June 29, 2010
Tuesday Debate Question
Attila asks a question that ought to get you all going:
Is the Blogosphere Truly a Meritocracy?
I think Foxfier (in the comments) nailed it:
Sorta, depends on where you draw the “merit” line.
Here's an interesting thought experiment:
Exhibit A: Go here and look at the items which receive the most clicks. Is that merit?
Exhibit B: Merit?
If you define merit as giving your readers what they want, then yes the blogosphere is a meritocracy with traffic acting as the ultimate measure of value. I haven't had much luck in discerning any relationship between my own standards of worth and traffic. Over the last six years, the posts I have put the most thought into (and been the proudest of) have rarely received much attention. The same has been true of posts I believed to be the best written. Others - nearly always ones I tossed off with barely a moment's thought - have gotten piles of links. The takeaway is that there seems to be a distinctly inverse relationship between what I think is good and what others think is good.
I used to be consistently surprised by what got linked. Now I have a fairly good sense of what will be well received and what won't. I try not to let that get in my way.
In the end, I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to get wrapped around the axle about merit because people value different things for reasons that seem good to them (if they even think about any of this consciously). None of us can force others to value what we consider important. Nor should we be able to.
Shakespeare had a few wise words in this regard:
To thine own self be true
and it must follow
as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man.
I'll bet he would have made a hell of a blogger.
"Per Mike Yon on Facebook: If we are going to make a success out of this war, must start squeezing out and choking off the irresponsible "sources." People who care will start writing letters to editors/producers who link to websites such as Blackfive and Mudville Gazette. Must start telling mainstream sources that when they link to milkooks, we stop paying attention. Please leave comments at mainstream message boards encouraging people to ignore milkooks. There are some good milblogs who should get more attention (such as Small Wars Journal), but others need to be choked off. We have a tough, bloody war ahead, and should refuse to put up with this nonsense. The information battlefront is half the battlespace, and you are in it. Please fight hard from your position. It's time to get active. I will get back to the war and focus there. On the home front, please choke off Blackfive and Mudville Gazette. When you see links to them from MSM sites, please contact editors and producers, and also leave public comments that responsible people do not listen to milkooks. Get active and help win the war."
None of us has called for any kind of boycott of Michael Yon. No one has suggested his dispatches be banned or suppressed. No one has tried to organize "grassroots" protests of opinions we disagree with. You won't see that kind of nonsense coming from me nor (I suspect) any of my Milkook friends. It seems to me that Yon has just done precisely what he has repeatedly accused the military of - tried to choke off and punish criticism.
I've been trying to ignore this since the weekend but when the price of disagreement gets this high, I think we all lose something. As much as I tremble to utter such heresy, Michael Yon is not fighting (much less winning) this war.
The actual fighting is being done by men and women like Chuck. Some of them happen to be Milkooks. Amazing how many people find baseless bragging and threats persuasive, but there it is. I expect we'll see nothing like the kind of uproar that usually greets thuggish tactics like this. I'm not particularly concerned for Matt or Greyhawk - they have well established sites with a long track record. And I don't think my small readership are the kind of people who let others tell them what to think.
To me, the great thing about the Internet has always been that we all chime in and readers get to decide what they think about various topics by weighing the merits.
Mr. Yon appears to believe that process needs to be managed. As the spouse always likes to say, "Well, that's a viewpoint".
Swimsuits over Time
The blog princess has been shopping online for a swimsuit and found this of interest:
From Jayne Mansfield to Heidi Montag, check out the most memorable bathing suit moments through the years.
Is it just me, or has our in-your-face world lost something?
June 28, 2010
McChrystal, Petraeus, Afghanistan
Having managed to sleep through last week's Afghanistan dramafest, the Blog Princess is just now getting up to speed on the McChrystal-Petraeus switcheroo. There are several interesting takes on offer. Here are a few that caught my eye.
First up is Sir Jules of Crittenden, who comments on the persistent rumors that All Will Be Well with respect to the oft bewailed ROE now that the Evil McChrystal hath been dispatchèd to wherever inconveniently truth-telling G.O.s, go:
Apart from the tactical advantage the enemy derives from not being killed, for that part of it I’m able to directly observe, I have to say that on a strategic level, in terms of how perceptions are shaped far from the physical battlefield of battle, the Taliban gets a major assist from media reporting that obsesses on coalition-caused civilian deaths often to the exclusion of reporting on who, and whose tactics, are actually responsible for most of the killing.
On the bright side, with McChrystal and his truthiness safely banished to Hades we won't have to worry about the silencing of beautiful and patriotic dissent anymore! I'm guessing that a new era of journalistic openness and transparency is the order of the day. Of course, it always helps to have the President on the same sheet of music:
Asked whether he would move U.S. troops out of Iraq to better fight terrorism elsewhere, he brought up Afghanistan and said, "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there."
Many commentators seem determined to gloss over the degree to which the command environment in Afghanistan differs from what Petraeus had to deal with in Iraq. Aside from the normal inter service squabbling, the civil side of the equation is even less helpful and Afghanistan's own government (due to divers issues both structural and geographical) makes Maliki's government look positively squared away by comparison.
And on top of everything else, there's NATO. Oddly enough, I find myself reluctantly agreeing with Thomas Ricks. Despite his undoubted gifts, Petraeus is unlikely to be able to peel very many layers off what amounts to a damned big onion. What he does bring to the table is exactly what we're not getting from Obama: leadership and the ability (and will) to build support for whatever plan we go forward with from here:
Petraeus's critical contribution in Iraq was one of leadership: He got everyone on the same page. Until he arrived, there often seemed to be dozens of wars going on, with every brigade commander trying to figure out the strategic goals of a campaign. Before Petraeus arrived, the top priority for U.S. forces was getting out. After he took over, the No. 1 task for U.S. troops, explicitly listed in the mission statement he issued, was to protect the Iraqi people.
Of course, establishing cohesion in the U.S. effort in Iraq took a lot more than issuing statements. In spring 2007, I watched Petraeus work hard to establish a consensus about what the goals should be and how to achieve them. "There are three enormous tasks that strategic leaders have to get right," he told me one day in Baghdad. "The first is to get the big ideas right. The second is to communicate the big ideas throughout the organization. The third is proper execution of the big ideas." An astute bureaucratic operator, he used a variety of studies and panels convened in his Baghdad headquarters to pull together the big ideas of how to deal with the insurgency and how to better protect the Iraqi people. These had the useful side effect of getting buy-in from civilian American officials in Iraq.
Just as important, he worked tirelessly with his military subordinates, going out and talking not just to the division commanders below him, but to their brigade commanders and even to the battalion commanders an echelon below them. He issued letters to the troops explaining the new approach of living among the people and protecting them with small, vulnerable outposts. He walked the streets and talked to Iraqis. He also hired a leading counterinsurgency expert, David Kilcullen, an Australian infantry officer turned anthropologist, to coach American commanders, making sure that they not only talked counterinsurgency but that they also learned how to practice it. In a series of interviews I conducted with Petraeus in 2007 and 2008, one of his favorite words was "relentless." It is the best one-word summary of his approach.
Finally, Petraeus took a much more humble stance, in which Iraqis were not told what to do and how and when to do it, but were asked their advice about what to do, and the best way to do it. It was notable that three of the most important advisers around Petraeus as he took command were foreigners -- Kilcullen; a pacifistic British political adviser named Emma Sky who had been against the war; and Sadi Othman, a Palestinian American who became Petraeus's personal envoy to the Iraqi government. A sharp contrast to the frat-boy atmosphere around McChrystal depicted in a Rolling Stone profile that led to his dismissal.
Petraeus was aided enormously by Ryan C. Crocker, one of the savviest American diplomats and one of the most experienced in the region, having served in Pakistan, Lebanon and in Iraq decades prior. Early in the war, friction between Ambassador L. Paul Bremer and Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez had crippled the U.S. effort and confused Iraqis. Bremer was all about transforming Iraq politically, an inherently turbulent mission, while the U.S. Army decided on its own that its job was to produce stability.
Repelled by such persistent friction, Petraeus and Crocker were determined to coordinate their actions. Word went out to subordinates that neither of them would tolerate infighting between civilian and military officials. When the two returned to the United States to testify before Congress in September 2007, they showed a united front, key in winning them more time for the war at a moment when congressional leaders such as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. were saying it was time to "stop the surge and start bringing our troops home."
In Kabul, alas, Petraeus will find no such useful ally in the American ambassador.
I think that was Petraeus' true genius - he was able to lend a sense of focus and cohesion to an enormously risky strategy - one in which the military no longer called all the shots. That seems crucial if we're going to begin turning everything over to the Afghanis in 12 months. They can't get up to speed if we never give them the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. Which brings me to the final puzzle piece:
Sacked US General Stanley McChrystal issued a devastatingly critical assessment of the war against a "resilient and growing insurgency" just days before being forced out.
Using confidential military documents, copies of which have been seen by the IoS, the "runaway general" briefed defence ministers from Nato and the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) earlier this month, and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. During his presentation, he raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration.
... the "campaign overview" left behind by General McChrystal after he was sacked by President Barack Obama last week warned that only a fraction of the areas key to long-term success are "secure", governed with "full authority", or enjoying "sustainable growth". He warned of a critical shortage of "essential" military trainers needed to build up Afghan forces – of which only a fraction is classed as "effective".
He pinpointed an "ineffective or discredited" Afghan government and a failure by Pakistan "to curb insurgent support" as "critical risks" to success. "Waning" political support and a "divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines" are among the key challenges faced, according to the general.
It was this briefing, according to informed sources, as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Mr Obama to move against the former head of US Special Forces, as costs soar to $7bn a month and the body count rises to record levels, because it undermined the White House political team's aim of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan in time for the US elections in 2012. In addition to being the result of some too-candid comments in a magazine article, the President's decision to dispense with his commander was seen by the general's supporters as a politically motivated culmination of their disagreements.
So much for that idiotic business about McChrystal trying to cover up the fact that all is not well. But if there's anything to the story, it points up the critical missing piece: a President who is willing to throw his full weight behind the war effort. Given the far more difficult task set out for us in Afghanistan and the ludicrously short time frame provided, I very much fear that Obama's shilly shallying and risk aversion are two millstones that even the most talented commander in modern times cannot overcome.
I hope I'm wrong. Now would be a great time for the Democrats to demand a little of that willingness to listen that we heard so much about during the Bush years.
More Of Obama's Mad Diplomatic Skillz...
Despite the seeming division between the United States' deficit-reduction target and the slower approach favored by Canada and Germany, Obama said there was "violent agreement" within the group about the need to find proper balance -- with some highly indebted countries such as Greece needing to cut immediately and others supporting the recovery with higher spending.
I don't know about you all, but the Editorial Staff are feeling violently hopeful this morning.
Daft Post Feminist Hand Wringing Alert
"The mind is a terrible thing."
- John Milton
Apparently, in addition to all our other troubles America is now suffering from sexual malaise.
I read it in the NY Times so of course it must be true. The bright side of all this latest crisis is that it offers the ChangeMeister in Chief a social problem worthy of his prodigious community organizing talents. Just think! If we all join hands we can solve the burning heartache of female sexual disinterest - in our lifetimes, no less!
WILL women soon have a Viagra of their own? Although a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recently rejected an application to market the drug flibanserin [Ed. note: ?!?] in the United States for women with low libido, it endorsed the potential benefits and urged further research. Several pharmaceutical companies are reported to be well along in the search for such a drug.
The implication is that a new pill, despite its unforeseen side effects, is necessary to cure the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country. But to what extent do these complaints about sexual apathy reflect a medical reality, and how much do they actually emanate from the anxious, overachieving, white upper middle class?
In the 1950s, female “frigidity” was attributed to social conformism and religious puritanism. But since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, American society has become increasingly secular, with a media environment drenched in sex.
