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November 25, 2009

Carnival of the Turkeys

Well, I have written and abandoned two posts now. Despite a surfeit of celtic blood, I hate being maudlin. So I will leave you with a recipe - one I'm not making this year, but which is probably the only constant (other than turkey and stuffing) at Thanksgiving dinners at Villa Cassandranita for over 25 years now.

Squash Casserole.

Even folks who hate squash like this recipe. I like a mix of flavors at a holiday meal. I've always thought that the Seven Sweets and Seven Sours was a great idea. Must be my German blood tempering the Celtic/English love of bland food.

Not me... I like to experience the full gamut of flavors! This recipe satisfies my love of spicy/hot dishes.

3-4 lbs mixed yellow and green (zuccini) squash
2 Med. onions, minced
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh parsley (freeze dried works well too)
1/2 t. thyme
6 T. butter
6 T. flour
3 C. milk
Generous dash salt
1 T. seasoned salt. I like Morton's Nature's Seasons. McCormacks has too much paprika in it.
Several dashes ground nutmeg. I like to grate fresh.
Dash Worcestershire sauce.
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/3 C shredded Swiss cheese (I use way more, but this is what the recipe says). I treat recipes as suggestions, not dictats.
Cayenne pepper
Buttered breadcrumbs (Question for the ages: how in the heck does one butter a breadcrumb??? Good grief: just use the Italian seasoned ones from the can and forget about the butter)

Cut squash into 1/3" slices. Halve each. Place in large saucepan with minced onion, bay leaves, parsley, thyme. Cover with boiling salted water and cook until just barely tender. Drain, remove parsley and bay leaves. Set aside for a moment.

Celebrate by pouring the cook a glass of wine.

While the squash was cooking, you were *supposed* to be making the cream sauce. Of course it's too late now. Maybe next time you'll read the entire recipe first instead of loafing around the kitchen drinking Liebfraumilch. In a 1 qt. saucepan, heat 6 T. butter, whisk in 6T flour, gradually add 3 C. milk and a dash of salt.

Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it thick b/c the squash will release a lot of water in the oven and that will thin the sauce down.

Celebrate w/another glass of wine.

To the white sauce, add seasoned salt, nutmeg, and Worcestershire sauce. Remove from heat. Gradually blend in the beaten egg yolks (What? You mean you hadn't beaten the egg yolks either? Maybe you should put the wine away.)


Gradually blend in the *beaten* egg yolks by adding a small amount of the hot cream sauce to the beaten yolks in a small bowl. Whisk well, then add a bit more hot cream sauce and whisk thoroughly, then a bit more.

Have another glass of wine and pile the dishes in the sink for your spouse to do once everyone has left. When you have blended enough of the hot mixture in with the eggs, return all to saucepan and whisk thoroughly. Stir in 1 C. of Swiss cheese and add cayenne pepper to taste. I like a fair amount (two generous dashes) but taste and adjust.

Place layer of cooked squash in a large (9x12 is fine) buttered baking dish. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce over and sprinkle with regular or seasoned salt. Alternate layers of squash and sauce until casserole is full. Don't stir too much - you want the squash slices to be intact. Mix remaining cheese with equal or greater amount of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over top. Add salt/pepper if desired or more grated Swiss. I like to top it all off with a scant layer of Parmesan or Asiago.

Bake at 350 degrees until top is bubbly and slightly browned. Even better the 2nd day - you may want to mix ingredients the day before and refrigerate until ready to cook. If you do this, increase cooking time slightly to adjust for dish being cold when it goes into the oven.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:20 PM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

In the comments section of a Matthew Yglesias post:

... I just find it amazing that so many people KNOW this is a lousy bill but are still basically trying to say that anyone who doesn’t support it is clearly just doing it out of spite.

BINGO. It never ceases to amaze me how the lion's share of our national debate on ANY subject these days seems to boil down to, "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

It's like a bad marriage: the respective parties have retreated to their corners and "winning" (or supporting the home team) has become more important than doing what's best for the nation.

That's not healthy.

The best thing about a marriage is that, in yoking yourself to someone very different than yourself, you have to let down the barriers you erect against the outside world. In the process, you become more receptive to the idea that maybe - just maybe - you don't know everything.

Politics these days reminds me of a marriage on the glide path to a nasty, bitter divorce. Not only are our shields up - they've been triple, super-duper reinforced to prevent even the smallest "attack" on our own point of view. Ambiguity, nuance, even doubt are signs of weakness, not that one has enough confidence in one's own values to admit the otherwise unexceptional thought that there might be more than one side to an issue.

Confident people don't act this way. Reflexive hostility to any kind of uncertainty is more often the hallmark of someone who secretly harbors doubts than it is of the intellectually confident.

We don't need to go overboard and question everything endlessly to the point where we can't even make a decision. But whatever happened to common sense? It's a question I often ask myself. If you've drifted into a place where your first reaction is to assume the worst of others, maybe it's not they who have abandoned common sense.

Maybe it's you.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Unpopular post of the day:

I love, love, love the way Michelle Obama looks in this photo:


I love her hair up, and I really like to see her in simple, well cut clothes that show her figure to advantage. Full marks to whoever came up with this ensemble.


Posted by Cassandra at 03:10 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Smile for the Day

Posted by Cassandra at 09:32 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 24, 2009


You've got to love it:

Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told FoxNews.com.

The three, all members of the Navy's elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called an admiral's mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

A bloody lip. Saul Alinsky rules.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:32 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Time for Some Foolishness

Via Sean.

Also, this amused me:


Via the Dark Lord Sly.

Mood music for a rainy Tuesday evening.


Posted by Cassandra at 05:10 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Demand Genuine White House Leakers!

In today's News of the Surreal...

"Pay no attention to unsanctioned unauthorized leakers. For reliable unauthorized leaks that don't make the Boss mad, demand genuine White House unauthorized leakers!":

The U.S. officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the issue publicly and because, one official said, the White House is incensed by leaks on its Afghanistan policy that didn't originate in the White House.

Now *that's* transparency we can trust! But wait! There's more!

Nobel peace prize winner Obama to send 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan?

Man, that's kind of harsh... I mean, no one talks about peace more than Barack Obama.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:58 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 23, 2009

Why Not Have Congress Just Offer Them Free Health Care?

After all, it's a human right:

In Afghanistan, a drive to lure Taliban with jobs, security...



Posted by Cassandra at 07:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

This and that

Darleen has written a wonderful review of The Blind Side. If you're looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving holiday, go read it. You won't be sorry.

Also, Bombs and Dollars has compiled a list of the top 133 conservative blogs. The blog princess was rather shocked to find VC made the list. But my no means displeased :)

Posted by Cassandra at 06:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Amateur Hour in the Oval Office Continues....

And the hits just keep on comin':

In Tokyo, the new center-left government even pulled out of its participation in a mission which saw the Japanese navy refueling US warships in the Indian Ocean as part of the Afghanistan campaign. In Beijing, Obama failed to achieve any important concessions whatsoever. There will be no binding commitments from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A revaluation of the Chinese currency, which is kept artificially weak, has been postponed. Sanctions against Iran? Not a chance. Nuclear disarmament? Not an issue for the Chinese.

The White House did not even stand up for itself when it came to the question of human rights in China. The president, who had said only a few days earlier that freedom of expression is a universal right, was coerced into attending a joint press conference with Chinese President Hu Jintao, at which questions were forbidden. Former US President George W. Bush had always managed to avoid such press conferences.

But do not be alarmed. If this bizarre story can be believed, Obama's prodigious efforts to "restore America's moral legitimacy" in the eyes of the world continue apace:

It comes to our attention that the MEMRI Blog highlights an article from the Saudi _al-Watan_ in Arabic that - according to an Afghan source - the United States is talking to the Taliban seeking to trade control of 5 provinces in exchange for the cessation of attacks on US bases.

A number of things make me suspicious of this story. Not the least of them is the fact that previous leaks haven't, for the most part, proven accurate or reliable. But though I agree about the need for skepticism, it's disturbing that this story is seen as even marginally plausible. Can you imagine the reaction if George Bush were still in office? Would any sane person give a story like this the time of day?

Sadly, Obama's hands off (to put it mildly) leadership style and ineffectual waffling inspire confidence in neither his grasp of the situation nor his resolve:

The story defies logic and belief, but unfortunately if the US State Department (or the White House) hasn't responded clearly and forcefully to unequivocally deny the allegations yet, now would be a good time to do that, too. The current administration has elected to conduct its Afghanistan business via leaks and rumors. Presidential decrees that they're "not appropriate" are correct - but insufficient. Among other complications the practice lends credence to stories like this one. Because of that, regardless of source, and no matter how foolish or self-destructive a rumored course of action might appear, the sliver of doubt that it's a complete fabrication exists.

And in this case that "sliver" can grow to damaging size; the interpretation of described events as "whispers of surrender" unfortunately doesn't seem at all far-fetched, and that thought has probably crossed the minds of allies and potential allies alike.

Bingo. It's worth considering that the man we're supposedly negotiating with was disowned by the Taleban in 2003:

The current government of President Hamid Karzai says it is considering whether to hold talks with Mr Mutawakil, the most senior Taleban to have been held in US custody.

...A spokesman for Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the BBC Pashto service on Tuesday that Mr Mutawakil "does not represent our will".

He said the Taleban's struggle would continue.

Mr Mutawakil has been traditionally seen as a moderate member of the Taleban which has been increasingly active in south-east Afghanistan in recent months.

This guy surrendered to US forces. There are even rumors that he sought asylum outside Afghanistan. He's widely viewed as a moderate. So what reasonable basis is there for believing the hard line Taliban (you know... the ones we're worried about) would trust a man like this to represent them, much less bind them to an agreement? Especially when there's little incentive at present for them to make concessions?

US and some Pakistani officials, however, are skeptical, arguing that the Taliban have little incentive to negotiate when their strength and sway in Afghanistan is growing and public and international support for the US-led war in Afghanistan is waning.

Najmuddin Shaikh, formerly the top bureaucrat in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, said the Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table if they saw a greater American military commitment and more investments in the Afghan countryside.

"It's a little premature for talks [with the Taliban]," Shaikh said. "There has to be a change in the ground situation, things happening in the next six to eight months that shows the 'ink spots' strategy – [McChrystal's idea of protecting Afghan population centers] – is taking hold, that some foot soldiers are being weaned away, then talks become possible."

Translation: unless and until we begin to make progress, we have little leverage over the Taliban. That said, let's not forget who were talking about. We're talking about making deals with - trusting - people like this:

These photos show what happens to real women who wear the Islamic Veil. The photos depict horrifying hate and the unbearable suffering it inflicts upon female innocents. The photos were taken by Emilio Morenatti of the Associated Press. The text is based on work done by Nicholas Kristof—one of the few people at the New York Times whose work I am proud to quote. You may find them HERE. (Thanks to Yehuda for calling this to my attention).

What are we seeing?

The Arabization or the Saudi-ization of Muslims in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan is the hidden hand behind these acid attacks upon women. These poor girls and women have had their lives ruined; some have been forced to undergo surgery 20-30 times in order that they may see a little, or breathe a bit, hear something, perhaps in order to eat or make themselves understood. They look like…monsters. That was what their attackers wanted to accomplish. To render their faces into self-portraits of their attackers.

Why was acid thrown into their faces? The main reasons are because they dared to reject someone in marriage or because they wanted a divorce. The “jilted” suitors (or husbands) took their revenge in this fashion. If he can’t have her, no man will; I will make sure that no man will ever want her.” One young girl was gang-raped aftger which her rapists threw acid on her face. Another committed the “crime” of disappointing her father by being born female, not male. Many were disfigured as a result of a “family dispute.”

Thus, the punishment for being born female, for exercising any will of one’s own is, Saudi-style, the most horrible punishment. The men tried to make the women loathsome to humanity, to sentence them to painful surgeries, self-hatred, perhaps to lives lived in isolation.

Make no mistake. This tendency to disfigure women–even those who wear the Islamic Veil–is real. And, it might be coming our way if we do not stop the Wahhabi and Salafi influence which is funding our universities in North America as well as the Islamic religious schools.

For once, I will leave aside the question of what must be done and allow the photos to speak to you.

It's your choice, Mr. President. But if you can look into those eyes and abandon these women to the rule of monsters, then honor is dead.

Whether or not you like the choices you've been afforded, you campaigned on the premise that Afghanistan was a war we couldn't afford to lose. You promised to resource it adequately. Nothing has happened to change the basic realities on the ground. You knew in March that Karzai was considered likely to win the election, so the notion that all of a sudden, we can't work with his "illegitimate" government is laughable.

You knew the deal back in March when you announced your carefully considered and comprehensive strategy. If you failed to do your homework with regard to the cost, the troop numbers, or whether you could work with Karzai, then shame on you. Because those questions were all on the table back then and it was your job to consider them and make a decision.

I and thousands of military families expected you to do your job back in March.

We're still waiting. 815 American service men and women have died in Afghanistan. They didn't fight and die so you could turn Jim Mattis' motto on its face; so that potential allies would look at America and think, "No Worse Friend, No Better Enemy". To the extent that others fear us, they should fear our wrath - not a stab in the back from a nation they thought was an ally.

I wish I could say your record inspires me with confidence.

I wish I could say I wasn't filled with foreboding. That neither our allies nor our enemies have the slightest idea where you stand on winning this war speaks volumes. All we know for certain is that you're looking for a way out and that doesn't smell like victory to this Marine wife.

Update: Glenn Reynolds, commenting on one of the stories linked above, comments:

If only he were as tough on America’s enemies as he is on Fox News.

John Hinderaker comments: “President Obama took office wanting to distinguish himself from President Bush. . . . Now, as Der Spiegel concludes, he is trying desperately to distinguish himself from Jimmy Carter.” I don’t think he’s trying all that hard . . . .

Both comments got me thinking: no one had any idea who Barack Obama was during the campaign and ten months into his first term, he's still a cipher. How many Presidents has he been compared to? Lincoln, JFK, FDR, Nixon, Carter, Bush. It seems to me that people keep searching for someone to compare him to because there's nothing to him.

We have no idea what he stands for. And so the only way we can make sense of his Presidency is by clothing him in the garb of past Presidents to see if we can find a "fit".

Some leadership. We don't even know who we're supposed to be following.

Update II: Via LMA, the Prez is going into a huddle!!!

The upside to all of this is when the press run out of former Presidents to compare 'Bam to, they'll have the NFL queued up.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:36 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Why It's Dangerous To Send Me Down Memory Lane

Posted by Cassandra at 01:43 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

MSNBC: A Bastion of White Privilege

Michelle Malkin: "I see White people!"

MSNBC host Chris Matthews, MSNBC reporter Norah O’Donnell, and MSNBC guest Joan Walsh shamelessly played the race card against Sarah Palin and her book-buying audience last week.

In Michigan, O’Donnell smugly noted that Palin’s fans were “largely white — almost no minorities in this crowd.” Matthews parroted the line, assailing the “white crowd.” Walsh likened the gathering to a “paranoid tea party.” Matthews hammered away at the “monochromatic” scene.

Ahem. Check out the masthead of MSNBC TV, “The Place for Politics.” Wear sunglasses and SPF 30 lotion.

Just one more "Do as we say, not as we do" moment for the Left. Oh, the humanity!

Posted by Cassandra at 12:36 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Here and There

Attila has been following the Goreball warming controversy so I don't have to:

More on Climategate at PJM, from Charlie, who emphasizes that with an information leak this massive, we must proceed with caution. Not all of the leaked emails have been authenticated, after all.

But if the bulk of the material is truly authentic, what are the implications?

More here.

John Hinderaker makes an interesting point about our feel-good President. I wouldn't be surprised if the phenomenon he cites didn't have a lot to do with the baffling cries of "racism" that pervaded the campaign and - despite having been rather thoroughly refuted by Obama's election - have continued even now that he's in the Oval Office.

As my mother liked to tell me when I was a little girl, often the way other people act has less to do with you than it does with how they feel about themselves. It's not hard to see how throwing the race card induces a sense of moral superiority.

But what does that say about the practical effect of Obama's election on the nation? It is arguable that the election of our first black president - far from unifying Americans of different races - creates powerful incentives for some people to behave in ways that only deepen racial tensions.

Could this be one reason a recent poll found that blacks believe race relations have grown worse rather than better?

During the 2008 election, 38 percent of blacks surveyed thought racial discrimination was a serious problem. In the new survey, 55 percent of blacks surveyed believed it was a serious problem, which is about the same level as it was in 2000.

I'm not inclined to put too much credence in a single poll, but the results seem counterintuitive. On the other hand, this study suggests an interesting theory:

Merely observing someone publicly blame an individual in an organization for a problem -- even when the target is innocent -- greatly increases the odds that the practice of blaming others will spread with the tenacity of the H1N1 flu, according to new research from the USC Marshall School of Business and Stanford University.

Nathanael J. Fast, an assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business and Larissa Tiedens, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford, conducted four different experiments and found that publicly blaming others dramatically increases the likelihood that the practice will become viral. The reason: blame spreads quickly because it triggers the perception that one's self-image is under assault and must be protected.

I've commmented many times on the enormous gap between what Obama preaches and what he practices. He seems to think he should get credit for talking about doing the right thing regardless of whether his actual behavior is 180 out from his rhetoric. Anyone who has ever raised children knows that the best way to get them to behave well (especially when your back is turned) is to be a good role model; to reinforce through your actions the standards you set through your speech. Kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say.

It wouldn't surprise me a bit to find that adults react in exactly the same way. Implicit in the term leadership is the exhortation to "follow me" - in other words, do as I do.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:54 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 22, 2009

Comedy Imitates Life

Best line at about 3:11:

"I am noticing that each of your plans to save money
involves plans to spend even more money..."

Posted by Cassandra at 10:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 21, 2009

Music and Memory

When I was 11 or so we were stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. There wasn't much to do on the base we lived on - not many other kids my age. School hadn't begun yet, so the long summer days stretched out before me. To a young girl used to cool New England summers, the heat was oppressive, and anyway there wasn't anyone to go outside with. My older cousin Andy sent me two albums: Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins.

That was one of the best presents I ever received: I spent hours memorizing every word from every song. From there, it made perfect sense to teach myself to play the guitar so I could sing them myself, so again there were hours spent learning chords and then figuring out which key and which chords went with each song.

I think of this often when I hear children complain that there's nothing to do. Everything comes so easily these days: the sheer volume and variety of music today is stunning. But the manufactured and multi-tracked sounds never seem as wonderful as the songs I loved and labored over when I was young.

I thought it might be fun to go back and find some of the forgotten songs I loved then. It's been years - decades in some cases - since I've heard some of them. The original arrangement was more spare on this one, but it's still a lovely song:

You don't see melodies and lyrics so well crafted often these days. Or is it just that my memories make them seem more special than they are?

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

I was a wicked Neil Diamond fan. I used to save my babysitting money until I had enough to walk down to the Navy Exchange and plunk down my hard earned cash for a brand new, shiny 45. I still remember what a thrill it was when I brought home a new one. Must have driven my parents crazy hearing it played over and over again.

Even though I've heard this one millions of times on the radio, it has never lost its magic:

There are a whole category of songs that I can only describe as songs that mesmerized me. I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard this one and the way I was feeling. It's kind of an interesting song because Stephen Stills did a version too. I always liked both of them, but it was the sound I loved more than the words.

