Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Senate Votes for Military Control of Terrorist Detainees; Defies Threat of Veto

The Senate voted yesterday in a 61-37 split for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a controversial provision that would place terror suspects into immediate military custody.  The measure, brokered by the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and Republican ranking member John McCain (R-AZ), excludes American citizens per se, but targets “al Qaeda operatives, even if they are captured in the U.S. and are American citizens, and also reaffirmed the policy of indefinite detention.”  The vote was in defiance of a threatened veto by Obama.

The vote exposed a rift in the Democrat bloc, and included sixteen Democrat senators (including Robert Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in seats up for re-election in 2012) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a former Democrat until expelled by his state party but who nevertheless continues to caucus with them.  In opposition, Mark Udall (D-CO) tried to strip the military custody and detention provisions in favour of further study, supported by Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

The provision addresses the grey area of terrorists, whether they have successfully completed a terrorist act or not, who are captured in areas other than a battlefield (already covered under the Geneva Conventions).  It is said by some that the military is always ready to fight the previous war (just as the Left is always ready to march in the last demonstrations) but international law is not set to cover circumstances of war that have already by overtaken by events.  Many of the frankly political arguments played out in the media that have occurred in this realm since 11 September 2001 are made without reference to history, and this measure places the topic back into the precedents that were established from the time of George Washington up through World War II.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) commented: ”We’re no longer going to have an absurd result that if we capture you overseas where you’re planning an attack on the United States, we can blow you up or put you in a military prison indefinitely, but if you make it to America, all of a sudden you get Miranda rights and you go to federal court.”

The DNI, James Clapper, in speaking for the administration, said, “The best method for securing vital intelligence from suspected terrorists varies depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.”  He said that the administration needs more flexibility in handling the suspects, and the White House threatened to veto the bill if it “challenges or constrains the president’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation.”  Conversely, it removes the possibility of a repeat of the foolhardy treatment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate a bomb in an airliner over Detroit.  Federal agents had been interrogating him with his consent and cooperation, until other agents rushed to the site and advised him of his Miranda rights, whereupon he refused further cooperation.

The provision applies to anyone who (1) has planned or carried out an attack upon the US or its allies, or (2) who is considered a member of al Qaeda or “an associated force”.  The Executive branch retains the ability to shift custody to civilian authorities if national security concerns dictate the move.

The complaints, as expected, from the usual suspects including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Libertarians, decry that now the government will be able to “detain American citizens”, but I cannot find such a capability under my reading of the provision under sections 1031, 1032, and 1033 of the bill (S. 1867), other than those already mentioned in the two categories above.  In fact, US citizens and lawful resident aliens are specifically addressed in section 1032(b).

Two key ideas typically remain unmentioned in these discussions.  One, referring to US Code, Title 8, § 1481, is the question of the extent that citizenship can be retained by swearing allegiance to a foreign power, or in the face of egregious acts against the security of the country such as “committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of [various sections of US Code , Title 18] by engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction.”  While not yet convicted, one can still make the argument that under conditions of warfare, which would include terrorism under these circumstances, detention by the military would be called for pending disposition of the case.

The second involves the question of what constitutes a lawful combatant, as so much of the complaints about the Bush administration’s handling of prisoners at Guantánamo (for example) revolved around how we were not treating the prisoners properly under the Geneva Conventions and the rights of ‘prisoners of war’.  The argument presented is that a purported terrorist should be treated as a criminal in a court of law, or as a combatant (the prisoner of war argument) if they were captured on a foreign battlefield.  The media neglect to mention (deliberately so, I believe) that many of the terrorists cannot be defined as prisoners of war since they violate the specific terms of a lawful combatant under the Conventions, which are (1) they must fall within a specific chain of command, with someone responsible for their actions; (2) they must wear or have “fixed, distinctive emblems” such as a uniform or some way to distinguish their membership in an armed force; (3) carry arms openly; and (4) obey the Law of Armed Conflict – the various internationally recognised laws and treaties (Hague, Geneva, &c) that govern the conduct of belligerent powers.  The terrorists in this Long War violate all of the provisions, and as such they are not defined as prisoners of war.  While we are enjoined to treat such prisoners humanely, we are not compelled to grant them the rights of prisoners of war, much less the rights of US citizens.

