I watched Lawrence of Arabia this weekend. I don't think I've ever seen it before, but it's possible I caught some portion of it on television somewhere in the past when I watched television. I added it to my Netflix queue because it's one of those must see movies that I wasn't sure I'd seen. I'm glad I did.
I'm unsure how much of the history is factual and how much is more loosely based on the events of World War I. That isn't a period I have studied much, so I am only aware of the larger outlines. I was, however, pulled up sharply by one line:
I dream of the green gardens of Cordoba.It was one of the Arabs who said it, but I don't recall which. That really doesn't matter. What struck me was the allusion, and that this dream featured so prominently in a film made decades ago, and was based on the time of World War I.
It brought home to me in a new way the fact that the dream of a restored Al-Andalus is not the recent invention of mad mullahs or Osama bin Laden. It's a real part of the Arabic culture, or perhaps the culture of Islam. It isn't a reaction to American supremacy in the world, it existed long before that. It isn't the way American influence has changed the world that wakens that longing in the Arab chest. That longing for a time of green gardens, sparkling fountains, and temperate climates (by their standards) as emblems of a better life predate the 21st century's incarnation of modern life.
They dream of going back to the 1400s, not because those were better times, per se, but because those were the years when Islam and Arabic culture were, in their eyes at least, dominant.
But it's interesting that they do not project this dream forward into the future. They dream of going back to Cordoba. They don't, at least obviously, dream of going forward into a better future where Islam and Arabs are dominant. They seek to undo, to revert to, to somehow recover, not to make new, not to build upon the foundations of or improve upon the reality that exists.
I once bought unquestioningly the modern view that Al-Andalus was the exemplar of tolerance and prosperity for all. It is touted as a place and time where Muslim, Jew and Christian lived side by side happily. The libraries and universities were renowned for their openness, or so we're told.
But I now wonder how much of that is based upon the Arab dreams and how much on the hard facts. Much of the mystique and allure of Al-Andalus blossomed in the same era as multi-culturalism. In the same times great fables were created of African empires with advanced technologies pre-dating the entrance of Western Europeans. "Scholars" began arguing that the Greek families who ruled in Egypt were actually black Africans. We were told, suddenly, that Aristotle and Socrates were of black African ancestry. All bunk, of course. Bunk driven by an urge to mythologize a past to magically create more pride in the American black population.
I wonder how much of the modern view of Al-Andalus is spin. Looking at it from a distance, comparing it to modern governments and their tolerance, it compares better to Apartheid South African than to a modern liberal democracy. Jews and Christians were second class citizens. They had more rights than perhaps Muslims did in Christian kingdoms, but they were set apart and governed by different laws. In short, they were discriminated against. Their roles in society were limited by their identity as members of non-Muslim religions.
There was no blossoming of science in Al-Andalus of which I'm aware. I cannot name a single significant invention from that time and place. Someone more studied might name some, but the fact that a reasonably well-read individual cannot is, I think, significant. There was an important preservation of the accumulated science and wisdom from Europe, but that was not innovation. Al-Andalus provided no advance to humanity as a whole; it did preserve some ground in danger of being lost. Republican Rome offered more opportunity to the peoples it governed. All could become citizens and advance to any position given the right combination of talent, hard work, and luck.
All this adds up to the conclusion that the Arab/Muslim dream is not one of recovering land, or a way of life, or a poetic-perfect existence; the green gardens of Cordoba are a signifier for them of power and dominance. Green is their color, they wish to green the world.
It's interesting that to us, those brought up in Western culture, green is the color of envy.
It's a lot shorter than "to flip on and off" so I offer this new verb. It's in line with other verbs, such as "to jimmy," so it's not precedent setting, and in the current political climate it will be clear to many listeners immediately what is meant.
Some suggested uses to get you started:
Kerry the power on that computer, please. (Beats the existing words such as "cycle" or the phrase "power that system on and off".. though "bounce" is fairly concise.)
Would you kerry the car lights please, that's him over there. (Okay, "flash is shorter in this case, but kerry is more fun!)
I've been chatting her up all evening, but she keeps kerrying on me.
Hasn't the weather been kerrying madly lately?
Just kerry that blender a time or two to smooth that sauce.
And Kerry might prefer to eschew the four-member "Communists for Kerry" contingent, whose placards advocated a "France First!" foreign policy.These are the good communists for Kerry. I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but if you doubt my taste in satire, follow the link and tell me you don't have an urge to visit the State Store. Read the whole site. Weep with ecstacy at the power of the revolution! Denounce your friends! Join a revolution!
They make an interesting contrast to the other Communists who insist they are not for Kerry (they're just against Bush). I mentioned the really pink pinkos and their interesting and conflicting statements below in The Big Lie: Still Going!
There is no such thing as a "good Commie." There are only less dangerous ones. The Communists for Kerry are good, but only because they really aren't communists. They're satirists. Understand, Washington Post?
Let me make it simple:
Satire = Good.
Communism = Bad.
Reactionary chain dog of the bourgeoisie Ann Coulter=very very good looking.
Okay, okay, I admit Washington Post is right about one thing: Kerry probably won't like these guys. But these guys don't like Kerry either, and WaPo seems to have missed that... dare I say it? nuance.
Can you say "subversion?" (I knew you could.)
So much for sophisticated elites.
Kerry begs treatment in parody and satire. Russ sent me this and gave me permission to post it. He said in his email to "spread it around" too (attribute it to him, of course).
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling and the British Army)
Johnny went public with ‘is boasts, an ‘ero without fear,
“Til sudden like the Swifties say, “We got a turncoat ‘ere.”
The Libs they just ignored ‘em, sayin’ “Ah, it’s all a lie!”
Then Johnny’s outted by their ads an’ to myself says I:
Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day.
But it’s wait now, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys as our band begins to play,
An’ it’s goodbye, Mr. Kerry, as they blow your arse away.
Johnny goes to Cincinnati sober as a man can be,
An’ they give ol’ George a “Bravo Lad!” but John no sympathy.
They give ‘im plain their message, sittin’ silent in the ‘alls,
That when it comes to fightin’ men, they know oo’s got the balls.
For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, but wait, he might ‘a lied
From the platform of his campaign train an’ on the Boston tide.
His ship is on the tide, my boys, his ship is on the tide,
An’ it’s plain as day she’s sinkin’ boys, because the turncoat lied.
Yes Johnny mocked our uniforms that guard you while you sleep.
He cheapened all our medals throwing his upon that heap;
An’ rustlin’ up his phony troops, he led them for a bit,
Until his aspirations and theirs no longer fit.
Now it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ Johnny how’s yer soul,
In that brave front rank of ‘eroes as our drums begin their roll?
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
An’ they’ll keep right on a rollin’ boys, ‘til we chuck ‘im in the hole.
We make no claim as ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But ‘onorable men an’ warriors fightin’ once agin for you.
An’ if your ‘ero’s record, our charges soundly taint,
That’s what we’re tryin’ to tell you blokes, your ‘ero ain’t no saint.
For it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, an’ “Check him out, the Loot!”
Was ‘e the “Savior of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot?
Now it’s Johnny’s turn to prove us wrong, an’ make us all out liars,
By signin’ that one eighty form an’ puttin out the fires.
Oh it’s Johnny this an’ Johnny that, ‘e’s the ‘ero of the day,
But it’s hold on, Mr. Kerry, what’s that record really say?
The horns are loudly blowin’ boys, as our band begins to play,
“Cheerio, Old Man,” to Johnny and blows his arse away.
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
David Alston, like John Kerry a veteran of the Swift Boats in Vietnam, opened the Democratic National Convention. He, like others in the Swift Boat Veterans for Kerry who surrounded John Kerry on stage, was wounded and decorated during his service. Alston said:
I know him from a small boat in Vietnam, where we fought and bled together, serving our country. There were six of us aboard PCF-94, a 50-foot, twin-engine craft known as a "Swift Boat."
--transcript of David Alston's speech
During the Democratic convention, Kerry told his Navy crewmates from the Vietnam War that he'd enjoy taking them "out on the water" while the GOP staged its show.
Kerry has a quieter agenda. He'll kite-surf the Nantucket Sound breezes, ride his $6,000, U.S.-made racing bicycle and dine with wife Teresa Heinz Kerry at restaurants in this old whaling port.
George W. Bush was commander in chief when Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan. Bush happened to meet McNaughton in a visit to wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington on Friday, Jan. 17, 2003. McNaughton had, among his injuries, lost his left leg. The Washington Times story says:
The president and Sgt. McNaughton had talked about running, and Mr. Bush promised to run with the soldier when he was "fully recovered and able to run with his prosthetic leg."
Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.
And then there's the small matter of whether David Alston ever actually served under Kerry's command on Kerry's Swift Boat. If he did, it must have been for a very short period. See here for more.