For one brief, shining moment before Paglia plunged headfirst into the fever swamp of highly regrettable historical, academic and pop culture allusions I cherished the forlorn hope that something sensible was about to be written on the topic of sex. Then I remembered that I was reading the Times, where "How can I get my baby to eat/my toddler to mind/my husband to pick up his socks?" articles regularly make the Most Read list.
There is a vaguely forehead-shaped mark on the wall of my office that owes its existence to this type of journalistic fare.
Why are we worrying about the sex lives of affluent, educated, upper middle class white folks? In a world where Reuters makes money selling crotch shots of underaged girls, I'm having a hard time ginning up sympathy for the tragically limited sexual options of the New Age Male.
And in a world where women have more - and more varied - choices than at any time in history I can think of, I'm likewise blissfully unconcerned about the tragically limited sex lives of modern women.
Freedom is problematic. Given an expanded range of choices, people don't always make smart decisions. They freely make bad bargains and then freely whine when the the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box doesn't meet their expectations. But if there's one thing they hate worse than being held responsible for their own decisions, it's being told what to do. Because that's judgmental, and the New Age ego wilts at the faintest whiff of a value judgment whether it be sartorial or sexual.
With or without the Times, people who stop wanting or having sex will eventually be replaced by people who never stopped wanting or having it. Maybe if we put away the egg timers?
There's a lot to be said for not over complicating life.
June 25, 2010
Sorry for the lack of posting, guys. I've been sick.
Still not able to sit up for long, and I need to spend what time I have catching up on work.
June 22, 2010
Quote of the Day
During the Bush administration and the so-called revolt of the generals (the retired ones, mostly), the media were quick to praise public dissenters as lone wolves who spoke truth to power about the ineptness in Iraq. But it is not good when military officers go public with complaints about their civilian overseers. One of the great contributions of Matthew Ridgway to the war effort in Korea was that he stopped officers’ public sniping at the Truman policy, much of which he was probably in disagreement with.
Later he aired his differences with Eisenhower, and paid a price, but in times of war, officers must make their views known through official (and thus private) channels, and may not freelance through the media. It was wrong during the furor over troop levels and the surge in Iraq, and it is wrong now. Generals provide input and can dissent privately, and then the president goes forward with the consensus and officers obey.
Those who cannot do so in good conscience resign; those who choose to stay, but snipe to the media, at some point will have to. The system works, and when high-profile officers go to the media to undermine their overseers (e.g., George McClellan, Douglas MacArthur), it starts to unwind.
...At this early juncture, it is hard to get the full story (or to assess the degree to which the journalists involved were truthful), but so far the mess puts General Petraeus in a terrible fix, since his handpicked general will at some point have to resign. And when we factor in the mistake of setting deadlines for withdrawal, the failure to inspire our European allies to stay (they see us planning to leave), the growing mutual incrimination with the Karzai government, and popular rumbling about the restrictive rules of engagement, the Afghanistan theater is in real trouble. And this is the so-called good war that Bush ignored to fight the “bad” one in Iraq, where things are relatively quiet and a constitutional government, for all its problems, is now is in its seventh year of governance.
I could not have said this better. Not sure anyone could.
Wunderbar. Just what we need - more unnamed sources:
[Updated at 4:41 p.m.] Gen. Stanley McChrystal has submitted his resignation, Time magazine's Joe Klein told CNN, citing an unnamed source. CNN is working to confirm Klein's information.
If it's true, good on him. I hate to think where this is going, though.
Joint H/t: Andi and the Armorer.
The Options Are On The Table...And Elvis Has Left the Building
Firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal is "on the table" for an angry President Barack Obama on Wednesday. The White House tersely refused to endorse keeping McChrystal on as commander of troops in Afghanistan at its daily breifing, warning only that the administration will have more to say after Obama and McChrystal meet on Wednesday.
"Suffice it to say, our combatant commander does not usually participate in these meetings from Washington," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at his daily press briefing.
Gibbs coldly told reporters that McChrystal would have Obama's "undivided attention" on Wednesday.
"I would say all options are on the table," Gibbs said as to whether McChrystal could be fired. "The president will speak with Gen. McChrystal about his comments, and we'll have more to say after that meeting," Gibbs explained.
When Gibbsy says the options are on the table, you know there's some serious mojo working.
Spot On on Obama, McChrystal
Though I'm shocked at the source:
A scathing memo by Eikenberry describing Karzai as an unreliable partner was leaked to the press last fall. At a White House press briefing during Karzai’s visit to Washington last month, the ambassador pointedly refused to endorse the Afghan leader he must work with.
Biden, for his part, gave an interview to Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter in which he said that in July of next year “you are going to see a whole lot of [U.S. troops] moving out.” Yet as Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates tartly pointed out over the weekend, “that absolutely has not been decided.” Instead, Biden was pushing his personal version of the strategy Obama approved, which calls for the beginning of withdrawals next year, with the size and pace to be determined by conditions at that time.
Of course all of this was hunky dory when Biden and Eikenberry did it. I don't recall anyone screaming for them to be fired for insubordination. This, on the other hand, is devastating:
McChrystal may be at fault for expressing his frustrations to Rolling Stone. He is not at fault for the lack of coherence in the Afghan campaign or the continued feuding over strategy. That is Obama’s responsibility.
Like I keep saying, you can't lead from behind.
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss
Well folks, the Rolling Stone article is out and it makes one thing brutally, inescapably clear. The fact that we're fighting an unwinnable war with an unworkable strategy is the fault of one man and one man alone:
Despite conducting two "comprehensive strategy reviews" in a single year, the
Commander in Chief of our armed forces President of the United States was never actually in charge of the war effort. Obama had absolutely nothing to do with either of the strategies he took credit for announced over the last 15 months. Clearly our President was lied to by the military.
The disembed from McChrytal's top staff (meaning from McChrystal himself) is a very bad sign. Sends chills that McChrystal himself thinks we are losing the war. McChrystal has a history of covering up. This causes concern that McChrystal might be misleading SecDef and President. Are they getting the facts?
I cannot imagine a more conclusive demonstration of Yon's prescient prescience than today's news. Thanks to Yon, we now know that a General who was known for his frankness and repeatedly got into trouble for leaking information the White House wanted kept under wraps was in actuality a secretive control freak determined to suppress the truth at all costs. The Rolling Stone article proves that, doesn't it?
Sure it does. Just remember where you heard it first.
Since the RS article now appears to have been pulled from the Politico website [It's up at Rolling Stone] Here's an abbreviated version of the comments I was working on before the article briefly made its appearance. The whole story is bizarre beyond belief. I read the entire RS article before it was pulled. Not closely enough to produce an in depth analysis, but closely enough to take away the following points:
1. The war is unwinnable no matter who is put in charge of it (final paragraph).
2. McChrystal is something of a jerk.
3. The President, despite having promised to send 40,000 troops to Afghanistan during the campaign, was duped.
4. The military has been running everything in Afghanistan. The State Dept. is underfunded and peripheral to the war effort.
What struck me most was that the author went out of his way to portray the President as a helpless victim of forces beyond his control. If the RS got it wrong then it would seem Obama has some responsibility (no matter how minor RS would like us to think it is) for the current state of affairs.
If RS got it right then I have a problem with this because the President is damned well supposed to be in control. That's his job.
Like pretty much everyone else I can't imagine what McChrystal was thinking when he let this reporter within a mile of himself or his staff. This is hardly the act of a secretive commander who distrusts the press. It's worth noting that the vast majority of incendiary quotes being repeated were attributed to anonymous military aides/staffers and not to McChrystal himself. During the Bush years I often wondered people take anonymous quotes seriously, so it's hardly surprising that I regard the liberal use of such quotes in this article with the same suspicion.
On the other hand, the remarks that were directly attributed to McChrystal are disturbing and inappropriate on their face. It's not that I haven't said many of the same things myself. But then I don't work for Barack Obama. Normally I would say that if the article accurately represented McChrystal's statements, he should be fired.
Unfortunately I'm not sure that's the best outcome. Getting up to speed in an unbelievably complex command environment would be incredibly difficult at the best of times. This is most definitely not the best of times. All in all, this is one of those situations that could all to easily devolve into a partisan blamefest.
Or all parties involved could brush it off and do what is best for the military and the nation. One thing is for certain: I haven't seen that kind of determined attempt to torpedo the war effort since the Bush years. That doesn't bode well for the administration but it may well provide the political cover they need to extricate themselves from a war they never committed to winning. How conveeeeeeeeeeenient.
Chuck thinks McChrystal did it on purpose:
However, General McChrystal chose to present himself and his staff to the writer from Rolling Stone. I doubt he did this without forethought. I believe that he knew exactly what he was doing, and rather than retire and then join the ranks of other rock-throwing has-beens, he chose to make a bold statement, one which would get a lot more press coming from the current commander in Afghanistan. He would illustrate the issues with the chain of command in a manner that would end badly for him, but would get the maximum amount of coverage possible.
That would certainly explain the Politico's report that McChrystal was allowed to review the article before it appeared and declined to challenge it.
Greyhawk has a different take:
To the political left General McChrystal is a pariah, a guy who usurps the authority of the president; to the right he's a pariah, a guy who does the president's bidding in Afghanistan. The truth doesn't much matter at this point - in the end (and we seem to be moving ever closer to the end) the anti-war right and the anti-war left combined are an irresistible force, whether either side acknowledges the other as fellow travelers is immaterial to the outcome they'll inevitably achieve.
That's pretty much my take. Everyone is looking for a reason to leave, the administration has provided zero leadership and zero reason for the public to support the war effort and the resulting vacuum is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
The disturbing thing is that according to Obama, this was the Good War. You know, the one that mattered.
The question is: does Afghanistan still matter to this President? Don't expect the answers from Rolling Stone. I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to that question.
June 20, 2010
Happy Fathers Day
... to all the Dads out there. I don't have time to write today, so I thought I'd resurrect one of my favorite posts, written three years ago for Father's Day.
It's still early morning. The woods are quiet and my daughter in law hasn't woken up yet so I have the house all to myself. I slip silently down the stairs to the basement to let Sausage out of his house. He explodes from the door as though giant springs were attached to his butt and thunders up the stairs and down the hall to my office, ears flying madly, sounding like a herd of buffalo.
I am never sure how one tiny miniature dachshund can make so much noise. Does he have lead in his paws?
He is eleven years old. This makes him 77 in dog years - the same age as my Dad. I wonder if my father gets out of bed the same way every morning? Dear God, I hope not.
I open the kitchen door and struggle to contain his brown wriggling body while I attach his line so he can take care of the urgent business of elimination and regulating squirrels and passersby who are insufficiently impressed by his ferocity. He is the first male dog we have ever had and let me tell you, they are different.
With a husband, two sons, and a male dog, I have been under siege in my own house for decades. But I accept my fate with equanimity. You see, I have always loved men, ever since I was a little girl:
Speaking of Cassandra, she really does like guys. Responsible guys, mind you.
You can blame that on my father. In my eyes, my Dad was everything a man should be. A dashing Navy man, he stood six foot four with curly black hair, and brown eyes a girl could lose her soul in. He loved to do man things like camping and fishing and building things and messing with power tools and carburetors. Because of him, I knew what a butterfly valve was in junior high, and what to do if one got stuck and how to do a perfect figure 8 paddle manouever in a canoe, and I could beat anyone in my 6th grade class, including the boys, in the flexed arm hang. Of course that was before the testosterone kicked in but it compensated somewhat for the teasing about having to wear a bra so early to hide my budding breasts, which unfortunately failed to live up to their early promise and mushroom into Pamela Andersonesque monuments to our national motto, "More is more".
Dad used to take me to the hardware store - it was one of my favorite places in the universe. I could wander around Hechinger's for hours just looking at hinges and lumber and wondering what various oddly shaped metal doohickies in the plumbing section were for. Because of him, I wasn't afraid to try and fix things myself, years later when my husband was deployed and everything I owned seemed to break at once. It didn't always work, but then it didn't always work for my male neighbors either, I soon found out.
The thing was to try, and not to get too discouraged.
