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The Pig War: Japan and China and an island dispute from long ago.

While watching Zulu for about the bajillionith time, I was curious about the British military strength back in the 1800s worldwide. I did a quick search of Wikipedia and came across a list of all British military engagements over the centuries. One of them sort of stuck out, primarily due to the random name:  The Pig War

San Juan island lays inbetween the US and Canada just up from Seattle.  In 1859, an American farmer shot a roaming pig that was owned by an employee of the Hudson Bay Company. The farmer offered $10 in compensation, but the owner demanded $100.

And this led to military action.

US troops (including George Pickett of Pickett’s Charge fame) landed on the island, and British navy sent in ships.  The US sent in more canons and the British prepared to deploy some Marines.  The orders from the Canadian governor was to a British Rear Admiral was to “engage the American soldiers” but the Admiral refused.

“Two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig” would be foolish he is quoted as saying.

Troops from both sides occupied the islands, exchanging insults and occasionally swapping alcohol and other goods. When word got back to Washington and London the leaders were flabbergasted that something like this was about to go to military action.  They agreed on binding arbitration which was eventually decided in favor of the US.

Now, 150 odd years later, we have China and Japan fighting over another silly little island, this time not about pigs but about oil. So as to avoid the braindead QQ puppets and Japanese nationalists who pummel any posting about the islands with moronic jingoistic claims, I’ll forgo delving into the underlying claims of either country. But I will point out that a British Rear Admiral at the time had more sense than any number of politicians to keep things sane and under control rather than risk a battle between two superpowers over something as silly as a tiny island. Sadly I don’t think the players in either country in today’s battles has half as much sense.




Going viral to catch an African war criminal

In the next few days, you are going to start seeing signs all over the net for KONY 2012.  No, he’s not a politician–far from it, he’s Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda and a total and complete scumbag.

Internet savvy users around the world are pushing for his arrest in a coordinated effort this year to capture him.  Last year 100 US military advisors were put on the ground to train the locals to help find him.

So join the Facebook group and post away.  Expect your social media feed to fill up with this in the next few days.


War Horse – My movie review

I’ve been on a bit of a World War I kick lately. I realized a few months ago that I basically knew only the rough outlines of the Great War, and couldn’t tell the difference between the First Battle of the Somme or the second (or third). It’s led to some new reading material, like the The First Day on the Somme which I’m moving through right now, along with a number of free eBooks such as the Story of the Great War by Churchill, Miller and Reynolds, which is available for free download in many places (all eight volumes).

So it’s with this bit of interest I caught an advanced screening of War Horse the other night in Hong Kong. I hadn’t heard much about this film being so far removed from the “upcoming releases” and rarely seeing any trailers, but the pre-release buzz, based on the book and the play, was pretty strong.  Steven Spielberg was directing so the film has all the grandiose cinematography that we’ve come to expect from his sweeping epics.  A relatively young and unknown cast (unless you watch quite a bit of British TV).

War Horse tells the story of a horse (surprise) during the first World War I.  A beautiful thoroughbred is bought by a drunken farmer in a petty spat with his landlord and adopted by the farmer’s son.  The boy teaches the horse, which should be racing as ascot, how to pull a plow and behave around the farm.  But the drums of war are approaching and when times get tough on the farm, the horse ends up in the service of a British cavalry unit, led by Sherlock Holmes (well, the actor  Benedict Cumberbatch)  on their way to the front.

This isn't Oxford.

Act II takes place with the British forces, and is quite the “pip pip” and all that of massive horse charges (beautifully filmed by the way) and tragic consequences of the ‘Flower of England’ going to war in the trenches.  Another act with a refugee family before the horse finds himself in the service of the Germans, pulling large artillery pieces through the trenches past the corpses of many a horse that has pulled before.

The final act sees the unification of the whole story, with the farmer’s son now on trench duty in the  First Battle of the Somme (1918) (there was another in 1916 for those who don’t know).  Will the horse and master reunite, or is it a chance encounter of two ships simply passing in the night.

