Citizens of the Free World – In the Name of Freedom, Demand to See “The Interview”!

In a rare moment for me, I am getting into the entertainment industry. That’s because Seth Rogen and James Franco have created an unprecedented international incident by making a movie about killing the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

I personally was looking forward to it, but it seems that is going to be much harder to do now. That is because of a string of events that began with what I imagine to be a very plump crew-cut dictator throwing the mother of all tantrums, and I now can’t see my movie.

Why this is important: The movie centers on the exploits of Rogen, who plays a journalist and his celebrity friend (Franko) being invited in a rare opportunity to North Korea. This mirrors some actual events such as the much publicized visits to the RPK by basketball superstar Dennis Rodman beginning in early 2013. Where it differs, is that this time, the hapless duo are tasked by the CIA to kill Mr. Jong-un.

Well that sounds hilarious, but what happened next wasn’t. Apparently, Sony Pictures was hacked by what now appears to be a group backed by the North Koreans (which reads more clearly as “Just Plain The North Koreans”.) These hackers have been rumored to have leaked the scripts to several movies yet to be released such as the new James Bond film, among others. That was kind of a dick move, but then they went so far as to threaten terrorist actions against Sony Pictures and various movie theaters if they went ahead with filming.

Well now that’s just rude. Actually, it is an international crime, but we’re splitting hairs. What we have is a direct threat by foreign agents to cause “terrorism”, which we can only assume means intentional acts intended to cause grievous harm to Americans and American property if demands are not met. This act has caused Sony Pictures to cancel their premiere of “The Interview” and Carmike Theaters, a company with over 200 theaters in the United States, has opted not to showcase the movie at all.

For that reason, more so than just threats, grievous harm has already been made against Americans. American companies now are being terrorized into capitulating to the whims of some impossibly immature, maniacal dictator. Forget for a moment that actual American lives were threatened and focus on the concrete damage that has been done. The North Koreans, (you’ll note I’m intentionally no longer still pretending it was some random hacker group who just so happens to absolutely adore Kim Jong-un) deliberately stole industry sensitive information that cost one American company, Sony Pictures, headquartered in California, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. It destroyed the premiere of one Hollywood picture and devalued many others. Thousands of people connected to the films industry are going to suffer because of this. If I haven’t been clear, this was a deliberate act of economic warfare, terrorism rather, from one sovereign nation to the United States.

And now those who regularly follow me see why I am interested. This attack demonstrates particular failures in the United States national defense strategy that must be addressed. The attack demonstrates the power that nationally backed hacking programs have to disrupt and damage American and allied country’s economic spheres. Showcasing the vulnerabilities of individual companies and individuals, the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the United States government’s response to attacks on its economic sector. Obviously, it is providing an inefficient level of defense for companies housed in the United States, because, as it seems, threats like the attack on Sony Pictures aren’t actually considered a threat to national security.

In case you think I going overboard, this isn’t even the first time Americans have been targeted like this, either. It has long been known that the Chinese have used commercial intelligence and espionage to silently break into the networks of American companies, steal their patented trade secrets and deliver them to Chinese owned corporations. Other nations even have entire departments and special third party agencies (like the one in question) dedicated to the endeavor of cyber-espionage and signal based attacks. Have you ever heard of Syrian Electronic Army? They are a group who does nothing but commit acts of cyber terrorism and espionage in the name of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran and the United States, among others have even been trading blows in a cyber pseudo-war for years. Lest we not forget my favorite subject, the group known throughout the world as ISIS. Their exploitation of social media has been used to target American Veterans and active service members at their homes, encouraging Islamic radicals to target them and their families.

The point here is that there is a major threat to American interests. Individual lives as well as the economic security and strategic corporate advantages of thousands of companies, the very lifeblood of United States national security itself, have been compromised. I am not someone who agrees with others that Sony failed by giving into the terrorists. If people were somehow attacked at a theater, it would be those executives blamed for the deaths, along with the North Koreans. Furthermore, a company, any company, like Sony Pictures have absolutely no defense against the ongoing threat of future revenge attacks like this, leaking all of their sensitive trade information, the secrets like unreleased scripts they need to keep their company going for years to come, given the enemy they are defending themselves is North Korea.

Do I honestly think that the RPK is going to bomb some movie theater because of a stupid movie, possibly starting a war that they will definitely lose? No, I don’t, but I do think that Sony Pictures Entertainment faces an existential threat by way of North Korea. Are we supposed to blame Sony Pictures because they can’t defend against a whole country? Switching gears, imagine if Providence Health and Services, a major healthcare company with hundreds of hospitals under its umbrella, were to face a similar cyber attack. Tens of thousands of people could have their sensitive health data, valuable information in itself, made public. Are we really going to blame Providence when the perpetrator of the attack was Iran? If all the lights went off in Santa Maria (just outside Vandenberg Air Force Base) is the city of just over one-hundred thousand people at fault, when the attack originated from inside Russia? No. How could every single company, agency, state, city, and individual in the United States be expected to protect itself, and by extension be responsible for the combined security of everyone else in the United States, against entire nations set to steal their valuable information, damage their property, or worse, end their lives?