I've always had a sneaking fondness for a cappella harmony, too. This song can transport me right back to the first time I heard it:

And then there are the guitar songs.

I've always thought this is one of Gordon Lightfoot's loveliest songs:

Haven't even scratched the surface - these are just a few of the ones I've loved. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Update: Obviously not one from my childhood, but Miss Ladybug reminded me of it. This song always makes me weak in the knees:

Another one I'd forgotten, thanks to Photon Courier. It was on Wildflowers (Judy Collins) but I prefer Brel's rendering. For some reason it is more affecting when sung by a man:

Here is a translation:

Of course, we have had our storms
Lovers for 20 years, it is a crazy love
A thousand times you have packed your bags
A thousand times, I have taken flight
And each piece of furniture remembers
in this room without a cradle
the claps of old thunderstorms
Nothing is the same anymore

You have even lost the taste for water
And me only the taste for conquest

But my love
My sweet, my tender, my marvelous love
from the clear dawn until the end of the day
I love you still, you know I love you

Me, I know all your sorceries
You know all my magic tricks
you have kept me safe from trap to trap
I have lost you from time to time
Of course, you have taken a few lovers
You surely have to pass the time
The body must know rapture
Finally finally
It took us a lot of talent
To become old without becoming adults

Oh, mon amour ,mon doux, mon tendre, mon merveilleux amour
De l`aube claire jusqu`à la fin du jour
Je t`aime encore, tu sais, je t`aime

And the more time marches on
The more time torments us
but isn't it the worst trap
for lovers to live in peace?
Of course you cry a little less easily
I tear myself apart a little more slowly
We protect our secrets less and less
We take fewer chances
we don't trust the stream of water
but it is always a tender war

I'd had a year of French in 4th grade and spent a lot of time looking up the words I didn't know. I didn't have the experience (obviously) to fully appreciate the lyrics back then.

Here's another translation, less literal but (I think) a bit closer to the spirit:

Of course we've weathered stormy places
Through this mad love of twenty years
A thousand times you've packed your cases
A thousand times I've disappeared
Though there's no cradle in this room
Each stick of furniture recalls
The thunderstorms' reverberations
Nothing resembles what it was
You've lost the taste for water now
And I for conquerors' sensations

Oh love of mine
Sweet marvelous and tender love of mine
From clearest dawn until the day's decline
I love you still, you know I love you

I've watched your witchcraft through the ages
You've memorized each trick of mine
You've guided me past snares and cages
Though I've lost you from time to time
Of course you've loved some others too
It must have helped to pass the time
The need for passion is enduring
And in the end, in the end
Such talent we've had to expend
To have grown old without maturing

The more time marches through these hallways
The more the time feels like a curse
And yet a love that's tranquil always
Surely must be the trap that's worse
You tear up less than in the past
I'm slow to tear myself apart
No more are we the great pretenders
We're both more guarded with our hearts
That stream of water may not last
Yet on it goes, this war so tender

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack


The blog princess may have posted videos of the USMC Silent Drill team a time or twelve over the years. But they appear to have some real competition from the United States Navy:

Speaking of competition....

Greta sent round the final totals from this year's Valour IT fundraiser. I apologize for taking so long to get these up. This year's proceeds came to $113,124.90, broken out as follows:

Air Force: $15,662.17 Army: $32,758.80 Marines: $43,060.89 Navy: $19,108.04 General donations: $2,535.00

As the video above shows, we may engage in a little good natured snarking from time to time but regardless of branch, when the United States military put their minds and bodies to a task there is very little they can't accomplish.

I'd like to extend a huge "thank you" to all the Marine team members. From the demotivators to daily posts to the video competition (won by Marine team member No Sheeples Here!), you all outdid yourselves. Your talent, creativity and enthusiasm made Carrie's and my jobs easy. I was hoping to assemble a team as big as we had in 2006 (63 blogs). The 2009 team had nearly 80 members!

Special thanks to Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, Jules Crittenden, Tigerhawk, John Hinderaker at Power Line, Ace of Spades HQ and IMAO for boosting us over the top with your Mighty SiteMeter Mojo! This was a team endeavor every step of the way. The combined efforts of small and medium sized blogs (among which VC numbers itself) who threw their hearts and souls into supporting Valour IT was amplified by the generous support of bigger bloggers who enabled us to spread the word. It make an effective combination.

To everyone who participated, donated, or just tolerated two weeks of nearly nonstop fund raising, thanks. If you have any doubt that this was time and energy well spent, this account of a recent Valour IT recipient's reaction should put a big grin on your face:

Last night, during my weekly visits, I was greeted by SGM [name redacted], our latest laptop recipient, with a quick little dance. I think he even clicked his heels! He is so terribly happy to have received a laptop and is really looking forward to having Joe show him all the in's and outs. You made this SGM, who has served faithfully for 40 years and is as crusty as they come, do a happy dance in the lobby - PRICELESS!

Being married to a crusty Marine myself, I can tell you that it's not easy to "wow" these guys.

Good work, everyone!

Posted by Cassandra at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 18, 2009

Wednesday Night Lyrics

Do you believe in a miracle?
Or just the things that you heard
Do you believe in a lover
Or just the curve of the world
Another chance every morning
To make sense of it all
Now you can go home
To nothing at all

There will always be something to believe in

- Shawn Colvin

Posted by Cassandra at 07:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Caught in the Act!


Posted by Cassandra at 04:36 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Oh. Dear. God.

This is so bizarre that it's almost impossible to mock sufficiently. But since I care more than any of you people will ever know, allow me to attempt to scale Mt. Ignorance on your behalf:

This is only the second time in its nearly ten-year history that the Dish has gone silent. The reason now is the same as the reason then. When dealing with a delusional fantasist like Sarah Palin, it takes time to absorb and make sense of the various competing narratives that she tells about her life. There are so many fabrications and delusions in the book, mixed in with facts, that just making sense of it - and comparing it with objective reality as we know it, and the subjective reality she has previously provided - is a bewildering task. She is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read. And the fact that she is now the leader of the Republican party and a potential presidential candidate, makes this process of deconstruction an important civil responsibility.

...the Dish has tried to be rigorous and careful in analyzing Palin's unhinged grip on reality from the very beginning - specifically her fantastic story of her fifth pregnancy - we feel it's vital that we grapple with this new data as fairly and as rigorously as possible. That takes time to get right. And it is so complicated we simply cannot focus on anything else.

Let me see if I have this straight:

Double digit inflation** unemployment. I blame Sarah Palin's uterus.


A President paralyzed by indecision: Should he fully resource the war of necessity that's vital, not just to the security of the United States but to the security of the world??? Decisions, decisions.

An historic reform of our entire health care system hanging by a thread...

But fear not, gentle readers! For in the midst of all these heavy matters, we can rely upon Andrew Sullivan to deeply delve into matters of transporting significance... like the highly suspicious 5th pregnancy of a married woman who isn't holding a political office at the moment and isn't expected to run for anything anytime soon.

Once he's done deconstructing Sarah Palin's 5th pregnancy, hopefully he'll have time to catch us up on the Britney Spears/Kevin Federline divorce. I think we're all feeling a bit safer today, knowing Sully is on the case.

Update: *snort*. I am so stealing the "twee rage" phrase from the comments.

Update II (Oh no. I'm starting to feel like Glenn Greenwald): The Dark RSS Feed of the Soul.


Posted by Cassandra at 04:10 PM | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Questioning the "Palin Double Standard"

The photo of Sarah Palin on the cover of Newsweak seems to be generating quite the controversy. Even the notoriously Lefty Media Matters is outraged... outraged I tell you... about Teh Sexism of it all:

... this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runners World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious news magazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits.

Like her or not, Palin is a former governor and vice presidential candidate. She deserves the same respect every single one of her male counterparts receives when they are featured on the cover of the magazine. I must have missed the cover of Vice President Joe Biden in short shorts or of Mitt Romney in a bathing suit.

I'll return to the bolded sentence in a moment, but first a few stipulations:

sexist2.jpg 1. Yes, I think Newsweek intentionally set out to diminish Palin. The photos inside the article all have a common theme: they all emphasize her sex appeal in a way that implies it's the most (or possibly the only) important thing about her. Showing a truncated shot of her legs in high heels while three men in the background appear hypnotized by the view up her skirt has got to be the Mother of all Subliminal Messages.

Just what are we supposed to take away from that one? That her appeal to conservatives - and particularly conservative men - is largely based on her iconic GILF (Governor I'd Like to ... well, you get the picture) status?

2. That said, I find the commentary on her wardrobe and personal style interesting:

Look at this picture right here. And what do you see? Can't we just acknowledge it? Sarah Palin is sexy, and she doesn't seem to hide from it. She shows her gams. She openly embraces her femininity. And how many other successful female politics do the same? Not Secretaries Hillary Clinton or Janet Napolitano, not Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison or Dianne Feinstein, or even next- generation female leaders like Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan, or California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

Symbolically, all these female politicians have played by the old pantsuit rules of the workplace. They don't pretend to be men. Every so often, they acknowledge their feminine side, usually by talking about motherhood.

But, far more often, American female politicians have seemed to keep their femininity under wraps, so to speak. But it's different with Sarah Palin. And it strikes a chord.

It does strike a chord. The question is, what kind of chord does it strike? Palin fans may not care for my next point, but I'd like to ask them to consider my general argument on the merits. Divorce it, if you will, from specific references to Palin or the way she's been treated by the media. Let's examine the question in the abstract.

Few of us would argue with the premise that the image a politician projects - the way he presents himself - conveys a message about how he sees himself and also about how he wants to be seen. Applied to a man, this statement seems fairly unremarkable. So why do we see a double standard when the exact same statement is applied to a woman? I am reminded of a conversation I had with my Dad over 10 years ago.

First, some context. My Mom and I had been out shopping for business attire. After raising two boys, I completed college and had just been hired by a Fortune 500 firm. It's worth noting that prior to this I had worked on and off, but never in what I'd call a professional environment. Most jobs I'd held involved business casual attire. In the job I was transitioning to, the men wore suits (not sports jackets, but suits) and Hermes ties to the office.

As a Marine officer's wife, I had several suits in my closet already. They were useful for attending daytime receptions and dress parades. But they weren't business suits. I may not have been able to put my finger on exactly why they weren't suitable for the office, but I knew it nonetheless.

Women, whether they dress for social occasions or the workplace, have far more fashion options than men do. No matter the occasion, our attire is more individualistic and more nuanced. The standard male wardrobe, on the other hand, tends to be fairly formulaic. In a formal office environment one sees charcoal grey suits with white shirts and small patterned ties. A more artsy (but still formal) workplace or a sales environment features colored shirts and suits with edgier tailoring and fabric. For social occasions, ensembles range from the suit to the quintessentially Southern khaki-pants-and-navy-sport coat to khaki pants and polo shirt/button down oxford, to the truly casual jeans and t-shirt. On the negative side, male dress codes don't provide much opportunity for the expression of personality. On the positive side, deciphering the dreaded "Business Casual" or "Casual" on a social invitation is far less fraught for men than it is for women.

My mother and I returned home triumphantly brandishing a cute navy suit with a short, peplum jacket and pencil skirt. It looked good on me. Like Palin, I look best in closely tailored suits that are nipped in at the waist and skirts that don't flare out at the hems. After regaling Dad with carefully chosen examples of our shopping mojo, I was dispatched to the back bedroom to subject my purchases to paterfamilial inspection. And this is where I love my Dad. As I paraded back and forth across the living room carpet showing off my best fashion-show model pivot, he beamed with paternal pride. "You look marvelous", he said.

"Well, the skirt needs to come up about 2 inches", I said. At only 5'4", I've learned that skirt and sleeve length makes all the difference between looking sharp and looking like a child playing dress up in Mommy's clothes.

My Dad said, "No. Leave the skirt where it is. And you should wear a lower heel for the office."

I wasn't pleased. Not by a long shot. Anyone who knows me knows I love my high heels. But after a short time in my new office environment I had to admit something: he was right. I didn't like admitting that a shorter skirt and higher heels injected the wrong note into what was supposed to be a professional environment. I'm a woman. I wanted to like what I saw in the mirror; to feel pretty. But that wasn't the goal. The goal was to look professional; to get work done, not attract admiring gazes from my co-workers. I knew Dad was right. It wasn't the office that needed to adjust to me: it was I who needed to adjust to the office.

This is what bothers me about Sarah Palin; about her reaction to the way she's portrayed in the media. If the image she chooses to project is that of a woman who is confident in her sexuality but wants you to notice it, that's fine. But having made that choice, it's a bit much to complain when people comment on the very attribute you've chosen to emphasize. If you do so in an environment where other women dress conservatively, your decision will stand out. It will excite admiration from your fans and criticism from those whose short list of Presidential qualifications doesn't include the terms, "sexy", "unconventional", or "hot".

During an interview conducted shortly before the Palin/Biden debate, Jennifer Granholm made an interesting observation:

In general, do you think there's a difference between debating a male and a female opponent? I do think, generally, it is more difficult for a man to debate a woman. I think that citizens have certain expectations still ingrained in them about how men and women should behave and comport themselves. And for both sides, there are pitfalls.

Such as?
As a man, you don't want to be perceived as beating up on a woman. As a woman, you don't want to be perceived as being shrill or unlikable or harsh. I think those are things that I'm sure both sides are keeping in mind.

How have you prepared for your own debates, mostly against male opponents?
I've really tried to show that I can throw a punch and could take a punch. You're in there playing in the big leagues, playing with the big boys; you've got to show that you can throw and land some punches of your own.

Do you think that women are judged differently when they run for office?
Women often use that Ann Richards line about how you have to be twice as good as a woman to be considered as good as a man … That sort of striving to be twice as good, either in your credentials or in your ability to govern, is very important for a woman, because there aren't that many of us yet in these positions. You have to really demonstrate that you are capable of taking this on.

What about how they run and present themselves?
I… hate to say it, but women running for office have to run like a man. The fact that you're a woman is obvious. You don't need to talk about it. I would encourage women to downplay the gender issue as much as you can. If you're married with kids, obviously the voters want to know about your family. But I never put the kids or the mom thing out on Front Street because they're electing an executive. Being a mom clearly demonstrates that you can relate to what people are feeling and experiencing, and you don't want to hide that because that's part of why you'd be an effective executive. But you're not running as a mom, you're running as an executive, and that's what [voters] want. Most people want responsible executives. You have to be pragmatic. They want someone who is a fiscal tightwad usually and able to make tough decisions. I think you have to convey to people that you are the best executive around.

Again, let's separate her argument from her politics. I think her argument is dead on.

Is Palin really being judged by a double standard? Or is she being judged by the image she chooses to project? I mentioned my love affair with high heels earlier. Palin's shoes excited a lot of comment during the campaign. Let's take a look at them:


In the words of the inimitable Mr. On, those aren't sensible pumps. They're what he aptly terms, "Catch me, f*** me shoes." Allow me to submit two other photos for your consideration:



Now the question. What is your viscereal reaction to Palin's appearance? What's the first thing you think? Is it, "Damn, now there's a competent executive?"

Or is more like, "Damn, she's hot?"

Don't get me wrong: I love Palin's shoes. And I love her sense of style. She's a knockout. I freely admit that I have shoes with heels that high in my closet - piles of them. But I don't wear them to the office, because in a work environment I don't want people thinking, "Damn, she's got great legs".

I want them to think, "Damn, she knows her stuff." The primary image I want to project at work is credibility, not sexiness (or even attractiveness).

I'm not so sure it's men who are subjecting Palin to an unfair double standard here. I think she could fairly be accused of expecting to be treated differently than a man who dressed similarly. Remember that bolded sentence at the beginning of this post? When was the last time you saw Mitt Romney or Joe Biden dressing in a manner anything close to seductive? When was the last time you saw either of them deviate from traditional male politician attire?

Women have a very bad habit of flouting long established conventions and then complaining when when people react the way they have always reacted. They want the freedom to ignore deep seated differences between men and women while escaping the entirely predictable consequences of doing so.

Trust me: I sympathize. It would be nice if we lived in a world where large numbers of people judged each other on ability rather than appearance. It would be nice if the sales guy down the hall could dress like a hot Latino cabana boy and still be admired for his mind. But we don't live in that kind of world.

It's not impossible for a woman to be viewed as both hot and a competent leader. But pretending there's no conflict between being seen as a GILF and a no nonsense professional verges on the delusional. It's OK to present a folksy, refreshingly authentic, unconventional persona ... if that's what you're selling:

Grant that the editors of Newsweek hate Sarah Palin. We have every reason to believe that the choice of photo of Palin in shorts represented an attempt to diminish and belittle Palin, to portray her as a cheesecake bimbo, the political equivalent of Lindsay Lohan. Palin herself writes:

The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention - even if out of context.

That this is "sexist," OK. Gotcha. But does Sarah Palin want to assume a feminist victimhood posture, to say that she is being oppressed by the patriarchy?

No, I think not. Excuse me for suggesting that the way for Palin to leverage this -- to "re-brand" herself as they say -- is to lean into the curve. The better response would be along the lines of:

"Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I have legs. And, yes, I've been told they're very nice legs. Exactly why the editors of Newsweek decided that showing me in shorts was appropriate for the cover of their magazine is for them to explain -- and good luck with that. I guess I'm trying to figure out what side of the double-standard applies here. Levi can get naked for Playgirl and still be taken seriously, but Newsweek thinks it's something scandalous to show me in running shorts? Just wait until I grant my first in-depth foreign-policy interview to Maxim!"

The downside, of course, is that by flouting convention you've pretty much assured that people will talk about you. If you're a woman, you've also made it harder for anyone but your most ardent supporters to envision you in a job that has never before been held by a woman. The problem is that it's not your qualifications that are front and center: it's your womanliness and your looks.

Unlike Stacy, I do think female politicians are subjected to sexist attacks. But politics is a blood sport. Your enemies will throw the entire kitchen sink at you if they can - just to see what sticks. Smart politicians assess their vulnerabilities. Some actively rebut such attacks, as Bill Clinton did with the "Bubba" meme. And some minimize the usefulness of such attacks by not becoming defensive; by refusing to rise to the bait.

The problem is that Sarah has done neither. When the way your enemies seek to frame you closely mirrors the image you've chosen for yourself, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you've just made their job a whole lot easier.

That's not blaming the victim. It's just common sense.

Posted by Cassandra at 03:37 AM | Comments (134) | TrackBack

November 17, 2009


For Cricket, because I care:

Yeah, it's been around a while but it's still funny.

Update: As the Editorial Staff hath been known to say from time to time, sometimes the comedy just writes itself:

Obama Lied to the Europeans

Barack Obama cast himself as a "citizen of the world" when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely, his country's addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health-care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats. He was either unwilling or unable to convince skeptics in his own ranks and potential defectors from the ranks of the Republicans to support him, for example, by promising alternative investments as a compensation for states with large coal reserves.

Obama's announcement at the APEC summit that it was no longer possible to secure a binding treaty in Copenhagen is the result of his own negligence. China, India and other emerging economies have always spoken openly about the fact that the US, as the world's largest emitter of CO2, has to be proactive in commiting itself to targets agreed on by way of international negotiation. But that is not America's style. The US is quite happy to see itself as the leader of the Western world. But when it comes to climate change, America has once again failed miserably -- for the umpteenth time.

