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Book Review: Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 4, 2019

Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic PlanningLosing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning by Andrei Martyanov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to admit I bought this book because the title and premise were intriguing, matching some of my own concerns about the recent, current and future state of the US military. But, wow, what a crazy scenario! I’m prepared to listen to and accept criticism regarding much about our military, particularly the state and status of many of our frontline weapons, a number of which are largely obsolete now, or have never been produced after throwing hundreds of billions away because of scope creep and countless other issues. Legitimate stuff, and some criticisms I’ve been making for years. And there are many reasons for this, which could probably fill a number of books. Fair enough.

What I did NOT like about this book was the author’s continual comparisons between US weapons and modern Russian weapons, ALWAYS gloating over Russian superiority, boasting how their navy could crush our navy like sardines, citing the fact that our most recent nuclear subs are, largely, ancient while Russia just produced eight new “state of the art” nuclear subs with “superior, world class” technology, apparently any one of which has such Superman-like powers, it could completely demolish our entire military in one shot, followed by wiping out the US with a second. Serious superiority issues, and a real attitude problem.

Okay, I lived through much of the Cold War. I’ve heard enough Commie propaganda over the decades, whether Soviet, Chinese, North Korean, Cuban, North Vietnamese, etc, AS WELL as most of the Arab hardliners like Saddam and Libya’s and Syria’s typical leaders, among many more, and the boasting, bragging and chest thumping is something that any two bit junior college analyst could identify, define, etc, and moreover, ultimately, with many of these loud mouths, some put their money where their mouth is, and some are total bullshitters, witness Saddam, most of the traditional 20th century Arab powers, the beloved Kims, etc. And, yes, the Russians, because as has been found out in most military encounters between many US advanced weapons vs Soviet advanced weapons, typically through proxies, the Soviets have usually had their asses handed to them. And their house came crumbling down, the giant threat a house of cards. So I take it with a grain of salt when a RUSSIAN analyst starts boasting about how their few new ships could take out all of America’s, for all intents and purposes, and I’d love to see the author, via Putin, try to put their money where their mouth is.

Which is not to say his criticism of the reductions in our military personnel, our loss of experience in crucial areas, such as nuclear, our lack of producing virtually any new world class advanced weaponry since the Cold War, at least in quantity, isn’t entirely legitimate. It’s just his snarky and frankly very odd and suspicious personal circumstances as a person and professional that make this book and it’s whole “my penis is bigger than yours” infantile attitude so damn bizarre and frustrating! He’s a Russian, was in their navy, left Russia, immigrated to America, became an American citizen and somehow found gainful, if unspecified, employment with some unnamed … US defense contractor, I believe, possibly working on US weaponry, presumably naval. Now, think about that. The US lets some Russian ex-naval vet immigrate to America, magically become a US citizen, and then let him have freaking clearance to do defense work for our damn military??? Since when does THAT happen? I haven’t heard of such things since the Manhattan Project, and those were largely German JEWISH scientists, who had everything to lose if they stayed in Germany. Of course they’re working to defeat Hitler. But this guy is working to help the US and make our military better? All the while bragging about how much our military sucks now and how fucking awesome Russia’s is??? I mean, you should read some of his claims and assertions. They’re inane! He has a warped grasp on reality, particularly when bragging about Russian military technical superiority to anything the US has got. MAYBE THAT’S BECAUSE WE’VE ALLOWED GODDAMN RUSSIAN SPIES TO COME WORK IN OUR DAMN DEFENSE INDUSTRY AND SABOTAGE OUR MILITARY!!!!!!! What I want to know is, who the hell approved this, who approved his application for citizenship, was he fully, let alone adequately debriefed when he came here, how many polygraphs has he been given, is his work audited, who’s in on it with him, what’s his REAL motive, what’s his ulterior motive, who is he REALLY working for, and yet, if he’s so damn obvious, he wouldn’t be so damn obvious now, would he? So makes you wonder if this isn’t merely IW, put on by the DoD, if the author even exists at all and we’re merely playing at information warfare and propaganda games, and so many other options and possibilities. Frankly, I’m too busy with more important obligations, but if I had the luxury of time, I’d consider doing a little digging, because it seems to me that something’s rotten in Denmark.