Somewhere in the bunch of slides my Mom has in her house, there is one of my Dad lying on the floor watching TV. And sitting on his chest is a chubby eighteen month old baby girl with curly blonde hair and brown eyes like dinner plates. His eyes. That's me, his firstborn. My Dad was pleased as punch to have a daughter. He was my biggest fan. When I was about 14 or 15 I used to argue with him so much he had one of those office signs made up and posted it over my door. It had my full name, and underneath the words "Attorney at Law". I think I disappointed him very much when I decided to leave college. He had high hopes for me but even though I didn't finish school or get a law degree, he never gave up on me. He accepted my stubbornness, even if he didn't like it.
And it was because of my Dad that the first time I talked to a young man who lived two doors down from me in Navy housing I realized he was something special, someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and on the day my Father gave my hand to his in marriage, a lifelong journey of discovery continued seamlessly. For to me the most wonderful thing about marriage has been the opportunity to walk side by side, neither expecting we could change the other but quietly posing a challenge to become more than we were alone. The chance to gaze into the utterly foreign landscape of the male mind has been endlessly fascinating to me, if at times mind boggling and confusicating: a breathtaking thrill ride I still can't believe I've been allowed to take for free. I can't imagine why anyone would want to change men when they are so completely, infuriatingly delightful the way they are.
Fausta, who has a great interview with the author, pointed me a few days ago to this great essay in the Wall Street Journal. In it, Tony Woodlief (also a blogger) echoes thoughts I've had often, oddly enough, as a mother of two sons and as a wife to a strong willed Marine:
The trick is not to squash the essence of boys, but to channel their natural wildness into manliness. And this is what keeps me awake at night, because it's going to take a miracle for someone like me, who grew up without meaningful male influence, who would be an embarrassment to Teddy Roosevelt, to raise three men. Along with learning what makes a good father, I face an added dilemma: How do I raise my sons to be better than their father?
What I'm discovering is that as I try to guide these ornery, wild-hearted little boys toward manhood, they are helping me become a better man, too. I love my sons without measure, and I want them to have the father I did not. As I stumble and sometimes fail, as I feign an interest in camping and construction and bugs, I become something better than I was.
Men are, for me, the undiscovered country. For all my life I have thoroughly enjoyed loving them, talking with them, being friends with them, arguing with them, just being confused by them.
But I don't really want to change them, even when I don't understand them and even when, sometimes, I am confronted with things in their nature that, as a woman, terrify and sadden me. For me, everything I don't understand and sometimes fear is bound up in what I most admire and have learned from over the course of my life. To change a thing is to destroy it, and when you love something with your whole heart how can one even entertain such a path? I did, however, love this, from Woodlief:
I can't shake the sense that boys are supposed to become manly. Rather than neutering their aggression, confidence and desire for danger, we should channel these instincts into honor, gentlemanliness and courage. Instead of inculcating timidity in our sons, it seems wiser to train them to face down bullies, which by necessity means teaching them how to throw a good uppercut. In his book "Manliness," Harvey Mansfield writes that a person manifesting this quality "not only knows what justice requires, but he acts on his knowledge, making and executing the decision that the rest of us trembled even to define." You can't build a civilization and defend it against barbarians, fascists and playground bullies, in other words, with a nation of Phil Donahues.
Maybe the problem isn't that boys are aggressive, but that we've neglected their moral education. As Teddy Roosevelt wrote to one of his sons: "I would rather have a boy of mine stand high in his studies than high in athletics, but I would a great deal rather have him show true manliness of character than show either intellectual or physical prowess." Manliness, then, is not the ability to survive in the wilderness, or wield a rifle. But having such skills increases the odds that one's manly actions--which Roosevelt and others believed flow from a moral quality--will be successful.
The good father, then, needs to nurture his son's moral and spiritual core, and equip him with the skills he'll need to act on the moral impulse that we call courage. A real man, in other words, is someone who doesn't run from an Osama bin Laden. But he may also need the ability to hit a target from three miles out with a .50 caliber M88 if he wants to finish the job.
Yes, yes, and yes. This is what I tried so hard to accomplish with my small sons, now grown - not to crush their maleness but to add to it a strong moral fiber that would allow them to channel that uniquely masculine force properly.
I also, though I keep reading that men hate to talk, tried to teach them to talk to women, to be friends with the other half of humanity. Not to be women, but to be comfortable with women.
This is why we marry, why we refer to our spouses as our better halves. There is something that happens to us when we find the right person. We are exposed to another way of thinking, of seeing the universe, and if we open ourselves to it, we do become better people.
More than ourselves. I think, whether we are male or female, each of us has much to learn from the other half of the human race and on this day we salute fathers, who give us life and teach us to face it squarely, with our heads held high and a can-do spirit.
It is a good lesson.
Thanks, Dads, for everything you do.
June 19, 2010
Sorry guys. Madly busy.
But this is a good read. And good for a smile in this cynical world.
June 18, 2010
Oh Yeah... It's the Weekend
The Editorial Staff is reliably informed that he is performing the Calypso.
Correcting the Record: MUST READ
Anyone can get a story wrong. Online writers link to each other all the time. There's an element of trust there - trust that we're all committed to being as accurate as possible.
Still, mistakes happen. The question is, what do you do when you find out you published something that wasn't true?
For her the experience was a first. For me, it was just the (then) latest example of someone turning to me with behind-the-scenes trouble with Mike Yon.
It wouldn't be the last.
Postscript: The Daily Mail version of the story, and the version posted by Mike Yon at Big Journalism (long after he had acknowledged its inaccuracies and pledged to correct it on his own site), remain uncorrected to this day.
The thing is, if we don't correct our own mistakes the whole thing kind of falls apart, doesn't it?
It's something to think about.
Whew! That's a Relief!
Turns out our star crossed lovers were married, after all.
Trust the media to get it wrong every time.
Friday Time Waster
Objectify your favorite Congresscritter.
Even more fun, though it does seem like shooting fish in a barrel.
Eugene Robinson: Karzai Doesn't Realize He's "U.S. puppet"
It's so entertaining, watching Obama's die hard supporters search for a drop of sense in the vast sea of doublespeak that is his foreign policy:
In his Capitol Hill testimony this week, Gen. David Petraeus -- the godfather of Obama's 30,000-troop Afghanistan surge -- sought mightily to carve out some wiggle room. "We have to be very careful with timelines," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. The July 2011 deadline for beginning a troop withdrawal depends on the assumption that "conditions" are favorable, Petraeus said.
But wait a minute. Another way to describe a withdrawal deadline that is based not on the calendar but on an amorphous and elusive set of "conditions" would be to call it an open-ended commitment. This is precisely what Obama said he was not giving to Afghanistan's corrupt, feckless and increasingly unreliable government.
Who is Robinson arguing with here? Petraeus? Or the man who gives Petraeus his marching orders?
Any changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, when security responsibility starts to transfer to the Afghans in July 2011, will be considered in light of the situation on the ground at that time, President Barack Obama said today in Oslo, Norway.
..."The pace at which that takes place, the slope of a drawdown, how it occurs tactically, those are all going to be conditions-based," the president said.
Having sternly chastised Obama's senior commander for dutifully defending his boss's stated policy before a justifiably skeptical Congress, Mr. Robinson now chides the President of Afghanistan for not knowing his place. You know how "those people" can be. So uppity:
Karzai, who seems not to have gotten the memo on how a U.S. puppet should behave, alternates between grudging cooperation and petulant defiance.
But the piece de resistance is yet to come:
It's not that Afghanistan is some sort of hopeless case. It's just that thinking that a U.S.-led experiment in nation-building -- and that's what we're attempting, even if we call it counterinsurgency -- can impose a whole new organizational template on the place in a year or two, or even 10, is pure fantasy.
So the President's plan is "fantasy"? It's funny - when he was on the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly told us that Afghanistan was the real war - the one we couldn't afford to lose. He promised to send 40,000 more troops and get the job done right.
Which Obama are we to believe, Mr. Robinson? I'm not even sure you know.
A Tax, By Any Other Name....
...is still a tax:
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...your critics say it is a tax increase.
OBAMA: My critics say everything is a tax increase. My critics say that I'm taking over every sector of the economy. You know that. Look, we can have a legitimate debate about whether or not we're going to have an individual mandate or not, but...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you reject that it's a tax increase?
OBAMA: I absolutely reject that notion.
At the time Obama made that statement, the Senate Finance Committee had just released its own health care bill, which clearly referred to the mandate penalty as an "excise tax." But in later versions, the word "tax" was stripped, because it had become too much of a political liability for Democrats. The final version that Obama signed did not describe the mandate as a tax, and used the Commerce Clause -- not federal taxing power -- as the Constitutional justification for the mandate.
So, does this mean "those pesky critics" were right again? That's getting to be something of a recurring theme for this administration.
June 17, 2010
The Transitive Property of Internet Idiocy
If A links to B,
and B says C,
then A has said C:
Debbie didn't accuse Fred Thompson or Mark Levin of supporting Hezbollah. She pointed out that they hired a Hezbollah sympathizer for a temporary political gain. You keep attacking Debbie - meanwhile Hezbollah and the Islamos keep making inroads into our institutions. Get your prioriies straight.
Explains a lot, doesn't it?
In Afghanistan, Impatience Breeds Confusion and Chaos
More than 170 media representatives are expected to be embedded with military units in southern Afghanistan this summer, a statistic that is at best a mixed blessing for public understanding of the war. At a time when coverage of world events is being eviscerated by the economics of the news business, any commitments made to report from farther afield than the oil-slicked Gulf Coast are heartening. Ultimately, though, the bulk of reporting from Kandahar Province this summer will be done by war tourists pursuing what the trade calls bang-bang.
Media's relentless march (or digital-age sprint) toward the sound of guns is nothing new, as seen in Punch's take on W.H. Russell (right), who made his name covering the Crimean War in the 1850's. The long tradition of chronicling men's courage, compassion, cruelty or cowardice under fire serves many purposes. It can rally us to support the troops or cause us to regret the loss of their bodies and souls. What traditional war reporting too often fails to do, though, is explain what purpose is served by this violence.
In February of this year, the public relations machine that is the United States Marine Corps descended on Marjah with a massive helicopter assault followed by 60 days of hard fighting against insurgents who had dominated the area for years. Then the cameras went away, because the work yet to be done -- replacing the Taliban's rough justice and taxation with more humane, more inclusive and less corrupt governance, able to deliver the basic services that the local community had long been denied -- was like watching paint dry. The lack of immediate results proved an infuriating tedium for reporters, who grew surly in their predictions of failure despite slow progress in Marjah and greater progress across larger swaths of the Central Helmand River Valley. If not for the killings carried out by insurgents -- now significantly on the margins of life in Marjah, trying to get back in -- there would have been no good copy.
It's hard to know what to think about Afghanistan.
For years as we tried one thing after another in Iraq, I remained confident that so long as we persevered there was a good chance we would eventually succeed. Not in establishing an enlightened, post industrial democracy for Iraq, because that was never the goal. But in creating a better outcome - both for the Iraqis and for America - than either could have hoped for under Saddam Hussein. With all the uncertainty and peril surrounding Iraq's future, I believe we have done that.
I continue to believe that unless we throw everything we have gained to the four winds, Iraq will have been worth the terrible price we've paid in blood and treasure. The Middle East is hardly fertile ground for democratic governance, but people must believe a thing is possible before they're likely to let go of what they have and risk their lives to obtain it. When even centuries old democracies struggle with the responsible exercise of freedom, is it so surprising that Iraq is suffering more than a few growing pains?
That said, there is an important difference between the conditions that led to success in Iraq and those under which we now operate in Afghanistan. Though Congress continually threatened to pull the plug in Iraq, we had a President who resisted time lines and arbitrary withdrawal dates; who was unwavering in his firm commitment to staying the course even if that meant spending the last penny of political capital in his rapidly shrinking wallet.
