Thursday, November 26, 2009

Whose Side Are They On?

With the Ft. Hood shootings, we saw the tip of the iceberg, I think, on how political correctness has infected our military. It's been 24 years since I separated from the Air Force, when p.c. was in its infancy. I was there at its birth -- mostly, little things, nothing big enough to make one wonder if it was compromising military effectiveness. Political correctness always seemed out of place there, as if a cuckoo's egg had been placed in a nest of brooding eagles.

Since those days, judging from the news, the cuckoo chick has hatched and has outgrown her hosts, always kicking up a fuss and demanding constantly to be fed. The eagles' own chicks, meanwhile, go ignored and malnourished.

In the case of Ft. Hood, an Islamic Army psychiatrist spoke openly about his pro-terrorist sympathies and had even been observed trying to contact al-Qaida. Finally, he snapped, yelled, "Allahu akhbar!" ("Allah is great!") and opened fire on a group of military members, killing or injuring more than twenty people. So what was the Army Chief of Staff's response? To promise more due diligence aimed toward identifying those with pro-terrorist sympathies, so that we could stop such acts of terrorism before they happened? Well, that might have been the sane response, but it was not General Casey's. Instead, he opined, “ horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

A military that welcomes those who love America as well as those who want to tear it down -- gee, how much more diverse can you get?

More recently, four Navy SEALs have captured a notorious terrorist. So they're getting a commendation? A medal? A promotion?

Nope. They're getting a court-martial.

It seems the terrorist had somehow acquired a fat lip.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know a bloody lip is a horrifying thing, and to give someone a bloody lip is to commit the foulest of atrocities.

But before we demand that these Navy SEALS be tried for a war crime and given the firing squad for hitting this poor innocent monster in the mouth, take a look at these pictures here (follow the link -- or don't, it's pretty graphic).

The terrorist with the bloody lip was one of the perps who hung these Blackwater contractors from a bridge and set them on fire.

Sorry, but I think he earned that fat lip. And now, the SEALs' chain of command has earned one, too.

A couple of interesting exchanges took place on Rush Limbaugh's radio program (they can be found here). According to a caller, "Greg from North Carolina," the chain of command is going after the SEALs as a form of institutional payback. A few months back, the SEALS rescued a merchant ship captain from Somali pirates. Obama got credit in the news media for "pulling the trigger," but according to Greg, very little credit was deserved:

CALLER: Well, the truth behind that situation is that the SEAL operators were kept off the scene for well over 36 hours. There was a lot of foot dragging by the commander-in-chief's people in letting them in the theater. After they were in theater and in place they were given a very restrictive ROE: Rules Of Engagement. The ROE was so restrictive that really they couldn't engage their targets. There were two previous opportunities to rescue Captain Phillips, and they were not allowed to take those opportunities...

When they finally did engage the hostiles, they did it liberally interpreting the ROE, and the on-site commander finally was kind of fed up with the situation and gave them a weapons-free command and they were able to engage and rescue Captain Phillips. The fallout from that was immediate and rather violent in its anger. The White House people -- I don't know the president himself, I just know their representatives with the chain of command -- were absolutely livid with this and they did not want the rescue to be conducted in the way that it was.

These people are very vindictive... But I do have to say this, and I'd like to make this one point... The military of today is not the military that fought World War II. It is not even the military that fought the first Gulf War. It is a military that has been thoroughly politicized. It is a military that is suffering the fallout of Patricia Schroeder's ridiculous, politically correct policies that still have great power and sway in the military. And I'm just going to have to tell you: I do not mean to impugn the junior personnel in the military, the line troops, the junior officers. I'm not talking about these people. These people are doing a fine job. They're outstanding people. But the senior ranking, the civilian and senior ranking military personnel are thoroughly indoctrinated and on board with this politically correct agenda that's in the military.

My own position is this is no way to fight a war. We're so concerned about not offending anyone, we're unnecessarily putting the lives of our troops at risk. Furthermore, as Rush points out in the transcript, it's evidence that some things -- i.e., political correctness -- are more important than victory.

I grudgingly supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq when Bush was president. I didn't think it was the right thing to do, but I was hoping Bush was right and I was wrong. Now, none of that matters. If this p.c. attitude is the way the game is to be played from now on, there is no sense in subjecting our soldiers and sailors to a two-front war -- that is, getting shot at both by the nominal enemy as well as their own chain of command.

I say bring them home, disband the military, and wait for our country's destruction like good little politically-correct children.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2009 PASS Summit

I'm writing this from Seattle, as an attendee at the 2009 PASS Summit, a series of seminars for database administrators who specialize in Microsoft's SQL Server database facility. I don't often blog about my profession -- I tried it out once, but soon learned there are many geeks, Ubergeeks, and Obergruppengeeks in this profession, and I was a guppy swimming with the sharks. I should be reading SQL Server blogs, not writing them.

I think PASS stands for Professional Association of SQL Server DBAs, or something to that effect. Everyone talks about PASS as if I should intuitively know what the acronym means, so I'll just intuit it out loud here.

I'm into the second day of seminars here, and it has certainly been instructive. Today, I listened as PASS and Microsoft banged the drum and chanted rhapsodically about PASS and Microsoft. Which is not say that they have nothing to bang or trill about. Microsoft is touting their virtual server technology and hitting us with a new (new to me) term, "clouds", which I'm certain was thought up by their marketers. A cloud, as best as I gathered in between the self-administered high-fives and double-jointed auto-patting on the back, is a database-driven something or another which will "harness" (another great marketing verb) and "leverage" (ibid) the power of... sorry, I forgot. Anyhow, the briefing contained lots of pretty pictures of clouds. Somehow, it didn't occur to Microsoft marketers to put up a picture of a good old Midwestern wall cloud, or an incoming hurricane, but just a pretty, puffy little white thing that Joni Mitchell could sing about. Well, I really don't know clouds at all. At heart, I'm a practical sort of guy, and I have to see something work (at least) a few times before I can figure out what's going on. I spend most of my time tearing out the software equivalent of drywall and replacing it, so a discussion on the future of architecture is a little over my pay grade. But I can always use some handy hints and tips for how to put up dry wall.

The good news is I've already gotten some of that from the seminars I've attended. Yesterday, an entire day devoted to indexing data for high-performance querying. (In the world of querying, faster = better.) Indexes are to databases what... well, indexes are to dictionaries. At the top of the page in a dictionary is the first word and the last word on the page, and the words are always sorted in alphabetic order. Makes looking up a word a matter of turning, at most, eight to ten pages, depending on how many words are defined. What if you had to look up each word, every time, not by using the dictionary's index, but starting at the first page and checking each word sequentially until you located the right one? If the dictionary is 10,000 pages, that's an average of 5,000 page scans per lookup. Yikes! Everyone would be speaking in commonly-known one and two syllable words, and William F. Buckley, Jr. would have had to settle for using words that are somewhat less arcane than "callipygous" and "usufruct". Database indexes work on the same principle as the one in your dictionary -- they are information about your information, housing the locations on disk (also called, analogously, pages) where the information resides. Since this is software we're talking about and not the printed page, indexes can be a lot more numerous, intricate and sophisticated than the simple one in your dictionary, but the concept is still the same -- every piece of information has an address and the index helps you to find it quickly.

Anyhow, it looks like it's time for class again. Lots of empty tables around me in the chow hall and the occasional annoyed glance from the workers busing the tables, so I'll atypically cut this short.