The Professor's Notes

Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide

Are eReaders Robust Enough for Warfighters?

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 12 - 20102 COMMENTS

I have been enjoying learning about the iPad and will have more recommendations to come about apps that I absolutely love.  That said, I want to switch back to the discussion of iPad vs Kindle–not looking at features, and the like, but from the perspective of a “warfighter.”

Today’s soldier, airman and sailor (fine, and marine) carries around not only their weapon and ammunition, but provisions, body armor and all sorts of other sundries not dreamed of in past wars.  Much is designed to ensure both success and survivability on the battlefield.  But like soldiers through the ages, they like to have diversions and distractions through reading material during the “down” times.

Enter the eReader and digital books.  The beauty of these devices is they can hold hundreds of books at weight that at most tips the scale at 1.5 pounds.  This is quite attractive for the warfighter already hauling tens of pounds of gear.

An organization has formed to provide eReaders/eBooks to troops.  Their vision is:

to build the nation’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to providing e-books and e-book technology to military personnel who are deployed overseas defending our country.

and by doing this they hope to support the men and women who serve our country, putting their lives on the line daily.

I have used this then to spurred some discussion on Twitter about the survivability of these devices in the field.  Which would hold up better, an iPad or a Kindle?

Some of the considerations have included:

  • Susceptibility of the screen to cracking/breaking
  • Dust/Sand damage
  • Battery life
  • Ability to purchase/install books

One person on Twitter, @nutzareus, has commented on his experience in the field and noted that regardless what you use you must use an OtterBox to protect your device.  He commented that he used the OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone 3G, 3GS when he was in the field.

Other contributors to the discussion include:

@dpowensj, @obsidianspider, @iPeat

So what other things should be considered?  What do YOU recommend for our soldiers?  Please, share your thoughts.

“Save Boeing” as an argument?

Posted by Steve Brady On March - 11 - 20088 COMMENTS

 The alert reader has no doubt heard and read stories about the US Air Force’s selection of the next air refueling aircraft, or “Tanker.”  In what to many was a surprise move, the Air Force selected the Northrup Grumman/AEDS (Airbus) proposal rather than the Boeing proposal.  And, not surprisingly, Boeing has objected to losing what had been a “lock” for them for over 50 years.1  What is surprising, however, are the arguments we are beginning to hear.

One would expect to read that Boeing lost the contract despite being the better aircraft.  That, somehow, the AF overlooked key performance characteristics of the aircraft.  That, perhaps, politics came in to play to select an inferior product.  But no. Read the rest of this entry »

“There you go again…”

Posted by Steve Brady On June - 7 - 20071 COMMENT

As faithful reader may recall, I have at times taken the time to point out the errors and downright mis-informing ways of our good friend over at “A Liberal Dose.” For examples, including his highly intelligent and intellectual comments, you can see my posts here, here, here and my favorite for his comments, here. Or, to see a complete collection you can search this blog.

So why do I bring this up today? What takes me back to this well one more time? Well, having visited him today, I was surprised to see what seemed like real reporting. (Hey, he has a journalism degree–it could happen!) I saw no citations, no links, and it wasn’t simply a cut and paste job. He wrote a rather lengthy piece about a new battlefield robot, Binky.

The remote-controlled, plush mechanical champion, called “Binky”, is soft on the exterior, but contains a titanium-alloy endoskeletal frame, making it tough enough for the battlefield.

It was an interesting piece. And it turns out, a fabricated piece. Oh not completely out of whole cloth mind you. It’s based on a real story from the New Scientist Magazine website. In that story they write about a robot that honestly will rescue fallen soldiers. And it does have a cutsie name–it’s called BEAR.

A remote-controlled robot that will rescue injured or abducted soldiers, without putting the lives of their comrades at risk, is being developed for the US army. The 1.8-metre-tall Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (Bear) will be able to travel over bumpy terrain and squeeze through doorways while carrying an injured soldier in its arms.

That’s alright. I realize it was his attempt at humor. And perhaps even in some way satire. I would have liked him to have given something of a hat tip to the Magazine though. The closest he came was referring to “News Scientist” when he wrote:

Binky, an acronym for Battleready Industrial Neo-Kevlar Yeoman, is part of the Pentagon’s next-generation “Mechanical Myrmidons”, destined for Afghanistan and Iraq, according to News Scientist.

I am beginning to feel the fool. All this time I was thinking this “New Patriot” was writing serious pieces expressing honest opinions about politics, the war in Iraq, and President Bush. Apparently I misunderstood. He is really writing fanciful stories about what the news could have said, but didn’t. That does explain why it seemed to me he was misquoting sources. He wasn’t. He was writing comedy. True satire. Making stuff up! (UNC must be SO proud of him! His skills at fabricating news are about ready for Prime Time. You hear that, New York Times? Stephen Colbert?)