If the rest of the world were to follow the US example in their approach to fossil fuels, the oceans would not only heat up, but would probably soon begin to boil. American per capita CO2 emissions are about twice as high as those in comparable industrialized nations and many times greater than those of the developing world. The climate change bill that is currently making its way through Congress does not go nearly far enough -- and that is Obama's fault. The bill proposed reducing CO2 emissions by a ridiculous 4 percent relative to 1990 levels, by 2020. Climate researchers believe that reductions of 40 percent or more are required.

The bill has since been watered-down even more -- by exactly the kind of lobbying interests that the new US president had promised to overcome. Obama has neglected to communicate the importance of climate change to his fellow citizens by speaking about it in a major speech or in his much-loved "town hall" meetings. And he has left it to the Europeans to take the lead.

So much for healing the planet. Obama lied - our friends the trees died!

Posted by Cassandra at 03:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 16, 2009

Mirabile Dictu!!!!

After months of assuring us that guilt by association is just about the most reprehensible political ploy on the planet, a desperation tactic employed only by pathetic, bottom feeding losers.... the Left discovers 2nd degree guilt by association! Which naturally makes them... ummm.... yeah.

I'm trying to follow the logic here, so bear with me. I think it's supposed to be something along the lines of, "Did you know that Sarah Palin is a raaaaaaaaacist??? You *do* know that her biographer once associated with this guy, who is a miserable, Persun of Cholor-Hating Tool from the South."

But I repeat myself.

Let's unpack the meme. Since two of my oldest and dearest friends are liberal Democrats, following this line of reasoning it seems eminently sensible to infer that I am also a smelly-hippy-loving commie pinko traitor. But then I'm married to an active duty Marine Rethug who has suffered through repeated deployments. So it's pretty clear that I'm a dangerously deranged Reich-Wingnut with latent PTSD-by-proxy who could - at any moment! - go postal on every freaking one of you.

This conclusion is only strengthened by the fact that I hail from a long line of Wingnuts. The Wingnut paterfamilias informs me I'm eligible for membership in the DAR, which is a dead giveaway that I'm a racist by association (and probably also have a KKK ancestor or twelve in the woodpile).

As if all this weren't confusicating enough, I linked to Stacy once or twice. Which naturally means I tacitly endorse everything he's ever written. On the otter heiny, I hear tell that Attila is a Revanchist Feminazi with distinct counterculture leanings, which probably means I'm also a closet bisexual Left Coastie degenerate. Linking to Cynthia Yockey makes that pretty much an open and shut case: I admit it. I'm a lesbian. She linked to Hillbuzz, which makes me 2nd degree gay by association (who knew it was catching?).

We won't even get into those uneducated Bayou Sluts, Mistress Mandy, Sly's Wardrobe Mistress or the Dark Lord herself.

Or that violent Southern redneck who keeps quoting Aristotle. Or that Papist snake handling Jeebus phreak dude. Or those male chauvinist, 2nd Amendment whacko, terrorists in training.

The thing is... how do I know I can trust my instincts? I look at the people I guiltily associate with and wonder: "By not denouncing them, am I secretly co-signing their freaking raison d'etres?" It's not enough to look at what I've written for the past six years. No, we have to dig deep: wade in the muck of every person I've ever had more than a passing acquaintance with. I'm knee deep in guilt by association.

Some days it all gets so confusing. I just don't know what I think anymore. So go ahead: pick your guilt. It's all good.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:02 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Why I Don't Read Paul Krugman:

"International travel by world leaders is mainly about making symbolic gestures. Nobody expects President Obama to come back from China with major new agreements, on economic policy or anything else."

Hmmm. Let's see...

Double digit unemployment.

Root causes of last year's banking crisis still not addressed and still no plan to address them.

Major decision about how to "fully resource" a "war of necessity" in which "the safety of people around the world is at stake" before the 12-18 month window of opportunity that started in June expires.

Evil, Gaia-raping corporate hegemonists stomping all over the planet with their giant, carbon footprints.

Yep. This is the moment... the moment to burn thousands of gallons of jet fuel making symbolic gestures that even his supporters don't expect to bear fruit.

They weren't kidding about that whole "Judgment to Lead" thing, were they?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:08 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Random Things

I love toys.

What's wrong with apples?

Entitled Pleasure, the leaflet has been drawn up by NHS Sheffield, but it also being circulated outside the city.

The leaflet carries the slogan "an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away". It also says: "Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes' physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?"

Steve Slack, the director of the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health at NHS Sheffield, who is one of the leaflet's authors, says that instead of promoting teenage sex, it could encourage young people to delay losing their virginity until they are certain they will enjoy the experience.

Incompetence: yet another reason to keep government out of our health care system.

Good nightshirt. Does this look like an advertisement for vegetarianism?

OK, this is funny.


Indomitable (and hot). Who said chivalry was dead?

Miss Manners nails it:

... heads of state are the symbolic embodiments of their countries, and the greeting gesture is itself symbolic. If they improvise mistakenly, they can expect a spontaneous outburst of American disdain.

...symbolic subservience to a foreign ruler is worse. When Miss Manners sees American citizens delighting in bowing or curtseying to royalty, she tries to remind herself that they are just being silly, not treasonous. When an American official does it, we can only hope it was because he was noticing that his own shoelace was undone -- and not that he recognizes the divine right of kings in general, or the authority over us of that king in particular.

And last but not least.... WEINER DOGS!!!

Via BOQ.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"Squirrelizing" Obama

I blame Darleen.

I was counting the seconds until Deb piled on. Just scroll down to the woodland setting. Someone needs to create a downloadable BowBama graphic. I'd do it but I don't have the right software.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:10 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 15, 2009

Sunday Night Flashback

Look what I found while cleaning out the basement. Amazing how a song can make you feel 15 again.

Don't remember Kenny Rogers looking that scruffy though :p

Here's another one. Could only find a cover, but it's not half bad:

Christmas music!

I used to play this album while decorating the tree. What a hoot.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 14, 2009

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Thousand Prostrations.bmp



Update: Heh... :)

Update II: OMG.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:20 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

November 12, 2009


I love you all dearly, but I just need to walk away for a few days. I don't have anything left right now to give you. Check back Monday. I should be rested up by then.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:57 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack


I think I'm in love with Tom Maguire.

My guess is that when it came right down to it none of his war options were palatable there, either. Of course this just bears out what I said earlier. Obama is the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt: he speaks loudly and carries an enormous Nerf bat.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Half a Loaf? Or None?

OK, peoples. I have not made anyone angry for a few weeks so it's time to poke the ant hill :p

Behold the unacknowledged elephant in the GOP room:

... maybe Conor is having trouble grasping this, but the reason so many conservatives are hacked off at moderates is because they are the ones who supported many of the dumb positions that decimated the GOP over the last eight years. It wasn't the conservatives arguing for deficit spending, amnesty, and a prescription drug benefit -- it was the moderates. When they won the day, the Republican Party, conservatives, and America lost.

Then, moderates got their dream candidate in 2008: John McCain. So, what happened then? They didn't rally to his side. They spent their time attacking his running mate, sulking that the ultimate moderate was still "too conservative," and many of them voted for the other side.

Interesting take. A few points:

1. My father and I both consider ourselves to be moderate Republicans. Neither he, I, or any of our moderate Republican friends supported "... deficit spending, amnesty, and a prescription drug benefit". In fact, I don't know a single Republican - moderate or otherwise - who argued for these things.

Not one. I have argued, however, that there are a lot of folks out there who either want conflicting things or lack the political will to see their abstract principles transubstantiated into political realities. There are a lot of things that people believe in their heart of hearts but can't say publicly. One of those things is, "I don't care about your pain/hardship." But don't confuse pandering with political conviction.

2. "...moderates got their dream candidate in 2008: John McCain...". Huh?

Every moderate Republican I know was utterly dismayed when McCain got the nomination. I knew we were sunk at that moment. But I fought hard for him anyway because I rightly understood that even McCain would have been better than Obama.

Let's not rewrite history here. Not only did some voters who voted Republican in 2004/2000 vote for Obama, but significant numbers of "real conservatives" stayed home entirely. Every time I hear a "real conservative" whining about how we'll never be able to reverse the changes Obama is making to our economic system I have to wonder: how's that whole "We'll teach them a lesson" working out for America?

Don't get me wrong: you have the right to stay home. What you absolutely DON'T have the right to do is blame me for the fact that Obama's in office today.

I voted. And I voted Republican.

3. But the most telling "argument" of all is here:

[Moderates] spent their time attacking his running mate, sulking that the ultimate moderate was still "too conservative," and many of them voted for the other side

It's fine for the "real conservatives" to argue that they shouldn't have to listen to a significant part of their voting base. But this argument would be a lot more convincing if they had the votes to put a "real conservative" in office.

The fact is, they don't.

What "real conservatives" don't seem to understand (even when they just admitted it) is that the "Do what I say or I won't vote for you" argument cuts both ways. It's utterly bizarre - in addition to being utterly illogical - to hear conservatives arguing that they shouldn't have to bargain with moderates because they can't count on their votes while simultaneously arguing that the RNC *had better* listen to "real conservatives" because otherwise they'll stay home!

As someone who considers herself a moderate Republican, I have no quarrel with anyone trying to form a "real conservative" party. But I'm a realist. Right now we don't even have half a loaf. We have none.

And I didn't put us there. When things get so silly that Republicans who vote the straight party line 90% of the time are excoriated as "RINOs", I start looking around for a giant clue bat. When you can come to me with an electable conservative candidate AND you have managed to persuade enough of your fellow Americans to vote for this person, you can blather on about sidelining moderates.

But let's be honest about why you'll be able to sideline them: it will be because you don't need them any longer. And that's a state of affairs that doesn't exist at the moment and hasn't existed for the past 30 or so years.

So your first job, if you want to sideline moderate Republicans, is to tell me how you're going to do that and still win an election. Convince your fellow Americans, and then talk to me about ideological purity because I've had about all I can take of watching Obama teach the RNC a lesson about the supposed power of the base.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:40 AM | Comments (82) | TrackBack

War, and Remembrance

Via KJ, this look at the Army during WWII is well worth reading in its own right. But I found an excerpt at the end especially moving. Some of you may have seen it before, but it's journalist Ernie Pyle's account of the retrieval of Captain Waskow:

“I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow's body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked. Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed to the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden packsaddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside the dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road. I don't know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don't ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay in the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead men lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. ‘This one is Captain Waskow,’ one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don't cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow's body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear. One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, ‘God damn it.’ That's all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, ‘God damn it to hell anyway.’ He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain's face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: ‘I sure am sorry, old man.’ Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said: ‘I sure am sorry, sir.’

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then he reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain's shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.

After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep.”

But Capt. Waskow had the last word. In a final letter to his parents, one of those just-in-case letters that soldiers sometimes write, he told them this: “I would like to have lived. But since God has willed otherwise, do not grieve too much, dear ones… I will have done my share to make this world a better place in which to live. Maybe, when the lights go on again all over the world, free people can be happy and gay again… If I failed as a leader, and I pray I didn’t, it was not because I did not try.” He added: “I loved you, with all my heart.”

Posted by Cassandra at 08:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Hey Wait a Minute... Isn't this "Torture"?

Scaring little children?

Last Saturday, the President hosted several hundred military families for trick or treating. Also invited were children of White House staff and about 2000 children from eleven D.C. area elementary schools.

In a press release published at their website, key Obama ally Code Pink – a group co-founded by one of Obama’s top funders Jodie Evans, announced they were targeting military families for what can only be called psychological abuse by conducting a macabre protest of the war in Afghanistan as the families waited in line to enter the White House grounds.

...Dressed in fatigues with a bloody bandage wrapped around her head, Benjamin loudly moaned as she emoted being a ‘zombie soldier’, while holding a black cut-out of a rifle and wearing a pink sign that read, “The White House is haunted by the ghosts of Bush’s war.”

That’s just what children of soldiers fighting for our freedom should see, yes? Well, if your intent is to wage psychological warfare on the families of our troops to aid our terrorist enemies then the answer would indeed be, “yes.”

Fairooz, convincingly portraying a witch (as the Buck Owens song says, all she had to do was ‘act naturally’), called out to the children, telling them she wanted “young blood” for the war. (1:25 mark in video.)

Reuters was so disgusted by the display, the newswire’s photo caption accused Code Pink of taunting the children.

If inducing fear and mental discomfort have been defined as torture when applied to grown men, how does Code Pink get away with doing those things to children?

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 11, 2009

This is What Brothers are for...

This is the cost.

Posted by at 09:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Vulgar and Beneath Contempt

Keith Olbermann. But then you already knew that, didn't you?

And shame on MSNBC for continuing to give this pitiful excuse for a journalist air space.

On the other hand, full marks for Tommy Christopher for having the guts to call him out. A class act, all the way. I've been no particular fan of Ms. Prejean, but America ought to be a better nation than this and I certainly expect more from "professional" journalists. Olbermann has managed to thoroughly piss me off, and I don't even like Ms. Prejean.

Posted by Cassandra at 02:21 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

More Veterans Day Thoughts

Check out Blackfive for more Veterans Day posts than you can shake a stick at! And while you're there, don't forget to donate to the Army team in memory of all those who serve on this Veterans Day:

... not all sacrifices are made on the field of battle. While infantry, armor and artillery are the combat arms - the tip of the spear - they, better than anyone, know how important the team that makes up the rest of the spear are to their success on the battlefield.

Those F-16s don't show up on target at the right time unless that kid flying the boom of a KC10 tanker at 30,000 feet at 2am doesn't do his job. That sabot round from an M1A1 fired at a threatening T72 isn't there unless the truck driver hauling ammo day in and day out gets that ammo where it needs to be when it needs to be there.

Veterans are the guys like the cook who gets up every morning at 3:30 am and begins to prepare breakfast for his guys and gals. The young man below deck on an aircraft carrier who makes sure the F/A 18 he's responsible for maintaining is in perfect shape and ready to fly. The nurse who holds a dying soldier's hand as he takes his last breath, wipes away the tears, straightens her uniform and heads out to do it again.

He's the kid in the fuel soaked coveralls who hasn't slept in 2 days gassing up another Bradley from his fuel tanker before they roll to the final objective. The company clerk who makes sure all of the promotion orders are correct and in on time, or the instructor in basic training who ensures those he trains get his full attention and who puts his all into helping them learn important lessons that will save their lives. He's the recruiter who'd rather be where the action is, but does what is necessary to make sure he gets the best and brightest available for his branch of service. Or the MP at the gate who shows up every day, does her job to the very best of her ability and never complains.

Most vets have never seen combat in the sense we think of it. But every single solitary one of them has contributed in vital ways to the success of our combat efforts and making this the finest military ever. Without those who support the combat troops, success would impossible. Without the wrench turners, truck drivers, fuel handlers, cooks, clerks and all those like them, the greatest military the world has ever seen is an "also ran."

Other thoughts:

Greyhawk pays tribute to history:

My grandfather (whose grandfather fought for Ohio in the Civil War) was a medic on the battlefields in WWI, the letter reproduced below was to the girl back home who would become his wife.

The Armorer pays tribute:

Today is my day. Today is SWWBO's day. Today is Dusty's day. Today is Bill's day. Neffi's, Bloodspite's, Sanger's, Jim B's, Mike L's, Jim C's, John S', V29's, Sergeant B's, 1SG Keith's, Oldloadr's, 74's, CAPT H's, a certain Canadian Gunner who shall remain nameless, a certain Redleg Captain who shall remain nameless, RetRsvMike's, the 'Phibian's, Lex's, Matty's, Chuck's, Fishmugger, John(NTA), Heartless Libertarian's, Kevin's, Grumpy's, Grimmy's, the list is endless, and I know I didn't list everybody - feel free to add yourself in the comments. That would be a nice touch, actually.

And even though last year it was the Auld Soldier's day... today is the first since 1947 that it *isn't* his day.

fThough it grew from Armistice Day, and is Remembrance Day to our Anglosphere buddies, it is *not* my Grandfather's day. Daddy Jack, a soldier of the Great War, well, his day now is Memorial Day. As is it with his son.

Today we mostly celebrate the living. The brand-new vets in Basic Training through to the survivors. Those who "saw the elephant," as Civil War soldiers were wont to say to those whose service required no similar animal husbandry. We honor the dead in May.

Oh, heck, today we Veterans honor the dead, too. We can't help it. The bonds of combat soldiery are tightest because of those who went with us but didn't come back, they took the low road while we took the high. Most of us have an "absent companion" or four that we drink to, when the time is right. Today it will be right.

The Navy weighs in.

Jules reflects on the circle of life:

... happy birthday, Marine baby Colin Joseph Van De Giesen, born today, Nov. 10, at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, just days after his father, Marine Capt. Kyle Van De Giesen, was laid to rest in the Massachusetts National Cemetery at Bourne. A little joy in a family devastated by wartime loss.

Life goes on, and though we cannot help but mourn those who are no longer with us, we can take comfort in the knowledge that a new generation rises to shoulder the burdens of freedom as their parents are so ably doing now.

We have much to be thankful for on this day. Make sure you take a moment to count your blessings.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:33 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Those Who Serve

Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings.

- description of Eowyn, JRR Tolkein

I've spent a lot of time gazing at her photograph; trying to see beneath the thin veneer we present to the outside world: a one dimensional carapace that only hints at the private self known to those we cherish and trust. I see strength in that face mingled with great compassion. Fragility and steel. I see both the stern warrior and the ministering angel. And it is perhaps fitting that on this day of all days, I was finally able to write about her life and works.

LtColWarman1.jpg It is easy to romanticize someone you have never met, but Juanita Warman's life requires no window dressing. The bare outlines to be found in newspaper accounts stand on their own with no need for embellishment. Her death reverberated not only here in the United States, but halfway around the world where the people she touched united in solemn silence to honor her memory:

The American and German flags are flying at half staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany in honor of the 12 Soldiers and one civilian killed at Ft. Hood last week.

Among those killed was a former Landstuhl staff member, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman, 55 of Pittsburgh.

Lt. Col. Warman served a year at Landstuhl as a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, where she regularly volunteered for round-trip flights between downrange and Germany, as well as between Germany and the US in order to care for her patients during transition. An expert in post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, Lt. Col. Warman's military career spanned 25 years in active duty and Army reserves. In 2006, she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for her meritorious service at Landstuhl.

...On Oct. 29, Lt. Col. Warman made her final Facebook posting:

"I am so excited to be leaving the country again soon. Just now got a few minutes. So much to do, so many lives to touch. Just wish it didn't take me away from home so much."

That last sentence ought to be on a billboard somewhere to remind us of the person behind every crisply starched and creased uniform. It seems odd, in some ways, to be writing about a female warrior. It seems, at first, a contradiction in terms. But though we try to paper over the very real differences between men and women, our denials have little effect on the underlying reality. Men and women call on disparate strengths when they take on a life of military service. I can't help but think that's a good thing, for just as a marriage blends the talents and perspectives of men and women, so the presence of women in the armed forces brings new skills to the field of battle: a mother's love and healing grace; a wife's feminine intuition, a grandmother's wisdom and time tested endurance. And nowhere were these qualities more desperately needed than in Juanita's chosen profession:

Warman specialized in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, a statement released by her family said.

