Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chris Hayes and Dead Heroes

One of the tacit rules within journalism is that the commentator should comment on the news but not become part of the story.  But Chris Hayes, pundit in residence at MSNBC, recently became the news itself after his stupendously tone-deaf rendering of his musings about what constitutes a hero, and this on Memorial Day weekend:
The interesting and difficult thing for me, with my own kind of pacifist sympathies, was to go back and think about Memorial Day in the context in which memorialization of the war dead was also a statement about the justice and rightness of the cause.  It is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the word hero?  Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word hero?  I feel uncomfortable with the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.  And I obviously don't want to desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that has fallen.  Obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is tremendous heroism.  You know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, things like that.  But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that's problematic, but maybe I'm wrong about that. [emphasis mine]
But lest we linger exclusively on Hayes in this blithering insouciance, other members of his panel chimed in as well.  John McWhorter agreed that words like ‘hero’ can be unconsciously employed as value-laden terms, as “argumentation strategies in themselves, often without wanting to be.”  Michelle Goldberg said, “They're also a little bit empty, because there are people who are genuine heroes but the implication is that death is what makes you a hero, as opposed to any affirmative act or any moral act.”  Their comments demand that the public (at least those who count) maintain a sharp distinction between those who ‘support the troops’ and those who support the mission.


This clueless dithering about the nature of the sacrifices of fallen soldiers (I use here the generic term, referring to all members of the five combat services) is clearly a deliberate allusion that these self-professed gurus, like so many others of their ilk, drift above the common sentiment of a public that has not thought out these weighty ideas to the extent of these anointed interlocutors.  Surely Hayes does not expect us to believe that comments such as this are tossed out ad lib?

Ironically, Chris Hayes has received far more attention as a result of his remarks than he could ever expect on this backwater channel that persists in pretending that it has a viable viewership.

At a basic level, he is unaccountably confused about definitions in the specific and the general.  A hero, he muses, is only one who has performed a feat or feats beyond the call of duty under great risk and adversity.  Merely dying in the service of one’s country and his fellow soldiers seems to him and his cohort as insufficiently noteworthy.  The idea that the soldier places his life at risk by answering the call of his country (they are all volunteers after all, more to the point) is inescapably mundane, and just death or severe injury without a citation (accompanying a Bronze Star at the least) is just part of the game.  Skipping over the untold unsung heroes, Hayes holds that a social understanding of a hero in a general sense is simply not to be considered, that soldiers are of equal merit to civilians, like Hayes for example, whose greatest stress lay in worrying how to pay off that Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Brown on the salary of an adjunct ‘professor’ of English.

More importantly, if we grant the honorific title of hero to dead soldiers, that gets in the way of the Sophisticati holding forth on ideas about a justification for more war.  The dead and their families, and how society views their loss, should not be an element of that discussion.

Hayes soon realised, or someone told him, that he had stepped over the line.  By the next day, he issued an apology:
As many have rightly pointed out, it's very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about the people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots.  Of course, that is true of the overwhelming majority of our nation's citizens as a whole.  One of the points made during Sunday's show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy in Afghanistan, and to assuage our own collective guilt about this disconnect with a pro-forma ritual that we observe briefly before returning to our barbecues.
But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don't, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war.  And for that I am truly sorry.
So:  It’s not just me, but the “overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens as a whole”, who are removed from shouldering the burdens of the wars we (we?) fight.  We should feel guilty because we just don’t know, aren’t expected to know, about those who shoulder the burden.  I am “truly sorry” about “reinforcing” the “stereotype of the removed pundit”.

This is a more artfully crafted version of the Coward’s Apology: If you take offense, then I apologise, because if there are those of you who perceive an offense when obviously I didn’t mean one (‘those of you’ – a group separate from the others who understood what I was saying), then I acknowledge that perhaps I should have taken more pains to explain it to you, so that everyone, not just the anointed, could grasp my meaning.  Understand that I was right in the first place, and still am, but perhaps now you are sufficiently enlightened to know what I was saying.

Others step up in his defense.  Conor Friedersdorf, writing in the National Journal (and called out today by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal for another article), pens a long apologia that begs a thorough fisking, which at present I have neither the time nor space to do adequately.  But Friedersdorf is equally and probably deliberately clueless about the variety of heroic definitions, and he trots out the Merriam-Webster argument.  No, the dead soldiers are not mythic or god-like, yet he allows for the dead to be “arguably” heroes by the last definition, conceding that courage could have been involved (yet ignoring the definition of one who has “noble qualities”).  Throughout this succession of paragraphs, clutching at straws and trying to build a straw man, he continues the argument that assigning a sense of heroic sacrifice to our country’s war dead runs the danger of allowing for a just war.  Thus he holds that the people should not be confused by this potential conflation of the two – better to avoid a sense of honor to the fallen so as to ensure that the elites maintain their position of arbiter of what is just and unjust.  The people (those not among the anointed) should not have a say in the matter.

Friedersdorf also makes the inane argument that Hayes’ remarks should not have been publicized because they were delivered on “an obscure show that aired early in the morning during a holiday weekend on a liberal cable network”.

Friedersdorf then cherry-picks some of the harsher examples of Hayes’ critics to paint with a broad lumpen paintbrush, and emphasizes those pallid defensive phrases within Hayes’ original comments as exonerating his attitude (“But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that's problematic, but maybe I'm wrong about that.”) and points out his confliction in allowing other viewpoints.  Friedersdorf then ends his article with a cascade of ‘what if’ propositions.

No matter how much intellectual fluff one piles around the core doubt of Hayes’ issue with dead heroes, it does not excuse the arrogant, effete notion of a dilettante whistling past Arlington.