So, let’s go over the stories that he recently covered that apparently he “didn’t quite mean.”

  • The war in Iraq is lost. Apparently not. If my “new” understanding of his writings are correct, this is meant to show how we are really “winning.”
  • Neo-cons want to limit freedoms. Now see, he really didn’t mean that. By actually writing what he did, he is trying to point out that conservatives don’t censor. Hey, if they did, could he actually write that stuff?
  • Problems with firing the Attorneys? Naw, he was writing satire again, pointing out how this is so like what the Clintons did with their firings. Remember those?

So, in the words of America’s great President, Ronald Reagan, “There you go again…”

Military Pay Impacted by Congress’ failures

Posted by Steve Brady On May - 1 - 20072 COMMENTS

Yup. It’s official. If Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill that the President can sign, your US Air Force service members, and Department of the Air Force civilians, will have a cut in pay. This is required because the Air Force redirected their funds from their own accounts to those of their sister service, the US Army, to ensure the Army has the funds necessary to enable them to complete their mission in Iraq. Say what you will about the US Military, but they understand the need for sacrifice, and they understand the importance of meeting the mission, and the objectives. The Air Force is “stepping up” to the responsibility.

Obviously, Congress needs to play politics. It’s what they do. But they need to stop playing politics with the lives, and the livelihood of the Men and Women who (the case of servicemembers) are putting their lives at risk to defend our freedoms. I encourage all of you to let your representatives know that you support our troops! Tell Congress that it’s their turn to “step up” and behave responsibly.

Reasons to Vote for Republicans? Or blindness from Dems?

Posted by Steve Brady On November - 7 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

My good sparring partner Fleshy posted 10 farcical reasons to vote for Republicans. I recommend you go read them from him.

I had to respond, since some of them are funny (but he actually believes them to be true) and some just factually, and historically, wrong.

My reply is listed below.

Let me cut to the bottom line here: One should not cast one party as being “corrupt” when your house is made of very brittle glass.


Fleshy wrote:

” Sorry you found the list skewed and inflammatory. I’d be… well… I’d be amused more than anything else… to listen to you try to defend or refute any of the issues on that list? Go ahead… defend Foley, Haggard, Rumsfeld, DeLay, Abramoff, Taft, Frist, Burns, Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Gibbons… need I go on?”

Actually, I wouldn’t need to refute most of them. Just publish a list of names on the Dem side that are just as guilty. It’s interesting. Apparently Democrats are able to either imagine themselves pristine, or else excuse their own failing because they never claimed to be anything otherwise.

But honestly, if you think a vote for a Republican is a vote of “hate (of) the military” then I would ask how many years of service you put in… And why you would think that John Kerry is somehow now to be seen as a Republican.

But if you wish… here we go:

1. ACLU–rarely seen as a conservative organization, has been opposed to any and all censorship Read the rest of this entry »

The Lieutenant–Courageous, or…

Posted by Steve Brady On July - 7 - 20063 COMMENTS

Well, it’s happened. The US Army has preferred charges against “The Lieutenant.” The Lt (according to the Seattle Times) enlisted in June of 2003, to go to Officer Candidate School, receiving his commission following completion of that school. His enlistment, and subsequent commissioning, were all contemporary with the start of the war with Iraq in March of 2003. Despite having a family history of war protesters and resisters, the Lt says that he believed Iraq had WMDs and thus he supported the war.
Now, he believes that the President lied to us, and thus he should not be required to participate in what the Lt believes is an illegal war. That’s all well and good, except he apparently didn’t pay attention during any of his schooling. Let’s lay out a few things.
1. Lying involves knowing the truth at the time of the statement, but saying something else (lie of commission, as opposed to omission). The charges against Bush made by the “Bashists” tend to be that the President took us to war to stop Hussein’s development of WMD’s and there were none, therefore he lied. Let’s ignore, for the moment, that Bush enumerated many reasons for toppling Saddam, and focus on this one aspect. How do we determine, given that the intelligence agencies of every major world power at the time concluded Iraq had WMDs, that Bush somehow knew Saddam didn’t and acted anyway? That is what is required to support the charge of “lying.”
2. Determination of “illegality” is not the Lt’s call. Officers take an oath at commissioning. In that oath officers swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” which of course can lead a few to think that they then are the final arbiter of determining what is, or is not, Constitutional. Of course, as I have recently written elsewhere, if we allow everyone to determine what is or is not legal/constitutional, then ultimately we have anarchy. Last time I checked, the US was still operating in Iraq under UN resolutions. The Hague (The International Court) has not issued and rulings condemning the resolutions, or the actions of the coalition. The US Congress has not passed any law ordering the removal of US Troops. The Supreme Court, the final arbiter in the only branch of Government with the authority to determine what is and is not constitutional, has not delivered any verdict that would lead one to conclude the US involvement in Iraq is unconstitutional. The authority of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are constitutionally granted authorities. It is not the Lt’s place to usurp the authority of the US Supreme Court, Congress, and the President.
3. Military service is a commitment of life. That same oath also has the officer state “that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” It would appear from much of the stories written about the Lt and his decision to enlist, and then receive a commission, that he had reservations about the US military. The fact that, of all the reasons given for US involvement in Iraq, he was able to convince himself he could support the action based on only one of the reasons given at the time, could lead one to question whether he actually had some significant “mental reservation(s)” at the time of commissioning. In fact, quoting from the article in the Seattle Times the Lt made it clear he had reservations apparently at the time of commissioning:

