hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Book Review: A Foreign Policy for the Left

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 12, 2020

A Foreign Policy for the LeftA Foreign Policy for the Left by Michael Walzer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Weak. I’ve been a progressive/”liberal” for most of my adult life but over the past five years have become really disgusted with the group. While I cannot stand (even believe) where the far right has gone, A) the left could look to them for some damn lessons, because B) the Dems eat their own, constantly bickering among themselves, constantly attacking their own while the right gets behind their candidates and fucking WIN while Berniebots hate their OWN leading candidates so much, they fucking voted Trump INTO office last time! It’s their damn fault that moron is president and so for the past four years, most of America, including nearly every liberal, has counted on seemingly ANYONE running against Trump to kick his ass and put some sanity back in the White House, … but it’s happening again, and it started at least two years ago. I’ve read some books by some disillusioned lifelong Republican strategists and advisers who are desperate to join with everyone in a centrist effort to vote Trump out, although they say they won’t vote for a Hillary or Bernie. I understand that. It’s called compromise and it used to be a big part of our government. These major players write that the Dems can be counted on to bicker with their pet projects and pet peeves so much that they lose sight of the election and lose the election as a result of infighting while the conservatives all rally around whatever asshole is their candidate, like him or not. And the Dems lose and they do this to themselves and they never learn. And these people are 100% right. Trump WILL win again because for the past two plus years the Berniebots have insisted that NO ONE except Bernie will be okay with them – Biden, Bloomberg, Warren, no one. Because he’s the “outsider.” HE’S BEEN IN FUCKING OFFICE LONGER THAN ANY OF THEM!!!!! You stupid dumbass hypocritical traitors! So because you hate people in your own *alleged* party so much (because obviously you’re Republicans as you’d rather have an autocratic insane Republican president than someone from a party you claim to be a part of who is not your favorite choice…), you’d rather have a treasonous Russian puppet in office. You’re the damn problem, not the conservatives! Idiots. And this book? Rewritten regurgitation with few new ideas. Neither party has a grasp on quality, successful, diplomatic-yet-cautious foreign policy and the leaders of both parties have taken the “winner” from the Cold War and they’ve fucked the country and world up with their idiot foreign policies, and we want these people recommending anything? The liberals are idealists with no concept of reality and the evangelical right wing nutjobs are fascist nationalists intent on getting behind an apocalyptic nationalist Mussolini wannabee. Awesome. And my wife won’t let us move to New Zealand… Both parties have proven to be failures at public policy and foreign policy over the past 25+ years. Please get the centrists together and form a real, actual third party to wipe these idiots out of office and start over with some sanity and reason. This book? About as good as current conservative books calling for “change” — bullshit.

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Welcome to the Space Force LinkedIn Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 31, 2020

I received a very interesting and unique email last week regarding a LinkedIn group of which I’m a member. There are several things that make it fairly unique. For one thing, while this is not necessarily the first time, it still is very rare to receive a message of this nature via email sent specifically to me at one of my email addresses that is not in use or listed in or on my LinkedIn account/profile. Indeed, if any such message were to be sent out to an entire group or even, as in this case, just to “select” members of a group, it would almost always be done via LinkedIn’s messaging system. The fact that this was sent to me at a personal address not listed on my LinkedIn profile indicates it would likely be or in fact is a more pointed, personal and selective message to be sent only to certain “qualifying” entities and thus not to the entire group or even necessarily many in the LinkedIn group’s listed membership figures and members, as the group on LinkedIn doesn’t list a membership size anywhere close to the size mentioned in this email, nor does studying the listing of the members in the group on its LI page give an indication that many would be likely to receive a message of this nature. So, that’s fairly odd.

Another somewhat unique thing about this is during my 14 years on LinkedIn, I have been a member or am currently a member of a hell of a lot of groups — in a very diverse number of fields. Many of these have been at the invitation of members or group owners, while I also actually have not become a member of many groups I have been invited to join for one reason or another, often because I don’t feel it’s either a group I’m particularly interested in or perhaps necessarily qualified for. That being said, I have spent my entire life getting education, reading, studying, researching, discussing, engaging, writing about a TON of different things such that one might be inclined to say it’s simply nuts. Moreover, over the course of my lifetime, I have been or am currently a member of dozens of professional organizations, again with a wide disparity of professional specialties. If interested, I have listed on a Page tabbed at the top of this blog a fairly accurate list of Professional Organizations to which I belong. You can find it here. I don’t want to get too bogged down in this area because it isn’t the focus of this blog post, but you have to possess some measure of qualification to belong to most of them. Usually that entails one, two or more degrees in certain academic fields applicable to that organization as well as often 5-10 or even more years of experience in the field. And while some are fairly generous in defining their accepted qualifications, many of them are actually quite difficult to get into and some are what one might consider even “elite” and hence virtually impossible to get into for the majority of people, while many of them also are very narrowly focused and so the requirements are very narrowly defined, such as an organization for military special forces or electronic warfare experts or Foreign Service professionals (State Department), or physicists, etc. Some will basically take your word for it in listing specific degrees in specific subjects at specific named universities as well as specific job titles in specific companies or divisions of companies or federal agencies, etc. Many are tougher and will require evidence in the form of transcripts, proof of expertise or seniority within the industry they represent, and some require sponsorship from members or even actually multiple senior members. As such, one must go through a vetting process for many of these organizations, some of which are so thorough as to simulate or even be like a variation of a security clearance vetting, taking anywhere from 1-2 days to two weeks to 1-2 months, etc. Like I said, some are extremely selective. And like the LinkedIn groups, I didn’t necessarily request or apply to join and become a member of them all — I was invited. However, I often HAVE applied for membership with many, and to be perfectly candid, I have applied to quite a few where one might assume I wouldn’t meet the criteria at all and would thus be rejected. That makes sense. Common sense. After all, I’ve never officially been a Foreign Service Officer or worked for the State Department nor have I been a certified counselor and I’ve never been a professional scientist or physicist, or Air Force general, etc. Yet at the same time, I’ve never applied to an organization I felt I couldn’t prove I wasn’t practically or pragmatically qualified for. Just because I don’t officially have an Electrical Engineering degree doesn’t mean I didn’t spend four years at UCLA studying the material and pursuing a diploma only to not be able to finish and get the diploma because of unfortunately timed necessary geographical relocation, as well as having spent years working in that field. See? Qualified. Nor have I ever had a job where I had the official title of “Systems Engineer,” yet I’ve served in that function and filled that role one way or another in so many of my jobs at so many companies that I am actually a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE)! And therefore to my shock at times, I’ve never been rejected when applying to any professional organization for which I felt I was qualified, despite a lack of a formal degree in the field or specific job title, etc., because my combination of education, work experience, research, publishing, knowledge, expertise in a large number of areas has apparently made up for the “deficiencies” one might presume regarding the more formal requirements. Still, I’ve been shocked plenty of times when admitted to organizations such as American Physical Society (APS Physics), Espionage Research Institute International (ERII) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) among others.