At any rate, the Senate bill will have to go to committee to resolve the differences between it and the House version, which had contained a similar provision about military custody until the language was removed in intensive ‘back channel’ lobbying by the White House.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Endorses Rick Perry

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, perhaps the name most synonymous with a hard-line approach to illegal immigration, with its attendant problems of drug cartels and exploitation of immigrants, has endorsed Governor Rick Perry for President.
I’m endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville to San Diego.  Governor Perry has a superior border security record and plan to make our border and our nation safer.
Arpaio met with other candidates who had sought his endorsement, including Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, and spoke with Mitt Romney, who he had endorsed during the 2008 campaign against eventual Republican Party nominee John McCain.

Rick Perry welcomed the endorsement from the sheriff:
A secure border is vital to protecting America’s national security, public safety and jobs.  As president, I will secure the border within a year putting thousands more federal boots on the ground, strategic fencing and aerial resources to fight border crime and make our states and nation safer.
Perry’s explanation contains elements that many of his critics consistently gloss over.  He was roundly and loudly criticised because of his comment that a fence along the Texas-Mexico border “didn’t make sense”, without bothering to consider how practically the entire border is the Rio Grande River.  How does one physically secure the middle of the river, much less the border up against the cliffs of Santa Elena canyon, or the middle of Lake Amistad or Lake Falcon?  Thus the term ‘strategic fencing’: fence where it would make sense, but always a human element to back up the system.

For "boots on the ground", Perry has repeatedly requested an augmentation of some 3000 border patrol agents to the current 7700 assigned to the Texas border, as well as an additional 1000 Title 32 National Guard troops until the border comes under a better system of security.

Update:  Rick Perry told a conference call of thousands of Iowans, along with Sheriff Arpaio, that “I’ll promise you one thing, as president of the United States, I will never allow the Department of Justice to sue a border state like Arizona for enforcing immigration law.  Period."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Barney Frank to Retire from Congress

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), reversing a statement made earlier this year that he would seek a 17th term, is announcing that he will be stepping down at the end of his current term in Congress.

Frank’s 4th Congressional District was re-drawn as a result of the 2010 census and the subsequent loss of one Massachusetts seat in the House of Representatives.  The district lost its Democrat stronghold of New Bedford, and speculation arose that this would help compel Frank to take his congressional retirement package and finally retire (take the money and not run, as it were), particularly considering his narrower-than-expected win over Republican Sean Bielat, a young former Marine, in the 2010 race.  (Elizabeth Childs, the former mental health commissioner under Romney, has already announced that she is seeking the Republican nomination in the upcoming 2012 race.  Bielat has not yet made a decision about running again.)

Among other acts of political misprision, Frank lends his name to the Dodd-Frank “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”, which tried to deflect his role in the housing financial crisis that led to the meltdown in 2008, by adding more layers of regulatory bureaucracy that further impinges on the possibility of an economic recovery.  (The Democrat complaint that even more regulation would have prevented the housing crisis is belied by recent cases such as Solyndra and MF Global.)  Frank's congressional disputes are neck-and-neck with his personal ones.

The public may get the last laugh though.  Maxine Waters (D-CA), currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, is due to take over as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.  Even better, if she is skipped over due to the ethics complaint, the mau-mau politics of replacement become even more entertaining.

There are currently 17 Democrats leaving the House, compared to eight Republicans, but the departure of Barney Frank is particularly sweet.  Hosanna.
Update:  Bryan Preston provides excellent commentary and history.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Wall Street Banks' Bailed Out? No.

John Hinderaker of Powerline posts a message from someone with "decades of experience in finance", which enthusiastically disputes the notion that has been hammered home by the MSM (in collusion with the Occupation and the Democrats, but I repeat myself), at every opportunity, that Wall Street banks were 'bailed out'.  It begins with:

