Friends, Romans, Countrymen etc. etc.

I come to bury McPain not to praise them (consider your bippy betted).

I have also been thinking about Trotsky's upper lip. And swing voters. And especially immigrants here in America (of which I am a very white plump version of).

And GOTV (getting-out-the-vote you ninny). And how we must rouse ourselves, even those of us who are welcome to pay taxes but may not actually vote (that would be us immigrants). Those of us who will be (and are being) widely put upon by this Next American Century but may not actually vote either (that would be the rest of you in Other Countries That Are Not America, along with us immigrants).

With the knowledge that one man must be all things to most peoples at this time, I have done some of my bit by designing a small poster. Please take it to heart and encourage all those that you meet weary upon the road and in search of a polling place.

Fond wishes etc.


Today is, for me, is the beginning of hockey season. I live in Columbus, Ohio, and naturally decided I would root for the home team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets have a fine arena, an possible future Hall of Fame winger in Rick Nash and a loyal, informed fan base. But they are also possibly the least respected franchise in the National Hockey League. One reason is that the Blue Jackets are the only team never to have lost a playoff game, as they've never made the playoffs. Most seasons they've been just plain bad, and a winning season little more than a dream.

But to a any true sports fan, each new season brings hope. That's one of sports joys. Each year you have different players, possibly a different coach and perhaps better management. I've been following sports for years, and I've seen good (the Cleveland Browns of the 1960s) and bad (the Cleveland Indians up until the 1990s) management. Teams that are well run win regularly. Teams that are not well run, don't. The Blue Jackets have until recently been poorly run.

Much of the blame is, and rightly I think , laid on the doorstep of ex-General Manager Don MacLean. MacLean did a great job of selling the franchise, and had many talents. But in the end he seems to have been done in by his inability to delegate. No one can do all things. You hire the scouts to scout and the coach to coach. MacLean just couldn't do that. And so he coached the team, spreading himself so thin that neither job could be done well, or consistently undercut his coaches because of a bad night. He interfered in the draft. For example, his scouts wanted to draft defenseman Dion Phaneuf, today is considered perhaps the best defenseman in the NHL. He chose Nikolai Zherdev a supremely talented but mercurial forward whose play for the Jackets was the model of inconsistency. And when he signed free-agents he often overpaid men on the downside of their careers, such as the future Hall-of-Famer Sergei Federov who took ever other game off.

Today the Jackets have a new coach, Ken Hitchcock, a defensive genius and former Stanley Cup winner. They have a new GM, Scott Howson, who cut his teeth with the Edmonton Oilers. Howson is in no way the promoter MacLean was, but the more you see the more professional and thoughtful he looks. And this year, for the first time Jacket fans have this thing known as rational hope.

We have a forward with real talent who can work with Nash, Kristian Huselius make himself a threat. We got defenseman Mike Commodore and Fedor Tyutin. Forwards Raffi Torres and R.J. Umberger. Still, most of the pundits remain unimpressed. Most think the Jackets will be a little better, but the Western Conference is a murderer's row, and the new players do little more than replace the men who moved on for the Jackets, like Ron Hainsey and David Vborny.

I've seen the Jackets in the pre-season and they're wrong. Pint-sized defenseman Kris Russell has a year under his belt and 18 pounds more muscle on his body. He's still small by NHL standards, but fast as light, and his instincts are even quicker. The kid has matured to match my wildest dreams. Rookie Derrick Brassard is a brilliant passer who in practice and pre-season has shown he just might be the #1 center Nash has been waiting for. Rookie Jakub Voracek comes in with more size, real muscle, tremendous speed and passing skills and shot to rival almost anyone. Don't be surprised if both end up in the running for the Calder Cup.

But most of all, what I've seen is two things the Jackets have never had, chemistry and depth. I've seem them play. Our top lines don't depend on 'dump and chase' any more, they bring the puck up. We have two time Selke Award winner Mike Peca anchoring the third line with Torres. We should have a plus fourth line. No more grinders on the top two lines. And those rookies? Well the word is 'keep your stick down because the puck is coming your way'.

The pundits mostly think we'll suck. I saw last years team. It was in the hunt until it got worn down. This team is different. This year the Jackets will be serving the crow instead of eating it.

I've been working in the purely civilian tech field for close to a decade now. In that time, despite my intent interest in military analysis and defense studies, I've had to watch that part of my life slip away - jobs I've missed out on due to my lack of an advanced degree, the political climate being one that I'm not comfortable with, and the simple need to pay the rent tugging me further down the civ path. I've come to realize, however, that thinking about that stuff is what makes me happy when working; thinking about military and defense issues is sort of my muse - the activity that calls me to my highest efforts and (probably) my highest intellectual competency.

One of the problems I had with academia as a means to pursue this was that academia seemed to want me to be a knowledge generator. They wanted me to come up with interesting questions - 'interesting' here being code for 'will make us your professors and alma mater proud and well known.' While I had no problems with the notion that I would be asked to work hard, I was somewhat stumped when confronted with the tack of 'what have you got to talk about that's important?' I always did well when handed an interesting question and given time to answer it properly. If there was no established analytic framework for doing so, I had no trouble sketching out and testing one of my own. That was what I did. But when asked to come up with an interesting question and theory-related topic...well...not so much.

I frequent a blog on the internet called Information Dissemination, whose tagline is 'Observations of an armchair admiral.' It is run by an anonymous chap who calls himself Galrahn, and over there he's managed (through dint of long hard work and consistently interesting opinion, argument and analysis) to create a community which comes together to talk about naval and strategic matters with a level of group competency and knowledge that's intimidating.

Recently, he asked on the blog if anyone wanted to help him by taking some space on the site to offer their own commentary, analysis and opinion - to make the effort to brand themselves as another interesting person in the field and to spark discussion. I sent him a quick email saying 'hi' and offering him some of my work here on E2, since I was a reader of the blog already, but he has serving military, retired flag officers, respected professors and policymakers hanging out there by the dozens or hundreds.

So it messed up all my predictions when he wrote back and said "Okay. Let's give it a shot."


Here I am again - and this time, I have to come up with interesting stuff to write about not just to satisfy picky professors either solo or in pairs; not write about stuff for E2, where I can take my greater wonk level and try to translate the dry information out to more interesting knowledge for those who aren't in the field and don't care as much. No; here I have to write for an audience who are, as far as I can tell, probably on average more informed about this stuff, smarter than I am (although that part I'm familiar with from around here) and most important, going to that site looking for interesting and challenging writing in their own fields.

This is damn all terrifying.

But I asked for it. Let's see how it goes.

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