The purpose of the overly long preceding paragraph is meant to provide some context for the email message (or part of it) that I recently received from the group owner of one of the aforementioned LinkedIn groups of which I am currently a member. (At last glance, I’m currently a member in 96 LI groups, but have been leaving some because that’s just too many, so I’ve left probably 20+ more over the past year alone.) And so finally, one of the LI groups of which I’m a member is the Military Space Warfare Discussion Group (because, yes, that’s been one of my research and engagement areas for some time). The group, as listed on LI, doesn’t consist of too many members, so when I received the following email, I found it surprising, not only for what I’ve already shared, but because it literally gives a demographic/statistical breakdown of the 13,952 “hand-picked” members “with experience in Space Control and Space Domain Awareness (SDA).” I’ve literally never seen such a thing before, for any of these groups. Sure, you could stroll through the various member listings to see what, if listed, they do and in what capacity and for which entity (rarely listed in many of these groups), but who has the time for that? But as a person who has always loved stats, demographics, stuff like that, I got a real kick out of the data enclosed in the email. After the main body in the email there follows listings of various space warfare documents, files, doctrine, escalation ladders, etc., with links to numerous repositories of such. I won’t include that part of the email since it’s not intended for public viewing, but I’ll now post what seems like one of the more unique group/org emails I’ve ever received…

 

 

– Welcome to the Space Force LinkedIn Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group
1 message
Space Strategies Center <Paul.Szymanski@satellitewar.com> Sat, Jan 18, 2020 at 2:02 PM
Reply-To: Space Strategies Center <Paul.Szymanski@satellitewar.com>

To: scottholstad@gmail.com

 

LinkedIn Space Warfare Discussion Group:

Welcome to the newly re-launched Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group on LinkedIn! You are a member of this Group by your own request, or because you linked up with me due to my extensive space warfare experience over the past 46 years. This Group is for people who have an interest in warfare in the space environment, and I welcome experts and non-experts alike. I am particularly interested in people with military backgrounds, even if not space related, because I believe military principles honed over many years of history are also applicable to future space combat.

With the establishment of the United States Space Force, it is now critical to better understand outer space warfare theory, principles, policy, doctrine, strategies and tactics, along with the political implications of space attacks, and how these attacks may challenge allied relationships. Setting the correct foundational principles can launch the Space Force on the right path to fight and win the next space wars. All topics for discussion are for general doctrine concepts only, which is always considered unclassified and not sensitive since these foundational concepts must be employed in educating all personnel of the new Space Force.

The Space Warfare Discussion Group on LinkedIn is probably the most extensive collection of senior decision-makers in the United States, if not the World, who have an interest in space warfare. The general membership statistics of this Group are given below. In addition, links to documents used in previous Group discussions are listed towards the end of this email.

As a first topic of discussion for the new year I give a link below for a briefing by one of our long-term Group members, Dr. Mir Sadat (LinkedIn profile), who is a director at the White House National Security Council for space policy.

You may view Dr. Sadat’s talk at the below link:

Space Cooperation in an Age of Great Power Competition

 

Thank-you for your time,

Paul Szymanski

President

Space Strategies Center

National@Policy.Space

 

LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/PaulSzymanski

Professional Websites: http://Policy.Space  or  http://Wars.Space

 