A native of Pittsburgh and the eldest of seven children, Warman attended nursing school at Ohio Valley General Hospital and later earned a master's of science in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, Harper said.

She spent more than 20 years in the military in active duty and in the Army Reserves in the United States and Europe. She received the Army Commendation Medal in 2006 for meritorious service as a psychiatric nurse deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

She and her husband, Philip Warman, a lawyer, lived in the Pittsburgh area until 2005. They moved that year to Havre de Grace so she could take a job with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Harper described a big sister with an unshakable can-do attitude, no matter if the challenge was her next deployment or keeping her house looking good enough for a House Beautiful photo shoot. She would pair Army fatigues with lipstick, Harper, a hair stylist, recalled approvingly.

"She was a woman to look up to because of what she's done with her life," Harper said. "We all, as younger siblings, admired her because she just kept pressing forward. The woman never complained about anything. ... She always had a smile and if there was anything stressful, she just worked through it."

Of all the wounds inflicted by war, the mental ones are the most poorly understood. How do we separate the influence of innate personality from that imposed by life changing experiences? How do we heal wounds we cannot even see; ones that require us to delve into the murky waters of the soul? How can we listen and empathize without losing ourselves in the pain of a fellow human being? To face such trials, both steel and velvet are required.

But there's another aspect of her life that is worth reflecting upon, for just as her military career drew from Juanita strengths she may not even have known she possessed, so the demands of military life drew from her husband Philip qualities we seldom consider. We hear a lot about those who stand and wait. Mostly when this phrase is uttered, we imagine a wife and mother supporting her military husband. We don't think as much about the strength and devotion it must take for a man to set aside his natural urge to protect and shelter his wife. We don't think about the courage it takes, even in today's society, for a man to love a woman who is strong and determined and has an identity in her own right; for him not to take her success as an implicit challenge to his masculinity: to summon up another side of his nature. The one as capable of gentleness and understanding as it is of strength and competitiveness.

We don't think about the thousand ways in which forces older than time push us in a direction contrary to the dictates of patriotism, of rationality, or of societal expectations. It is hard for women to support their military men when they go off to war. I think in many ways it is even harder for men to take what (from the military's point of view, at least) is a subordinate and supporting role: that of the "dependent spouse". And I think the fact that so many American men and women are reaching down into the deepest recesses of their beings and finding the strength to carry on magnificently is an enduring testament to the greatness of the human spirit; to our ability to adapt and overcome.

LtColWarman2.jpg On Veteran's Day, though it is a day set aside to honor all those who wear the uniform and not just those taken from us, I think it is appropriate to think about the life of this officer, soldier, healer, lover, mother, grandmother, daughter and sister. Looking beyond the uniform for a moment reminds us of all that continues to be right about America:

... what's striking to me this Veterans Day is how healthy the military is, given all the weight it has been carrying for the country these past eight years.

Facing a new and disorienting kind of warfare, the military has learned and adapted. Rather than complain about their problems, soldiers have figured out ways to solve them.

In truth, the U.S. military may be the most resilient part of American society right now. The soldiers are clearly in better shape than the political class that sent them to war and the economic leadership that has mismanaged the economy. (I'd give the same high marks to young civilians who are serving and sacrificing in hard places -- the Peace Corps and medical volunteers I've met abroad and the teachers in tough inner-city schools.)

Through all its difficulties, the military has kept its stride. That sense of balance comes partly from the fact that soldiers are anchored to the American bedrock. This includes the stereotypical small towns in the South and Midwest that have military service in their DNA. But it also counts plenty of hardworking, upwardly mobile Hispanic and African American families in urban America that produce some of the best soldiers I know.

America's armed forces are a rough and colorful patchwork composed of urban sophisticates and down home country boys and girls, cynics and romantics. Perhaps nowhere in America do men and women, blacks, whites, hispanics, Jews, gentiles, native born Americans and those with the ink still wet on their citizenship papers so successfully live, work, and bond together. This is, I think, the result of a resounding call to be part of something greater than ourselves. Though it took her away from those she loved so deeply, Juanita Warman heard and responded to that distant trumpet. She stepped up. When her country called, she was right there where America needed her to be.

And so, behind the scenes, was her family. We the protected owe America's military and their loved ones a great debt. On this Veteran's Day, it is my hope that stopping to reflect on Juanita's life will remind us how very lucky we are; of the values that unite us instead of those that divide us; of the very best that we can be when we put our shoulders to mastering great challenges and overcoming daunting odds.

There is great good in America still, and it is embodied by the men and women of our armed forces. And it is embodied by their wives, husbands, parents and children; by the brothers and sisters who lovingly wait for their return. On this Veterans Day it is my prayer that this healer's spirit will continue to console and guide those who are missing her so very much today.

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up...
To more than I can be.

Posted by Cassandra at 10:30 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Marines of the Day: SSgt. Theodore "Sam" Holder and LCpl. Kyle Burns

Veterans' Day is for the living. Memorial Day is for the fallen.

That said, for those in 1st LAR, Veterans' Day 2004 is when the unit lost Holder and Burns in the second battle of Fallujah. Today is the 5th anniversary of their deaths.

Paul at CrashFistFight was their platoon leader. He wrote about them and what happened that day at his blog.

Their names might be familiar. James Sheeler wrote about them and their families in his book "Final Salute".

The Casualty Notification Officer that Mr. Sheeler "embedded" with, now Lt. Col. Steve Beck (ret.) has formed an organization dedicated to remembering the fallen.

The video circulated last week titled "Remembering the Brave" is from one of the organization's ceremonies held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. I've linked to the photo slideshow on their site.

So, yes, Veterans' Day is for the living but for my family, it's also about remembering the brave.

Thank you to all veterans and their families. Your service is so very much appreciated.

Posted by at 09:25 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 10, 2009

This Tickled Me...

... a Villainous Company-lanch!

I've always thought Baldilocks was one of the greats of the blogosphere. Never afraid to say what needs saying (and pithily, too).

And never afraid to give credit where credit is due.

I've often wondered just who in the heck is advising the Obamas on military culture and issues. If they want to be sure of not putting a foot wrong again, they could do a lot worse than to listen to Juliette.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thank You and....

Moved to the top.

As you can see by the thermometer, the Marine team has crossed the finish line.

Thank you SO VERY MUCH to all who donated to Valour IT for the Marine team. This worthwhile program can not happen without you.
Thank you SO VERY MUCH to the Marine team members who have put in an awful lot of time and effort to make this happen.

We couldn't have done this without you.

At the end of the day though, we are all on the same team.
Now is the time to throw our support to helping our sister teams cross that finish line too. If you were planning to donate to the Marine team and didn't, please, please PLEASE consider donating to the Army team.
Let's do our best to get everyone across that finish line:

Urrah and Hooah!!!

Posted by at 05:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Holy Moses.

I take my eyes off you people for 20 minutes....


I think y'all broke the meter. I also think someone out there has a very big heart.

I will have more to say once Carrie and I can see our computer screens again.

Posted by Cassandra at 04:46 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

A Class Act

The Valour IT competition is about teamwork.
For the competition, we sweat blood, we work connections, we beg, we plead and we cajole to move our team towards victory. We lob snark at the other teams. Interservice rivalry is the name of the game.

At the end of the day, however, we are ALL united. Our goal is to support the program that gives our wounded and injured to some independence and peace of mind. Valour IT.

John Donovan is a lot of things: Milblogger. Armourer. Curmudgeon.
Troop Supporter. Volunteer.
He is a good friend to both Cass and me. He has been for years.
He is also one class act.

Thank you, John.

Posted by at 02:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Ooo-rah, Memeorandum!

Thanks for helping us get the word out.

Thanks to d3ft punk for the correction. Juggling too many bowling balls today :)

Posted by Cassandra at 01:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Amazing Video for the Birthday

Mike the Marine has created a jaw dropping video for the Birthday.

Go watch!!

Posted by at 10:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

What's the Marine Corps Birthday without the Hymn?

Like you've never heard it before.

Posted by at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday, USMC!

Two hundred and thirty four years ago today, the United States Marine Corps was born in - of all places - a tavern in Philadelphia. More than two centuries later, the Marines continue to take the fight to the enemy with dedication, skill, and a fierce commitment to live up to the words of General Jim Mattis: "No better friend, no worse enemy":

The U.S. Marines are flooding in, and you might think that every Marine helicopter in our arsenal is here. I’ll not give numbers and types other than to say the line of aircraft is long and formidable. The U.S. Marines are a spectacle for the U.S. Army and also the British Army. The Marines will come in and live like pure animals, and build a base around themselves, whereas the British and American Armies will tend to build at least part of the base before coming in. One Marine commander told me that during the early part of this war, his men didn’t even shower for three months. We talked for a couple of hours and he was proud that his Marines didn’t need a shower for three months, and that his Marines killed a lot of Taliban and managed to lose only one good man. That’s the Marines. They’ll show up in force with no warning, and their reputation with U.S. Army and Brits who have fought alongside them is stellar. A NPR photographer who just spent more than three weeks with the Marines could not praise them enough, saying he’d been with them in Iraq, too, and that when Marines take casualties, their reaction is to continue to attack. They try to stay in contact until they finish the enemy, no matter how long it takes. Truly they are animals when it comes to the fight. Other than that, great guys. Tonight at dinner, a young Marine Lance Corporal sat in front of me at the crowded dining facility. “Good evening, Sir,” he said. I asked, “Are you living like animals out there?” “Livin’ the dream, Sir!” They are fantastic.

In his annual Birthday message to the Corps, General James Conway affirms the ethos of integrity and professionalism that has bound United States Marines in an unbroken line stretching back across innumerable conflicts, many lost in the fog of history, to a little tavern in a British colony:

Happy Birthday, USMC. So long as America can continue to produce men and women like this, we need not fear for our freedom or our security.

Semper Fidelis, Marines. You make us proud.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:17 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Over the Top! USMC Birthday Blogburst

sgt_major_jiggs.jpgTwo days away from the end of the competition, and on the 234th Birthday of the Marine Corps, the Marine team stands about $2000 away from our goal. We've worked hard, but we're coming into the home stretch. I'd like to issue a challenge to all of you: let's see if we can push the Marine team over the top today. With your help, I know we can do this.

I can't think of any better way to honor the memories of the brave young men and women who have given their lives defending American ideals than to ensure that their fellow Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen are taken care of.

Let's do it, people!

Below the fold, I'll be posting a roundup of Marine team Birthday posts. Keep checking back - it will be updated throughout the day.

Mind Numbed Robot ponders the meaning of "Semper Fidelis":

"...the Marine Corps has never experienced a mutiny. Marines in England were revered for their loyalty to the crown, just as United States Marines are now revered for their downright fanatical dedication to each other, their service, and their country. Using Latin to characterize this quality represents its legitimization--its codification. Significantly, for Marines at least, it also provides a caste--a group that is separate and unique from any other--a group that has no desire to be like any other.

What is left unsaid in the motto is also notable. The phrase is "Always faithful." It isn't "Sometimes Faithful." Nor is it "Usually Faithful," but always. It is not negotiable. It is not relative, but absolute."

Jules takes a stroll through Hahvahd Yahd and finds a few surprises:

It’s always easy to poke fun at the World’s Greatest University across the Charles, all the more so in recent decades as, like much of academia, it sank in a wretched swamp of America-bashing leftism while continuing to survey the world down its superior nose.

Did you know that Harvard can now boast no fewer than 16 Medals of Honor among its alums? Thanks to the efforts of some veterans who have long treasured their university’s military traditions and dug into military records and Harvard archives, the university can claim the highest known number outside the service academies.

Courtesy of Dr. Melissa, Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy.com gives a shout out to his fellow Marines.

No Sheeples has General Conway's Birthday message.

The Marines have given a lot for us. Ercille has thoughts on how you can pay it forward. Bonus points for the dynamite Arty photos!

Speaking of which, the C-Square has page after page of wonderful photos of Marines doing what Marines do best. "Just keep scrolling", as the saying goes.

Michelle Malkin rocks!!!

Mike the Marine's Birthday video from 2008.

StixBlog adds birthday salutations! And a cool graphic, too:


Hope Radio sends their greetings!

Blatherings Blog offers a Birthday Toast from former Commandant General Louis H. Wilson.

Right Pundits salutes our Marine of the Day, Corporal Jason Dunham:

You can see a photo of Jason below, and watch the moving video of President George W. Bush awarding the Medal of Honor to Corporal Jason Dunham, USMC, posthumously.

Ercille has more birthday thoughts - link- and history-rich!

Coalition of the Swilling weighs in on that long, unbroken line.

Jimmy sends his best. Back atcha, bro!

I am an unabashed admirer of the United States Marine Corps and those who have earned the privelege to call themselves Marines. One of my very good friends, about whom I’ve written before, is a Marine of the old-school vintage. I called him this morning, as I do every November 10th, to wish him a Happy Birthday and he answered his phone, as he does every November 10th, with “Semper Fi”. It’s not truly his natal day, but it is a birthday to him and I’m pleased to honor that, and his incredible service, with a phone call. It wasn’t a long call but I told him I missed not being able to spend as much time with him as I’d like and that I love he and his marvelous wife. When we hung up, I was smiling and I could hear the grin on his end, too. November 10 is always a good day for him.

Remembering Cpl. Jason Dunham: Blatherings Blog has a tribute to Jason Dunham and video, too!

Devil Dog Brew has a post up about breakfast with a hero.

Miss Ladybug has a moving post about Jason Dunham and a child.

Chrissy over at Theodore's World has a great post up about the history of the Marine Corps. A must read!

Ercille has a thoughtful post and a great list of links.
It's been our pleasure too, Ercille. The Marine team is made up of such amazing people. It's humbling.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Ditherer in Chief

"Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false,"

Well now. That's the first believable statement I've heard from this administration in months.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:56 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Happy Birthday, Jason

I remember the day they laid my firstborn son in my arms. It was late September, 1979.

We were very young to be parents; still newly married and in college, poor as church mice. I had married at 19. Suddenly, at the age of 20 after 36 hours of labor it came to me: I was a mother. There was no going back - parenthood is a gung ho affair. You're either all in, or all out.

Lying in my still shaking arms was a helpless bundle of wrinkled pinkness whose tiny, perfect lips were already making infinitesimal sucking motions. I pulled him closer to my body and his head turned, eyes still tightly shut. The little mouth opened wide like a baby bird's seeking food, comfort, warmth. Me.

I wanted nothing more at that moment than to have the privilege of protecting him, always.

In the years that followed there were temper tantrums, epic stubborn contests, crushed dandelions offered up as though they were long stemmed roses, abandoned baby birds to be rescued and nursed back to health. Gerbils to be buried, and wept over. Skinned noses and knees and bedtime stories and tearful confessions. And then one day - too soon - it was time to let him go out in the world. My job was over.

All that remained was to see what he would make of 18 years of loving care that suddenly seemed pitifully inadequate.

It's hard for a mother to teach her son to be a man. We don't have the right tools, the right experiences. After years of having our parenting expertise go virtually unchallenged, there comes a time when we must stand aside and let them learn to be men from those who have experience in that undiscovered country.

It has been 5 years since I read this story. And today it will be 28 years - to the day - since another tiny bundle was laid in someone else's loving arms.

I remember, back in 2004, reading about the last few hours of Jason's life. I found myself, inexplicably, thinking of the first few hours of my own son's life and what passed through my mind as I held him in my arms for the very first time:

At the base in al Qa'im, Second Lt. Robinson, 24, of Kenosha, Wis., gathered the men of Cpl. Dunham's platoon in the sleeping area, a spread of cots, backpacks, CD players and rifles, its plywood walls papered with magazine shots of scantily clad women. The lieutenant says he told the Marines of the Dunhams' decision to remove their son's life support in two hours' time.

Lance Cpl. Dean wasn't the only Marine who cried. He says he prayed that some miracle would happen in the next 120 minutes. He prayed that God would touch his friend and wake him up so he could live the life he had wanted to lead.

In Bethesda, the Dunhams spent a couple more hours with their son. Marine Corps Commandant Michael Hagee arrived and pinned the Purple Heart, awarded to those wounded in battle, on his pillow. Mrs. Dunham cried on Gen. Hagee's shoulder. The Dunhams stepped out of the room while the doctors removed the ventilator.

At 4:43 p.m. on April 22, 2004, Marine Cpl. Jason L. Dunham died.

Six days later, Third Battalion gathered in the parking lot outside the al Qa'im command post for psalms and ceremony. In a traditional combat memorial, one Marine plunged a rifle, bayonet-first, into a sandbag. Another placed a pair of tan combat boots in front, and a third perched a helmet on the rifle's stock. Lance Cpl. Dean told those assembled about a trip to Las Vegas the two men and Becky Jo Dean had taken in January, not long before the battalion left for the Persian Gulf. Chatting in a hotel room, the corporal told his friends he was planning to extend his enlistment and stay in Iraq for the battalion's entire tour. "You're crazy for extending," Lance Cpl. Dean recalls saying. "Why?"

He says Cpl. Dunham responded: "I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive. I want to be sure you go home to your wife alive."

I don't have anything wiser to say than I did on that day 5 years ago. All I can do is remember, my heart full of mingled wonder and desolation.

Somehow, I suspect I will not be the only one.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:43 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 09, 2009

Quote of the Day

Eloquence or style are no substitutes for leadership. An effective Commander in Chief leads. He doesn’t vote “present”. He doesn’t outsource his job. He doesn’t give it lip service. When those he’s leading are hurting, he’s there immediately. He acts like a leader, he empathizes like a leader and he makes decisions like a leader. And what he gains is one of the hardest things in the world to earn and keep – respect.

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Southern men. They certainly have a way with words, don't they?

Posted by Cassandra at 02:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Road Ahead

John Hawkins has a fantastic, must read interview up with Conor Friedersdorf on the way forward for the Republican party.

John's 2 cents:

In some ways, the conservative movement is in better shape than it has ever been before. We've got a larger media presence, more intellectual firepower, better organization, and a mass movement in the streets, in the form of the Tea Parties.

But, we have some structural weaknesses that need to be addressed as well....

Conor's reply:

Think back on Election 2000. As President Clinton’s tenure ended, the GOP and the conservative movement united behind a favored candidate, George W. Bush, even before the primary season began. His candidacy garnered support from folks who now scoff at one another’s political judgment: is there any choice for the 2012 Republican nomination who Rush Limbaugh, David Frum, Dick Cheney, George Will and Colin Powell would all rally around? Financial support for the Bush campaign encompassed elite donors, the grassroots, and the party establishment. Soon after Team Bush secured the White House, the GOP succeeded in controlling both houses of Congress. Folks on the right mused openly about a permanent Republican majority.

Ask a conservative Republican today about how his government performed during the Bush Administration, and you’ll hear complaints about profligate spending, the prescription drug benefit, the early management of the Iraq War, No Child Left Behind, the financial industry bailout, the Harriet Meyers nomination, attempts at foolhardy immigration reform, rising deficits, a GOP establishment that lost touch with the grassroots, official corruption, etc.

How should the right respond to its recent history? How can it succeed in the future?

What do you think?