I cannot honestly say that of our current leadership:
Choices are stark: Stick to the timetable and drawdown, or stick it out until the job is done. And so far, he has signaled intent to do both.
...When Obama announced his timetable last year, he tried to send a complex message, with different parts aimed at different audiences. To the U.S. military, the message was: Here are the troops you requested, but you can't have them forever and don't come back and ask for more. To American voters, including unhappy antiwar liberals, the message was: We're committed to begin a withdrawal next year. To Karzai, the message was: Here's a chance for you to succeed; seize it.
But Karzai, already distrustful of the Americans, appears to have focused on the wrong part of the message: the withdrawal of U.S. troops beginning in July 2011. Administration officials insist that the troop drawdown will be gradual, and will come only as the newly trained Afghan army takes over the war. But Karzai isn't the only Afghan who suspects that Americans are looking for an excuse to leave.
...even before July 2011 arrives, Obama faces a stark choice. He can insist on his timetable and its promise of a drawdown — but that will further reduce McChrystal's chances of success and increase the probability of eventual defeat. Or he can adjust his message and tell both Karzai and the American people that he intends to stick it out until the job is done — even if that means slowing the withdrawal. So far, he's sent both messages, and that has only sown confusion.
I'm not so sure Karzai has "focused on the wrong message" at all. If anything, he seems to understand the message all too well.
Whatever his deficiencies, Hamid Karzai is being asked to gamble everything on the support of an American president who won't commit to winning this war. In Iraq, success eluded us until we stopped shilly-shallying and went all in. It was our commitment that finally convinced the Iraqis to wager their lives against a free, if imperfect, Iraq.
Compared to the constant rain of negativity about our chances of success in Iraq, recent reportage on Afghanistan has been almost impossibly positive by comparison. Media voices who blamed the lack of popular support for the GWOT upon George Bush's supposed failure to sufficiently "sell" us on that fight have been strangely silent when faced with a Commander in Chief whose efforts in that regard have been perfunctory (where they can be discerned at all).
We are approaching a critical, if self-imposed, juncture in this forever war.
John Foregainst Kerry became famous for asking, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" It is not clear to this Marine wife that our current leadership is committed to winning this fight. And if our commitment is not clear to me, how can it be clear to our allies and enemies?
We are asking a great many people - American, coalition, Afghani - to wager everything they have on the premise that we can prevail in Afghanistan while publicly hedging our own bets. That is not a strategy for success.
On the other hand, it certainly sends a message.
Obama: Where Rhetoric Meets Reality
Brutal, but funny in a sad sort of way:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Respect My Authoritah|
I could sit back and watch people like Jon Stewart all day. They still don't get it.
The recurring theme of Obama's campaign was, "With the right person in charge, even complex problems have easy and cost free solutions."
The recurring theme of Obama's presidency is, "No matter who's in charge, there are no easy or cost free solutions."
June 16, 2010
Mommy! I'm Scared of Debbie Schlussel!
This is a cease and desist letter and a demand for retraction of false, defamatory statements on your blog. You have 2 hours from the time this e-mail is sent to remove the false information you knowingly printed, or I and my lawyers will not only pursue this, but we will contact your host and demand not only that the page in question be removed, but also that your site be removed for violating your host's terms of service, which undoubtedly forbid the publishing of false, defamatory information.
In your lie-filled piece of trash defending your anti-Semitic friend Emily Zanotti and displaying that your obsession with me mirrors hers, you wrote:
So, after talking about it, Jaz gave Debbie Schlussel the boot, he offered me her weekly slot on his radio show, and the rest is history.
In fact, I never gave Jaz any "ultimatum," and I was never given "the boot" by Jaz or anyone else. I quit on the spot on his show, when I was scheduled to go on. And Jaz begged me to come back. All of this took place in writing, and I have all of the e-mails from him to me and his inquiring listeners proving this in writing. I demand a retraction of this lie, and per defamation laws, a retraction must be printed in a prominent place on your site, including at the top of the entry in a correction note. (You should also note that Jaz McKay also said--in writing--in an e-mail that you said Emily Zanotti is "crazy" and "a bitch." I may publish that, since you've taken to lying.)
As you know, your anti-Semitic lunatic stalker friend, Ms. Zanotti linked to Muslim Holocaust-denying death, rape, and torture threats on my life in the part where she said that the person sending me death threats was "making very valid points." If you think that is humorous or funny, then clearly you are the anti-Semite and nutcase you claim you are not. You must also include a link to that piece, or that is more defamation, and we will pursue this if you do not and do not make a correction, stating so. Here is the link:
Again, you have two hours to do so. Time is of the essence, and we WILL pursue this.
The web may give you the freedom to say what every you want. But it does not give you the freedom to print false, defamatory information without consequences. I promise you this will not go away.
Please notify me that you have complied with the demands herein.
cc: Michael Schwartz, Attorney at Law
Who knew that calling someone a lunatic stalker, Jew-hating anti-Semite nutcase was neither defamatory nor libelous? When I think of all the fun I could have been having for the past 6 years, I could just weep.
You Big Brutes!
Sooooooo... does my long standing predilection for brown eyed men mean I want to be dominated?
There's something in the faces of brown-eyed white men that makes them come off as more dominant than their blue-eyed peers, a new study suggests. And it isn't their eye color.
Czech researchers asked a group of 62 people to look at photos of 80 faces – 40 men and 40 women – and rate them for dominance. Then the investigators Photoshopped the faces so the brown eyes were replaced with blue ones and vice versa. A separate group of participants rated the altered images for dominance.
The results were the same in both cases: Faces of brown-eyed men were rated more dominant than those of blue-eyed men, even when their eyes weren't brown.
The effect, which didn't hold for female faces, may have something to do with the shape of brown-eyed men's faces, said study researcher Karel Kleisner of Charles University in Prague. On average, brown-eyed men had broader chins and mouths, larger noses, more closely spaced eyes and larger eyebrows than blue-eyed men.
More mysterious is why eye color would be so closely associated with facial type, the researchers say.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Standing Up to Blog Rage
John Hawkins takes it on:
Earlier, I referenced a complaint Emily Zanotti filed with the Michigan Bar in an attempt to try to get Schlussel to stop cyber stalking/harassing her. In that complaint, Emily referenced a number of blogs where Debbie showed up and made comments about her. It wasn't like those people were filing complaints themselves or even testifying on Emily's behalf. Most of them didn't even know they were being referenced beforehand. It was just Emily posting examples of what Schlussel was doing for the Michigan Bar.
Well, Debbie apparently saw them as just more enemies who were against her because she actually started harassing those people, too. She said nasty things about some of them on her web page. She attacked some of them, rather randomly, on Twitter. In at least two cases I know of, she contacted where they work in an effort to make trouble for them. To this day, it's still going on.
That brings us to yesterday, when Schlussel bizarrely accused Mark Levin (and Fred Thompson) of supporting Hezbollah....
Full marks to John for standing up to Ms. Schlussel. Not sure how many of you remember, but this isn't the first time she's threatened legal action against a blogger.
Recently, Attila had similar problems with some other blogospheric blowhard.
In opinion writing, disagreements are inevitable. Most bloggers expect this and handle them with grace and aplomb. A few, for some reason, go off the deep end and resort to threats, insults and intimidation.
I've never understood what they think they're accomplishing (other than making fools of themselves)? The world would be a boring place if most of us didn't feel passionately about at least one topic or if we blandly agreed with each other like sheep all of the time.
The Internet is no place for the insecure or thin skinned.
We Will Fight Them on the Beaches!!!
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What struck me tonight, Diane, is you know those Oval Office addresses are often used when the nation is at war and tonight the President used martial language. He talked about a “siege,” the “assault on our shores” and his “battle plan” to fix it. And he said we have to “rally together.”
And I think what the White House was reaching for tonight is the feel of Franklin Roosevelt during World War II and those fireside chats and the President even said that during World War II they said we couldn't build enough planes and tanks, but we did. We can beat this as well.
DIANE SAWYER: “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
A two front war sends this guy running to his thesaurus in search of ways to avoid saying "war" or "victory", but wave an oiled pelican in his general direction and suddenly he's Winston Churchill?
What does he think our guys are doing over there?
Naughty She Devils!
Beware the mysteries of the Orient. Money quote:
"She called my name and seduced me, so I had sex with her"
Science casts doubt on the conventional wisdom:
Reporting in the current issue of the journal Animal Behaviour, Dr. Fischer and her co-workers describe how male Barbary macaques use infants as “costly social tools” for the express purpose of bonding with other males and strengthening their social clout. Want to befriend the local potentate? Bring a baby. Need to reinforce an existing male-male alliance, or repair a frayed one? Don’t forget the baby.
It doesn’t matter if the infant is yours or not. Just so long as it has the downy black fur and wrinkly pinkish face that adult male macaques find impossible to resist. “They will hold up the infant like a holy thing, nuzzling it, chattering their teeth,” Dr. Fischer said. “It can be a bit bewildering to see.”
Just in time for Father’s Day come this and other recent studies that reveal surprising, off-road or vaguely unsettling cases of Males Behaving Dadly — attending to the young with an avidity and particularity long thought to be the province of the mother.
...In 90 percent of mammalian species, promiscuity is common and paternity uncertain; females gestate the young internally and then provision them with breast milk, and males rarely have any evolutionary incentive to play Ward Cleaver. Yet in that remaining 10 percent, the daddy decile, we find most of the world’s primates.
Imagine that. More grist for the mill:
While adoption is often the center of controversy, it turns out that sperm donation raises a host of different but equally complex—and sometimes troubling—issues. Two-thirds of adult donor offspring agree with the statement "My sperm donor is half of who I am." Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related. About two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins.
Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.
As a group, the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families. (And our study found that the adoptees on average are struggling more than those raised by their biological parents.) The donor offspring are more likely than the adopted to have struggled with addiction and delinquency and, similar to the adopted, a significant number have confronted depression or other mental illness. Nearly half of donor offspring, and more than half of adoptees, agree, "It is better to adopt than to use donated sperm or eggs to have a child."
Why We Don't Hear Nearly So Much About Polls These Days
Louisianans believe that President George W. Bush did a better job handling the crisis in the state than President Obama, 50 to 35. But most Louisianans think the oil spill is far more critical than Hurricane Katrina. Louisianans overwhelmingly believe that the effects of the oil spill will be far more harmful to Louisiana in the long term than Hurricane Katrina, 76 to 17%.
This crisis has been called Barack Obama's Katrina, but so far the residents of Louisiana give his leadership a failing grade. It has also been called Obama's 9/11. But after 9/11 George Bush not only secured a unanimous U.N. resolution but cobbled together a coalition of nations to address the threat of Islamic terrorism. He got them to pitch in and work together.
Meanwhile, Obama - the guy who continually hyped his ability to bring people together - can't even begin to touch the Bush diplomatic record:
Although the Bush administration was criticized for its alleged lack of respect for international law, it had a particularly good record on seeking and obtaining treaty approvals. It secured Senate advice and consent for 163 treaties from 2001 to 2009. These included 20 treaties during the administration's first two years and a record 90 treaties during its last two years -- more treaties approved by the Senate than during any single previous Congress in U.S. history.
Treaties approved by the Senate during the Bush years included more than a hundred bilateral agreements on such diverse subjects as the protection of polar bears in the Arctic and the return of stolen automobiles from Honduras. There were more than two dozen multilateral conventions on human rights, environmental and marine protection, arms control, nuclear proliferation, cybercrime and sports anti-doping rules. And senior Bush officials testified in favor of treaties restricting the involvement of children in armed conflicts, protecting the ozone layer and creating a marine preserve in the Caribbean.
Faced with the worst ecological disaster in modern history, Obama's response was to look around for asses to kick. But it's hard to kick someone's ass unless you happen to be standing behind them at the time.
It's hard to lead anyone from behind. The place for a leader is out in front.
Sadly, that's a lesson our President has yet to learn.
