Nov 15

The “Have You Been There Argument” Hits Rosa Brooks

After writing a thoughtful article questioning who the military recruits, Rosa Brooks received quite a bit of a blowback. So she responded. The first point she rebutted is fairly familiar to us at On V, “You’ve never been in combat so you have no right to comment.” Yep, the “have you been there argument”. As we said then, every voting age American has the right, nee obligation, to comment on the military that fights in their name, whether or not they have served.

Fortunately, we don’t live in a Heinlein-esque dystopia where only the military votes quite yet.

Update to Quotes Behaving Badly

Through this post on Inkspots, we found this amazing website for researching “quotes behaving badly”, called Quote Investigator. He has one entry on the often misquoted Napoleon. We have sent a couple of quotes to him, so hopefully he can help debunk some of the more egregious military “quotes behaving badly”.

Someone Else Says, “Not the Greatest Fighting Force in History”

As Eric C wrote in “The Best Trained, Most Professional Military...Just Lost Two Wars?” our military may not live up to all its hype. Winslow Wheeler makes a similar case in his article for Foreign Policy, “Not All That It Can Be”. We’d put particular emphasis on how much America spends, and how little it gets back--in terms of superiority--for all that cash.
   
Orwellian Language Update

Since On Violence loves dissecting language (in this post, this post, or this post), we have to give a shout out to this Columbia Journalism Review article, “Fighting Words” by Judith Matloff. Militaries the world over have perfected the art of obfuscating the costs of war. It’s a shame journalists let them. Money quote:

“To soldiers and conflict-zone residents, war is bloody and devastating, and it’s hard for news consumers to realize this when the stories they read are stuffed with bloodless clichés.”

And no word obscures meaning like the word “hero”. A few weeks back, in a very controversial post, we described how “Our Politically Correct Communist Milblogs” label every soldier a hero no matter what. We didn’t have space in that post, but we wanted to mention that regular On V guest post-er Matty P wrote on a related topic, “Every Firefighter a Hero” a few years back. Also, we couldn’t fit in this very logical/analytical take on the entire debate, “Different Norms for Valorizing Soldiers”.

Update to Memoirs Behaving Badly

Apparently, deceptions in memoir writing (like Greg Mortenson, who we devoted an entire week to a year ago) are nothing new. This Economist profile of Ryszard Kapuscinski reveal a famous man who told fantastic stories, many of which might not be true.
   
Update to Senior Officers Avoiding Responsibility

In “We Can’t Handle the Truth”, Eric C wrote that “Our military punishes enlisted soldiers, and excuses officers.”

He’s absolutely right. To continue to prove him right, the military did not strip Colonel Johnson, former commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, of all his rank and privileges and send him to prison. Johnson was “convicted of fraud, bigamy, and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” after he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Army didn’t even expel him. Instead, he has to pay a $300,000 fine and receive a reprimand.
   
The Navy did the same thing with Holly Graf, who was relieved of duty for abusing subordinates. The Navy let her retire with full rank and benefits and an honorable discharge. Both are reminiscent of Allen West’s retirement with full benefits after (allegedly?) torturing an Iraqi prisoner.

There might be some other generals in the news for misbehavior, but we haven’t really been following that story. Our favorite general in trouble is General Kip Ward, who lost a star but is still retiring with an honorable discharge.

Nov 05

Once again, we troll through the interwebs to find updates to On V ideas. (Some of these are particularly old, (like May) but we still want to highlight them.) Without further ado...

Update to the Pentagon Wasting Taxpayers Dollars

As long as we’re complaining about “Our Communist Military”--which hates government spending, but never mentions defense spending--we might as well keep updating you on massive military waste. (Again, some of these examples are a few months old, but consider all of them exhibits in this ongoing argument.)

- The F-22 may never work right. 60 Minutes had a story last spring about how it makes its pilots sick. Even though the Air Force has resumed flying them, concerns linger on, as the Air Force admits.

- While China may or may not be preparing to field two stealth jets...

...the Air Force is behind schedule on the F-35.

- Last May, Mark Thompson, for Time's "Battleland", listed a series of examples where House budget committees protect money flowing into their districts for Pentagon programs, whether or not they believe in fiscal discipline, or whether or not the programs work.