Posted by Cassandra at 12:40 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Home Stretch

Tomorrow is the Marine Corps Birthday. One of the traditions we keep to in the Corps is the Commandant's Birthday message - it is played at every Marine Corps Ball and at any place where Marines gather all over the world. This is last year's message from the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. It makes the point that Marines have been at the forefront of the war on terror for over a quarter of a century:

The Marine team is within sight of our 35K goal, but we need your help to get there! I can't think of a better way to celebrate the birth of our Corps than to boost the Marine team to its first victory ever.

Valour IT provides adaptive technology to help severely wounded vets recover faster, establish a support system, and regain their independence. Since the program began, every single dollar raised by Valour IT has been used to provide:

· 4,100+ voice activated laptops

· over 30 Wii systems

· and nearly 100 handheld GPS devices to wounded vets at:

Balboa Naval Hospital
Naval Hospital, Camp Pendleton
Brooke Army Medical Center
Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital
Madigan RMC
Walter Reed AMC
National Naval MC (Bethesda)
and VA centers nationwide.

The men and women of the United States military have given their all to defend the values we Americans hold dear. For the price of a few sixpacks of beer, you can tell them that you honor their sacrifices and their service. Please give generously.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 08, 2009

Five Years Ago Today

Corporal Robert P. Warns II died when his vehicle struck an IED south of Baghdad.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Post-Foucaultian Sexuality???

The epistemology of the natural is homologous with the systemization of agency.

Create your own incomprehensible sentence here.

Or take the easy way out:

Pootwattle's critique of the relationship between the project of post-Foucaultian sexuality and the (re)formation of romantic inwardness represents a belated form of intellectual triage.

Not since the Chomskybot and the Alanis Morrisette lyric generator have we had so much fun.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:25 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Obama Doesn't "Get" the Military He Commands

"What Vice President Cheney calls 'dithering,' President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," said Gibbs. "I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously."

~White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs
Life is full of mysteries, but chief among them in this Marine wife's mind at the moment is, "Just how stupid does this White House think we are?" If the events of the past few months have shown us anything, it's that Barack Obama has little enthusiasm for - or interest in - one of the most important duties of an American President: his role as Commander in Chief of the nation's armed forces.

Like so many of his campaign promises, Barack Obama's commitment to the military has undergone constant revision since he took office in January. When he was still actively courting the military vote, nothing was too good for us. The First Lady pledged to make military families "her mission", trotting out piquant tales of desperation in the ranks to make the case that military families face a slew of horrific problems all requiring the immediate intervention of the federal government:

An Air Force wife said she had to give up her job when her husband deployed because she couldn’t find child care....

A Marine wife, a former executive, said she home-schools her children because she couldn’t find a public or private school that could meet her children’s needs....

A Navy wife described the pressures of taking care of her husband’s father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, while also caring for her infant and her teenager — all while her husband was deployed.

Faced with tragedies like this, it's hard to know how military families manage to soldier on isn't it? According to one source, the First Lady was moved to tears when she heard that [gasp!] some military families are forced to use food stamps! Naturally, the First Family was second to none in its determination to fix a problem that doesn't exist:
The Defense Department conducted its last study on food stamp usage in 2002 and found that 2,100 members of the armed forces redeemed the aid. That figure represented slightly more than 1/10 of 1 percent of the military and had decreased significantly from 19,400 service members using food stamps in 1991.

A military spokeswoman said the seven-year-old study linked living on base with using food stamps.

That some military members continue to qualify for food stamps is primarily a result of the Department of Agriculture excluding the value of government-provided housing as income in determining eligibility for the food stamp program. The study indicated that the majority of military food stamp recipients lived on base,” Eileen M. Lainez said in an e-mail to Military.com.

“The fact that some enlisted members and even a few officers received food stamps was more a result of larger household sizes and living in government quarters than an indicator of inadequate military compensation.”

For those of you at home who make too much to qualify for a government calculator, here's a quick translation: (1) The number of military families using food stamps is roughly 1/10th of what it was in 1991 (2100/19400= 10.8%), and (2) if their monthly housing allowance were included in the income calculation (the way it is for civilians) these military families would make too much money to qualify for food stamps.

Faced with largely imaginary ills, the Obamas are all sympathy. During the campaign, they were more than willing to promote a whiny culture of entitlement that undercuts everything the military stands for - just to win a few more votes on Election day. And as time went on, the illusion of supporting the military continued. In March Congress passed a resolution making 2009 the Year of the Military Family! As if that weren't enough November is, by Presidential decree, Military Family Month. With such heartfelt lip service literally oozing from the White House, one might well ask: how does this president's rhetoric match up with his actions? Since you ask, the answer is, "Not too well".

Obama started his first term by becoming the first president in 56 years to snub the Salute to Heroes ball honoring Medal of Honor recipients. Next, having been handed a thoroughly researched analysis of our options in Afghanistan, he proceeded to take two months to conduct a "comprehensive review" that ultimately resulted in a "new and improved strategy":

When Obama took office, he ordered an Afghanistan review of his own. Led by former CIA official Bruce Riedel, the Obama review team looked at Afghanistan and made its recommendations. On March 27, the president announced his new Afghanistan strategy--one that included many of the recommendations of the Bush administration's review. And that is another indignity. Not only did the Obama administration understand full well that the Bush administration had conducted a comprehensive assessment of Afghanistan, and not only had Jim Jones asked that the Bush review be withheld from the public--but Obama's "new" strategy bore an uncanny resemblance to that prescribed by the Lute review.

Who knew comprehensive strategy reviews had such a short shelf life? Just a few short months later, someone leaked a report General McChrystal prepared at the express request of the President. Lefty bloggers and pundits alike - on no evidence - attacked General McChrystal, calling him a dirty, duplicitous traitor. Few bothered to ask questions that might have enlightened them as to what was really going on:

Is Obama running an administration where an analysis required of a four-star general confirmed into his job by the Senate—an analysis drafted by an international civilian and military team of experts recruited for the task—can be second-guessed by some guy someone at State knows in a think tank? What's worrying about this administration is that the answer may be: yes.

...Suddenly, the strategy Obama announced in March is being ditched. Back then, Obama said that Afghanistan had not received (from the Bush administration) "the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently needs." Specifically, he charged, the resources U.S. commanders needed "have been denied." "Now, that will change," he said. As late as last month, Obama was declaring the struggle in Afghanistan "a war of necessity" where victory was "fundamental to the defense of our people."

There's an important point here: where was our Commander in Chief when his top commander in Afghanistan was being viciously attacked? Did he step in and defend his subordinate for doing the job he was ordered to do? Of course he didn't. Harry Truman was obviously no community organizer: the brouhaha over McChrystal ensured that the buck wouldn't stop in the Oval Office this time. The McChrystal leak was followed by the revelation that our stalwart Commander in Chief had only met with his top commander in Afghanistan once. Stung by the implication that his "war of necessity" was very much on the back burner, Obama scrambled to find a mere 20 minutes to spare as he idled on a runway in northern Europe. He spent more time than that conducting a beer summit.

Now the Army's largest base has suffered a devastating attack by a deranged Islamist. And how does our Commander in Chief respond? He gives a "shout out" to Joe Medicine Crow, that noted Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

Tell me something: in a moment of national tragedy is it really too much to expect the President of the United States to forego the "shout outs"? Is it too much ask that he learn the difference between the Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor? What we require from our leaders at times like this is not much, really. No one expects them to actually care. What we want is precisely the kind of thing that comes so effortlessly to Barack Obama: honeyed words and a reassuring show of compassion from a man who thinks that quality is the most important attribute a Supreme Court judge can possess. A public acknowledgment that something grave has happened. But for some reason, asking the Commander in Chief of our armed forces to give even the appearance of empathy was a bridge too far.

Americans expect something more from their leaders in times of trouble. We expect grace. Empathy. Inspiration. A sense of solemn gravity that befits the nation's somber mood. When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing 7 astronauts, Ronald Reagan postponed the State of the Union report to address and assuage the nation's shock and mourning.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, gave us shout outs.

As so many have noted, our Commander in Chief finally visited the wounded at Fort Hood the other day. Unfortunately, it wasn't this Commander in Chief:

Instead of comforting his troops, President Obama decided to spend the weekend at Camp David.

Even if one were inclined to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had asked Former President Bush and Mrs. Bush to visit the wounded soldiers because the Bushes live in Texas, why would he ask this of his predecessor and not get on Air Force One overnight to get down there himself?

Why would he not go to be with those whom he is charged to send into battle and who were so horrifyingly betrayed by one of their own?

Because he doesn't give a rat's backside, that's why not.

For the past 8 years, we've heard a lot about how George Bush was too "cowardly" to face the consequences of war. Such bald faced lies are only possible if one is willing to ignore the eyewitness accounts of hundreds of Americans who saw him do just that - with no media fanfare and even less thanks. With every word he speaks and every act he performs, Barack Obama only strengthens the impression that he neither understands nor cares to know the military he must lead as Commander in Chief. Military families are only useful to him as hapless victims of the Bush administration because Obama's entire vision of government rests on the notion that Americans are powerless to rise above misfortune. It's not surprising he spends so little time at Walter Reed, Bethesda, or any of the military medical centers. You see, he wouldn't recognize the spirit of sturdy self reliance that is commonplace there:
Jeremy reminded me, as have many wounded warriors I’ve met, that life is too short not to enjoy it. He and thousands of other disabled veterans across the country have overcome obstacles and adversities that could make even the most optimistic people crack.

They’ve stared death in the face, and are now living their challenging lives to the fullest when it would be so much easier to just give up. But they don’t give up. Beyond the prosthetics, bandages and screws holding them together physically, they’re still Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, and in traditional military fashion, they just keep driving on.

Demby, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, said it best: “Although these guys’ lives have changed, they look at living with their disabilities as a second chance, a new beginning. Their resiliency is an example to all of us.”

Jeremy is a young man who, faced with the prospect that doctors may soon have to amputate his other leg, replied matter of factly, "If that happens, I'll deal with it, too." Perhaps more than any other institution in America, the military represents values like accountability, resilience, strength under adversity, achievement, and personal responsibility: qualities that used to be thought of as simply "American". It seems strange beyond belief that a President swept into office on the shoulders of voters chanting, "Yes, We Can!" now personifies a philosophy of government based on "No, You Can't" (without my help).

Obama doesn't "get" the military because with every step they take, whether it's on prosthetic legs or the steely sinews of a combat hardened Marine, their strength and independence give the lie to his defeatest rhetoric. All those unbowed shoulders, unbeaten spirits and uplifted heads make him profoundly uncomfortable.

As well they should. Americans don't need to be rescued by the government. We have each other.

Speaking of which, it's hard to think of a better application of Ronald Reagan's philosophy of private philanthropy and the resilience of the American spirit than Valour IT. Give generously, please, and say "thanks" to these folks who defend everything we hold dear.

Posted by Cassandra at 09:10 AM | Comments (93) | TrackBack

November 07, 2009

Your Saturday Time Waster...

Bears playing hockey:

Update: WEINER DOGS!!!!

Posted by Cassandra at 01:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

To Media, American Heroism Might As Well Be Urban Legend

How bizarre is it when the number two link on Google for Brian Chontosh, a bona fide war hero and recipient of the Navy Cross, goes to a site devoted to "debunking" urban myths?

Is the idea that a Marine officer could perform acts of heroism so outlandish that it requires debunking? If so, there's little doubt why so many Americans might doubt such tales. Every day we're force fed a distorted, dishonest narrative that magnifies every misdeed and sweeps acts of heroism under the rug. This, we are given to understand, is "journalistic objectivity" in action:

The media has an unfortunate history of wrongly pushing the narrative that military service is somehow a horror-filled dehumanizing experience. In 2007, The New York Times magazine ran a 10,000 word cover story about a Navy veteran who claimed she had been raped twice while serving, suffered a brain injury as the result of an IED explosion in Iraq, and was otherwise unable to cope with life due to the stress. It turns out the subject of the story had never been to Iraq and her story was otherwise fabricated, and the Times magazine didn't do any real due diligence in fact checking the woman's claims. In 2008, The New York Times again ran a sensational report claiming military service was turning soldiers into murderers -- returning vets had committed or were charged with 121 murders in the United States since the current wars began. The New York Times did not mention that while this statistic may seem shocking, returning vets were actually committing murder at a rate five times less than the general population.

That the elite media will exercise extreme caution reporting Islamic terrorist attacks, but smear the military as a matter of course is awfully telling. When the Los Angeles Times report was shown to be way off-base, the paper simply disappeared the account.

To the media, Brian Chontosh's heroics are not something to be proud of, but something shameful. But not all journalists are willing to see these inspiring stories flushed down the memory hole:

... Brian Chontosh gave the order to attack. He told his driver to floor the humvee directly at the machine gun emplacement that was firing at them. And he had the guy on top with the .50 cal unload on them.

Within moments there were Iraqis slumped across the machine gun and Chontosh was still advancing, ordering his driver now to take the humvee directly into the Iraqi trench that was attacking his Marines. Over into the battlement the humvee went and out the door Brian Chontosh bailed, carrying an M16 and a Beretta and 228 years of Marine Corps pride.

And he ran down the trench.

With its mortars and riflemen, machineguns and grenadiers.

And he killed them all.

He fought with the M16 until it was out of ammo. Then he fought with the Beretta until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up a dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo. Then he picked up another dead man’s AK47 and fought with that until it was out of ammo.

At one point he even fired a discarded Iraqi RPG into an enemy cluster, sending attackers flying with its grenade explosion.

When he was done Brian Chontosh had cleared 200 yards of entrenched Iraqis from his platoon’s flank. He had killed more than 20 and wounded at least as many more.

Back in 2005 I conducted a little thought experiment. I went to America's leading newspapers and searched on the names of American heroes. What I found out won't surprise you if you've been paying attention. Mentions of Cindy Sheehan were thick upon the ground. Mentions of American heroes? Not so much:

Sgt. Rafael Peralta didn't have to become a United States Marine. And he didn't have to go to war. That's just the kind of man he was.

He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card. On the walls of his bedroom, there were only three items: the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. You can see the mind of this hero in his letters he diligently wrote home to his younger brother and sister. Before he left America, he wrote his 14-year old brother Ricardo,

"be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."

Ricardo and his sister would receive another letter from their brother:

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

Rafael had been killed during an assault on Fallujah.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.

In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.

But they will never hear of him - his voice has been silenced. The mainstream media does not consider the sacrifices of men like Sgt. Rafael Peralta "newsworthy". The media do not seem interested in talking to Sgt. Peralta's family. Instead, we get to hear about Cindy Sheehan all day, every day.

When the shootings at Fort Hood first hit the airwaves, how many news anchors invoked the grim specter of a PTSD addled combat vet run amok? Even when the facts began to roll in, the press were reluctant to abandon the narrative. Amazingly, it was revealed that PTSD is contagious! Like swine flu, one can get it simply by talking to a combat veteran.

Those who treat the mentally wounded, including doctors such as Hasan, are not immune from the symptoms. It is not uncommon for therapists who treat patients for post-traumatic stress disorder to experience some symptoms vicariously after hearing account after account of the horrors of the battlefield.

Hasan was a psychiatry intern at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from June 2003 to July 2009, Army officials said. In that position, he probably treated soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With their hatred of the military and everything associated with it, the mainstream media rarely miss a chance to remind us that there are dangerous psychopaths lurking in our midst. At any moment one of these ticking time bombs could explode, taking us down with him. What the media are less willing to acknowledge is that both combat and military experience are a double-edged sword. They want you to see veterans as combat addled freaks, not brave defenders of our way of life. They focus on the cloud, and not the silver lining:

Research appears to show that many people can emerge from traumatic experiences with greater self-confidence, a keener sense of compassion and appreciation for life, says Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. Cornum and other experts call this concept post-traumatic growth.

Although the military focuses attention on troops who develop mental health conditions in combat, Cornum says, the majority of war veterans do not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other problems.

“We never ask if anybody had some positive outcomes. We only ask about this laundry list of illnesses,” says Cornum, referring to a battery of health questions soldiers face when they leave the combat zone.

Thus it is left up to us to keep the memory of American heroism green. The media can be counted upon to bombard us with tales of tragedy, death, and despair. The rest of the story - the incredible heroism, healing, and redemption that springs from the heartbreak of war, tends to get lost by the wayside.

The truth is that war is a terrible thing. It breaks some of us beyond repair. But hardships can make us better men and women. Sometimes it takes tragedy to bring out the shining strength of the human spirit. In a world where bad things happen on a daily basis, that's a message we need to hear about, too. What a shame that most of the press don't agree.

Won't you look deep inside your heart and open your wallet to help wounded vets?

Not because they are pitiful victims. But because with the knowledge that America believes in them, there is nothing these amazing men and women cannot overcome.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Sprint to the Finish Line!

As of this morning, the Marine team was holding onto the lead by about a $7000 margin. But as you can see, Army is closing fast! We are doing great, but need to keep up the pressure during our sprint to the finish line! Let me remind you that the Marines have never won this competition. I can't imagine a better tribute to our Marine heroes than for us to remind everyone why the Marines are America's 911 force. GO MARINES!!!

As always, Marine team members are stepping up to the plate:

1. Wolff has a fantastic post on America's fighting men:

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his
country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him,
but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

2. Our Marine of the Day is Sgt. John Eubanks

When Marine Sgt. John Eubanks first went to Iraq, he was an infantryman and a weapons specialist. In the middle of his second tour in 2005, he suffered back injuries and a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. Since then, Sgt. Eubanks has undergone numerous medical procedures, but perhaps none has been as therapeutic as his recent return to Iraq as a visitor. During his recovery, Sgt. Eubanks wrote about what such a journey would be like for him and other wounded warriors.

In October, when Sgt. Eubanks and six other wounded soldiers returned to Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit, those written wishes became reality.

3. Jules Crittenden on those annoying "sounds of freedom":

It’s a variation on the “Sound of Freedom” dispute, which is what happens when people move in next to military air bases. In this case, it’s the sound of two centuries of American freedom, twice a day. Next thing you know, some Barbary pirates pop up on the horizon, they can’t get enough of it. Hang on a sec … we do have Barbary pirates on the horizon. I guess this means we’re officially in the post post-9/11 era. Post-Barbary pirate era, whatever.

The rail of Constitution, by the way, is where the first United States Marine was killed in action. Lt. William Bush, Aug. 19, 1812, musket shot in the face while preparing to board HMS Guerriere in the action that earned Constitution the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

Two centuries later, United States Marines are still engaged, still taking fire, this time alongside our British cousins.

4. Miss Ladybug asks: What Is Freedom Worth to You?

5. The winners of the Military Demotivators contest are out!

6. Ercille mourns the fallen at Fort Hood

7. MaryAnn calls on the Army to do the Teapot Dance with a funny photo! It's all in good fun :) MaryAnn is one of the Army's biggest supporters. We're lucky to have her on our side!

8. Donating money is not the only way you can help Valour IT. We need help spreading the word as well! Anyone with a blog or email account can pitch in just by doing something as simple as telling everyone they know about Valour IT!

Here is a Valour IT flyer you can email around:

Valour IT flyer in Word format

Valour IT flyer in pdf format

If you have a blog, upload it and urge your readers to email it to everyone they know. If you don't have a blog, why not send the flyer to your friends and ask them to pass it on? We need to reach out beyond the Milblogs and blogosphere and a viral email is a great (and easy) way to do that!