June 14, 2010
Quote of the Day
What we have here are members of two very different self-selected tribes, which we might call (a)the tribe of the challengers, as its members believe that people grow by facing difficult situations–including situations in which success is not guaranteed, and (b)the tribe of the brittle, as members of this tribe tend to implicitly or explicitly believe that people are so fragile that they must be protected from setbacks that might threaten their self-esteem. And, thinking about this story, it struck me that membership in these tribes very much cuts across the usual demographic categories of race, ethnicity, income, and sex. (Although the writer says “the two teams fell out along socioeconomic lines,” I think the dominant factor here is occupation rather than income. And although he refers to “an effort to feminize young boys,” there are plenty of women whose membership is in the tribe of the challenger.)
What seems clear to me is that in any form of competition between societies–economic, military, even artistic–a society in which the tribe of the brittle plays a leading role will always lose out, in the end, to a society in which the tribe of the challengers drives the overall spirit of the society.
In his post, David has neatly summarized my concerns with the current "males are helpless victims" meme so popular on conservative sites these days.
Are there laws and aspects of American life that are unfair to boys and men? Certainly there are. I've never sought to deny this (and in fact I've highlighted several instances where I do think the status quo ought to be changed). Lots of things are unfair to girls/women too. For instance, women can't serve in the combat arms (though these days we're reliably informed that military service is a civil right). Once we accept this the operative question becomes, "So what do we do about it?"
Do we want a mandated government solution? To create a new protected class? Do we want to perpetuate the culture of victimization, which assigns moral brownie points not on the merits of a dispute, but to whomever is perceived to have the least power/wealth/social status (i.e., the underdog)? Isn't that exactly the "logic" that has been used successfully against boys and men?
What's the best way to help someone in an unfair situation? With gobs of sympathy or by urging him to fight back/try harder? A lot of sites seem to be urging men to give up, take their balls and go home, withdraw.
And I think that's the wrong answer.
Michael Yon: The Decider
Back in 2006 I criticized NY Times editor Bill Keller for using suspected lawbreaking and his distrust of George Bush to justify his own deliberate law breaking.
In that post I tried to point out the problems with Keller's argument. First of all, justifying your own wrongdoing by saying, "But he did it first!" is a non-starter. Two wrongs do not make a right. But more importantly, Keller tried to justify leaking sensitive information on the grounds of exigency. Mere suspicion of wrongdoing justified the illegal disclosure of sensitive national security information. Never mind that the law provides a legal mechanism for handling such allegations. That didn't matter.
Keller's entire argument amounted to, "It's OK for me to break the law because I don't trust the Bush administration and I think they might be breaking the law.". What a great argument! Keller didn't need to actually prove wrongdoing before breaking the law himself. All he had to do was throw out an unsupported accusation. The real beauty of Keller's reasoning is that if you apply it across the board, any citizen who distrusts legitimately elected officials of wrongdoing is entirely justified in breaking the law himself.
What could possibly go wrong?
Let's see if we can follow Keller's reasoning. It's dangerous to allow elected officials who receive daily national security briefings to decide which information is too sensitive to be released to the general public (and by extension, to our enemies). That's far too much power to place in the hands of one man. But it is not dangerous at all to allow unelected newspaper editors with no access to national security briefings to decide which information should be kept from the general public (and by extension, from our enemies) because their motives are pure and we can trust their judgment!
Keller could easily have raised his concerns with the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. He could have made it clear, either explicitly or as an implied threat, that he would go public unless they took prompt action. But he didn't even try that, did he? Instead, he released sensitive information that - once publicized - could never be taken back. His justification for doing so essentially boils down to "the end justifies the means". Or more simply, "Though I have no legitimate authority and less information than the President, you'll just have to trust that I know what I'm doing."
During the Bush years journalists repeatedly mocked "The Decider". According to them, though the Constitution deliberately vests supreme executive authority in the hands of one person, it is dangerous to allow the President to exercise that authority.
There are legitimate grounds upon which the extent and validity of unitary executive authority can be challenged, and such debates are both healthy and desirable in a free society. What escaped me at the time (and eludes me to this day) is under what rational or coherent theory an unelected newspaper editor challenges the authority of the elected head of the executive branch while exercising the same ostensibly dangerous authority himself? If it's dangerous for an elected and well informed public official to exercise certain powers, it's even more dangerous for unelected and poorly informed citizens to exercise them. Which may be why we have laws that specifically prohibit ordinary citizens from doing that sort of thing.
It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I am something of a hardliner on OPSEC. My reasons for this stance are twofold:
1. Though an individual disclosure may not - in and of itself - compromise the security of operations or military personnel, using the Internet it is easier than it has ever been before for our enemies to gather and connect isolated bits of intel. Since none of us can possibly know what information is already out there (let alone how it may be combined with our own disclosures) WE CANNOT ADEQUATELY JUDGE WHAT INFORMATION IS HARMFUL TO THE TROOPS OR THE MISSION.
2. Since none of us receives daily briefings on the troops and all aspects of their missions, WE CANNOT ADEQUATELY JUDGE WHAT INFORMATION MIGHT COMPROMISE THEIR MISSION.
This is hardly brain surgery. Every day I see uninformed commenters opining about what does or does not constitute an OPSEC violation. Here's a clue for you: YOU DON'T KNOW. And if you do not - and cannot - know what might endanger the mission or our troops, doesn't it make sense to err on the side of caution?
For reasons I will never understand, Michael Yon has once again taken it upon himself to publish sensitive information about the security of an American base in Afghanistan on Facebook, of all places. I am not going to excerpt his post here because I'm still hoping he'll come to his senses and take it down. But it includes extremely specific information about security measures and response times. Like Bill Keller, Michael Yon would have you believe that - although he is NOT privy to daily briefings on the installation, our overall war strategy, or the individual mission of this command, he and he alone is qualified to decide what violates OPSEC.
Like Bill Keller, Yon would have you believe that although he's not even in Afghanistan, he is better qualified to "protect" our troops than ISAF or the local commander. And in fact, since Yon continually tells us that the command is incompetent and untrustworthy, the situation demands that he violate OPSEC. And so it is somehow OK for him to publish unverified emails from a "soldier" who knows he is violating OPSEC. This is the kind of source Yon finds credible and trustworthy - a soldier who knows he's revealing information he's not supposed to reveal. He admits this (not that anyone needed him to say it - it's an obvious violation) openly:
"Well Michael I know we probably messed with the bee's nest ... and crossed the line on OPSEC but guess what. Great news this FOB its running like a real one now security improved 100% since you published the issue..
But as with Bill Keller, for Yon the end always justifies the means. Rules are for peons. Never mind the obvious observation that neither Yon nor this "soldier" has enough information to know whether the benefits of disclosure outweigh the risk or not. Never mind that there was a less risky and less damaging means of accomplishing his stated goal. In this case, we are told, "Yon got results". This isn't the first time Yon has arbitrarily decided that the rules don't apply to him. FOUO documents are not classified, but they are specifically named under existing OPSEC guidelines:
(FOUO) [is] the standard marking for all unclassified products that meet one or more of the exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and which if released to the public, could cause harm to Army operations or personnel.
These are guidelines that, as an embed, Yon agreed to honor. Which no doubt explains why he publishes them anyway. Even though he has repeatedly agreed to respect OPSEC and then violated it, we can trust his word.
In the past, I have publicly disagreed with (and even criticized) fellow milbloggers when I thought they were wrong about something. Almost to a man, they have taken such criticisms in stride as part and parcel of the workings of a healthy democracy. Yon, on the other hand, responded to my last two postings with weeks of bizarre rants about "milkookery". This is a variation on what Thomas Sowell calls arguments without arguments. Rather than explain why an argument is wrong, it simply asserts "Don't listen to that milkook - he/she is crazy".
I've chosen to ignore Yon's insults because they are not an argument as to why I'm wrong. Nor does Mr. Yon ever provide any such argument. Instead, he resorts to name calling, unspecific (and unsupported) allegations, and utterly unsubstantiated personal attacks. Of course providing specifics is dangerous because when you do so, the possibility exists that your facts or sources may be challenged. I view this as a net good for anyone who cares about the truth. And that's what we're trying to get to here, isn't it? Blogging shouldn't be a pissing contest where winning is more important than anything else. It's a search for the truth.
Without resorting to name calling or personal attacks, I am saying that it is wrong for Michael Yon to violate OPSEC. It is wrong for him to justify such violations with statements like "I know this violated OPSEC but it was worth it". If he learns of potential vulnerabilities in US or allied installations, there is already a mechanism in place for getting these concerns addressed - he can send them to the command.
Did Mr. Yon do that? Or did he simply publish the information without either verifying it or alerting the command? Let me say this plainly: publishing sensitive information from unverified sources is the wrong answer. A person who claims to be neither a blogger nor a journalist - who refuses to be held to any kind of standard, isn't even in country, and isn't privy to the latest intel - isn't even remotely qualified to make those kinds of decisions.
And responding to legitimate questions about your tactics with name calling isn't much of a defense. In fact, it isn't any defense at all.
Update: Karma is a bitch.
Update II (Jeez, I feel like what's his face over at Salon.com): Chuck Z has a post and a list of other milkooks who posted on the same topic.
June 12, 2010
A space-themed, talking Hallmark graduation card is being pulled from store shelves because of the card’s reference to a black hole.
But members of the Los Angeles NAACP say the message sounds like "black whore" in the card's audio recording. That's how they hear it, and they say it's racist, KABC-TV in Los Angeles reported.
June 11, 2010
Our Ass Kicking Prez, Part Deux
My nine-year-old daughter looked at the front page of the paper, and her eyes grew wide:
The president said “ass”?
She swallowed the A-word, because it is, after all, the A-word. I nodded; he said that. She was silent for a while, digesting the information. Presidents, after all, are part of the great Pantheon of Authority, standing over the school principal, teachers, the pastor, police, and perhaps the mailman. To consider them using bad words reordered everything. Unless …
“He didn’t mean donkey,” she said, this being the only possible explanation. I shook my head. It will now be difficult to tell her not to use that word; it will now be a matter of time before my wife says, “Well, your daughter was sounding presidential today,” and it won’t be a reference to mankind’s universal aspirations.
It just keeps getting better from there.
June 10, 2010
Is the Moon Full Tonight?
Oh well, Babs can always go back to writing novels:
Have you ever wished you could be a United States Senator? Whine and dine in tony Georgetown eateries, filibuster dangerously extremist nominees who, if confirmed, would turn the clock back on 30 years of important civil rights victories for women and minorities? Sponsor bills to abandon our allies in Iraq when the political wind shifts?
Well, most of us will never get that chance, my friends. But we just might get the chance to be world-famous authors like Barbara Boxer, who sounds like she's been spending a tad too much time on Nerve.com.Her skirt was very short, and Josh found himself mesmerized by her perfectly shaped, silken legs with kneecaps that reminded him of golden apples — he couldn't remember having been captivated by knees before — and her lustrous thighs. He tore his eyes away from Bianca's legs with the utmost difficulty
The world has lost a great talent. We mourn.... and yet we feel safer knowing that Babs Boxer yields to no man (no! nor woman either!) in her determination to protect our troops from Gaia-raping corporations and their noxious fossil-fueled effluvia.
You know, I can hardly wait until our health care system is placed firmly in the capable hands of the federal government:
...according to NBC News, which first reported the firings, both Metzler and Higgenbotham had come under heavy fire for keeping records of the hundreds of thousands buried at Arlington National in paper files instead of creating a computer database of gravesites, NBC reported.
Officials told NBC News that over the past couple of years, some of the 300,000 graves at Arlington were improperly marked and in some cases bodies were buried in the wrong graves.
In 2008, a master sergeant was buried on top of a staff sergeant already in the grave, but the error wasn't discovered until the widow of the first service member buried there complained to authorities that someone else's headstone had been placed on her husband's grave.
A handful of cases, about five, have already been identified in which remains were misplaced - a casket found in what was thought to be an empty grave, a burial urn dumped in a landfill, remains moved without the knowledge or permission of the next of kin, among them.