What we need, in the lowly opinion of this former United States Marine Corps tactical data and networking communication specialist, is a deeper look into our signal defense architecture. More projects and agencies which specialize in SIGDEF need to be given priority in the coming years. Far more if even movie companies are more afraid of a dictator 5,600 miles away than they were of our own President. Frankly, the future of warfare is going to look very similar to events like the attack on Sony Pictures. Weak points in very large systems are going to be exploited with the few things that they are vulnerable to. Each time they are, the gears of industry are grind down just a little bit slower.

In the case of Sony Pictures, this attack was a direct hit on two fronts. The first is money. By threatening the movie maker, they lost the company millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. More so, many millions, perhaps billions more may have been lost now that valuable scripts have been made public. I don’t fault Sony Pictures though, for making the decision to pull the premiere. They showed their values there. They believed the threat of terrorism on American movie goers was true and for that reason, they chose not to risk lives of people at the cost of many millions of dollars. That decision, from my point of view, is admirable and the commitment to protecting innocent people over making money, should be recognized and commended. Perhaps they did it just because so many of the movie theaters decided to pull the movie too. I can’t honestly say for sure. All I know, is that I don’t blame them for the decision they finally were forced to make.

As for Americans though, I’d like for us to make it clear that we don’t give credence or credibility to the tyrannical tirades of any post-pubescent dictator. This isn’t something we need to call in the military, or spin up the missile batteries, though we have been at peace now for about two weeks, so it’s about that time again. All kidding aside, letting North Korea know simply how impotent we view them militarily by not putting our own troops in the front is the way to go. I mean honestly, what is the NPK going to do? Start a war over a friggin movie? Do you really think China would back you after bombing an American movie theater over something this petty? This whole scenario doesn’t even make sense. If they were though, I’m reminded of the line from 300 delivered ever so eloquently by  Gerald Butler:

No, the right move for Americans right now isn’t to force our military to take action. It isn’t to scold Hollywood either, for doing what they thought was the right thing to do to keep people safe.

For Americans, and the rest of the free world for that matter, the right thing to do is to march up to the box office and demand to see something that some North Korean dicktator threatened you not to see. We need to stand up in the roar of many voices and let it be known that we the people, will not capitulate, cower, or suffer the whims of tyrannical brats. We the people won’t be pressured, bullied, threatened, or crossed. We’re Americans dammit and we don’t get told what to do. We are Leviathan.

Thank you Sony Pictures for your concern, but I for one, am willing to risk the potential attack on US soil and would like to see your movie, if for nothing else than to give a big and hearty American one fingered salute to our friends over in Pyongyang.

(That’s not the salute I’m talking about, BTW.)


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“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”

Support takes on many forms. If one were to ask if Turkey is providing assistance to the Islamic State in the form of weapons, training, and financing, I’ve seen no evidence to validate that. There is, however, much more to the point that seems to imply that yes, Turkey is supporting ISIL through inaction and as a roadblock, preventing anti-ISIL Kurdish forces in taking part in the fighting of North central Syria. Even more dangerous, there may be a few very good reasons why the Turks would want to see ISIL forces succeed, in as far as it reaches their own borders.

Ian Traynor with The Guardian recently posted an article on the growing dissent brewing in Turkey as government officials remain aloof towards towards the siege “a stones throw from their borders”.

To understand the conflict you’re going to need to understand the strategic importance of Kobane, a significant location to Kurds throughout the region. Kobane is an important point on the map because it represents the northernmost town in central Syria, literally on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Recently, the city has represented a vital choke point for fleeing refugees to Turkey. In late September, a key bridge from the Euphrates was taken which allowed ISIL forces to encircle the region. Within days, at least 50 villages were taken which sent tens of thousands of fleeing villagers on a mass exodus to Turkey. The brunt of these flowed through Kobane.

Second, as the map shows, it is a valuable Kurdish town in that it is the centermost Syrian Kurdish city. It would be, and has been an effective staging point for People’s Protection Units (Kurdish militia) forces to attack from to assault ISIL near a central region. Without it, central Syria is effectively lost to the People’s Protection Units and ISIL forces would have free reign. This also isolates the far Western cities of Efrin and Cindires for the Kurdish militias in the East far more than they were so before. Along with this, losing Kobane means that many of the logistical networks holding up Kurdish fighters in the major Syrian city of Aleppo would be lost. If Kobane falls, Kurds will have no logistical supply location between East and West Syria except when they travel through Turkey. They must go deep through Turkish lands to be able to supply and help protect their other cities, which now are surrounded by ISIL forces.

Lastly, shoring up resistance in Kobane will free up ISIL fighters as their central region will be much more solidified with one less town to fight against. You can see this illustrated clearly in the map below. The purple region in the north central part of Syria just went from, “ISIL is attacking this” to “This is no longer a problem for ISIL”. This means they have a relatively secured path from Aleppo to Mosul all the way to Fallujah in the central part of Iraq. This Sunni Triangle will now be a massive and much more secured region for the insurgency forces, if Kobane is lost. By some reports, there have been as many as 9,000 jihadist forces involved of the siege. Once these forces are no longer involved in the fighting of Kobane, they will be free to augment forces and carry out operations elsewhere.