- The Army finally deploys a communication network...after the wars are mostly over.

So DADT Wasn’t a Problem...

As we covered in our post, “The Military’s Gay Shower Fiasco...and 5 Other Anti-DADT Predictions that Never Came True” many conservative’s breathless predictions about DADT never came true. But don’t take our word for it. A study from UCLA concluded that “ending the policy ‘has had no negative impact on overall military readiness or its component parts: unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.’”

Read an article by the study’s author on Slate for more.

More on OPSEC Leaks and Obama

To avoid cluttering our post, “The Loudest “Quiet Professionals”: Why We Disagree with the “Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund”, we left out a key point about OPSEC: most violations don’t result in dead U.S. soldiers. They don’t even result in failed missions. When comparing OPSEC leaks versus the massive over-classification of U.S. intelligence and military information, the far bigger problem is the over-classification which hides corruption, bureaucratic incompetence, illegality, and intelligence failures.

And somehow, in our last update on this topic, we failed to mention this article by Glenn Greenwald in Salon going over all the evidence showing that the Obama administration leaked classified information. To be clear, we oppose the leaking of classified information; we just think the government should classify much, much less, and release much, much more in a coherent, legal process that doesn’t just shield the government from oversight when it crosses the line.

Since we don’t have that rational system in place, we support protections for whistleblowers.

Update to Intelligence is Evidence: CSI Edition

Michael C based much of his series “Intelligence is Evidence” directly on Frontline’s reporting into two specific topics: the U.S. war on terror/counter-insurgencies and travesties of the U.S. judicial system. When justice goes wrong, either in a war zone or in a courtroom, it feels the same to us. Well, Frontline has kept up the great reporting with an investigation into the “science” behind crime scene forensic analysis.

In short, prosecutors, detectives and forensic analysts hoping to score convictions sent innocent people to prison, and murderers remained on the loose.

On Leslie Stahl’s Softball Interview: Torture and 60 Minutes

Sorry for the tardiness of this response, but last spring, 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl interviewed one of the CIA masterminds behind their torture program, Jose Rodriguez. Despite numerous accounts challenging the effectiveness of torture, Rodriguez stuck by his claims and Stahl barely challenged him. Worse, Rodriguez destroyed any and all evidence of interrogations, not only ruining the legal process but preventing historians and journalists from ever knowing what the CIA did.

(On Violence is against torture.)

Update to Time Travel

Way back in time, Jessica Scott wrote an amazing post called, “Welcome Back 90s Army” bemoaning the coming uniform crack downs. As we’ve written about before, plenty of officers want to return to the standards of the 90s army, including increased reliance on physical fitness, uniform standards and “garrison leadership”. As Jessica mentions, the OEF/OIF Army didn’t need the silly garrison standards of the 90s Army to excel in combat, so why bring them back?

Sep 20

As usual, here is how our ideas have fared--good or ill--over the last few months:

Update to Last Week’s “Why We Hate ASU’s” Post

Just last Thursday, as part of our Band of Brothers series, Eric C bemoaned the Army Service Uniform, describing it as, “objectively not a good uniform”.

Then, on Monday, the US Army opened up a survey to get feedback on the ASU. So if you want to sound off, head here.

Modeling Emotion in Warfare

Some readers criticized our post, “Getting Rid of the Chicago School of Counter-Insurgency”, saying that models of human behavior utterly fail when it comes to emotions. As a result, our military tends to treat every person in an insurgency as a rational actor simply pursuing self-optimizing goals. (“Self-optimizing” being the economics term for it, not mine.)

This Economist article says, “Hogwash!” New models for insurgent behavior can factor in different variables from location to religion to Twitter. My favorite section describes the SCARE program, which found that, “Kin and co-religionists are the most reliable allies in wars where different guerrilla groups may not always see eye to eye about objectives, beyond the immediate one of driving out foreign troops.” Yep, self-optimizing with a huge dollop of emotional bias.

Update to “One Nation Under Contract”

According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, the Pentagon spent “204 billion” with a B on “service contracts” in 2010. That same year, the Pentagon spent 367 billion dollars on contracts, meaning the Pentagon pays more for services than it does for goods, weapons or equipment. Very likely, our military could not fight a contemporary war without these contractors.