“I had my doubts,” he said. “But I felt like the president is our leader, and he won’t betray our trust, and he would know what he was talking about, and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.”

And apparently, he also made it clear that there existed conditions upon which he would or would not engage in combat.

In January, Watada told his commanders that he believed that the war was unlawful, and therefore, so were his deployment orders. He did not, however, consider himself a conscientious objector, since he was willing to fight in wars that were justified, legal and in defense of the nation.

These do not appear to me to be statements from a man who, at the time of commissioning, accepted his office “without mental reservation.”
4. Actions have consequences. I can understand, and even admire, someone who stands up for what they believe and are willing to pay the cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood the repercussions of his actions. Our founding fathers understood the possible repercussions of their actions. “Give me liberty, or give me death” was not a jingoistic attempt at PR by Patrick Henry, it was a recognition of the demise that awaited him upon failure. A courageous man accepts the consequences.
5. Military Officers are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts Martial. The Lt, and his lawyer, seem to think that his remarks about the President are a First Amendment issue, and that the Lt was exercising his right to free speech, when he spoke out against the Commander in Chief. In fact, the lawyer is quoted as saying “‘What’s going to happen is there’s going to be a major First Amendment litigation, which I think they’re really crazy to invite,’ Seitz said.” Alas, this shows that the counsel sought by the Lt is unfamiliar with the military justice system. There are protections established for the military, but the nature of military service requires a different way of understanding and acting with regards to the US Constitution. In fact according to the Supreme Court has recognized that “while constitutional guarantees apply, ‘the different character of the military community and of the military mission requires a different application of those protections.’1455.” Perhaps the Lt should hire a military lawyer?
The US Army has done the right thing. They have refused to let one Lieutenant interpret national and international law, and told him that he cannot sit as judge and jury over the actions of this government. To do that would overstep his bounds as an officer in the US Military.

A “time line” or an “Event line”?

Posted by Steve Brady On July - 5 - 2006ADD COMMENTS

Today seemed like as good a day as any to write about something that has been slowly gnawing, nay, chewing at me, for a while. It seems appropriate today, on the 5th of July, the day following another successful return to flight for the Shuttle program.

Many (whom I now call “bashists”–those whose rage against President Bush is so great they see no good in his actions, bashing all that he says or does; a response to calling supporters “apologists” but I digress…) Many have called for a timeline for the removal of US forces from Iraq. Most of Congress have seen the error in such an action, although the Bush detractors have taken it upon themselves to continually argue that there “is no plan.” The notion that there is no plan is humorous, since not only has there been a plan, the general outline of the plan has been around since our war against Saddam began. I am sure you, kind reader, recall that the President talked about rebuilding Iraq, re-establishing a government with free and open elections, and ensuring that the new government would be strong enough to survive. That has been the plan all along.

That leads me to this conclusion: We should stop debating the red herring of “time lines” and start discussing “event lines.” It seems clear to me that we will withdraw our troops upon satisfactory completion of certain events. We can develop estimates of when those events will occur, and those estimates may be rooted in optimism, pessimism or realism, but they remain estimates. It seems to me that in many areas of life we live on “event lines” rather than time-lines.

  • College. One graduates from college upon successfully completing the requirements for the degree.
  • High School. Again, when the requirements are completed (although some seem to argue that holding kids to standards is somehow demeaning.)
  • Marriage. When one finds a mate (although the sitcom “Friends” had their gang with “Back ups” in case they reach the timeline before the event-line.)

Even more time-critical events have an “event line” associated with them. Most noteable is the Shuttle launch. Yes, the shuttle has a “countdown” and they have the “launch windows” but those timelines are event constrained. There exists a long sequence of events that must occur before a Space Shuttle (Space Transportation System) can be launched. When those events are not reached, but can be overcome quickly, NASA puts a “Hold” on the countdown. If it seems to NASA that they cannot satisfy the event requirement, they then “scrub” the mission and reschedule the launch. The satisfactory completion of the mission is more important than meeting an arbitrary timeline. Of course, when meeting a timeline becomes more important than meeting the “event line” we see catastrophic results.