Space Warfare Group Membership Statistics: The Space Warfare discussion group on LinkedIn that I developed is probably the most senior discussion group in the country with an interest in space control critical topics. It consists of 13,952 hand-picked members on LinkedIn with experience in Space Control and Space Domain Awareness (SDA), or at least have expressed an interest in these topics, and includes: 367 members from military colleges (including the former Superintendent of the Air Force Academy), 825 from private and Government think tanks, 293 from public universities, 103 from government intelligence agencies (including the NASIC Chief Scientist and the former NRO Chief Scientist), 184 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 283 from NATO, 96 from NORAD-USSTRATCOM, 1,262 General officers, Admirals or equivalents (one to four stars, including former: Secretary of the Army, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (3), Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO Assistant Secretary General, Commander of US Army in Europe, Commander of U.S. Air Force in Europe, Commander & Deputy Commander of Special Operations Command in Europe, Commander of US Army Forces Africa, Commander of US Army Pacific, Commanders (2) of U.S. Forces in Japan, Commander of US Central Command, Commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, Commanders of Air Combat Command (2), NATO Commanders (2), Commander of NORAD-USNORTHCOM, Commanding Generals of the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division (2), 1st US Army, US Army South (2), US Army Special Operations Command, Director of the National Security Space Office, Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Commander of Navy Installations Command; Commander of Naval Air Systems Command, also current: Commanders of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (3), Commander of AFMC, Director of DISA, Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Marine Corps Commandant and now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also one former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), 293 from the Secretary of Defense office (including one former Secretary of Defense and 56 current and former Under/Assistant Secretaries of Defense), 2 former Secretaries of the Air Force, 14 Under/Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force, 1 former Secretary of the Army, 13 Under/Assistant Secretaries of the Army, 2 Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, 6 Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, past and current Commanders of the 3rd, 4th, 5th (2 commanders), 6th (2 commanders), Pacific (2 commanders) and Korea Naval fleets, and 7th and 8th Air Forces, 2 Assistant Secretaries of DOE, 2 Assistant Secretaries of the Treasury, 2 Under Secretary of Commerce, 2 from the National Military Command Center, 421 Congressional House & Senate staffers, 1,132 from specific military space agencies, 716 from various other military services, 126 diplomats & ambassadors, 92 from the State Department (including 9 Assistant Secretaries of State), 3,558 from various space-related defense contractors, 205 from the White House and National Security Council staffs, 103 from NASA (including their Chief Scientist), 27 astronauts, and 27 from The Vatican, among others.

 

Wow! Wild, huh? And here’s something else that’s crazy: I actually have quite a few of the listed individuals as personal connections, in some cases for many years. And by a few, I mean a lot, from the bottom ranks to the very top (not only Joint Staff, but Joint Chiefs), Commander of US Army in Europe, Commander of US Army Pacific, Commander of NORAD, various Assistant Secretaries of Defense, many Assistant Secretaries of States and so on. Life is just surreal sometimes. I really have little more to say except that I think I’ll actually post a list of the LI groups to which I currently belong, in arbitrary order, just to show you how diverse and frankly wacky my professional interests are…

 

The LinkedIn Groups I’m A Member Of And The Number of Members They Have At The Time I Am Admitted To The Group The Present (1/20/2020):

 

  1. EarthLink Alumni – 1,989
  2. CSULB Alumni Association – 10,159
  3. U of Tennessee Alumni Group-Official – 14,629
  4. Queens University of Charlotte – 1,273
  5. University of Tennessee, Knoxville – 23,024
  6. Project Manager Network – 854,417
  7. Society for Technical Communication – 11,738
  8. NetworkTN – 9,613
  9. Information Security Community – 398,124
  10. Technical Writing & Content Management – 13,628
  11. Entrepreneur’s Network – 60,675
  12. Consultants Network – 462,708
  13. IT & Software – 1,479
  14. Information Systems Security Association– 55,539
  15. IT Professionals – 224,675
  16. Cyber Security Forum Initiative (CSFI) – 110,311
  17. USENIX Association – 3,145
  18. Association of Old Crows – 10,920
  19. Telecom & Wireless World – 7,643
  20. Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) & Cyber Security – 61,354
  21. COO Executive Group – 5,621
  22. ISACA – 48,492
  23. AFCEA International – 6,663
  24. ASIS International – 100,050
  25. US Nuclear Energy Foundation (USNEF) – 22
  26. Cyber Intelligence Network – 31,403
  27. Military Intelligence Group: China Region – 2,578
  28. International Relations (IR) & Affairs Group – 100,479
  29. China Studies Group – 4,731
  30. The Intelligence Community – 71,801
  31. Cyber Law & Information Security – 13,229
  32. Quantum Computing – 6,838
  33. Chief Executives | CEO, COO, CFO, CTO & CXO – 81,788
  34. Cool Hand Nuke – 17,700
  35. Foreign Policy Discussion Group – 4,282
  36. Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Machine Learning – 280,931
  37. Quantum Mechanics/Physics/Theory/Leap/Computing Information Science! – 2,990
  38. Executive Suite – 342,854
  39. Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Saas & Virtualization – 493,061
  40. IACD – Integrated Adaptive Cyber Defense – 1,040
  41. Nuclear Security – 1,922
  42. ACM Members – 14,763
  43. Information Technology, FinTech, Blockchain and Bitcoin Innovation – 343,064
  44. Chronic Pain Management Support – 10,042
  45. Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group – 720
  46. Nuclear Power – the next generation – 46,719
  47. Asia Pacific Analysts, Consultants & Researchers Association – 2,144
  48. IETF – The Internet Engineering Task Force – 8,630
  49. Pittsburgh Penguins Fans – 2,487
  50. Artificial Intelligence – 53,917
  51. Cloud Security Alliance – 97,829
  52. Strategic Planning Society (SPS) – 55,865
  53. Big Data & Analytics – 378,331
  54. HISTORY – Practical History – 14,000
  55. Future Trends – 558,535
  56. Data Science Central – 303,965
  57. Nuclear Energy – 5,715
  58. Machine Learning & Data Science – 103,342
  59. Cloud Storage – 45,648
  60. EW, Countermeasures – 2,206
  61. European Commission – “External relations and foreign affairs” – 882
  62. Defense & Aerospace – 138,691
  63. The Virtualization & Cloud Computing Group – 97,535
  64. Science, Technology & Innovation Policy – 27,423
  65. Irregular Warfare Center of Excellence – 1,429
  66. Robotics and Machine Intelligence – 6,934
  67. Special Operations Research Association (SORA) – 345
  68. Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) – 6,724
  69. Business Intelligence Professionals (BI, Big Data, Analytics) – 244,491
  70. Private Military & Security Contractors – 11,984
  71. Digital & IT Strategy – 15,259
  72. Business Analysis – 13,773
  73. Neural Networks Club – 638
  74. Global SOF Foundation – 3,800
  75. APS Physics – 1,948
  76. The Business Technology Forum – 44,185
  77. INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY – 42,918
  78. CHINA Debate – 1,233
  79. IOSI: Counter-Terrorism & Geopolitical Security – 19,760
  80. NeuroScience Network – 6,528
  81. Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE) – 78,248
  82. IEEE Systems, Man, & Cybernetics Society (SMCS) – 62
  83. IEEE Robotics & Automation Society (IEEE RAS) – 23,225
  84. Military Space Warfare Discussion Group – 188
  85. Security, Intelligence & Risk Fusion Group – 363
  86. IEEE Computational Intelligence Society CIS – 5,141
  87. Technology & Society: the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) – 4,234
  88. American Association of Political Consultants – 10,610
  89. Creativity: Authors and Books | Artists and Paintings – 142,556
  90. Politics, Diplomacy, Communication & Protocol (Think Tank) – 585
  91. Sports Techie – 4,800
  92. Business Analysis – 13,776
  93. Defence IQ – 13,782
  94. Aerospace & Security & Defence Technology & Business – 45,724
  95. Space Situational Awareness – 730
  96. Military History & Strategy – 10,838