(H/T to "Battleland")

Update to Leaks about the Osama bin Laden Raid

Here at On Violence, we don’t “chase the news”--for example, we won’t be discussing last week’s violence in north Africa for a while--because we loathe “premature opinionation”.
   
For example, last week, a Navy SEAL came out with his account, No Easy Day, of the Osama bin Laden raid. Its details clashed with several prior accounts. “The Atlantic Wire” has a round-up describing many details that have changed since the operation was first revealed. It also shows just how much leaking was going on, from the President to the SEALs themselves. Speaking of which...

By refusing to condemn or even mention the release of No Easy Day on their website, the “Special Operations OSPEC Fund” has shown it is a patently partisan organization. Go to their website now and you will find countless articles on President Obama’s failings, and none calling out their fellow Special Operators.

Just shameful.

The Most Effective Al Qaeda Franchise Strikes Again

Last January, I wrote about how, far and away, most terrorists are at best enticed and at worst entrapped by the FBI. In all, America doesn’t have a terrorism problem, and it might not have a single foreign terrorist on its soil. For an amazing, heartbreaking and eye-opening account into how “Al Qaeda FBI Branch” works, check out this hour of radio by This American Life partnered with documentary filmmaker Sam Black.

Update to “Which Country Do You Prefer?”

As Iran’s nuclear situation dominates the news, accusations of Iran’s intolerable Shia theocratic extremism always seem to pop up. I say, “Good.” We should always take the time to consider the human rights policies of our allies and enemies.

Let’s start with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy that tramples all over human rights to enforce a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on its people, including subordination of women to men, as this Daily Beast article “Women Rise Up in Saudi Arabia” reminds us. Remember, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.
   
The New Yorker article, “Modern Mecca”, about one reporter’s pilgrimage to Mecca, details yet another form of Wahhabi extremism: destruction of history. Hardliner religious conservatives in Saudi Arabia believe that worshipping (or venerating) holy buildings is a form of blasphemy, so they’ve been systematically destroying and replacing historic buildings in Saudi Arabia and, more specifically, Mecca. One analyst compares this destruction to the destruction of Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan by the Taliban. (Ironically, Shiite Iranians embrace these buildings.)

The Obama Doctrine

Unfortunately for American history, every President it seems will now have a “doctrine” with their last name plopped in front of it. I’m as guilty as other pundits. Last January, in my “Solutions to Intelligence versus Evidence”, I proposed an “Obama Doctrine” that would create a new “International Criminal Court for Terrorists, Pirates and Trans-National Criminals”. In this article from Foreign Policy’s “War Issue”, David Rohde argues that Obama already has a doctrine based around lethal killings via drone strikes. This doctrine inhibits our counter-terrorism strategy, and helps extremists recruit.

Sadly, I agree.
   
Update to "My Solution to the Iran Problem"

Stephen Walt argues that,

“...instead of spending all our time trying to scare the bejeezus out of countries like Iran (which merely reinforces their interest in getting some sort of deterrent), we ought to be reminding them over and over that we have a lot to offer and are open to better relations...If nothing else, adopting a less confrontational posture is bound to complicate their own calculations.”

Good words to leave off with.

Aug 15

Just like yesterday, we’re clearing our inbox of updates. Enjoy!

Update to Marketing and Afghanistan

At the height of the surge of troops to Afghanistan in 2009, men from Colonel Henry Tunnell’s 5th Stryker Brigade (as described in an excerpt on Slate from Rajiv Candrasekaran’s new book) drove through an insurgent’s funeral in Afghanistan with loudspeakers declaring, “This is what happens when you fight us.

As we wrote a few months back, the Army can learn plenty from business marketing about what will and won’t change people’s mind. Quick hypothetical: if Osama bin Laden sent trucks driving around New York after 9/11 blaring this message, “America, this is what happens when you defy us,” would that have sent Americans cowering? Would it have discouraged any Americans from fighting back?

Exactly.

Update to Management versus Leadership

Tom Ricks quotes James McDonough’s memoir about his time in Vietnam, Platoon Leader:

For us, violence was killing; there was no management involved. People were either dead, or they     were not. I could not 'manage' my platoon up a hill. I had to lead them up there.

I wonder if this was the beginning of the idea within the Army that management need not apply in the Pentagon. Probably not, but the “leadership trumps management” meme is now widespread.

