Archives for the month of: February, 2013

Most retail stores use the business model “Move customers through as quickly and as efficiently as possible while maximizing revenue.” That’s fine, and the ones that have mastered it are very profitable. 

Some encourage browsing (Hallmark stores) or even encourage a relationship sale (Car Dealer). I like the last guy who sold me a car and will buy one again from him. 

But few build a community, and base their business model around providing a safe place where all are welcome, and the business prospers the longer customers stay in their space. Fewer still are good at it, and genuinely espouse a positive environment while being profitable.

One of these places is Games and Stuff in Glen Burnie, Md, run by my old friend Ed Sloman. This store has moved twice to expand its space, and is moving yet again to double their gaming space to nearly 8000 square feet. 

Ed is a true professional, and not only supports a myriad of small businesses represented by the products he sells, but he does it in such a way that gets kids, teens and adults involved in face to face table gaming, (actual social interaction!) using their imagination and smarts.

If you live in the Baltimore/Washington area you should come on out to his moving sale. This will help in two ways. 1) Let him move less stuff! and 2) give him the cash flow to help with construction at the new site.

Ed doesn’t only sell hobby games like Magic, Dungeons and Dragons or miniatures, but he also sells great board games for a family to play. Don’t suffer through another 4 hour Monopoly marathon. Go pick up a great game like Apples to Apples.

Here’s a link to his website, where you’ll find all the information you need.

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The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today

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In his new book Mr Ricks outlines how the meritocracy that Marshall established in WWII fell to a CYA shambles over the course of the next 60-70 years, and how that has led to some remarkable strategic failures on the part of our armed forces.

This is not some pacifist screed outlining an anti-establishment manifesto, but rather a thoughtful analysis of the way the culture of the military has changed since WWII and the impact on our country’s foreign policy.

Disclaimer. Mr. Ricks holds two positions that pre-qualify him as a good thinker in my book, and therefore I am predisposed to like and recommend him.

1) He has an even lower opinion of Douglas MacArthur than I do. This is only possible because Mr. Ricks is a scholar who knows the American Caesar better. 

2) He has an even higher opinion of General James Mattis USMC Retired than I do, which again, is only possible because he knows more details about the general, and can get specific about his skill set.

If you don’t know who MacArthur is, I can’t help you. If you don’t know who General Mattis is, this should be enough for you.

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Knife hands!

ImageThat title may seem a little strong, but I was floored to learn that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) voted today, in a closed session using secret ballots, to remove Wrestling from the core sports of the Olympic Games in 2020.

If you asked me last week which of the following three things would happen, I would have picked #3 as the most likely:

1) Pope Benedict would resign his papacy

2) The IOC would remove Wrestling from the summer Olympics

3) The Air Force would adopt a credible warrior training regimen out of shame

This year has been full of surprises already, many of them disturbing, but seriously, I would have bet on #1 above as a sure thing (the pope hasn’t resigned for centuries) compared to #2.

Clearly, the IOC is without three very important things; shame, common sense, and a basic understanding of the what comprises an athletic competition.  I’m at a loss for words. I can argue a fine point for hours, bending facts around my position as needed, and making nuanced and convincing arguments.

But this is a brutally blunt point, and I am at a loss to find ways to describe just how sacreligious and insane it is to destroy Olympic Wrestling. It’s like trying to explain why it is a bad idea to hit someone in the shin with a 15 pound sledgehammer; it is pretty obviously a bad idea on the surface.

Let me draw on my love of history to help me here, just in case you don’t care or agree with me.

First, the modern Olympics, started in 1896, was based on the ancient Greek Olympics which started in the 8th century BCE. The first events were running, mostly sprints, but later a distance race was added, and finally a sprint in full combat load.

Other sports were added soon, to include boxing, wrestling and pankration (think MMA/UFC). Wrestling was also the final, and decisive, event in the ancient pentathlon. Other events came, mostly track and field, with some equestrian events, but these were the mainstays.

So why did this group of 15 IOC officials get rid of the purest form of athletic competition? This ultimate personal test of strength, skill and will? Ratings, mostly, although they admit personal proclivity and emotional judgement had an impact on their decision.