But a review of Arlington's antiquated paper filing system has identified 200 cases in which the paper trail fails to account for the whereabouts of remains. Now the Army will have to inspect each of those grave sites using ground penetrating radar.
Men of VC: You're on the Menu This Week
On the Intertubes, tendentiously announcing "The End Of..." this that or the other thing never seems to get old. The only thing more reliable than Barack Obama blaming Bush for everything is the knowledge that some fool is about to tell us that something is deader than a doornail.... usually right before it rises up and bites him or her in the ass.
A few years ago we were told it was "The End of Liberalism". After the 2008 it was "The End of Conservatism". Brace yourselves - this week it's The End of Men:
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences...
Why does no one ever tell me these things?
I don't know about Ms. Rosin but I kind of like men. I like working with them, and talking to them. And I kind of like sex with men. Therefore I see little use in a future wherein women have "evolved" to the point where we produce offspring in the manner of paramecia. Though certainly some women seem to have the right personality for it.
It's a weak sort of woman who builds herself up by wallowing in the misfortune of others (temporary or otherwise). Ms. Rosin seems to look forward to the day when she can grind men beneath her heel. She is welcome to try it - I suspect she may get more than she bargained for.
The (Literal) Feminization of America
Whilst digging up fodder for yet another snooze inducing post about voting demographics, the Editorial Staff stumbled across something we (half vast though we are reputed to be) had never seen before: a population pyramid.
This delighted us, since it offers yet one more chance to swing a giant clue bat at the reigning meme du jour on the reich side of the b-sphere: the notion that feminism is the root cause of every evil known to man from the heartbreak of psoriasis right through to the invention of non-dairy creamer. Don't get us wrong: we've taken a few whacks at radical feminism ourselves. Identity politics, no matter the intended beneficiary, is a detestable business.
It's hard enough to balance legitimate competing interests without demonizing everyone who doesn't belong to the target demographic.
But when we see someone try to pin every social problem on a single cause, we can't help thinking "confirmation bias". Of all the implications raised by the following chart (affordability of entitlements, changes to the tax base, effects on education, the housing market, marriage, and the labor market come to mind) one of the most interesting is the literal feminization of America:
As the next chart shows, before 1950 men outnumbered women in this country. But since 1950, women have - quite literally - outnumbered men (though the disparity appears to be shrinking slightly). The sex ratio is the proportion of men to women. Values over 100 mean that men outnumber women. Values under 100 mean that women outnumber men.
Approximately 1.05 boys are born for every female in the United States but by the time our bouncing, genderless baby turns about 30, women of the same age begin to outnumber men. The following chart tracks the overall sex ratio in America (past, present, and projected) over nearly two centuries:
As the population ages and the center of mass shifts from younger to older people, females begin to outnumber males. It's amusing to entertain the notion that perhaps some of the societal changes we're seeing are due to changes in the underlying demographic mix of society over time.
The end result may well be the same regardless of whether you believe it's all a wicked conspiracy (i.e., a tiny cabal of feminists swiped the collective corn flakes of the patriarchal hegemony whilst they sat rooted to their BarcoLoungers, transfixed by the scantily clad charms of the Dallas cheerleaders) or are willing to consider the possibility that more benign/organic forces may be at work as well (possibly, changing proportions of men and women in the general population?).
Anyway, what woman is a woman who doeth not her utmost to vex and annoy the assembled villainry? Food for thought, no es verdad?
June 09, 2010
"Hysteria" vs. Inability to Read
Wow. Apparently I hit a nerve:
The practice of blogging makes one fairly insensitive to strange things being said about you. But occasionally, things made up by other writers approach the threshold of bizarre and at least mildly humorous. Recall that Michael Yon reported that he had received a letter alleging that U.S. troops were being ordered to patrol without rounds chambered in their weapons...
...After publishing this article I sent the link to Lt. Col. Tad Sholtis, saying that if the report was true, the ISAF had really big problems. Sholtis responded that he didn’t think so, and later e-mail me the denial that there was a blanket order like that to all U.S. forces or ISAF forces. I have no reason to doubt his account, though it should be noted that he didn’t deny that there were specific units that engaged in this practice. He couldn’t possibly know what every unit had ordered. I amended the article to publish Shotis’ response in the interest of complete openness.
Enter someone named Cassandra who blogs at Villainous Company. Behold the hysteria.
I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the “information” provided. Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that’s essentially all it was) had any meaning then perhaps he ought to do a little fact checking. He received this response …
And then she proceeded to reproduce the note that Sholtis sent me. It’s strange how someone can get something so totally wrong. The only answer I have is that a writer takes certain presuppositions to a subject and that tends to cloud all of the facts.
First let's take what I said line by line:
1. I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the "information" provided.
Cursory examination of my original post shows that "this post" and the two sentences that follow it clearly refer to Yon's Facebook page:
An American soldier emailed from Afghanistan saying that his unit has been ordered to patrol with no round in the chamber.
I found this post fascinating when it came out. Note the total lack of specificity: no rank, unit, or location. Absolutely no attempt to provide context or to verify the "information" provided.
Accuracy check: Did I find the post fascinating when it came out? Well, you'll have to take my word for it. In any event, this is opinion not fact. Was any rank, unit, or location provided? No, it was not. This is clear from reading Yon's post (which I excerpted in its entirety, by the way). Did Yon make any attempt to verify whether the soldier's unit had issued such an order? If so, no evidence of this was provided. Did Yon make any attempt to verify whether the order came from ISAF, or whether ISAF was even aware of it? Again, if he did either of these things no evidence was provided. Nor was any contextual information (such as was provided by Smith) provided.
Conclusion: so far, nothing I said was inaccurate.
2. Next line:
Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April...
Accuracy check: Did Smith defend Yon back in April? Yes, he did - in a post entitled "In Defense of Michael Yon - An Open Letter to Milbloggers".
On to the next part of my post:
... decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that’s essentially all it was) had any meaning then perhaps he ought to do a little fact checking. He received this response [Sholtis' response is then quoted].
Accuracy check: Do I know what Smith was thinking? Of course not. I don't read minds. However, he clearly decided a single sentence from Yon was important enough to write about. And clearly he didn't think just quoting it was enough. On the contrary, he attempted to provide context about patrolling practices. This is something many bloggers who wrote about it thought was important. To do so, Smith contacted a Marine who was at Fallujah in 2007 who essentially told him that such an order was laughable and would get soldiers killed.
So now we have far more information that Yon's single sentence post conveyed. But Smith apparently didn't think even this was sufficient. After writing his post (something I could not know at the time) he went on to address an important contextual question: did this order come down from ISAF (IOW, is the practice widespread)?
The answer was: NO (hence Sholtis' response, which I quoted).
Is noting that Smith, unlike Yon, took the time to do a bit of checking so he could provide as much context as possible an "hysterical response"? If so, precisely what makes it "hysterical"? Was my characterization of his post inaccurate? As to the fact that he did some checking and provided context that added information, no. As to what he was thinking, clearly I could not know that.
What I do know is what he did: he attempted to find out as much as he could and then conveyed that information to his readers. Far be it from me to infer anything from these actions, but it hardly seems "hysterical" to posit that he checked what he could because without any context it was hard to know what to make of Yon's post.
Did I ever claim that Yon was wrong? No, I did not. My criticism was that - unlike the three bloggers I cited (one of whom is an admirer of Yon's and two of whom are not) - Yon didn't do any checking. He passed on an unverified rumor from an anonymous source with no attempt to verify any of the particulars and no contextual information as to whether such orders are out of the ordinary.
While we're on the subject of bizarre and amusing responses, I refer you to Smith's initial comment on my post:
That you would have a problem with me discussing whether there are local COs requiring their reports to patrol without a round chambered is bizarre in the superlative. I said in the very post that I must assume that the report is accurate, and then commented from there in order to address certain weapons "conditions" based on previous experiences. The very response from Tad Sholtis that you copied and pasted into this post is what he sent to me, and in fairness, I posted his exactly response to me in the same post.
I didn't corroborate the facts or do "fact checking" as you call it because it is impossible for me to do so. Is this hard for you to understand? The article was about the requirements IF THE REPORT WAS TRUE. The presupposition was stated right there in the post.
Again, truly bizarre. I cannot possibly begin to understand your moral preening on this. I think you ought to relax a bit.
Let's look at Mr. Smith's rather emotionally charged comment.
1. Did I "have a problem with [Smith] discussing whether there are local COs requiring their reports to patrol without a round chambered"?
No. Nowhere do I criticize him for doing so. In fact, I did precisely the opposite: I praised him for discussing the rumor in a responsible manner:
... what is more credible? A single, unsourced, unsubstantiated sentence on Facebook? Or the posts of three bloggers who took the time to ask questions and to provide context and information?
2. Did I ever say Smith thought the report was inaccurate?
No. Here's what I said:
Interestingly, a blogger who defended Yon back in April decided that if this unsourced rumor (and absent a single shred of corroborating evidence, that's essentially all it was) had any meaning...
Nowhere do I say I thought Smith didn't believe the report. Nowhere. What I said is that he provided additional information about the report. And I praised him for doing so.
3. I didn't corroborate the facts or do "fact checking" as you call it because it is impossible for me to do so. Is this hard for you to understand?
Here is my response to Mr. Smith's comment:
Given that there was no unit mentioned, no location, and no supporting details there was really only one "fact" you could check: whether the supposed order to patrol without a chambered round had come from the top or not.
This is, in fact, what you did. And the entire purpose of mentioning this was that, unlike Yon, you did attempt to ascertain that fact. The rest of your post, which I said precisely nothing about, dealt with evaluating whether such an order would have made sense.
4. "The very response from Tad Sholtis that you copied and pasted into this post is what he sent to me, and in fairness, I posted his exactly response to me in the same post."
Did I ever say Sholtis had not sent the response I excerpted to Smith? No.
Did I claim Smith hadn't posted Sholtis' response in his post? No - in fact I praised him for emailing ISAF and informing his readers of the response.
Now on to the McChrystal post Smith references next. Here's what he has to say about it:
Cassandra also seems to equate support for individuals with support for the campaign. For instance, after General McChrystal called Marjah a bleeding ulcer, she published the standard lines from the PAOs, namely that the quote had been taken out of context.
I was disturbed the other day to hear that Gen. McChrystal had supposedly said that Marjah was a "bleeding ulcer". I wondered at the time whether he had been quoted accurately as the remark seemed impolitic, to say the least.
Interestingly, according to ISAF the "ulcer" quote was taken out of context...
All of which only confirms the old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads"!
It "seems" that once again, Mr. Smith is doing exactly what he accused me of - attempting to read my mind. Note that I said nothing about support for McChrystal being the same as support for the campaign. All I did was inform my readers that PAO objected to the McClatchy article.
Here's a suggestion for Mr. Smith: if he feels the need to respond at such length to a post which only mentions him tangentally, he would do better to read it carefully. That might help him avoid making a lot of accusations that, given what I actually said, seem... how shall I say it?... a bit overwrought.
Lighten up, Frances.
June 08, 2010
Our Ass Kicking President...
President Barack Obama bluntly defended his administration's response to the undersea gusher fouling the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, telling an interviewer he has met with experts to learn "whose ass to kick."
"I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf," Obama told NBC's "Today" show in an interview scheduled to air Tuesday. "A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be."
..."I don't sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar," Obama continued. "We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."
Last year about this time Obama was the only thing standing between corporate America and violent extremists with pitchforks. Now he's assuring us that he knows how to use a pitchfork.
Lovely. Maybe he'll unleash a volley of words into that damned hole. Ten whacks over the head with an oiled pelican for you, Mr. President!
Blind Hatred and "The Helen Thomas Treatment"
I don't know what is uglier: willful ignorance, or the blind hatred it makes possible?