*****
Update:  Bill Whittle at The Right Scoop has a candid response to Chris Hayes.  (Thanks to American Power blog)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flame/Skywiper: New, Improved ‘Cyber Espionage Virus’ Targets Iran & Mideast

The Daily Telegraph reports on a what it calls a computer virus, nicknamed Flame or Skywiper, that has infected computers in Iran (with particular emphasis on the Iranian nuclear weapons program), and has compared it favorably (or unfavorably if one is Iranian) to the earlier Stuxnet and Duqu.


(It seems to me that the term ‘virus’ could be misapplied here.  In nature, a virus – an incredibly simple yet malignant infectious agent – spreads uncontrollably and with no other purpose but to survive and multiply, and no other outcome but to deleteriously affect its host, even to the point of destruction.  There are similar computer versions that exist, but these cases here involve a sophisticated program that is directed and has a particular target.  I would suggest something like a ‘cyber-war program’ instead.)

Like Stuxnet and Duqu, Flame has been discovered and analysed by the Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security (CrySyS) at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.  While there is some discussion as to the extent of connectedness between the earlier two and this new programme (as detailed at the report by Fox News), Flame is much more complex.  While it has just recently been discovered and analysed, it could have been in place for up to five years.

Although its purpose is to steal information rather than cause physical damage, Flame/Skywiper is said to be a much more complicated piece of malicious software than Stuxnet, the groundbreaking virus designed to cripple Iranian uranium enrichment. . . .
In their preliminary technical report, the investigators describe unprecedented layers of software, designed to allow Flame/Skywiper to penetrate computer networks undetected. The 20MB file, which infects Microsoft Windows computers, has five encryption algorithms, exotic data storage formats and the ability to steal documents, spy on computer users and more. 
Various components of Flame/Skywiper enable those behind it, who use a network of rapidly-shifting “command and control” servers to direct the virus, to turn microphones into listening devices, siphon off documents and log keystrokes. 
Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of the Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, which has also analysed the virus, noted that “it took us 6 months to analyze Stuxnet. [This] is 20 times more complicated”.
The background of this cyberwar attack is fascinating, and its enormous complexity lends at least circumstantial proof that these programmes had to be developed with the backing of national magnitude, though it is currently unknown which country or countries are behind them.  (The smart money, though, is betting on Israel and the US, but I would not rule out other players as well.)  For example, once Siemens, the German industrial giant whose Iranian computers were primarily infected, tried to introduce detection and removal software, Stuxnet not only defeated the attempt but co-opted it and incorporated it into its protective software.  In an exquisite touch, the Siemens equipment was embargoed for use by Iran but was secretly aquired anyway
As well as Iran, Flame/Skywiper infections have been detected in the West Bank, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt [and elsewhere].
 There is also this tidbit from the Fox report:
Detecting these and other incidents becomes harder as the coders become more clever.  Schouwenberg [of Kaspersky] said that one Flame module is an incredibly savvy uninstaller, which lets the cyberweapon carefully extract itself from a computer before buffing the insides to clean out all traces of itself.
“You have no idea that that machine was previously infected with Flame.  Which is kind of scary, when you think about it.”

The Second Amendment Remains a Right While Travelling

Emily Miller writes in the Washington Times with an update on the federal legislation that will further allow the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear firearms – while travelling.  The bill is sponsored by Representatives H Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia), Ted Poe (R-Texas), and Bill Owens (D-New York) and introduced last March as HR 4269.
The bill seeks to ‘clarify’ the meaning within the Firearms Owners Protective Act (FOPA) of 1968, which stipulates that a person can properly transport firearms and ammunition through jurisdictions not so sanguine about that right, without harassment.
These things are legal already, but because the law does not spell it out in explicit detail, gun-grabbing areas take advantage of the ambiguity.  Mr. Griffith’s language would force states and localities to pay the attorney bills for anyone who is arrested for illegal transport if they are exonerated based on this proposed law.
“The beauty of this is that the fear of having to pay the legal fees will make sure they bring charges that are valid and founded,” said Mr. Griffith, a former defense attorney, in an interview with The Washington Times. “It only has to happen one time, and every risk-assessment manager in the United States of America is going to inform their police that you better make sure he’s violated the law before you arrest him for having a locked gun in a case in the trunk, because that’s going to cost them a lot of money.”
This harassment has been particularly evident in New York and New Jersey (Florida has had problems of this sort in the area of simple possession within local jurisdictions, until the state passed an ordinance prohibiting the practice).  The District of Columbia was similarly onerous until slapped down by the Supreme Court cases of District of Columbia vs Heller and McDonald vs Chicago.  It was in DC that the case of Army 1LT Augustine Kim has transpired.
The Metropolitan Police Department claimed the soldier’s stop at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a medical appointment meant he was no longer transporting and instead was bearing arms in the District, which does not recognize the Second Amendment.  Originally booked on four felonies, Lt. Kim accepted one misdemeanor count of possessing an unregistered firearm as part of a plea deal. That charge was dropped nine months later. . . .
“If the cops had known what the law was . . . they probably wouldn’t have even charged him with the violation.” After three years, D.C. police finally corrected the information earlier this month.
Representative Griffith is also the co-sponsor of the bipartisan HR 822 that would require a standard reciprocity between states that allow concealed carry permits as long as local state laws are observed.

And here is a question to ponder: If New Jersey is one of the problems in this area, then what does its Governor Chris Christie – up and coming darling of the Republican Party – intend to do about it?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Sentiment of Memorial Day

It is not my purpose here to supplant, but to supplement, my Memorial Day posting of last year, which received a good response then and continues now.  My sentiment remains that this is a day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of our country, and has little to do with living veterans or those currently in service in the armed forces, other than to understand that they know, often far better than others without that experience, of the true meaning of that sacrifice.  This is a day to remember the fallen of our wars, and to consider the feelings of the families of those who remain and mourn, for every day is Memorial Day for them.