So let’s learn our lessons from the hard-earned lessons from NASA. We cannot simply set a “date certain” for the withdrawal of troops in something as complex as the situation in Iraq. Pick on this administration all you want (Rage on, you Bashists) but it is prudent to trust your military leaders on the ground. It is wise to see that a sequence of events has occurred. It is foolishiness to say pick a date, and point to that as success.

F4 vs Concrete–guess which wins?

Posted by Steve Brady On June - 29 - 20065 COMMENTS

I have finally found the video I had been seeking for so long. As the narrative with this video points out, so many of the conspiracy theorists about 9-11-01 point out that there was very little aircraft wreckage after the airliner hit the Pentagon. Well, those of us that have, for years, seen these types of videos expected as much.
Aircraft tend to disintegrate when they come in contact with highly reinforced concrete.
Watch… and learn.

MANPADS Protection–is it time?

Posted by Steve Brady On May - 15 - 20062 COMMENTS

Many of you, dear students, won’t know what MANPADS is, and that is quite understandable. It is defined as a “Man-portable Air Defense System.” That obviously includes such systems as Stinger missiles. Interestingly, we as a nation are now more concerned about them as an attack rather than a defense, system. Misnomer aside, this article “ATA Position: Counter MANPADS Deployment” outlines the case from the position of the Air Transport Association.

“Among the terrorist threats we are confronting, the risk of a MANPADS attack on a commercial airliner is an extremely serious concern. So too, however, are threats from other types of weapons and tactics that might be utilized by those intent on harming our nation by attacking our aviation system. Therefore, it is critically important in confronting all of these threats that we be guided by the best intelligence and law enforcement information available. With this information, we can apply a systematic risk management program to determine how to best marshal available resources.”

The article outlines the case for MANPADS protection, but also lists a series of questions that must be addressed before any real action can be taken to protect civil travel from such threats. The questions are listed at the end of the article, and I encourage all of you to go read them. They are thoughtful and I believe useful in helping to frame a realistic debate on the benefits, approaches, and effectiveness of MANPADS defense. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the threats to our commercial air system. How much do you think we should spend on systems like these? Are you willing to pay more for your airline ticket for this level of safety? And what is your answer to the liability question?



A Liberal Dose

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 17 - 200613 COMMENTS

A Liberal Dose:

“Among the troops, a flood of desertions (thanks in no small part to the efforts of GI Rights Online) is indicative of the growing unpopularity of the occupation — fully 72% of American troops in Iraq support ending it this year.”

Here we go. “flood of desertions” this blogger claims. This particular blog reminds me of some of the worst writings I have seen in class. Students will do anything to get a point across in their papers, and will cite things that don’t actually argue what the student portrays it to be arguing. Unfortunately, I have actually seen articles submitted by academics for peer reviewed journals, where the authors misrepresent the argument put forward in a cited work.

This is a classic point in case. According to this blog, one would think that we are losing soldiers, sailors, airman and marines at a phenomenal rate–perhaps even greater than ever before. Wow! I was surprised enough to go check his source. Much to my surprise I saw in the graphic the heading “Desertions drop.” Hhmmmmm flood? The article goes on to point out that desertions have continued to drop since 9/11/01, and in fact “Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.”

Two points strike me here. First, the numbers are not only lower than they were in 2001, but they are also lower than they were in 2000–while that “other guy” was still in the White House! Second, most desertions happen stateside, are early in an enlistment, and more often than not are based on personal issues (failure to adapt to the military lifestyle, personal issues back home) than they are a protesting of a war the nation was engaged in at the time of the enlistment!

In the same blog entry, further down, the blogger makes the rather simple mistake of referring to election fraud in the 2004 election, when the article again and again states it was the 2002 election. Why is this a big deal, and not just a simple error? Because we are all told by the left how corrupt the ’04 election was, but not the ’02 one.

So here we are. This blogger has become so blinded by his political ideology that either he can no longer read things carefully, or he chooses to distort the sources.

I had actually commented on his blog, providing a correction, but it seems that, while he shows that comments are allowed, but moderated, he actually doesn’t put comments up for view. Hmmmm… I must admit, because of the errors on this one page, and how easy it is for someone to quickly check the facts by actually reading the sources cited, I found myself wondering if this blogger is actually a conservative make a veiled attempt at making liberals look stupid. Hey, it’s either that, or…

So students, learn a valuable lesson. Before you cite something, read it. Make sure that the document you cite actually buttresses the argument you are using it to make, or at least that you represent their argument accurately.

The Prof

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