 

 

FORMERLY A MEMBER OF (at least 22 more in the past two years):

 

  • Knoxville Farragut HS Alumni
  • Writing Professionals and Authors
  • Network Chattanooga
  • IT & Startups
  • Online Sellers Community for eBay, Amazon,…
  • Senior Executive Exchange
  • The IT Entrepreneur
  • Global Business Leaders
  • Audiophile Enthusiast
  • LinkEds & Writers
  • Technical Writer Forum 
  • Vinyl Record Collecting Network 
  • Career Thought Leaders Consortium 
  • Film & TV Tech Professionals 
  • Positions for Scientists 
  • Cybercrime Today 
  • Technology Leaders Association 
  • Chief Strategy Officer 
  • Startup vs Corporate Innovation 
  • Data Driven Drilling & Production 
  • Advanced Clean Energy Summit 
  • Technology and Society: the IEEE Society on Social Implication of Technology (SSIT) 

 

 

[If, for some reason, you would like to confirm this information, you can find the people I follow, companies I follow and LI groups of which I’m a member at the bottom of my LI profile, like everyone else’s:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottholstad/.]

 

 

 

 

[The top section of my LinkedIn profile…]

 

 

 

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My Years In Books: 2019

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 24, 2019

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. Each year, they provide an end of year webpage showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, they recently decided to make them only able to share to a few social network sites where I no longer have accounts. I remain annoyed by this, so I’m doing the next best thing for the second straight year. (And you can see my blog entry for 2018’s results here:  My Year In Books: 2018.) I’ve taken several screenshots showing information like what they describe as your “Year in Books,” parts of the webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., my 2019 Reading Challenge results, my Reading Challenge results since 2013 and something I’ve never done before — an intro to the webpage of My Year in Books because as you’ll see, my numbers are tremendously skewed up this year and are thus somewhat deceptive, so I felt obligated to explain. For what it’s worth, I set my 2019 reading goal at 90 books. Goodreads is reporting I read 443 books, or 492% of my original goal. Like I said, I wrote an explanation because while I exceed my goal every year, it’s never by that much and there are a couple of reasons why this year’s numbers aren’t completely accurate. So 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 here. (I believe you have to be a logged in member to view it, however…)

And now, the promised screenshots. Comments are welcome…

 

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

My Goodreads All-time Annual Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019”

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — Introduction

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — End Of Webpage

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

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Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 15, 2018

This is not really a post, so much as just a hyperlink to an article that once again proves that Donald Trump is undoubtedly the most stupid politician at any level in the history of America. One could even say he’s possibly the most stupid person/citizen in the history of America. Or dare I say world? Read this article in New York Magazine about a conversation Trump had with Australia’s prime minister, complete with numerous quotes, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Trump is an absolute idiot!

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/08/australias-pm-slowly-realizes-trump-is-a-complete-idiot.html?fbclid=IwAR0r9TI3rlkDILdqb3PmdYaZ_dzqw01W1ZfqN8aIPNcW8Bo_GDZY7BIWjJ4

 

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Book Review: Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 14, 2018

Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction by Joseph M. Siracusa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At a little over 150 pages, this book covers a lot of ground in a short format. Unfortunately, while I did think it was pretty good, its focus wasn’t entirely what I wanted, and it lacked in some areas. There is an initial introduction to the creation of atomic bombs from a very minimal and layman’s technical perspective, but then the book launches into the history of nuclear power, the history behind the Manhattan Project and the WW II race for the atomic bomb, America’s legacy of being the first and only country to use it, and the bulk of the rest of the book is a history and discussion of the Cold War politics, diplomacy, and military strategic readiness (from a US perspective) between the US and the Soviet Union. The book ends with a minor bit on how, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has had to try to find a place for the Bomb in its arsenal, for some people, how to justify not only maintaining a large stockpile, but improving it, for others, how to decrease a load of weapons large enough to destroy this planet many times over. It ends by acknowledging the fact that now that there’s not another nuclear “enemy” to construct a strategy around, and with the advent of non-state sponsored organizations, terrorists and the like, the effort to construct a new ideology and strategy is much more difficult than it used to be.