Later on I'll have a post up about how the media refuse to cover American war heroes - chock full of inspiring stories of heroism. Check back at VC. And please keep those fundraising widgets at the top of your sites! The last few days will be a sprint to see who can get to the finish line first!

Let's make sure it's the Marine team. Let's make that thermometer move, people!


Posted by Cassandra at 11:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Military Demotivators Results

Thanks for your patience, guys. Due to the good auspices of my two Mystery Demotivator Judges, the Editorial Staff is pleased to announce the results of last week's contest:


First prize:

DL Sly


Second prize:



First place goes to Grim for expertly bagging on Teh Army:


Second place goes to (and here we see the advantage of roping someone else into doing the judging) Cass n' Mrs. Greyhawk for the deft application of Navy snarkage:


Winners: to claim your prizes, send an email to cassandra.vc at gmail dot com. We hear the prizes are really cool this year...



Seriously, thanks to everyone who submitted an entry. They were all fantastic! You can see all the entries here.

See the contest from the 2006 Valour IT drive here and here. I have to admit that this one was my favorite:


Posted by Cassandra at 09:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2009

No words

I was sure by now, God
You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say 'amen'
and it's still raining...

And as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you".
And as Your mercy falls,
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands.
For You are who You are
No matter where I am.
And every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand -
You never left my side.

And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.

I remember when I stumbled in the wind.
You heard my cry to You
And raised me up again.
My strength is almost gone -
How can I carry on
If I can't find You?

And as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you".
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

I lift my eyes onto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The maker of heaven and earth.
I lift my eyes onto the hills -
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

...and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side.

And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.

Please take a moment tonight to say a prayer (if you believe) or just offer up a thought for the United States Army and the families of Fort Hood, Texas. "In the midst of life, we are in death".

But it never gets any easier, does it? No matter how much you've seen.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon them.

May their souls, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:00 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Marine Team Update

With a big boost from John Hinderaker at Power Line, Matt Sheffield at Newsbusters, Frank J at IMAO and Ace at... well, I don't think I need to tell any of you where Ace lives... , Team Marine is taking the fight to the enemy! Please link to and thank these great blogs for their generous support. And if you have a favorite blogger, ask him or her "Why aren't you on the Marine team?" :)

Here's the status report for this week:


Marine team members have been busy. Pundette has a great video called "Some Gave All".

Cassy Fiano has footage of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program:

Check out this video to see some grappling and other drills, and pay close attention to the Marine who hits the camera with his head — that would be Matt.

The Daley Gator adds some historical perspective (and a quote from Nathan Bedford Forrest!)

Watch Jules drop and give us 20! Getting in shape was never so fun!

But before you check out all these great posts, please dig deep to let wounded service men and women know their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated:

I know times are tight. But imagine yourself lying in a military hospital wondering if your life would ever be the same - if you'd be able to find a job. If employers would be put off by scars earned honorably in battle against this country's enemies?

Every day wounded vets overcome challenges far more daunting than anything most of us will ever face. You don't need to donate the entire cost of a voice activated laptop. Small donations add up to a very big message: America honors your service and your sacrifices.

Welcome back home.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Those Magnificent Marines

This is a repost of something I wrote back in 2007. It's a great story about Marines using their training and esprit de corps to help one another recover from the wounds of combat. But perhaps just as importantly, I hope it will keep alive the memory of Sergeant Major, Joseph Ellis who gave his life to protect the Marines under his care and a young Corporal, D.J. Emery, whose story reminds us never to give up hope.


Once again too many cups of coffee have flooded my veins with a heart-pounding rush of caffeine, the writer's heroin. Maybe this time, I'll be able to push past the bleakness. Somehow I can't manage to get the sneering words out of my brain:

...yawning hulk, combat-addled, lumbering, blue-eyed, big ox baby...

There is no dignity there, no grace for someone whose service should have incurred gratitude or at least some minimal respect in token of the debt we all owe him. Instead there is only a stunning disregard for someone who seems no longer useful; who can, therefore, be safely treated with casual contempt. I suppose the words were deliberately chosen to provoke anger. They succeeded, though perhaps not in the intended manner.

Interesting that in several days' worth of torrid exposes, the Post can't manage to find anything positive to say. Anything, as usual, that makes our men in uniform look like determined fighters instead of drug-addled losers. We don't want to minimize their pain, or the severity of their wounds, or the horrors of war.

We'd just like people to see how utterly magnificent they are, still, these men we call Marines. How worthy of admiration.

To do that does not glorify war. It merely recognizes the greatness of the human spirit:

Marines wounded by what the military calls improvised explosive devices often have a hard time telling a coherent story about their injuries. They remember driving away from a dusty combat outpost in Fallujah or Baghdad, then recall waking up in a hospital bed in Maryland or California or Texas.

That was the case for Lance Cpls. Josh Bleill and Eric Frazier, who last month sat beneath a scarlet Marine Corps flag at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and described their injuries.

But Cpl. Chad Watson, who sat with them, is an exception. He remembers exactly what happened about 9 a.m. Nov. 29 as he led a team of Marines in the streets of Fallujah. The team from the 1st Battalion of the 24th Marines had just searched the car and were starting to roll again.

"We didn't get more than 100 meters, and it was like I got punched in the face like 10,000 times," Watson said.

What pummeled Watson was a bomb, not a fist. The moment he looked down, he knew his life had changed forever.

"I looked at my right leg, and it was gone - completely gone," said Watson, 24, a college student from Mt. Zion, Ill. "There was a big hole under the driver's side; that's where it hit."

Watson's training took over. Despite his missing leg, the smashed bones in his left heel and ankle, a fractured vertebra, burns and shrapnel wounds to his face, arm and eye, he grabbed his weapon and struggled to get out of the Humvee to defend himself and his comrades. But he couldn't free his twisted left leg from what remained of the Humvee's floor. Marines from other vehicles came running to help.

"I remember them yelling, `Is anybody still alive?'" said Watson.

Finally, after his fellow Marines dragged him into a nearby courtyard, a Navy corpsman tied off his bleeding right leg with a tourniquet. The corpsman gently informed Watson that most of his right leg was gone.

"I was kind of like, `Yeah, no kidding, I saw that.'"

Through it all Watson - still the team leader, despite his grievous wounds - was shouting orders.

"I was actually yelling at the guys to get out of the courtyard ... because there were too many of them," and a large group was liable to draw the insurgents' fire, said Watson. "I was glad how I reacted. I acted good under pressure, and I was happy to hear that they told my parents that."

But then Marines take care of each other. And the three are still taking care of each other now:

Generally, Marines like to organize things by threes. Three Marines make a fire team, three fire teams make a squad, three squads make a company, and three line companies make a battalion.

So Watson, Frazier and Bleill have formed their own sort of rehabilitative fire team during their stay at Walter Reed. "We joke with each other, or say, `Hey, we gotta catch up with him,'" Watson said. "It makes us work that much harder."

When they're working painfully to build their upper body strength, they push each other to work even harder. When one is working on his balance on the parallel bars, the others are watching.

Marines have always taken a perverse pride in their grueling daily doses of group PT, or physical training. It binds them together. And the equation hasn't changed much just because they're wounded. Now, the initials "PT" stand for "physical therapy."

"It's the same thing, just a different setting," Watson said. "It's just a different group of guys you're with now."

Even for Marines like Schuring, who is getting rehabilitation through Beaumont Hospital near his home in Farmington Hills, Mich., thoughts of his fellow Marines in Iraq are never far away while he's sweating and groaning through painful physical therapy. Teamwork is something the former center on the Hope College football team in west Michigan has understood for a long time.

The ceramic plate in his body armor saved him from the shot to his back. His Kevlar helmet helped dissipate the shot to his head, which didn't penetrate his skull. And the bullet that hit his right thigh missed the bone.

But the one that hit his left thigh almost cost him his leg, shattering his thighbone in three up near his hip. An infection nearly did the rest until it was brought under control by antibiotics.

His doctors expect he'll make a full recovery - thanks to physical therapy sessions it would take a Marine to love.

None of the wounded men is willing to let his injuries define him. None expressed bitterness. All said they would rejoin their units tomorrow, if they could.

Schuring, whose mission was training Iraqi soldiers, was especially emphatic.

"We were doing good things there in Ramadi - I mean phenomenal things," Schuring said. "The Iraqi army, the soldiers, they're the Iraqi heroes. They're not the best soldiers in the world, but they're trying."

The wounded men have had time while convalescing to process their experiences. They've met cabinet members and generals and members of Congress. Some have gone to the Super Bowl, and Watson was personally introduced to his baseball heroes, the St. Louis Cardinals, by the president of the United States.

But that's all gravy. It's everyday life that's a gift to these survivors.

"This puts everything into perspective," Lockwood said. "You get blown up, and all of a sudden the type of rims you have on your car, that doesn't mean anything. Your family, your friends, that's the stuff that's important. That's what keeps you going."

Perspective can be difficult, on the other hand, when you get news like this:

Marine Corporal David Emery Jr. of the Battalion Landing Team of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was serving in Iraq. David, aka "DJ", graduated high school in 2003. He is married to the beautiful lass in the above photo, Leslie, and she is pregnant. DJ's unit was extended past their rotation date of January 1st and he was hoping to make it home in time for his child's birth.

On February 7th, 2007, DJ was at a checkpoint near a crowded place when a terrorist walked up to the Marines. DJ's Battalion Sergeant Major, Joseph Ellis (a recon Marine of 23 years), suspected that a bomber was approaching and put himself between the bomber and his Marines.

The bomber quickly detonated himself, instantly killing Sergeant Major Ellis. The Sergeant Major's sacrifice absorbed enough of the blast to barely keep DJ from being killed. DJ was hit hard in his abdomen - an artery was cut causing kidney failure - both legs and one arm were shattered, and, in fact, his wounds were so severe that doctors didn't think that he'd make it. They had him on a respirator, fighting infection, fever, kidney failure and other problems for a time before he stabilized enough (just barely) to make the flight to Germany where his parents and wife met him. While still unconscious, his family kept telling him to fight. Then, on the 18th, DJ was strong enough to make the trip from Germany to the US (Bethesda).

DJ had a tough surgery yesterday. His prognosis is hour to hour so prayers at anytime are needed.

As always, the military family is rallying around their own. Matt has more on how you can help Leslie and DJ. MaryAnn has lots more information on DJ and Sgt. Major Ellis, and Fuzzybear Lioness also has a beautiful post on the Sergeant Major:

[He] was always "healthy and alive," a perfectionist in what he did and who made anything seem possible. "I always thought he wouldn't be one of those people who wouldn't come home," Rachael Ellis, 20, said Monday. "In my eyes, he was superman."

...With additional education, Ellis could have moved up even further, Rachael said, but as an officer, he wouldn't have been as hands-on. She said all three of his tours of duty to Iraq weren't mandatory; he volunteered.

"He just wanted to make a difference," she said. "Anytime he was asked to go somewhere, even times when he didn't have to, he would. He wanted to be there for his troops."

DJ's father has the last word:

"I think of him as a hero," David Emery said of Ellis, a 40-year-old Marine from Ashland, Ohio. "He saw [the suicide bomber] pushing his way through the crowd. He moved to get this guy and probably saved my son's life."

As they handed that folded flag to Joe Ellis' wife, I wonder what was going through her mind?

There are so many things we fear, we who remain behind. Mostly, we manage to put those thoughts out of our minds and go on with our daily lives. But they are never far from us.

They hover in the back of our minds, circling slowly like fireflies on a summer evening until, unbidden, one alights every now and then in an unguarded moment in our consciousness. Perhaps when we're driving the car at sunset and our minds wander aimlessly, or when that sappy country song comes on the radio. Why do they continue to fight when so many in this country appear willing to have given up on everything we believe in?

What kind of nation plays foolish games with the lives of its soldiers, calling for war one moment and the next claiming they were deceived? One moment calling for troop withdrawals and the next saying we need to attack?

Where do these men, these Marines, get the strength to continue to defend such a people?

There are so many things I do not understand. But in the end, it does not matter that I understand them. It only matters to me that my husband understands them, and as long as he does that is enough for me. All I know is that, like so many others, hears a distant trumpet calling him to faraway places.

And all I know is what I hear echoing in my ears. I imagine every Marine wife hears something quite similar in the silent hours of the night. I imagine Joe Ellis' wife hears it still, and Leslie Emery.

How can we help but love such men?

I'll be yours until the sun doesn't shine
Till time stands still

Until the winds don't blow

When today is just a memory to me

I know

I'll still be loving

I'll still be loving you

I'll still be loving you...

Posted by Cassandra at 08:12 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

How God Created the Military Wife

The good Lord was creating a model for military wives. He was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared at his side. She said, "Lord, you seem to be having a lot of trouble with this one. What's wrong with the standard model?"

The Lord replied, "Have you seen the specs on this order? She must be completely independent, yet she cannot even get on base without a sponsor. She must possess the qualities of both father and mother, be a perfect host to four or 40 with an hour's notice, run on black coffee, handle every emergency imaginable without a manual, carry on cheerfully even if she is pregnant and has the flu, and be willing to move to a new location 10 times in 17 years.

"Oh! I almost forgot! She must have six pairs of hands."

The angel shook her head. "Six pairs of hands? No way!" The Lord continued. "Don't worry. We will make other military wives to help her. And we will give her an unusually strong heart: one big enough to swell with pride in her husband's achievements and sustain the loneliness of long separations; one that beats soundly when it is over-worked and exhausted, that says 'I understand,' even when she doesn't and 'I love you', regardless."

"Lord," said the angel, "Go to bed and get some rest. You can finish this tomorrow."

"I can't stop now," said the Lord. "I am so close to creating something unique! Already this model heals herself when she is sick, can put up six unexpected guests for the weekend, wave goodbye to her husband from a pier, a runway or depot and understand why he must leave."

The angel circled the model of the military wife and inspected it closely. She sighed, "It looks fine. But it's too soft."

"She might look soft," replied the Lord, "but she has the strength of a lion. You would not believe what she can endure."

Pausing, the angel bent over and ran her finger gently across the cheek of the Lord's creation. "There's a leak," she announced. "I am not surprised that it has cracked, Lord. You are trying to put too much into this model." The Lord was offended at the angel's lack of confidence.

"What you see is not a leak," He said. "It's a tear."

"A tear? What function does that serve?" asked the angel. The Lord replied, "It stands for joy, sadness, pain, disappointment, loneliness, pride. It's a dedication to all the values she and her husband hold dear."

The angel fell silent. "You are a genius!" she exclaimed finally.

The Lord had the grace to look slightly abashed. "But you see, I didn't put it there."

The preceding piece is said to have been written by Erma Bombeck. Over the years it has been altered by innumerable authors. The original doesn't seem to be available.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:02 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 04, 2009

Gobsmackingly Good

Heart thunmping
Chest pounding

Get your Marine Corps on




Dig deep and give Uncle Sam's Misguided Children some love. They deserve it.

Posted by at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quote of the Day

Everyone likes the Marines because they unapologetically like to kill bad people.

That made my day.

Posted by Cassandra at 05:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Our Marine of the Day: Major Brian Dennis

Marine team member, Cassie Fiano, has our Marine of the day and another sweet love story.

It's really a must-read!!!

and, Cassie? It tugged at my heartstings too!!

Posted by at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Benefit of Valour IT

I was reading the paper while eating lunch today and came across this article about the benefit of the Internet on seniors.
I realized as I read it that it could be yet another reason why Valour IT is such an important program.

It's already been noted that Valour IT gives servicemembers some independence. When you go from being a lean, mean, fighting machine to a patient in the hospital, that independence is such a godsend.

It's also been noted that Valour IT gives servicemembers some much needed peace of mind. Overwhelmingly, the guys just want to be back in the fight with their brothers and sisters in arms. The ability to communicate with them whether in theater or back stateside gives them the feeling of still being connected.

Study after study has proven that a positive mental outlook is key to the recovery process. If you replace "wounded/injured servicemember" for "senior" in this article, you can see the same case can ba made.

Independence. Peace of Mind. Positive Mental Outlook. What's not to like?

Three great reasons to support and/or donate to the Valour IT Marine team.

Why wait? Do it now!!

Posted by at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marine Team Update

Wow. Yesterday didn't start off so well - the Army whittled our lead down to a few hundred dollars. But they didn't count on the awesome power of Marine dance moves...

...ummm.... yeah.


This one goes out to my homies in the Air Force:

Well, at least we know the Navy's taking this whole "war" thang seriously???

Oh man. This is embarrassing....

Remember America: these folks have your six. They're professionals. If that doesn't scare you, it should.

In all seriousness, though, yesterday we got a BIG boost from Marine Team members Michelle Malkin and Newsbusters. And the Marine team just keeps growing!

Ercille's Universe
"And Another Thing..."
Coalition of the Swilling
Drunken Wisdom
Write Enough
Interesting News Items
Si Vis Pacem
Castra Praetoria
Hope Radio
john fleming
Scuttlebutt Fuzz
Devil Dog Brew
Loquita's Blog
A Mom and Her Blog
Wake up America
Ace of Spades HQ
Power Line

GO MARINE TEAM!!! Make that Marine thermometer jump!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:42 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Objective by Whose Standards?

Because it's only "objective" when you agree with us:

On the air they told me that I was no longer objective. I was too stunned to defend myself effectively. I said something like: "I've always had a point of view. How come you had no trouble with that when I criticized business?"

In hindsight, I wish I'd said: "Look at the title on the wall, you hypocrites! It shows you have a point of view, too. Many reporters do. You just don't like my arguments now that I no longer hew to your statist line. So you want to shut me up."

But I didn't.

So I'll say it now: Reporters who think coercive government control is generally good and I, who think voluntary market forces are generally better, both have a point of view.

So why am I the one called biased?

I like what "Americans for Prosperity" defends. I'm an American, and I'm for prosperity. What creates prosperity is free and competitive markets. That means limited government.

And I will speak about that every chance I get.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Clever Sillies Strike Again


Last Fall, the pitfalls of trying to solve the "problem" of low home ownership by making it easier and cheaper to buy homes on credit were graphically illustrated. The interesting observation is here:

... when banks set margins very low, lending more against a given amount of collateral, they have a powerful effect on a specific group of investors. These are buyers, whether hedge funds or aspiring homeowners, who for various reasons place a higher value on a given type of collateral. He called them "natural buyers."

Using large amounts of borrowed money, or leverage, these buyers push up prices to extreme levels. Because those prices are far above what would make sense for investors using less borrowed money, they violate the idea of efficient markets. But if a jolt of bad news makes lenders uncertain about the immediate future, they raise margins, forcing the leveraged optimists to sell. That triggers a downward spiral as falling prices and rising margins reinforce one another. Banks can stifle the economy as they become wary of lending under any circumstances.

"It was evident to me that there was a cycle going on, not just in my little market, but all over the world," says Mr. Geanakoplos, who is still a partner at Ellington Capital. The "leverage cycle," he called it.

This idea had big implications for policy makers. For decades, they thought of interest rates as the most important indicator of supply and demand in credit markets, and the only variable they needed to adjust to achieve a desired economic result. Now, Mr. Geanakoplos was saying that something else -- lenders' collateral or margin demands -- could be even more important.