Nothing quite seemed to fill my sails with motivation today. But Powerline's Dateline: Little Saigon managed something even worse. Somewhere down in the recesses of my DC-stagnated soul, a dormant verse gene twtiched when I read this line:
His anti-war antics that helped launch a thousand boats, coupled with his shelving of the 2001 Vietnam Human Rights Act (a litmus test for a majority of Vietnamese no matter what party), gives President Bush a golden opportunity to woo an often overlooked minority voting block.
from Little Saigon Eyes Kerry
A Faustian Bargain
(for the Swifties, with apologies to them
and to Christopher Marlowe)
Is this the face that launched a thousand boats,
That burned the thatched-roofed huts of Viet Nam?
Shrill Kerry shouted, honor fell away,
His lies sucked forth our souls, see how they died!
Come, Kerry, come, give us our souls again.
We will parade, returned at last from war
When Kerry's tongue repents dishonesty,
Or when this final battle rights the score.
Lest any Kerry defender avow that the harm from Kerry's testimony before the Senate in 1971 was over 30 years ago and has no impact today, The Vietnam government is still using it as justification for accusing the United States of war crimes. (hat tip to The Corner) It's like the Energizer Bunny, except it's malevolent. As recent as June 11, 2004, the Vietnam News Agency, in an article titled "Invoking Viet Nam to Cover Up Iraq Abuses," includes as evidence for its claims the following:
Candidate in this year’s American presidential elections, John Kerry, who fought in the war, went further in his criticism. In a statement to the US’ Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971, he said the war crimes committed by US soldiers in Southeast Asia "were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."
The whole basis of the VVAW campaign of was The Big Lie, which ironically comes not from the communist playbook originally, but from Mein Kampf.
All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.
Hitler, Mein Kampf (James Murphy translation, page 134)
Indeed, the strategy of manufacturing witnesses, by giving false identities to individuals who never served in Vietnam, has a parallel in Hilter's tactic of dressing bodies in Polish uniforms and leaving them at the site of a faked Polish attack in German territory as justification for the invasion of Poland. However much this comes from Nazi methodology and Hitler's writing, I have no doubt the VVAW learned it from transmission through the CPUSA, which is still an ardent friend of Kerry. While the CPUSA disavows supporting any party in the 2004 election, in the article titled "Just Being Anti-Bush Is Not Enough To Win," by Sam Webb, the National Chair, we see this:
It was no surprise to me that virtually everyone I met during a recent three-week trip across the Midwest was quick to remind me that this election is the most important in their lifetime. While agreeing that the overriding political task is to defeat Bush and his counterparts in Congress and elect Kerry and a more people-friendly Congress, no one reduced this to simply a contest between the Democratic and Republican parties.
Kerry's testimony which provides this "evidence" could be defanged. Kerry could make a clear and strong statement in public that his testimony before the Senate was a tissue of lies concocted to damage the morale of the United States and its military. He could apologise and denounce any who might cite that as evidence of American wrongdoing (except for his and the VVAW's lying) to stop a war with which they did not agree. That he is now the presidential candidate for one of the two major parties only lends more weight to his testimony of 30 years ago in the eyes for those foreign countries he claims to wish we could earn the respect of.
Lying is a poor way to earn respect. Lying about your country to make it look bad is an even worse way to earn respect for your country.
A man who truly had the best interest of his country at heart would step forward and admit that he lied and that as a result he harmed his country and its reputation. Such a man could be forgiven for past mistakes if he convinced the American public that he was sincere, and proceded to acts that would confirm his statement.
Kerry has had ample opportunity to make such a statement. Many have suggested that he do exactly that. He has instead made lame apologies and admitted no real guilt. He has chosen not only to harm his country in the past, but to continue to do so every day he does not come forward and admit he was chief spokesman for a propaganda campaign that was based on a Big Lie.
The recent revelation that Max Cleland is a Bush political appointee raises interesting questions about his presence in the Kerry campaign and his activities there. On December 16, 2003 the Export-Import Bank of the United States published the following press release:
DECEMBER 16, 2003
Contact: Marianna Ohe (202) 565-3200
MAX CLELAND JOINS EXPORT-IMPORT BANK BOARD OF DIRECTORS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland was sworn in yesterday afternoon (Monday, Dec. 15) as a member of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). President George W. Bush nominated Cleland for the position on Nov. 21, 2003, for a term expiring January 20, 2007. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2003.
"Senator Cleland is an American hero and we are pleased and honored to welcome him to the board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States," said Ex-Im Bank President Philip Merrill. "He will surely bring his abiding commitment to public service to the work of the bank, as we continue to promote American exports and preserve and create American jobs."
"I am excited about the opportunity to take a new step forward in my career in public service," Cleland said. "The Ex-Im Bank focuses on good-paying jobs for Americans. That's what the Bank is all about. That's what I'm all about."
Cleland has a long and distinguished career in public service at the state and national levels in both the executive and legislative branches of government.
Recently he served as a Distinguished Adjunct Professor to the American University (AU) Washington Semester Program, and as a Fellow in AU's Center for Congressional & Presidential Studies. He also served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, to report findings and recommendations to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Cleland successfully ran for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Sam Nunn in 1995. He served on four Senate Committees: Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Governmental Affairs; and Small Business. Previously, Cleland had the distinction of serving as the youngest Secretary of State in Georgia's history, and the youngest member of the Georgia State Senate.
Under President Jimmy Carter, Cleland became the youngest head of the U.S. Veterans Administration. In that capacity, he instituted the revolutionary Vets Center program that, for the first time, offered psychological counseling to combat veterans to heal the emotional wounds of war.
Cleland holds a masters degree in American History from Emory University. He majored in history at Stetson University. Both institutions subsequently awarded him honorary doctorate degrees. Cleland grew up in Lithonia, GA.
Ex-Im Bank is an independent federal agency that assists in financing the export of U.S. goods and services to developing markets around the world, through export credit insurance, loan guarantees and direct loans. In fiscal year 2003, Ex-Im Bank helped to finance approximately $14.3 billion of U.S. exports worldwide.
Captain Ed drew my attention to this in his post New Evidence Of Bush's Collusion With ... The Kerry Campaign? though he himself got it from Rich Lowry at NRO. While Ed didn't mean it this way, I think, the paranoid among us can't help but wonder...(hey, I work in security, paranoia is my job!)
What if Max is a Rove mole? Could this explain the over-the-top nature of his actions in "support" of the Kerry campaign, actions that appear to more often damage it?
Max Cleland bears the stigmata of service in Vietnam very obviously. As such he's a very important symbol to a Kerry campaign that so far has based its whole platform on "I served (4.5 months) in Vietnam!" On the surface, he seems to be the ultimate television and personal appearance poster-vet. His very presence reminds all viewers of that campaign theme, "Vietnam service." But, as we English majors would say, there's a subtle subversion of the theme. When asked, "Sir, how did you lose your limbs," he has answered:
In the 1986 edition of his autobiography Strong at the Broken Places, Cleland wrote of his receiving the Soldier’s Medal “for allegedly shielding my men from the grenade blast and the Silver Star for allegedly coming to the aid of wounded troops….”
“There were no heroics on which to base the Soldier’s Medal,” wrote Cleland on page 87. “And it had been my men who took care of the wounded during the rocket attack, not me. Some compassionate military men had obviously recommended me for the Silver Star, but I didn’t deserve it.” (Emphasis added.) Two pages later he added: “I was not entitled to the Purple Heart either, since I was not wounded by enemy action.” (Emphasis added.)
from Max Cleland: Deceptive Democratic Warrior, Front Page Magazine
The actual incident that resulted in his injuries is reported in the same article as follows:
This terrible accident happened not on a battlefield but on a helicopter pad 15 miles away from combat. Cleland stepped out of a helicopter to go have a beer with buddies, saw a hand grenade on the ground, assumed that he had dropped it and picked the explosive device up. It had been dropped by another, inexperienced soldier who had left the weapon on a hair trigger setting. It detonated, devastating Cleland’s 25-year-old body and in an instant changing his life
While Cleland has said these things in the past, the Kerry campaign is spinning them differently. Ignored is the disavowal of deserving any medals for what was in fact an accident, and one away from enemy action at that. I am not saying, and would not say, that Cleland's injuries did not come in service to his country. They certainly did. He was in harm's way do to that service. But we don't normally award medals to soldiers who break their arm in training, or drop a computer on their foot in the Pentagon, or who die in plane crashes resulting from weather. The Kerry campaign seeks to play up, or create, the heroism of Max Cleland in order that Max's heroism might reflect more onto Kerry himself. They're working for a sort of heroic synergy, where each feeds off the other, producing far more heroism than either separately might supply.
Kerry has the disadvatage of having no visible battle stigmata, unlike Bob Dole, who has an obviously crippled right arm as very real symbol of his sacrifice in war. Max Cleland gives Kerry that stigmata by association.