We have had ample opportunity to express our grief and awe of the noble sacrifice of those who gave their lives on the field of battle.  (Are these words too corny or jingoistic for your enlightened sensibilities?  Then move on, and do not bother with the rest of this post, for you are definitely unclear on the concept.)  But we are distracted by our focus on the here and now, with our economy staggering and sputtering, trying to make sense of what passes for news (or lack thereof) of our condition, with a political campaign still heating up and which promises to try to divide our population still further along class and social lines, all the better to gain political advantage at the expense of national unity.  The painful lessons which should reinforce our sense of patriotism works against the interest of so many in our media and academies, so they are shunted aside.  If our history has not been revised into some constant pounding of a minor chord of imperialism and racism, then it is simply passed over in favor of some contrived crise du jour.

Cemetery of the fallen of the 4th Marine Division, Iwo Jima (with Mount Suribachi in the left background) one of several such cemeteries of the Marine divisions and other units in that battle

So to my previous post I would add the words spoken in the closing days of World War II during the dedication of the cemeteries on Iwo Jima, by Rabbi Roland B Gittelsohn, the first Jewish chaplain assigned to the Marine Corps:
Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores.  Here lie officers and enlisted men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . . together.  Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews together.  Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.  Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed.  Among these men there is no discrimination.  No prejudices.  No hatred.  Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.
And to those who cannot or will not consider the purpose for the commemoration, what better words than those of W H Auden, in his Epitaph for an Unknown Soldier:
To save your world you asked this man to die;
Would this man, could he see you now, ask, ‘Why?
Do not be among those who enjoy the day off from work with nary a thought to those who died for their benefit.  Particularly abjure the ‘Monster Memorial Day Blowout’ sales and the other base attempts to cheapen the day.  Dwell instead on the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, and of the immense ripple effect through the lives of their families.


Be honored that we have had men (and some women) such as this.  While it has been said that there are no good wars, there are good warriors, and I have been blessed to know some of them.  God bless them all in their eternal rest.

*****
Update:  Scott Johnson of Power Line does us a service today by reprinting the Memorial Day 2007 Wall Street Journal column by Peter Collier.  In part:

[I]n a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration.  We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away.  And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
It is well worth your time to read this short piece in total.

My Memorial Day posting for 2013.
 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Brett Kimberlin: Convicted Terrorist & Left-Wing Darling (Updates)

There, I said it.

As I’ve written before, Kimberlin was convicted of “multiple federal felonies” for an Indiana bomb crime spree that officials feel was to distract them from investigating his alleged role in the murder of the grandmother of a pre-teen girl he had taken out of state.  After being released from prison after 19 years of a 50-year sentence, he has been (1) primarily occupied with running a 501(c)3 foundation which has raised some $1.8 million from left-wing groups and celebrities, and (2) conducting lawfare – over 100 lawsuits – against any and all who dare mention his background, and harassing opponents to the extent that they lose their livelihood and, in some cases, are compelled to move to undisclosed locations in order to protect their families.  I posted primarily about Robert Stacy McCain, but other targets have included Patterico, Liberty Chick, and Aaron Walker (posting as Aaron Worthing).

It has gotten to a point that one of the bloggers – Lee Stranahan – most incensed by this criminal has declared today to be “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day” (and has put together a quick video by way of explanation).  Hundreds of bloggers and news sources are posting stories that are practically overwhelming in their research about Kimberlin and the support he receives from the Left, including George Soros, Barbra Streisand and Teresa Heinz Kerry.  Therefore, I won’t rehash the particulars of the story other than to make an official posting for today (I didn’t want to wait in my first post), and to link you to some of the more comprehensive articles today, including Michelle Malkin and Dan Collins.  These are comprehensive and well-resourced articles and I recommend them for anyone who wants detail.

As usual, the MSM just doesn’t seem to care, and let slip these cases of hypocrisy because they feel it likely that the general public won’t know – waiting out the lead and trying to starve the story – or they can explain it away by verbal smoke and mirrors before directing you to another topic.  Sometimes this aversion is too much even for those within their own ranks, such as Kirsten Powers (rather left of center herself) who had enough of blatant left-wing misogyny that she reported it in no uncertain terms – twice – and helped expose how one of the worst, Bill Maher, is excused while contributing a million dollars to the Obama campaign (which remains silent to enquiries about returning these 30 pieces of silver).

It is movements such as this that expose the press for what it is – an unrepentant shill for the Left.  Just as the conservative web logs had almost immediately exposed the forgeries and cover up of the CBS Bush/Air National Guard hit piece, so let this small counter-attack serve to help mitigate the famous A J Liebling’s explanation that “the freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

*****
Update:  Fox News picks up the story and explains Kimberlin's background in copious detail.  As does The Blaze.

*****
Update:  Brett Kimberlin's Speedway bombings Wikipedia page has re-appeared.  Feel free to link to it to discover the particulars of the case and the evidence that convicted him.  The more often that it is linked, the more prominent it will be.  (Thanks to Bryan Preston at PJ Media.)

*****
Update:  A tactic that has cropped up around the Kimberlin case is SWATing, wherein police are called to your residence upon the news that a violent crime is in progress, blaming you as the perpetrator.  It has already happened to Erick Erickson of Redstate.com as well as Patrick Frey at Patterico, and others.  People could have been killed in this ruthless intimidation.  Follow the threads of the story.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two Marines Awarded the Navy Cross

The Navy Cross is second-highest award for valor in combat action against the enemy, exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.  It has been awarded to 31 Marines and seven sailors during the previous ten years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, ten of them posthumously.  Last Friday, two of them were awarded to Marines in separate ceremonies.