The continuous noise from the left, the MSM and, of late, the Occupy Wall Street rabble and their enablers about “banks” being “bailed out” has now gone beyond normal bounds of exaggerated political rhetoric and verged into financial Luddism and demonization. In fact, the left and MSM have so successfully seized the dominant narrative that it is taken now as an immediately obvious fact that the “Wall Street banks” were “bailed out” by taxpayers. 
But is it true? Were the banks really “bailed out”? The image suggested is that the U.S. government just “gave” money to large banks, no questions asked…and thereby rescued them, apparently by making them whole on losses incurred in a corrupt process. 
But this picture of the TARP program in 2008-9 is completely false, especially compared to actual bailouts made to Democratic constituencies that DO conform to the “bank bailout” image: the auto industry quasi-nationalization and UAW payoff and the exercise of FNMA/FHLMC guarantees. The bank programs were nothing like the bailout of GM or Chrysler, which were actually given money both directly and indirectly, through special tax legislation creating a loophole worth about $45 billion in foregone taxes, most of which will never be recovered. And at the same time an irregular process robbed senior creditors–now THAT’s a bailout! 
But in what sense were “the banks” bailed out? They weren’t in fact “given” any of our money. Indeed, most of the largest banks which were perfectly healthy were forced to take TARP funds so that there would be no stigma attached to the few large unhealthy banks…and the MANY unhealthy small community and regional banks.
 Tell a lie, make it big, and repeat it over and over and over.  It's a safe assumption that it will work every time, at least in the short run, which is fine for politics.  It's people like John and his fans who try to keep reality alive in the minds of the public.

If you have any interest in the topic at all, do yourself a favour and read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

I have some reflections on this Thanksgiving holiday, both personal and borrowed, sensical and whimsical.

There is no family or personal crisis in our midst, and we are truly blest that despite whatever eccentricities and foibles can be found amongst us, we enjoy the bonds of a steady and healthy family.  Considering what I have seen elsewhere in my time, this is a true blessing indeed.

Both of my sons in the Army are stateside for the holiday.

Sadly, my sacred alma mater, Texas A&M, will play the last scheduled football match-up against Texas University [they just hate it when we use that syntax] after a series of games stretching back 118 years.  This is due to a shake-up of the Texas portion of what has been the Big 12 Conference, with one result being Texas A&M moving to the Southeast Conference next year.

Despite the still-stagnant economy and a bleak outlook for the near future, both here and abroad, I hold out hope for improvement in the next year beginning with the upcoming election.  (I work toward that goal as best I can, since Hope is not a course of action.)

George Will provides some observations, including:

The euro is unraveling and might dissolve the European Union, that product of transnational progressivism based on the belief that national sovereignty should be leached away to clever experts who, uninhibited by the consent of the governed, can create clever things like the euro.
No one saw the possible problem with the word “despite” in this headline: “Gun crime continues to decrease, despite increase in gun sales.”
In Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Maryland [and Oregon, he neglects to mention], lemonade stands run by scofflaw children were put out of business in a government crackdown against wee people who commit capitalism without getting the requisite bureaucratic permissions.
In a television commercial for Ameriprise Financial, actor Tommy Lee Jones says: “Helping generations through tough times, good times, never taking a bailout.”
When the Wisconsin Education Association Council, having spent liberally defending public-sector union privileges, announced it was laying off 40 percent of its staff, it was denounced by the National Staff Organization, a union for employees of education unions.
A market research firm found that people who buy the $43,000 Chevy Volt (seats four in space not taken by its 400-pound battery) or the $34,500 Nissan Leaf, and who get a $7,500 government bribe (a.k.a. tax credit) for doing so, have average annual incomes of $150,000, and half of the buyers own at least two other vehicles.
Under the Essential Air Service program — yes, essential — the federal government contributed $3,720 to subsidize the cost of flying each passenger between Denver and Ely, Nevada.
Cal Thomas has a more melancholy attitude:
I am thankful to live in a country that still rewards hard work, personal responsibility and accountability. But that country, which was my role model as a young man, is rapidly fading into history. Human nature is such that a substantial number of people can be addicted to a government check if they choose not to work. But many of our grandparents taught us by example that the pursuit of success was a noble quest. Parents once bragged about what their children had become.
How many parents are bragging about their kids occupying cities and universities . . . ?
Hugh Hewitt is thankful for the veterans in our midst and on duty guarding the wall that protects our national bastion, and draws our attention to truly worthy foundations such as the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, or the Fisher House, or the Soldier’s Angels, or the Wounded Warrior Project, or the Gary Sinese Foundation, and concludes with:
So on this Thanksgiving, when heads bow and prayers are said of genuine gratitude for the blessings we all enjoy because we are all Americans, add a prayer and a thought for the millions of men and women who are serving around the world, gathering in halls from Kosovo to Djibouti, from Kabul to Baghdad, from Fort Carson in the shadow of the Rockies to thousands of feet below the sea.
Keep at the front of the list those who are without their loved ones who are in the mansions of the Lord already and right behind them those who are recovering from wounds suffered for you and me.
And as you settle down to turkey-induced haze and football, perhaps visit one of these wonderful groups and make your first expenditure of the holiday season one that says Thank You to the guardians on the wall. 
Jackie Gingrich Cushman includes George Washington’s first presidential proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving:
It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.
Donald Lambro cites Abraham Lincoln in his proclamation of 1863, at the turning point of the darkest days of the War Between the States, calling for the people to be thankful "in the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity", and to call for the blessings of the Almighty to care for "all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners and sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged,"  Lambro then places it in perspective to our current plight:
We are in a great political struggle between two sharply competing philosophies. One wants to raise taxes in order to grow the government. The other wants to lower taxes to grow the economy and make this the land of opportunity again.
Unfortunately, we may not see the end to dysfunctional government until after the 2012 election when ace election tracker Charlie Cook says Republicans will likely take over the Senate and hold the House.
Nevertheless, despite our deep divisions and economic challenges, there's still very much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving.
We live in the freest, richest, most productive country on Earth, a nation that is still the shining beacon of liberty, security and hope in a very dangerous world.
As Lincoln said on October 3, 1863, it is fitting and proper that this day "should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people."
Alan Sears tells of the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving of 1623, after the devastating results of the brutal three-year experiment in communal living, foreshadowing the imposition of European socialism years later, and quotes Governor William Bradford of that time:
In this instance, community of property…was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort. For the young men who were most able and fit for service objected to being forced to spend their time and strength in working for other men’s wives and children, without any recompense. . . . The failure of this experiment of communal service, which tried for several years, and by good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times – that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community, by commonwealth, would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.
(As a ardent student of history, I am compelled to point out that the Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims was not the first to be held in America, as it was predated by one in the doomed colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1609, and more accurately, by the first that was celebrated by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado y Lujan at Palo Duro canyon in what is now the panhandle of Texas, in 1541.)