Ultimately though, let’s assume the author is correct in his assessment of the wasting away of US military power, which has some truth to it. Again, fair criticisms to put forth. But the antithetical, virtually rabid, boasting, gloating, stiff dick factor for Russian military technology in its alleged superiority of everything American (which is frankly horseshit, in most cases), when he’s supposed to be a US citizen working in OUR defense industry to make our military better, all the while gushing about how damn awesome Russia is and we suck??? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? WTH don’t we deport him back to Russia if he’s got such a hardon for Putin and thinks his new country is pathetic? Why did he even bother coming here? Perchance another Oswald, a US plant? Just a thought, but then I like to conjecture all types of scenarios for most things.

Ultimately, right or wrong, propaganda or truth, the book is unreadable because the author is presented as having such a one sided superiority hangup, for the side he allegedly left. Which makes many Americans ticked off enough to stop reading the book. And so, possibly, maybe the project worked for the DIA or DARPA or RAND or whomever. It stinks too much and too obviously to be legit.

Work of fiction and not recommended. Two stars for amusement and creativity, as well as intended “mystery” scenario given to the author. Sadly, a waste of time and money.

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My Year In Books: 2018

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 29, 2018

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Every year until now, they’ve provided an end of year webpage, showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, this year they did not. I am very irritated by this, so I’m doing the next best thing. I’ve taken a few screenshots of 1) what they show as your “Year in Books,” a similar webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., 2) my 2018 Reading Challenge results, and 3) my Reading Challenge results for the last five years. I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile and see the section on the left middle part of the page. You can find my Goodreads page here.

And now, a few screenshots of my year in books and my reading challenge(s)!







That’s it! If you participated in the Reading Challenge, let me know how you did. Also, what is your 2019 goal? Cheers, everyone!

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Book Review: Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 21, 2018

Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of DunkirkBlitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk by Len Deighton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pretty good book, but it had some information and assertions that surprised me. I’ve spent my whole life as a war buff, spent much of my youth consumed with WW II, thought I understood how Blitzkrieg theory was actually fought in WW II, but apparently, I’m wrong.

The book gives a pretty good history and summary of German war status, theory, preparation, Hitler’s rise, mindset, theories of various military strategists. And then the war finally commences. Obviously, then, if this is well known to others, I’m showing my own ignorance here, but I’d always heard that Germany’s Blitzkrieg techniques were unleashed on Poland, before excelling in Belgium and France, and ultimately later Russia, to a degree. If you’ve believed that too, Len Deighton will argue you’re wrong. His thesis is it was not used in Poland, it was somehow not used in Russia, and it wasn’t even really used in Belgium. Merely in France, in the Ardennes, to a shocking degree of success. This was news to me, but I’ll grant Len authority status and take his word for it.

I wasn’t totally stunned at how inept France’s leadership, both political and military, was, as I’d read other books on France in other wars of the century where the beaurocracy, logistical and communication nightmares are simply legendary, but it was still a bit of a shock to find out how the previously thought to be best army in Europe/the world was so incredibly fucked up! It took 48-72 hours to relay orders, because the leaders didn’t use radios, everything was hand carried (orders), and just because you got orders, you didn’t do anything until they had been confirmed one to two more times. By which point the German army was 60 miles behind your lines, destroying your country. Fucking idiots! The British, initially, weren’t a lot better, at least not the vaunted RAF, which was disappointing to read, but if the truth hurts, it hurts. Some of the French actually played soldier at Dunkirk, allowing hundreds of thousands of British and French troops to escape to Britain, but again, I continued to be shocked at how willing the French political and military leadership was to surrender to Hitler and essentially conspire in his plot against Jews and others, while the Free French forces in Britain were led by only one real general of note, and we all know who that is. Why France is on the UN Security Council is beyond me. They’ve insisted they’re one of the great world powers, but they got their asses kicked in WW I, went over to Hitler after getting their asses kicked in WW II, lost Indochina (although embarrassingly, America followed France’s exact same mistakes with the same results), lost most or all of their colonies, and while they’re the centuries biggest losers, they land a permanent spot on the UN Security Council. Don’t get it. I’ve read about how they insisted. THEY HELPED HITLER! They shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the UN Security Council! Of course, while implicitly bragging about the US in the first half of the century, like an ugly American, I could admit to a number of American “irregularities” that many people wouldn’t want known about a LOT of countries around the world where uninvited or unwanted westerners stuck their noses into things and propped up or took down “dictators” all over the damn place, so in the end, maybe the US shouldn’t be on the Security Council either, eh? LOL!