Now the city is embattled on the edge of Syrian Turkish border. The battle has been declining for Kurdish and FSA against ISIL militants Outnumbered, by most estimates 6:1 the Kurdish defense forces are in a losing battle for the future of Kobane, even with coalition air raids. The tide only seems to be turning a major corner after weeks of desperate and heroic fighting by the defenders and countless American and coalition air strikes. This being the case, many are asking, why the Turks are literally sitting sidelined for this fight, only a mile outside the battlezone of Kobane, where they have the potential to prevent a possible massacre as well as deliver a major defeat against the ISIL insurgency.

Traynor’s Guardian article displays some disturbing truths about the precarious stance of the Turkish government.

What’s important to know is that, while Kurdish forces are gaining great notoriety for their ability to maintain Northern Iraq and Syria, they have not been well liked throughout the region and primarily in Turkey.

If you look at the region many would consider Kurdistan, the region populated mostly by those of Kurdish ancestry, you’ll see that a massive block of Turkey is actually populated predominantly by Kurds. Kurds also comprise between 10% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to official repression for decades. Over the past three decades, Kurdish nationals in Turkey have been fighting for independence and equality with the rest of their fellow Turkish citizens. One group above all others, has been leading the fight toward independence in the form of an actual insurrection against the Turkish government.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, commonly referred to by its Kurdish acronym, PKK, is a Kurdish militant organization which from 1984 to 2013 fought an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent, Marxist–Leninist state in the region known as Kurdistan. The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called the Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK). The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United States, and the European Union.

For that reason, Turkish views of many Kurdish fighters are less than admirable. This is personified most by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he equated the Kurds of Kobani and their defenders with the islamic jihadist insurgents.

“It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly.”

Yet more concerning is that the ISIL Crisis is uncovering what appears to be signs that the fanatical jihadists aren’t being viewed with such vehement scorn as they are viewed from the West.

“A significant part of the Turkish public believes the Sunnis of Syria and the Middle East are fellow victims of injustice and that Isis represents a legitimate Sunni grievance,” the International Crisis Group said this week in a report from Ankara.

Expert on Islam, Sam Harris, recently explained why this may happen by describing some very troubling patterns that modern liberal tolerances haven’t yet come to deal with about the religion. He stated that when we try to truly study and understand muslims, we see the fundamentalist leanings are much larger a percentage of the total population than at first we wanted to believe. His view is that, while most muslims by a wide margin are not fanatical terrorists, the number of those sympathetic to the jihadist’s call may be higher than many believed. It’s important to remember that not all muslims are like those we experience in the West, those who are well educated and well socialized to American and Western values. The values that much of conservative Islam hold are not congruent with life in much of the rest of the world. For that reason, many of us have come to the belief that muslims across the world are like the muslims we know in our cities and that we know as friends. When you change locations however, you see a culture which is much different, and where values we hold are viewed as intolerable. He describes running throughout much of the Middle East a deep inner circle of Islam, one which “wakes up every day wanting to kill apostates and hoping to die if they don’t” as the jihadists. Outside of this group are the islamists. They as convinced of the idea of martyrdom, but aren’t willing to to kill themselves to see others brought down. They are willing to fight and want to see an end to democracy and the instillment of an Islamic theocracy. They’re just not going to blow up a bus to do it. Harris fears that between these two groups, you have a section that represents as much as 20% of the Islamic population. Outside of this population you will see the conservative branch of Islam. These groups completely don’t agree with the acts and atrocities of groups like ISIL, but in much larger numbers than we have led ourselves to believe, still have extremely intolerant views “towards women’s rights, toward homosexuals that are deeply troubling… and they keep women and homosexuals immiserated.”

An International Crisis Group added that private polling within Erdoğan’s religion-based Sunni Muslim AK party revealed sympathy for Isis. With his constituency seeing the Islamic State as anything other than a murderous jihadist horde, “This makes it hard for a Turkish government to directly attack Isis.” reported the International Crisis Group.

The New York Times also recently reported that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials there. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers. Turkish fighters recruited by ISIS say they identify more with the extreme form of Islamic governance practiced by ISIS than with the rule of the Turkish governing party, which has its roots in a more moderate form of Islam.

In response to numerous factors, Turkey has gone to great lengths to secure their Southern border. This, only after, thousands of Turkish recruits made their way through, along with perhaps thousands more international travelers. Regardless, now military forces are no longer allowing passage into Syria. This has the effect, however, of essentially blockading Kobane from the rest of their Kurdish allies.

Looking back at the map of the Middle East which focuses on levels of high Kurdish population, you’ll see that Kobane indeed rest on a very narrow “peninsula” of Kurdish population stretching from their main population center in Turkey to Syria. Also present in Syria is a very strong region of Syrian Kurds protected by the People’s Protection Units, and further to the East, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds who have a long history of support against fanatical islamists. These two groups, along with the PPK in Turkey all wish to take part in aiding the stranded fighters in Kobane. To do this, however, they must either go through the extremely occupied region of central Syria or through Turkey. The Turkish blockade of northern Syria, however, is in effect, a second siege preventing potentially thousands of willing supporters for the Kobane defense effort.