Sergeant Christopher Farias of La Porte, Texas received the Navy Cross for action in the Kajaki District of northeast Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 5 October 2010.  Then-Corporal Farias was serving as assistant squad leader with I Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines during the second day of a three-day patrol when it moved into a compound and began preparing to lay in an early evening ambush.  During that time, an enemy force had been able to creep into the area by way of nearby tree lines.  As Farias’ squad was staging together inside the walled compound, the enemy initiated an attack by firing a 73mm recoilless round into their midst, followed by intense rifle and machine gun fire, and more recoilless rounds.  Several Marines were immediately wounded and incapacitated, including the squad leader.  Farias was blown against a wall, suffering from a severe concussion, a broken clavicle, and several shrapnel wounds to the neck, shoulder and back.  Recovering from the shock of the blast, he immediately sought to give aid to the six wounded Marines (four critical) and helped direct triage efforts to those in the immediate vicinity.  The increasing enemy volume of fire, from three sides, resulted in Farias directing his men to move the wounded into a protected area of the compound.

Due to the intense fire, other Marines of his platoon were initially cut off from Farias’ position, but he gathered together two machine gun teams, a M240B and a M249.  Despite his wounds, he then pulled himself onto the roof of a building which gave him good observation and field of fire from his position into the enemy, who were breaking through into the compound, and had the machine gun teams follow him onto the roof.  The price for this commanding position was that he was more exposed to enemy fire, but nonetheless he continued to direct the fire of the machine guns into the Taliban fighters, and he further exposed himself to engage them with his rifle and underslung M203 grenade launcher.  It was from here that he fired on four or five Taliban attempting to flank his position, firing his last four 40mm grenade rounds.  His citation reads that “his unyielding, aggressive leadership in the face of the enemy’s persistent assault repelled the enemy’s continued attack and continually frustrated their attempts to overrun the platoon’s [patrol base].”


His actions naturally led the enemy to focus their attention and firepower on him and his position atop the roof, which allowed the remainder of the platoon to move seven urgent casualties across an IED-mined field to an emergency helicopter landing zone and permitted their evacuation.  The enemy attack was finally defeated by close air strikes.  (Note: close air support – CAS – missions are typically defined as within 400 meters of our troops; the Marines define it as within 75 meters.)  Despite his wounds, Farias remained at his post through the engagement with the attackers, the evacuation of the wounded, and the airstrikes.  Only then did he and his composite team leave the rooftop.  He then directed a policing of the area for gear and equipment before evacuating the compound and walking, unaided, almost two kilometers to an improvised ground evacuation site.  Once his wounds were evaluated, he was medevacked by helo due to their severity.


In the other ceremony of the day, Sergeant Christopher Wooldridge of Port Angeles, Washington received the Navy Cross for action with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines while in the Musa Qala District of Helmand, on a mounted patrol on 18 June 2010.  When his vehicle came under intense enemy fire from an ambush from nearby structures, he ordered his men out of the vehicle and his four-man fire team did what Marines are trained to do – assault into the ambush.  They maneuvered to flank the 15 Taliban troops and took them under fire in a counter-ambush, killing or wounding eight of them before the rest scattered.

Not wanting to linger, the Marines turned to maneuver out of the kill zone.  Wooldridge detected voices in a compound close by and closed to investigate, to discover and surprise, face to face, two Taliban fighters.  He killed the two of them but exhausted his ammunition in the process.  He dropped to try to quickly reload his M249 when he saw the muzzle of a Taliban machine gun appear around the corner of a wall.  He immediately seized the barrel and pulled the surprised Taliban around the corner, where the two fought in hand-to-hand combat.  The Taliban insurgent realised that he was outmatched by the 6’3”, 220-pound former wrestler and football player, so he grabbed a grenade from his vest and attempted to pull the pin, in order to kill them both.  This allowed Wooldridge to wrest the weapon away from the Taliban fighter, whereupon he was able to beat him to death with several butt strokes to the head.

The actions of these two, as the citations read, were “heroic and unselfish, and are highly worthy of being awarded the Navy Cross.”

Rally to the Battle of Robert Stacy McCain; Stop Brett Kimberlin

There is a groundswell of support for Robert Stacy McCain (principle author at the conservative web log The Other McCain), who feels compelled to move his family to an “undisclosed location” in an effort to protect them from harassment from convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin, “a violent felon, perjurer and admitted tax cheat who is employed as the director of a 501(c)3 non-profit that has collected $1.8 million in contributions since 2005.”
Kimberlin was convicted of multiple federal felonies in 1981 and sentenced to 50 years in prison after he terrorized a small Indiana town in a brutal crime weeklong bombing spree.  [Law enforcement officials] believed the bombings were committed in an attempt to distract authorities investigating the 1978 murder of a 65-year-old grandmother, a crime in which Kimberlin was a suspect.
Kimberlin, released in 2000, is now an activist and community organizer, associated with Democrat campaign consultant Neal Rauhauser (self-proclaimed computer “hacker’ who claims Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva as one of his clients). Kimberlin is also the director of the tax-exempt Justice Through Music Project, which in turn is associated with another tax-exempt group, Velvet Revolution – interesting work for someone who McCain describes as a convicted drug smuggler and forger.  Contributors from the political Left to his JTM Project include Teresa Heinz (Mrs John) Kerry ($20,000); Barbra Streisand ($10,000); the Tides Foundation ($70,000); Fidelity Investments ($71,000) and others.  Kimberlin’s main avocation seems to be as a serial litigator – over 100 lawsuits – going after anyone who dares to disclose his background. 

McCain became his target after posting articles describing how Kimberlin, “through a strategy of legal intimidation and workplace harassment”, has tried to silence his critics, including Virginia attorney Aaron Walker (he and his wife were fired by an employer fearful of liability), other bloggers such as Seth Allen, and Los Angeles deputy district attorney Patrick Frey.  His recent target of McCain was specifically through his wife’s employer, whom he called about McCain’s “harassment” – a not-so-subtle variation on the ‘I know where you live’ tactic.