Unfortunately, by accident, or by intent on the part of whoever sought to place Cleland in that position, Cleland also produces subversion. That he himself downplayed his medals in the past, and admitted that his wounds were not suffered in action against the enemy, produces subversive harmonics with the Kerry medals. Kerry has made his medals active political symbols from the first days of his political life. In the first instance he himself did a riff on downplaying them by appearing to toss them over the fence, to throw them away, which is a sort of denying he deserved them. But later he reversed himself, pointing to them proudly as the deserved symbols of his gallantry and service.
But there's more to the subversion. There's a subversive synergy in that the visible wounds Cleland bears to this day resulted from an incident with a "friendly" grenade. If we study the emerging stories behind Kerry's medals, it appears that friendly grenades played a role in two of his three Purple Hearts. His first, and much questioned now, Purple Heart, involved a grenade. The doctor who treated Kerry pulled out a sliver of shrapnel that he identified (there are properties of the shrapnel that create fairly certain positive identifications of it) as coming from a United States' manufactured grenade. When Kerry applied to his commanding officer for a Purple Heart for the incident, he was laughed off. The C.O. made a remark that he'd seen larger scratches from rose thorns. Yet months later, somehow, Kerry was awarded a Purple Heart for that injury.
In the case of the third Purple Heart, likewise a grenade made its mark. This may be the grenade responsible for Kerry's claim to still have shrapnel in his "thigh" from Vietnam. In an effort to destroy bagged rice that was believed to be intended for the Viet Cong, Kerry tossed a grenade into a sack and did not take appropriate cover quickly enough. The experiment in supplies destruction resulted in a confetti of puffed rice, and a peppering of Kerry's rearward parts with rice and shrapnel bits. We do not have medical reports on the incident. Kerry has declined to release all such reports, perhaps because embarrassing parts of his anatomy were involved. Brahmin rumps are not to be roasted, or served up with rice, in the house of cards that Kerry built. One must observe delicacy. In any case, the justification for this Purple Rear Heart seems to result from other action on that same day, which provided alternate opportunities for more dignified explanations for shrapnel.
As is the case with Cleland's injuries, Kerry's certainly did occur while he was serving his country. That is not in question. There are questions whether enemy action played a role, but if one conceeds that, to date, Kerry has proven his own worst enemy, even that may be granted. What is more difficult to compare to, for example, Cleland's case is the severity of the wounds. I can personally state that I have suffered far greater injuries than Kerry in my personal war with picine enemies (though in some cases I admit they were suffered while not in direct contact with that enemy). What is more, I self-treated them. I confess, I do on occasion point to a half-moon scar on my right forefinger and brag it was inflicted by the razor teeth of a real piranha. Or to the two scars on the next finger where I extracted a 3" catfish hook from the ball of that finger by myself because my sisters and the maid all turned pale when I tried to get their help. Alas, I cannot claim I was serving my country at the time. But I digress, much as has the Kerry campaign as a result of his vulnerability on the issue of his wounds and Purple Hearts.
There is also the matter of the victim methodology. Cleland perfected this following his loss in the Senate race with Saxby Chambliss. (What are the odds of two opposing candidates for the senate having a first name with an X in it?) He claims an ad run about his voting record was an attack on his patriotism. He blames that attack on his patriotism for his loss. Now we have him, as Kerry's proxy (though Kerry is doing a good job of being his own victim too), pointing to the Swift Veterans for Truth and crying foul.They must be questioning Kerry's patriotism since they're questioning his service record! And in any case Kerry served in Vietnam and that gives him immunity to all criticism!
This is such bald-faced hypocrisy and illogic that it cannot possibly be sincere. It's clearly a role adopted to attempt to avoid answering questions, or to defuse those questions by arguing that the source has no standing. The question is, however, what is the real role? Does Cleland really expect this defense to work in Kerry's favor? It didn't work for him, why should it work for Kerry? Or is the more plausible explanation that Cleland is actually not working for Kerry's election, that he is actually a subversive installed into the Kerry campaign, paid for with a cushy appointment to the board of directors of the bank? He doesn't even have to attend meetings, he can just conference in to participate, and there are no expected hours, he is assumed to be on the job at all times.
One has to wonder at the feeling of the Kerry advisors about this defensive strategy. That is, one has to if one has not been listening to the leaks and squeeks coming from the holed Kerry non-so-swift boat. Reports are that a lot of a campaign advisors have advised against the recent reactions to attacks on the Kerry war record. Despite that advice, the attacks, coming almost exclusively from the Swift Veterans for Truth, have knocked the Kerry campaign off its stated plan already. The plan was to run no ads until after the RNC in New York. But the campaign has already released ads countering the Swifties, and its "unofficial" surrogates are likewise turning directly into the percieved "ambush" in much the fashion that Kerry did in the action that resulted in his Silver Star. It's a tactic Kerry has used before and it produced good results, so when under pressure he uses it again.
One has to wonder just how well Rove has studied this man Kerry. The timing of the appointment is very, verrrry interesting. Expecially interesting are Cleland's own words, quoted in the press release. "The Ex-Im Bank focuses on good-paying jobs for Americans. That's what the Bank is all about. That's what I'm all about." $136,000 per year to take a few conference calls is certainly all about a good-paying job.
If Max (...well Smart?) is Rove's agent, he's doing stellar work. Applying Occam's Razor might lead one to conclude otherwise, however. The alternate explanation is that Kerry, and Cleland, are just dumber than a grenade in a sackful of rice. They think they can fool the American public that easily.
In honor of the bloggers chosen to blog the Republican National Convention (and because it makes it a lot easier for me to follow their coverage!) I have added a blogroll of those blogs. I'd be honored if any readers choose to use this page as a launchpad to keep up to date on the convention.
I'll probably leave it there for a few weeks, then integrate whichever of those blogs I find most interesting into my main list (if they aren't already there).
If you haven't seen it yet, Wall Street Journal has an article including answers to questionaires from all of the participating bloggers. (hat tip to Captain Ed who is on that list, and who just sold his first "real" article to the New York Sun!) It's very nice to get the chance to put faces to blogs. From reading the replies, I expect we'll get some serious and informed coverage.
To all those chosen, congratulations and good luck. We are counting on you to get us some information the major news will ignore or downplay!
A comment over on Captain's Quarters got me thinking. That's one thing about the byplay of blogs, the friction of thinking minds in near real time (especially when compared with the time spans involved in peer reviews or even corporate meeting schedules) produces sparks of synergy which start new bonfires of thought and conversation very rapidly. Part of the great appeal of blogs to me is the thoughtful exchange of comments that happens on the best. CQ has certainly played host to more than its share of these exchanges in the past few weeks, but it is by no means a solitary example. But I've sidetracked.
"Jim" says, in the third comment to this post,
"My assessment of the facts in this whole swiftboat thing is that it seems that Kerry's record has been, at a very minimum, at least somewhat padded (but I still think that his service was honorable and courageous). The known facts surrounding the bronze medal clearly do not support Rassmann's story(ies) or the citation. And I think that without question Cambodia is a farce and that there is substantial evidence that Kerry is a shameless self-aggrandizer. He would be a scary Commander-in-Chief for these and numerous other policy and political philosophy reasons."
I have no issue with his main statement here. The part that sparked more though from me was that first parenthetical, "but I still think that his service was honorable and couragous." Why is that germaine to the discussion? It's a phrase we see over and over again about Kerry. Why is it not simple a given? Is such service unusual? In the warped testimony and book (The New Soldier) written by John Kerry himself it is, but are those who make this statement the sort that impugn the honor and courage of individuals who serve in our Armed Forces routinely? Not that I've noticed. In fact, they are mostly the opposite, more apt to be accused of blind cheerleading for our men and women who put their lives on the line.
I think it derives from a false dichotomy, that one cannot serve with honor and courage and still act improperly in other fashions or at other times. Or perhaps that isn't quite right either. The real issue on point is the reputation of a man. Reputation is a composite of all the known facts (and rumors, to a degree) about the conduct and being of a person, but those facts are not weighted equally. An extreme (though in many ways apt) example can be useful to illustrate.
One of this country's earliest and greatest heros is known for his command of a fleet of small boats in a battle that is now credited with being pivotal in ensuring the survival of the delicate entity that was the fledgeling United States. That battle, the Battle of Lake Champlain, was a tactical defeat, though it was a strategic victory of the first order. Benedict Arnold's small flotilla of boats, with half-naked soldiers serving as sailors, succeeding in his planned aim of delaying the progress of the British forces invading from Canada. The British plan, of which he was aware from intelligence he had himself acquired in his participation in the invasion of Canada earlier, was to conduct in pincer movement of two strong forces, one coming down from Canada, the other coming up the Hudson with the aim of meeting at Albany and dividing the thirteen "colonies" and choking them into submission. Arnold's aim was to prevent that join up in Albany to buy time for the Continental Congress to raise more forces.