While I can see the Turkish stance as being, perhaps, logical from their point of view, the facts of the matter are that it has outraged many thousands of Kurds living in Turkey presently. Over the past few weeks, thousands have gone into the streets across to protest Kurdish inaction and what they view as preferential treatment for the fanatical islamist regime. In actions across Turkey, at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured as protests turned to riots.

The last week has meant much for the future of the Middle East. A small town on the Syrian border has made present yet another ethnic divide ripping the region apart. Instability has spread to showcase a future for Turkey where militant collapse in their Eastern half, the same type of collapse which saw ISIL go from a backwater terrorist faction, to the modern State of Terror. In a report by the AP, the situation has just gone from isolated protesting in the streets to an all out conflict, reminiscent of beginnings of civil wars from Libya, and now most notably, Syria.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a sign of further turbulence for the U.S. led-coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkish warplanes have struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in southeastern Turkey, media reports said Tuesday.

It was the first major airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year insurgency in Turkey. It added to tensions between the key U.S. coalition partner and PKK, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that is also among the fiercest opponents of the Islamic State group.

The return to violence between the two parties suggests that Turkey’s focus may not be on the Islamic State group, even as it negotiates its role with the U.S. and NATO allies fighting the extremists. Turkey has provoked frustration among allies, by saying it won’t join the fight against the Islamic State militants unless the U.S.-led coalition also targets Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The article mentions Turkey negotiating its role with the U.S. and NATO over how it will be engaged in the war against ISIL. The Turkish government agreed on Monday to let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, there was even a promise by Ankara to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels in the fight, as well. Many hailed this as good news, seeing another major regional player now joining the battle against ISIL. I have to wonder.

Given the apathy and resentment shown by Turkish officials to the plight of foreign Kurdish fighters, even to the point of allowing jihadi fundamentalists to occupy a key region a stone’s throw away from their own border, along with their complete inability to take direct action against the terrorist organizations, along with signs that a major segment of their population may be sympathetic to the goals of the islamists, I have to wonder what motivations are behind any actions to allow American or any other Western intervention in the conflict.

To pose my own pessimistic view, one which I hope others will consider given the information I have shared, I think it is because Turkey may want an American security blanket against it’s own insurgency which looms around the corner. The rise of Kurdish prestige and victories over the last year has galvanized their spirit and the renewed call for Kurdish nationalism. As I have said before in this post, the nation with the largest single stake in the future of the Kurds is Turkey. Kurdish autonomy has spread throughout the region, giving rise to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and another like it in North Eastern Syria. This zeal is going to invite more Kurds to carry on the torch of autonomy and independence which has no one to hurt than Turkey. In the political environment that is the Middle East, one of ever growing chaos, reorganization and upheaval, I have to wonder if Turks true focus is ISIL at all. I truly wonder if really, the recent allowance to allow coalition forces to use Turkish military bases and train Syrian defense forces was really only an effort to ensure their assistance in the event of a future Kurdish uprising. Turkey has long been a friend of the United States amidst much less moderate neighbors. Now, however, it seems that conservative Islamic factions within Turkey have grown tired of their Western friendly policies and are now acting in accord with ISIL forces, even if indirectly. This won’t sit well with the Kurds of the region who, until only yesterday, enjoyed a brief two year lull in a 30 year feud with the nation. Now, it seems, they are hedging on the possibility of Kurdish uprising with the presence of US and NATO allies to keep Turkish lands within the sovereign control of Ankara.

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is a Arabic saying that translates “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unanimously gained no friends across the world. No nations and no allies have come out to show support for the fanatical regime, even among fellow Islamic terrorist organizations. In the case of Turkey, however, there hasn’t really been much done to show that they actually do view them as enemies. Instead, they seem to be looking at others as potential risks within their own borders. They’ve seen a problem which has existed for decades, namely the Kurdish population within Turkey and seen its sudden rise to popularity in the world’s stage, as well as its rise to power in military and political efficacy. This can only mean bad things for the future of Turkey. For all these reasons, one has to wonder if the Turks really see ISIL as their enemy or merely as the enemy of their longstanding enemy, the Kurds. If we view it in that light, we can see how it shouldn’t surprise anyone how much help Turkey has provided, if by nothing else than timely inaction, to the Sunni jihadists. Perhaps it is simpler than this. Perhaps, in light of President Erdoğan’s statement that, “It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly,” exactly that is being done; allow the two enemies of Turkey to fight each other to their mutual oblivion.

To be clear, Turkey has never aided ISIL through troop support, nor is there any evidence that they have provided weapons, financing or aid of any kind, but their policy of preventing the success of Kurdish forces, primarily in the battle for Kobane, as well as their inability to prevent the same sort of assistance being given to Islamic State fighter, they have given more indirect assistance than one could have imagined possible in keeping these terrorist’s alive. For those of us watching this conflict in the future, I am reminded of yet another Arabic saying, oddly fitting this time:

“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”


Sources:


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What should America’s gun control policy look like?

Answer by Jon Davis:

I would advise licensing for gun ownership. This isn’t a license on the individual weapons themselves, but on the people who can own them. There would be different classes of licenses for different classes of weapons. You would need to work in the military or protective forces for certain classes of weapons and no one else should really need these.