What qualifies these 15 to decide? Many of them are “athletes”, and some are even athletes. Here is a respective breakdown of the sports in which they competed on the international stage: Yachting, Fencing (foil), hurdles, badminton, NONE, NONE, NONE, basketball(kind of), Hockey (club), Judo, Fencing (epee), NONE, pole vault, baseball(not MLB), and NONE.

I don’t think I’m taking anything out of context by pointing out that yachting, badminton, fencing, and judo weren’t even on the chopping block. Not that I think fencing should be cut, but yachting?

The IOC could have shaved some of these core sports down a little and kept wrestling. Hell, they could have lost dressage, synchronized swimming, rythmic gymnastics team and individual (ribbon twirling), handball, and badminton and had plenty of room to not only keep wrestling but to expand it by adding mixed martial arts in the form of pankration. Hell, if they are so focused on having a limited amount of core sports they could have made one of those “Martial Arts” and lumped in wrestling, judo, boxing, and taekwondo.

I am so angry I could spit, and mostly there’s nothing I can do about it. Being powerless in the face of oppressive ignorance is a horrible feeling. Wait, there is something I can do about it.

I can mail those #+&#$%S a crap sandwich. The next time I take Karlos out for a walk I’ll bring a bag to collect deer crap, and then slap it in a nice baguette and mail it those bastards. I saw on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods that they eat droppings in some parts of the world, so it’s not like I’m doing anything illegal.

In fact, if their judgement about food is as effed up as it is about what actual Olympic competition entails, I might be doing them a favor.

I’ll follow up with an address if you want to send them a $#!+ sandwich too, or maybe just hate mail.

Update 1

The Russian Olympic Committee is formally protesting the IOC’s moronic decision. If you want to encourage the US Olympic Committee to do the same you can reach them here:

1 Olympic Plz Colorado Springs, CO 80909 (719) 632-5551

I will be calling and writing today to register my complaint and encourage action. I think a strike is in order, and no, not a drone strike (not yet) but a labor strike.

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Chuck Hagel is a former enlisted soldier who did a tour of duty in Vietnam, earning, among other awards, two Purple Hearts. He saw real, actual, getting shot at, combat. When the President asks his advice on a planned military action, he will understand, at a base level, what they will be asking the troops involved to do.

So forget the noise coming from the man’s own political party; that he’s anti-Israel, that he did an appearance on Al Jazeera, that he wants to gut the Pentagon, or the attacks from the left that he’s anti-gay.

We are about to enter another 4 years of tumultuous international problems, and the easy answer to a lot of problems will be to hit them with a hammer. To me, the most important factors in choosing a SecDef are picking one who will be able to honestly advise which fights are worth it, and how best to win those fights. 

At the bottom there’s a list of SecDefs back through MacNamara. The only two who had any combat experience were Cap the Knife, Richardson (who stood up to Nixon as AG), and Laird.

For all of the Reagan years’ (Weinberger) military buildup, the only big SNAFU was the handling of Beirut, but as painful as that was (and is) it pales in comparison to the long-term damage the chicken hawks on this list did. MacNamara? Cheney? Rumsfeld?

I won’t speak for them, and have faith that they were doing their best for their country from their own perspective, but my outside view of their actions makes it seem clear that they did not understand the true, visceral costs of war, or even how to wage one successfully.

Hagel does know the cost, and I’m damned glad he’s going to get confirmed, even if he was just an army puke. 😉

Panetta, 11-13 1st LT/Army intel
Gates 06-11 CIA out of college
Rumsfeld 01-06 3 yrs as Naval Aviator – peacetime
Cohen – 97-01 No military experience
Perry – 94-97 DOD contractor and staffer
Aspin 93-94 66-68 Army analyst stateside
Cheney 89-93 5 draft deferments
Carlucci 87-89 Naval officer 52-54
Weinberger 81-87 41st ID in WWII, Pacific theater
Brown Nuclear 77-81 Physicist.
Rumsfeld 75-77 Again
Schlesinger 73-75 Rand Corporation
Richardson 73 D-Day Platoon Leader
Laird69-73 Navy WWII Purple Heart oversaw the drawdown of US Forces
Clifford 68-69 Political Naval appointee WWII
61-68 MacNamara WWII USAAF officer office of “Statistical Control”