Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Alternative Coordinates Review

. Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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I posted a blog recently http://scifiwriter.blogspot.com/2009/03/alternative-coordinates-publishes-first.html Where I introduced a new E-zine called Alternative coordinates. I have finally made it through the stories in the issue and the following comments. If it appears that I don?t give a lot of detail, well, that?s because I?m not. I want you to go to the website and pick up an issue. It?s only two bucks, and well worth it.

Bedbugs by Edward McKeown - A bug fight on an unexplored planet with a love story. Good character development and depiction of the planet. I struggled with some of the uses of Earth historical references, but enjoyed the read.

Before the End by Abby "Merc" Rustad - This is the story about a father and his daughter on his last day. An average story, I never felt connected with the story and its characters.

Displaced by Doug Hewitt - A man disbelieves religion and finds that parts of his reality are disappearing, he openly discourages his daughter from anything religious or metaphysical. A good story, the end still has me trying to figure out what was the message intended by the author.

The Pressure of Ectasy by T.D. Edge - a new virtual reality system. A good story.

The Sentinels by T.M. Crane ? This is a bug war story with a twist through out, and a surprise ending. I enjoyed the story for its pulp appeal.

City of the Gods by Aliette de Bodard ? This is a fantasy quest story. The style is very readable. This was my favorite of the E-zine.

Mirror of My Mind by Z.S. Adani - An intrusive government, cloning and space colonization. Good world and character building. This is another very good story that lends itself to further adventures in the setting.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vets say Definition of Combat Outdated

. Thursday, April 2, 2009
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In an article that appeared on http://www.military.com/news/article/vets-say-definition-of-combat-outdated.html veterans groups testified that the law is outdated, and veterans are not receiving the medical benefits that they should. Most of the cases that are rejected concern Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD, and they are turned down because the veteran cannot prove they were involved in combat based on the classic definition.

Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee is asking to change the definition of a combat veteran, as any veteran who served in a combat theater of operations or in combat against a hostile force.

Fist off let me state that I am a veteran of Iraq, and would easily fall under the proposed new definition of combat veteran. But, I do not agree with the change in definition for combat veteran. I do agree that you do not need to be a combat veteran to suffer from PTSD. But changing the definition of combat veteran will not magically allow everyone suffering from PTSD access to the care they need, in fact it will still exclude suffers, that never set foot in Iraq but may have been stationed in Qatar, or Kuwait. Both of those places were relatively safe, but if you think that serving in either one of those places inoculated you from PTSD, then you are very wrong.

Defining combat as serving in a combat theater of operations or in combat against a hostile force, would allow thousands more veterans the opportunity to seek disability compensation for PTSD, which could potentially costs hundreds of millions of dollars annually. I don?t care about the millions the government has to spend on veterans to get them the care they need, what I do care about are the thousands of claims that are not truly combat related that would slip though under the change in the definition.

But what I am most worried about, with a change in definition is that the real combat veteran, the Soldier that was sleeping in old Iraqi bunkers, dealing with mortars dropping at their feet and not exploding, setting a charge on a door of a suspected terrorists house, etc. These are the Soldiers that deserve the term combat veteran, and changing the definition belittles what they did.

Increase PTSD benefits to all military personnel, but leave the definition of combat veteran to those that truly deserve it.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

What the military can learn from the Hollywood and the Academy Awards.

. Thursday, March 19, 2009
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Hollywood is overwhelmingly liberal, from the struggling actors trying to break into films to the top executives. It is a view that leaks into the movies that are being made, and the comments made by film industry people when they talk to the media. But as opposed to a balance between liberal and conservative views, Hollywood has a toxic almost militaristic hatred of anything conservative. I could go on and give examples of movies that express liberals as being the saviors of the world, and conservatives? being the evil destroyers, but that is a topic for another blog. What I want to address here is what the Military can learn from Hollywood and the Academy Awards.

The best actor award for 2009 went to Sean Penn. So what? The guy is a good actor, I for one wouldn?t consider him a great actor, and all I see is Jeff Spicoli. Especially when he was nominated along with Richard Jenkins, and Frank Langella two actors that have long careers, Brad Pitt who is very popular and did an excellent job, and Mickey Rourke an actor that left Hollywood to escape the drugs and lifestyle that he himself says was going to kill him. Mickey Rourke?s performance is the type of performance that the Oscars are for. So why did it go to Sean Penn?

Sean Penn received the Oscar not for his performance on screen but off. It was given to him, to show that Hollywood is firmly behind their liberal agenda. To me the Oscars are nothing more than a way to promote their own agenda and less on recognizing a truly great performance. This leads to the award being meaningless for what it was designed and becomes a symbol for something it is entirely not.