All of that was good, if not occasionally repetitive. What I had hoped to see was more scientific and technical detail behind, not only the creation of the early bombs, but current technology, and where we are heading. And I didn’t get that. I also wanted to see more of a discussion on the ethics behind this, and on the justifications of maintaining the current seven nuclear powers while working to ensure no other country, and especially no other country the US “disapproves” of (Iran…), obtains nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapon industry. I mean, why is it okay for Pakistan to have them, but not Iran? Why is it okay for Israel to be thought of of having them (they won’t admit to it), while other countries cannot? I’m not saying I support the idea of more or warmongering countries getting nuclear weapons, but who made America the planet’s god, to decide who gets them and who doesn’t? That strikes me as incredibly arrogant and hypocritical. And I’m American! Naturally, the world would be better off without nuclear weapons, but that genie is out of the bottle, so this is a complex problem requiring, yes, political and diplomatic discussions and solutions, and not saber rattling. I’m currently reading another book on “limited” nuclear warfare for the 21st century. It’s incredibly interesting, and I think it would make a good companion piece to this book, maybe as Volume 2 of a two volume series. Because that’s where the world has gone, that’s where the world should and will have to go if we intend to not commit global suicide, and nuclear power countries need to dialogue about these issues and more.

This book doesn’t have the highest rating out there, and I’ve read a lot of reviews and it seems mostly due to lack of sufficient discussion on a wide range of topics, such as I’ve brought up. But I think its lower rating is unfair, because the subtitle for the book is “A Very Short Introduction.” What the hell do you expect for 150 pages?!? Of course I would have liked more. For that, I need to buy a 750 page textbook for $200. This was exactly what it advertised itself to be, so I feel it merits four stars at a minimum. If this is a topic that interests you, I certainly recommend it.

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A Review of Warrior: Frank Sturgis

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 3, 2015

Warrior: Frank Sturgis---The CIA's #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by WatergateWarrior: Frank Sturgis—The CIA’s #1 Assassin-Spy, Who Nearly Killed Castro but Was Ambushed by Watergate by Jim Hunt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is about a legend in the subject’s own mind. And perhaps the co-authors’. And perhaps even a few others. But he’s really not all that. This book is poorly researched, is largely hearsay, is mostly guided by the nephew of the subject, who lived with him for awhile and is one of the co-authors, and seems spurious at best.

Sturgis joined the Marines in WWII and fought in the Pacific, winning several decorations. He was later stationed in Europe after the war. This is where he began spying for the Zionist movement for Israel, pre-Mossad, something which would have been illegal and would have resulted in dishonorable discharge at best and perhaps even loss of his citizenship. After leaving the Marines, he joined the Navy and the Army, although in what capacity, I’m not sure. The book states he served in all four armed services, but he did not serve in the Air Force, one of a number of factual mistakes made by the authors.

Following his military career, Sturgis, who’s real name was Fiorini and who changed his name to suit his circumstances some 33 alleged times opened up several bars, but grew restless, so he became a mercenary and started becoming involved in several South and Central American country’s military efforts, both in terms of training and arms supplying. At some point, he became interested in Cuba and was put off by the dictator there and intrigued by the new rebel, Castro, who promised reform and democracy. So Sturgis went off to offer his help to Castro. He trained his rebels, supplied arms and ammunition, an airplane and boats, and helped Castro and Che take over Cuba. A famous picture of Sturgis holding a rifle and identified as a captain in Castro’s army standing on a mass grave appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper, which later got him into trouble. When he returns to America, he was stripped of his citizenship, and held for trial. His Florida senator got him off. He returned to Cuba, retained his status in the army, was given control of the air force, and was then made the gambling czar. In this capacity, he met all the mob bosses, many of whom he pissed off, most of whom he forced back to the US. Still, he seemed to be on good terms with them. During this time, he was approached, apparently, by a CIA agent who asked him to spy on Castro and supply them with any information about communism or anything else that could be indicting. Since Sturgis was extremely anti-communist, he agreed. And he was becoming nervous. It seemed Castro was backtracking on his promise for democracy and was filling his cabinet with communists. Che played a big role in this. Sturgis thought it might be time for him to head back to Miami. But first he contemplated assassinating Castro. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d done such a thing, apparently. He was, after all according to the book, the CIA’s “#1 Assassin-Spy,” and someone Castro later called the CIA’s “most dangerous agent.” He apparently had at least four opportunities. On page 80 in the book, it states “Throughout his anti-Castro career, Frank participated in more than 150 air operations and 60 boat incursions. As Frank put it, these missions were done both ‘with the green light and without the green light’.” So one of my biggest questions about the book is, at some point, Sturgis is asked why he didn’t pull the trigger and he replied that he never got the green light. So if he hated Castro that much, why suddenly wait for the green light when everything else he does is done without any authority? That makes utterly no sense at all. It sounds like a bad cop out and I don’t buy it.

In 1959, Frank leaves Cuba for Miami, where he sets up an anti-Castro operation, where he sends in teams of people, including himself, to disrupt, antagonize, breed anti-Castro resentment, etc. It barely ever works. He does this for the rest of his life.

Much later, he is hired to commit the Watergate burglary, where he is caught and goes to prison. He allegedly does this as a CIA operative, along with other CIA operatives, most of whom are Cubans who the CIA are just dying to hire to join the CIA fresh off the boat (sarcasm intended) when Sturgis remains an independent contractor his whole career and is never an actual employee of the Agency.