I hope these thoughts have proved beneficial to your day, and help turn your grace to your family and loved ones, hopefully nearby, or prayers for those far away.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vast Majority of US Favours Keystone XL Pipeline

Demonstrating again that Obama is out of touch with the American electorate, Rasmussen reports an overwhelming majority of likely voters are in favour of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that will stretch from Canada to Texas.
Sixty percent (60%) of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor building the pipeline which President Obama has delayed until at least 2013 because of environmental concerns. Just 24% are opposed. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure.
This is after Obama declared that he will punt on a decision about building the pipeline until after the election in 2012, caving into the environmental wing of the Left.  These same environmentalists claim safety concerns, lest there be a leak that could damage what they claim to be sensitive areas.  This is in spite of the fact that there are tens of thousands of miles of oil pipelines already in existance. 

There are those who say that this comes at the cost of support from the labour unions who would be involved in the construction of the pipeline, but this belies the fact that traditional unions of workers who are actually productive – those involved in the trades or construction – have the smallest population of such workers and thus the smallest impact (in numbers and money funneled to the Democrats) than they have ever had in history.  Unions now are dominated by government and service employees.

Obama is perfectly happy to keep America’s energy capability in a penurious state, refusing to allow any moves to help achieve energy independence.  The Democrat position is that we should continue to rely on oil shipped in from overseas, from countries that do not have our best interests at heart.  Or we should send funding to Brasil to improve their industry and exploration so that we can spend even more money to buy their oil.

Canada is left with the choice of waiting for the Americans to possibly come to their senses someday, or instead selling their oil to China, at a far greater impact on the environment.

Dr Charles Krauthammer always explains it well:
Obama’s decision was meant to appease his environmentalists. It’s already working. The president of the National Wildlife Federation told [The Washington Post] that thousands of environmentalists who were galvanized to protest the pipeline would now support Obama in 2012. Moreover, a source told The Post, Obama campaign officials had concluded that “they do not pick up one vote from approving this project.”
Sure, the pipeline would have produced thousands of truly shovel-ready jobs. Sure, delay could forfeit to China a supremely important strategic asset — a nearby, highly reliable source of energy. But approval was calculated to be a political loss for the president. Easy choice.
It’s hard to think of a more clear-cut case of putting politics over nation. This from a president whose central campaign theme is that Republicans put party over nation, sacrificing country to crass political ends.
At a time when jobs in America is the most important item on the public's political checklist, Obama and the Democrats are intent on ensuring that thousands of potential construction jobs are left lingering.

