Life at Fort Hood is Not Easy

The story of Specialist Ivan Lopez could be the story of a killer or a mentally ill soldier. It could even be the story of both. But this is what I've seen so far:

Spc. Ivan Lopez vented about a range of subjects on Facebook before his shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, including his outrage at Adam Lanza's mass school shooting in Connecticut.

He wrote of experiencing overpowering fear after an insurgent attack in Iraq and the hatred that consumed him after getting "robbed."

Lopez took his own .45-caliber handgun onto the sprawling post Wednesday and killed three people and wounded 16 more before taking his own life, according to authorities.

We aren't exactly certain what he meant by "robbed" and we should not downplay the fear he had while deployed to Iraq. His fear of being attacked was never dealt with and he was never properly counseled by his leadership or the medical authorities. But what people don't really understand is that life at Fort Hood for regular Army soldiers is extremely difficult. It is not a quality of life assignment. By design, it is a tough assignment to a tactical unit, and with it comes a grueling training calendar and a whole lot of time spent in motor pools and in the field.

This is the Army that people can either adapt to, and thrive in, or they don't. The unit that Lopez belonged to likely has a system. Show up unannounced, looking for a leave form, and it's entirely reasonable to be turned away. Most of the comments I've seen try to play up the angle that this was chickenshit. Nope.

The days on Fort Hood are long days. Someone who hasn't been in the real Army--and that would be me--has to adapt to a training calendar that can best be described as relentless. Due to a decade of war, the brigades stationed at Fort Hood are seasoned with experienced combat veterans but, to date, only two of them have shot up their fellow solders. One was a shitbag, never-been-anywhere Major who is facing the death penalty and the other is Lopez, a Specialist who snapped because he couldn't get a leave form when he wanted one. He carried out his own death penalty.

Then there was the female who ranted and raved to the media about how bad it was on Fort Hood. I don't have a link to the video, but if she isn't on her way out of uniform tomorrow, she will be before the month is out. But yes, it is bad on Fort Hood. It's bad in Germany--services have been cut to the bone. It is bad at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Georgia. It's bad in South Korea. It's bad in Alaska. It's bad at Fort Riley, Kansas. It's terrible at Fort Gordon, Georgia, if only because it's a base with a school and whatever else. It's bad at Fort Drum. In other words, the condition of bad is endemic to the entire Army. It is a difficult profession and it requires sacrifice and putting others before your most basic needs and desires. It breaks people.

The war didn't break either of the men who shot their fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. The low standards that allowed them to join and then remain on active duty are the reason why there was violence. Lopez should have been on his way out of the Army; Major Nidal Hasan should never have been allowed to join. Neither man should have been untreated for mental illness and both should have been on medication, in a medical unit, and transitioning to civilian life. Once in that status, their right to purchase and own firearms should have been revoked.

Raise the standards and throw these people out.

Abstract Number Three March 2014

Tim Burgess Oh No I Love You Cover

The cover for the Tim Burgess album Oh No I Love You features an attempt to spell out the title and use shapes and images in a creative way.

It's an effective cover in that it spells out what's going on--it's a solo album, and this is what a solo album is supposed to look like. It's a great example of minimalism using creative typography.


Nigella Lawson's admission of using cocaine has resulted in her being barred from entry into this country. I think that this is absurd and opens up the policy behind it for ridicule.

The list of people who have admitted doing cocaine and/or worse is too long to even begin to contemplate. There is no reason whatsoever for this country to admit the likes of Eric Clapton or Keith Richards and yet, it would be unthinkable for U.S. authorities in this day and age to deny them entry to the United States.

Policies like this hit people in the arts and entertainment field pretty hard. But they are rarely applied in a fair and uniform manner. Lawson may exist in that realm between reality television and non-fiction television where a specific set of professional skills are displayed, but she does not deserve to be barred from entry just because of an admitted use of drugs.

Now, if she shows up at the border looking like she smashed a powdered doughnut into her nose and carrying an Archer amount of cocaine, yeah, you could bar her.

The Demise of the E-book Market

Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?

Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.

He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.

"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."

For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.

The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

Would We Go to War For Finland?

Even though the idea of Russia annexing or taking over Finland seems far-fetched, there are concerns over things like this:

Russian military drills near neighboring Finland have provoked concern that northern Europe may be the next focus of Moscow's seemingly renewed appetite for redrawing its borders.

Troops and jet fighters from all four military regions of Russia were deployed Sunday about 150 miles east of the Finnish border, according to the English-language newspaper Finnbay. The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that the exercises were pre-planned and that more than 50 fighter pilots took part.

Finland was part of the Russian empire for 108 years, from 1809 until Russia’s withdrawal from World War I in 1917. The Karelia region, where the war games are taking place, straddles the Finnish border and has historically been a heavily militarized zone for Moscow.

Finland is not a NATO country; that would have been too much of a Cold War provocation for the Finns and it would have been unrealistic for the NATO alliance to have expected Finland to accommodate anything in terms of a military alliance. The old Soviet empire was built with a huge buffer zone around it for a reason--to repel invasion. Their previous fights with Finland were horrific battles of attrition. The Finns, however, had to cede territory to Russia before the end of the Second World War. This history is far more relevant that a discussion of what happened after the Czar was murdered.

Russia in the modern sense has no physical fear of invasion but it does have a fear of being irrelevant. The Finns, having the euro currency, twenty years of membership in the European Union, and a cultural and linguistic difference that is very much pronounced, don't have to worry about where they fit into the fabric of Europe--they're the equivalent of a made man in the old mafia structure. If the Russians were stupid enough to invade, Europe would reach a tipping point that would require a military response. The post-World War II borders are all but sacrosanct--they have delivered stability for not quite four generations.

In short, everyone would go to war for Finland in a way that they would not go to war for Ukraine. The preservation of the euro and the need to stop a recklessly expanding Russia would trigger an all out defense of a very profitable and content status quo. That's a calculation that is easy to make. No one would allow it and no one would hesitate to do the unthinkable, and that is, go and fight Russia's land forces.

We have never been nearer to a repeat of the First World War than we were when the Balkans exploded in the early 1990s, and it is because of Russia's inability to accept the verdict of the Second World War. The Europeans and the Americans would all go to war over Finland, and they would do so because a failure to stop Russia would lead to the loss of a post-war standard of living that leads the world.