Critics are not limited to those who could be dismissed as mere wing-nut bloggers.  Publisher’s Weekly calls Kimberlin a “top-flight con man”, and Time magazine reported that he was gaining notoriety on progressive web sites by “repeatedly asserting as facts things that are not true”.

There is ample and detailed information about all the players in this unfolding battle (and I encourage you to peruse the sites and follow the threads for a fuller understanding), but the groundswell I mentioned is not so much about spreading the word, but taking a stand against the tactics of intimidation.  I add this web log to the growing list of supporters of McCain and others.  Lee Stranahan has called upon the blogosphere for an “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day” on Friday, 25 May.

Why wait?  I’m in the mood to jump in now.  As Louis Brandeis said, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

*****
Update:  My post on Friday, just to make it official.

Friday, May 18, 2012

PFC Kight Comes Home from World War II

One of the poignant mysteries of World War II for a family in White Salmon, Washington has now finally come home to rest in West Klickitat Cemetery tomorrow.  The remains of Private First Class Gerald ‘Mike’ Kight were discovered by a farmer in the far eastern area of the Netherlands near the German border, and identified by the efforts of the Royal Netherlands Army Recovery and Identification Unit, the US Defense Department Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the US Army Past Conflict Repatriation Branch.

PFC Kight was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division during the controversial Operation Market Garden, generally recognized by the terms A Bridge Too Far after the famous book by Cornelius Ryan.  The paratrooper unit was dropped near the town of Grave, southwest of Nijmegen during the early afternoon of 17 September 1944 as part of the complex and consequential airborne operation, the largest in history.

In general, the plan was to see the US 101st Airborne Division drop just north of Eindhoven, just inside the Dutch border and 13 miles behind German lines; the US 82nd Airborne Division drop around Nijmegen 40 miles to the northeast, and finally the British 1st Airborne Division just west of Arnhem, another 11 miles further northeast (and ‘a bridge too far’).  Seizure of a variety of bridges would allow the Allied XXX Corps to attack along what is now Routes A50 and A325 (but at the time a narrow road flanked by deep ditches, resulting in “a front two tanks wide”) to link up the various Allied pockets and permit a strike into Germany, as it was felt that, at the time, the Germans on the Western Front were in no position logistically to resist an operation of this magnitude, particularly in that area, and could result in the war being over by the end of 1944.  The plan was further influenced by the fact that after the airborne operations on D-Day, the large paratroop contingent (consisting of the US 17th, 82nd, and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions, and the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade) were underutilized as a result of all paratroop assault plans being overtaken by events in the rapid Allied assault across France, and this was a way to introduce them into the front where their numbers were needed.

The 504th was successful in seizing its primary objective of the bridge at Grave over the Maas canal, though the other two bridges assigned as objectives were blown by the Germans before they could be captured.  Nevertheless, the regiment was able to drive east in an effort to seize the high ground around Groesbeck, southeast of Nijmegen, in expectation of a German counterattack to recapture that key piece of terrain.  One of the major mistakes of Market Garden was a failure of intelligence to anticipate the presence of the German II SS Panzer Corps in the area and the ability of the brilliant and driven Field Marshall Otto Model to craft together an effective response among the German units there, recovering from the pounding at the Battles of Normandy and Falaise.  Model had anticipated an assault into the area but was uncertain what form or size it would entail.

For Kight’s purpose, his battalion was dug in on the night of 20/21 September when elements of the 10th SS Panzer Division, supported by units of the II Parachute Corps, attacked in force.  The position was overrun and all American soldiers with the exception of one survivor were killed or captured.  That survivor testified to the fact that Kight was fighting from a foxhole and that he was “severely wounded”.  The remains of some 39 US soldiers in that engagement were never found, probably due to an intense artillery bombardment.  Kight’s remains, including scraps of uniform, wallet and dogtags, were considered positive enough for identification.  The fragmentary remains of another found nearby are still unknown. 


One of Kight’s few relatives from 1944 is his niece, Frances Hembree, now 70.  She was barely two years old when her photo was taken with her uncle home on leave.  Sadly, she comments, "I'm not a buff of any kind about the wars.  But I guess now I'm rather proud of my relatives who did go and fight for us.  Particularly Mike."

This brings to mind Carl Sandburg’s “Grass”, his moving lament of those who can not or will not remember those who made the final sacrifice in our wars:
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work –
                  I am the grass; I cover all.
And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work. 
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
                 What place is this?
                 Where are we now? 

                      I am the grass.
                      Let me work.

Remember PFC Kight and all the thousands of others like him.  All of them are worth remembering.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Army Ranger of 2nd Battalion Receives the Silver Star

In a rare public appearance for a tightly-knit special operations unit, awards were presented to members of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers, home based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington. 

One Ranger, Staff Sergeant Sean Keough, received the Silver Star for action against Taliban insurgents during a raid on an enemy compound last autumn.  Leading his squad, Keough saw one of his fellow Rangers shot and fall wounded, still under fire from the enemy.  Keough placed himself between the fallen soldier and the enemy, returning fire in order to provide cover for other members of the unit who administered aid and retrieved their downed teammate.  Keough and another Ranger shot an insurgent who attacked them, but he received a gunshot wound to his arm.  Despite his wound he remained in place, still delivering effective fire at the enemy while his squad radioed for a medevac.


The attacking force regrouped but Keough refused medical aid that would interfere with his mission, and directed and participated in attacking and overrunning the enemy compound eight hours later.  He also received the Purple Heart for his wounds sustained in action against the enemy. 

The award was presented by Lieutenant General John F Mulholland, commander of the US Army Special Operations Command.  In addition to Keough, the battalion received two Valorous Unit Awards for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in summer 2005.  Seven Rangers received the Bronze Star Medal (‘V’) for actions in combat, and five received the Soldier’s Medal for heroism in a non-combat role for rescuing two stranded climbers on Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska, in addition to 17 who received the Purple Heart, among other awards.  During this latest deployment, four Rangers and an attached junior officer were killed in action, and many wounded, including 30 as a result of the explosion of an IED. 