It was an apparently impossible task. But Arnold was not afraid to take on the impossible. He'd already accomplished an overland march into Canada that has been likened to Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. He made the plan, sold it to Congress, managed the building of the boats, recruited and trained the crews, and led the flotilla in the engagement, inflicting sufficient damage that the British commander decided to postpone the invasion, and then retreating his force while under extreme pressure by pursuing British native American allies. It is not unjust to consider Arnold one of this nation's Founding Fathers. Without his success at Lake Champlain in delaying the Canadian wing of the British invasion, many historians believe the revolution would have failed. While Arnold participated, and heroically, in many other actions before Lake Champlain, and went on to rally and lead a counterattack at Saratoga, the Lake Champlain battle, its planning and execution, was truly Arnold's brainchild. This country owes him a great debt for his service.
Arnold was wounded multiple times. He was shot in the leg in Canada. Later his horse was shot out from under him at Saratoga and fell on that same leg, crippling him for life. His leadership in the invasion of Canada was worthy of high acclaim. In the battles there, his commanders were killed or wounded and his assumed command even though himself legshot. He was the last man to leave Canada in the retreat, shooting his own horse lest it fall to the enemy, and leaping into his boat with the sound of the approaching British in his ears. His planning and leadership under fire at Lake Champlain, including the withrawal under fire were spectacular. His decision to set aside his pique and participate unofficially at Saratoga, to rally a troop and lead them into the enemy resulting in his wounding and eventual crippling, is one more example of his leadership under fire and above and beyond the call of duty. All of these actions, and others, merited, under our current system, medals up to the highest awarded.
And yet, already in this Presidential campaign season his name is being used in a sense that is entirely opposite. The term "Benedict Arnold CEO" is being applied to the leaders of corporations who outsource jobs to other countries. That is because, of course, though Arnold's story begins with his service, it does not end there.
Arnold was not apparently a master of politics. He appears to have been constantly in conflict with his superiors and his fellow officers. His great champion, and probably the reason he had opportunity to accomplish much at all, was George Washington. Arnold resigned several times in fits of pique. But when he heard the clash of steel and tasted the acrid smoke of black powder on the breeze, he always threw aside his resentment and charged to the fore (even when he had no official role), inspiring the common soldier and his own troops to overcome impossible odds. He was treated unfairly, there is no question, but he was by no means the only one. Congress was running the war on a quarter of a very worn shoestring. It is a shame that that body did not recognise what they had in Arnold, a leader who could take a strand of shoestring, too few men, and an indomnitable impulse to overcome and accomplish the needed task somehow.
The histories present Arnold as self-centered, calculating, and cool. I suspect there's more than a touch of narcissism there. While he proved very useful to his country, his service was not selfless. Always there was a strong "Me" involved. Much of his conflict with his fellow officers and superiors was over who had command authority. Yet he proved on multiple occasions that he needed no official authority to be a great asset to his country and his fellow warriors. When the bugle blew and the cannon roared, he set aside his funk and charged onto the field, leading by example. But he expected credit and glory. And that proved his downfall.
Once his bitterness at his mistreatment, percieved and real, reached a certain level, he clearly put himself before his country. His contacts with the enemy, the British, provided ample opportunity for profit. And he sought a position, command of West Point, with an eye to being able to turn it over to the enemy. When George Washington granted him that request, instead of another field command which he had offered, Washington had no idea where it would lead nor what was Arnold's intent. He trusted Arnold, undoubtedly not a little because of his history of past service to his country.
And now we consider "Benedict Arnold" to be synonymous to "traitor," not patriot, though the man himself was apparently a great patriot, before he was a traitor. There were warning signs but none knew how to read them. Arnold clearly had problems of priorities, when compared to many of his fellows. He did ask what his country could do for him, repeatedly, and became upset when it did not do as much as he wished. He was willing to risk death, but he expected command, glory and prompt repayment of expenses. While he may have deserved such, many others did also, and went without quietly, with an eye on the eventual greater good for all.
Maybe this isn't an extreme example. I see a lot of parallels between Arnold and Kerry, and I don't think it's unfair to compare and contrast the two men.
Both served their countries in war. Arnold's service was at a higher level, one of operational and even strategic level, at times. Scholars have called Arnold "the best General on both sides of the War of Independence."1 (hat tip Beldar) While Kerry had command, it was at a small unit and small engagement level. Arnold was a big picture commander in nature. It's unclear that Kerry was. Kerry's activities in battle were constrained to very small unit actions with very limited objectives. Benedict Arnold was responsible for logistical activities in very difficult circumstances, and addition to gathering and analyzing intelligence, planning at all levels, and directly leading forces in various kinds of actions which included long marches, building fleets, holding actions, withdrawals, retreats under pursuit, naval battles, sieges, assaults and counterattacks, and more. In contrast, Kerry operated with a few riverine gunboats, patrolling and interdicting enemy movements, serving as ferry for ground troops, and responding to ambushes. He had little opportunity for and there is little evidence that he participated to any serious degree in logistical planning, intelligence gathering and analysis, or command activities beyond very small unit activities.
Both Kerry and Arnold are acclaimed for bravery under fire. Both suffered hardships. Kerry's record pales if comparisons are drawn between long winter marches with inadequate supplies and riverine patrol activities from a relatively fixed base that was reasonably well-supplied. Hunger was not a factor Kerry had much concern about, though the food may not have been up to his usual standards.
Both suffered wounds in action. Arnold was shot in the leg in Canada. Later the same leg was broken when his horse, shot dead under him, fell on it. Arnold was crippled for life. There were probably other wounds of more minor nature in the many heated battles in which he was involved, but they did not garner much attention.
Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts for wounds in action. One was for a tiny piece of shrapnel of uncertain origin (which isn't all that unusual in battle) in his first battle in which it is uncertain there was any enemy fire. Another resulted from grenade and rice shrapnel in his posterior anatomy (ass and thighs, apparently) after he tossed a grenade into a bag of rice he sought to destroy lest the enemy profit from it. The third was for a contusion on his arm resulting from banging into the pilothouse of his boat, as a result of and explosion or collision with an underwater obstacle as he maneuvered following a mine explosion that crippled another boat in his patrol.
Like Arnold, Kerry appears to have had less than comfortable relationships with his fellow officers. It's difficult to judge how much resulted from his postwar activities and how much was actually evident at the time. Many of his fellow officers now say they wanted him gone. Kerry's fitreps are not spectacular, contrary to the opinion of many of his proponents now. And the range of grades in his records suggests, at a minimum, that his superiors had diverging opinions of his compentence and character as an officer. Remarks on the record suggest strongly that, like Arnold, Kerry was very conscious of his position and honors. He was quick to put himself in for medals. His postwar history of reporting his war experience also shows a tendency to give himself more credit than other records of the events, sometimes even his own other records, suggest he actually deserves.
In a comparison of achievements while at war, Kerry is not on the same plane as Benedict Arnold. While both were wounded in service, Arnold's were clearly suffered in pitched battles. None of Kerry's have been proven to have occured under enemy fire. By the very act of holding up his medals and pointing to them as exemplar of great service to his country, Kerry invites comparison to the character flaw of Arnold that led him to his betrayal of his country: he sought recognition more than he sought to serve.
Many veterans see what Kerry did upon his return from Vietnam as a betrayal, of themselves and of their country itself. When he called them war criminals in testimony before the Senate, knowing his words were lies, and went on to meet with representatives of North Vietnam, all while still in the Naval Reserve, he again invited comparison to Benedict Arnold.
While I will by no means argue that Kerry's postwar activities are on a plane with Arnold's betrayals, they certainly were betrayals. I'd say they are parallel in the sense that they are to Arnold's betrayal as Kerry's war wounds are to Arnold's. Kerry's betrayal is to Arnold's as Kerry's achievements in war are to Arnold's. Because Kerry had so little on record when compared to the achievements of Benedict Arnold, he had much less to betray. His low level of achievement shields him. If Kerry is a traitor, as many veterans claim, he is at best a traitor lite.
The final chapter in this comparison remains to be written, however. Benedict Arnold ultimately failed in his attempt to do great harm by handing the British West Point. He was found out and forced to flee. He lived out his life in exile, first in Britain, later in Canada.
Kerry cannot be said to have failed in his attempts to undermine the war in Vietnam. It can be argued his efforts succeeded. In this respect, he perhaps surpassed Arnold. Vietnam fell to the communists. Cambodia, and others, followed. As a result millions died, most under the regime of Pol Pot in cambodia. But it can be argued little direct harm came from this to his own country. Those most betrayed were the freedom-seeking peoples of Southeast Asia that were willingly handed over to murderous and repressive communist regimes.