Okay, I’ll stop with the politicizing. Sorry. It’s a good book, an easy read, interesting to those who would find the topic interesting, but stops with the capitulation of France, and I guess I knocked a star off because I wish the author had gone on to address Russia and explain just why that was NOT blitzkrieg warfare — what the differences were — because without having studied it in detail lately, it seems like similar tactics were used to launch the Eastern Front, but obviously I’m wrong. I just want to know how and why I’m wrong, and I never got that information from this book, so one star off for that. Otherwise, recommended.

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A Review of Life

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 12, 2013

LifeLife by Keith Richards

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. I thought I had a foul mouth, but I never met Keith Richards. He’s got a mouth on him, he does. Heh.

This is an interesting book to read because it’s like the ghost writer sat Keith down with a tape recorder and 100 tapes and said record anything that comes to mind. And so he does. It’s all stream of consciousness. It’s Keith rambling and babbling about just about anything and everything. Sometimes it’s wearing, but sometimes it’s juicy and good. It’s actually quite hard to put down. He even includes his own recipe for bangers and mash!

It was mildly interesting to read about Keith and Mick’s youthful obsessions with American blues music. Since I care nothing for blues, it held little interest for me, but Keith consistently refers to blues musicians throughout the book, so it’s good to be on the lookout for this. It was also interesting to see how the band came about and how they became famous almost overnight, right after the Beatles gave them one of their songs to perform (which I already knew). They apparently played for three years straight with only some 10 days off in between. If that’s true (and it’s hard to believe), that’s a lot of touring. Keith makes no bones about the fact that the Stones were making blues and country albums with a couple of rock songs thrown in on each to please the record companies, so they could sell some records. These rocks songs are the ones we know and love. I never knew Keith was such a song writer. He wrote “Gimme Shelter” and many others of the major hits, and he collaborated with Mick on nearly every song. It was sad to read about the disintegration of their relationship. Keith spends half the book bad mouthing Mick and then saying good things about him, that he’s his mate. Weird. Some of the friction started with Anita Pallenberg, a hottie Keith had stolen (“rescued”) from Brian Jones. Apparently, she and Mick were in a film together and had a scene in a bathtub and one thing might have led to another. Keith writes, “I didn’t find out for ages about Mick and Anita, but I smelled it.” He then goes on to write “I’m not that jealous kind of guy,” before telling us how he got back at Mick by porking Mick’s girlfriend Maryann Faithful, having to escape out the window to avoid being caught by Mick. There’s lots of these discrepancies throughout the book, which would normally make me want to give it three stars, but I’m giving it four because it is interesting.

It’s amazing how Richards dismisses Brian Jones’s death. He writes,

“I knew Frank Thorogood, who made a ‘deathbed confession’ that he’d killed Brian Jones by drowning him in the swimming pool, where Brian’s body was found some minutes after other people had seen him alive. But I’m always wary of deathbed confessions…. Whether he did or not I don’t know. Brian had bad asthma and he was taking quaaludes and Tuinals, which are not the best things to dive under water on. Very easy to choke on that stuff…. But when somebody says, ‘I did Brian,’ at the very most I’d put it down to manslaughter. All right, you may have pushed him under, but you weren’t there to murder him. He pissed off the builders, whining son of a bitch. It wouldn’t have mattered if the builders were there or not, he was at that point in his life when there wasn’t any.”

Doesn’t seem to care very much, does he? He gets angry about other people in his life dying, but could care less that a member of the group does. Odd.

Later in the book, Keith speculates further about Mick.

“I’ve no doubt, in retrospect, that Mick was very jealous of me having other male friends. And I’ve no doubt that that was more of a difficulty than women or anything else. It took me a long time to realize that any male friend I had would automatically get the cold shoulder, or at least a suspicious reception, from Mick.”

One of the things I didn’t like about the book was that Keith just skipped over songs and albums entirely. He mentioned Beggars Banquet, but only mentions Let It Bleed once in the book that I can recall. Yet he spends perhaps hundreds of pages on Exile on Main Street and Some Girls. Why is that? Is that because he was writing more of the songs, so he wants credit? Is he so insecure that he wants to gloss over early Stones history to get to where he contributed more heavily? It doesn’t make sense. He also totally skips over Tattoo You, the Stones’ last great album, while writing at length about inferior newer albums. Weird. Another thing that bugged me about the book was that he tries to describe himself as a real macho type. He carried guns and knives with him — slept with a gun under his pillow. And apparently he used these at times, and was well known for it. During his very bad heroin period, when he couldn’t get the “good stuff,” he’d have to go to downtown L.A., for instance, and read on…