Update to the Ethics of Leadership

While I disagree with the start to the McDonough quote above, I love its conclusion that emphasizes the importance of officers as the moral compass of their units:

I had to do more than keep them alive. I had to preserve their human dignity. I was making them     kill, forcing them to commit the most uncivilized of acts, but at the same time I had to keep them civilized. That was my duty as their leader. . . War gives the appearance of condoning almost everything, but men must live with their actions for a long time afterward. A leader has to help them understand that there are lines they must not cross. He is their link to normalcy, to order, to humanity. If the leader loses his own sense of propriety or shrinks from his duty, anything will be allowed.    

. . . War is, at its very core, the absence of order; and the absence of order leads very easily     to the absence of morality, unless the leader can preserve each of them in its place.   

Unfortunately, few battalion, brigade and division commanders have been held truly responsible for the conduct of their men. In most cases, the men of the highest rank get the lightest punishment when it comes to the moral or legal transgressions of their units.

Update to Intelligence is Evidence

60 Minutes steps into Frontline’s shoes to tell another shocking tale of prosecutors stacking the deck against innocent men. This time, an innocent man named Michael Morton was exonerated 25 years after detectives and prosecutors immediately assumed he had brutally beaten his wife to death. Most shockingly, prosecutors withheld the testimony of their son who witnessed the murder...which completely exonerated Morton.

Yesterday, I quoted David Ignatius praising JSOC’s effectiveness on the international battlefield. I would love to ask him this: if the U.S. judicial system can repeatedly come close to executing innocent people (and possibly has), and if that system has ten times the safeguards of the military/CIA targeting program, how can he or the government really believe that system is always accurate? Or even mostly accurate?

Why My Solution to Intelligence is Evidence Won’t Happen

I tend to be proud of my simple solutions to drastically complex problems. Iran? Let’s just become friends with them. Afghanistan? Population-centric counter-insurgency. Global instability? More foreign aid from wealthy nations applied well. (Of course, effective diplomacy, population-centric counter-insurgency, and effective foreign aid/democracy movements aren’t really that simple or easy to do, but you get my point.)

And terrorism? Let’s just create a International Criminal Court for Pirates, Terrorists and Trans-national Criminals. This article, in the New York Review of Books, about international law captures the internal contradictions of America’s support for such laws, but our refusal to let international laws apply to us. Which is why my simple solution won’t happen.

Update to A Conundrum: Shaken Baby Syndrome Edition

A year ago, we wrote about a tragedy unfolding across the nation in the form of overzealous prosecutions of “shaken baby syndrome”. In one of the key cases, California convicted grandmother Shirley Ree Smith of killing her grandson with less than compelling medical evidence. Last Good Friday, Jerry Brown officially pardoned her for the crime.

The Economist Keeps the Behavioral Research Coming

Actually, The Economist and Charles Duhigg writing about the subconscious power of habits keep the behavioral research coming. This article--along with this excellent podcast on the HBR Ideacast podcast from a few years ago--just say to me that in a counter-insurgency, our Army cannot rely on a model of human behavior that treats the enemy or population as strictly-rational-cost-benefit-calculating automatons. And we can’t use “fear” as our primary motivator either.

Oh, We Weren’t Done with Thomas Drake Yesterday

In anticipation of our “On V Update to Old Ideas, Round Nine”, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones unveiled a hilarious segment pointing out the inanities behind the Thomas Drake affair in “License to Spill”:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Leak of Their Own - License to Spill
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Enjoy.

Aug 14

With two new series dominating our attention--our series against war with Iran and Band of Brothers--we’ve neglected what has slowly become one of our favorite new traditions, the “On V Update to Old Ideas”. Without further ado, round nine:

The Road to War, Iran Edition

After I started working on my solution to the Iran nuclear problem, I found two articles that more or less argued for my same solution. I plan to use these articles in future posts on my Iran solution, but they’re still good reads on their own.

The Nixon Option for Iran” by William H. Leurs and Thomas R. Pickering for Project Syndicate.

Why Can’t We Just Get Along with the Iranians?” by Dan Simpson for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Update to the World is Not More Dangerous

Apparently, some politicians really want to believe this. Last April, John McCain wrote in a letter to General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that:

“…more people have the ability to harm us or restrict our freedom to act today than at any point in our lives.”