And yet the entire health care reform house of cards rests on the frankly ludicrous assumption that if government artificially holds down the cost of medical treatment, consumers of medical care won't consume more of it. Since demand is very much a function of price, this assumption defies common sense. But even if they were right; even if consumers demanded exactly the same amount of care under a government subsidized system, the addition of millions of new consumers would cause aggregate demand to rise.

What on earth do they expect to happen to prices when the number of consumers suddenly exceeds the capacity of existing medical professionals to provide care?

Prices are signals. They convey important information about which goods and services are in demand and the quantities desired. Government can certainly try to hold down prices, but they cannot change the underlying forces that cause prices to rise and fall. The only thing price manipulation does is hide information from those who need it most: producers and consumers.

In a sane world, the experience of just having watched "the smart people" nearly bring the global economy to its knees might have induced the more reflective among us to revisit the wisdom of giving them license to redesign the American economy along more "intelligent" and "equitable" lines:

... I have written about the absent-minded and socially-inept ‘nutty professor’ stereotype in science, and the phenomenon of ‘psychological neoteny’ whereby intelligent modern people (including scientists) decline to grow-up and instead remain in a state of perpetual novelty-seeking adolescence. These can be seen as specific examples of the general phenomenon of ‘clever sillies’ whereby intelligent people with high levels of technical ability are seen (by the majority of the rest of the population) as having foolish ideas and behaviours outside the realm of their professional expertise. In short, it has often been observed that high IQ types are lacking in ‘common sense’ – and especially when it comes to dealing with other human beings. General intelligence is not just a cognitive ability; it is also a cognitive disposition. So, the greater cognitive abilities of higher IQ tend also to be accompanied by a distinctive high IQ personality type including the trait of ‘Openness to experience’, ‘enlightened’ or progressive left-wing political values, and atheism. Drawing on the ideas of Kanazawa, my suggested explanation for this association between intelligence and personality is that an increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency differentially to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved ‘domain-specific’ adaptive behaviours. And since evolved common sense usually produces the right answers in the social domain; this implies that, when it comes to solving social problems, the most intelligent people are more likely than those of average intelligence to have novel but silly ideas, and therefore to believe and behave maladaptively.

Sadly, I believe the clever sillies are about to strike again. No good can come from this. But as we survey the wreckage of a once robust economy, it will no doubt come as a great comfort that we were led over the cliff by the very best minds.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:10 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Someone's Got to Do the Real Work....

Little Miss Attila asks:

"Don't they have better things to do in the Army?"

Damn straight! There's important work to be done!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:07 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The View From My Deck



Not happy with the way the colors came out, but it's a close approximation.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 03, 2009



RICHMOND — Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican and a former state attorney general, won a decisive victory in Virginia’s governor’s race Tuesday, a stark reversal of fortune for Democrats who have held control in Richmond for the past eight years.
Mr. McDonnell defeated the Democratic candidate, R. Creigh Deeds, an 18-year state senator from rural Bath County in western Virginia.

Republicans cited the victory as a repudiation of the Obama administration and the national Democratic Party’s agenda, especially that of outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine, who serves as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Nonetheless, exit polls conducted by Edison Research on Tuesday showed that support for Mr. Obama had changed little in the state since his victory here in 2008. The polls suggested that many of Mr. Obama’s voters stayed home on Tuesday,

Funny how that whole "staying home" thing works. If you want to win, you need to dress for the game. 99% of winning is just showing up.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:19 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Web Site of the Day


Woo hoo! Thanks so much for joining the Marine team!

Update: GO MICHELLE! Oooh-rah!

Posted by Cassandra at 02:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

A Marine's Marine

MaryAnn writes:

Wrt the entry-control-point duty Diana and her fellow Marines at HQ filled in for, I suspect at least some of you know the rest of the story...
From the second truck in the convoy, Marine Sergeant Kent Padmore heard a screeching of tires and an explosion, then his own vehicle braked to a stop so quickly that all dozen or so men in it went tumbling to the floor. When Padmore sat up, he saw the women's truck in flames about 250 yards away. A flight medic back in Miami, Padmore, then 38, had been good friends with Saalman, Clark and Humphrey.

Immediately he jumped from his truck and ran toward the burning seven-ton, barely aware of the bullets zinging past him; the insurgents had staged an ambush to coincide with the car bomb.

There's no way, he thought as he ran. They're all dead. He stopped - it was useless to continue. But then he pushed forward. Keep going, he told himself. He thought of how Clark couldn't wait to go backpacking with her son when she got back to the U.S., about tough-as-nails Humphrey, and about Saalman, the music-loving beauty. It can't be, he said to himself, and kept running as fast as he could.

Just as Padmore reached the scene, he saw Saalman staggering toward him, her charred, flayed hands held up before her, her eyes vacant in a blackened face. She'd lost her rifle during the explosion. "Sally, pull yourself together," he said. "You are not going to die. I promise: You are not going to die. But we need some leadership."

He watched her expression change instantly from shock to rage. "Somebody give me a fucking weapon!" she screamed. "I need a fucking weapon!" The adrenaline pumping through her body obviously masked her pain. Padmore handed her his own M16 and headed off to find other wounded marines, with the sound of Saalman firing her gun toward the insurgents ringing in his ears.

No better friend, no worse enemy. Amazing.

Even the Army is impressed!

Them Marines... They're a definite threat. Especially the women.

Us, not so much. These ladies, though? Definitely. I'm glad they're on our side.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Marines of the Day: Aaron and Diana Mankin

This is, perhaps, one of the oddest love stories you will ever read.

There is an old saying: "Handsome is, as handsome does." Had she done nothing else in her lifetime, Corporal Diana Kavanek, USMC would be, by any measure you care to name, a handsome woman.

A woman of substance.

“I found out I was going to be doing entry-control-point duty three days before I went out,” said Lance Cpl. Diana L. Kavanek, engineer, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Headquarters Group, II MEF (FWD). “It was a little shocking to me because I didn’t know I would ever be pulled for a duty like that. But I was ready to do my part.”

Headquarters and Service Company, II MHG, was chosen to fill spots on the ECP female search team after a vehicle-born improvised explosive device killed five Marines and a Sailor, three of whom were female, and injured several more on June 23.

Major Michael J. Corrado, company commander, H&S Company, II MHG, II MEF (FWD), knew of the empty billets only days before the females were scheduled to leave.

“My initial thought was to accomplish the mission by supporting Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, and not let those bastards who bombed that seven-ton think they would weaken our resolve,” explained Corrado. “My next thought was ‘Where are we going to find the Marines to replace them’? Many of the H&S Company Marines are wearing two and three hats already.”

Headquarters companies companies traditionally concentrate on administrative and logistical support. But war has caused the Marines to invoke one of their oldest mottoes: "Every Marine a rifleman." Little did Cpl. Kavanek know how severely the qualities that got her through Marine boot camp were about to be tested.

The scene shifts. Miles away, Corporal Kavanek's boyfriend is clearing insurgents from an Iraqi village:

We were clearing houses and villages and pinching off the insurgency coming into Iraq from Syria when we rolled over an IED and our vehicle exploded literally 10 feet into the air. More fire came at us, and we thought we were under ambush, but it was our own munitions inside the vehicle cooking off—grenades, bullets, flares.

I fell back inside the tank, and the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was fire. My initial reaction was to gasp, and in doing so, I inhaled flames and smoke and pieces of burned uniform. My goggles and flak jacket protected my eyes and chest, but the rest of my upper body was on fire. I jumped out of the vehicle and tried to put myself out by rolling in the grass, but it was dry grass and it caught fire as I rolled in it. Four Marines died, 11 others were wounded. I was certain I was going to be among the dead. People say your life passes before you. For me, I saw the people who meant the most to me. My mom. My dad. I was only semiconscious. Then, my girlfriend Diana's face popped into my head. I was thinking, These are my last thoughts. She is my last thought. And I focused on her face, because if I was going to die in war, I wanted to die with the thought of something worth fighting for, something worth dying for.

Instead, I woke up.

...It was a month and a half before I was ready to look at myself in the mirror. Then one day, I got out of my hospital bed to go to physical therapy and I saw the mirror I'd passed countless times, refusing to see the truth about how hurt I was. I looked over my left shoulder, and there I was—this torn up, frail, thin individual with open wounds on his face that I barely recognized, and my worst imagination became my reality. I cried.

Being a Marine, you want to tell yourself you're fine, just walk it off. But I couldn't walk this one off. I covered the bottom half of my face with my elbow, and looking at my eyes and my forehead, I didn't look any different. I knew inside I was still the same man. But not everyone would see that, and I was very concerned when Jake and Maggie, my little brother and sister, then 8 and 7, came to see me in the hospital. I was their big brother. I was in the Marine Corps. I was invincible. That's how they saw me, but I didn't know if they would see me that way anymore. So I asked Jake, "Do you still think Bubba (that's what they call me) is as strong and fast and tough as you used to?" Jake didn't think about it at all. He just said, "Yeah, I think so." And I looked at myself, and I was bandaged up and breathing hard, and I said, "What makes you think that?" And he said back to me, "Well, they tried to blow you up, and they couldn't."

What would Superman do in a case like this? We'll never know.

We can only know what Corporal Aaron Mankin did next. Aaron and Diana had not seen each other for 3 months. She knew he had been injured, but not the extent of his injuries nor even that he had been burned. "I knew that he was alive and that's about it," she said.

What he did, was fall to his knees at the bottom of an airport escalator and ask her to marry him:

The first time I saw Diana three months later, I asked her to marry me. I didn't know what I was capable of as a husband or as a dad. I didn't know what I could bring to the table besides a burned face and scarred arms. My ears, nose, and mouth were gone, as were the thumb and index finger of my right hand. When she said yes, it was a turning point for me. Even though I had a right to be bitter and curse the world, it wasn't what Diana deserved. It wasn't the man she fell in love with.

What Aaron could not know - what many men don't understand - is the way a woman thinks: what she sees when she gazes into the eyes of the man she loves. What the young Marine brought to the table was, quite simply, himself. Yes, the external wrapper was damaged. But through it, the courage and quality of the man inside shone brighter than ever.

And it was enough - and more than enough. How could you not love a man with the guts to drop to one knee in a busy airport and say to the woman he loves, "Here. Here I am. Take me as I am - if you are willing to take this step knowing the hard road we will have to travel together, I am yours. Always, and forever."

By mine honour, in true English,
I love thee, Kate: by which honour
I dare not swear thou lovest me;
yet my blood begins to flatter me that thou dost,
notwithstanding the poor and untempering effect of my visage.

Now, beshrew my father's ambition!
he was thinking of civil wars when he got me:
therefore was I created with a stubborn outside,
with an aspect of iron, that,
when I come to woo ladies, I fright them.

But, in faith, Kate, the elder I wax,
the better I shall appear:
my comfort is, that old age, that ill layer up of beauty,
can do no more, spoil upon my face:
thou hast me, if thou hast me, at the worst;
and thou shalt wear me, if thou wear me,
better and better.

Take me, take a soldier. Take a soldier, take a King.

Every little girl dreams of being a fairy princess: dreams of the handsome prince who will, one day, ride up to her on a white stallion and sweep her off her feet. Few of those dreams come true.

This is the rare story of a dream that did come true, if not (perhaps) in the way that little girl imagined it. We have so little control over the hard knocks life seems to deal out with daunting regularity and on the day they walk down the aisle, few women have cause to know whether the man they are marrying has the strength and courage to face down life's setbacks.

But Diana Mankin knows just how strong Aaron is. She knows how he will react to reversals of fortune.

She can see it in his face.

I never want Madeline to think, If my daddy weren't hurt, I could…. I want her to see my scars as an advantage. I want her to see that they make me love her more because they make me try harder. And if I can't figure out a way to do something for her, if I can't, say, put together her bike because I'm missing some fingers and I can't manage the little parts, I am not proud, I will ask for help. I will get it done for her somehow. That's on me. That's on my shoulder. She will never go without because I was wounded. I can give you every excuse in my arsenal not to change diapers or do the tough stuff. But the fact that I don't use any of that stuff to my advantage is going to deepen our connection to each other. I can only hope that one day, when she's old enough, she's going to realize that this stuff wasn't easy for her dad, but he did it anyway, because he loved her.

MaryAnn has a video interview with Corporal Mankin.

Update: If you enjoyed this story, please consider donating to Valour IT. Every day wounded vets are fighting the battle of their lives and overcoming injuries that would leave most of us curled up into a little ball. With your support, Valour IT can continue to provide voice activated laptops and other adaptive technology that helps severely wounded vets recover faster and regain their independence.

This will truly be the best money you've ever spent. These young men and women have given a tremendous amount to defend us. Won't you let them know we haven't forgotten?

Read more about Valour IT and their mission here.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:27 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 02, 2009

I Heart the Freeport Flag Ladies!!!!

Let's hear it for the all those great troop greeters in Maine!!!
I owe a special debt today to the Freeport Flag Ladies. They greeted my son's company as they were making their way to Afghanistan. It took me three runs through the over 10 pages of pictures but I was finally able to find a picture of him. It has made my whole day today. The Maine Troop Greeters have met 4360 flights and 924, 655 troops since they began operations in May of 2003.

Who are the Freeport Flag Ladies? From the website:

"As the Freeport Flag Ladies we make the long drive to Bangor to join the Maine Troop Greeters at Bangor International Airport and to Pease International in New Hampshire to meet the troop flights whenever possible. Depending upon weather and construction it takes between two and three hours each way. We have greeted thousands of soldiers from all over this great nation who were being deployed or returning home after long deployments.

Untold thousands of pictures have been taken of the soldiers and put on the web site for their families. We make a special effort to be there for as many of the outbound troops as possible since we have learned that these pictures are so treasured by their families. Each of the soldiers that we speak with and photograph is given a small gift and the address of the web site. Once back home many hours are spent on the computer downloading the pictures, cropping and sharpening them putting them into special folders and then into Freeway express and on the web. Additional hours are spent answering emails and emailing photographs to the soldiers and their families. When contacted by Family Readiness groups we put all the photos from a given flight onto a CD for them to make available to their members.Our hearts are always warmed by the many grateful letters we receive telling us that a photo is being used as a screen saver, copied to hang on a child's wall or added to a scrapbook."

To see the pictures I am referring to, go to the left toolbar. Under Meeting the Troops, pick Pease and then scroll down to the pictures from October 30, 2009.

God bless the steadfast hearts of the Maine Troop Greeters and thank you, Freeport Flag Ladies, from the bottom of mine.

Posted by at 01:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Y'All Suck...

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Posted by Cassandra at 11:42 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Least Favorite Lefties!

John Hawkins and his posse of reich wing bloggers call 'em out!

Anyone you think deserved to be on the list, but got stiffed?

Posted by Cassandra at 10:06 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Devil Dogs!

Cry havoc
and let slip the dogs of war

- Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

dog.jpg Despite Shakespeare's famous line, we don't hear much about the dogs of war - those stalwart, four footed warriors who sniff out explosives, stand guard, and - when their battle buddies need them - do double duty as healers. But what happens when a Marine war dog is wounded? You probably didn't know that there's a Walter Reed for canines and it's run by... the Air Force!

A new $15 million veterinary hospital for four-legged military personnel opened Tuesday at Lackland Air Force Base, offering a long overdue facility that gives advanced medical treatment for combat-wounded dogs.

Like soldiers and Marines in combat, military dogs suffer from war wounds and routine health issues that need to be treated to ensure they can continue working.

Dogs injured in Iraq or Afghanistan get emergency medical treatment on the battlefield and are flown to Germany for care. If necessary, they’ll fly on to San Antonio for more advanced treatment — much like wounded human personnel.

Wounded war dogs undergo the same treatments as wounded warriors. That's not surprising in a way - they are warriors themselves. Ringo (shown below) was deployed to Afghanistan:

The IDD or Improvised Detection Dogs program is a group of highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs used by the U.S. Marine Corps to detect IEDs and help prevent bomb attacks.

Dogs can sniff out explosives much more effectively than electronic sensors, and can clear dangerous areas much more quickly. They also have more agility and mobility to handle the tough terrain and situations required in combat. IDDs also have the ability to pinpoint the precise location of an IED or other explosive device through their superior sniffing capabilities.

According to Matt Hilburn, author of A Marine’s Best Friend, IDD’s are generally Labrador Retrievers and go through 15 weeks of training. And while they’re not as highly trained as other military working dogs, they are exceptional at what they do.

If Marines are affectionately called "jarheads", are Marine war dogs called... "boneheads"? Actually, some of them are called Freedom Dogs:


Freedom Dogs, a San Diego-based nonprofit ...trains service dogs to help Marines coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq to overcome persisting medical and physical limitations.

The program offers a unique way in which more and more service dogs are now being utilized.

Sgt. Ian Welch is one of the first Marines to work with a Freedom Dog. Following his tours of duty in Iraq, the 25- year-old is still reeling from a traumatic brain injury, as well as severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

Welch was injured during his tour of in Iraq in 2003; he was later re-deployed with his unit, the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines Kilo Company, again in 2004, and then, one more time, in 2005.

He survived the wartime ordeals, but witnessed many of his friends die beside him. Despite his recurrent service, Welch does not consider himself a hero.

"Heroes," he said, "don't come home."

I beg to differ. Whether they walk on four, two, or no legs, heroes are all around us. And we owe them a great deal.

Why not say, "thank you"?

Update: Jules has another great war dog story!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:34 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Marine Team Daily Roundup

Stix notes a possible explanation for Stonehenge.

Pundit and Pundette found a wonderful video of one of my alltime favorite Sinatra songs.

Tigerhawk: The Annual Cigar

GunnyPink reminds us to stop and appreciate the simpler things.

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Wake Up, People!!!!

If that didn't wake you up, I'm not sure what will. We need to crank it up today! The Army is breathing hot on our necks, closely followed by the Flyboys:


Let's not get complacent: all three other teams have a far larger base to draw from. We did amazing things last week but the other teams are hardly working to erase our lead!

Let's put out the word: the Marine team is the place to be.

Now let's make that thermometer drop and give us 20! If you don't have a thermometer on your site yet, please download and install one. Email bloggers you like and ask them to help us beat Army, Navy, and the Air Force!

Posted by Cassandra at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Famous Marines, II

How many of the following can you name?

1. Marines in politics.

2. Marines in sports.

3. Marines in the entertainment/the arts.

1. John Glenn,
George Schultz, (SecState, SecLabor, SecTreas)
James Baker (Sec. State),
Henry Bellmon (Senator, Gov. OK)
Pete Wilson (Gov. CA)
Wayne Gilchrest (Rep, Md)
James Jones National Security Advisor
Zell Miller (Gov GA, Sen GA)
Sid McMath (Gov ARK)
Chuck Robb (Gov VA)
Jim Webb (Sen, SecNav)
John Warner (SecNav, Senator)
Duncan Hunter (Congress)
Jon Corzine (Gov, NJ)
David Dinkins (Mayor, NYC)
John Chafee (Gov RI, Sen, SecNav)
Don Regan (SecTreas)
Pete McCloskey (Sen, CA)
Mike Mansfield (US Rep, Sen, Ambassador to Japan)
Robert Bork

2. I'm going to let you all see how many you can guess.

3. Don Imus Radio talk show host
Bob Bell — Bozo the Clown (TV)
Jim Lehrer journalist, host of the PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Hugh Brannum — "Mr. Green Jeans" on Captain Kangaroo
Art Buchwald humor columnist
George Jones country music artist
William Styron Pulitzer Prize-winning author
John Philip Sousa composer, conductor/orchestra leader
Buddy Rich jazz drummer
Robert Ludlum author (The Bourne Identity)

Posted by Cassandra at 07:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Quelle Surprise!