The Military should take note, with respect to its own awards, and the justification needed to receive an award. During my deployment in Iraq, I was attached to the S-1 section of a Brigade and was given the task of handling awards, or more precisely I reviewed the award packet and ensured it was complete before we sent it up to the Commander. I saw soldiers put in for awards that would embarrass me to read; a recommendation for a bronze star because a soldier installed air conditioning on hummers. Believe me in the middle of the summer in Iraq you want A/C on your hummer, but installing A/C on a hummer when that is your job does not justify a bronze star, in fact it doesn?t even justify the lowest award the military offers. Why? Because if you?re a mechanic, it?s your job, and the military doesn?t give awards for do your job. But what was most alarming were the recommendations for awards that were because soldiers held a particular view. You don?t get awards because you agree with your commanders or disagree with your commanders, but unfortunately I saw it on several occasions where leaders wanted to recognize particular soldiers because they shared their view, and they wanted to promote that view. Luckily none of these went through; to bad we can?t say the same thing for Hollywood. But if they had, not only would it had belittled the award, it would have undermined the leadership, destroyed moral, and caused soldiers to openly question their leaders decisions.

Hollywood let us down by giving an award to an actor for what he stands for and not his accomplishment.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bolshevik revolution

. Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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As a member of the military it is paramount to be a student of history in order to know your enemy and to avoid the failings of history. That is why; today I will be discussing the Bolshevik revolution.

The Soviet Union today is very different than the Soviet Union of the cold war; however, as members of the military, we must be cognizant of the Soviet Unions history, and be aware that with the current global economic state, what brought about the Soviet Union of old could very well happen again, but not just in Russia, many areas throughout the world are at risk.

The Bolshevik revolution was part of the Russian Revolution that began with an armed insurrection in Petrograd as a coup d'├ętat by the worker and soldier masses. It was the second phase of the overall Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the Soviets dominated by Bolsheviks. It was followed by the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik armed forces began the takeover of government buildings on 24 October when the Winter Palace, the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd (modern day St. Petersburg), was captured.

The mounting frustration of workers and soldiers erupted in July with several days of rioting on the streets. This event was sparked by the June offensive against Germany, in which War Minister Alexander Kerensky sent troops in a major attack on the Germans, only to be repelled. The rioting was also sparked by the workers' anger at their economic plight. A group of 20,000 armed sailors from "Red Kronstadt", the naval base on the island of Kronstadt located near St.Petersburg, marched into Petrograd and demanded that the Soviet take power. The high density of Industrial workers in the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, also provoked the revolution adding to the scale of the event. The capital was defenseless for two days. After suppressing the riots, the government blamed the Bolsheviks for encouraging the rebellion and many Bolshevik leaders, including Lenin and Grigory Zinoviev, were forced to go into hiding. Although the Bolshevik party had to operate semi-legally throughout July and August, its position on the far left end of the political spectrum was consolidated. Radical anti-war social democrats, who had joined the Mezhraiontsy earlier in the year, merged with the Bolsheviks in August. Many of them, particularly Trotsky, inspired the mass of workers and soldiers.

The Kornilov Affair was another catalyst to Revolution. Alexander Kerensky, who held positions in both the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet, felt he needed a trustworthy military leader. After appointing Lavr Kornilov, Kerensky soon accused Kornilov of trying to set up his own military dictatorship. It is still uncertain as to whether or not Kornilov did engineer a plot of this kind or not. Kornilov, convinced Kerensky was acting under duress of the Bolsheviks, responded by issuing a call to all Russians to "save their dying land!" Unsure of the support of his army generals, Kerensky was forced to ask for help from other quarters- including the Bolshevik Red Guards, even providing them with arms. Kornilov's supposed attempt to seize power collapsed without bloodshed as his Cossacks deserted him. Kornilov and around 7,000 of his supporters were arrested.

The social and economic changes in Russia also produced a new educated middle class of professionals and industrial managers such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and other white collar jobs. The presence of this new class also contributed to the revolution, as citizens began to see that life could be better. World War I also had a large impact on the society of Russia. Russia had huge losses during the war that plunged its citizens into deep poverty. The citizens put their anger upon the current regime. This attitude set the stage for the rise of the Bolsheviks who promised change and presented themselves as strong leaders.

The Second Congress of Soviets consisted of 670 elected delegates; 300 were Bolshevik and nearly a hundred were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also supported the overthrow of the Kerensky Government. When the fall of the Winter Palace was announced, the Congress adopted a decree transferring power to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution. The following day, the Congress elected a Council of People's Commissars as the basis of a new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. This new government was also officially called "provisional" until the Assembly was dissolved.

The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union.

Other decrees: The Russian banks were all nationalized. Control of the factories was given to the government. Private bank accounts were confiscated. Religious properties (including bank accounts) were seized. Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced. All foreign debts were repudiated.

The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state from parliamentarian to socialist in character.

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The failings of incoming leadership

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The affect that leaders have when they apologize for what the predecessor did.

As members of the military, we often struggle with giving orders and receiving orders. For the most part the struggle is often based on having to do something that you really don’t want to do because it is unpleasant (washing dishes), time consuming (washing dishes), or a waste of time (washing dishes when the other unit has a dish washer). But we rarely if ever have to struggle with the moral or ethical question of an order. For the most part, Officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers have made it to those positions because they have proven to be, not only tactically and technically proficient, but also to have a moral integrity about themselves. This leads to an inherent trust between subordinates and leaders.