Since October 2001, the battalion has deployed 14 times and conducted over 2500 raids.  It is preparing for its 15th deployment.

A Manufactured Crisis: University of Texas ‘Save the President’ Campaign Is a Hoax

This post is a bit ‘off the beaten path’ for this web log, but I did state (somewhere) that these postings are ultimately composed around whatever topic I feel like spending my precious and often short bursts of time writing about.

This admittedly parochial story has been slowly developed over the last few days, with a big boost provided by the great Instapundit (naturally).  Those of you who peruse the generally conservative web logs and news sites have undoubtedly seen reference to the upcoming second shoe to drop in the dismal news of the dismal science: after the housing crisis that brought on the economic bust of 2008, we are looking to see another major bubble that should soon burst in the area of the cost of higher education.

This little corner of impending doom is particularly concerned with Texas, and the fact that Governor Rick Perry is determined to reduce the skyrocketing cost of college tuition by making higher education “affordable, accountable, and accessible”.  Contrast this with the fact that tuition at the University of Texas at Austin has increased 39.88% from 2004-2011, a scant seven years, with no appreciable gain in . . . well, anything, other than to fill the coffers of the university.  Clearly, Texas University (the ‘teasippers’ there love it when you call it that) is a major target of the reform movement for stopping and rolling back the huge price increases.  Two of Governor Perry’s reforms are a four-year tuition freeze for incoming students, and the $10,000 degree.  The higher education cabal heaped scorn on the ideas but they have been implemented in public universities across the state.


The story now quickly centers around Bill Powers, President of the University of Texas at Austin.  A public relations campaign has painted Powers as the main force standing up to this tuition freeze, which would somehow result in higher costs.  Stories in major web logs, including the one for the magazine Texas Monthly, painted a picture of an administration under siege, and a huge groundswell of support from students flocking to social media site “I Stand With Bill Powers” on Facebook.  The press has followed the stories of how some 10,000 people have joined the site, but Will Franklin of Willisms.com has written a lengthy yet readable post that is the definitive explanation of the fact that the university staff under Powers and a public relations firm have invented the site and the enthusiasm of its purported members.
Along with some others in the higher ed movement, it quickly became apparent that a handful of really sharp young folks, working with some powerful organizations with ample resources, synthetically engineered what appeared to be a natural groundswell.
The names, in the thousands, are being added without their knowledge, many posted within a matter of minutes, and all by basically two people.  Franklin does an admirable job of explaining, in great detail, exactly how this has been done, and goes on to cover how this astro-turfing is bad enough, but it is being passed off to the press, and reported, as true.

I cannot begin to condense the article down to an easily understood abridged version; you will have to take some time to read the article to grasp how this fraud is being perpetuated, and why.  But toward the end, Williams asks some devastating questions:
As for Bill Powers, can someone please explain to me what exactly are his accomplishments, or, alternatively, what exactly are his goals, ideas, values, or policies that are worthy of support? 
The article is worth reading in its entirety, but especially the answers to those questions.  If you have any interest in the business of higher education, this article is must read.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Leslie Sabo Finally Receives the Medal of Honor

Sergeant Leslie H Sabo, Jr, US Army, was today awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for action in combat against North Vietnamese forces at Se San, Cambodia on 10 May 1970.  Serving then as a Specialist Four (like today’s medal, he was promoted posthumously) and assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, he was part of a advanced reconnaissance patrol of two platoons probing areas that were used by the NVA for the Tet Offensive, when they were ambushed in a relatively open clearing by a force of about 150 NVA troops lying in prepared positions in a jungle tree line.


SP4 Sabo was toward the rear of the patrol and immediately fought back in a successful attempt to refuse the attackers' movement to surround and overrun the patrol.  A grenade was thrown by the enemy which landed near a wounded US soldier, and Sabo ran out from his protected position near a tree in order to pick up the grenade and throw it aside, shielding the soldier with his body and absorbing numerous shrapnel fragments from the grenade.  Thus wounded, he nevertheless then turned and attacked the enemy trench and killed the two occupants with his own grenade, but only after receiving several bullet wounds in the process, then pulled the wounded American soldier to protective cover.  The citation indicates that he succumbed to his wounds shortly thereafter, based, I expect, on what can be confirmed. 

Some witnesses continue the story, however.  As the firefight continued, with the patrol cut off from the rest of the US force, ammunition began running low.  Sabo then repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire in order to retrieve ammunition from the American dead and wounded, and redistributed it among the combat effectives still engaged with the NVA.  By nightfall, the reserve platoon of B Company broke through as medevac helicopters began landing to extract the wounded, drawing heavy fire from the NVA.  Sabo stepped into the open to provide covering fire for the helicopters as they sought to recover two of his wounded comrades, and continued to fire until his ammunition was exhausted.  He was killed by the NVA while trying to reload.  The ambush resulted in 7 KIA and 28 WIA. 

Sabo was born in Austria in 1948, to Hungarian parents who were refugees from the Communist takeover of their country.  Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, he proposed to his high school sweetheart, Rose Mary Bucelli, and married her while on leave after basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He shipped out within a few weeks.  His new wife said she begged him to stay, but he replied that he had seen Communism tear apart his native Hungary, and the result that it had had on his family.  He felt obligated to fight against it and he understood the reason for the war. 

Oddly, the Army told his widow and family that he had been shot by a sniper while guarding an ammunition dump, possibly to shield the news that the action had taken place in Cambodia.  His company commander, Captain Jim Waybright, recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but there is no explanation as to why the recommendation became lost.  Years later, 101st veteran Alton Mabb found the documents while digging through the National Archives and made it his goal to see that SGT Sabo received his recognition, ultimately pushing it through by act of Congress with the help of Representatives Corrine Brown and Jason Altmire.  The Army offers no explanation for the delay other than to say that the recommendation "more or less fell through the cracks."