We’ve written before that few professors (read: not politicians) actually argue that the world is indeed more dangerous than before. Well, Paul Miller on Foreign Policy’s “Shadow Government” blog must have deliberately set out to prove me wrong. He argues that America now has two deadly foes--China and Russia--along with the always dangerous and scary triumvirate of North Korea, Venezuela and Iran...not to mention terrorism, piracy and other global ills.

Not so fast Paul Miller. As with all pro-defense-spending-terrified-of-the-rest-of-the-world pundits, Miller doesn’t actually use numbers or statistics to back up his claims, especially not the statistic that America spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on security already.

Supporting our side of the argument, when Mitt Romney reiterated the Gingrichian claim that, “the world is dangerous, destructive and chaotic” before the Veterans of Foreign Wars a few weeks back, both Dan Drezner and Stephen Walt rightly criticized his position.

Update to the Terrorists at Guantanamo

We’ve written before that Guantanamo Bay might have the lowest recidivism rate of any U.S. prison. Well, updated figures say it might be even lower than everyone thought. Good news? Terrorists aren’t going back to terrorizing. Bad news? The best explanation for the lack of returning to terrorism is that most of the Afghan goat herders were probably never terrorists in the first place.

Sigh.

Hypocrisy Alert 2012

In our week on Wikileaks as the “Most Intriguing Foreign Policy Event of 2010”, and in an update a year later, I bemoaned the hypocrisy of the Obama administration when it comes to leaks. The Obama administration continues to try to prosecute, using the Espionage Act, whistleblowers who expose massive corruption. Yet no senior Obama officials have been prosecuted for leaking similarly classified information.

Take, for instance David Ignatius. In his March 18th Washington Post column, “Osama bin Laden, a lion in winter”, he describes reading the letters and papers of Osama bin Laden, classified documents. (Some of which you can now read online at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.) Combined with Ignatius’ other articles about the bin Laden raid, it’s clear that the White House has leakers doing just as much if not more damage than Thomas Drake ever did by revealing massive government waste in the NSA.

Worse, to me, is how the leaks to David Ignatius blatantly skew the story in the government’s favor. They selected a handful or maybe a dozen documents out of the entire bin Laden treasure trove. They told Ignatius tales about the bin Laden raid that proved that JSOC is an “highly-effective killing machine.” How does he determine that by one raid in one country without viewing all the information?

In this case, I agree with Republicans on Capitol Hill who think President Obama has gone too far. And Glenn Greenwald. If the uber-liberal and uber-conservative alike can agree on something, then maybe we should listen. President Obama either needs to stop the leaks in the White House or stop prosecuting whistleblowers. He shouldn’t do both.
   
Update to Renaming the Global War on Terror

Eric C and I have never liked the use of the words “global war on terrorism” or “Islam/Islamists/jihadists” or any of a host of other words that put 9/11 firmly at the feet of all Muslims. This excellent William Saletan article on Slate describes how the current administration re-labeled the “war on terror” to a fight against “al Qaeda and its affiliates”, and how this devastated al Qaeda’s image among Muslims. (And even George W. Bush refused to blame Islam for 9/11.)

A Joke about Wars as Bar Fights

In one of our earliest posts, we compared “Bar Fighting and War Making”. For a new post echoing that theme, we stumbled upon this Economist blog post describing World War I as a bar fight. Enjoy.

Jul 02

As we do twice a year, Eric C and I will be taking a break from posting for the next two weeks. We have a series of weddings, bachelor parties, birthday celebrations in the meantime, so we need a quick recharge of our batteris.

When we come back we will continue  our series against the war with Iran and on Band of Brothers, plus a bunch of other great new ideas. So enjoy the break--we certainly will--and we'll see you in a couple of weeks.

May 11

As you may have read on Monday, this week On Violence is celebrating our three year anniversary and our 500th post. As we’ve done before, we’re going to compile a “best of” our last 100 posts. We’ve divided them into our best series and our best individual posts. (To read past “Best of On V” collections, check out the sidebar or click here.)

Series

The biggest stylistic change for On Violence over the last year is our move towards long-form series on a single idea. Probably the most important thing we wrote in the last 100 posts, if not the entire history of the blog, is our series arguing against war with Iran. In addition to a larger paper and an op-ed, expect more posts on Iran coming up in the next few weeks and months.