One thing that’s interesting about the book is the Kennedy assassination conspiracy. Apparently there are those who believe Frank was involved and indeed was the “only one who could pull off killing Kennedy.” Um, right. Yep. Apparently, because of his Cuban connections, his mob connections, and his right wing CIA connections, all of whom wanted Kennedy dead, he was the one to pull it all together and pictures show him as one of the tramps on the grassy knoll. The two co-authors offer their own interpretations, one of which places him in Dallas on hand and ready to pull the trigger, and the other of which states that he had to have been in Miami through an eyewitness account, but that he could have overseen everything and indeed, probably did. If this is true, it’s likely the only successful thing he ever did, as he failed at unseating Castro and he failed at Watergate. Now, he did help assassinate a couple of small time banana republic dictators, apparently, so I guess that’s something, but for a man who considered himself a true patriot, he sure did a lot of unpatriotic things, including hating Kennedy for life after the Bay of Pigs incident, which he apparently trained the men for, and including virtually everything else he did.

Enough. It’s hard enough to believe that much of this is true. If it is, Sturgis was an interesting failure. He’s dead, so we’ll never truly know. His nephew thinks he knows, but he doesn’t — it’s conjecture. The tale is fascinating, but largely unbelievable and thus not recommended.

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A Review of Mao: The People’s Emperor

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 27, 2015

Mao, the People's EmperorMao, the People’s Emperor by Dick Wilson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to rate. On one hand, it provides a lot of information and is somewhat detailed. On the other, it leaves out huge chunks of information which is simply unforgivable.

I wanted to read about Mao to learn more about him — I knew next to nothing — and I did. I learned of his modest upbringing, his hardships, his love of country, his love of the peasants, his introduction to Marx, his awakening to socialism and communism and the way to save his country — and every country. I learned of his split with the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, the backstabbing, dictatorial asshole American naturally supported to rule China and whom Mao eventually drove to Taiwan. I learned about Mao’s raising of a peasant army, about the Long March, about his battles against Japan during WWII, his continued battles with the nationalists after the war, and about his victorious march into Peking after defeating them. I read of his rise to power and of how power corrupts, in this case, his cronies. Mao apparently wanted the Chinese to continue to revolt to bring about true communism, but his cronies on the Politburo grew a little too comfortable. I read of the numerous attempts to get Mao thrown out of office, which surprised me, and of how he survived each, coming back stronger each time. I read of his Cultural Revolution, which was taking place when I was born and was something I barely remember. I read of when Nixon went to visit him, the first time an American president had done such a thing. And I read of his death in the mid-70s.

All of this was interesting, but so much was left out. For instance, you would think the Korean War would be pretty big, wouldn’t you? It was big for the US, the two Koreas, and China, but it only merits a few sentences in this huge book. WTH? What’s up with that? Surely the author could have written something about that! Also, during the Hundred Flowers phase of the ’50s, Mao was said to have said that “the imperialist claims that twenty million people had been killed as counter-revolutionaries were quite false. The true number was ‘not much greater than 700,000.'” Um, excuse me? Where the hell did that come from? At least 700,000 people died and perhaps as many as 20 million and the author never even hints that executions are taking place, that people are being murdered, that there are death squads, that anything AT ALL is happening???!!! Doesn’t Mr. Wilson owe it to his reader to let them know that this is happening? It’s shocking that he left this information out of the book. It’s insulting to the Chinese and to the reader. If I were a relative of one of the deceased, I’d be outraged. I just couldn’t believe it when I read that passage. And that’s not an isolated example! This occurs elsewhere. Mass massacres, with no advance warning. No sense of injustice. Mao’s just a rustic good old boy, a somewhat naive genius who barely understand Marxism, but is well loved by the peasants. What the hell??? And so on. And then there’s the Vietnam War. How much do you think that’s mentioned in this book? Not at all. I can’t believe it. Not at all. The author is an idiot, or he thinks his reader is, I’m not sure.

I would give the book one star, but I’m giving it two because a lot of research did go into it and the author did tackle a moderately complex character with a minimum attempt at explaining him. He tried, but only just. I expected so much more. If anyone can recommend a better Mao bio to me, I’d appreciate it. Definitely not recommended.

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Reflections

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 14, 2014

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written anything here, besides book reviews. Sorry. A lot has been going on. My mom moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville and we’ve been back and forth between the two cities a lot lately. In fact, we’ve seen my mom four of the past five weekends, which is more than we saw her when she lived here in Chattanooga.  It’s been very tiring.

A few weeks ago, we went to my high school class’s 30th reunion in Knoxville. It was pretty good, but a little odd too. So strange to see how people have changed, including me. We got a few good pics, had fun catching up with some people, and had a good time. It was nice to introduce my wife to my old classmates.

This month marks the five month anniversary of our cat Toby’s death. We miss him horribly and I wish he could have lived long enough to move to our new house with us. I’d love to see him running around here. Strangely, our other cat, Henry, has been doing some Toby-like things lately, like he’s channeling Toby. Very odd.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death last year. He died mowing my yard and it was — and still is — a huge shock. There are so many things I wish I could have and would have told him and so many things I would like to tell him now. We really miss him. We’ve stopped at his gravestone in Knoxville a few times.

Meanwhile, I love my mother, but … she’s been driving me crazy ever since Dad died. She’s got a LOT of anxiety about a lot of things, which is somewhat understandable, but she calls me all the time. Like 6-18 times a day! She’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but the damage has been done. Now when she calls, I just sigh and pick up the phone. It’s hard. She’s changed a lot. She’s not the mom I grew up knowing and loving. She’s become extremely ADD and OCD, and that makes things difficult. And she refuses to acknowledge such things. I also got her to get Life Alert because she’s elderly and living alone. But she refuses to wear the necklace! She says she doesn’t like it and it’s “psychological.” But why is she paying $70 a month for a service she doesn’t use??? And last weekend, she fell down our stairs. She’s very lucky she didn’t get hurt. What would happen if she fell at her new place? She would not have us to help her. That’s what Life Alert is for! I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it, why she’s being so damn stubborn.