What was the meaningful difference between Helen Thomas saying Jews in Israel should “go home” to Germany or Poland or America, and Joe Biden saying that refugee relief volunteers should just let Israel decide whether humanitarian supplies can go through to Palestinians who are imprisoned inside the Israelis’ blockade of Gaza? Why was it callous and even anti-Semitic for Thomas to use language that implied it should be no big deal for Israeli Jews to go back “home” to countries they lived in before the Holocaust, or before they moved to Israel; but not callous or anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian for Biden to explicitly state it should be no big deal for Palestinians to wait patiently in their open-air prison while Israel decided if they could have what they needed to live, and if so, how much? Didn’t Biden’s “What is the big deal?” show at least as much cruelty in its trivialization of Palestinian suffering as Thomas’s “They can go home to Germany or Poland or America” showed in its trivialization of Jewish suffering? And yet Thomas’s remark was considered so beyond the pale that she had to be completely banished from her profession, whereas Biden’s remark was a throwaway line that attracted almost no attention at all.
Let's look at a few of the differences between Europe's treatment of the Jews and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Here's one:
The moment Ms. Kattenburg provides proof that Israel has carried out the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Arabs - two in three people living in Palestine - I'll seriously consider her question.
When Ms. Kattenburg picks up a history book to find out why the United Nations took the unprecedented step of creating an internationally sanctioned refuge for European Jewry, I'll seriously consider her question:
... after World War II, many Jews did attempt to "go home" to Poland. This resulted in the murder of about 1,500 of them -- killed not by Nazis but by Poles, either out of sheer ethnic hatred or fear they would lose their (stolen) homes.
The mini-Holocaust that followed the Holocaust itself is not well-known anymore, but it played an outsize role in the establishment of the state of Israel. It was the plight of Jews consigned to Displaced Persons camps in Europe that both moved and outraged President Harry Truman, who supported Jewish immigration to Palestine and, when the time came, the new state itself. Something had to be done for the Jews of Europe. They were still being murdered.
When Ms. Kattenburg finds the energy to actually read the Hamas Charter (and then shows me the comparable passage of Israeli's founding documents that calls for Palestinians to be wiped from the face of the earth), I'll seriously consider her question:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it" (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).
When Ms. Kattenburg's laudable concern for the welfare of ordinary Palestinians extends to protecting them against their own government, I'll seriously consider her question:
During recent fighting in the Gaza Strip, armed Palestinian groups have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today.
In internal Palestinian fighting over the last three days, both Fatah and Hamas military forces have summarily executed captives, killed people not involved in hostilities, and engaged in gun battles with one another inside and near Palestinian hospitals. On Saturday, armed Palestinians from Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade used a vehicle with a “TV” insignia to attack an Israeli military position on the border with Gaza.
“These attacks by both Hamas and Fatah constitute brutal assaults on the most fundamental humanitarian principles,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple.”
When Ms. Kattenburg's moral outrage extends to the innocent Jewish victims of Palestinian war crimes, I'll seriously consider her question:
"Hamas can spin the story and deny the evidence, but hundreds of rockets rained down on civilian areas in Israel where no military installations were located," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Hamas leaders at the time indicated they were intending to harm civilians."
Since 2001, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza have fired thousands of rockets deliberately or indiscriminately at civilian areas in Israel.
During the December 2008-January 2009 fighting, rockets launched from Gaza killed three Israeli civilians and wounded dozens. Hamas's armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for all three fatal attacks. Two Palestinian girls also died when a Palestinian rocket struck inside Gaza.
When Ms. Kattenburg can show me anti-Palestine hatred that rivals the ongoing Jew hatred that exists in Europe today - a hatred that is both tolerated and condoned by Europeans - I'll seriously consider her question.
When Ms. Kattenburg can show me that Europe welcomes and protects Jews from corrosive hatred and violent attacks, I'll seriously consider her question:
According to the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University, there were 517 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2002. In 2004, the French authorities recorded 298 anti-Semitic acts between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 alone.
There have been dozens of synagogues and community centres firebombed, Jewish schools covered with anti-Semitic graffiti and set on fire, kosher shops peppered with bullets, and tombstones toppled and desecrated, a domino effect of nauseating proportions. In Paris, on the statue of Alfred Dreyfus, the words "sal juif" -- "dirty Jew" -- were painted in 2002, an epithet that has made a comeback in parts of France, although perhaps not spray-painted on brick or stone as often as "Jews Get Out."
In 2002, the same year Jean-Marie Le Pen's extreme right Front National party came second in the general election, the same year hundreds of anti-Semitic crimes were recorded, the same year Le Monde published an article so searing in its anti-Jewish sentiment that a French court has since found its writers and editor guilty of "racial defamation," French President Jacques Chirac admonished a Jewish editor to "stop saying there is anti-Semitism in France. There is no anti-Semitism in France."
When Norway's schools are no longer a "Jew free" zone, I'll seriously consider Ms. Kattenburg's question:
“They say that all Jews should be killed, and use nicknames such as “Jewish pig” and “fucking Jew”. It’s blatant anti-Semitic harassment that escalates both verbally, and physically,” a mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells NRK.
She says her son has been harassed for several years by fellow students with a Muslim background.
A father of another boy says his son was stopped by a gang of older youths on the way home from school, and that were going to take him into the woods and hang him because he is Jewish. The boy managed to break free, but is still affected by what happened.
His father goes on to say harassment by Muslim boys became so severe, they decided to move somewhere else.
Even setting aside Ms. Kattenburg's blissfully fact free characterization of the Helen Thomas debacle (Ms. Thomas was not fired, but resigned voluntarily), it is hard to get past her willful ignorance with regard to the reasons for Israel's existence. Lefties love to beat America over the head with the supposedly morally binding nature of international consensus. But when it comes to Israel - a U.N. mandated solution for the unspeakably horrific slaughter of over 6 million Jews - their unthinking support for global governance is nowhere to be seen.
The fact is that Israel has never called for the extermination of Palestine or Palestinians.
The fact is that Israel's budget, unlike that of Hamas, is not openly and inextricably intertwined with state sponsored terrorism:
It is not possible to separate the Dawa activities conducted for humanitarian purposes from the direct and indirect funding of terrorism: All the monies flow into a common fund, and are then channeled to the relevant activities, in accordance with needs and in coordination with the functions of the organization in the territories and abroad. The monies are transferred using the following means: bank transfers, moneychangers, private money services, unofficial networks for the transfer of funds and "unsuspecting" assistants. Thus, in view of the great difficulty in tracing the source of the money, its address and the motives behind the transfer of funds, it is essential that a strict and vigilant approach be adopted towards the entire fundraising network, operating within the framework of Dawa activity.
Ms. Kattenburg's "argument" seems to be that the American people would be better off if the press declined to report events she finds distasteful and inconvenient. I'm sure she genuinely believes that.
In fact, that's what scares me.
June 07, 2010
Coping With Deployment
We all know that not all Soldiers are cut for the military. What seems to be overlooked, but should be taken just as seriously, is that not all spouses are cut out for the military either.
... It’s not an easy life to live. Frequently, spouses are required to raise kids alone, handle difficult moves, deal with school issues, and take care of the family’s finances while the troop is deployed. It’s a LOT of stress to put on anyone, especially young and newly married couples.
In the recently begun spouse blog, Tales from the Homefront of the 103rd ESC’s Deployment, the author wears her emotions on her sleeve about her husband’s recent deployment:I know I don’t want to do this.
I hate the Army right now.
Freedom isn’t free. I am very aware that there are many who have paid a higher price for our cherished freedoms, but right now, I’m feeling that the price that my family and I are paying is pretty damn high.
I think after this deployment is over I’m done paying the price. Someone else’s turn. We will have done our time.
Over the years I've learned a lot from other military wives, and so it occurred to me that rather than blather on about my own experiences it might be more helpful to ask you all for your suggestions.
CJ offered some sound advice. How have you coped with deployments in past? What worked for you?
June 05, 2010
Did Obama's New Intel Chief Drink the WMD Koolaid?
On Iraq, Gen. Clapper said in an interview with The Washington Times in 2004 that "I think probably in the few months running up prior to the onset of combat that ... there was probably an intensive effort to disperse into private homes, move documentation and materials out of the country. I think there are any number of things that they would have done."
The comments came amid the debate over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, which some U.S. officials had said were moved out of Iraq prior to the invasion of Iraq with the assistance of Russian military intelligence forces.
The Iraq Survey Group, the U.S. panel formed to find the weapons of mass destruction President George W. Bush had said Saddam Hussein was concealing, turned up no stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
Whether or not Iraq moved some elements of its weapons programs to Syria before the war remains a matter of dispute.
Theodre Kattouf, the U.S. ambassador in Damascus in 2002 and 2003, said in 2006 that he did not believe Iraq sent material to Syria in the run up to the war.
John A. Shaw, a senior Pentagon technology security official during the Bush administration, however, said he believed that some Iraqi weapons and materials were covertly shipped out of Iraqi factories with the help of the Russians. Satellite images released in 2004 by the Pentagon also showed Russian vehicles loading goods at Iraqi factories, but the nature of their cargo has not been determined.
June 04, 2010
Can This Marriage Survive?
Years ago in some women's mag there used to be a feature that went by that name. I couldn't help thinking of it when I saw this:
My husband and I have been married 2 1/2 years. We have a good marriage, but this winter, during a casual conversation in front of the TV, I was fishing for a compliment, and he responded that he considers me "an eight" (out of 10) in terms of looks.
I got really upset. He claims that he was trying to make an unsuccessful joke and that he thinks I look great. I have a hard time seeing the humor.
I told him he needs to make it up to me. He's done nothing. It's been over four months, and I'm having a really hard time with this. I've been taking it out on him by being extremely critical lately. I'm not a very secure person to begin with (thus the fishing), though I definitely consider myself attractive. I don't know how I'm supposed to live the rest of my life with someone who could tell me I'm an eight to him, even as a joke.
He's otherwise a great husband, and he's been making an effort to compliment me a lot lately, but I have a hard time believing him.
Dear. Sweet. Jesus. I don't have much of a problem with a young wife fishing for compliments. Sometimes husbands aren't terribly good at the whole affirmation thing, especially when they're first married. But then there's no real reason they should be. It's nice to be appreciated for one's finer qualities (and I've never met a man who didn't very much need to be respected, admired and appreciated by his wife) but in the final analysis people need to take responsibility for their own happiness. Husbands or wives who can't do that for themselves usually find that no amount of affirmation is enough to fill the gaping hole in their character.
I had to laugh a bit - the letter reminded me of an embarrassing incident that occurred about 25 years ago. After reading some daft essay in [wait for it...] a woman's mag, I asked the spousal unit what it was that made him fall in love with me?
The deer in the headlights look flashed briefly across his face, but he manned up and waded into the combat zone, guns a blazin'. He's usually pretty good about humoring my pointless woolgathering. That's one of his best qualities - for a man who suffers fools poorly (if at all) he can be amazingly gracious when I make a complete ass of myself.
After thinking for a moment, he replied, "You are a very kind person."
This, of course, was a compliment. So naturally, being an inexperienced, twenty something female, it crushed my ego flatter than a bug. I had *so* hoped he might say something like, "You are just fascinating to talk to... I could listen to you go on about spit up and changing diapers all day..." or "I love when you tell me what Oscar the Grouch said on Sesame Street when I walk through the door after a grueling day oppressing Lance Corporals", or "It was your sterling personal qualities that first won my heart, Dearest One".
The thing is, though I was pretty disappointed not to be told that it was my scintillating intellect or personality that drew him into orbit around my incandescent radiance, I didn't get mad.
Really. Why are you all laughing?
I did learn an important lesson: we have no control over how other people see us, what they value, or even why they love us. Nor should we. Love is just one of those things that comes unbidden. It doesn't need to make sense.
At any rate, the letter reminded me of something else I read recently:
We all contain Narcissistic tendencies and vulnerabilities. Our current zeitgeist encourages those who do not appreciate the distinction between the surface and the depths of a person. Ava Gardner's comment would be taken as a post-modern insight of great depth were she a celebrity alive today prattling on during some day time talk show.