I do think that there are some who should not have the right to weapons and should be filtered from the licensing process. I don’t believe that the right to own weapons should be a afforded to people who have been guilty of a violent crime and I don’t think that the mentally handicapped or emotionally disturbed should be afforded the privilege as well. There are already provisions like this, but obviously nothing so enforceable yet to stem any tides in the violence caused by gang members and the mentally unstable.

My licensing program would be directly comparable to what one must do to drive a car. Go through a training course on proper usage and safety. Have a sponsor and have timed hours like the process that people must go through with a learners permit. Then pass a test for safety and proper usage based on the highest class of weapon you want to carry. Ryan Lackey actually gives a good break down on what those classes might look like in the comments section. Ryan Lackey’s weapon’s licensing by class breakdown.

I will even go so far as to say that there should be a form of liability insurance associated with the registered weapons. This provides an economic disincentive to own, increased pressure to be safe and in the worst case, medical assistance for injuries sustained due to improper handling.

To be honest I think this is the best option to uphold the rights of law abiding users while preserving some key elements of 2nd amendment rights while ensuring that you have a well trained, well regulated, responsible gun owning population. I think that this is a much closer interpretation to what was intended by the founding fathers than what we have now. I think those rights are extremely important, but we have become lenient to the point that rampages, both in the inner city and quiet towns, are becoming too common and need to be resolved.

That said, I know there is a great deal of problems with even this. People still drive without a license and guns will still be in the hands of people who will hurt other people. That’s why I would suggest a large scale effort on a crackdown of people who have weapons they shouldn’t. In the same process that we bust for drugs, I would suggest we hunt down illegal users of weapons as well. To be honest, I think that putting a dent in illegal usage of guns would also help with the drug issue as well since often they are related. At the very least it might be an additional opportunity to catch some bad guys. Yes, there would be compromises. For one, there might need to be some space in the prisons, which means we might have to stop criminalizing some of the crimes that aren’t as much an issue as people shooting each other.

In closing though, I would like to leave on this point on the subject of legislation to correct human behavior…

View Answer on Quora

Update: Women in Combat Operations

This is an update to a earlier post I made a while back Women in Combat Operations in which I expressed some of my mixed feelings, both for and against the future of women serving in combat centered missions. In any case, I am glad that actions are being taken by the Pentagon and the Marines one way or another.

This Monday Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, announced that actions were going to be taken by Marine Corps command to study how women would be able to adapt to the combat environment by introducing a select number of women into the  infantry officer school at Quantico, Va., and ground combat battalions that had once been closed to women.

This new effort will, as I understand it, focus on female officers. As my post said many of the women I dealt with in military were officers. One in particular stood out for excellence among Marines, male or female. I think this is an important prospect for the military. It will be putting the women who are the most dedicated, most ambitious and hopefully the ones who will serve the greatest example to future Marines, notably the women.

Although there is great controversy over this debate, much of it in my previous article, and it will likely be a very long time before we see a completely coed military, I think this is a good move for the Marines as they wean into a future that will have to incorporate women more thoroughly.

Those Drunken Rowdy Hooligans; The United States Marines!

I wanted to share my thoughts on a viral video going around about a few Marines that had a few too many. It stars the Marines of 3/5 Lima Company Weapons Platoon. According to some helpful notes at the beginning of the video we learn that the platoon was engaging in some after hours activity after an all-too-short liberty on what must be an all-too-long deployment. What happened next was a video of Marines in the middle of the rough and rowdy. I got caught up in the discussion that engaged as a result of the video and it got me thinking.

As I mentioned before, this video is about Marines getting into drunken fights on board a ship. It is filled with vulgarities and violence. There is also some ludity, and the entire 8 minutes is basically a huge ball of NSFW. If you would like to see the video you have been warned and can find the link at the bottom of the page.

Before you watch though, I hope you check out some of the points that some less informed viewers have already tried to make, and what an actual Marine has to say.  These are some points and some counterpoints that I want to share with all my readers on the real nature of the few and the proud.

1) “So this is our tax dollars at work.”

(One should also note that the school’s tax dollars seem to be wasted as well.)

Response: No, not at all. First of all,  the military doesn’t pay a stipend to get Marines drunk and act like fools. There is no National Monetary Fund for Jackassary. They didn’t buy their alcohol from a big keg right on the deck. They did however, buy it. With their own money.

What they did they did on liberty. Liberty is a basic privilege bestowed to the military to relieve stress and let off steam. Of course it is also where Marines stop off port and engage in some other extra-curricular activities. This is not an activity that is financially sponsored by the military and it isn’t actually a part of any mission. The ship is already at port and basically, it doesn’t cost anything to let the Marines blow off steam (legal considerations not considering). You can think of it as how much it costs you to let your dog out. It costs money to feed them, train them, and send them to the hospital, but it doesn’t cost you (or the U.S. taxpayer) anything to let the dog (Devil Dog!) out to play.

Now back to the topic of “their own money.”

2) “We pay them to do a certain job, and this isn’t it.”

Response: We pay them to do their job, and we don’t have any right to tell what to do after that. Sometimes I find it a little absurd that we believe that because we pay taxes that eventually get paid out to the military that we have some say so over how they spend that money. The simple truth is that they bought the alcohol with their own money and it is no one’s business what they do with it as long as what they do is legal. Of course at that point they are really just putting themselves at risk to be investigated by the same authorities that govern us, plus military authorities.