Next up, we finally wrote about a topic Eric C wanted us to write about since we started the blog, the firebombing of Dresden. Michael C discussed the ethics of civilian bombing campaigns, while Eric C discussed the things we lost in the fires and Matty P looked at Dresden not so analytically.

For our most thought provoking event of 2011, we selected the Arab Spring, looking at revolutions, things getting better, Twitter, American foreign policy and predictions.
   
Michael C continued harping on the “War is War” philosophy, with posts on “War is War is No Solutions”, “War is War is Heinlein” and “War is War is Politically Unfeasible”.

We also started a personal favorite series arguing for the role of emotion and cultural empathy in counter-insurgencies. While our most popular post in this series was “Getting Rid of the Chicago School of Counter-Insurgency”, our favorite posts were “Everyone Hates Everyone Else’s Soldiers”, “Who Watches the Watchmen?”, and “From the On V Future Archives: When Persia Put a Garrison in Wyoming (in 2048)”.

Finally, and probably least interestingly, we started looking back at our old ideas in a new feature called, “An On V Update to Old Ideas”. We hope to keep this feature going every month or so.

Posts

Michael C had three favorite posts. First, he described the Army’s over-emphasis on physical skills over mental. Second, he wrote about the most dangerous branch of al Qaeda, and that it’s run by the U.S. government. Third, he solved the war on terror by proposing a new International Criminal Court, though he doubts it will ever happen.

Eric C’s favorite art posts discussed Kafka, analyzing “In the Penal Colony” and sharing some stray thoughts on Kafka.

The standout memoir of the last 100 posts was Dexter Filkin’s The Forever War. Eric C reviewed it here, and compiled a “The Best of The Forever War” and two “War at its Worsts” collections, here and here.

Matty P killed it with “There’s No Honor in this” and “A Savior Named Barrabas”.

Our dad’s favorite posts were on language. We debunked the pronunciation of Iraq here, and proposed broad societal changes here.

May 07

Please put up with a little self-indulgence from the On Violence crew today. Yesterday, May 6, was our third anniversary--the leather anniversary!--and coincidentally, on Friday, we publish our 500th post. So we want to celebrate.

Our plan for the week? The regular writers--Michael C, Eric C and regular guest poster Matty P--plan to write about topics that encapsulate our thoughts and writings over the last three years. On Friday, our 500th post will, asbe a "best of" the last 500 posts.

But before that, we want to look back. First, the numbers alone are kind of breathtaking, if we do say so ourselves:

- Number of years:      3
- Number of posts:      500
- Number of words.     Over 300,000.
- Total Visitors:           Quarter of a million.

And we just had our most popular week ever last week.

Most importantly, we feel we have added to the discourse. Looking back on these last three years, we asked ourselves: what have we given the world? We named the phenomenon of “war-is-war”-iors, Michael C shared some excellent personal experiences of war, we explored “intelligence is evidence” and published an op-ed on,“I didn’t deserve my combat pay”. Eric C reviewed countless post-9/11 war memoirs, we debunked “quotes behaving badly” and “facts behaving badly”, we exposed Lone Survivor, had On V song battles, and some pithy thoughts on war films.
       
We’ve also moved towards larger and longer series. We echoed John Horgan by asking, “Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting Wars?”, argued for cultural empathy, and, most recently, started making the case against going to war with Iran. We’ve had some misfires--defining political war, not nearly enough posts on the military budget--but feel our successes far outweigh our mistakes.
       
Since one half of our team got a degree in English, we also cannot help but conduct a meta-literary analysis of the progress of our own blog over the last three years. The quality of our writing has improved...dramatically. We hit our stride about eight months in, but we’ve kept improving over the years. We’ve also improved our blogging by adding in photos--we’ve slacked on this of late--and, recently, videos.

Finally, we want to thank all of our supporters, friends and families. Blogging has taken way longer than we ever expected and we’ve devoted thousands of hours to this site, and I hope it comes across. So this thank you goes out to anyone who has commented, told their friends, liked or retweeted or favorited anything we have written, or supported us in this endeavor.

Those people are too countless to name, but sincerely, thank you.