has better trained regular forces, etc., etc.. I found the graphics interesting and definitely an aide for those unfamiliar with the subcontinent's balance of forces. But one thing sticks out in my mind, something that we should all take note of. Even though the two states are as far apart on the issue of Kashmir as they've ever been, we have not seen a full-scale war. For all intents and purposes, both powers could have already engaged their conventional forces in a massive fight. The Indians traditionally have the upper hand against their Pakistani counterparts. A serious, forceful Indian attack could split Pakistan in half. Why then, are we "limited" to the static furor of artillery exchanges? It could be that Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee overreached with his rhetoric about fighting Islamic fundamentalists sponsored by Pakistan's intelligence-security apparatus. From what I can guess, the Pakistani threshold for employing nuclear weapons is a successful Indian conventional offensive. The Indians may not be willing at this juncture to send troops over the border given the implicit terms for nuclear attack. However, at the same time, if Pakistan launches a first strike on Indian troops, even if they are in Pakistani territory, New Delhi would be compelled to respond. Thus, for Pakistani leader GEN Pervez Musharraf, the problems on his side are more ominous than before -- his political capital is spread assisting the Americans against al-Qaeda, maintaining control of the armed forces, and addressing the likelihood that the bulk of a nuclear exchange would occur on the Pakistani side of the border. For Vajpayee, the stakes are different, but no less daunting -- having stuck his neck out, he needs to follow through by obliterating camps operated by the terrorists responsible for the series of attacks in India. Otherwise, India's much publicized military superiority becomes a hollow instrument.
One last thing to consider. What if there was a nuclear exchange and the remnants of both sides kept fighting? In the initial phase of the Cold War British officers advanced the theory of "broken-backed" warfare, where conventional operations resumed after mutual nuclear exchanges. I suppose you could also include American plans in the late 1970s and early 1980s on fighting and winning a war with tactical nuclear weapons. Countries with small, modest arsenals (India, Pakistan) could very well keep fighting after mushroom clouds go up. Then you get into issues of state disintegration, anarchy, and the rise of even more extremist elements in Pakistan (well, whoever is left after 20 million people die and millions more get infected with radiation). What a calamity that would be, especially with American and coalition troops hunting for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern." - Lord Acton

Monday, June 03, 2002

ZoNotes: Everybody Jump, Jump

Anvil of the Sun: The Laredo Excursion
All roads for my life begin and will eventually end in Laredo. Currently, my career path doesn’t go directly through my hometown, but I have a feeling I will be back there in some capacity before I retire and die. That said, it was great to be home to see Ernesto graduate from Alexander H.S. Highlights of my stay was the brief day trip to Falfurrias to eat lunch at Strickland’s, home of the best chicken fried steak in America, the time with my family, and the rest of my culinary experience. Ernesto and his best friend Rolando hosted a happenin’ party at my Aunt Alma’s house, firing up the grill for one of the best carne asadas that I had in a long time. It was good to see my father, my Uncle Corky, and Aunt Adela, all of whom are ZoNoters. A particular gem of a place was Torta-Mex on San Bernardo. The tortas served there are huge and filling, plus I got to eat some corn in the cup. All in all, a refreshing trip to the motherland.
The graduation ceremony itself was pleasant, save for an excruciatingly long salutatorian speech of little consequence. Thankfully the valedictorian had a more interesting speech with the now-seemingly-always-present-at-these-functions Yoda quotes. A Frito pie and a 20 oz of Big Red to whoever can figure out what quote he used, to be delivered whenever I can get back to Laredo to buy some. Aside from the mixed analogies of flavored jellybeans (anyone here ever eat popcorn-flavored ones?) the Student Council President’s speech was also memorable. And then Ernesto went up to get his Distinguished Achievement Program diploma, and we all went down to the field to hug and take pictures. And then, after 15 minutes of that, the stadium crew shut off the lights to “encourage” us to leave. I am very proud of Ernesto, and look forward to his college work at Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Of Hoyas and Hotel Rooms: The Memphis Wedding
On Thursday morning I then boarded a plane to head to Livy&Sharlene’s wedding in her hometown of Memphis. I arrived a couple of days early to see my Uncle Fernando his family out in beautiful Collierville, then headed over on Friday afternoon to pick up Sean Mullaney (B’00) and Michael “Moriarity” Gallagher (C’00). When I arrived on Thursday I bumped into Wes Gillette (F’00) and Ellen Aspland (C’00). Pleasantries were exchanged, happy I was.
After a Friday of exploring the mysteries of Interstate 240 and shuttling to pick up Mike and Sean, Saturday’s two ceremonies were absolutely celebratory and brought out good feeling in me. The Indian ceremony in the morning was spiritually resonant and very fulfilling. The location, Le Pavillion, was ideally suited for the morning festivities. Following the conclusion of the ceremony, attendees were treated to a smashingly delicious luncheon. I was thoroughly impressed with the surroundings.

We then had roughly 4 hours to relax and get ready for the evening Catholic ceremony.

The evening festivities were just as fun as the morning gathering. A Jesuit priest delivered a rousing and spiritually reaffirming sermon about the Gospel reading of the miracle at Cana, when Jesus transformed the water into wine. I found that it was indeed an appropriate reading for the ceremony. After the mass, Sean, Mike, and I jumped in the diminutively efficient Chevy Metro rental car and made our way to the subtle greenery of the Memphis Botanical Gardens. An ideal location for a large gathering, the reception was good fun, and the newlyweds as a pair exhibited sartorial resplendency. Many in the Georgetown contingent were seated at Tables 25 and 26, where I saw alums I hadn’t seen since I graduated.
Sunday was a travel day, taking me from Memphis to Chicago back to our Nation’s capital. In summary, it was a fine vacation, and hope all goes well for the Keithleys.

Third Person Omniscient
And now, a little shop talk, just to get back into the happy groove here. There is much ado about something in today’s Washington Post about the Marine Corps’ reservations about the location of Central Command HQ in Florida. Pay specific attention to the author of the article, author and Pentagon correspondent Tom Ricks. Mr. Ricks usually gives attention to the Marine Corps side of the Pentagon, and the article’s tone indicates that the Marines needed an outlet to air their concerns about the Afghanistan operation. Note the quotes by BGen James N. Mattis, who commanded Task Force 58 during its time at Camp Rhino.
The issues of command and control between Special Operations Forces and the Marine Corps have been with those two forces for a very long time. As of late Special Operations Command and the Corps have been working to facilitate an understanding. It is important to grasp that the success in Afghanistan was an impressive display of innovative and unprecedented strategic improvisation, and the pertinent data and lessons learned are still being fleshed out.

Ok, Ok, We Lost
Many unhappy Coloradoans attending Livy's wedding frequented the Fox and Hound sports bar/watering hole on Friday night, drowning in milk and cookies after Detroit shell-shocked the Avs by a 7-0 tally. Kathryn Remus (F’01) emailed me to amplify her victorious sentiments. Indeed, the Red Wings played great hockey in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, but their good play was overshadowed by the Avs’ awfulness. I confidently assert that goalie Patrick Roy will never give up 6 goals in a playoff game again, but then again I thought that the Avs had the Wings on the ropes after Game 5, so go figure.

“Never confuse courtesy for sympathy.”