The film was enjoyable, but for me I think I suffered from “over expectations”.  Some of the reviews have been positively gushing, even reports of Kate Middleton sobbing as she saw it at the London Premier.  But for me it wasn’t quite all there.  The lead character is a horse, of course, but having an emotional connection with a horse is something that just didn’t come through it for me.  That it was able to move through the war from one side to the other and stay out of harms way was great and all, but as a film, the horse never jumped into something more, something I could relate to or have a deeper connection with.  When human actors appeared, they came and went before you barely got past your stereotypes.

There are good moments, wonderful moments of the film.  But while I’m all for a good cavalry charge, it doesn’t quite make a movie (ask the directors of The Lighthorsemen).  In fact, for those who have never seen this nearly unheard of film, let me just show you the most important scene.  If you are in a rush, spin to minute 3:27 for the be all, end all of cavalry charges in film.  The horse charge in War Horse ranks right up there though.  It was visually amazing and stunning in the display of the tragic futility of modern warfare against a more ‘noble idea’ of warfare on horseback.


Not bad as far as calvary charges go

I guess one other thing is that I don’t really “get” horse films. It seems there is a whole genre of films based around horses that attract this subset of film goers who just “must” see every movie with a horse. It’s kind of like “ski” movies. You can take any idiot (and they do), pair them with some girls in bikinis (because skiing is all about bikinis) and then films a few minutes of guys going down a slope and people will pay money, over and over again to watch this.  There is a built in audience for horse and ski movies, and I’m not in either crowd.

This film thankfully isn’t as violent as Saving Private Ryan, but neither is it as memorable.  The relationship you had with the men under Tom Hanks command is stronger than those you’ll form in this film.

Should you see it?  Yes.  Should you expect a life-altering two hours? No.  Just go with the concept you’re going to spend two hours watching something beautifully films and you’ll come out pleasantly satisfied.

Opens in Hong Kong the first week of February, after Chinese New Year.

Kim Jong Il is dead. Hans Blix is not in the shark tank.

Kim Jong Il is dead, but I think he will live on forever in this clip from Team America.

“Or else we will be very very angry with you and we will write you a letter telling you how angry we are with you.”

Probably the most political savvy line of any movie in the last twenty years.

Anyway, time to turn on the Korean TV channels and watch the insanity.

UPDATE:  Here’s a nice picture of the insanity.

Elephant Walk in South Korea aimed not only at the North, but all of Asia

In yet another “we’re still here” messages, the US Air Force conducted an elephant walk of F-16 fighters in Korea as part of an exercise.  An elephant walk is what guys called it when planes were lined up along the taxiway heading off on missions back in World War II and the name has stuck ever since.



Over the past few years, we’ve seen the US play a more active role in Asia, primarily as a counter to China.  On July 4, 2010, the South China Morning Post, in a likely ‘leaked’ story wrote about three US Ohio-class submarines simultaneously appearing at ports throughout Asia.  In the last year the US has also decided to play a role in the South China sea / island disputes, and recently signed a new treaty with Australia on the positioning of US Marines down under.

Is this just a coincidence this photo is out and on the net and getting talked about?  Possibly, but even if it is the case that this is just random, I don’t think the policy makers mind too much the connection of this photo with the other actions going in Asia today.

Here is the full pic from Flickr:

The Scoops are Coming…I mean the Jankels.

Not Yet in London

London and much of the UK is in a mess right now but help is on the way in the form of a really ugly but functional armored vehicle.

The Jankel is based on a Ford pickup truck but heavily modified to suit a variety of purposes. They also just look downright mean. They aren’t as functional as “The Scoops” from Soylent Green however, but I suspect they’ll be a number of these types of vehicles throughout London tonight.  They were deployed in an area near Croydon last night and there is talk this evening of ‘baton rounds’ being used should circumstances warrant.

You can read more about the Jankel at their website or from other forums.