The Public Reacts (Or Not) to the Occupation

USA Today reports on the latest survey about the Occupy Wall Street movement, which shows that our patience (assuming that many of us had any to start with) with the self-indulgent clueless is wearing thinner still.
The poll finds that 56% of Americans surveyed are neither supporters nor opponents and 59% say they don't know enough to have an opinion about the movement's goals.
The survey, however, does show an increase from 20% to 31% in disapproval of the way the protests are being conducted.
This shows that the public is still well within the annoyance phase (which brings to my mind one of Bill Murray's better shticks), though drifting steadily into a darker mood.  This contends with the mood of the public during the Viet Nam war protests, which I believe actually prolonged the war because of the backlash against the riots.

The OWS crowd is still waiting for their Kent State moment to galvanise the movement.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Occupy Berkeley: No Cameras, No Occupation

Pajamas Media carries the latest posting by contributor Zombie with before-and-after photos of the Occupy Berkeley site in Sproul Plaza (and draws reference to a series of earlier photos).  This centers around the site that the occupiers declared to occupy “permanently” or until free tuition is re-instated.

California stupidly banned tuition payments in the 1960s for California residents, feeling that education – including college education – should be ‘free’, except of course for tax-payers.  By 1978 and Proposition 13, the Copybook-Headings Gods prevailed upon California voters to install ‘per-unit enrollment fees’ as a euphemism for tuition payments, since the system was already bleeding money.  Since 2004, payments have hovered around the $20-$26 mark for each unit as the state budget shortfall approached hemorrhage status, and they are projected to increase to $42 by January 2012.  There is even a move to actually call the payments ‘tuition’, which is sure to bruise the feelings of the crowd that insists that America – or at least the 53% who still pay taxes – owes them a living.

Examine the difference between the first photo, taken during the ‘day of rage’ or whatever, when the media was in full force to report on the “young, spontaneous” demonstrators.

Contrast this to the site only two days later, after the campus police removed the ten remaining tents in the plaza:

As Zombie annotates: “So, just in case it isn’t completely clear to these people: Hanging around congratulating yourselves for a few hours and then going home to your dorm rooms does not count as “occupying” anything.” [emphasis in original]

The report goes on to link to Ezra Levant’s posting about Occupy Toronto which he found to be a Potemkin Village, and references the same to the Occupy London crowd (as I did).  Zombie concludes:

My growing suspicion is that the majority of “occupations” around the country are just like this: full of protesters during the afternoons or when the media is around, but mostly empty at night when the going gets tough and there is no public relations payoff for roughing it.
You can backtrack my postings on the ludicrous musings and actions of the Occupation with this post.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Business in California is Dying

A recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times spells out a bleak picture indeed for business in California, calling it “one of the country’s most toxic business environments”.
Economists usually see business start-ups as the most important long-term source of job growth, and California has long had a reputation for nurturing new companies. Indeed, from 1992 to 2000, California added 777,000 more jobs from start-ups than it lost to closures. But this dynamism vanished in the 2000s. Between 2000 and 2008, California lost 262,000 more jobs from closures than it gained from start-ups.
Between 2000 and 2008, some 80,000 more jobs left California for other states than came here from other states. The leading destination of the job migration was Texas, with Oregon and North Carolina running second and third. California managed to add jobs only through the expansion of existing businesses, and even that was at a considerably lower rate than a decade earlier.
Another dark sign has been that economic growth in California's major cities stalled after 2000. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area had been the engines of California's economic growth for at least a century. But between 2000 and 2008, California's two big metropolitan areas produced fewer than 70,000 new jobs — a nearly 95% drop from the 1990s and a mere 6% of job creation in the state. This was a collapse of historic proportions. . . .
California's suffocating regulations have a lot to do with this discontent. A 2009 study . . . estimated that regulation cost the state's businesses $493 billion annually, or nearly $135,000 per company. Additionally, dense and complex land-use regulations have driven up housing construction costs in the state, giving residents a double whammy: a stagnant economy and unaffordable home prices, even since the real estate bubble burst.
Taxes are another burden. According to the Tax Foundation, California imposes the nation's second-heaviest tax burden on businesses, and finance officers of major companies recently rated the state's overall tax environment the worst in the country, according to a poll in CFO magazine.
On top of taxes and regulation, the state can also claim what may be America's most expensive litigation environment for firms. The American Tort Reform Foundation recently named California one of the country's five worst "judicial hellholes," in part because state law allows trial lawyers to sue firms for minor violations of California's complex labor and environmental regulations.
Is it possible to turn California around?  And if so, how long will it take?  I see nothing on the horizon that even resembles an effort to save the state.  Pity.