The question before us now is whether he will be permitted another opportunity. Does his record of service, whether military or in civil government, justify the trust of the American people that Kerry has our best interests at heart?
That question will be resolved in November. Let us pray the collective wisdom of the American public exceeds that of George Washington.
1) see David Hackett Fisher's Washington's Crossing, p 438.
Today's article by American Enterprise Scholar Joshua Muravchik in the Washington Post titled "Kerry's Cambodia Whopper" signals the explosion of the dam that was the major media's attitude towards this story. It's tucked away back on page A17, but it shares that page (from my over-the-shoulder view of a lady's paper on the Metro in) with 2-3 other articles on the Swifties. Sure, at least one was pretty clearly a smear of the Swifties, but the tone and fact-heavy substance of the Muravchik article will easily override the fact-light and ad hominem-heavy nature of the smears, if past work has been any indication. This statement applies, of course, to those who are seeking facts, not those who have already decided on this issue, as have many on either side.
Further evidence of the failure of the dam under the extreme pressure of side-flows from talk radio and blogs is evident in the current top-20 emailed articles for today's Washingto Post. Four of the top twenty are Swifty-related. Along with the above, there is one on the Kerry reply to the second ad, "Kerry Unveils Ad Countering Attacks Over Vietnam," that opens with emphasis on the Kerry claims that this is a partisan "smear." The second most emailed is the coverage of Kerry's attempts at defending himself, "Kerry Team Lines Up Vietnam Witnesses." And the major one is the page A01 article by Michael Dobbs, "Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete." All of these three are defenses of Kerry and are by WaPo staff reporters, so there's no sign of change in the WaPo cheerleading action itself. From a cursory read, all of these are dealing with facts very selectively (Dobbs is best) and will shortly be fact-checked on blogs, I'm sure. I suspect The Kerry Spot, Captain Ed and Beldar, among others, are already on the job. (Update: For a nice catch in yesterday's NYT, see "Fact-Checking the Grey Lady.") (Another Update: Captain Ed is on the job! "The Post Runs A Stake Through The Heart Of Kerry's Cambodian Fable")
It will be interesting to see how long it will take the very grey lady to blink her eyes open, take notice, and hobble over to her desk to fumble through the litter there (mumbling bitter protests the whole time) and find a few facts to contribute to the gathering collection. Or perhaps she's already passed into the coma stage, where her reality is a dream of her youth when she was still virginal, virtuous and vibrant with the sharp desire to seek, find and report facts, rather than simply to lie abed.
The Muravchik article, while short, does a good job of covering the various iternations of the fables, the reason why they were created and as a result why they are important to this campaign, and the series of backpedals and reactions by the Kerry campaign resulting from the examinations of the tales in light of documented facts.
Of especial interest on the electronic edition of this article is the advertisement by Google at the bottom:
The New Soldier By Kerry
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Over the weekend I read way too many articles on the legend of Lt. John Kerry. I use that word, "legend," in the sense it's used in spy novels: a fictional (though often based on fact) background history to support the role of an agent inserted into place. It's appropriate here due to the "agent's" own choices of spin. Among his statements on the whys and whens of Cambodia are various versions containing claims of participation in covert missions, gun-running, and the insertion of special ops teams. And then there's the lucky hat, given him by a CIA man.
The first point of interest is the sharp expansion of coverage. After weeks of examination of available source materials, analysis and debate in the blogs and dialy hours of coverage on talk radio, followed by a trickle of mention in the regional newspapers, the "major media" have finally weighed in. With a few notable exceptions, their contributions have floated to the top not due to quality, but rather to their lack of substance. One notable exception to this trend towards factlessness and shrill partisanship was the Sunday Washington Post article by Michael Dobbs, "Swift Boat Accounts Incomplete." The article actually contributes some new information and does a nice job of presenting the complicated events of the Bronze Star incident. That said, it's already been shown to fail to explain all of the testimony and on-the-historical-record accounts by witnesses and Kerry himself. And the article ignores small, but very significant, details, such as the total absense of bullet holes mentioned in the damage reports. If the boats involved were indeed fired at intensively for the period maintained, it would be miraculous if all of the boats were missed. And damage attributed to Kerry's boat in this action has been shown to have resulted from combat the day before. While Dobbs made a useful contribution, he's clearly behind the curve still, though far ahead of many of his peers in the other major papers and news shows.
Another point has been the appearance of coverage of the coverage itself in the weekly news magazines and other publications. John Leo's "A Very Kerry Christmas" in U.S. News and World Report opens with, "Some people wondered how long the major media would be willing to ignore the Christmas-in-Cambodia story. Well, the answer is in: at least 10 or 11 days." It continues with sharper jabs and pokes at a fourth estate that has been as essential as a fifth wheel in this story. (See the Cox & Forkum cartoon on the Christmas in Cambodia story.)
Over the weekend, however, the story shifted when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began running a new ad, this one composed of clips of Kerry's own words from his testimony before the Senate on April 22, 1971. Unable to resort to claims that witnesses are lying, Kerry's defenders have resorted to claims that Kerry was simply quoting the words of others, thus he is not culpable for their content.
While it can be argued (and some are) that Kerry was not solely quoting others, for the immediate purpose of this I will concede the point. Let's assume Kerry was just quoting the words of others. If he was not asserting the truth of those quotes, as is required for this to comprise any sort of defense, we must wonder why he was repeating those words. Was he accusing those others (many of whom were proven to be frauds and/or liars in investigations the followed the event) of lying? There is no evidence of that. In fact, many were members of the organization of which he was a leader, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Was he objectively "reporting" on things he'd overheard? That would imply, legally, that he had no personal knowledge of the truth or falsity of what was said, only that he'd heard it said. This is normally referred to as hearsay. Legally, hearsay has little standing. Why would a lawyer give testimony comprised of nothing but hearsay?
The alternative explanations must deal with the question of motive. Why was Kerry repeating what he repeated if his intent was not to slander his fellow servicemen, impede the war effort or tarnish the reputation of his country? Perhaps his motive was only one of the preceeding, and the other two results were unintended. But all of the preceeding can be seen as harmful, and the unintended consequences of deliberately harmful acts are generally considered relevant when our legal system apportions punishment. It is not at all unreasonable to hold Kerry blameful for all of the consequences of his testimony. If he knew the words he repeated were untrue and apt to cause harm if understood to be true, he had a duty as citizen and honorable man to not repeat those words, especially in a national forum.
Since he chose to, it is appropriate that the American public judges him on that choice when considering him for the highest office in the land.
The Swift Veterans for Truth are not "sliming" Kerry when they point out his own words in the past. They did not entice him to make those pronouncements. They have not even misconstrued the meaning of carefully lifted partial quotes, as is so often the case of late in the major media. Any sensible reader who reads the whole of Kerry's statement will agree that the quotes are fair and representative. They are, in fact, mere parts of a much larger and much more damning statement.
Kerry chose to run on his record in Vietnam. A challenge was issued, "Bring it on!" The Swift Veterans for Truth took him at his word. With Kerry, that is always a mistake, it seems. Clearly they missed some nuance.
NRO's The Corner has an interesting quote from a statement made on BBC-TV by Bernard Levin sometime around 1980. Levin died August 7.
"For 20 years I have been reading reports of brave Germans risking, and quite often losing, their lives to get over the Berlin wall. I have noticed a funny thing: THEY WERE ALL HEADED IN THE SAME DIRECTION..."
I have the privilege of visiting the Ronald Reagan Building here in D.C. pretty often, and a piece of the Berlin Wall is preserved there, an appropriate homage to the man who said, "Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall!" Perhaps this explains why the above quote resulted in that Westward trend clicking immediately into juxtaposition with another analogous trend.
All of these new "brave freedom-seekers" risking their lives to cross this alternate wall are traveling in one direction also. The freedom they seek, however, is the freedom of death. They carry explosives into democracy, into Israel, to do its citizens harm and to seek its ultimate and final destruction; they do not come empty-handed, with nothing but the hopes for an opportunity to join a free-society and see what they can make of themselves.
While much of the Western media villifies this new wall, very few note that the traffic it stems is one-way, this time not to a new life but to the same old death.
"There's something about a wall," Robert Frost said. It's not always the same something, however. Sometimes, "Good fences make good neighbors."
I continue to follow the research and analysis of matters related to the war record of John Kerry. I haven't written more on it myself because others are doing such a good job I haven't really felt compelled. I do jump into the various comments section fairly often to argue with the anyone-but-Bush factions, not so much to try to convince those hopeless cases, but to ensure their silliness does not stand unrefuted. Most of their comments fall into the category of ad hominem attacks against the Swift Veterans for Truth, The President, or those involved in the research and analysis, or they are tiresome repetitions of the old canards, long factually refuted, but still repeated in "big lie" fashion by those without anything better to say.