Let’s think of it this way. My wife is a teacher. She too works for the government. Therefore, your tax dollars go to your state government, which then make their way to the schools, and eventually to her checking account. If my wife decides to go to the bar and buy a drink, do you think that you have any say over her right to do so? Let’s take it a bit further. On Sundays, we go to church. There, we give them money…taxpayer money! So you see that your tax dollars are directly being used to fund religious activities! Unacceptable! Or is it? I mean what right do any of us have on how a government employee spends his money? We do not, just because we pay taxes.

3) “Marines and the military are supposed to hold the moral high ground.”

Response: I will give you this one, but with a reality check. While I am a fan of the sleeping and violence quote we have to really consider who we are dealing with. This video shows the extremely volatile nature of one of the most extreme cultures in the world. While the Marines are a bunch of drunk and disorderly hooligans, they are exactly the sort of unsavory individuals that are required to do those things we in polite and well-refined society don’t like to do ourselves. The average age of the Marine Corps is 19, therefore, they are young and immature. They are experienced in the ways of warfare, yet inexperienced in the ways of the world. They are asked to do great and terrible things in the most inconvenient ways possible. While it is a beautiful notion to believe that every rough man is at his heart a poet and philosopher, the simple truth is that they are angry, violent, and surrounded by people who bring out these traits in eachother.

We argue that this kind of attitude and these behaviors are deplorable, yet we are also a country that has been at war for more than a decade. Many of the men you saw in that video have been in various theaters of those wars, many of them on multiple deployments.  Stress runs high in that culture and much is demanded of them, namely directed violence. I think it is a bit hypocritical of those who sleep soundly to condescend the Marines, because they weren’t violent in the way that makes everyday U.S. citizens comfortable.

4) “It’s just a Marine Corps thing.”

Response: You’re absolutely right. What most people don’t get is that this level of  roughhousing is what is expected and laughed at by older Marines. What you also don’t know is that along with the 8 minutes of video there is a story that every Marine knows is coming, and it actually does address many of the concerns that were mentioned before.

You don’t get this…

First, the Marines got out frustration that has been building for a very long time. The opening of the video discusses a lot of the general frustrations that accompany a long time at sea on a Marine vessel. Long times at sea, endless weapons maintenance, crappy bosses, close quarters, oh and also there is the fact that there are no women. This level of stress is something nine-to-fivers will never get, even if they have a really important report due on Monday. When you put the frustrations and stresses on a group of men this volatile and young under such conditions you have to expect some level of unsavory behavior. Otherwise you would see a total meltdown. You’ve got to let this stuff out.

Or This…

Second, the video does show that Marines are capable of bringing their craziness back to the barracks and not making fools of themselves in public. The fact that they managed to keep control until they got back to the ship does show one important goal of the Marines, to always show a good face. As for the video making the internet, well… I blame that on the cameraman, a semen, oops, seaman. We’ll just call him a sailor. Which brings up a good point. They actually had medical supervision. The camera man was a Navy Corpsman, a medic in the Naval side of the show. When you were getting drunk at the frat house, were you of such clear and responsible mind to make sure that before you got stupid you had proper medical supervision? Ok, that one is a stretch. But I do want to make one final point.

Without a bit of this. (Ok, these aren’t even Americans, but you know the moment they saw this they tried it out.)

We don’t know what happened the next day. The truth is this whole event probably happened between 2100 to 0000 that night (9:00 PM to Midnight). And I am pretty sure that they caught more attention than they would have liked. I am pretty sure I saw an officer towards the end of that display. That means at least one thing. They are not done hearing about this. If it were my platoon, we would be in formation until 4 in the morning while the command tried to figure out each and every detail of the night. Then the next day the punishment starts, the whole platoon. Cleaning weapons would have been easy. While this was a display of undisciplined and, in truth, embarrassing behavior, discipline will be achieved. If they are lucky they will lose all future libo, work like dogs for the next few weeks, and that will be the end. If they aren’t lucky a few will face Page-11 entries (which isn’t all that nice) and some might even lose rank. I can’t tell you  what did happen, but I know it was one of these. And now that the video has gone viral, I bet that it isn’t going to get any easier from upper level brass.

In closing, the Marines did go overboard. They did have a few too many, and they did embarrass themselves, and at least the public face of the Marine Corps. But what we in the civilian sector need to accept is that this is who they are, this is what we recruited them for. This is what we need them to be, and we can’t judge them too harshly against the standards we set for ourselves.

If you want to see the video, you can check it out here. I say again, not safe for kids or work.

What to Learn from Facebook’s Acquisition of Instagram

Facebook and Istagram

Reblogged from Bamcis Business Development:

So the key question is “Why would Facebook pay so much for Instagram?” What is the motive? What is the payoff? What will happen next?”A lot of people are saying many things about this purchase. The theory I hear floating around for the past couple of days is that Facebook got scared and decided to take out a major competitor with a cool billion. Wish I had such options. Others believe it is for the data. Still a few are tweeting that Facebook wants the photos for dastardly deeds of dubiousness.