Anyway, this month also marks the six month anniversary of getting my new car. I still love my Camry. It’s so much better than my money pit BMW was. I’ve put 4,000 miles on it, mostly driving back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and that annoys me some. I don’t like to put miles on my cars. Still, it’s a great ride and I got a great deal on it and I’m very happy with it.

When health permits, my wife and I like to go to the shooting range. We have a .22 rifle we both like to shoot and my wife is quite good with it. We also have other guns we enjoy shooting, among them a Ruger 9 mm, a Glock 23, a Beretta PX4 Storm, a Ruger .22, a S&W Bodyguard, a SCCY 9 mm, and a Taurus revolver. Among others. I’m pretty good with the Ruger 9 mm, but need to work on the others. I think I’m going to really like the SCCY. It’s new and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I got a good deal on it on gunbroker.com.

I did something to my arm recently and have been having to go to physical therapy for it. It really hurts. It’s probably just tendinitis, but it’s bad. Meanwhile, my wife has a severe case of poison ivy. It’s all over and it’s tormenting her. I feel really bad for her. We need to find the plants she touched and get rid of them, but neither of us are that good at identifying poison ivy.

Oh, also, this month is our six month anniversary of moving into our new house! We love it here. It’s so much quieter and safer than our old place. We still haven’t gotten most of the pictures up, but we’re otherwise unpacked and we really like it. However, we can’t sell our old house. No one will buy it. No one is buying ANY house in our old neighborhood. We’ve lowered the price three times and have had two open houses, but nothing. We actually did get an offer a couple of months ago, but it fell through when their credit was damaged and they lost their loan. That sucked. It’s a nice house, but not in a very good area, so the property values suck and crime is bad. I wish we could sell it though. I’m sure there have to be people out there who would like it. It’s got character! It’s got a HUGE den and a HUGE kitchen and hardwood floors and a fireplace. Three beds, two baths, 2100 square feet, one level home. The yard isn’t that great though, and I think that’s probably hurting it. Oh well. Maybe one of these days….

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books lately. They’re really enjoyable and he’s so witty. A lot of fun. I still like reading Philip K Dick too though. I haven’t read much nonfiction lately though, and I was doing a lot of that over the past couple of years. Maybe I got burned out on it, I don’t know. We have a great, huge used bookstore here where you can pick up six or seven books for $10. It’s great.

Election season is coming up and the two Republican candidates for Congress here are really going at it. The incumbent is an asshole Tea Party-type who is the angriest, most hateful person I’ve ever seen. We saw them debate on TV. The other guy is really young, but it seems he wants to work with everyone on issues, so I really hope he wins. Of course, I’m a Democrat, but here in Chattanooga, no Democrat ever has a chance at winning anything, so it’s really tough. I hate living in a Red state. I often wish I was back in L.A. My wife often wishes she was back in Maryland. Oh well.

I guess that’s it for now. We’re trying to get well. I’m trying to deal with my mother. Things go on. It’s a month of reflections. Thanks for joining me. Cheers!

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A Review of Hazardous Duty

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 6, 2014

Hazardous DutyHazardous Duty by David H. Hackworth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book written by a military hero who sees a lot wrong with the military industrial complex, politics, and the military itself, calls it like he sees it, and offers solutions to the problems he points out. It should be required reading for just about anyone.

I’ve been reading Hackworth since the 1990s when he was writing for Soldier of Fortune magazine. He’s dead now, which is a shame, but he served in post-World War II Europe, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In this book, he comes back as a war correspondent accompanying our military to the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Somalia, Korea and Haiti. What he discovers along the way is horrifying.

I could write a LOT about this book and quote a lot from the book, but I don’t have the time or energy for that. Suffice it to say that this book was published in 1996 while Clinton was in office, so much of the time Hackworth, a conservative, reams Clinton. I’m a Clinton lover, so I didn’t enjoy that, but at least Hackworth was bipartisan, because he rips Reagan and Bush 1 too. He interviews the grunts, as well as numerous officers, to get at the truth that today’s generals and admirals are political pansies, looking out for their own advancement, not giving a damn about the troops. He takes issue with our spending billions on super duper weapons we’ll never use or are terrible to begin with while not issuing armor to our fighting vehicles, body armor to our troops, meals, logistical nightmares, etc. It’s very demoralizing and he consistently demonstrates how NOT ready our military is for action. Here’s one quote:

“Our modern generals put first priority on their headquarters. In days of old, General Ulysses Grant would hit the field with six or seven aides and they traveled light and slept on the ground. The rest of his men were fighters. Today, inflation of military brass and headquarters staff is so bad is should embarrass us. At the end of Word War II we had a military force of 13 million. Today we have a total of 1.5 million active soldiers and sailors. But we have more generals now than we had during World War II. We also have more bureaucrats so that all those generals won’t be lonely. In 1945, with 13 million under arms engaged in a multitheater, multinational alliance, the War Department had about eight undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, and special assistants. Now with about those 1.5 million in uniform, we have somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty undersecretaries, deputy secretaries, assistant secretaries, and special assistants. All draw six-figure paychecks and have aides, offices, and all the other trappings of Pentagon royalty.”

Wow. That’s just a tiny portion of what this book holds in it. In addition to going to the theaters of military action already mentioned, he also goes to South Korea to assess our combat readiness and finds it sadly lacking too. He thinks we should just get out. After all, what are our 6,000 fighting men and women out of 34,000 troops stationed in South Korea going to do when a million North Koreans come pouring over the border? Additionally, South Korea has an army of five million with better weapons that we do. It’s nuts. We have to have parts FedExed to us because the military can’t handle the logistics. Amazing.