"The wheels of the gods grind slowly", but Sergeant Sabo has finally received the commendation that he deserved.

Monday, May 14, 2012

East Germany: Before and After

Posted herein are a series of before-and-after photos of East Germany, the first set taken in the years 1990-1991, the second taken from 2001-2003.

If anyone cares to extol the virtues of a communist society, then look upon its works, and despair.  What better evidence that capitalism, even the faltering version of the proto-Socialist European Union, works?  What would Walter Duranty say?


Check out all of them.

(H/T to Lonely Conservative)

*****
Update:  Der Spiegel has a larger selection.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Future of Energy in America

Jeff Carter of the ‘Points and Figures’ web log has a very interesting post about the results of his attending the Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business Management Conference last Friday (all by way of the omnipresent Instapundit).  Mr Carter found the candid comments from two panelists, Bill Reinert of Toyota (maker of the most all-American cars) and Michael K Wirth of Chevron, most elucidating.  Some examples:
Did you know that Chevron spends $33 billion a year just to keep the doors open and the lights on?  Amazing operating budget.  For that 33 billion spend, they control 2% of the worldwide oil market. 
Conclusion: Running an oil company isn’t cheap and has a lot of fixed costs. 
Question: Why do we demonize, regulate and tax the crap out of them? 
Another data point they offered was that in the next ten years, the world will need 40% more energy to operate.  Demand is going up.  The reason?  In America, when we go through our daily lives, we implicitly trust that lights will go on, air conditioning and heating will work.  We know if we plug something in, the electricity will power it.  We use cell networks.  We don’t walk and bike everywhere, and generally get to place to place using some form of powered transportation. 
Well guess what?  The rising middle class in the rest of the world wants the same thing.  As China, India, Brazil and other countries increase their standards of living, they will demand more energy.
They introduce the concept of ‘energy density’ of energy sources, measured in terms of mega-joules per kilogram.  For those green aficionados, the first comparison to notice is that solar energy is ten to fifteen times less dense than wood.  The most efficient would be nuclear energy, by more than several magnitudes.
There was a section of the discussion that pertained to “green energy”. Currently, 2% of the entire supply curve for energy in the world is green.  There is plenty of research and development on green energy, but there is no exponential “Moore’s Law” that holds true when it comes to energy.  The world will use 3% green energy ten years from now.
They discussed why natural gas is a much better alternative source but also listed the political and infrastructure obstacles to its more widespread use and development.  For best use of automotive energy, engines are continuing to become more efficient, and that is where the smart money should go.
We don’t need CAFE standards to stimulate car companies to create better cars. Economic incentives create them.  There is no secret car that gets 90 MPG that car companies are withholding from the market.  If they had it, you could buy it on a lot.
What about high speed rail?
Give up on high speed rail.  It’s not going to be possible under the current political environment, or economic environment.
As far as batteries are concerned, we have reached a current dead end in improving on energy efficiency.  “[T]he battery-only cars on the market weren’t game changers. . . . They are science experiments.”

This is a very interesting post to read in its entirety.  Avail yourself of the opportunity.

*****
Update:  On a related note, the outlook for biofuels is beyond bleak, particularly in the cellulosic biofuel production.
But in 2007, Congress vastly overestimated the government's ability to create a market for cellulosic biofuels, which remain much more expensive to produce than corn ethanol.  There was no commercial production of cellulosic fuel in 2010 or 2011 – even though the 2007 law originally called for 100 million and 250 million gallons, respectively, for those years (the requirements were subsequently scaled back to around 6.5 million gallons for each year).
Anyone want to continue to place their trust in Congress and the Green lobby?  They at least realized that corn ethanol has a significant impact on food prices (there were riots in Mexico City some years ago), so a cap of 15 billion gallons by 2015 was put in place by the EPA’s 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard.  They are going to have to scramble to meet even their greatly reduced goals.

*****
Update: It has been a busy day for energy articles.  Now 'Power Line' has a post entitled, appropriately enough, “We Are Swimming in Oil”.

On Thursday, a representative of the Government Accountability Office testified before the House Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment that the Green River Formation alone – it is located at the intersection of the states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and mostly underlies federal lands – contains as much oil as the entire proven reserves of the rest of the world combined. [emphasis in original]
John Hinderaker goes on to ask if Obama will continue to insist that we only have 2% of the world’s proven reserves, and will he continue to block development of these resources if (God forbid) he is re-elected?  While the administration continues to advertise that oil production has increased under its watch, the fact is that this increase has taken place almost exclusively on private and state lands – federal leases under this administration have practically ceased.

The story about this remarkable testimony was promptly ignored by the main stream media.

Mind you, this testimony was only in regard to the Green River Formation.  There are also enormous deposits in the Bakken Formation being developed in North Dakota, which is just a minor portion of the field which is primarily in Canada (developed through new Canadian technology in extraction) and whose exports to the US are blocked by the administration’s refusal to build the Keystone XL pipeline.  There is also the enormous Marcellus Formation under West Virginia and Pennsylvania and surrounding areas such as eastern Ohio and southern New York; the various fields throughout historically energy rich Texas, with the deposits throughout the Permian Basin (including the Barnett and Barnett-Woodford Formations) and the Eagle Ford Formation in the southeast, plus the Woodford and Floyd Neal Formations which Texas shares with Oklahoma and Louisiana respectively; the Antrim Formation in Michigan; Fayetteville in Arkansas; and the Chattanooga/Conasauga in Mississippi and Alabama – to name just the larger ones.  Then, of course, there is Alaska, and offshore deposits sitting idle and undeveloped.

This does not take into account the fact that it is difficult to keep up with the industry and its discoveries which occur so rapidly now. What will the potential look like just a few months from now?  More importantly, what will it look like when we have an administration that will allow this enormous potential to be developed?