The only Osama Bin Laden death picture you ever need to see

This is the one photo anyone needs to see relevant to the death of Osama Bin Laden. For those who still believe he is alive or was never there, this is the picture:

For those not versed in US history, “Dewey Defeats Truman” was a famously inaccurate banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 3, 1948, the day after incumbent United States President Harry S. Truman beat Republican challenger and Governor of New York Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 presidential election in an upset victory.

Now, why is that relevant to the discussion? If Osama Bin Laden is still alive, he need only take one photo of himself in front of a headline proclaiming his death. Just one single solitary picture, sent out to his supporters or uploaded to the web. With just one picture he could:

a) bring down President Obama, who would have impeachment calls sounding out within hours of the photo going public.
b) discredit the United States in the eyes of the world to levels never before reached.
c) destroy the morale of the United States public in the hunt for terrorists
d) re-energize his supporters throughout the world.

Just by one simple photo.

All other photos are just for the gore seekers. Nothing else will come from viewing them.

Admiral’s VIP SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter pressed into tsunami relief operations

Living in DC you see your share of VIP military helicopters. The parade of them from Andrews AFB to the Pentagon each day (or further up to Langley) gets to be quite annoying for those living along the flight path of the Potomac River. Even out in the boonies where we live we occasionally had them flying over our house (we later learned that Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld had a place on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay).

So I was a bit surprised to see the photos today from the Navy’s photo site that showed, based on the paint scheme, to be a VIP transport being used for Tsunami relief operations. But sure enough, one of the two VIP transports for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet was busy slinging cargo to be taken into hard hit areas of Japan.

Randomly waking up to see Egypt explode

I stayed up rather late Thursday night watching the pre-Presidential announcement in Egypt. Eventually, about 3:00 am Hong Kong time, I passed out with the iPad still streaming Al Jazeera English service. Turns out that was probably for the best as Mumbarak got up and told the protesting masses to basically get lost.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that I ended up falling asleep at about 8:00pm after telling the boys some bed time stories.  I was pretty out of it during the stories, and I think I may have actually drifted off in one (something about the knights of the round table driving a Japanese bullet train … yea random).

I then woke up and was totally rested.  It was dark outside but I figured it was probably about 5 am or so as I was feeling pretty rested.  But then I looked outside and saw the lights were still on at the Bank of China building.  Those lights normally go off about midnight, so obviously my internal clock was out of whack.

10:56 PM.  I had slept a total of three hours.  I knew what this meant.  I was up, and I was going to be up for awhile.

So I went out to the living room and turned on the TV.  It came on to some loud kids show on Boomberang (Scooby Doo still is on over in Asia).  I flipped over to Al Jazeera English and pulled out the iPad.  I then looked up and saw the Vice President of Egypt start to make an announcement.

“Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of presidency….”

WTF?  Is this live?  I grabbed my glasses to look for the LIVE ticker and then the next scene was pandemonium.  I had to turn down the TV volume.  Mumbarak was gone, and Al Jazeera, to their credit, then showed nothing but screaming crowds for what seemed like 5 minutes.

I booted up Twitter and it hadn’t hit yet.  I started blasting some messages and within about a minute I was getting replies and other updates from the breaking news services.  It was kind of funny to still get my assortment of tech related messages coming through oblivious to the world changing outside, but eventually Twitter caught up to the fast changing events happening on TV.

Talk about a random moment to wake up.  A few minutes later and I would have been too late.  A few minutes earlier and I probably would have gotten bored and checked the movie channels.

Here is how it played on Al Jazeera:

Google Exec released in Egypt. First Videos

Just a few days ago, the political activist and Google executive Wael Ghonim was snatched off the street by the secret police in a rather chilling video.

But now word comes that he has been freed, and his first interview talks about his imprisonment.

Part II

Part III

Also in Egypt, the blogger Sandmonkey has revealed his identity after being attacked by police while taking medical supplies to Tahir Square.