What inspired me to write on it again is the first real review of the whole book, Unfit for COmmand, that I've seen published so far. We have seen a lot of reviews based on the one free chapter released onto the web, the one with the whole Cambodia story. McQ, at QuandO blog, has read it, and has posted his thoughts in "Unfit for Command:A Review." Central is his conclusion, documented from the text, that the driving motive for the book and the campaign by the Swift Veterans for Truth is not revenge, as those few in the major media who have commented have claimed, rather it is a matter of honor. Kerry has dishonored the U.S. Navy, the Vietnam Veterans with whom he fought, and the whole U.S. military. McQ puts it thus:
"So for Admiral Hoffmann and the rest of the Swiftees, this isn’t about Republican or Democrat. Its not about wealth or power. This is a matter of honor. The Swift Boat Veterans, as a group, and you’ll find this mostly true of most veterans and particularly Vietnam and Vietnam era veterans, the problem they have with Kerry is a matter of honor. They feel he dishonorably lied about them and their service after he left Vietnam, that he dishonored those who were a part of the very same operations he now claims for his awards through his exaggerations and fabrications and he dishonored the thousands who’ve given lives and limbs for the very same awards they allege he faked."
I have not read the book yet (most of us are still waiting for the backlog to clear out), so I cannot comment on how the book supports this beyond the cites given by McQ. But I can speak from my personal reactions to this whole issue and Kerry's post-war activities. Kerry has betrayed his country, in my opinion, and that is over and above the obvious betrayal of his fellow veterans. Having seen much of the documentary evidence as reflected in web forums, whether quotes or pdfs of actual source documents, I have no doubt that Kerry has lied repeatedly, and has done so with specific intent. That intent has been to serve specific political goals, often in conflict with his nation's, or has been meant to create a false image of himself that he and his advisors (over a long span of time) imagined would create a more electable personna.
Kerry was get elected to the Senate based on his claims to have overcome in the struggle to sap our national will in combatting communists in Vietnam. He did not stand up and point to his achievements in protesting the war and encouraging more draft-dodging and violence here in the United States. He did not tout his televised speeches in which he claimed all United States forces in Vietnam were war criminals. He did not brag that American prisoners of war in Vietnamese prisons were forced to watch replays of his speeches. He did not proudly list his accomplishments in his meetings as a private citizen (in contravention of United States law) with Vietnamese communists in Paris while his fellows were fighting and dying in Vietnam. He did not then, nor has he since, pointed out how venerated and admired he is in communist Vietnam now, so much so that a room in a war museum is dedicated to this friend of Vietnam.
No, he ran and runs on his "record" as a heroic riverboat sailor fighting (and thrice wounded) for his country. He runs as one of a loyal "band of brothers," without mentioning how he left them as soon as he could manage, and returned to the United States to spit on them, call them war criminals, and do his best to give aid and comfort to their enemy. He brings a very small subset of those with whom he fought into his campaign to lead the unsuspecting to extrapolate from them a broad support and respect from the United States military, when in reality his name is abhorred and vilified.
The scariest part about the management of Kerry's image is the span of time over which it has been built and that it has never been subject to real scrutiny from the major media whose responsibility it is (they keep reminding us) to see to it that the American public, and by extention the American voter, is informed. For all the horror I feel at Kerry's campaign to achieve the Presidency, what shocks me more is them complicity of our major media outlets. Clearly they have redefined "truth" to be what serves them. That sort of truth will never set anyone free.
I do not hate Kerry, not even knowing all this. But I am very fearful of what he would do (or not do) as President. Honor does matter to me. I want our Presidents to honor their commitments, honor the institution, and honor the Constitution. Kerry's record before the revelations of the Swift Veterans for Truth did not support the idea that he is that sort of man. Following those revelations I cannot see how any but the most willfully blind can believe that John Kerry is a fit candidate for President.
Several blogs are central to following this issue. I mentioned them a few posts down, so I'll just link in the most recent posts of substance (follow the links in these for more):
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth site (the forum has lots of information and discussion)
Monday, August 16, 2004: The Alston Variations
Sunday, August 15, 2004: The Dam Breaks
Sunday, August 15, 2004: Kerry's Story Continues to Unravel
Sunday, August 15, 2004: Cracks in the Dam?
Monday, August 16, 2004: NRO Picks Up The Alston Story, Clarifies Time Line
Monday, August 16, 2004: Novak Questions Kerry Credibility On War Record
Monday, August 16, 2004: The Alston Story Goes Back Farther Than First Thought
Sunday, August 15, 2004: Media Blackout On Cambodian Christmas Begins To Lift
Sunday, August 15, 2004: The Alston Timeline
Saturday, August 14, 2004: Alston Inconsistency On Record For Silver Star Action
Saturday, August 14, 2004: Rocky Mountain News: Media Bias In Cambodia Collapse
Monday, August 16, 2004: The frying pan begins to sizzle, and Sen. Kerry's getting seared, seared
Friday, August 13, 2004: WaPo has the scent, but can't or won't find the meat yet in the SwiftVets vs. Kerry controversy
Sunday, August 15, 2004: JOHN KERRY'S KURTZ CHRONICLES, CON'T: AN INTRODUCTION AND THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.
Saturday, August 14, 2004: WHAT WILL GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS ASK?
The Kerry Spot (National Review Online): (no direct links, scroll down)
Monday, August 16, 2004: NEWS ROUNDUP
Monday, August 16, 2004: KERRY'S LITTLE-NOTICED LATE-FRIDAY RELEASE
Sunday, August 15, 2004: ¾ THROUGH 'UNFIT FOR COMMAND'
National Review Online: Kerry’s Brief Brotherhood
Monday, August 16, 2004:
My friend lives in Tampa. She's waiting for Hurricane Charley right now. As long as her power stays up and her DSL connection good, she can tell me what's up there. So I'm getting from her the local reactions as they roll in.
The storm was predicted to come ashore in Tampa Bay and everyone was urged to take the necessary measures to prepare and many people were evacuated. The storm is even now coming ashore 100 miles or so south of there and people in the Tampa Bay area are up in arms. One local radio station finally stopped taking calls after they got too many complaining they were lied to and pissed off about the "shoddy forecasting." Already it's being referred to as the 400 Million Dollar False Alarm.
Sort of reminds me of the Homeland Security Warnings.
/delete rant about how stupid people are.
Do you pay for medical insurance? Do you throw a fit when you don't get cancer so you can take advantage of you insurance coverage?
Didn't think so.
Rejoice! A storm that could have been deadly for you had you not taken precautions may turn out to be not much worse than a summer thunderstorm. But you were prepared for the worst had it come.
That, good citizens, is wisdom.
NOAA does the best it can in predicting these storms. They are tremendously better at it than they were a decade ago. Now we CAN prepare for the storms. But their models are not perfect, and they don't control the weather. They err on the side of saving lives if they can.
So, if you're still pissed off at "wasting all that money and effort," please send your complaints to the address below:
Our Father who art in Heaven.
When I was told in a comment (thanks, Keith) that I was a Googlewhack, I thought I was being insulted. I'm still a little uncertain, I admit. Maybe it was a crypto insult of some sort. But having no idea what on the web that might possibly mean (and thus discovering I'm not the geek some tell me I am), I did the natural thing: I Googled.
And I found proof I am no geek. It's not even news. Way back a couple of generations of computer technology ago someone came up with a game involving Google. ZDNet has an article , "Are You A Secret Googlewhacker?" explaining that's dated January 30, 2002.
It works like this: You choose pair of words and Google them with the aim of getting a single reply. That means that in the universe of information indexed by Google, at that moment that is the single document, web page, that contains that combination of two words. Apparently Keith found the magic pair that delivers him to dislogue, and he was kind enough to let me know one existed, but not so evil as to tell me what the pair is. He, intentionally or not, has posed me a challenge.
Of course, I can probably cheat. It may just turn up in my list of recent searches delivering readers to this blog.
The very interesting thing about this game, is that it's sort of like searching for prime numbers. Once one is know, there's no longer a reason to search for it. Googlewhacks go one step farther though. If anyone reports them to a database that's indexed by Google, or brags in any sort of forum or other web document of discovering a combination and says what is the pair, it ceases to be a Googlewhack because as soon as Google indexes that page, more than one page containing the pair will turn up on searches.
That suggests that I probaby have two hopes for discovering what was the dislogue Googlewhack. I can pray it shows up in the search log, or I can write Keith an email begging him to tell me. I do admit I'm curious.
I would not be surprised if there were more than one either. All those words I use for odd fauna in the Amazon mixed with one of the less common technical terms probably rate as low odds to appear on the same document. The name of the blog itself probably is pretty easy to form them with also, since it's a coinage, or it's a typo. That might be considered cheating.