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Fundraiser in Chief Bests Last Five Presidents – Combined


Barack Obama has held more re-election fundraising events than the last five presidents combined. 

According to the numbers compiled by Political Science Professor Brendan J Doherty of the US Naval Academy, the background stats for the number of fundraisers in the re-election campaign year for the previous presidents line up thusly: 

·         Carter (1980)                 4
·         Reagan (1984)               0
·         Bush I (1992)              19
·         Clinton (1996)             14
·         Bush II (2004)             57 

That totals out to 94 fundraisers for the lot of them.  Obama, so far, is up to 124 fundraisers this year. 

Despite Obama’s public complaint about the “corrosive influence of money in politics”, he has twice opted out of the campaign finance system set up to help control it. 

A radio commentator some time back compiled a number of recordings of Obama citing a variety of topics that were his “number one priority”.  Well, it’s clear which one that is: getting re-elected. 

The article goes into some detail.  Read the whole thing.

‘Bullying’ Case Against Romney Falls Apart

The Washington Post can always be relied upon to come up with some story that purports to expose someone – always a conservative opponent to a Left and media (but I repeat myself) favored Democrat – before its reportage falls apart.  After all, the Post practically invented the ‘October Surprise’ with Caspar Weinberger in 1992 (no foundation), followed by allegations that George H W Bush had had an affair (not true), George W Bush had received a drunk-driving citation some years before (old news and minor), and the stories about Representative Mark Foley and former capitol pages (delayed for months for impact in October).  Other examples from the usual suspects include the supposed disappearance of a large amount of munitions from an Iraqi ammo warehouse at al Qa’qaa (not true), and the story that Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar convinced the Saudis to reduce the price of oil to improve the chances for a Bush election victory (unfounded and practically impossible), and perhaps the most egregious: the story that George W Bush received favored treatment as an Air National Guard fighter pilot in keeping him away from Viet Nam (quickly proven to be a hoax despite press denials).  A continuing example is the coverage of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, with too many examples to list for the purpose of this post. 

A recent example of a smear campaign at the behest of the Left involves digging up the old news of a road trip of the Romney family many years ago, when their pet dog was secured in a dog carrier on the roof of the car, failing to mention that the dog was protected and comfortable.  The story ceased abruptly when the Republican campaign response showed that Obama had admitted to eating dog when he lived in Indonesia with his adoptive father. 

Now comes the allegation that Mitt Romney, as a teenager, had bullied a schoolmate by holding him down and cutting his long hair.  As an added fillip, the schoolmate was purportedly gay, conveniently tying the story to Obama’s gay marriage endorsement the day before.  Not convenient to fact-checking the story, the alleged victim has been deceased for eight years and is thus unavailable for comment. 

The story started falling apart almost immediately. First, the story quoted a source who quickly denied having made the comment, was not present at the alleged prank, and who was unaware of the story until contacted by the Washington Post. 

Second, the family of the ‘victim’ was unaware of the incident as well and released a clear and unambiguous statement, calling the claim “factually inaccurate”, including their anger that his name is even mentioned (which I will not):
"The family of [the person] is releasing a statement saying the portrayal of [him] is factually incorrect and we are aggrieved that he would be used to further a political agenda.  There will be no more comments from the family. . . . Even if it did happen, [he] probably wouldn't have said anything." . . .  She added she and her sisters will likely put out a statement later via a family attorney.  "if he were still alive today, he would be furious [about the story]," she said with tears in her eyes.

The Post updated the story to soften the involvement of the “source”, without acknowledging the update.  Stacy McCain included a number of questions about the purpose and writing of the story in an excellent disposition, including comments from a retired DC news editor with more than ten years experience:
Two of the three scenarios I've outlined are discipline cases in any story; on a 5,000-word A1 feature on a presidential nominee, it's firing.

The Post has some explaining to do about this blatant attempt at character assassination, but based on past history, it won’t.  Meanwhile, like the dog story above, an admitted incident from Obama is coming to light.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Military Is Fighting For Obama?

Obama made a ballyhooed announcement yesterday about how he has evolved on the subject of gay marriage.  The most used cliché is that he ‘came out of the closet’ on the subject, though actually he tripped over Joe Biden on the way. 

This post does not concern my attitude about what Obama thinks about gay marriage, or what I think about it, for that matter.  What caught my attention was his phraseology in the middle of the operative paragraph, in which he makes a gratuitous and pandering statement about the military:
. . . when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone. . .  


The vast majority of civilians, certainly those on the Left, are unclear on the concept of the duty that a professional service member feels called to follow.  Some suspect (through a psychological device called ‘projection’) that the military is comprised of a huge pack of political animals, that we really serve only for pay and benefits and have to ponder the extent to which we will faithfully follow the orders of the officers appointed over us.  That chain of command, of course, extends all the way to the Commander in Chief, where the buck is supposed to stop (though we find that this one will hedge his bets – QED on that projection idea). 

Fate toyed with me to the extent that I had to serve under Carter and Clinton during my military career, and I will freely admit that I never even considered voting for them.  Obama falls within that category, for any number of reasons.  But I never questioned the orders of any civilian in authority over me in my chain of command, nor did I ever hear of another serving with me doing the same.  We all faithfully executed those orders with the only thought in mind being how to successfully accomplish the mission. 

So, to get to the point of this post – the American military does not fight on behalf of the President, whoever he is, and (in my mind) certainly not Obama.  We fight to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . [and] bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” 

We do not swear allegiance to the President, and we certainly do not swear allegiance to a person.  We swear allegiance to the Constitution. 

And for once I wish he would get that straight in that narcissistic mind of his.

*****
Update:  Another response, from a far more telegenic perspective, from Veterans for a Strong America:


(H/T to Jim at Blackfive)