“We knew the trick — you’d score upstairs, and on your way down the other bunch would take it back off you again. Most of the time you’d hear it going on while you were waiting for your turn. The thing was to leave quietly, and if you saw anybody outside — because you never knew if it was going to happen or not — usually you’d give them a kick in the balls. But a couple of times, fuck it, OK, let’s go for it. You cover me. You stay down there, and as I come down with the shit I’ll go bang, and they’ll go bang and then you go bang. Shoot out the lightbulbs and put a few bullets around and do the run, sparks flying. Then with a bit of luck we’re out of there. The statistic are well on your side against being hit when you’re a moving target. If you look at the odds, one thousand to one, you’re going to win. You have to be very close and you have to have good eyesight to shoot out a lightbulb. And it’s dark. Flash, bang, wallop and get out of there. I loved it. It was real OK Corral stuff.”

Keith’s heroin habit was VERY bad, but he really almost downplays it in the book, like he had some control over it. Never OD’d like others, knew not to take too much. Said it helped his creativity. I don’t know about that, but I don’t think you’re setting a good example for the kids, Keith.

Keith and Anita have several children, one of whom dies mysteriously in a crib death experience, but her heroin addiction is worse than his and when he finally cleans up, he can’t stay with her, so ultimately hooks up with Patti Hansen, whom he marries four years later and with whom he has two more children. Strangely, the book talks more of Keith and Anita’s relationship than Keith and Patti, until the final chapter.

Keith and Mick had been at each other’s throats for some time, but it got very bad when Mick piggybacked a three album solo deal on a new Stones deal. Keith felt betrayed by this, for some reason. He rants about it at length. He then goes on to write about the beginnings of “World War III.”:

“Dirty Work came out in early 1986, and I badly wanted to tour with it. So, of course, did the other band members, who wanted to work. But Mick sent us a letter saying he wouldn’t tour. He wanted to get on with his solo career. Soon after the letter came, I read in one of the English tabloids of Mick saying the Rolling Stones are a millstone around my neck. He actually said it. Swallow that one, fucker. I had no doubt that some part of his mind was thinking that, but saying it is another thing. That’s when World War III was declared.”

Oddly, while Keith is ranting about Mick’s Solo career, he goes off and forms a band and puts out two records of his own with zero remorse. Again, some hypocrisy. It’s disappointing. Keith seems so down to earth and real at times, and so spoiled and brat-like at others that it’s maddening!

So in 1989, a truce between Mick and the rest was declared. Keith wrote,

“Mick and I may not be friends — too much wear and tear for that — but we’re the closest of brothers, and that can’t be severed. How can you describe a relationship that goes that far back? Best friends are best friends. But brothers fight. I felt a real sense of betrayal. Mick knows how I feel, although he may not have realized my feelings went so deep. But it’s the past I’m writing about; this stuff happened a long time ago. I can say these things; they come from the heart. At the same time, nobody else can say anything against Mick that I can hear. I’ll slit their throat.”

Even though there is peace once again, Keith still gets some shots in. Mick called Keith to tell him that Tony Blair is insisting that he accept a knighthood. Keith’s reply? “You can turn down anything you like, pal.” And then he goes off!

“What’s all this shit about a knighthood? … Had I misread my friend? The Mick that I grew up with, here’s a guy who’d say shove all your little honors up your arse. Thank you very much, but no thanks. It’s a demeaning thing to do. It’s called the honors list, but we’ve been honored enough. The public has honored us. You’re going to accept an honor from a system that tried to put you in jail for nothing? I mean, if you can forgive them for that….Mick’s class consciousness had become more and more evident as we went along, but I never knew he’d fallen for this shit.”

Sounds like Keith could use some therapy to me. He never gets over Mick trying to get in with the popular circles and trying to manage the group himself. He resented Mick for nearly everything and it’s this poison that seeps throughout the whole book which makes it a bit disappointing. Don’t get me wrong — he may be right about everything and Mick may be a total asshole, but you’re sinking to a level you don’t need to go to when you start writing this stuff.

Keith’s linguistic skills are a marvel to observe in this book. He has a way with words, even when he’s describing shooting up in a shit hole hovel or he’s escaping being jailed once again. I think there’s too much emphasis on albums that don’t deserve it (like the recent ones) and not enough — if any — on some classics that do deserve it. I would have liked to hear a little more about his doings with Charlie and Bill and the others. They play bit roles in this book. Still, it’s a decent read, and quite long, and if you’re a Stones fan, you’ll probably find it quite illuminating. Hell, you probably will even if you’re not a Stones fan. Recommended.
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