You go to war with the allies you have, not the allies you wish you had:

With the White House’s reluctant embrace on Sunday of Hamid Karzai as the winner of Afghanistan’s suddenly moot presidential runoff, President Obama now faces a new complication: enabling a badly tarnished partner to regain enough legitimacy to help the United States find the way out of an eight-year-old war.

Looks like someone bet their entire paycheck on the wrong horse. Maybe continually announcing to the world that Hamid Karzai's election wasn't "legitimate" wasn't the smartest thing in the world.

Gee. It's not as though that was predictable.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

La Mal Francaise

Sacre bleu! If only les Americans tres stupides could more closely emulate our betters across the pond...

At France Telecom, 25 employees have killed themselves in the last two years. It isn't known how many cases were in response to job strains, partly because it is difficult to determine a suicide's complex causes. But occasionally victims leave behind a note blaming their company.

"I couldn't take it anymore . . . spending hours in front of the screen like a real mechanical puppet. . . . If only my gesture could serve some purpose," a France Telecom technician identified only as Jean-Michel wrote before he threw himself in front of a train in July 2008. He was 53 and married with three children.

With the France Telecom suicides as a backdrop, President Nicolas Sarkozy recently said he wanted the world to change its production-obsessed measure of national wealth.

In September, he argued for a new international economic indicator of wealth based less on gross domestic product and more on "well-being" cultivated through leisure and social benefits, among others.

Reading this, I thought immediately of that old Sam Kinison skit about the dog psychiatrist. A dog owner brings his pooch to a local shrink. The dog, it seems, has been acting out of late. The doc takes the leash, calmly walks the pooch into the next room and proceeds to beat him about the head and shoulders furiously, all the while screaming, "YOU'RE A DOG, G*&DAMMIT!

A few moments later, the doc comes back out to greet the anxious dog owner. The dog is trotting happily at his side. Instant attitude adjustment.

All through the presidential campaign (and for the next 9 or 10 months), we've heard nothing but how Joe Sixpack from Milwaulkee is desperately unhappy. So much so that only the urgent intervention of the federal government can gently reassemble the shattered pieces of his tortured soul and make the sun come out again in John Edwards' Two Americas. But what if all those social benefits are not the solution, but the problem itself?

One way to assess how Americans feel about the different tax and benefit packages the states offer is by examining internal U.S. migration patterns. Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more people moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas had a net weekly population increase of 1,544 as a result of people moving in from other states. During these years, more generally, 16 of the 17 states with the lowest tax levels had positive "net internal migration," in the Census Bureau's language, while 14 of the 17 states with the highest taxes had negative net internal migration.

These folks pulling up stakes and driving U-Haul trucks across state lines understand a reality the defenders of the high-benefit/high-tax model must confront: All things being equal, everyone would rather pay low taxes than high ones. The high-benefit/high-tax model can work only if things are demonstrably not equal -- if the public goods purchased by the high taxes far surpass the quality, quantity and impact of those available to people who live in states with low taxes.

Today's public benefits fail that test, as urban scholar Joel Kotkin of NewGeography.com and Chapman University told the Los Angeles Times in March: "Twenty years ago, you could go to Texas, where they had very low taxes, and you would see the difference between there and California. Today, you go to Texas, the roads are no worse, the public schools are not great but are better than or equal to ours, and their universities are good. The bargain between California's government and the middle class is constantly being renegotiated to the disadvantage of the middle class."

These judgments are not based on drive-by sociology. According to a report issued earlier this year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Texas students "are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age," even though per-pupil expenditures on public school students are 12% higher in California. The details of the Census Bureau data show that Texas not only spends its citizens' dollars more effectively than California but emphasizes priorities that are more broadly beneficial. Per capita spending on transportation was 5.9% lower in California, and highway expenditures in particular were 9.5% lower, a discovery both plausible and infuriating to any Los Angeles commuter losing the will to live while sitting in yet another freeway traffic jam.

In what respects, then, does California "excel"? California's state and local government employees were the best compensated in America, according to the Census Bureau data for 2006. And the latest posting on the website of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility shows 9,223 former civil servants and educators receiving pensions worth more than $100,000 a year from California's public retirement funds. The "dues" paid by taxpayers in order to belong to Club California purchase benefits that, increasingly, are enjoyed by the staff instead of the members.

I can't quite shake the feeling that Barack Obama is one hand rolled Gauloise short of a major existentialist crisis. When "...but we have to DO something!!!" becomes the unanswerable justification for across the board restructuring of our economy, it begins to feel as though we're being stampeded down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams rather than led gently by the nose.

That the person doing the herding is a man who changes course more often than Leonardo di Caprio changes supermodels is terrifying:

They are not worried about his policy choices. Their concerns are more fundamental. They are worried about his determination.

These people, who follow the war for a living, who spend their days in military circles both here and in Afghanistan, have no idea if President Obama is committed to this effort. They have no idea if he is willing to stick by his decisions, explain the war to the American people and persevere through good times and bad.

Their first concerns are about Obama the man. They know he is intellectually sophisticated. They know he is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence.

But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.

Remember when "Stay the Course" was mercilessly ridiculed? Suddenly perseverance begins to look less stubborn than statesmanlike. Confronted with a massive loss of public confidence, can it be that even a 60 or 70% plan faithfully executed might perform better than a vague, constantly changing slogan so insubstantial that not even his supporters are sure which hill they're supposed to die on - or for - today?

At some point we have to stop studying, stop building consensus and gathering information, and move forward. This was Jimmy Carter's weakness as a leader: though by anyone's reckoning he was an intelligent man, he kept getting lost in the weeds.

But I can't help but wonder whether even that's the real problem?

Perhaps it's more basic. Perhaps the malaise we're suffering owes more to the absence of good old fashioned character and conviction - the ability to pick a direction and plod onwards step by step - than it does to over-heated introspection?

If so, we may pause to reflect that in this regard Obama really is a man for our times. For his flaws are our own, outsized. We keep looking around for a hero to rescue us from our own fecklessness.

That we're so easily led by a man who can't even make up his mind ought to give us pause. We have met the enemy and it isn't "them".

It's us.

Our unwillingness to face consequences squarely. Our refusal to do what we all know needs to be done. Perhaps that's why we're so easily led. We've lost the ability to plot our own course. And thus we render ourselves powerless.

Posted by Cassandra at 06:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Military Demotivator Contest

[moved to the top]

Speaking of demotivating...

Sadly, I am consumed with a crisis at work that is keeping me busy day and night. In the meantime I thought that perhaps a game would be fun.

Create your own Military Demotivator poster here. Marine team member Cassy Fiano has gotten us off to a great start:


Note: I posted the wrong image earlier - sorry!

There will be prizes (yes, real prizes!) for:

1. Best Application of Inter Service Snark

2. Best "Embracing the Suck" Poster

Email me if you have ideas for additional prizes! If you don't have a blog and want me to post your entry below the fold, send it to me. If you have a blog and have posted your entry there, please email me the link and I'll place it below the fold.

The contest will end next Wednesday and for once, will be judged promptly. Do your worst, peoples!

Update: John is dead meat. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion, don't you think?

Heh :)



from DL Sly







DL Sly




I have no idea who did this, but it's ... um... yeah. Still, you know what they say about payback...

The Daley Gator has some fantastic entries!


I have a feeling I'm gonna pay for this one. Thanks to MrsG for the great photo.

Retriever's entry!

Mike from Mostly Game shoots! He scores!

Grim brings Teh Funny

And the Navy (via spd) fires a few salvos!

welcome aboard.jpg


Two more from spd:

lts chicken.jpg

air force.jpg

Posted by Cassandra at 04:47 AM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

The Joyful Warriors

For some reason in the middle of the night I found myself thinking of a letter from a commander to the son and daughter of a fellow Marine:

Ray and I had a conversation late May in 2004 while we were deployed to Iraq. He spoke of why he fought. He fought to give the people of Iraq a chance. He fought to crush those who would terrorize and enslave others. He fought to protect his fellow Marines.

The last thing he told me that day was, "I don't want any of these people (terrorists) telling my kids how to act, or how to dress. I don't want to worry about the safety of my children." Kiana and Alek, your father fought for many things, but always remember, he fought for you.

As you fight this battle we call life, you will find your challenges greater, your adversity larger, your enemies more numerous. The beautiful thing is, you will grow stronger, smarter, faster, and you will overcome the obstacles in your way.

No one could've better prepared you than your father.

The letter was remarkable in many ways but most notably for its tone. There was little sympathy extended to two now-fatherless children, little time wasted trying to assuage hurts that cannot be healed by hushed, reverent voices or comforting words. It did not so much urge Ray Mendoza's children to mourn him as challenge them to live up to his memory.

The phrase 'joyful warrior' came to mind, and with it a piercing sense of just how unacceptable the juxtaposition of those two words has become when used as anything but a colorful metaphor. A politician can be a joyful warrior - politicians wield nothing more deadly than carefully calibrated words. An actual warrior, on the other hand, is expected to feel slightly ashamed of what he does for a living. He cannot love it, lest he be reviled by those with more elevated sensibilities.

Tony Perry used a different phrase: unapologetic warrior.

During the month long battle in Iraq earlier this year for the Sunni Triangle city of Fallouja, no combat unit did more fighting and bleeding than Echo Company, and during it all--from the opening assault to the final retreat ordered by the White House--Zembiec led from the front. He took on the most dangerous missions himself, was wounded by shrapnel, repeatedly dared the enemy to attack his Marines, then wrote heartfelt letters to the families of those who were killed in combat, and won the respect of his troops and his bosses.

It was the time of his life, he acknowledged later, for by his own definition Zembiec is a warrior, and a joyful one. He is neither bellicose nor apologetic: War means killing, and killing means winning. War and killing are not only necessary on occasion, they're also noble. "From day one, I've told [my troops] that killing is not wrong if it's for a purpose, if it's to keep your nation free or to protect your buddy," he said. "One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."

For his Marines, Zembiec asks for respect, not sympathy, even as one-third of his 150-man company became casualties. "Marines are violent by nature--that's what makes us different," he said. "These young Marines didn't enlist to get money to go to college. They joined the Marines to be part of a legacy."

He knows talk like that puts him outside mainstream America and scares the bejabbers out of some people. Modern America is uncomfortable with celebrating those who have gone to war and killed their nation's enemy. Maybe it's because American military hardware is thought to be so superior that any fight with an adversary is a mismatch. Then again, people who feel that way probably have not stared at the business end of a rocket-propelled grenade launched by an insurgent hopped up on hatred for America.

Or maybe, like so many attitudes of the press and public toward the military, the queasiness about unabashed combat veterans is traceable to public opposition to the Vietnam War. A cynic I know says that although Americans remember Sgt. York from World War I and Audie Murphy from World War II, the only heroes most remember from Vietnam are Colin L. Powell and John McCain. One helped fellow soldiers after a helicopter crash, the other was shot down on a mission and survived a horrendous POW experience. Neither is known for killing the enemy.

Where does it come from? This moral squishiness? This desperate need to believe our own hands are spotless and our way of life cost free?

...it isn't killing that makes us monsters. We are exactly that same kind of creature, whether we have ever killed or not.

The moral problem of 'the clean hands' is that it is an illusion. It makes people believe they are better than they are, and therefore that others can also be better than they can be. It creates a class of people who feel clean, because they have never felt blood on their hands.

Yet all these things arise from things buried deep in the genetic code. You cannot walk away from them. The failure to experience these things does not mean you would not react to them in just the same way as everyone else: it only means that you cannot understand how you would react, and how others do.

The man with clean hands is just the same as the hunter. It is only that he does not know it. He does not understand that part of his soul, as it lurks beyond his experience. He comes to believe that there is a kind of human that is and can be clean: perhaps that sweet, aged lady on the corner, who in her youth broke necks every night before dinner.

Failing to understand what Man really is, he opens himself more than is wise, and defends himself less. The man with the clean hands believes in diplomacy but not the force that makes diplomacy viable. He believes in staying clean, because he believes it makes him better than you. He does not understand that it only makes him blind.

There is another problem with the clean hands illusion: it doesn't just blind us to important distinctions. When we come to fear our protectors more than those who want to destroy everything we cherish, it leaves us defenseless.

I have often wondered if it isn't war that causes PTSD, but the homecoming so long and so anxiously awaited? What was, over there, a natural and healthy response becomes - back here - cause for remorse and recrimination? What a shame if it is we who do that to our warriors, and all because we cannot face our own fear.

The fear of what lies within each of us?

Posted by Cassandra at 04:35 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 01, 2009


... O' Lantern.

I was lucky enough to meet Tigerhawk (after years of being friends online) in DC a few years ago. I mean no disrespect to his lovely wife when I say that he is far better looking than that handsome visage on the pumpkin. But then that runs in the family - the Charlottesvillian (who I also met during dinner) is no slouch himself in the looks department.

How do we get all the handsome devils on our side?

Posted by Cassandra at 02:10 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Marine Team News

The good news is, we're still holding onto the lead despite valiant efforts from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. I'm going to start tracking all four teams' progress daily:


The Valour IT Video Contest is going strong and the Marine team is dominating the entries. Here's the latest, from No Sheeples Here:

View all Marine team vids here:

No Sheeples (3)

Cao's Blog has photos of actual Valour IT recipients.

Daley Gator incorporates bagpipes! As a guid Scottish wench, the blog princess approves!

I advise you to take a hankie.

The Valour IT auction site is up. There are some great items up there and also on this page - do your Christmas shopping and help wounded vets at the same time!

Marine team items:

patrolbaseafghanistan.JPG3 signed Afghanistan war prints signed by USMC combat artist Michael D. Fay.

I've written before about the work of CWO2 Fay. You can see examples of his work at Fire and Ice. I just love his art - the sketches, watercolors, and bronze sculptures. I've been a huge fan of his for a long time.

thetwohands.jpg3 signed Iraq war prints signed by USMC Combat artist Michael D. Fay

GuardianAngelCombatPrint.jpg1 Marine portrait signed by USMC Combat artist Michael D. Fay

3 Marine prints from the Marine Corps combat art series

TragicMonumentCombatArtPrint.jpg Signed print by USMC artist Jack Dyer commemorating the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

Marines_cross.jpgFinally, Miss Ladybug has some lovely cross stitched service emblems and she will personalize them for the winning bidder at no additional cost. What a great Christmas present to honor a family member who has served! You can see them here:

The winner of each of these five auctions can request customization with name and rank, as well as details such as years of service, unit or theater/operation where the service member served. Also, the winner will receive the special dual 3.5" x 5" opening 8" x 10" mat.

Keep checking the auction site - there will be more Marine team listings coming up!

Posted by Cassandra at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Famous Marines


Sergeant Major Jiggs, virtually a symbol of the Marine Corps, is ready for a 1924 training flight at Quantico, Virginia. Of decidedly blue-blood background, Jiggs née King Bulwark, was whelped in Philadelphia on 22 May 1922. Upon his enlistment in the Corps on 14 October 1922, he outranked the Commandant. Brigadier General Smedley Butler, who signed the enlistment papers “for life,” sensibly demoted the King to private and preserved the chain of command. Jiggs moved rapidly up the ranks. He was a corporal two and a half weeks after induction and a sergeant by New Year’s Day 1924. That June he was promoted to sergeant major. Jiggs died before his time on 9 January 1927. He lay in state in a Quantico hangar, flanked by two Marine guards and banks of flowers. His passing was mourned throughout the Corps.

Photo and history courtesy of our sister service, the U. S. Naval Institute.

Today's Marine trivia subject will be Famous Marines. The list begins below the fold. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section!

You might be surprised at how many famous people served in the Marine Corps. Given the photo above the fold, it seems only right to lead off with:

1. Sergeant Major Dan Daly:

Sergeant Major Daniel Joseph "Dan" Daly (November 11, 1873 – April 27, 1937) was a United States Marine and one of only 19 men (and two Marines) to receive the Medal of Honor twice, the other being Major General Smedley Butler.

Dan Daly is well remembered for his famous cry during the Battle of Belleau Wood, when, besieged, outnumbered, outgunned, and pinned down, he led his men in attack, shouting, "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?"[1]

Daly was described by his fellow Medal of Honor double award recipient, MajGen Smedley Butler as,"The fightenist Marine I ever knew!" Daly reportedly was offered an officer's commission twice to which he responded the he would rather be, "...an outstanding sergeant than just another officer."

Here's an interesting historical perspective on Daly's famous quote:

We are humbled to follow, yet hopeful to live up to, those who have gone before -- as at Belleau Wood in 1918. When his men were being cut to pieces by German machine guns, Marine 1st Sgt. Dan Daly, already the recipient of two Medals of Honor, charged the guns shouting, "Come on, you sons-o'-bitches! Do you want to live forever?" More than just history, this retelling to each new generation becomes a pledge: Although some will die, those who follow will keep the faith by keeping our memory -- a promise of immortality that asks, instead, "Don't you want to live forever?"

2. An iconic movie Marine (in real life he served in the Army Air Force during WWII): Jack Webb. Mike the Marine has a review of The DI, plus great footage from the movie!

James Lileks has some classic B&W stills from the movie.

3. Thomas Sowell: a writer and thinker I admire greatly.

4. Hollywood Marines:

Lee Marvin: enlisted in August 1942, served in the Marshall Islands (Eniwetok and Kwajalein), and was in the June 1944 Saipan invasion force. His company was ambushed and only six of 241 men survived. Marvin was, as he stated "shot in the ass" (a 9x3x3-inch wound), hospitalized 13 months, and discharged. Disabled and underemployed, he discovered summer stock acting, and progressed to Broadway plays, and motion pictures.
George C. Scott,
Don Adams of Get Smart fame,
Gene Hackman,
Scott Glenn
(The Right Stuff),
Glenn Ford,
Mike Harrell,
R. Lee Ermey,
Brian Keith:
U.S. Marine rear gunner in several actions against the Japanese on Rabal in the Pacific.
Drew Carey,
James Whitmore,
Tyrone Power:
(an established movie star when Pearl Harbor was bombed) joined the U.S. Marines, was a pilot flying supplies into, and wounded Marines out of, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
John Russell: In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps where he received a battlefield commission and was wounded and highly decorated for valor at Guadalcanal.
Steve McQueen: a wild and rebellious farm boy from the Midwest who had worked in brothels as a youth, enlisted in the Marines in 1947, was a crewman on tanks and amphibious tractors, and served in the guards assigned to President Truman's yacht, Sequoia.
Harvey Keitel
George Peppard
Jonathan Winters

Ed McMahon started his career in the Navy's V-5 Program, transferred to the Marines, and was a flight instructor in F4U Corsair fighters prior to his discharge in 1946. While at Philadelphia's WCAU radio and television he was recalled to active duty and Captain McMahon flew 85 reconnaissance missions in an unarmed Cessna 180 observation plane in Korea (1951-1952).

CWCID here and here

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