Further investigation turned up an "official" site with rules and a tally list that is not indexed by Google so the Googlewhacks discovered are preserved (until another combination happens in the wild!) It has more refined rules, an official dictionary (rules out "dislogue") , and excludes the use of quotation marks (too easy!) and pages that are simply lists of words such as dictionaries, concordances, bibliographies, etc.
But I now have a new game. Thanks, Keith.
I finished Tom Clancy's The Teeth of the Tiger yesterday and feel a bit cheated. No, that's unfair. Clancy is a very good writer and tells good stories. He's just spoiled me with Red Storm Rising, Without Remorse, and others that rise above the level of this last one significantly. In other words, he didn't meet my expectations, expectations set by some of his earlier works.
The characters are mostly new to me, though I did miss Red Rabbit (soon to be rectified) and he may have introduced them there. Jack Jr, of course, I knew from other books, by name, that is, but he hadn't really been developed enough so that he was familiar. He was contrasted with his Dad a lot, which is fair, and was useful, but he still seemed an awful lot like his Dad. His cousins, the twins, somehow remained two-dimensional (and not because they're twins!) That's probably part of why I didn't feel as engaged as I have in the past.
The plot itself did not feel as multi-threaded as have Clancy's plots in the past. The antagonists were mostly undeveloped. While we did some bouncing back and forth from protagonist to antagonist points of view, often the antagonists were cardboard cutouts. Again, this criticism should be taken as comparative to his other books, or at least his better books.
There also were few surprises. Aside from the very opening, when there is a surprise, everytime I cringed, expecting a negative outcome to throw a wrench into the plotline, I was relieved none came... and unltimately disappointed because the plot ended up very flat.
When the terrorists were undetected and approaching their targets for the initial attacks, there was little or no potential for adverse outcomes. Even in that situation all of the casualties were faceless and mostly unknown. The one boy who died in the arms of one of the twins (Enzo? Aldo?) was as close as the reader comes to identifying with a victim in those attacks.
Deus ex machina was everpresent. The twins just happened to be in the right place at the right time in that first major battle. That ignores the apparent chance that put together first the two twins as the team, then added Jack Jr on top of that. The sense of inevitability I felt was not one of the hand of fate, but the hand of a lazy author playing god of convenience to create his team of protagonists from a set of related (by blood) young men. That dangled my suspension of disbelief by a very fine thread.
To compound that, adding further to the pattern, all of the intelligence of significance was spotted and devloped by Jr. The pretext to get him into the field was flimsier than his cover (and that was nonexistant). The conclusion fit this pattern so well I actually set the book down and went to sleep with five pages left. That is not normal behavior for this reader.
That said, it was not a bad read. It just wasn't all that good. It was well written enough that the narrative pulled me along, even though there was no huge feeling of suspense, or constant wondering if Clancy would kill off one or more of his protagonists.
After my reading lately in current fantasy I have come to realize just how important the pain of the protagonists is to creating powerful identification with them in the reader. There was next to none of that here. It has never been a major part of Clancy's plots, but in many or most of his best plots it is present. Someone to whom the reader is attached either dies or experiences extreme pain. The protagonists need to feel the teeth. This tale lacked teeth.
If you want a tiger of a tale, you have to give it teeth.
"I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."
That statement in a Washington Post article is especially interesting in light of recent modifications to the Kerry campaign website and other published documents on the web surrounding the historical record of Mssr. Kerry's career. He is quoted saying,
"I'll say thank you to every journalist who wrote [expletive] articles about me," he joked. Then he added, "I plead guilty to being a little brash when I first got into politics. I wish they had a delete button on LexisNexis."
Analyzing this is illuminative of character.
First he focuses anger on the articles and indirectly on the jouralists. Just because he is joking does not mean there isn't real anger driving the joking. We often use this sort of joking as a way to tone down and still express our anger, letting others know we're angry without exposing them to its real lash. That he used an expletive which the paper chose not to print, and that he's a politician conscious of how this sort of expletive comes across, shows it's more than casual joking. It's joking with a purpose. He was communicating a desire that reporters be careful what they write about him because it might hurt his election chances.
Next he pleads "guilty to being a little brash." This can be taken by those who choose to as an apology for things he's said and done in the past. But it is not that. It is an admission that what he did in the past can or is adversely affecting his efforts to accomplish his goals now.
Finally we get the statement the reminds me of a book a friend loaned me recently, The Commisar Vanishes, by David King. The book shows graphically how Stalin sought to force a rewriting (or re-viewing) of history by modifying pictures, paintings, and textual works to remove that and those which he preferred forgotten. Kerry appears to share that impulse.
The activities of his campaign team and his supporters provide some evidence of this statement. One of the earliest incidents involved the Daily Kos furor surrounding the statements made regarding the contractors killed in Fallujah. At the time, Daily Kos was a significant fundraiser online for Kerry and was linked from Kerry's campaign site. When mushroom clouds began erupting over blogs regarding the callousness of Daily Kos, Kos purged the original statement from that blog and issued a lame apology. The Kerry site diappeared the link to Kos. At roughly the same time, the Kerry site disappeared a link to Democratic Underground, another source of controversial (to be clinical) voices singing harmony to the songs Kerry sang back in this days as icon for Vietnam Veterans Against the Wars.
Purging links may not on the surface appear to be the same as airbrushing people out of photographs. But each is an attempt to hide the fact that there were links between people, links that matter historically. The campaign did issue a statement about Kos, but admitted no error in associating with entities so extreme.
Then there was the yellowcake episode culminating in Joe Wilson's accusations that the Bush administration lied when it pronounced the infamous sixteen words in the State of the Union address. As part of his efforts to discredit the adminstration, Wilson lauched a site RestoreHonesty.com. The Kerry campaign hosted it. Sometime around the release of the 9/11 Commission's report that put the lie to Wilson's accusations, the Wilson site was disappeared. There is not reference to it on the Kerry site, and, at least at the moment, I can't find any sign of the Wilson pages anywhere. But the url, www.restorehonesty.com still points to the Kerry campaign site, the last shadow left in the picture after the airbrushing was done.
There are other, less direct, examples. When Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe misquoted one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in an article, "Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry", it was quickly countered by an affidavit from Capt. Elliot. Supporters of the Swift Boat Vets pointed out there were direct links from that reporter to the Kerry campaign, questioning his objectivity and presenting potential motivation for spinning (in this case "spin" would be understatement) the statements of the Vets to the worst possible light for them and the best possible for Kerry. One of those links was apparent on the cover of the official Kerry-Edwards campaign biography. The key word is "was," shortly after the controvery ignited, Kranish's name and association with the book disappeared. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posted on this topic on August 7, 2004. You'll note successive updates showing Kranish's slow evaporation, first from the Amazon site's cover shot and text, then Barnes & Noble's also.
The explanations given by the Kerry campaign or associates may contrain truth. But in light of Kerry's quoted statement, and the developing pattern, one wonders.
We're grown so accustomed to Kerry "flip-flopping" on issues that it's almost become an old joke (which is the earnest hope of the Kerry campaign). While it might be easy to confuse his flip-flopping with this revisionary impulse, the two are not the same. People, even politicians, are allowed to change their minds and their positions. That's human, and in many cases it's even a positive thing if it shows they are observing new facts and modifying their opinions and positions to better fit reality. The corollary of this latter good "flip-flopping" is the tacit admission of earlier error.
When someone tries to hide evidence of error instead admitting the error, we are justified to censure it. It's human, everyone does it on occasion, but when it becomes a pattern it is a character flaw, and one that can cause tremendous harm if it's present in a President. It was Richard Nixon's fatal flaw. We need to ask ourselves if there is a pattern of trying to coverup errors in Mssr. Kerry's history indicating he too suffers from this flaw.
I just downloaded the fitreps that Mssr. Kerry's campaign has released and studied them for a while with a crib sheet on reading fitreps in one hand. Not very impressive, on the whole, but I do admit I was very impressed with the writing skills of the Admiral for whom Kerry served as aide. The man has a real command of the art of being disingenuous bureaucratically. What he wrote sounds so good when you first read it you think, "Wow, Kerry is impressive." Then you do a double take.