“Delete ur instagram!! The Feds own it now!!” “I had a higher opinion of you Instagram.” “Soon as I delete my Facebook they decide to buy instagram #FML.” (actual tweets)

Some of these are theories are sensible, others ridiculous. There is one thing, however, that people who think in terms of pure competition, or downright paranoia, usually forget.

Facebook is about the code.

Let’s clarify. Yes, by making this acquisition Facebook did secure a hugely popular social media app. Yes, they did “defeat” someone who was playing the same game of sharing photos online. I admit and agree with that. I just don’t think that the reason for it was because Facebook was scared of anything.

Beluga Icon
Beluga’s old Icon.

Let’s look back at another recent acquisition by Facebook to see if we can see what their motives may be. My first witness … Beluga. Beluga was an app that was used as a social messaging application that allowed a person/group the ability to create a group out of their contacts and start a text-based conversation with the entire group. This application was absolutely fantastic for small work groups (called Pods), especially ones that didn’t mind bothering each other all day. I remember using it with my team and it was like it solved all my problems. When something important happened a simple text was sent and the whole team was aware of the change/question/update/major catastrophe. Instantly, no matter where we were or what we were doing, the team had the communication we needed. Until one day when the team got a text: “Facebook has recently bought out Beluga, and our service will be shutting down.” ( A single tear could probably be seen rolling down my cheek at that time.)

Facebook Messenger's Icon
The new Facebook Messenger, powered and augmented much by the acquired capabilities of Beluga.

But what was interesting was watching what happened next at Facebook. Over the next few weeks you started to see Beluga like actions occurring all over Facebook. Facebook Messenger was launched. This allowed you to hold a messenger conversation on your computer, and also for the conversation to be sent to your phone via text. Ever notice now that if you comment on anyone else’s post or picture that you are now also updated every time someone else comments on it as well? These features and several others are the direct result of Facebook’s acquisition of Beluga, and not just Beluga’s talent, but their technology as well. Beluga marked the first acquisition of a start-up by the web giant where they didn’t just buy the talent, but also the tech that makes it work and it seems that this is what they plan also to do with Instagram.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2011.

I truly believe that Zuckerberg has something in mind for the little app with a big pricetag. We know that soon you will start seeing web savants start filtering every photo in their albums, but what else is going to happen? I’d like to remind you that all Beluga was intended to do by the original creator was to create a social based texting app. In the hands of Facebook it became much, much more, technologically speaking. It’s capabilities were augmented and filtered and refined and applied to numerous things that Facebook was already doing. That is what I think the Instagram purchase will produce in the next few months. As for Instagram users, well, bad news. While Facebook has recently said that it intends to keep the application alive for the time being, they also said this when they first acquired Beluga as well. In time they implemented the technolgy where they wanted it and shut down the simple service. Now people who loved Beluga are torn. They either had to migrated to Facebook and accepted some of the drawbacks and some of the new benefits, or they had to seek out other apps. In many ways the Facebook Messenger is too much and not enough. They took the old capabilities and broke them up and spread them out throughout the entirety of Facebook, but made it more difficult to do the one thing that Beluga specialized in, having a conversation with small groups without all the rest of Facebook. ( If you are looking for an app that does this I suggest Groupme, in a lot of ways it is even better than Beluga used to be.) Facebook has said that it will continue to operate the app independently. Don’t expect that to last long. Perhaps the fact that now more than 40 million people are on Instagram and that they are making such a potent disagreement with being forced into the Facebook super community will prolong its independent lifespan. Good luck to those users though.

What is coming out of a Facebook with Instagram capabilities?

As for the rest of Facebook’s users, they will get that huge boon to their photo sharing capabilities. But besides the filters and super easy uploading process, I wonder what else the Zuckerman clan will discover (or have been waiting on for some time) in the code of Instagram. What are they going to do with all that lovely code?

Let’s think real business here. I don’t think that Zuckerburg did this just to take out a competitor. I don’t think that it is even just about the new tricks that we will get to do in Facebook. Goofy as he is at times the kid is good at business. I truly believe that if he bought if for $1Billion he believes there is at least $10 Billion more in potential capabilities coming to his Facebook, not a bad thing for massively valuated company gearing for it’s first IPO

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What You Should Know About The Hunger Games

This is for everyone out  there who is thinking about the movie, but haven’t seen it or hasn’t read the book. More precisely, for those of you are thinking about letting your kids go. Before you get any further I am not about to tell you it is evil and wrong and shouldn’t be watched by anyone. In fact, I think the movie is pretty good and the books are even better.

What I will tell you is that if you are young person, this is one of those films that can change your view of the world. Even though it is a fictional story set in a distant future, it touches on some very deep, important, and disturbing ideas. These are ideas that at one point or another every child needs to consider and ponder before they can truly be ready for adulthood. But the ideas of this movie are very, very intense and can deliver to children who aren’t ready, a jaw dropping earth shaking set of ideas that could really bother them for some time.