When young we all tend to be at our most Narcissistic; adolescents, almost by definition, suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, where their moods and self esteem depend on the state of their social life and their standing in the hierarchy at any given moment. Americans have a special proclivity to becoming trapped in extended adolescence. (And apparently we no longer even expect 26 year olds to be able to survive on their own; eg, Obamacare.)
Sometimes revealing oneself to be a colossal jackass is enough punishment.
Friday Debate Question
What Commissioner Selig isn't getting is that this taint, this blot, this imperfection will hang over baseball forever. There is no upside to letting it pass because it won't pass. Like the Black Sox scandal or you-know-who's home-run record, it will haunt baseball forever.
In every baseball park in every town, from the Bronx to your kid's Little League field, any time some pitcher gets close to being perfect, half the people there will start talking about the Galarraga travesty. It will never go away. Not to mention the condemned umpire, whose name we refuse to print, out of mercy.
Come on, Bud. The Earth has stopped spinning on its axis. No one cares anymore if the Yankees win their 99th World Series. Little kids with a lifetime of baseball ahead of them are asking their fathers to explain why it has to be this way.
Or do life's imperfections - the times when it just isn't fair - have value?
When Galarraga hears the call, he looks puzzled, surprised. But he's composed and calm, and he smiles, as if accepting fate. Others run to the ump and begin to yell, but Galarraga just walks back to the mound to finish the job. Which he does, striking out the next batter. The game is over.
The umpire, Jim Joyce, 54, left the field and watches the videotape. He saw that he'd made a mistake and took immediate responsibility. He went straight to the clubhouse where he personally apologized to Galarraga. Then he told the press, "I just cost the kid a perfect game." He said, "I thought [Donald] beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career."
Galarraga told reporters he felt worse for Joyce than he felt for himself. At first, reacting to the game in the clubhouse, he'd criticized Joyce. But after Joyce apologized, Galarraga said, "You don't see an umpire after the game come out and say, 'Hey, let me tell you I'm sorry.'" He said, "He felt really bad." He noted Joyce had come straight over as soon as he knew he'd made the wrong call.
What was sweet and surprising was that all the principals in the story comported themselves as fully formed adults, with patience, grace and dignity.
Peggy Noonan writes beautifully - with heart and passion. I've always admired her skill with words: she's an artist.
I don't agree with her much of the time. This is one of the times when I do.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Quote of the Day
The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals. The fact that some are cowards does not make courage a myth. The fact that some are faithless does not make fidelity a joke. All moral standards create the possibility of hypocrisy. But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies.
In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.
June 03, 2010
Corporate Donations by Party
My Inner Child is *So* Spanked.
I am thinking of suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
June 02, 2010
Best. Read. Ever.
Via Matt at Blackfive:
A machine gun punched a nickel-size hole in the Chinook two nights earlier, and everyone paused to inspect it as they got on the big black whale of a helicopter.
It was just after 9 p.m., and streaks of lightning flashed against the black sky. Fifteen minutes passed. The copter was grounded. It was then that two of the soldiers from the 4th Brigade of the Army's 4th Infantry Division launched into a profanity-laced argument over a burning question:
Is Connecticut in New England?
The first soldier gamely insisted that Connecticut couldn't possibly be part of New England because everyone from Connecticut cheers for New York sports teams: the Giants, the Jets, the Mets, the Yankees, etc.
"Do you even [expletive] know where Connecticut is?" the other soldier demanded. "I mean, could you even find it on an [expletive] map?"
The first soldier didn't answer. It was pretty obvious to all that he couldn't find Connecticut on an [expletive] map. Instead he reeled off the states that he thought were in New England: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.
A third voice from the darkness suggested that Long Island is also in New England. But the first two soldiers -- both from Boston -- told him to shut up, because Long Island is definitely in New York, and New York is not on anybody's New England list.
The lightning kept flashing. Still grounded. In about 90 minutes the moon would rise and illuminate the sky, making it far too easy for whoever shot the Chinook last time to hit it again.
The soldiers' geography debate shifted to another topic: whether Brockton, Mass., is more dangerous than the Korengal Valley, where more than 40 U.S. troops had died over the past five years. One of the New England soldiers insisted that five of his relatives had been killed in Brockton, so he was pretty sure it was more dangerous than the Korengal.
The Chinook still hadn't moved. In the front of the helicopter, two captains talked about the pros and cons of letting the Army pay for graduate school. Toward the back, a sergeant started a monologue on how he cried watching "The Lion King" when he was 6. "Oh, Mufasa!" called a plaintive, mocking voice.
Someone asked a Russian-accented specialist named Egerov whether he cried when Sylvester Stallone knocked out Dolph Lundgren in "Rocky IV." There was a five-minute debate about who was really the better fighter, before Egerov pointed out that Lundgren isn't even Russian -- he's Swedish.
The helicopter sat in the darkness. A few soldiers climbed out of the back to stretch their legs, grab a smoke and swap stories about the tarantulas, lizards and monkeys in the valley. "Thirty-three days," said a soldier just back from leave. It was the time that had passed since he last set foot on the Korengal outpost.
A little before 10 p.m., everyone got back on the bird. Seat belts clicked. The engine revved, and soon the soldiers were airborne. As they hurtled toward the Korengal, a full moon rose over the mountains, and the rivers below glowed silvery-white. It was getting awfully bright.
The Chinook touched down at a different base about six miles from the Korengal. The pilots had decided that flying into the jagged sliver of a valley with the moon lighting up the sky was too dangerous; the hulking helo would be too easy for the Taliban to spot. The soldiers stumbled out, ears ringing from the noise of the engines, and searched for a place to sleep.
The next evening, they'd try again.
As the saying goes, read the whole thing. This was awfully good, too.
For a country that has been completely bereft of media coverage since MY's embed expired, there seems to be a suspicious amount of coverage coming from Afghanistan. Damned poseurs.
No Wonder America is Messed Up
To help celebrate Entertainment Weekly‘s 20th anniversary (one more year and we can finally drink booze!), the writers and editors have carefully curated a list of the 100 greatest characters in pop-culture over the last 20 years. Whether the fictional women, men, ogres, muppets, babies, and cartoon rockers who made our list were initially created before 1990 didn’t matter so long as they made a lasting impact in the culture after 1990. Some characters were so inseparable in our minds and hearts — like a certain highly articulate TV mother and daughter, for example — that we simply listed them together. (Hey, it’s our list, so we get to make the rules.) Rest assured, we carefully deliberated, debated, argued, and bickered over who would make the cut and where they deserved to be ranked; after you take a look at our list, please feel free to do the same in the comments.
I found the choice of "great" characters interesting.
I read a lot on conservative sites about how women are "always" portrayed as smart, capable, and superior to men (and men are "always" portrayed as hapless, pussy whipped buffoons). Certainly the selection of Homer Simpson plays to this narrative.
But how many strong, positive or admirable female characters appear on this list? Out of 100, I see only one or two: Sarah Connor, perhaps. Arguably, Dana Scully. The rest are a motely crew of ditzes, bitches, sluts, murderesses, and prostitutes. Not exactly role model material.
Not too many heroic male characters either, though Maximus (Gladiator), Harry Potter, Jack Bauer and Morpheus seem cast in the heroic mold.
Who would make your list, and why?
June 01, 2010
Men who attend the birth of their children could end up feeling like failures and damage any paternal bond they may have, an expert has controversially claimed.
Fathers-to-be may think they will have an intimate and proactive role as their child is born, only to find their sole purpose is to provide passive support for their partner.
This can lead to emotional shutdown for new fathers, according to Dr Jonathan Ives, head of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Birmingham.
He said: 'Having begun the fathering role already feeling a failure may destroy his confidence.
'It can then be very difficult for him to regain faith in himself once the baby is born and move from that passive state to being a proactive father.
'He effectively becomes de-skilled as a parent and this can lead to problems bonding with the child.'
Instead, Dr Ives said, men should not worry about attending antenatal classes and wait outside the delivery room.
This is one of those times where I really feel for guys. I think it's much harder to stand by while someone you love is in pain than it is to be in pain yourself. Not that childbirth is a horrific experience - if it were, there wouldn't be so many women who opt for natural childbirth. But it's a scary process nonetheless.
I remember being very surprised to find that The Unit worried a lot before our first was born. I was more scared with our second, possibly because I was in labor an awfully long time with the first one, but also because I had two very big babies.
At the time I realized he had no particular desire to witness the 'miracle of birth' and I would have understood it if he'd opted out. That said, I've never forgotten how grateful I was that he decided to be there when I needed him. I doubt the experience was much fun, but for me it was one of those moments that define your marriage.
At any rate, this is one of those Extremely Important Societal Questions that can only be resolved by an anonymous poll:
(Note: the poll is now closed. Thanks for voting!)
Amusing Study of the Day
What we consider "fair" changes as we age, a new study finds. Young children like all things to be equal, but older adolescents are more likely to consider merit when it comes to dividing up wealth, the researchers say.
The shift from the "egalitarian" view of fairness to the more merit-based "meritocratic" view occurred largely between fifth and seventh grade, although it continued to change through high school, with seniors placing the most importance on achievement.
This transition likely results both from changes in the brain as it develops, and from exposure to new social experiences as we age, the researchers say.
Why Can't We Be More Like Canada?
Pressured by an aging population and the need to rein in budget deficits, Canada's provinces are taking tough measures to curb healthcare costs...
Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't single payer supposed to solve that problem?
Ontario, Canada's most populous province, kicked off a fierce battle with drug companies and pharmacies when it said earlier this year it would halve generic drug prices...
Because as we all know, every time the government halves prices costs are magically cut in half as well. Theoretically, this process can go on indefinitely, thus cutting costs to zero.
...a few provinces are also experimenting with private funding for procedures such as hip, knee and cataract surgery.
"Not that Canadians have any problem getting timely and effective treatment for these conditions, mind you..."
"We can't continually see health spending growing above and beyond the growth rate in the economy...
Hey, wait a minute! Wasn't single payer supposed to solve that pr... DOH!!!!
.... because, at some point, it means crowding out of all the other government services.
Or they could just hold a reeeeeeealy big bake sale.
"Why are we paying more or the same for cataract surgery when it costs substantially less today than it did 10 years ago?
Because the main advantage of centralized government planning is that it does such a great job of protecting consumers from greedy corporations? No wait! That can't be it! (from the comments):
Cataract surgery once took hours, and it was very finicky. Now it's in and out in 10 minutes. So why should we pay ophthalmalogists the same that we paid them when it took hours? It's not inflation; it's just that technology has made some procedures relatively simple now.
I'm married to an Ontario physician, by the way, and I'm amazed at how STUPID the Ontario government is when it comes to paying fee for service. Gastroenterologists, for instance, make a ton for every scope, because the fee schedule was set when it took hours, too. Now they can do 4 an hour, but they're still paid as if it took 3 hours.
By the way, the document that lists all the fees Ontario physicians can bill is over 2000 pages long. Talk about bureaucracy.
Obama Heals the Oceans, One Sound Byte at a Time
Alarmed by dangerously uninformed criticism of his response to the BP oil spill, President Obama is moving aggressively to stem a gusher of toxic scrutiny that threatens his rapidly dropping approval ratings even further.
The President has moved swiftly, assuring his critics that he is firmly in command of the situation:
"The American people should know that from the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort," Obama told a news conference. He was responding to criticism that his administration had been slow to act and had left BP in charge of plugging the leak.
Obama said many critics failed to realize "this has been our highest priority."
Obama accepted full responsibility and accountability (though not to the point of admitting the response so far has been both underwhelming and ineffective)for cleaning up the mess
George Bush BP left behind. But he remains supremely confident that his government's plan: attempting to plug the toxic flow of criticism with a "junk shot" of outraged Presidential doublespeak, sending a crack team of attorneys to the beleaguered Gulf, and blasting the "scandalously close relationship" between oil companies and regulators" will repair the badly damaged Democrat brand in time for the November elections.