Let's see if I can decipher this: [my reading in brackets]
LTJG [What? still? after all those medals?] Kerry is one of [one of all the rest of] the finest [satisfactory, good, excellent, outstanding... where does fine fit in again?] young [he's immature] officers with whom [the Admiral knows his grammar] I have served in a long naval career [and I have seen a lot of young officers]. His combat records prior to becoming my personal aide speaks for itself [read it, I'd rather not have to write about it] and is testimony [the evidence is in] to his competence [okay, he'll do if we can't do better] and courage at sea [he's fine well offshore, it's close in on the rivers where he has problems] As my personal aide he could not have been more effective [I'm sure he could have been less effective, but more effective wasn't possible for him]. In every instance he has displayed tact [he's very good at keeping himself wriggle room], judgment [sometimes good, even, so I won't say it's always been bad], foresight [he knows how to game the system] and energy[and worked hard at it]. He is particularly adept [deft, skilled, practiced!] in his relations with [manipulations of] people both [sexes] military and civilian from all strata [he bullshits with the best and if it moves, he'll screw it, and he's a big time social climber]. I have given him personal speaking assignments [keep him out of my sight!] which he has performed in an outstanding manner to the credit of the Navy [on the Navy's tab, and be knows how to spend it] and himself [no, really, the guy can bullshit, but he brags a lot]. This young [did I mention he's immature] man [he's not really officer material] is detached at his own request [whew] to run for high public office to whit the Congress of the United States [straight faces, please]. The detachment [not discharge] of this officer [he's still "one of us" I'm afraid] will be a definite loss to the service [can't we discharge him so he won't reflect as badly on us? That would be a gain.] He is the dedicated type [you know, that type, he has an agenda] that we should retain [I'm not sure we should turn him loose on the unsuspecting public] and it is hoped [by some, I've given up] that he will be of further [um, use? no... let me think] perhaps earlier [than he would be to the Navy] greater service [okay, he's worthless to us, but if we stay on his good side and he DOES get elected, maybe he can do us some good] to his [I'm not sure it's the same as my] country, which is his aim in life [he has delusions of grandeur... did I mention his initials are JFK? He did. 17,453 times.] at this time [he's really not paying attention to his duty anyway].
Okay, I am taking some liberties for the sake of fun, but I really do get the impression that the Admiral didn't have much respect for LTJG Kerry. I'd say he might feel Kerry was lazy, overbearing, self-absorbed, and focused on things other than his Navy duties too much, but a good speaker who could be gotten out of the way usefully by sending him off to do talks at ladies' teas. As the Admiral would say, "to whit:"
"Yes, mahhm, ah was in Viet Nahhhm. See these medals on my blouse? This one was the time I beached my swift boat right in the middle of a whole brigade (that's a lot) of screaming Viet Cong shooting at us with machinguns, grenade launchers, and tanks. Yes, mahm, it was fairly hot that day. I saw one of my crew take a bullet right in his leg. That got my temper up a few degrees. His blood was splattered right there on my brand new jungle boots. I reaching in my wheelhouse (I'd been standing firmly planted on the deck outside where I had a better view, of course) I picked up my trusty 12 gauge shotgun (you know, it's the gun I feel most comfortable with, I hunt deer with it back in Mass.), I pumped a load of double-ought buck into the chamber and slipped down onto my belly, and slithered my way right into that town and blasted until I was lying on a pile of empty brass bigger than a sampan full of rice. Yes, mahm, it was an interesting day. Some claim there were two dozen little Viet Cong freedom fighters, pahdon me, mahm, gooks with double-ought buck perforations lying about."
"What, this purple thing? Yes, mahm, that's a Purple Heart. Those are for wounds in action. How did I get it, mahm? Oh, it was just a little misunderstanding with a grenade, mahm. When it dropped at my feet I quick flipped it into a bag of rice and saved my buddy from sure death, mahm. I was a bit close, mahm. Where, mahm? I'm sorry, mahm, it would not be polite to say in this lovely company. How bad, mahm? A mere scratch mahm, nothing to keep me from my duty as United States Naval baby-killer, pardon me, officer, mahm."
Besides reading way too many articles on politics and current events, I am still reading books and watching movies too. So much so that I have not been writing much here. Shame on me.
The most significant recent movies were the trio that comprise the Lord of the Rings, adapted from J.R.R.Tolkien's books. All thumbs up for that. Stunning. Yes, a lot of material from the books is cut, of necessity. The books remain a must read, and I'd just reread them all in the last year, so my memory was reasonably fresh. I was impressed with the overall fidelity to the spirit of the books. And with the greatly appreciated absence of the politically-correct inspired revisions seen in so many movies. Did I mention these movies are stunning?
The adjective that won't go away is lush. If movies can be voluptuous, without being overtly sexual, these define that. I was also gratified at the obvious absense of overt sexual scenes, not because those offend me per se, but because they do not exist in the books. That is a common addition to movies based on books. Sex sells, yes, and using it in that fashion prostitutes the work.
I inspired a friend to watch them too. She's a rabid Star Wars fan. She'd seen them before, but something about my talk about them inspired her. It's been fun drawing parallels from the movies to current events. Though Tolkien wrote them in a world wrapped up in the period of the Nazi threat, there are plenty of parallels with the current threats. The futility of appeasement in the face of implacable threats is one major theme. Another is the important of the involvement of even the little people in the events of the day.
I got a kick out of the propaganda war launched against Gandalf by Wurmtongue and other agents of Saruman. That one did resonate. It was so unjust, especially considering the odds he had already struggled against, and was continuing to struggle against. Misinformation played a significant role too. The use of partial truth wrapped cleverly around a core of falsehood appeared several times.
It's a tear-jerker. I think the movies may be a bit more intense and dramatic due to the compression of the story. In the books there are long passages of description and unfolding events, with short periods of intense activity and emotion. So the pace is different, but overall, the effect is not terribly so.
When I get a chance I will purchase the dvds, and that's a first for movies for me. These are movies worth watching over and over. To all who helped make them, brilliant!
I've been following the whole Swift Boat Veterans episode with interest, exploring odd corners of the web, talking to friends who happen to be in positions that allow them some behind the scenes information and insight. But the most interesting aspect is the media treatment of this issue.
The media, collectively, claims it has no liberal bias. Many disagree. This episode seems to me a perfect litmus test. In the past when candidates for office, including the incumbent in this election, come under fire for things in their past the media eagerly plunges into the muck, fishing about for odd bits to bring up and expose to the light. "The public has a right to know," is the oft repeated litany. What was the name of that boat a couple of elections back, the Monkey Business? And the challenge issued to the media? And here we have Kerry shouting "Bring it on!" But the media has not.
Back in May the Swift Boat vets announced their criticisms of Kerry and his unfitness for duty. This seems to me to be a rather newsworthy event. Either the 200 plus veterans were collectively plotting to ruin the chances of a Senator in his stand for President, or the candidate had some ugly things in his past of which the American public was not adequately informed. Either way, it appeared to have all the makings of a fabulous news opportunity for the media. Beyond that, it has Pullitzer written all over it for a dogged and analytical reporter who focused on the case. Tell me, convince me, that the wet dream of every aspiring post-Watergate reporter is not to bring down a top rank politician? From the recent orgies of articles on the current sitting President it's clear that dream has not completely faded. Equally juicy would be the exposure of some sort of Vast Right-Winged Conspiracy to control the American public. If Kerry is the hero he claims (every 10 minutes or so), this is indeed a rather bald and dirty attempt to derail his campaign. Is that not news of the sort that gets front-page dominating headlines?
Where are the stories? Oh, there have been a few, yes. Now compare the numbers to those of the thinly-sourced and now debunked articles on Bush's AWOL-from-the-National-Guard stories. And those stories are still often cited as if they were not debunked in the media.
Either way the Swift Vets story ends, it's The Major Story of this campaign. Kerry has run solely on his record in Viet-Nam. This attack, if proven to be factually based, utterly destroys the foundation of the Kerry campaign. What is left will not even qualify to be called a house of cards. All that is left is negatives. Aside from the "I served in Viet-Nam," the whole campaign is George W. Bush is the devil.
The vast bulk of this story has been carried on the web, mostly on blogs. It's going to be a true test of the power of blogs versus that of traditional media, I think. If the story gets out, despite the thin to nonexistent coverage the media has given it to date, in my opinion it will be due to the sheer determination of the Vets themselves. the stupidity of the Kerry lawyers, and the hue and cry raised from both sides of the political spectrum in blogs.
Of course, the whole story is easily resolved, if Kerry wishes it so. Maybe he thinks he can milk it for publicity under the marketing dictum that "any publicity is good publicity." Not that it's getting much play outside the web. So much for that theory. All he has to do to end it is release his military records to the media.
Sign the form, Mr. Kerry, and this whole thing will go away. Or you will.
And either way, major media... are you listening? Where's your principle of "the American public has the right to know?" Have you NO shame? Where are the shouts that Kerry release his military records like there were for George W. Bush? I have heard from a well-connected source that Kerry has more reprimands in his military record than he had days in service in Viet-Nam. If that is true, isn't that relevant to this campaign? If it's false, isn't it important to expose the conspiracy that's slandering Kerry?
For information on this story, here are some links:
The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth website has documents, bios, copies of the ad they are running, and discussion forums with voices from boths sides. I consider it the primary source at the moment.
Some other sites have been following and discussing this a lot too:
Captain's Quarters, especially in these articles: The Swiftie's Fire Back , The Mistake continues, Christmas In Cambodia: Kerry's Intellectual Laziness On Parade, and Upping the Ante.
Or use your favorite search engine with a string like "Swift veterans Kerry."