The Marines and Justin Timberlake – One of the Good Guys

You typically will not find stories here that have a Hollywood air about them.  I will not post one, since I have better, more productive and worthwhile topics to write about.  The media are dominated so by the Sophisticati; it is a pity that our limited time is not dedicated to news of better import.

But here is a story that touches on the social glitter of Entertainment Tonight, and Hollywood comes off the better for it.

It starts when actress Mila Kunis received a shot-in-the-dark invitation to the US Marine Corps Birthday Ball from Sgt Scott Moore.  Kunis at the time was on the set of the movie “Friends with Benefits” with her co-star Justin Timberlake.  Timberlake thought it was a great idea to accept and encouraged her to do so.  (Kunis’ date is set for 18 November.)  Encouraged by the story and Timberlake’s positive reaction on behalf of Kunis, Cpl Kelsey De Santis also made a Youtube invitation to Timberlake to escort her to her unit’s ball on the 12th.

What could have been another human interest/glamour story turned into something entirely better.  Timberlake, already predisposed to be a fairly straight-arrow kind of nice guy (all the more remarkable in Hollywood), attended the event with De Santis and was awed by what unfolded.  The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is the foremost of the US services’ celebrations, and invitations for non-Marines are sought after and appreciated.  (Full disclosure: as a Marine, I attend whenever I have the opportunity, even here in Oregon which has divested itself of as much military presence as possible.)

Several news reports cited his reaction to the event, but none better than what Timberlake himself wrote in his own web log, partially excerpted here:
I’ve always been very vocal about my support of our Armed Forces.  I’ve always felt like the offered us the opportunity to live our lives freely without fear that so many other nations have to endure still to this day.  And, they do it without asking for anything in return.  I had this very feeling walking into this dinner.  So, to say I was stoked to be there would be more than accurate. . . .
[De Santis] seemed to me to be so humble and honest…. Very cool.  She also simultaneously seemed like she was nervous about the whole evening and if I was going to enjoy myself.  “Are you ok?” she asked 2 or 3 times.  “I hope you are having fun.  I know you will once my crew of friends get here to the table.”  I have to tell you, it’s not every day that I meet a 23 year old girl and she’s more worried about if I’m having fun or if I’m comfortable!  [a true rarity in Hollywood, I’m sure]  It hit me all of a sudden that these were the type of people that look after us and our freedom…. Humble, concerned for others before themselves… This was the type of person our Marine Corps was building.  I was really blown away. . . .
What happened then took me by such surprise that I was almost brought to tears.  In fact, our whole table was….
They started the ceremony.  And, the next thing I knew I was watching a video about Pearl Harbor/WW2 and the September 11 terrorist attacks…. It was a video with some first-hand accounts from some Marines who were there…. Telling their stories of the sights and sounds of war and rescue.  So vivid and real.  So honest but, so filled with a sense of compassion and adoration for this wonderful country.  They spoke with a pride that only they could have acquired through their experience as a US Marine.  There was a common theme that I began to notice as well…. No matter what the situation.  No matter how dire…
They were there FIRST.
There on the front lines.
No questions… Just reaction.
While this tribute was playing, you could hear a pin drop.  It was a surreal moment to be in that room with so many of our great Marines who have such a different type of connection to those stories.  One that we who don’t serve will NEVER understand.  It was familial.  It was like they were listening to their own blood brothers.  I glanced around the room at young men and women, spouses and soldiers… At kids way beyond their years, really… All so deeply entwined.  Not just by battle, even though we who have never endured anything remotely close to those experiences and have NO position to comment on… But by having such life changing experiences through them and to not ever waver in their love and respect for our homeland.  That’s what I saw.  A faith in us that has been tested time and time again.  And, through it all, NEVER a drop of doubt.
I was truly moved. . . .
To all of you who serve every day for us… Ensuring our freedom, I say: My deepest gratitude to you.  I’ve met so many of my heroes… From Michael Jordan to Michael Jackson.  And, nothing makes me feel more honor and pride than when I get to meet one of you.  Last night changed my life and I will never forget it.
To people like me who get to benefit from this type of person… One with character and courage.  With strength and bravery.  With humility and honor… I say: Send your thanks.  Do it however you can.  Write a letter, type an email… Hell, buy ‘em a beer next time you run into someone from our Armed Forces in a bar.  When they say thank you for that drink that cost you 3 bucks, they’ll mean it.  They won’t take it for granted and, they won’t forget it.
Thank you Corporal Kelsey DeSantis.  Thank you for inviting me.  And, thank you for being my hero.
The video that is being shown to all the Marine Corps Balls can be viewed here, and it is well worth your while, as are the full comments Timberlake's web log posting.