So what are the basic themes of The Hunger Games? If you are going or letting your kids go you should know. Plus it would also be good to be able to hold some sort of an intelligent conversation about the thing everyone will be talking about for the next three months. Well here is one…

The central theme and the idea that literally drives 100% of the plot is about a world where children are violently murdering each other. Whether you are looking at it from the point of a girl’s struggle to protect her family, to how will these two young people will overcome impossible odds (really… only one is allowed to live) to the world they live in to the giant dude who has quite literally been waiting his whole life to kill the cute little kids. This entire plot is centered around a gladitorial match pitting young people against each other to the death, and not “Ha! I sunk your battleship! Now you’re dead!” No. More like arrow to heart, sword to the neck dead. And don’t kid yourself, these scenes are graphic enough that you get the point. There are scenes where children are slicing each other up, breaking each other’s necks and throwing spears at one another’s chests. It isn’t an “idea” of killing. It is some deep heavy stuff. Did I mention it’s kids doing the killing? Cause that’s important. It’s freaky.

I think I made my point on that. If it bothers you that Joker kind of killed people in a funny ways in Batman, than this is not something that you should let kids into. But here is something that you should consider: What value this does offer society is that it can help children understand some very important ideas, provided they have strong adults to guide them through it. The first is the concept of evil. Most children have a view of evil is that bad guy in the mask or the terrorist or someone so very dissimilar from them that they are instantly recognizable. Children automatically know that the slimy monster with two heads is evil. They know that Darth Vader as evil. They automatically know a Jihadist with an AK-47 is evil. What they don’t yet know is that evil is something that anyone is capable of doing. They don’t understand that even we, that is you and I and the children reading the books, are all capable of great and terrible deeds when put in difficult places.

Another story that captures this mentality and shares this theme is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The Lottery’s themes so closely match the story that one has to wonder if was an inspiration for The Hunger Games. The Lottery involves a town meeting where an annual lottery takes place. The people all scurry and talk and gripe about lottery and how annoying it is and how recent it was since the last one. They discuss how long it’s been going on and how other towns aren’t even doing one. They argue about tradition and meaning without the reader knowing what really is going on in the lottery. One woman is staunch supporter of the lottery and its meaning. In the end the men of the town draw for each of their family members and they then have a big unavailing. The woman from before, the one who was one of the advocates for the lottery, is the one chosen. She is unwilling and cries out about how now it isn’t fair. The townspeople then tell her to take her fair share like everyone else before… and then the townspeople, children first, stone her to death.

Both these stories touch on the idea that with no rational reason, every day people, our neighbors, friends and relatives are capable of unspeakable evil. This may sound far fetched, but it isn’t far from the truth. I was a Marine who served in Iraq. I have seen what can happen when people lose their rationality. When we see other humans as less than human and as evil, without truly understanding what has brought us to this point. History has also shown us this. What I am talking about is the numerous acts of world decimation that happen when good people unspeakable evil, because they lose their rationality. To see what I am talking about follow these links, but remember this, they are real, and did happen. Auschwitz, Rwandan Genocide, The Great Leap Forward. There are many, many more, but these three help serve my point best. They each are events that can still be remembered by many of good people doing what to them seemed right at the time, but which history will never ever forgive them for. Most still look back without ever thinking they actually did anything wrong. I note the fact that the commandant of Auschwitz, when interviewed, was quoted as seeming proud and unapologetic, because to him he had done a fine a job and had help Germany produce what was one of the most advanced industrial manufacturing super complexes in the world. This is what happens when people lose their rationality.

But you might know that something like a kids book can get that deep. Or that one should take it that far. But I did. And I think you should too. I think that it is important to use books like The Hunger Games and stories like The Lottery to introduce the real concept of evil. Not the kind of evil like the bad guy that the good guy throws into jail and starts again in the next episode, but the kind of evil of a starving person, or of someone who is truly scared, or the kind of evil of someone who follows a very influencial leader without ever questioning what is really going on. It speaks out that within our nature we are all good people, but we are capable of doing such very very hurtful, dangerous and deadly things if we think our life, or our way of life or even our convenience is put at stake.

So what do you do with all of this heaviness? I think it is important to ask yourself, or your kids, what they thought about it. Did it bother them (you should be worried if it didn’t) and what bothered them. Why? You should tell them about how people can be. That the story is real in many more ways than it is fictitious. And perhaps you should take the opportunity to teach them many of the ugly things that happened before they were born. It is my belief that you have to at some point wake kids up to the reality of the world in that sense. They have to learn and they have to think about, because someday these kids will be leaders and if they don’t understand what can happen, it will happen again. If you don’t teach kids about things like Auschwitz then future historians will be talking about some event in the future where thousands died in Ardmore, Oklahoma, or the millions who lost their lives in Bedford, Indiana, or of the holocaust at Auburn, Alabama.

So my point is, use the movie. In all honesty, it is pretty good. The actors do a good job, in my opinion of conveying some real emotion, namely terror. The filming was great and in all honesty, some of the most gore filled scenes were done in such delicate ways to not send the whole audience into shock. So visually it won’t freak you out as much as when the kids leave the theater. But all and all it is a good movie. Watch it with your kids. Think about these concepts and decide an age when you think it is appropriate for your kids to start tackling these difficult subjects. For instance, my wife works at a local elementary school. She told me that there about one in four kids is reading the book.  I feel that this is too young and that the books were meant for a much older audience, seventh and eighth graders perhaps. You might decide that your kids are ready.

The one thing I hope you take away from this article is this: This is not an ordinary movie. It is not an ordinary book and you need to understand it before your kids see stuff they can’t forget.

-Jon