Later, he writes, “The essence of leadership is integrity, loyalty, caring for your people, doing the honorable thing. Over and over since Vietnam, I have seen political expediency killing these values. When slickness and cheap compromise run the show, people who refuse to cave in and play the game get zapped. And when that happens, the ultimate loser is our country.”

Hackworth also has things to say about our government’s priorities, writing that we spend over 300 billion a year on defense, but only 10 billion on education. Point taken.

Towards the end of the book, Hackworth offers a series of suggestions to serve as solutions for curing what’s wrong with the military. After showing how inter-service animosity has hurt the country and cost our country countless millions, he begins by suggesting that the Army and the Marines be merged, while the Air Force be entirely eliminated. He would put the Navy in charge of all strategic missiles, and get the missiles moved from land to subs asap. He would form a new agency to take control over all of the cargo demands of the forces, and reconfigure the Pentagon, eliminating the separate service chiefs and civilian secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in favor of a combined Defense Force headquarters run by one civilian Secretary of Defense. He would eliminate the current evaluation reports that encourage unwarranted promotions, merge the National Guard and the Reserves into one organization to cut waste and more. He would also merge the duplicate, non-war-fighting functions of the services — intelligence, medical, legal, R & D, logistics, training, etc. — so that we have one and not four separate entities. He would do a whole lot more to get the military back to where it once was, and these suggestions should be read and considered by all military officers and thinkers.

In addition to stats, criticisms, and suggestions, this book also has a lot of exciting stories of harrowing experiences that Hackworth endures to get the real picture. This is a great book to read and I think many people would like it if they give it a chance. Highly recommended.

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A Review of Fiasco

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 3, 2013

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in IraqFiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gosh, there’s so much to say about this book, I hardly know where to begin! I turned over so many pages to go back and see citations or quotes that I can’t possibly list a fourth of them here.

Ricks did a great job of presenting the build-up to the Iraq war and through the first three years. Since this book was published in 2006, it feels very unfinished and I would appreciate a 2013 second edition, but oh well. Ricks seems to lay first blame at some Iraq hating, war hawks in Bush’s administration, notably Paul Wolfowitz, to take advantage of 9/11 to go after Iraq by suggesting its association with terrorists. (There was none.) We first heard about WMDs, which was the ploy used in the decision to preemptively invade Iraq. (There were none.) Cheney backed Bush into a corner during a speech in Nashville in August, 2002 I believe, in which he said there was “no doubt” that Iraq had WMDs and that “We must take the battle to the enemy.”

Let me back up to something interesting first. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush and Cheney said that they thought that “Bill Clinton had used the military too much in his foreign policy.” Of Gore, Bush said “He believes in nation building…. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.” OK — first, what a damn lying hypocrite!!! Second, what a damn lying scumbag. I guess it should come as no surprise, then, that a pre-presedential politician who goes on to steal an election goes on to lie to the world in order to preemptively invade a sovereign country. Amazing.

Other evil dudes in this book are Rumsfeld, the most arrogant, opinionated, self righteous prick of the 21st century; Paul Bremer, the ambassador who was always at war with the military and who was a bumbling fool, Iraqi exile Chalabi, who may have been working with the insurgents even as we tried to make him president, and military officers Sanchez, Franks, and Meyers. All incompetents who blew things to hell and back.

There are many narratives throughout the book of military men and women fighting hard to win an unacknowledged, unwinnable war — soldiers both brave and cowardly, such as the ones who blew our integrity at Abu Grahib and the others who blew away prisoners who posed no threat whatsoever, and who received 45 day jail terms slaps on the wrists. Mind blowing.

There’s a lot of politics in the book too, as well as musings of the highest military officials around. There was a lot of criticism and disagreement, but since soldiers are taught to follow orders and since orders were being given by stupid Bush-loving civilians with no concept of what was going on over there, disasters naturally occurred. Petraeus, however, is portrayed almost worshipfully, which I don’t think is good. Face it, there were just too many problems between the Department of Defense and the CAP (Coalition Provisional Authority), the ones giving the orders in most cases.

Another problem with this war was we had intentionally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam about fighting insurgencies. We attacked with major divisions and battalions, didn’t mingle with the people and learn about them and their customs, thus trying to win them over, didn’t provide essentials such as water and electricity, set up large isolated base camps from which to operate and so much more — all of which go against counter-insurgency tactics. Special Forces tried to warn them and some conventional units had some success, notably the 101st, but it was basically a war where we turned friendlies into enemies with our blasting into houses at 2 AM, roughing people up, taking the men away to prison, taking other family members “hostage,” turning houses into rubble, and generating ill will to the US. Where Bush and the others thought we would be viewed as liberators, we quickly became occupiers and it really hurt us.

I had so much more I wanted to say about this book, but I won’t. I had a small surgical procedure yesterday and the anesthesia still hasn’t worn off, so I’m kind of tired. The book claims that by 2006, over 200 billion had been used in the war. That figure is way off. Earlier this year, I finished a book called The Three Trillion Dollar War, which admittedly is more recent, but which gives hard evidence to the fact that we have yet again been lied to as to the actual costs involved with this war. By the end of this book, the politicians remain in denial, the military is disenfranchised and demoralized, and the Iraqi insurgency is here to stay. Again, I’d like to see a more recent book detailing what’s happened since. I don’t know why I’m not giving it five stars. It might have been worth it. I think I’m actually downgrading it a bit because it was just TOO packed with information. It was almost too much to digest, hard to remember all the names, places, people, events. Still, it’s recommended. Just be prepared to become even more disillusioned with the Bush administration, if you’re not already.

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