Thank you, Mr Timberlake, for your thoughtful and sincere comments about not only an event, but a special breed of people that many never really see.  You are a class act.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Poppy and Veterans Day

On Veterans Day (here in the US, otherwise known as Remembrance Day for those of you elsewhere), I wore a red poppy facsimile in the lapel of my coat.  As many of you undoubtedly know, this is a tradition going back to shortly after World War I, taking its meaning from the poem In Flanders Fields by LtCol John McCrae of the Royal Canadian Army, in commemoration of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in time of war.

This particular poppy that I wore is one that I have had for several years, and which I carefully secure after wearing it on Veterans Day and Memorial Day each year.  It holds no unique sentimental value, other than the obvious, but I make sure that it is secured each time for future use because it is so difficult to find one in this area, since this state of Oregon, bluer than blue politically, is not what one would call enamoured of veterans or the military.

The historic local county courthouse is conspicuously (some locals have said proudly) bare of a memorial to the war dead of the area’s history (there is one relegated to the National Guard armory instead).  In its place, there are weekly demonstrations of war protestors (perhaps a dozen or so now) who were more numerous and conspicuous until Obama was elected.  Other than the necessary county business that I need to do on occasion, the place is anathema to me.  There are those amongst the local inhabitants who feel as I do (some recognised the poppy and thanked me, and asked where I had found one), and thus we melancholy few are not with those who feel that they should be paid for existing, and mustn’t pay for their sins.  (Not surprisingly or coincidentally, Oregon has the largest unchurched per capita population in the US.)

Traditional commemoration of a nation’s war dead is under attack elsewhere.  John Hinderaker of Powerline reports on an exhibition soccer game between England and the world champion team from Spain that was scheduled for Remembrance Day, at Wembley Stadium.  The English were steeled for an uphill battle against the superior-ranked Spanish team, but the contest became all the more contentious over England’s plan to wear embroidered poppies on their uniforms.  The world governing body for soccer – FIFA (“the corrupt international soccer bureaucracy that hates England for (at a minimum) blowing the whistle on its corruption”) – declared that the poppy should be banned from display because it is a “political statement”.

From whence does this deplorable nonsense stem?  Naturally, from the political sensitivities of the Left.  There is a move from them to have their adherents wear a white poppy rather than a red one.  “They view the former as a symbol of peace and the latter as a symbol of war.”  A century of non-adversarial sentiment of honouring a nation’s war dead is now added to the targets of the socialist vanguard.  Fortunately, the English held tough, and FIFA allowed them to wear poppies on an armband as a compromise, aided by the very real threat that England would cancel the match over the issue.  England’s stand-in team captain, Frank Lampard, explained:
As players we do a lot of work with the military boys and, if we were to be running out and not showing our respects, we would be letting them down.  It is something the players felt very strongly about.  I’m very proud of the freedoms we have and why we have got them.  To live the life we live is due to the people who fought and died in wars.  We should never forget that.  I went to my daughters’ school assembly earlier this week and the headmaster was telling all the kids, at a very diverse school with kids from all over the world, what it means to wear a poppy.  I came away feeling quite proud that is what we teach our kids.
The entire stadium was decked out in poppies, including on the jacket of England’s Italian coach, Fabio Capello.

England won the match, 1-0.