When and incoming leadership apologizes for what their predecessor did, it erodes the inherent trust that keeps the military strong, and it initiates the blame game. Take responsibility for your actions, don’t apologize for your predecessors. When a young Soldier, Sailor or Airman hears from his new senior NCO or Officer that his or hers washing the dishes was a waste of time, and that the new senior NCO or Officer is sorry for that, and ensures that they will never have to wash dishes under their watch. That act of befriending the young service member by berating and belittling the previous leadership does two things; It tells the young service member that all orders can be questioned, and that the organization is broke.

In a previous blog I wrote that discipline was the backbone of the military, it is. Incoming leadership that apologizes for the actions of the previous leadership does not know the meaning of discipline. Discipline to them is probably more of punishment, and not the act of maintaining personal and professional integrity and control.

I hesitate to say that Leader who chose to belittle and berate their predecessors are not truly leaders, but the military has put their trust in them, and that is what it is. Service members will still follow them, although it makes the job of leading harder for those of us that embrace discipline, esprit de corps, and the values of the military to the highest standard.

In closing, don’t apologize for your predecessors, if they made mistakes they should apologize for themselves, as you should be the one to apologize for your mistakes, take what your are given and drive on.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Embrace Knowledge, Share Knowledge, Be Knowledge

. Thursday, January 22, 2009
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The military of today is transforming. With the anti-gravity belts of Buck Rogers, and ray guns from the early days of science fiction still a distant future, the military is still transforming, and is doing so in such a way that escaped many science fiction authors.

Future military tech is still impressive, but I believe even the most pessimistic post Star Wars service member would look at what is proposed with a ho hum shrug of “Is that all?”

So how is military transforming to such an extent that I want to talk about it? Well, here is the answer. The military is changing the way it thinks. That alone is a monumental leap for many of us that have spent a career in the military to accept. However, difficult to accept it is true.

The Army discovered while operating in Iraq that the enemy, Al-
Qaeda, was able to adapt, change, overcome, communicate, and facilitate knowledge transfer within twenty-four hours. The Army had a tried and true way of disseminating knowledge, which was very simple. Obstacles were encountered, and lessons were learned. A set of procedures were developed to overcome the obstacles. The procedures were proven and made into doctrine. This process took years. Soldiers could still react to situations as they felt best, but when following a doctrine that was outdated often cost lives. Something needed to be done, information needed be exchanged, and not when the company in theatre was returning home and being debriefed but in real-time with the other company that was in another town in another area of Iraq.

The beginnings of knowledge networks were created. Platoon Leaders (PLs) instead of doing an After Action Review (AAR) and sending it up to Brigade, could write up their AAR and put it on a network that allowed other PLs, to learn from their experience and adjust how they operated the next time they went out on a mission, not how they operated on their next deployment.

The change in the thought process now puts the emphasis on the lower levels exchanging their knowledge out and up, instead of the old way of thinking. Generals developed the doctrine based on history, and pushed it down.

However, this could not have happened without the internet. A medium of communication needed to be in place that allowed for near instantaneous transfer of knowledge. The internet is perfect, telepathy would be better, but what we have is more than adequate for the job.

I said at the beginning that the military is transforming, and it is. In addition, our lives are being transformed by the same forces that have forced the military to embrace this new way of thinking; I’m not talking about the threat of a terrorist attack. What I’m talking about is the availability of knowledge and the ability to access it.

For along time we have been told that we live in the information age. And for good or evil it will be exploited.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A sad day, for it is midnight in America

. Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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Today I would like to talk about two topics, Science Fiction and the Military. Together we often see how the military is portrayed in the future, and at times it seems impossible to imagine a future without a military. But instead of talking about the; would’ve, should’ve, could’ve of science fiction as it relates to and is portrayed by Science Fiction, I will talk about how they came together.

Science Fiction and the military came together in the Author Robert A. Heinlein. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis on 1929, and served in the United State Navy until he was discharged due to a medical condition in 1934. In 1939 he began writing science fiction stories in order to pay the bills, and quickly became one of the most prolific writers in the field. During World War II he tried to return to active military status and was denied due to his medical condition. The rejection by the Navy to return him to active duty, never agreed with him, and wanting to due his part he did aeronautical engineering for the United States Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania. During World War II he didn’t produce any science fiction, but after the war he started putting out more and more copy, stepping out of the short story market and breaking into novels.

Robert A. Heinlein gave us classics in the genre; Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, etc. In many of his books the military is nothing more than a side note, but in Starship Troopers the military takes center stage and it is in this book the combination of a master writer with his military background gives a plausible example of the military in the future. The book moreover gives a framework of what people should do in order to make the country strong and resilient; it also gives an example of what the country should do for the people.

It is a very sad day in American history when Science Fiction has lost the allure of the future, and become disconnected from the Military. They both need one another, and we need another shining example of an amalgamation of Military and Science Fiction.

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